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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Manning Guilty of Espionage, Acquitted of ‘Aiding the Enemy’

Military judge Colonel Denise Lind found Bradley Manning guilty on 17 of 22 counts today. Although Manning had already pleaded guilty to some of the less serious charges, the government prosecuted him on multiple violations of the Espionage Act and the more serious crime of “aiding the enemy.” It is unprecedented to charge anyone with “aiding the enemy” in a leak case, and Manning was indeed acquitted of that charge, to the relief of journalists and civil rights advocates. He now faces a maximum of 130 years in prison.

Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union both condemned the verdict, criticizing the government for prosecuting Manning while refusing to investigate torture allegations and using the Espionage Act, respectively.

Manning’s sentence will be reduced by 112 days, as compensation for the extraordinarily harsh treatment he endured for a year at Quantico.  The United Nations special rapporteur on torture formally accused the United States government of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment towards Manning one year ago.

Pakistan Taliban Attack Prison

Taliban fighters attacked a prison in northwest Pakistan with mortars and grenades on Monday night. At least 12 people were killed, including six police. The fighters began the attack with a huge explosion, then detonated smaller bombs to destroy the prison’s boundary wall. After three hours of fighting with security forces while chanting “God is great” and “Long live the Taliban,” they successfully freed 250 inmates, of whom 40-45 were “high priority.”

This was one of the worst Taliban attacks in recent months and highlighted central governmental security issues – the security forces seemed wholly unprepared, despite the fact that senior military officials had intelligence that an attack was imminent. This will all fall at the feet of newly-elected president Mamnoon Hussain, a former textiles magnate. He was elected one hour after the Taliban attack began.

Bombs Target Christian Neighborhood in Nigeria

A series of explosions targeted bars and nightclubs in a predominantly Christian neighborhood in Kano, which the militant Islamist group Boko Haram has attacked before. According to hospital staff, at least 28 people have been killed and 15 injured. The military has released a statement saying that only 12 people were killed and “a couple” injured, noting that the bombings could have been prevented if the public had been more vigilant.  It has cordoned off the area and blocked access to the hospital where many of the wounded have been taken. Over 100 people gathered at the hospital begging to be let in to see their loved ones or at least know if they are alive.

The army announced today that it has arrested 42 suspected members of Boko Haram in southwestern Nigeria. Boko Haram has never attacked targets in the south, however, and many are worried that the military has simply forced militants into other states, thereby spreading the problem.

Zimbabwe Hopes for Non-Violent Election

Riot police have been deployed to polling stations in potential election flashpoints in Zimbabwe, on the eve of a contentious presidential election that has pitted President Robert Mugabe against Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.  While the campaign has been marred by allegations of threats and intimidation, there has not yet been any violence.

With no reliable opinion polls, it is impossible to know who will win. Both sides are predicting landslide victories for their respective candidates, but the real question is whether either would accept the results of polls whose voters lists have included thousands of dead people’s names and some names that appear three or four times, with slight alterations but otherwise identical information.

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence from Britain in 1980, has promised he will step down if he loses the election. Likewise, Tsvangirai said he would accept the outcome of a “free and fair” election – but the jury is still out on whether it will be one.

Incan Mummies Shed Light on Child Sacrifice

Tests performed on three mummies found in Argentina in 1999 have revealed that drugs and alcohol played a key part in the weeks and months leading up to the children’s sacrifice.  The Incas sacrificed children for many different reasons, like times of war or natural disasters and milestones for the civilization, as well as scheduled rituals. These mummies date back to about 500 years ago and have been called the best preserved mummies in the world.

Particularly attractive or gifted children were selected for sacrifice and the alcohol and coca leaves found in their systems were reserved only for the elite. The children were likely sedated before being entombed in a shrine near the summit of a volcano.

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