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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Greek Neo-Fascist Leader Appears in Court

Leader of Greece’s Golden Dawn party, Nikos Mihaloliakos, testified today, defending himself against charges of operating a criminal organization and orchestrating violence. The judge will decide whether to grant bail or remand him to custody. Three of the four MPs arrested with Mihaloliakos this weekend have been freed, worrying some that in its haste, the government did not have enough evidence to build a case.

Leaving the courthouse, the MPs pushed, punched and spat at reporters, with one saying “We’re going to have some fun now… Only bullets can stop us.”

Public support for Golden Dawn has dropped after the investigation into the murder of the anti-racism rapper Pavlos Fyssas revealed evidence that linked his killer to Golden Dawn’s leadership. Whistleblowers have since emerged, describing open discussion “of beating up gay and dark-skinned people” at party meetings. The group’s brazenness surrounding its actions may have stemmed from its collusion with the police, who allegedly failed to prosecute hundreds of attacks on immigrants over the past two years.

Landmark Torture Trial Opens in Ecuador

In Ecuador’s first trial involving alleged crimes against humanity, Judge Lucy Blacio ordered the arrest of three former officers and the house arrest of six more. They are charged with abducting and torturing members of an illegal opposition group in 1985 under the government of former president Leon Febres. Their victims were beaten and subject to sexual violence in a military prison outside of Quito.

Three victims will testify next week, but it could take up to a year for a verdict to be reached as the prosecution is still gathering evidence, and expects more to come over the next three months.

NSA Tracked US Cellphone Locations in Secret Tests

The director of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, admitted that the NSA had secret pilot programs that monitored the precise location of American cellphones, saying it might be “a future requirement for the country.” He claimed the tests were intended to see if the location data was compatible with the agency’s ‘databases, not for intelligence analysis.  Last week, before another Senate committee, Alexander avoided questions on whether the NSA had already collected bulk information from cellphone towers to pinpoint an individual’s movement, saying that information might be classified.

The ACLU’s legal counsel noted the need for more federal oversight, citing the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling that police need a warrant before they can use GPS information.

Pressure Increases on Qatar over Workers’ Deaths

International pressure to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers during the buildup to the 2022 World Cup escalated as victims’ rights groups and the United Nations urged the game’s governing body, FIFA, to act. Many are demanding that FIFA place a deadline on Qatar by which it must prevent deaths and labor abuses or the right to host the World Cup would be withdrawn.

Current labor conditions could result in as many 4,000 deaths before the first ball is kicked. Many of Qatar’s migrant laborers are Nepalese migrants, lured to other countries by recruiting agents who promise lucrative jobs if they are paid large sums of money, then illegally convince their victims to sign contracts in English or Arabic, which many cannot read. Their government, unfortunately, is in denial and refuses to act.

Study Shows Global War on Drugs is Failing

The International Center for Science in Drug Policy released a report showing that illegal drugs are now both significantly cheaper and purer than at any time over the last 20 years. There has also been a substantial increase in the amount of drugs seized by law enforcement agencies.  The study looked at data from seven international government-funded drug surveillance systems over the past ten years on the price and purity of marijuana, cocaine and opiates.

These findings suggest the war on drugs has been a massive failure. The researchers behind the report recommend considering drug use a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue.


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