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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Blackwater Guards Found Guilty in 2007 Iraq Killings - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — Four former Blackwater Worldwide security guards were convicted and immediately jailed Wednesday for their roles in a deadly 2007 shooting in Baghdad’s Nisour Square that marked a bloody nadir in America’s war in Iraq.

A jury in Federal District Court found that the deaths of 17 Iraqis in the shooting, which began when a convoy of the guards suddenly began firing in a crowded intersection, was not a battlefield tragedy, but the result of a criminal act.

The convictions on murder, manslaughter and weapons charges represented a legal and diplomatic victory for the United States government, which had urged Iraqis to put their faith in the American court system. That faith was tested repeatedly over seven years as the investigation had repeated setbacks, leaving Iraqis deeply suspicious that anyone would be held responsible for the deaths.

Jurors’ Note Hints at Conviction in Blackwater Case OCT. 1, 2014
As Blackwater Trial Closes, Focus Turns to Moments Before Chaos AUG. 28, 2014


Blackwater Guards Found Guilty in 2007 Iraq Killings - NYTimes.com

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Liberian Leader: Ebola May Cause 'Lost Generation'

"DAKAR, Oct 19 (Reuters) - The Ebola outbreak in West Africa risks unleashing an economic catastrophe that will leave a "lost generation" of young West Africans, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said on Sunday, urging stronger international action.

The worst epidemic on record of the deadly virus has now killed more than 4,500 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Eight people have also died in Nigeria and cases have been reported in the United States and Spain.

Johnson Sirleaf said the international reaction to the outbreak, detected in March deep in the forests of southern Guinea, was initially "inconsistent and lacking in clear direction or urgency."

She said the international community had woken up to the global health risk posed by the epidemic but called for help from every nation with the capacity to do so, either in funding or medical staff and supplies."

Saturday, October 04, 2014

BBC News - World wildlife populations halved in 40 years - report

"The global loss of species is even worse than previously thought, the London Zoological Society (ZSL) says in its new Living Planet Index.

The report suggests populations have halved in 40 years, as new methodology gives more alarming results than in a report two years ago.

The report says populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52%.

Populations of freshwater species have suffered an even worse fall of 76%."

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Grand jury considering the Ferguson shooting is being investigated for misconduct - The Washington Post

The St. Louis County prosecutor’s office is investigating an accusation of misconduct on the grand jury that is hearing the case against the Ferguson Police Officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Ed Magee, the spokesman for county prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, said they received the information from a “Twitter user” Wednesday morning.

“We are looking into the matter,” he said.

An account of possible jury misconduct surfaced Wednesday morning on Twitter, when several users sent messages about one juror who may have discussed evidence in the case with a friend.

In one of those messages, a person tweeted that they are friends with a member of the jury who doesn’t believe there is enough evidence to warrant an arrest of the officer, Darren Wilson.

The same person who tweeted about being friends with a member of the jury has also tweeted messages of support for Wilson.

Magee confirmed that the Twitter user and feed came from an activist, Shaun King.

Within seconds of posting this, her friends told her to delete it and she did. It was screenshotted first.



Grand jury considering the Ferguson shooting is being investigated for misconduct - The Washington Post

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hong Kong’s Leader Calls for Protests to End ‘Immediately’ - NYTimes.com


