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Friday, April 26, 2013

Russian Hospital Fire Kills 31

A fire at a psychiatric hospital in Ramensky, a town just outside of Moscow, killed 38 people early this morning. Most of the victims were patients, sedated by powerful antipsychotic medication, who succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning. Firefighters took almost an hour to arrive at the scene; they were forced to take a detour around a canal that had flooded. Many Russian officials have expressed their sadness at the news, which President Vladimir Putin called an “awful tragedy which took many lives.” But Russia’s human rights commissioner Vladimir P. Lukin said that safety in hospitals has been a known issue for some time, but the progress made is too often mired in “the notorious bureaucratic circle.” Indeed, deaths from fire are 8 times more common in Russia than in countries like the United States, Greece, and Denmark. While Lukin expressed some optimism that today’s conflagration might lead to concrete improvements, he tempered that saying, “the feeling remains that the Ramensky tragedy is in line with the context of an overall civic disease: indifference to all human problems but your own.”

Sectarian Violence Spreads in Iraq

At least 41 people were killed in sectarian violence in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul yesterday. This comes after three days of clashes nationwide that have left more than 190 people dead. Gunmen seized a police station north of Baghdad in Suleiman Beg and fired on a check point in Fallujah. Four Sunni mosques in Baghdad were bombed killing four people and wounding 50 today. These attacks appear to have stemmed from a confrontation in which at least 20 sunni protestors were killed by Iraqi police in the town of Hawija on Tuesday. Since then, many Sunni leaders in Iraq have called for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down. Former cabinet member Abdul-Karim al-Sammarraie said, “Iraq is in a dire situation now, and I believe that there must be serious solutions.” Al-Maliki took to television last night asking for calm and warning against a return to the sectarian civil war that recently plagued the Shia-majority country.

White House Says Syria Has Used Chemical Weapons

In a letter to Congressional leaders, the White House said it believes “with varying degrees of confidence” that the Syrian government has used Sarin gas in its war to retain power. In fact, yesterday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said intelligence agencies were highly confident in their assessment, based on soil samples and blood tests. But today, wary of taking action with incomplete or inaccurate information about Syria’s use of weapons of mass destruction, White House press secretary Jay Carney cautioned that it was “not an airtight case.” According to Carney, the President “wants to continue to build information and put together a credible set of facts that can be corroborated, that’s based on firm evidence, that can be reviewed, and that is what we are endeavoring to do.” President Barack Obama also reiterated a sentiment he first voiced last August saying, “to use potential weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations crosses another line with respect to international norms and international law.” U.S. Senator John McCain has urged the President to become more active in Syria, but few other U.S. leaders are ready to engage in action against another Arab country. Obama ended his speech saying, “for the Syrian government to utilize chemical weapons on its people crosses a line that will change my calculus and how the United States approaches these issues. So this is not an on and off switch. This is an ongoing challenge that all of us have to be concerned about.”

Massive DDoS Suspect Arrested

A 35-year-old Dutchman, identified by police as ‘SK’, was arrested in Barcelona today under suspicion of perpetrating one of the largest distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks ever. The man is thought to be Sven Kamphuis, the owner of Cyberbunker, a web host known for hosting almost anything, with the except of terrorism and child pornography. Some of Cyberbunker’s servers were highlighted as possible spam servers last March by Spamhaus, a nonprofit dedicating to identifying sources of spam. Spamhaus’s servers and those on nearby networks were then subject to a DDoS attack that slowed the entire internet on March 27th. Cyberbunker is suspected of initiating the attack, which was roughly 6 times larger than a typical DDoS; Kamphuis issued a statement around that time saying that Spamhause should not be the arbiter of “what goes and does not go on the internet”. Dutch prosecutors hope to have SK transferred to the Netherlands to begin his trial soon.

Weekend Read: Everything Is Rigged

Are the world’s banks and fiscal giants the ‘masters of the universe’ that conspiracy theorists have been searching after for centuries? Matt Taibbi argues in Rolling Stone.

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