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Sun, 19 Feb 2017
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Bad Guys

Hooded men: Conduct of British Army in N. Ireland 'on scale of war crime'

© Reuters
Protestant area in west Belfast July 7, 1998
The torture that detained Catholics in Northern Ireland allegedly endured at the hands of the British was on the scale of a "war crime" a Belfast Court has heard.

The case revolves around 14 men who were kidnapped by security forces in 1971 and subjected to so-called deep interrogation.

This included the "Five Techniques" that were to become standard practice for 'War on Terror'-era interrogators.

Bad Guys

Alabama governor under investigation for corruption, state AG Steven Marshall recuses himself

© Jonathan Bachman / Reuters
Robert Bentley
When Alabama's new attorney general issued a statement announcing he was recusing himself from an investigation into the governor, he also revealed that the previous attorney general had been investigating the governor - a fact largely unknown.

Newly appointed Attorney General Steven Marshall released a statement on Wednesday saying he would keep his promise to recuse himself from an ongoing investigation into Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R).

Marshall appointed former Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks to lead the investigation instead.

Marshall was appointed as attorney general by Governor Bentley on Friday after a vacancy was left by former Attorney General Luther Strange, who had also been appointed by Bentley. Strange was then appointed to temporarily fill Jeff Sessions' US Senate seat after the Senate confirmed Sessions as the new US attorney general.

Gold Coins

Sick bag: Catholic Church paid $213mn to sex abuse victims in Australia since 1980

© David Gray / Reuters
The Catholic Church paid US $213 million to victims of alleged sex abuse committed by priests in Australia over decades, an investigation says. Critics say the system of payments is unfair and not all victims receive the same opportunities or compensation.

Since 2013, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been holding hearings on alleged Catholic Church sex abuse of children - mostly boys.

"Catholic Church authorities made total payments of [AU] $276.1 million [US $213million] in response to claims of child sexual abuse received between 1 January 1980 and 28 February 2015, including monetary compensation, treatment, legal and other costs," the statement from the commission said on Thursday.


BYO: Arizona lets death row inmates bring their own lethal injection drugs to executions

© Darren Whiteside / Reuters
"BYO" is often seen on invitations asking people to bring booze, but it's unusual for the practice to be applied to the death row arena. Arizona has done just that, however, requesting inmates up for execution to bring their own lethal injection drugs.

There is a dearth of lethal injection drugs in the United States after the European Union banned the export of medication used in capital punishment to the US, citing it as a violation of the EU Torture Regulation of 2012.

Since then, states have resorted to using different drug cocktails for the procedure. When that fails, they have fallen back on outdated methods like the electric chair or a firing squad.


Another suspect in Kim Jong-nam murder arrested in Malaysia - police

© Kyodo / Reuters
Kim Jong Nam
Malaysian authorities have arrested a third person in connection with the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The third arrest was confirmed by Malaysian police on Thursday.

"He was detained to facilitate investigations as he is the boyfriend of the second suspect," Selangor state police chief Abu Samah Mat told Reuters.

The second suspect was arrested earlier the same day. That arrest was confirmed by the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Baka and Indonesia's foreign ministry, as she was found in possession of an Indonesian passport.


Acid fumes over German town after leak at chemical plant - 150 people treated

© Arnulf Stoffel / www.globallookpress.com
Sulfuric acid leakes out of a tank at a chemical company in Oberhausen, Germany, 16 February 2017
At least 150 people suffered minor respiratory issues after a leak from an acid tank at a chemical plant in Oberhausen, western Germany, according to local media. The neighborhood has been evacuated and residents have been told not to leave their homes.

So far, at least 150 people have been treated for minor respiratory issues by the emergency services, but only two of them were taken to hospital, a spokesman for the Oberhausen fire department told MDR.

Among the injured are 40 chemical plant staff, while the remaining 110 are people working at an industrial

Stock Down

Budget crisis forcing school district to close schools, consider using students as janitors

© Shannon Stapleton / Reuters
A massive budget crisis has forced a Texas school district to consider radical measures including suggestions to use students as janitors and having students pay to play sports.

The Frisco Independent School District (ISD) serves over 56,000 students in the Dallas area, but to what extent in the future remains to be seen. Between a loss of state funding and voters refusing to pay an extra 13 cents in property taxes, the district has been left to devise its own methods of fixing its budget.

When it comes to school budget cuts, it's rare for there to be an easy or simple solution. However, one particularly interesting idea made its way into Thursday's brainstorming session: "reasonable 'self-service' programs to reduce custodial needs." The suggestion essentially means that the district is being asked to consider having students use time during the school day to take out the garbage.


Former journalist creates algorithm to spot serial killers

© Paul Ward
Although serial killers make frequent appearances in TV shows and movies, and are often reported on disproportionately by the news, most of us know that they're not really much of a threat in the big scheme of things. Statistically speaking, you aren't very likely to be murdered in most places, and only a small percentage of murders are committed by serial killers. The image crafted by the media of the cold, brilliant, and ruthless killer who stalks people for nothing more than sport and pleasure, is an outlier in the real world.

However, though their ranks are incredibly small, there may be more of them lurking in our cities and highways than we realize. That's the conclusion that former journalist Thomas Hargrove came to, after he developed a computer algorithm which can spot serial killers who are often overlooked by the police. He told Bloomberg that "I think there are a great many uncaught serial killers out there...I think most cities have at least a few."

Comment: Math formula may explain why serial killers kill


Mark of the beast on trial: CIA deputy director Haspel asked to testify in torture lawsuit initiated by ACLU

© Shannon Stapleton
The official appointed by President Donald Trump to be the deputy director of the CIA may be compelled to testify in a case against two contractors who helped design the interrogation techniques widely denounced as torture.

Gina Haspel, who was appointed to the post in early February, was named in the court filing on Tuesday that requested Judge Justin Quackenbush compel her deposition in a lawsuit. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, two psychologists who developed the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding.

Attorneys for Jessen and Mitchell filed the motion after the Trump administration informed them it would "not authorize" the deposition, according to the Guardian. They say the deposition would help show that their clients' actions or inactions were "within the scope of legally and validly conferred authority."

Comment: In other words, the CIA head honchos and others said it would be ok - which is most probably true, but also seems to deflect the responsibility for recommending such heinous behavior. At the same time, one might ask, why isn't the ACLU suing the CIA?


Gas pipeline explosion lights up South Texas sky and shakes homes as far as 60 miles away

© Michelle Amador
Texas officials say the explosion occurred early Wednesday near Refugio, a rural community north of Corpus Christi, about 15 miles from the Texas Coast
A natural gas pipeline has exploded in South Texas, in a fiery display that lit up the sky and could be seen for miles.

The force of the explosion shook homes as far as 60 miles away, according to KHOU-TV.

Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Nathan Brandley says the explosion occurred early Wednesday near Refugio, a rural community north of Corpus Christi, about 15 miles from the Texas Coast.

Brandley says no one was hurt and that there are no refineries or plants nearby.

He says it's too early to know what triggered the explosion.

Brandley says crews are working to close the line and extinguish the flames.

Mishaps with transmission lines are not uncommon.

In the past two decades, the US government has recorded more than 2,000 accidents on gas transmission lines across the country.

Comment: Another natural gas pipeline exploded in Texas on 17th January. Last week a blast occurred at a gas pipeline in Louisiana.