In his first remarks on the protests since the Hong Kong police used tear gas against demonstrators on Sunday, Leung Chun-ying, the autonomous Chinese territory’s chief executive, called on one of the two main groups organizing the protests, Occupy Central With Love and Peace, to end the demonstrations. “Occupy Central founders had said repeatedly that if the movement is getting out of control, they would call for it to stop,” Mr. Leung said. “I’m now asking them to fulfill the promise they made to society and stop this campaign immediately.” Continue reading the main story RELATED COVERAGE President Xi Jinping of China, photographed in June, is seeking a solution to the problem in Hong Kong that does not give rise to new unrest on the mainland.News Analysis: For China, Limited Tools to Quell Unrest in Hong KongSEPT. 29, 2014 Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators gathered in Hong Kong on Monday to continue calls for free and open elections for the city's chief executive in 2017.Protests in Hong Kong Have Roots in China’s ‘Two Systems’SEPT. 29, 2014 Hong Kong Protesters Defy Officials’ Call to DisperseSEPT. 29, 2014 Demonstrators checked their cellphones on Nathan Road, a major route through Kowloon, on Monday.Sinosphere Blog: To Beat China Censorship, Hong Kong Protesters Flock to Off-Grid Messaging AppSEPT. 29, 2014 A student displayed a sign reading Sinosphere Blog: From Around the World, Support for Hong Kong ProtestersSEPT. 29, 2014 The protests started last Friday when university and high school students took to the streets, and they expanded considerably when Occupy Central announced early Sunday that it was joining the demonstrations, instead of waiting until Wednesday or later as it had signaled it would. Continue reading the main storySlide Show SLIDE SHOW|6 Photos Hong Kong Moves to Defuse Protests Hong Kong Moves to Defuse ProtestsCreditCarlos Barria/Reuters Occupy Central leaders hinted on Monday that they might consider a temporary lull in the protests. But there has been no such hint of conciliation from the student leaders, who have taken a considerably harder line in demanding that Beijing and the Hong Kong government scrap a decision by China limiting the scope of who can run in the 2017 elections to choose the next chief executive. “Occupy Central and its impact isn’t a matter of days,” Mr. Leung said. “It will last for a relatively long time. As a result, its impact on people’s lives and their personal safety in emergencies, as well as Hong Kong’s economic development and the cost to Hong Kong’s international image, will grow bigger and bigger. I hope everyone can consider these issues.” Mr. Leung noted that the protesters had organized roadblocks, distribution points for supplies and even first-aid stations. But while giving organizers credit for thinking about the medical needs of protesters, Mr. Leung complained that the protesters were delaying ambulances, fire engines and other emergency vehicles that needed to reach other residents. Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyX CLOSE Continue reading the main story RELATED IN OPINION A defiant protester waving placards that read Op-Ed Contributor: Hong Kong People!SEPT. 29, 2014 “There are many emergency services that are affected, there are wounded patients who cannot receive timely care,” he said, adding that fire stations had also been blocked. Later Tuesday, a deputy chief with the fire department, Leung Wai-hung, said at a news conference that the city’s ambulances normally reached more than 90 percent of emergency callers within certain time targets, but that this had fallen to between 60 and 70 percent in the downtown area during the first two days of the protests. “A one-minute delay will be the difference between a small fire and a big fire, and for those who need medical attention, a one-minute delay can be the difference between life and death,” he said. There was little sign on Tuesday that the protesters would back down quickly, even if there were protest leaders willing or able to send them home. Although the demonstrators’ numbers, which had surged overnight, appeared somewhat reduced in the morning, by afternoon the crowds at the main protest sites appeared to be swelling again. Continue reading the main story The police, whose use of tear gas Sunday seemed only to motivate more people to join the protests, gave no indication that they were preparing to disperse the demonstrators. At the same news conference where the fire official spoke, Hui Chun-tak, the chief spokesman for the police, acknowledged that “the majority of protesters have expressed their views in a legal way” and praised organizers for being willing to discuss opening some lanes of the blocked roads in the city center for use by emergency vehicles. Asked whether the police had enough personnel to clear the streets if ordered to do so, Mr. Hui responded, “I assure you, the police have enough manpower to deal with every single incident.” Hong Kong officials have consistently said that they do not need to seek Beijing’s help to deal with the protesters — a harrowing possibility for Hong Kong, where China’s brutal suppression of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989 is vividly remembered. China’s plan for the 2017 election would let the public vote for chief executive, but the candidates would be vetted by a committee friendly to Beijing - a requirement that is unacceptable to the protesters. On Tuesday, an essay by an influential Chinese Communist Party ideologue, Li Shenming, underscored the party’s deep aversion to political liberalization of the kind sought by Hong Kong’s democracy advocates. Continue reading the main story What Prompted the Hong Kong Protests? Unrest in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory and global financial hub, could lead to a long confrontation between the government and demonstrators. Hong Kong, a British colony until 1997, when China resumed sovereignty, has operated under a policy of “one country, two systems.” The city maintains an independent judiciary, and residents enjoy greater civil liberties than residents of mainland China. Hong Kong has a robust tradition of free speech. Democratic groups say Beijing has chipped away at those freedoms, citing an election law proposed last month that would limit voting reforms. China had promised free elections for Hong Kong's chief executive in 2017. But the government rejected a call for open nominations of candidates, instead proposing that candidates would continue to be chosen by a committee dominated by Beijing. The current city leader, Leung Chun-ying, has clashed with the pro-democracy opposition. After the crackdown on protesters Sunday, some called for his resignation. The essay in the party’s main newspaper, People’s Daily, defended China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, which is controlled by the party. Mr. Li wrote that to have a legislative body with multiple parties would invite chaos. “In current-day China, competitive elections with ‘one man, one vote’ would be sure to quickly lead to a state of turmoil, chaos, even civil war,” he wrote. Mr. Leung has refused to discuss democratic changes with student leaders, even as the government has struggled to draft a policy for dealing with student unrest. A 17-year-old student leader, Joshua Wong, was detained by the police for 40 hours without charges over the weekend before a judge ordered his release. Michael DeGolyer, a longtime political analyst at Hong Kong Baptist University, said that the university professors and politicians who proposed Occupy Central a year and a half ago as a civil disobedience campaign appear to have less influence with many of the demonstrators than the student leaders do. Polls conducted by academic institutions over the past year have indicated that the most disaffected and potentially volatile sector of Hong Kong society is not the students, nor the middle-aged or even elderly activists who have sustained the democracy movement here for decades. Instead, the most strident calls for greater democracy — and often for greater economic populism as well — have come from people in their 20s and early 30s who have struggled to find well-paying jobs as the local manufacturing sector has withered away, and as banks and other service industries have increasingly hired mainland Chinese instead of local college graduates. Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story Those young adults appear to be paying more attention to student leaders like Joshua Wong than to Occupy Central’s older generation of leaders, Mr. DeGolyer said. He added that “there’s a very large number of people who are very disaffected and alienated who are not students, who are not affiliated with any political party and who are angry.” Long lines formed at supermarkets Tuesday as shoppers stocked up on rice and other essentials — a sign that many residents are concerned about the possibility of a prolonged confrontation and perhaps violence. Wednesday is a public holiday marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Steve Vickers and Associates, a Hong Kong security company founded by a former top Hong Kong police officer, predicted on Tuesday that the crowds in the streets would swell for the next two days as many people used the holiday to come out and show their support. But some might then start returning to work on Thursday or Friday, the company said in a report. “If no major clashes occur, they are likely to peak over the next 48 hours,” the company said of the protests. The stock market in Hong Kong continued to fall on Tuesday, losing another 1.2 percent in morning trading after falling 1.9 percent on Monday. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority said that 37 branches or offices of 21 banks were closed on Tuesday morning but that financial markets and the banking system were nonetheless functioning normally. Compounding the discomfort of protesters and the police alike on Tuesday was the heat. The Hong Kong government issued one of its occasional warnings of very hot weather to the public and to employers, cautioning against the risk of heatstroke for anyone spending a lot of time outdoors in the hot, humid, stagnant air. The forecast was for a high of 32 degrees Celsius, or 90 Fahrenheit, but with 95 percent humidity and practically no hint of a breeze. Chris Buckley contributed reporting.

