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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hun Sen Extends Prime Ministership

Hun Sen, Cambodia’s Prime Minister, was sworn into a five-year term by King Norodom Sihamoni today, thereby extending Hun Sen’s 28 year reign into its third decade. Hun Sen downplayed allegations of electoral corruption and, uncharacteristically, offered opposition members spots on his cabinet. Recent elections have emboldened opposition parliamentarians, which now hold 55 seats in the 128 seat National Assembly, and they’ve gone on strike to force the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to address allegations of electoral irregularities.

Rhino Poaching Soars

At least 688 South African Rhinos have been killed in this year so far, up from last year’s record number of 668 rhinos. The rare animals, there are roughly 18,000 white and 4,000 black rhinos in the country, are largely poached for their horns which are then smuggled to foreign customers who view them as status symbols. At an anti-poaching rally this weekend, South African Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Bomo Edna Molewa decried the rise in poaching, and called for collective action to stem the extinction of the beasts, saying “Protecting our rhino is your responsibility. Protecting our rhino is my responsibility. Protecting our rhino is our responsibility as this collective.”

Governments will meet with the World Wildlife Foundation at U.N. headquarters this week to galvanize international efforts to stop poaching.

American Imprisoned in Bahrain

American Tagi al-Maidan was sentenced to 10 years in a Bahraini jail for attempted murder during the 2011 Shia protests. Bahrain, a key U.S. ally and host to the U.S. 5th Fleet, has been roiled by ongoing demonstrations since 2011 when King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa’s government brought in Peninsula Shield Forces from the other Gulf Cooperation Council nations to violently repress a budding Bahraini chapter of the Arab Spring. Al-Maidan was arrested in October of that year, on secret evidence that he attended protests and assaulted police officers as well as setting various police vehicles on fire. “After four hours of interrogation I confessed to everything, I signed papers even though I had no idea what had been written on them,” al-Maidan told Reuters last year. “Out of fear of more beatings, I urinated on myself, and they forced me after signing to speak in front of a camera after making me memorize what to say.”

The Bahraini government insists it has ‘zero tolerance’ for torture, but a Human Rights Watch report demurs.

Massive Earthquake in Pakistan

The Awaran district of Balochistan region of Pakistan was the site of a major 7.8 magnitude earthquake today; at least 45 people are known to have perished and reports have surfaced that a new island has risen off the country’s coast. According to Abdul Qadoos, deputy speaker of the Baluchistan assembly at least 30 percent of houses in the Awaran district had caved in. The national government has deployed soldiers to the area to begin search and rescue efforts, and the local government has declared a state of emergency.

North Korean Rocket Test

North Korea may have secretly tested a long-range rocket at the Tongch’ang-dong Space Launch Center. Nick Hansen an analyst for 38 North, part of the U.S. Korea Institute at SAIS, came to such a conclusion “based on analysis of imagery from before and after the probable test and a combination of indicators including the presence of a probable rocket stage, a crane necessary to mount and remove the rocket engine and propellant tanks on the test stand, instrumentation used to monitor tests as well as changes in the appearance of vegetation in front of the flame trench (from green to brown) and inside the flame trench located at the stand.” While precisely what sort of rocket was tested remains unknown, officials believe that it may have been a new variant of the Unha-3, itself a variation of the Taepodong intercontinental ballistic missile. In the past the Tongch’ang-dong Space Launch Center has been the site of a number of successful satellite launches, including the controversial Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2.

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