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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Insane Heat Wave in China

A slice of pork was cooked to “medium well” after 10 minutes on the pavement in downtown Shanghai; people are frying eggs and barbecuing shrimp and bacon on manhole covers; eggs are hatching without incubation; glass is cracking due to heat; vehicles are self-combusting and a highway billboard mysteriously caught fire by itself.

For the first time ever, Chinese authorities have called a “level 2″ weather emergency – usually reserved for floods and typhoons – for a heatwave. Extreme heat began hitting Shanghai and China’s southern and eastern provinces in early July and is expected to continue through mid-August. It is the worst heat wave there in 140 years. Climate scientists avoid attributing a single weather event to man-made global warming, but it certainly ups the odds of heatwaves.  ”This is the future. Get used to it,” said Andrew Dressler of Texas A&M University.

Bangladeshi High Court Rules Against Islamist Party

The High Court ruled in favor of a petition argued that Jamaat-i-Islami - the party which backed Pakistan in the Bangladesh-Pakistan war – did not believe in the independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh. Lawyers had argued that key provisions in the party’s charter violated Bangladesh’s constitution.

Jamaat-i-Islami is still legal, but it cannot field candidates until it brings its charter in line with the constitution and reapplies for registration. This means the party will be barred from January’s elections if the Supreme Court upholds the verdict.

The ruling comes at a time when four members of the party have been found guilty of war crimes, leading to violent protests in the street. Today was no different, as hundreds of people blocked the road and smashed in vehicles. More protests are planned in the coming days.

Zimbabwe Elections “A Farce”

These were the words opposition leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai used to describe yesterday’s elections, after President Robert Mugabe’s party claimed a landslide victory. Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission has not yet released the official results, and police had threatened to arrest anyone who released unofficial results. Nevertheless, a source from inside the party called Reuters a mere 15 hours after the polls had closed to announce the victory.

Wednesday’s election was largely peaceful, but the largest independent observer group said it was seriously compromised, due to voter registration problems that might have disenfranchised up to a fifth of all voting-age Zimbabweans. There are renewed fears of violence; 200 Tsvangirai supporters were murdered after he won a first-round victory against Mugabe in 2008.

TSA Worker Misconduct On The Rise

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today found that misconduct by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers has risen 26% in the past year. While most problems involved lateness or absenteeism, a full 25% were categorized as screening failures, such as napping on the job. Another 10% involved making inappropriate comments or behaving abusively (also, apparently, leaving weird notes in travelers’ luggage).

The TSA denied that it was in disarray, saying that it had a “zero tolerance” policy for misconduct and a TSA union lawyer pooh-poohed the findings, calling them “much ado about nothing.” The deputy administrator, however, told the House Committee on Homeland Security that the TSA would follow the GAO’s recommendations.

Today in Ongoing Conflicts

Syria: In the wake of significant advances made by the regime’s forces in Homs, President Bashar al-Assad spoke to his troops and took a rare trip outside Damascus, saying he was “sure of victory.”  Nearly simultaneously, rebels bombed a weapons cache in an Assad stronghold in Homs, in one of the most potent anti-government attacks in the region, killing 40 and wounding 160.

Egypt:  Pro-Morsi supporters continue to rally in Cairo despite the cabinet’s order to “take action” against the protesters, and the interior minister’s promise of a “safe exit” for anyone who left voluntarily.

Iraq: Over 1,000 Iraqis were killed in the month of July alone, making it the deadliest single month since 2008.

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