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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bodies of 92 Migrants Found in Niger Desert

The corpses of 7 men, 33 women and 52 children were found in the Sahara Desert near Niger’s border with Algeria. The victims had died of thirst after their trucks broke down. The migrants had set out in two trucks; after one broke down, the other turned back for help, before being stranded. They were being smuggled along a well-established trafficking route, many likely hoping to cross from North Africa into southern Europe.

Authorities did not know about the tragedy until two weeks ago, when a lone woman stumbled out of the desert into the Nigerian town of Arlit 50 miles from where most of the bodies were found. By that time, most of the victims were already dead. It has taken this long for discovery teams to reach the remote site.

A minister in Niger has suggested banning women and children from traveling north from Arlit to prevent more such deaths. More than 32,000 people have arrived in southern Europe from Africa so far this year. Over 600 have died this month alone trying to make the crossing.

Khmer Rouge Trial Ends in Phnom Penh

The last two leaders of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime who are still on trial for genocide and other war crimes issued their final defense today, denying responsibility for the deaths of over 1.7 million people during their rule. The trial of former head of state Khieu Samphan and Khmer Rouge chief ideologist Nuon Chea is focused on the forced evacuation of over 1 million people, including hospital patients, from the capital into labor camps, resulting in millions dead from starvation, medical neglect, torture, slave-like working conditions and executions.

Implausibly, both men deny any knowledge of this and claim they never gave an order to mistreat or kill people. The verdict is expected some time in 2014.

Chemical Weapons Sites Destroyed, Syrians Starve

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced that Syria has completed the destruction of its declared equipment used to produce chemical weapons, one day ahead of schedule. Hypothetically, Syria no longer has the capacity to make new chemical weapons; now, it just has to destroy its existing weapons and stockpiles – estimated at around 1,000 metric tons.

Meanwhile, a polio outbreak has been confirmed among Syrian children, doctors and aid workers are being targeted and thousands of people are killed every month. Thousands of civilians remain trapped in the Damascus suburb of Muadhamiya, and many are beginning to die of malnutrition and starvation as winter approaches. Hundreds trying to flee the country have been turned back at the border, leaving them with nowhere to go.

Japan’s Coastal Hunts Put Species at Risk

According to the Environmental Investigation Agency, Japan’s hunts of smaller whales, dolphins and porpoises is threatening some species with extinction. Japan defends the hunts, which kill almost 17,000 small cetaceans a year as part of a cultural tradition that stretches back centuries. With a catch limit of 16,655, the hunt is the largest of its kind in the world. The catch limit is based on data collected over 20 years ago, and so has not taken into account dramatic population declines. At this point, many species have already been hunted beyond the point where their numbers can recover.

Eating dolphins and porpoises, moreover, has become dangerous to humans – studies have found high levels of mercury and industrialized chemicals in their meat. People living in one dolphin-eating community were found to have mercury levels five times higher than normal.

Daily Protests to Mark Lead-Up to Morsi Trial

Egyptian Islamists have called for daily protests leading up to the trial of ex-President Mohamed Morsi on November 4th. Along with 14 other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi is facing charges of inciting violence. The trial will be held inside a police institute near the prison in southern Cairo. Around 20,000 police officers and soldiers will be guarding it, and one official warned that anyone attempting to break into the courtroom will be met “decisively with force.” Many understandably fear that between the protests and the trial, violence will erupt yet again.


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