Chatter: Israeli troops open fire near Gaza border




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Need to know:
Israeli troops have reportedly shot dead a Palestinian man near the border with Gaza, less than 48 hours into the cease-fire that ended eight days of cross-border attacks.

Gaza officials say that a group of Palestinians, apparently farmers, entered the so-called "buffer zone" that runs along the Israeli-Gaza border east of Khan Younis. Israeli troops opened fire and – according to the officials – killed one man and wounded at least 10 others.

The Israeli military has confirmed only that it fired "warning shots," and says it is looking into the incident.

A Hamas spokesman said the group would contact Egyptian mediators to discuss whether the shooting violated the terms of Wednesday's truce. The agreement promised freer access to the border zone, though there were no details of what, exactly, that means.

Want to know:
The crowds are massing in Tahrir Square this morning, as Egyptians prepare to protest what President Mohammed Morsi's critics are calling a "coup."

Morsi yesterday issued a decree that, oh, just banned any legal challenges to his past and future decisions. Then he fired the prosecutor general and ordered a retrial of all those accused of causing protesters' deaths during Egypt's 2011 revolution.

The president's supporters say the decree will help demolish the old regime's infrastructure and bring justice for revolutionaries. His opponents accuse him of appointing himself the "new pharoah." They'll battle it out on the streets today: rival pro- and anti-Morsi rallies have been called across Egypt.

Dull but important:
No one thought the EU budget talks would be easy. Now, with Angela Merkel saying they'll fail, expectations are lower than, well, a very low thing.

"I think we're advancing a bit, but I doubt that we will reach a deal," sayeth the German chancellor.

She was speaking after the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, last night presented a "compromise" version of the 2014-2020 budget that gave in to France and Poland's demands to maintain farm subsidies and development funding, but ignored threats from the UK, Germany and other big contributors to reduce total spending or else. Brussels has suggested a seven-year budget of around €1 trillion ($1.3 trillion), which Germany wants slashed by €30 billion and the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands by at least €50 billion.

Negotiations continue.

Just because:
Men of Saudi Arabia, it just got even easier to track your women.

The kingdom has introduced a system that automatically informs every man via text message any time one of their "dependents" – that includes not just children, but wives and any other women under their custody – leaves the country. Just in case the wife had, y'know, persuaded another man to take her to the airport (she's banned from driving) and forged her male guardian's signature on the permission slip all Saudi women are required to present when seeking to cross the border.

The system doesn't tell men which country their female charge has departed for. But almost any other country would be an easier place for her to live: Saudi Arabia is rated the second worst nation in the world for women's rights, after only India.

Strange but true:
Mexican President Felipe Calderon wants to change his country's name to… Mexico.

The place everybody already knows as Mexico is, in fact, the United Mexican States. Calderon maintains that when the name was adopted, in 1824, it was in emulation of those better-known United States and not "the essence of our nation."

President Calderon, by the way, has nine days left in office before President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto takes the helm. If his bill to change the country's name is to pass, it has to get approval from both house of Congress and a majority of state legislatures.

It seems unlikely that'll happen. Looks like Mexico will carry on not being Mexico for a while yet.