Islamic State ‘beheads’ US hostage; US backs democracy for Hong Kong; Online shopping on mobiles in UK overtakes desktop

1 Islamic State ‘beheads’ US hostage (Frank Gardner on BBC) An Islamic State video has appeared which purports to show the beheading of Steven Sotloff, a US journalist being held hostage by the militants. Mr Sotloff, 31, was abducted in Syria in 2013. He appeared at the end of a video last month which showed fellow US journalist James Foley being killed. A militant in the latest video also threatens to kill a British hostage.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said US officials were checking the reports. The US has recently carried out dozens of air strikes against IS targets in Iraq. President Barack Obama has ordered the deployment of another 350 troops to Baghdad to protect US diplomatic facilities, the White House has said.

This second execution video from IS is significant, even though it was largely expected and dreaded. It shows that the recent US air strikes which have halted IS’s lightning advance across northern Iraq are causing the organisation real damage, upsetting its plans to extend by force its rule into Kurdistan.

Unable to hit back militarily against America’s jets, Islamic State has responded with a form of information warfare that it knows will horrify most people in the West. Secondly, by threatening to murder a British hostage, IS shows it makes little or no distinction between the US and Britain as its enemy. This is despite Britain so far restricting itself to dropping aid to refugees and flying in supplies to the Kurdish military, leaving air strikes to the Americans.

2 US backs democracy for Hong Kong (Straits Times) Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have admitted that they are powerless to overturn Beijing’s refusal to grant them full voting rights, but the US threw its weight behind the protesters, courting China’s wrath.

Activist leaders had promised a new “era of civil disobedience” after Beijing crushed hopes for full democracy on Sunday, ruling that only pre-vetted candidates will be able to run for leadership of the semi-autonomous city in 2017.

But organisers from the pro-democracy group Occupy Central, who have vowed to take over the city streets, acceded defeat on Tuesday – even though they said the protest would still go ahead. “We have to admit the fact that up to this point it is quite unrealistic to think that our action will change the decision made by Beijing,” Occupy Central co-founder Chan Kin-Man said.

3 Online shopping on mobiles in UK overtakes desktop (The Guardian) Visits to retail websites via mobile devices have overtaken desktop traffic for the first time. Some 52% of visits were made via a mobile, while 36% of UK online sales are now completed on a smartphone or tablet device – rising to 40% for clothing sellers, the latest IMRG Capgemini Quarterly Benchmarking Report has revealed.

Of sales completed on a mobile device, smartphones account for around 18% and tablets 82%. IMRG chief information officer Tina Spooner said: “With over half of all e-retail traffic now coming via smartphones and tablet devices, the latest results reveal a huge landmark in the growth of mobile commerce. “Considering that as recently as 2010 mobile visits to e-retail sites accounted for less than 3% of traffic, this latest milestone represents staggering growth of 2,000% over the past four years.”

Capgemini digital services leader and vice president Alex Smith-Bingham said: “As retailers further develop their m-commerce platforms and as the technology becomes increasingly more sophisticated, we’ll see the role of the desktop in our day-to-day shopping cycle diminish.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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