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Friday, May 10, 2013

Abu Qatada Would Return to Jordan ‘Voluntarily’

Radical cleric Abu Qatada has told a court that is to decide whether he should be released on bail that he would voluntarily leave the UK and return to Jordan once the two countries ratify a new treaty that guarantees fair trials and bans the use of evidence obtained through torture. “That treaty is clearly designed to meet the requirements laid down by Mr Justice Mitting as to evidence admissible at a retrial, if there is a retrial. If and when the Jordanian parliament ratifies the treaty, Mr Othman will voluntarily return to Jordan”, said his lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC. Abu Qatada is also known as Omar Othman. Abu Qatada faces terrorism charges in Jordan, having been convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison in 1999. He faces a retrial over the same charges, but his lawyers say that under current conditions a fair trial would be impossible because much of the evidence against him was gained from people who were tortured. Jordanian Information Minister Mohammed al-Momani said he expects his government and parliament to ratify the treaty.

Girls as Young as 13 Groomed for Sex in Shropshire

The Court of Appeal has lifted restrictions on the reporting of a child prostitution ring in Telford, Shropshire. Seven men were arrested for targeting and grooming teenage girls for sex between 2007 and 2009, with estimates putting the number of victims at above 100. Detective Chief Inspector Neil Jamieson said that many of the girls were “particularly vulnerable” and received presents such as mobile phones to build up a sense of trust. “What they would do is drive them around, they would ply them with alcohol, drugs, buy them things, and it would almost be a boyfriend-girlfriend scenario initially. It then spiralled into them being shared with other men”, said DCI Jamieson. Some girls were sold for sex to workers in fast-food restaurants around Telford and were as young as 13 years of age at the time. Judge Patrick Thomas QC, sentencing the men, said that their motivations went beyond profit and that they also involved the “sheer gratuitous pleasure in the power you exercised over these unhappy girls”.

Ring Steals US$45 Million from Debit Cards in Matter of Hours

Federal prosecutors in New York have revealed that a worldwide gang of criminals stole US$45 million from two Middle Eastern banks in a matter of hours by hacking into a database of prepaid debit cards in India and in the US, later using the data to withdraw money from cash machines in 27 countries. “In the place of guns and masks, this cyber crime organization used laptops and the Internet. Moving as swiftly as data over the Internet, the organization worked its way from the computer systems of international corporations to the streets of New York City”, said Loretta Lynch, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. The cyber criminals used the data to increase the available balance and withdrawal limits on prepaid MasterCard debit cards issued by the Bank of Muscat of Oman and the National Bank of Ras al-Khaimah (RAKBANK) of the United Arab Emirates. The group may have targeted Middle Eastern banks because they allow customers to store much larger sums on their cards and do not monitor withdrawals as closely as banks in other regions.

Bacteria Make Mosquitoes Resistant to Malaria

Researchers from Michigan State Univeristy have found a strain of bacteria that can infect mosquitoes and make them immune to malaria, an advance that could eventually be used to combat the disease in humans. Led by Zhiyong Xi, the team infected the Anopheles mosquitoes with Wolbachia, a bacteria found commonly in insects. When they matured, they bred with uninfected males, with the infection rendering the subsequent 34 generations immune to malaria parasites. The study ended at that generation, so it is not known how long the immunity could have been passed on, preventing the transmission of malaria. The infection killed malaria parasites both internally and in the insects’ salivary glands, which is the main point of contact with humans and the transmission point of malaria. The findings also suggest that, if released in the wild, these mosquitoes could potentially replace natural populations that carry the malaria parasite. “Once it is deployed in an area, everyone will benefit, no matter if you’re rich or poor”, said Xi.

Weekend Read: Stumbling Over the Past

In Berlin and across Europe, more and more victims of the Nazis are being remembered with Stolpersteine—brass plates, embedded in concrete, in the streets where they lived. In Intelligent Life.

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