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Friday, November 2, 2012

UN and Amnesty International Say Rebels May Have Committed War Crimes

The United Nations and Amnesty International have condemned the alleged execution of government soldiers by rebels at the town of Saraqeb in northern Syria. The video showing the killings surfaced online. The footage shows a group of 20 armed men standing over at least eight captured soldiers, with one of them pleading for his life. A rebel asks them to be rounded up. The wounded soldiers are bundled into a pile and riddled with bullets. Saraqeb, the scene of the apparent execution, lies on near the Damascus-Aleppo highway as well as the highway linking Aleppo to the coastal city of Latakia, making it a strategic point for the insurgents. Navi Pillay, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the video showed that “these were soldiers who were no longer combatants and therefore, at this point, it looks very much like a war crime”. Amnesty International published a statement denouncing the footage as a “potential war crime in progress”, showing “an utter disregard for international humanitarian law by the armed group in question”.

Labour MP Resigns Over False Expenses Claims

Denis MacShane, the Labour MP for Rotherham, has resigned from the Commons after having been found to submit false invoices which were “plainly intended to deceive”. The findings made the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, a body responsible for verifying MP’s expenses, show that MacShane “fell far below the standards of integrity and probity expected of every member of the House”. In one instance, the MP for Rotherham submitted 19 invoices totalling £12,900 for “research and translations” to be carried out by the European Policy Institute. The report showed that the institute did not exist and that its purported bank account was controlled by MacShane himself. The signature present on invoices from the non-existent institute were signed by MacShane himself. On a statement on his website, the former Labour MP said he was “obviously desperately sorry for any embarrassment I have caused”.

Israeli Military Censors Declassify Account of the Killing of PLO Leader

Israeli military censors have declassified the testimony of an army officer who gave details of the killing of PLO co-founder Abu Jihad, Yasser Arafat’s then-deputy, in Tunis in 1988. Nahum Lev was the commander of the operation and was interviewed by Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot shortly before his death in 2000. The newspaper had been negotiating with military censors for months for permission to print the story, who decided to allow it to be published rather than face a court battle over it. Lev said he had no regrets about the military action. “I had read every page of the file on him. Abu Jihad was connected to horrific acts against civilians. He was marked for death. I shot him with no hesitation”, said the former army officer. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yalon also took part in the operation, but their roles have remained unclear. The operation was planned by the Mossad spy agency and carried out by the elite Sayeret Matkal command unit.

Armed Men Surround Libyan Parliament, Beat Up Journalists

Approximately 200 armed protesters and militiamen occupied the area surrounding Libya’s parliament late Thursday, blocking access roads and beating up journalists in a protest against the country’s new cabinet. The protesters say that the cabinet should not include members of the deposed Gaddafi regime and that they should be barred from obtaining government positions. “We will continue our sit-in until Sunday and until our demands are met”, said Abdel-Moneim al-Hour, a former security spokesman. There appears to be no clear political force behind the protests and most of its members say they have no political demands besides the purging of former Gaddafi-era officials. Prime Minister Ali Zidan, a former human rights lawyer, held meetings with representatives of the protesters and said he would look into their demands.

China Celebrates the Birth of Seven Baby Pandas

Chinese conservationists celebrated the birth of seven panda cubs at the Chengdu Panda Base in Chengdu, in Sichuan Province, on Thursday. The cubs were all born in the same breeding centre over three months and were pictured together for the first time at the ceremony. Xiao Qiao, Si Yi, Yuan Run, Oreo, Miao Miao and twins Cheng Shuang and Cheng Dui bring up the total number of pandas born at the breeding centre to 113. “We are delighted that 2012 has been such a bumper year for panda cubs at the Panda Base”, said Dr. Zhang Zhihe, director of the facility. “The birth of so many baby giant pandas is a testament to the success of our breeding programme.” The breeding of baby pandas has been criticised in the past by experts who claim that there was not enough habitat to sustain them.

Weekend Read: Why Things Fail

Unexpected failure happens to everything, from tires to helicopter blades, and every manufacturer lives with some amount of risk: the risk of recalls, the risk of warranty claims, the risk a costumer could die. In Wired magazine.

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