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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bloody Chaos as Egypt Returns to Military Rule

Riot police, armored vehicles, bulldozers and helicopters brutally cleared the two largest pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo today; reporters inside the camps said the protesters were largely armed with sticks, stones and slabs of concrete. Violence soon spread across the country with protesters and security forces clashing in the cities of Alexandria, Minya, Assiut, Fayoum and Suez as well as in the provinces of Buhayra and Beni Suef.

235 people have been confirmed killed (though the number will almost certainly skyrocket – it rose by 100 in one hour) and thousands have been injured. The majority of the casualties have been police-inflicted, but angry protesters have retaliated, attacking and setting fire to police stations, government offices and Coptic churches. At least two journalists have been killed in what may be deliberate targeting of media workers.  Senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been detained, including Mohammed el-Beltagy who named his 17-year-old daughter among the fatalities. Today marks the worst violence the Brotherhood and its supporters have seen in decades.

The interim government appointed by General Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi has declared a month-long state of emergency, suspending the right to a trial or due process and essentially returning Egypt to the martial law that was in place under President Hosni Mubarak. Curfew is being imposed until 6am.  Any hope of political reconciliation or integrating the Muslim Brotherhood into current politics seems to have been extinguished.

Vice President Mohamed El-Baradei, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has resigned in protest, saying the conflict could have been resolved peacefully, saying “The only ones who benefit from today’s events are the terrorists and the anarchists and the extremists, and you will do well to remember what I said. May god save and bless Egypt and its people.”

Doctors Without Borders Pulls Out of Somalia

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced that it would be pulling out of Somalia after 22 years because of armed groups that are assaulting, abducting and murdering aid workers. The group apparently made the decision upon learning that Somalia’s civilian leaders were condoning and sometimes even supporting the attacks. The move is particularly surprising – and alarming for Somalia’s future – since MSF is famous for tolerating extremely dangerous risks in order to deliver aid. In fact, the group said that due to targeted attacks on humanitarian workers, Somalia was the only country in which they had operated where they took ”the exceptional measure of utilizing armed guards”.

The move will cut off hundreds of thousands from humanitarian aid. In many parts of the country, it is the only provider of any health care whatsoever – from basic medical supplies to major surgery.

The ACLU Has Its Work Cut Out For It

On Monday, the ACLU filed its most recent lawsuit against a state, newly-uncovered by the Voting Rights Act, that immediately enacts laws intended to disenfranchise minority voters. This time, it’s North Carolina, which recently passed the toughest voter ID law in the country under the pretext of stopping voter fraud (there were around 7 million votes in the 2012 primary and general elections; there were 121 alleged cases of voter fraud).

The organization is also set to argue in court tomorrow that the Department of Justice should be required to disclose the legal interpretations the government used to conduct clandestine location surveillance. While the 2012 ruling forcing federal agents to attain a search warrant before attaching a GPS to a vehicle, the DOJ has insisted that does not apply to cell phone tracking. When it previously received these interpretations under the Freedom of Information Act, almost all of the 111 pages had been blacked out.

Typhoon Utor Causes Mass Evacuations of Hong Kong

This morning, the Hong Kong weather observatory raised its number eight tropical cyclone signal, which is its third highest alert level.  Over 100,000 people have been evacuated after Typhoon Utor hit southern China. The high winds and torrential rain sank a cargo ship and forced the closure of Hong Kong’s financial center as well as schools, offices, shopping centers and building sites throughout Guangdong province. The stock market halted trading.

Facing sustained gale force winds of 90 miles/hour, hundreds of flights have been cancelled around the region, as well as some train and shipping services, due to the 30-foot waves that were expected in some coastal zones. Thousands of travelers have been stranded.

Fast Food Workers To Escalate Campaign for Living Wage

Two weeks after one-day strikes by thousands of fast food workers, the president of the Service Employees International Union said that the strikers plan to increase their reach over the next couple of weeks while they still have a lot of media visibility.

The movement has spread from New York City to the Midwest and the West Coast, and may now have a foothold in several cities in the South. The movement’s momentum comes as a result of a tectonic change in the American economy, which no longer produces good middle-class jobs. Five out of six of the fastest-growing job categories in America pay less than the minimum wage. As a result, unions have begun expanding their tactics and exploring ways to transition to a ‘low-wage economy.’

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