Hong Kong’s Leader Calls for Protests to End ‘Immediately’ - NYTimes.com

Sunday, September 28, 2014

HONG KONG CHAOS

"Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong reached a boiling point on Sunday, with police employing tear gas in attempts to control crowds that have surrounded government buildings for the past three days.

Tension has been escalating in the city all summer, after Beijing released a controversial plan for Hong Kong's 2017 elections that activists say falls short of the full democracy they hope for. The plan would allow for universal suffrage in three year's time, but would restrict candidates to those approved by a committee that opposition politicians say is dominated by pro-Beijing representatives."480

MarketWatch: 31 feared dead in Japanese volcano eruption

Thursday, September 04, 2014

BP May Be Fined Up to $18 Billion for Spill in Gulf - NYTimes.com

"NEW ORLEANS — In the four years since the blowout on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 workers and sent millions of barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, BP has spent more than $28 billion on damage claims and cleanup costs, pleaded guilty to criminal charges and emerged a shrunken giant.

But through it all, the company has maintained that it was not chiefly responsible for the accident, and that its contractors in the operation, Halliburton and Transocean, should shoulder as much, if not more, of the blame.

On Thursday, a federal judge here for the first time bluntly rejected those arguments, finding that BP was indeed the primary culprit and that only it had acted with “conscious disregard of known risks.” He added that BP’s “conduct was reckless.”

Iraqis Identify Prisoner as Chinese Islamist Fighter - NYTimes.com

BEIJING — The Iraqi Defense Ministry has posted on its Facebook page photographs that it says show a captured Chinese man who was fighting on behalf of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Sunni jihadist group.
Iraqi officials have not released further details, but the photographs, if confirmed, would be the first visual evidence of a Chinese citizen fighting with ISIS, which has members from around the world, including the United States. Both the leader of ISIS and a Chinese diplomat said this summer that Chinese fighters had joined ISIS.


Iraqis Identify Prisoner as Chinese Islamist Fighter - NYTimes.com