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Monday, July 15, 2013

Prominent Islamist Politician Jailed in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal has convicted Ghulam Azam, the 91-year-old leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, on all 61 counts of which he was charged, including inciting, planning, and failing to prevent war crimes. Azam has been sentenced to 90 years in prison for his alleged crimes during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence, despite being not directly linked to violence. Prosecutor Zead Al-Malum suggested the direct link was immaterial, “Although Ghulam Azam was not physically present during the incidents, as the wartime leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, he is responsible for the heinous crimes perpetrated by the militia that collaborated with the Pakistan army.”

The tribunal has convicted four other opposition politicians of war crimes this year, three were sentenced to death. Since then, strikes and clashes with police have left at least a hundred people dead. Jamaat-e-Islami has called a nationwide strike to protest the verdict, at least two people have already been killed by police.

The Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal, which is in fact a domestic court, has drawn criticism as it has indicted 10 people since its inception in 2009: all of them members of opposition to the current Bangladeshi administration. But despite allegations by human rights groups that the trials do not meet international standards, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina denies political motives behind the court’s prosecutions.

Scores Dead in Iraq

Hundreds have been wounded and at least 33 people have been killed since the beginning of Ramadan in Iraq. Yesterday in Basra, three car bombs detonated, killing seven people, while a suicide bomber killed a dozen people in a Hilla mosque, 60 miles south of the country’s capital. Much of the violence has either been blamed on, or claimed by, al-Qaeda affiliates like the Islamic State of Iraq. According to AFP, more than 340 people have been killed this month, and 2,600 people have died in sectarian ferocity since the beginning of the year. This has been the most violent year in Iraq since the zenith of the Iraqi insurgency following the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Indian Floods Claim Thousands

The government of the northern indian state of Uttarakhand said that more than 5,700 people are presumed dead after going missing during the rash of devastating floods. This year’s monsoon rains were the heaviest in almost a century. More than 100,000 people needed rescue from the mountainous himalayan foothills after roads and more than 4,000 villages were destroyed in landslides.

Earlier government estimates had placed the number of dead at 600, but 5,748 people who remain missing will now be presumed dead, so that the government can begin to give financial compensation to their families. Vijay Bahuguna, governor of Uttarakhand state, said the government would issue “certificates to families of the missing so that the people can get compensation immediately“. According to officials, the compensation will be roughly 500,000 rupees ($8,350) per victim.

Zimmerman Verdict Draws Mixed Reactions

George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder by a Florida jury late this past Saturday, after a confrontation with Trayvon Martin led to the shooting death of the 17-year-old Martin, early last year. Vigils were held near federal buildings in more than 100 cities over the weekend, urging the Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder to open a civil rights investigation against Zimmerman. Today, Holder voiced concerns about what he called “the tragic, unnecessary shooting death”.

Yesterday in Los Angeles, protestors marched on Interstate 10, shutting the highway down for nearly an hour. LAPD fired bean bag rounds into the crowd and arrested at least eight protestors.

New York City police arrested at least 10 people after kettling thousands of peaceful protestors as they marched from lower Manhattan towards Times Square, many of whom wore hoodies, in reference to the garment worn by Trayvon Martin. “This is a show of strength, but it’s also a show of solidarity with the (Martin) family because last night what happened was complete disrespect to them,” said People’s Power Assembly Union member, Imani Henry. “We want to show love and respect to them.”

New Neptunian Moon

NASA announced the discovery of a small moon orbiting the planet Neptune. The diminutive natural satellite, a mere 12 miles in diameter, was discovered by the Hubble space telescope program and has been designated S/2004 N 1, in reference to the fact that it was found in photographs taken in 2004. Neptune was already known to have 13 other moons orbiting it, but S/2004 N 1 is by far the smallest yet.

Mark Showalter found the moon earlier this month, while studying Hubble photographs of faint arcs around Neptune. “The moons and arcs orbit very quickly, so we had to devise a way to follow their motion in order to bring out the details of the system,” he said. “It’s the same reason a sports photographer tracks a running athlete — the athlete stays in focus, but the background blurs.”

Showalter has also discovered two moons of the dwarf planet Pluto in 2011 and 2012. After a public poll, he christen them Kerberos and Styx. Those names were accepted by the International Astronomical Union earlier this month.

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