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Monday, June 3, 2013

Manning Trial Begins

Private First Class Bradley Manning went on trial today, accused of aiding the enemy by providing a massive amount of classified information to the government transparency group, WikiLeaks. Manning has been in jail since his arrest three years ago; if convicted, he faces a life sentence without the possibility of parole. In his opening remarks, U.S. Army prosecutor Captain Joe Morrow suggested to the court that the leaked information “had great interest to our adversaries and to our enemies” and that Manning’s actions were “what happens when arrogance meets access to classified networks.” Manning’s lawyer David Coombs demurred, saying the “young, naïve, but good intentioned” Manning had a habit of “placing people first, placing value on human lives.” In order to obtain an conviction, Morrow and his team will need to prove that Private Manning acted with intent to aid the enemy and knowingly gave such adversaries U.S. intelligence information. Among the materials posted by WikiLeaks, about 500,000 secret or classified documents from the U.S. engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, was a video showing an Apache Helicopter killing 11 people, including two Reuters employees.

Massive Flooding in Central Europe

Thousands have been displaced by rising flood waters throughout central Europe. The rivers Elbe, Mulde, Danube, Inn, Ilz and Vltava are at their highest levels in years. At least seven people have died due to flooding or the resultant landslides, and many are missing. In Germany the army has been deployed throughout the south and east of the country to reinforce flood defenses. Towns across Bavaria are underwater, and the Austrian meteorological service said two months of rain had fallen in just two days. The Czech Republic, whose river Vltava is at 10 times its normal capacity, has declared a national state of emergency; troops have evacuated over 3,000 people. “The story is not yet over here,” warned Czech Environment Minister Tomas Chalupa, and indeed waters are expected to rise further tomorrow. Hungary and Slovakia, which are connected to central Europe by the same river network, are preparing flood defenses as well. Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico worried about his capital city, Bratislava, saying, “we are getting bad news from Germany and Austria. We have to do all we can to protect the capital.”

Fourth Day of Turkish Riots

Riots in Turkey continue for a fourth day, after a protest against the redevelopment of a central Istanbul park was met by police with teargas and mace. Protestors in over 67 other cities nationwide have taken to the streets in solidarity, asking for the resignation of Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over fears that his Justice and Development Party (AKP) is successfully imposing conservative Islamic values on the officially secular country and infringing on personal freedoms. Last week, the government passed legislation curbing the sale and advertising of alcoholic drinks. Hundreds of people have been injured, and thousands more have been admitted to hospitals with serious injuries. In a televised speech, Erdoğan characterized the protests as the result of foreign or opposition agent provocateurs, saying, “there are those attending these events organized by extremists. This is not about Gezi Park anymore. These are organized events with affiliations both within Turkey and abroad.” But a widely cited blog post entitled ‘What is happening in Istanbul‘ suggests otherwise. Protestor Emma Balnaves writes, “I don’t defend any ideology and I am not on the side of any regime. Like many others in Turkey I am tired and frustrated from the polarization between Kemalist seculars and the Islamists.” Turkish President Abdullah Gul begged for calm and defended protesters’ rights to hold peaceful demonstrations. “If there are different opinions, different situations, different points of view and dissent, there is nothing more natural that being able to voice those differences,” he said. Violent clashes between protestors and police were ongoing at press time, as documented by several social media outlets.

Fire at Chinese Poultry Plant Kills 199

A fire in the province of Jilin, in northwest China, damaged a poultry plant and killed at least 119 workers early this morning. Three explosions, which were caused by an ammonia leak and faulty wiring, rocked the Mishazi township during a shift change at the Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company plant, according to Jilin fire department officials. It took about 6 hours and 500 firefighters to extinguish the blaze; the bodies of those who perished are still being counted. According to Yang Dongliang, director of State Administration of Work Safety, deaths from workplace accidents fell nearly 5 percent last year from the previous year, due in part to rigorously updated policies and more strict enforcement, since the September 2008 mining cave-in that claimed 281 lives. Still, survivors from today’s poultry plant fire said many emergency exits were blocked. Gou Yan, a worker at the Baoyuanfeng Poultry plant, was knocked to the ground as she tried to escape via a barred exit near her workstation. “I could only crawl desperately forward,” Guo recounted. “I worked alongside an old lady and a young girl, but I don’t know if they survived or not.”

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