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Friday, September 6, 2013

Egypt’s Multiplying Insurgencies and Crackdowns

While the army and police are battling one growing military insurgency by extremist Islamist groups in the Sinai Peninsula, southern Egypt could be the site of a second. Two southern provinces remain Islamist strongholds and both are home to the country’s largest Christian communities. On the same day Morsi was ousted, the town of Dalga was taken over by hardline Islamists and has been outside government control ever since. Churches as well as Christian-owned homes and stores have been burned and looted as part of a wave of similar attacks throughout the region.

Meanwhile, thousands continued to protest the army’s takeover of the country on Friday and subsequent clashes left at least two dead.  Egypt’s military-backed government has denied state media reports that it planned to revoke the Muslim Brotherhood’s non-profit status “within days,” saying it hadn’t decided yet. A journalist and a labor lawyer have been detained for over a day, which suggests the government might be expanding its crackdown beyond Islamists, to any critics of its policies.

Widespread Prosecutorial Misconduct in Brooklyn

Brooklyn district attorney Charles J. Hynes has ordered the review of 50 cases after the revelation six months ago that an innocent man had been in prison for two decades. The detective on all these cases has been accused of beating confessions out of a defendant, inventing the confessions of others and hiring or coercing witnesses. Nevertheless, prosecutors continued to pursue his cases for years and actively defended him to skeptical juries.

Of the 12-member panel assigned to review the cases, three have contributed to Hynes’ campaigns.

This case is only one in a series that suggest pervasive, decades-long misconduct among Brooklyn prosecutors and an utter lack of consequences for it: the head of Hynes’ Rackets Bureau has been accused of withholding evidence and even telling trainees to discard it; “uncooperative” witnesses have routinely been arrested and held – without a lawyer – in a hotel used by the district attorney’s office until they agree to testify.

Hynes is facing a serious challenger, Kenneth Thompson, in the Democratic primary on September 10th.

Militants Kill 20 in Northeast Nigeria

On Wednesday, suspected members of Boko Haram killed 15 people at an open market in Nigeria’s Borno state. They snuck into the market disguised as traders to beat the security checkpoints, then opened fire. They also torched a local government building, a police station and a clinic. One witness speculated the attacks were in retaliation for the recent arrests of Boko Haram members who had been identified by a local vigilante group, the Civilian Joint Task Force. Early Thursday morning, gunmen murdered another five people in a different town.

Details of these attacks have been difficult to verify since the government shut down all mobile phone service in the region in an attempt to disrupt communication between Boko Haram cells. More than 160 people were killed in attacks by sect members last month alone.

Recent Climate Change News

A report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration analyzed the findings of 20 scientific studies on a dozen extreme weather events in 2012 to examine how many were likely related to human-caused climate change: “About half the events… reveal compelling evidence that human-caused climate change was a [contributing] factor.”

When studying the heat wave that hit the midwest last July, scientists determined that the isolated heat wave was likely a naturally-occurring phenomenon, but such heat waves now occur four times more frequently due to global warming. Human activity contributed to around a third of the 6.6-degree spike in temperatures. Similarly, Hurricane Sandy may not have been due to human activities, but its aftermath was: the chances of Lower Manhattan facing similar flooding has doubled and if the sea levels continue to rise, could happen every couple of years by 2100.

Varied International Responses to Syria

11 of the G20 nations signed a joint statement calling for “a strong international response to a grave violation of the world’s rules.” President Vladimir Putin, continued to insist that the Assad regime had not used chemical weapons, he also threatened unspecified military support for Syria if the US attacks. The Pentagon is currently looking into an expanded list of targets after news that Assad had moved troops and equipment used for chemical attacks.

Israel has backed limited strikes against Syria. An intercepted cable from an Iranian official instructed militants in Iraq to attack US interests in Baghdad if the US strikes Syria, the most likely target being the American embassy. In response to threats of retaliation, the State Department has ordered personnel to leave both Lebanon and Turkey.

Weekend Read: The Social Life of Genes

Your DNA is not a blueprint. Day by day, week by week, your genes are in a conversation with your surroundings. Your neighbors, your family, your feelings of loneliness: They don’t just get under your skin, they get into the control rooms of your cells. Inside the new social science of genetics, via Pacific Standard.

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