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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bangladesh Sentences 152 to Death over Mutiny

After a mass trial involving 846 defendants, a Bangladesh court sentenced 152 people to death over a brutal 2009 mutiny by disgruntled border guards in which 74 people, including 57 military commenders, were killed in two days. During the mutiny, several thousand troops took over their headquarters to demand better working conditions and better pay.

Most of the defendants are soldiers and had already been jailed for mutiny; they were now being tried for murder, torture and other charges. 157 people have been sentenced to life in prison, 271 have been acquitted and verdicts are still being announced. Human Rights Watch has criticized the trial, claiming the suspects had been given limited access to lawyers and at least 47 have already died in custody.

DR Congo M23 Rebels Lay Down Arms

Hours after government forces drove rebel fighters out of their two remaining strongholds, the M23 rebel group announced that it was ending its rebellion, declaring a ceasefire and saying it was ready to disarm and demobilize troops and pursue a political to the crisis.

While this is an immensely positive development, it will likely not result in immediate peace in a region ravaged by fighting for almost two decades. After years of brutality, half of eastern DR Congo adults suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, the army will now begin to target the multiple other rebel factions still operating in the eastern regions of the country.

Saudi Police Crack Down on Migrants

Saudi Arabia is rounding up thousands of illegal migrant workers after an amnesty introducing new employment rules expired. Police conducted raids on businesses, markets and residential areas to catch expatriates with invalid visas; over the past two days, many have simply stayed home to avoid potential arrest. Saudi Arabia operates under the sponsorship system, which ties workers’ residency permits to sponsoring employers, whose written consent is required for workers to change employers or leave the country.

There are an estimated 9 million migrant workers in Saudi Arabia – more than half the workforce – filling mostly manual, clerical and service jobs. In a bid to reduce the 12% unemployment rate among native Saudis, the government has threatened remaining illegal immigrants with fines, prison and deportation.

US Psychologists’ Role in Interrogation

The report released this week by the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and the Open Society Foundations (OSF) has concluded that US psychologists collaborated extensively with the Department of Justice and the CIA to develop interrogation methods used in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo. Called “safety instructors” to bypass normal ethical standards, they worked to identify and exploit psychological vulnerabilities of detainees. Psychological ethical standards, however, remain unclear: while the American Psychological Association officially rejects torture, it supports the use of psychologists in interrogation.

US Election News

There has been a light turnout thus far for New York’s mayoral election, possibly due to mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio’s commanding lead in the polls. It continues to be a profoundly nasty race for Brooklyn District Attorney, which has pitted disgraced Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes against Ken Thompson, who defeated him in the primary election.

A number of environmental issues will be decided across the country today, from ballot initiatives on fracking to questions of what various candidates will do to combat carbon emissions and climate change.

Colorado, New Jersey and Washington are voting on major progressive measures: raising taxes to fund new school revenue; raising the minimum wage in the state; and raising the minimum wage for airport jobs, respectively.

Nationwide, conservative Republican candidates have been suffering from a lack of big-money supporters.

These elections may see the impact of new, restrictive voter ID laws that have been implemented across the country.

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