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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Arafat Poisoned By Rare Radioactive Isotope

The University Centre of Legal Medicine in Lausanne, Switzerland released a report today that analysts say conclusively proves that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death in 2004. Traces of polonium-210, found previously on Arafat’s clothing, have been found in materials taken out of Arafat’s exhumed corpse. David Barclay, a forensic scientist in the U.K. with familiarity with the report said the investigators found levels of polonium -210 at least 18 times higher than the norm in Arafat’s ribs, pelvis and in soil that absorbed his leaked bodily fluids. Barclay called the report’s findings “a smoking gun”.

Today’s announcement comes weeks after Russian sources suggested their independent study of Arafat’s remains found no such trace of radioactive material. A third team of forensic scientists in France were also given some of the late Palestinian’s remains, but their findings remain secret. In any case, if Arafat was poisoned, the world is little the wiser about who carried it out.

The Polonium-210 isotope gives off radioactive alpha particles, that according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, are ordinarily “stopped by a sheet of paper or by the dead layer of outer skin on our bodies.” Unless one somehow ingested the volatile isotope, in which case, a mere 0.1 microgram dose would prove sufficiently fatal. Polonium is manufactured in extremely small amounts, almost exclusively in Russia, and handling it safely requires inordinate care. Polonium’s effects on humans have been known since the days of the Manhattan Project, when the U.S. government injected five people with polonium, but very few people have died from exposure since. Prior to today, only one of those deaths was attributable to intentional exposure.

Pussy Riot Member Sent to Siberia

Jailed Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has not been heard from in 17 days, but after two weeks of silence, Russian authorities confirmed the activist is undergoing a prison transfer. Andrei Tolokonnikov, her father, worried “No one knows anything. There’s no proof she’s alive, we don’t know the state of her health. Is she sick? Has she been beaten?” Russian law prohibits lawyers and family members from knowing where or when a prisoner will be transferred, but Tolokonnikova’s husband Pyotr Verzilov believes she is being moved from her current Mordovian prison to another even more remote labor camp, somewhere in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia.

While the exact prison colony where Tolokonnikova will be held is still uncertain, Verzilov believes it will be Colony 50 near the town of Nizhny Ingash, roughly 190 miles from the city of Krasnoyarsk. Russian authorities have not commented on why Tolokonnikova was moved, but many believe the transfer is the result of a hunger strike launched by Tolokonnikova over labor conditions in her prison.

“I think it could be a kind of revenge for what she has done,” said Pavel Chikov, a rights defender specializing in prisons and a close advisor to Tolokonnikova. He independently confirmed she was being moved to Krasnoyarsk. “It will definitely cause a lot of trouble — it’s definitely not the most convenient place in the Russian Federation.”

Bombing in North China

One person is dead and eight more have been injured after eight small “suspected homemade bombs” detonated near a Communist Party office in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan, just days after a car bomb attack on Tiananmen Square. Police officials in the Shanxi province said the explosions happened in the early morning hours and suggested that the presence of steel beads and circuit boards at the scene suggested that the artifacts were crudely made. State broadcaster CCTV reported that 20 vehicles were damaged. It is currently unknown if the bombing of Tiananmen Square, and today’s less sophisticated attack, are in fact related.

Black Panther Arrested 29 Years After Hijaking

William Potts, the former Black Panther noted for hijacking a commercial flight in 1984 from New Jersey to Havana with 56 passengers aboard, was taken into FBI custody today. Potts recently contacted U.S. diplomats in Havana who arranged for him leave on a charter flight to Miami on Wednesday. Speaking last month he said, “having completed my sentence, I feel like I want to put all that stuff behind me. I don’t want that lingering over or impeding anything I might want to do. Once you’ve paid your debt to society, you’re entitled to a fresh start.”

In 1984, Potts expected when he arrived in Havana, the Cuban government would support his actions. Instead, perhaps because of a 1971 agreement between the U.S. and Cuba, Cuba jailed him for 13 years for piracy. Potts remained in Cuba after his prison sentence, married, and had two daughters. His daughters currently live in the United States and Potts has suggested he would like to be free to visit them. Potts is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow. After he’s done with whatever legal ramifications come, he suggested that he’d like to go home, saying “just as soon as I finish taking care of this business in the United States, I certainly have every intention of returning to Cuba to live.”

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