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Friday, July 26, 2013

Thousands Rally in Egypt, Morsi to be Charged

Dueling rallies held across Egypt today, both in support of, and opposition to, the interim military-led government, drew ten of thousands of people to the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, and other cities. Many of the protests were peaceful, but clashes erupted in some spots, leaving at least two people dead and more than 150 others injured.

Earlier this week, army general Abdel Fatah al-Sisi called for citizens to take to the streets in support of the interim government, to establish a “mandate” to combat the spread of “violence and terrorism”, a not-so-subtle dig at the rival Muslim Brotherhood (MB). MB supporters organized their own counter-protests in response. The already tense situation was further exacerbated by news that the military is investigating deposed president Mohammed Morsi for “colluding with” Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. That announcement was made by state media earlier today, and Morsi was subsequently moved to Tora prison in Cairo, the same place that Egypt’s previous leader, Hosni Mubarak, is being held.

Gehad al-Haddad, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood called the charges against Morsi “laughable”. “It’s every crime that you would think of if you were looking at the 25 January revolution [the 2011 uprising] through the eyes of Hosni Mubarak. It’s retaliation from the Mubarak state.”

Halliburton Pleads Guilty to Destroying Gulf Spill Evidence

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday that Halliburton Co has agreed to plead guilty to destroying evidence related to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill, the largest in U.S. history, was triggered following a explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in April, 2010. Halliburton provided cementing services to BP to seal the well in question, and, following the spill, destroyed computer simulations that reportedly showed little difference in effectiveness between recommendation sealant methods.

Thursday’s guilty plea is the third made by Halliburton related to the spill. The firm is required to pay a mere $200,000 fine in the case, along with accepting a three year probation period. Halliburton has also voluntary made a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, according to Justice Department officials.

Death Toll in Syria Tops 100,000

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his call for peace talks between Syrian government officials and representatives of rebels groups. The two sides have been engaged in a bloody civil war since the Arab Spring of 2011, and Ban cited new data showing more than 100,000 people have now been killed in the conflict.

The U.S. and Russia have been working in recent months to bring together an international conference in Geneva. The original plan was for those meetings to take place in June, but representatives of the Syrian opposition refused to take part without the explicit assumption that any peace deal would involve Syrian leader Bashar al Assad surrendering the presidency. The government balked at that requirement, and in the weeks since, government forces have gained ground against rebels in a number of contested areas of the country. Rebels have also been plagued by increasing in-fighting between rival factions, culminating in the assassination of one prominent opposition leader at the hands of al Qaeda-affiliated rebels.

This Week in Death and Destruction in Iraq

A bomb targeting diners in a cafe north of Baghdad killed 16 people Thursday evening, the latest event in a rapidly escalating year of sectarian conflict in Iraq. The Noufel cafe, in the town of Muqdadiyah, was the target of Thursday’s attack. Cafes are popular gathering places in Iraq, particularly in the evening hours during Ramadan, and insurgents have taken advantage of that with a wave of attacks in recent weeks.

Also on Thursday, a bomb planted in a garden in the al-Amiriya district killed four people attending a wedding, and three others were killed by a roadside bomb in Madaen. One day prior, 14 Shi’ite truck drivers were executed by Sunni insurgents who had set up a fake roadblock north of Baghdad. More than a dozen people wwere killed when gunmen opened fire on a police station south of Mosul on Wednesday, and four soldiers were shot dead when a minibus was attacked in western Tikrit. And all of this follows Sunday’s brazen attack on two high security prisons at Taji and Abu Ghraib, which freed more than 500 inmates, many of them al Qaeda operatives.

The month of July has seen at least 750 people killed in sectarian attacks in Iraq, continuing a string of the most violent months since the height of the U.S. occupation.

NASA Telescope Gives Us a Better Look at the Sun

NASA’s newly launched Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft has taken its first photos of the sun, giving scientists a detailed glimpse at the solar atmosphere. The first images were returned just 21 hours after the craft’s telescopic lens was opened. Those images showed never-before-details of the sun’s lower atmosphere, a region about which scientists known very little. John Grunsfeld, a former astronaut and the current chief of NASA’s science mission directorate, called these first transmissions of data “a grand opening of a new era in solar physics”.

Weekend Read: America Has a Stadium Problem

While the valuations of American pro sports franchises continue to skyrocket, making already rich ownership groups even richer, the public is most often the ones left on the hook for funding expensive new stadiums to keep their favorite teams in town. It turns out that’s rarely a good deal for taxpayers. Pacific Standard’s Aaron Gordon makes the case that “America Has a Stadium Problem”.

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