Hunger Strike at GTMO Shows No Sign of Ending
Thirty Five of the 103 hunger striking prisoners in Guantánamo Bay prison were force-fed this Sunday. According to Army Lt. Col. Samuel House, six of those 35 are currently hospitalized. “The detainees in the hospital do not currently have any life-threatening conditions,” said House. This hunger strike began more than 110 days ago when guards searched the inmates’ communal quarters—including their government-issued Qurans—confiscating personal items like family letters, photos, and legal paperwork. In 2005, a hunger strike over prison conditions failing to meet the standards set by the Geneva Convention saw nearly 200 participants and only ended five months later when the majority of the participants were transferred to other prison facilities. At the height of that hunger strike, 32 people were force-fed each day. Today, there are only 166 detainees held in Guantánamo Bay, with more than half having been cleared for release.
EU Lifts Arms Embargo on Syria to International Criticism
The European Union agreed late yesterday to end its embargo on arming Syrian rebels.None of the 27 countries in the union have announced any immediate plans to begin arms shipments to Syria, but still the possibility has been greeted poorly by many non-EU countries. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said that any such shipments could only lead to “more violence, more deaths and more destruction” in Syria. “My strong view is that the only way to end the suffering of the Syrian people is a political solution,” he told reporters. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Seyyed Abbas Araqchi agreed, characterizing the EU’s decision as a “hasty and dangerous move”. Russia, despite indicating that it would go through with sending promised missile and aircraft defense weapons to the Syrian government, also found it fit to critique Monday’s announcement. “This in and of itself is a rather controversial decision because arms supplies to non-state entities are forbidden by international law,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Syrian rebel General Salim Idris was “very disappointed” however to learn that no shipments of weapons were yet forthcoming; Idris gave an impassioned speech before diplomats in Brussels in March, asserting that anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles were urgently needed to protect civilians.
South Korean Power Shortages Eminent
The South Korean government expects electricity shortages and rolling blackouts this summer, due to the need to effect repairs on several nuclear power plants. Ten of the country’s 23 nuclear reactors are currently offline after officials discovered that at least eight government supply contractors had fabricated safety warranties, covering thousands of items used in a number of reactors. Following an investigation into a suspect supply of cables, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission announced it had shut down two 1,000 megawatt reactors, one at the Gori nuclear complex and another at the Wolseong plant. The commission also halted the resumption of another reactor already under maintenance at Gori and the start of a new reactor at Wolseong, after learning that both had used parts from tainted suppliers. Each reactor is expected to be offline for another four months. South Korea’s nuclear reactors ought to supply more than 35 percent of national energy needs. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy will announce power saving measures designed to allay the worst of the power shortage by the end of this week.
Record Breaking Money Laundering Bust
This morning, the operators of Liberty Reserve were charged with laundering more $6 billion. Five employees were arrested in Costa Rica, Brooklyn, and Spain on Friday; two others were arrested previously. According to the indictment announced by the United States attorney’s office, “Liberty Reserve was in fact used extensively for illegal purposes, functioning in effect as the bank of choice for the criminal underworld.” In addition to the criminal charges, five internet domain names were seized, as were the contents of 45 bank accounts. According to the indictment, the users of Liberty Reserve were overwhelmingly criminal, and “included, for example: traffickers of stolen credit card data and personal identity information; peddlers of various types of online Ponzi and get-rich-quick schemes; computer hackers for hire; unregulated gambling enterprises; and underground drug-dealing Web sites.” Despite being widely used by criminal enterprises, Liberty Reserves also had many legitimate clients. Mitchell Rossetti, founders of ePayCards.com, said his business still had about $28,000 tied up in Liberty Reserve accounts. Rossetti knew Liberty Reserve was being used by criminals but likened the Liberty Reserves credits to any other currency, saying, “The U.S. dollar can be donated to a church or it can pay a prostitute.”