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Friday, July 12, 2013

Education Activist Yousafzai Speaks to U.N.

Today is Malala Yousafzai’s 16th birthday. Last October, she was shot in the head by a Taliban assassin over her outspoken support for education rights in the northwest Pakistani mountain valley of Swat. After being evacuated to a British hospital, Yousafzai recovered, and returned to school, now in Birmingham, in March. Today she addressed a youth assembly at the United Nations. Speaking in support of many other rights activists who have been slain, she said, “terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”

And though the attempted assassination of a 15-year-old girl stroked a furor, the Pakistani Taliban, which views secular schools as a symbol of the federal power of Lahore and manifestations of Western ideals, is unrepentant. Attacks on school children and teachers in western Pakistan continue. The school which Yousafzai had attended is doing well; school administrator Iqbal Khan says, “We were not expecting the pupils to come back, but they did.” But other schools are not so fortunate. Fifty miles west, another girls’ school was dynamited last December. Teachers there now wear burkas to avoid drawing attention; attendance is down 75 percent.

Malala concluded her speech today with a reminder, “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first. Thank you.”

Dead Man Elected Mayor

Lenin Carballido, a mayoral candidate from the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), narrowly won an election in the Oaxacan town of San Agustin Amatengo, Mexico earlier this year, despite evidence suggesting he is legally dead. In 2010, a death certificate certifying Carballido had died of “natural causes” following a diabetic coma, was signed by a doctor and issued by the local records office. “When he registered as a candidate, he presented all his paperwork, his birth certificate, a letter stating he had no criminal record,” said PRD spokesperson Rey Morales.

Prosecutors are now investigating allegations that Carballido faked his death to avoid charges linking him to the gang rape of a woman in Colonia El Arenal several years ago. According to the Oaxaca state prosecutors’ office, “The state attorney general’s office will investigate and bring charges, even if the suspect is recognized by electoral authorities as a municipal authority.” The PRD has announced that it will make every effort to block Carballido’s appointment.

Ugandan Rebel Group Seizes Congolese Town

The Ugandan rebel group, Allied Democratic Forces, has attacked a town in east Congo, causing at least 18,000 Congolese to flee. According to Ugandan army spokesperson Paddy Ankunda, yesterday, the rebels sacked the town of Kamango, killing several people and forcing thousands of people into the surrounding countryside. The Congolese government has limited influence in the eastern portions of the country, which has stymied their ability to respond to aggression from militias like the ADF and the Lord’s Resistance Army.

A U.N. report last year indicated that the ADF has “expanded their military capacity and cooperated” with Somalia’s al-Shabab militants, but what role said links may have played in yesterday’s attack remains unclear. Ankunda expressed suspicion that “their link to al-Shabab could give them new skills on how to make improvised explosive devices” and allow them to regain a foothold in Uganda, but ADF’s efficacy has been largely blunted since 2008, when several factions of the rebels group accepted an amnesty after a series of military defeats. Nevertheless, Ugandan government officials and human rights groups have been issuing dire warnings for several years, suggesting the ADF is using abducted children to bolster their numbers in the areas around Mount Rwenzori.

The Ugandan Red Cross has estimated that nearly 20,000 Congolese citizens have fled this recent resumption of violence.

Indonesian Jail Break

Security forces have been deployed near the Tanjung Gusta prison in western Indonesia after an inmate riot resulted in a massive fire and a prison break. The violence began after a power outage disabled pumps that provide water to the prison. Police spokesperson Heru Prakoso, said that at least five people have already died. The prison was built to house just 400 prisoners, but prison directorate spokesman Akbar Hadi suggested that Tanjung Gusta is currently home to more than 2,400 prisoners.

Around 200 prisoners have escaped the North Sumatran prison during the riots, including 15 people convicted of terrorism offenses, but 60 have since been recaptured. Police have established checkpoints in all egresses from the city, and have begun sweeps of the surrounding area.

Police say they’ve retaken the prison and the majority of the inmates are back in their cells. A delegation of seven prisoners met with the Indonesian justice and human rights minister earlier today in order to address conditions in the prison.

Weekend Read: “Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book”

Police Forces around the U.S. are increasingly relying on the use of heavily armed SWAT teams, to effect arrests for relatively minor crimes. Radley Balko enumerates the results and discusses the implications in Salon.

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