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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Government Report Casts Blame in Bangladesh Building Collapse

The Rana Plaza building that collapsed, killing more than 1,000 people last month, was constructed with substandard materials and in blatant disregard for building codes, according to a Bangladeshi government report issued yesterday. The sprawling report found fault with more than just engineering. It specifically blamed the Mayor of Savar for improperly granting construction approval, and the owners of the building and factories for colluding to illegally constructing extra floors atop the building. According to the report, by Main Uddin Khandaker, large cracks appeared in the building on April 23rd, shaking the structure enough that many workers fled. Abdur Razzak Khan, the engineer that assisted in the construction of the three illegal floors, was called to inspect the structure and warned that it was unsafe. But despite a police order asking the building to be evacuated, the next morning factory bosses told their workers the building was safe. The building collapsed hours later killing, 1,127 people and injuring almost 3,000 others. Khandaker’s report recommends the owners of the building and factories be held charged with homicide and bribery.

Sectarian Clashes in Tripoli Leave Twenty Dead, Scores Wounded

More than 50 people were wounded in a sectarian firefight in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli last night. Lebanon has seen sporadic sectarian violence since the Sunni Muslim-led revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Alewite oligarchy began two years ago, but residents of the northern city on the Mediterranean say that last night’s violence, which saw of mortar and grenade attacks and heavy machine-gun fire, was a significant escalation. The rebel-sympathetic sunnis have clashed with members of the small alewite community in many times since Lebanon and Syria gained independence from France in the 1940s, but the Syrian conflict has stirred balkanizing sentiment, with Sunnis and Alewites accusing each other of using the city as a base for sending fighters and weapons in and out of Syria. Nearly 20 people have been killed and more than 170 wounded in Tripoli since Hezbollah’s assault on the Syrian city of Qusayr caused a fresh round of fighting on Sunday.

Obama Narrows Scope of U.S. Drone Warfare

In a sprawling speech today, U.S. President Barack Obama defended the use of drones as a needed, focused tool in the war on al-qaeda and its associated groups. But the President tempered his enthusiasm, saying the civilian casualties were haunting, but ultimately preferable to the heavy collateral damage caused by conventional conflicts like 1993′s Battle of Mogadishu. Obama’s administration also released a set of specific rules of engagement for drone strikes, and as part of that, his administration admitted that at least four Americans have been killed by drone strikes. Among other policy points, the President also reified his moribund quest to close the extra legal prison in Guantanámo Bay, Cuba. Citing the efficacy of the traditional U.S. justice system in prosecuting and incarcerating terrorists, Obama asked congressional leaders to end their opposition to his efforts. “Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are? Is that something that our Founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave to our children?”

Rioting in Sweden Enters a Fourth Night

Rioters took to the streets for a fourth night in Sweden, attacking police officers while setting scores of cars and even a restaurant on fire in Stockholm. The riots began as a protest against rampant youth unemployment, poor conditions for asylum seekers, and the use of racial profiling by police. Last night, a police station in the southern Stockholm suburb of Rågsved was torched, despite the country’s Prime Minister calling for calm. Selcuk Ceken, a youth counselor, watched at least 40 young people smash windows and throw stones at police. “It’s difficult to say why they’re doing this,” he said. “Maybe it’s anger at the law and order forces, maybe it’s anger at their own personal situation, such as unemployment or having nowhere to live.” But Rouzbeh Djalaie, editor of Norra Sidan newspaper, says the reasons are obvious. “Unemployment, the housing situation, disrespect from police.” Djalaie says local people in their early 20′s are often hassled by police for their identity papers, and that said some officers refer to them as “apes”. Despite pioneering the model of generous welfare benefits, Sweden has greatly reduced the government’s role in the social realm in the past decade, creating a furious growth in inequality unseen in any other advanced economy. While the protests and vandalism might have been prompted by social issues, police, government, and demonstrators agree that the situation escalated. Said one rioter, “in the beginning it was just a bit of fun. But then when I saw the police charging through here with batons, pushing women and children out of the way and swinging their batons, I got so damned angry.”

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