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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Massive Earthquake hits Iran

Iran was hit by an earthquake registering 7.8 magnitude in Sistan Baluchistan, Iran’s biggest and most impoverished province. “The epicenter of the quake was located in the desert, and population centers do not surround it. There were no fatalities in the towns around the epicenter,” said Morteza Akbarpour, an Iranian crisis centre official. While most of the 1700 villages in the area are made of mud, which is especially vulnerable to seismic disturbance, a large majority of the populace lives in tents surrounding the villages. While no deaths have been reported in Iran, at least 35 haveto have succumb to the quake in nearby Pakistan. The quake swayed buildings as far away as New Delhi in India. Today’s earthquake was about 180 times stronger in energy release than a 6.3-magnitude quake that struck southwestern Iran last week; that quake claimed the lives of least 37 people and injured 850 more. In 2003, a 6.6-magnitude quake destroyed much of the southeastern city of Bam and killed at least 26,000 people.

Reports Finds U.S. has Engaged in Torture

According to a review of interrogation and detention programs since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, “it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture”. The 580 page study, authored by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, says that while all wars have their horrors, the war on terror was unique in “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The panel did not have access to classified materials and instead relied on interviews and media reports that could corroborate the testimony of those interviewed. Another even more exhaustive study carried out by the Senate Intelligence Committee, based exclusively on C.I.A records, remains classified. While C.I.A abuses have been reported before, this Constitution Project report makes it clear that the C.I.A. water-boarded prisoners, slammed them into walls, chained them in uncomfortable positions for hours, kept them nude, and deprived them of sleep for days on end. Helmed by Republican Asa Hutchinson, who was Drug Enforcement Administration chief during the Bush administration, the report also made clear the “acrobatic” efforts government lawyers gave to justify these brutal treatments.” Mr. Hutchinson was shocked by what his panel’s investigations uncovered, but said, “it’s incredibly important to have an accurate account not just of what happened but of how decisions were made. The United States has a historic and unique character, and part of that character is that we do not torture.”

Kuwaiti Politician Sentenced to Five Years for Insulting Emir

A Kuwaiti court sentenced a man to prison today for insulting the country’s emir. Musallam el-Barrak, a popular politician in Kuwait, was sentenced to five years in prison for comments he made during a speech at an October rally, wherein he cautioned Kuwait’s leader, Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, against practicing autocracy. The emir suspended the parliament for a month, and it was then dissolved under a Constitutional Court ruling. Later, the emir amended the country’s electoral law and ordered new parliamentary elections. In response, Barrak publicly stated, “we will not allow you” to amend the country’s election law unilaterally. He broke the Kuwaiti law that prohibits citizens from publicly objecting to the rights and authorities of the emir or finding fault in him. A crime which Human Rights Watch (HRW) says has been prosecuted with greater frequency since the Arab Spring in 2011. Indeed similar cases have sprung up all around the Persian Gulf, in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The criminal prosecution for peaceful criticism of public officials violates Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Kuwait ratified in 1996.

Boston Marathon Bombing Investigation Continues

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has taken point in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. A total of 3 people, including an 8-year-old boy, were killed and scores were injured. While reports yesterday suggested that several other bombs were discovered, in fact, no further devices were found. The fire at the JFK library was not related to explosions on Boylston Street. Investigators have no suspects as of yet; a Saudi Man who was injured in the attack was formally cleared of suspicion yesterday.”At this time there are no claims of responsibility,” FBI officials said today. “The range of suspects and motives remains wide open.” The bombs themselves were evidently pressure cookers packed with either gunpowder or black powder, ball bearings, and nails. Despite this high-profile bombing, the past decade has been relatively free of terror on American soil.

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