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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Russian Opposition Leader Convicted of Embezzlement

Aleksei Navalny, a prominent opponent of Russian’s ruling party, was sentenced to five years in prison today for embezzlement. Nalvany came to prominence as an anti-corruption blogger and had recently announced the intention of running for mayor of Moscow. A mass of people gathered in Manexh Square, ostensibly to protest the court’s decision, but as the gathering lacked permits, the police began arresting individuals immediately.

Vladimir Putin’s administration has been particularly harsh against any perceived threats to its hegemony. In 2005, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the billionaire financier of various opposition efforts, was imprisoned for fraud, and last year, four members of the situationist punk rock group Pussy Riot were imprisoned for undermining social order.

Navalay is expected to appeal, and will be free until his appeals are exhausted. Just before he was led away from the courthouse, he sent a final message, “O.K. Don’t miss me. And most importantly — do not be lazy.

Ex-CIA Agent Arrested in Panama

Italian sources have announced the arrest of Robert Seldon Lady, the CIA agent convicted of kidnapping Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr in Milan. Lady is thought to have captured and sent the imam back to Egypt for rendition, where Nasr says he was tortured for seven months.

Lady has maintained his innocence but admits, “When you work in intelligence, you do things in the country in which you work that are not legal. It’s a life of illegality.

It is unclear of Italy has asked for Lady’s extradition, and Panamanian officials have insisted they have no information about the case.

Detroit Files for Bankruptcy

As of this afternoon, Detroit has become the largest U.S. municipality to ever file for bankruptcy. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has approved a request from Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, noting, “Detroit simply cannot raise enough revenue to meet its current obligations, and that is a situation that is only projected to get worse absent a bankruptcy filing.”

Orr had been appointed earlier this year to deal with Detroit’s estimated $18.5 billion in long-term debt. By June he had established a plan to pay the city’s creditors off for pennies on the dollar, but the proposal met stiff resistance. The creditors have already filed numerous legal challenges to prevent the bankruptcy filing.

Giant Viruses Discovered

Scientists have discovered what they had previously believed to be aberrant or new life forms were in fact, massive viruses. Measuring roughly one micrometer across, the Pandoraviruses, as they are now known, dwarf other known viruses, handily outclass many bacteria, and even weigh-in a bit larger than some eukaryotic cells. More than just being massive, Pandoraviruses also point toward some significant genetics, just seven percent of their genes match those of existing databases.

Jean-Michel Claverie, a biologist from France on the team that found the first such virus off the coast of Chile wonders, “What the hell is going on with the other genes?

Steam at Nuclear Plant Not Dangerous

Despite the alarming reappearance of steam emanating from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, officials there do not believe the steam is the result of renewed nuclear reactions, which would likely lead to the release of radioactive material into the atmosphere. Tepco, the organization that is in charge of nuclear energy in Japan, said that while they were unsure of the cause of the steam, they had not detected any xenon, a short half-lifed byproduct of fission which is a sure indicator of recent nuclear activity.

Hiroki Kawamata, a Tepco spokesperson, suggested perhaps rainwater had seeped into the reactor’s containment vessel and vaporized due to heat. Tepco has been routinely criticized for being circumspect in its descriptions of the severity of the situation at the damaged nuclear reactor.

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