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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ecuadorean Judge Requests Arrest of Police Officers

Judge Lucy Blacio has ordered the arrest of three army and police officers in Quito, Ecuador for crimes against humanity. Six other retired officers have been remanded to house arrest. The arrested officers are part of a group known for abducting and torturing political activists in 1985. Director of the Prosecutor’s Office Truth Commission Fidel Jaramillo explained the tardy judicial response, “they were never tried in Ecuador because there was never the political will to do so.” Jaramillo said crimes against humanity only began to be investigated in 2007, when left-wing President Rafael Correa came into power.

Susana Cajas, Javier Jarrin, and Luis Vaca were detained by police in November 1985 for alleged links with an underground opposition group, the Eloy Alfaro Popular Armed Forces. They were, according to Chief prosecutor Galo Chiriboga, “beaten and submitted to particularly sadistic forms of torture, including electric shocks to their genitals.”

ICC Looks to Arrest Kenyan Journalist

The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Kenyan journalist Walter Osapiri Barasa, for attempting to bribe witnesses in the ethnic cleansing case against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto. This is the first time that the ICC has issued such a warrant, but Barasa vehemently denied the court’s accusations that he had offered bribes totalling $16,200. “I have not gotten in touch with any witnesses or anybody having any intention of asking them or bribing them to pull out of the case.”

Ruto’s case resumed again today at The Hague after a week’s adjournment following the al-Shabaab attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Ruto is accused of leading Odinga mobs in 2007 throughout Kenya to attack Kibaki communities before he joined a power sharing agreement with Kibaki-leader Uhuru Kenyatta in 2013. Kenyatta is also under investigation for anti-Odinga ethic cleansing. According to prosecutors, a number of ICC witnesses against the Kenyan leaders have recanted or refused to testify because of threats and intimidation.

Vietnam Jails Dissident Activist for Tax Evasion

A Hanoi court has sentenced Lê Quốc Quân to 30 months in jail for tax evasion. Lê, a U.S. trained lawyer and civil liberties activist, rejected the charges against him as an attempt to quell his high-profile campaign to reform the rigid post-communist country. In a speech after the sentencing, Lê said “I have long been denouncing and fighting against corruption, bureaucracy and the stagnation that is doing harm to this country … I’m the victim of political acts.” before the sound from his microphone was disabled. A number of organizations have suggested that Vietnam’s court system is not up to international standards, frequently prosecuting activists over spurious charges.

Clashes in Kashmir

While the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan are in New York agreeing to defuse tensions over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir, roughly 40 fighters from the Pakistani side of the Line of Control (LoC) clashed with Indian Army troops near Shala Bhata (on the Indian side). While some anonymous reports from the Indian Army claimed that Pakistani special forces were among the fighters currently operating on the Indian side of the LoC, a statement from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relation said “This is a blatant lie. We totally deny this baseless allegation.” In a separate, though possibly related development, Indian and Pakistani Army positions exchanged fire along the LoC in the Mendhar sector of frontier Poonch district, about 185km (115 miles) southwest of Srinagar city.

During the 1999 Kargil War, Pakistan backed irregular troops in an attempt to seize the Indian portion of Kashmir. While both nations continue to claim full rights to the region, India and Pakistan have observed a nominal negotiated cease-fire since 2003.

Insects Alter Mating Habits Before Storms

A new study suggests insects, aware of incoming weather disturbances, drastically alter their mating habits in ways not seen in otherwise stable weather. According to study author and entomologist Maria Fernanda Peñaflor, “People have observed before that birds, bats, and even fish respond to changes in [air] pressure.” But she says, her study which investigated the habits of taxonomically unrelated insects, the curcurbit beetle (Coleoptera), the true armyworm moth (Lepidoptera), and the potato aphid (Hemiptera), “is the first time such behavior has been studied in insects.”

Interestingly, unlike the other more fragile insects, which simply ceased to mate, if a pair of curcurbit beetles is already in close proximity, the male will quickly mate with the female, forgoing normal courtship rituals. Peñaflor suggested, “It was as if they were trying to quickly reproduce before the rain came.”

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