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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bombings in Syria Claim 18 Lives

A brace of bombings killed 18 today in Syria; five in the Bab al-Hawa border crossing to Turkey in northern Syria and 13 in central Damascus. These deaths come a day after Syrian prime minister Wael Nader al-Halqi survived a bombing attempt on his life that left five others dead. As of yet, no one has claimed responsibility for the bombings, but Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar says the attacks are proof that the rebels are growing desperate in the face of “victories and achievements scored by the Syrian Arab Army on the ground against terrorism.” The Syrian government maintains that the various rebel forces are foreign and domestic terrorists. Today in Beirut, Hezbollah leader and Assad-ally Hassan Nasrallah gave a televised speech, in which he claimed that Syrian rebels were backed by foreign governments eager to reduce Syria to a “hungry, frail, war-torn country with no control over its oil, borders, sea.” Yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated his administration’s reluctance to enter the Syrian conflict without broad international support and definitive intelligence suggesting the use of chemical weapons.

New Concerns Arise at Fukushima Power Plant

Two years after an earthquake and a tsunami overwhelmed safety systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, the workers at the plant have run into another emergency. More than 100,000 gallons of groundwater per day are used to cool the damaged power plant’s reactor core. That water becomes contaminated with strontium and must be pumped into an array of storage tanks that cover approximately 42 acres surrounding the plant. “The water keeps increasing every minute, no matter whether we eat, sleep or work,” said Masayuki Ono, a Tepco spokesman. “It feels like we are constantly being chased, but we are doing our best to stay a step in front.” Tepco, the company that operates the Fukushima plant, plans to raze a small forest nearby to temporarily store more water tanks. The issue of storing the radioactive water has become more urgent this month since the underground pits originally built to handle the wastewater have leaked almost 32,000 irradiated-gallons into the surrounding water table. Workers at Tepco have managed to cool the melted reactor cores responsible for the worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl explosion of 1986, but Tepco officials and others have raised fears that future leaks at the seaside plant could see radioactive contamination reach the Pacific Ocean.

Court Says Morales May Run Again

Bolivian courts have cleared the way for Evo Morales to run for an unprecedented second re-election next year. The Bolivian constitution only allows for a single re-election, but the Constitutional Court said, “the presidential term is computed from the time of the adoption of the new constitution.” Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, was originally elected in 2005 and then re-elected in 2009 on a promise to form a new constitution. The 2009 constitution was passed with opposition support after Morales promised not to run for President in 2014. Reacting to the court’s decision, Samuel Doria Medina, leader of the center-right National Unity Party, said, “the constitution is very clear in that there can only be one re-election. If Evo Morales wants a second re-election he should have to change the constitution again.”

Military Court Revokes Conviction for Suicide Attempt

Yesterday evening, the United States’ highest military court reversed Private Lazzaric Caldwell’s criminal conviction for slitting his wrists. The marine pled guilty to a charge of “wrongful self-injury without intent to avoid service” in 2010 and served 180 days in jail before he was given a bad conduct discharge. The charge of which Private Caldwell was convicted has been on the books since the 1940s: it applies in self-harm cases where intent to avoid service cannot be proven. Instead, the military must show that the act was detrimental to good order and discipline or could bring discredit upon the armed forces. Chief Judge James E. Baker wrote in his decision that Caldwell’s guilty plea was inappropriate as it did not establish whether or not his suicide attempt contradicted good order or brought discredit to the armed forces. Judge Baker’s decision also took note of former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s assertion in 2012 that, “suicide prevention is first and foremost a leadership responsibility.” There were a record 325 suicides in the armed forces last year, exceeding the total number of active-duty deaths in Afghanistan. Monday’s decision does not address the question of whether military suicide attempts should be prosecuted as crimes or rather considered noncriminal matters requiring treatment.

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