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Monday, June 17, 2013

Indian Monsoon Comes Early

Massive rains in India have led to the deaths of at least 26, as landslides and floods have wreaked havoc on roads and buildings in the northern state of Uttarakhand. According to officials, the monsoon rains have arrived more than a month earlier than normal and are significantly more ferocious; Dehradun received a record-breaking 22 centimeters of rain yesterday. It has been raining non-stop since Saturday morning. Earlier today, Piyush Rautela, the director of Uttarakhand state’s disaster management center, said “more than 50 persons are missing, due to flooding, landslides and building collapses caused by heavy rain.” Helicopters were scrambled to evacuate more than 10,000 religious pilgrims that had been stranded along a mountain pass, after landslides has destroyed roads leading to the remote Hindu religious site. While the rains have proven fatal to some, to others they will be a much needed respite to a drought that has plagued India’s agricultural regions. The southern state of Maharashtra, India’s biggest sugar-producer, saw little rain at all last year. The resulting desiccation has made for the worst drought in almost 50 years.

Violent Weekend in Iraq

An acute spate of co-ordinated attacks claimed 51 lives across Iraq yesterday. Eleven perished in the deadliest attack, as a bomber blew himself up last night inside a cafe in southeastern Baghdad in the Shiite neighborhood of al-Ameen. Nearly 2,000 people have died since April, with 180 of them dying this month alone; violence of this intensity has not been seen since the height of the U.S. war in Iraq. Saif Hameed, a witness to yesterday’s cafe bombing said, “It seems the terrorists are targeting any place they can, no matter what it is.” While no one has claimed responsibility for these attacks, the strikes come only a day after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of al-Qaeda’s Iraqi arm, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, rejected an order from the al-Qaeda core leadership, to cease its attempt to control Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. Shop-owner Hameed is unimpressed with the ISI’s tactics. “The main things for them are to kill as many Iraqis as they can and keep the people living in fear.”

Turkish Armed Forces Invoked to Quell Protests

Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Bülent Arınç, said today that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) would be called into action if the police failed to quell protests that have rocked the country over the past two weeks. As nearly 800,000 members of labor federations have gone on strike, Arınç took to television, saying, “What is required of us is to stop if there is a protest against the law. Here is the police, if not enough gendarme, if not TSK.” Last night, despite pledges to clear the area, police fired tear gas at protestors throughout Taksim Square and Gezi Park. In fact, parts of Istanbul that had been largely removed from the violent protests, like the Galata bridge and the upmarket Nisantasi neighborhood, also saw anti-government demonstrations. This weekend, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held rallies in Ankara and Istanbul, attracting many hundreds of thousands of supporters. To the cheers of many, Erdoğan dismissed the demonstrations as “nothing more than the minority’s attempt to dominate the majority … We could not have allowed this and we will not allow it.”

U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Voting Law

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an Arizona law that required proof of citizenship before people could register to vote. In a 7-2 vote, the court, the SCOTUS ruled the voter registration provision of the 2004 state law was trumped by a federal law, the 1993 National Voter Registration Act which requires states to “accept and use” a federal registration form. Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who sided with the majority, suggested that there were limitations on today’s ruling. The Justice suggested Arizona could still ask the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to include a citizenship provision on the federal form in the future. The commission has already given Louisiana permission to require additional materials as proof of identification if an applicant does not have a driver’s license, identification card, or Social Security number. Scalia suggested, “That alternative means of enforcing its constitutional power to determine voting qualifications remains open to Arizona here.”

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