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Thursday, October 17, 2013

NSA Intel Used for Drone Strikes

New documents released by Edward Snowden not only confirm that a US drone strike killed Hassan Ghul, an associate of Osama bin Laden, but that the NSA has been extensively involved in the controversial targeted killing program. The e-mail from Ghul’s wife used to confirm his whereabouts was collected under a secret unit in the NSA called Counter-Terrorism Mission Assigned Cell (CT MAC), which concentrates on hard-to-find targets.

Some will argue this proves the NSA’s programs help combat terrorism, but a recent UN report released today suggests that the US has killed many more civilians with drone strikes than it admits. In July, a leaked Pakistani internal report revealed that 746 people (not the “50 to 60″ the US claims) were killed in drone strikes; at least 147 were non-combatants and 94 were children.

30 Million People Live as Slaves Worldwide

The Global Slavery Index - the first attempt to measure the scale of modern-day slavery – ranks 162 countries and identifies risk factors for enslavement as well as government responses. It found that 29.8 million people live as slaves around the world. The number is higher than previous attempts to quantify the issue, taking into account debt bondage, forced marriage and human trafficking. 10 countries hold about 70% of the world’s slaves. India, China, Pakistan and Nigeria have the highest number of slaves while Mauritania, Haiti and Pakistan have the highest proportion.

1.8 Million-Year-Old Skull Changes Theories on Human Evolution

“The world’s first completely preserved adult hominid skull,” discovered in the republic of Georgia in 2005, gave scientists their first opportunity to compare and contrast physical traits of our ancestors living in the area at that time. Their findings suggest that earlier theories of multiple human species coexisting may be incorrect and the team argues that Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis and Homo erectus are actually all part of a single evolving lineage leading to modern humans, not separate branches of the evolutionary tree.

These findings are also the first evidence of primitive humans outside of Africa, placing humans’ immigration out of Africa almost 1 million years earlier than previously thought.

Iraq: Bombings, Blackwater and Escalating Sectarian Violence

2013 has seen escalating sectarian violence throughout the country, and today alone a barrage of car bombs and suicides attacks targeting Shi’ite Muslims across the country killed at least 61 people. This year is the deadliest since 2008, with the monitoring group Iraq Body Count estimating over 6,000 people have been killed in acts of violence. Almost 1,000 people were killed in September alone and today is the deadliest day in Iraq since October 5th.The seeds of this resurgence of sectarian violence lie with the al-Qaeda-linked Sunni groups that the US subdued but never actually defeated or eradicated.

Yesterday, a study estimated that “total excess deaths attributable to the war” in Iraq between 2003 and 2011 was 461,000 – far exceeding the previous estimate of 112,000 violent civilian deaths.

In related news, the Justice Department has brought fresh charges against four former Blackwater Worldwide security contractors, who are accused of opening fire on Iraqi civilians in 2007 (they had previously only been charged with manslaughter and weapons violations).

French Students Protest Expulsion of Immigrant Families

Thousands of French students blockaded the entrances to their schools and marched through the streets of Paris to protest the expulsion of their classmates. The demonstrations were ignited by the deportation of a 15-year-old girl who was detained during a field trip and then sent to Kosovo because her family’s asylum plea had been rejected. They had been living in France for 5 years.

This is only the latest incident highlighting France’s tension over migration - the girl in question is of Roma descent, and France’s Interior minister Manuel Valls remarked last month that most of the 20,000 Roma in France should be sent back to their countries of origin. A poll showed that as many as 3 in 4 French voters agree with that sentiment.

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