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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Arafat May Have Been Poisoned with Polonium

Swiss scientists who conducted tests on samples taken from Yasser Arafat’s body found at least 18 times the normal levels of radioactive polonium in Arafat’s ribs, pelvis and the soil stained by his decaying body. The team had already found “significant quantities” of polonium-210 on biological samples taken from Arafat’s final belongings. This has led the scientists to say they are 83% certain he was poisoned with the same radioactive material that was used to murder Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko (polonium-210 is primarily made in Russia).

A French team of judges and forensic experts assigned to Arafat’s murder investigation and a Russian team invited by the Palestinian Authority have yet to release their findings. If Arafat was poisoned, it remains unclear who poisoned him, although the most likely suspects are the Israeli government or Arafat’s Palestinian rivals.

FARC Rebels, Colombia Reach Partial Deal

FARC rebel leaders and government negotiators have agreed on a political future for the left-wing group if a peace agreement is reached. The question of the rebels’ political participation is considered one of the thorniest on the peace agenda, which also includes the issues of land reform, disarmament, illicit drugs, rights of the victims and peace deal implementation. Land reform has already been partially agreed upon, so this announcement may give the talks a much-needed boost. Whether certain FARC members can be barred from political participation due to human rights abuses, however, is still at issue.

US Spying Disorganized, Unfocused

A congressional panel created two years ago to analyze the US intelligence community released a report today that claimed the US was losing its technological superiority – agencies were duplicating efforts and were hampered by “gathering more data than you need.”  This indiscriminate data collection includes eavesdropping on the UN Climate Change Conference in 2007 to an NSA database that “stores years of text messages around the world, just in case” to a program that “accumulates gigabytes of global credit card purchases.” The Obama administration, however, insists that there is ‘no alternative’ to this approach.

In related news, British authorities have claimed the domestic partner of Snowden-related journalist Glenn Greenwald, was involved in “terrorism” when he attempted to carry documents from Snowden through a London airport. Additionally, British journalist Sarah Harrison, who has been working with Edward Snowden in Moscow, has joined a growing group of journalists stranded in Berlin after her lawyers told her it was “not safe to return home” to the UK.

‘Window of Opportunity’ to Curb Climate Change Closing

The World Meteorological Organization reported the highest levels of greenhouse gases on record in 2012, saying the warming effect on our climate has increased by almost a third since 1990. World carbon dioxide pollution levels are accelerating: the gas was measured at 393.1 parts per million last year, far beyond the 350 ppm that some scientists believe is the upper limit for a safe level. It seems sadly unsurprising, then, that the United Nations Environmental Program’s Emissions Gap Report 2013 has reported that the likelihood of limiting the world’s overall temperature to a 2-degree Celsius rise has become “ever more elusive.” If the two-degree target threshold is missed, a likely effect will be the decimation of human and earth systems, like the global food and water supply.

China’s Televised Confessions

Chinese authorities have now repeatedly aired suspects’ confessions on state media as a way to undermine the authenticity of any information they deem harmful in the public domain. It seems that now, police detain a suspect and get a confession, then the interrogation footage – probably filmed by the police – is aired by the country’s state broadcaster even before charges are filed. Technically, this violates China’s existing law, especially as at least one suspect has claimed he never accepted an interview with CCTV, but police compiled and shared footage from their interrogations of him anyway.

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