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Mon, 24 Feb 2020
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America's Disappeared

© Illustration by Mr. Fish

Dr. Silvia Quintela was "disappeared" by the death squads in Argentina in 1977 when she was four months pregnant with her first child. She reportedly was kept alive at a military base until she gave birth to her son and then, like other victims of the military junta, most probably was drugged, stripped naked, chained to other unconscious victims and piled onto a cargo plane that was part of the "death flights" that disposed of the estimated 20,000 disappeared. The military planes with their inert human cargo would fly over the Atlantic at night and the chained bodies would be pushed out the door into the ocean. Quintela, who had worked as a doctor in the city's slums, was 28 when she was murdered.

A military doctor, Maj. Norberto Atilio Bianco, who was extradited Friday from Paraguay to Argentina for baby trafficking, is alleged to have seized Quintela's infant son along with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other babies. The children were handed to military families for adoption. Bianco, who was the head of the clandestine maternity unit that functioned during the Dirty War in the military hospital of Campo de Mayo, was reported by eyewitnesses to have personally carried the babies out of the military hospital. He also kept one of the infants. Argentina on Thursday convicted retired Gen. Hector Gamen and former Col. Hugo Pascarelli of committing crimes against humanity at the "El Vesubio" prison, where 2,500 people were tortured in 1976-1978. They were sentenced to life in prison. Since revoking an amnesty law in 2005 designed to protect the military, Argentina has prosecuted 807 for crimes against humanity, although only 212 people have been sentenced. It has been, for those of us who lived in Argentina during the military dictatorship, a painfully slow march toward justice.

Most of the disappeared in Argentina were not armed radicals but labor leaders, community organizers, leftist intellectuals, student activists and those who happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Few had any connection with armed campaigns of resistance. Indeed, by the time of the 1976 Argentine coup, the armed guerrilla groups, such as the Montoneros, had largely been wiped out. These radical groups, like al-Qaida in its campaign against the United States, never posed an existential threat to the regime, but the national drive against terror in both Argentina and the United States became an excuse to subvert the legal system, instill fear and passivity in the populace, and form a vast underground prison system populated with torturers and interrogators, as well as government officials and lawyers who operated beyond the rule of law. Torture, prolonged detention without trial, sexual humiliation, rape, disappearance, extortion, looting, random murder and abuse have become, as in Argentina during the Dirty War, part of our own subterranean world of detention sites and torture centers.

Arrow Down

US: Borders' Seeks Approval to Liquidate, Close Stores

© AP Photo/Charles Krupa
Customers leave the Borders bookstore in Boston, Monday, July 18, 2011.
There will be no storybook ending for Borders. The 40-year-old book seller could start shuttering its 399 remaining stores as early as Friday.

The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based chain, which helped pioneer the big-box bookseller concept, is seeking court approval to sell off its assets after it failed to receive any bids that would keep it in business. The move adds Borders to the list of retailers that have failed to adapt to changing consumers' shopping habits and survive the economic downturn, including Circuit City Stores Inc., Blockbuster and Linens 'N Things.

On Thursday, Borders is expected to ask the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York at a scheduled hearing to allow it to be sold to liquidators led by Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group. If the judge approves the move, liquidation sales could start as soon as Friday; the company could go out of business by the end of September.

Borders' attempt to stay in business unraveled quickly last week, after a $215 million "white knight" bid by private-equity firm Najafi Cos. dissolved under objections from creditors and lenders. They argued the chain would be worth more if it liquidated immediately.

Bad Guys

Psychopathy Alert! New Zealand teen admits killing seals for 'being pests'

© Associated Press
The seals were clubbed to death in what conservation staff called a callous, cowardly attack
A New Zealand teenager has pleaded guilty to killing 23 seals and seal pups with a metal pipe because he thought they were pests.

Jason Trevor Godsiff attacked the seals while he was on his way home from work on a building site near Kaikoura on South Island.

He stopped at a seal colony and bludgeoned the animals to death.

The 19-year old, who will be sentenced on 13 September, was convicted of wilfully mistreating protected animals.

Another man, 36-year-old Jamaal Peter Roy Large, faces the same charges but has not yet submitted a plea.

Staff from the department of conservation found the battered seals, including newborn pups, at the bottom of a 30m (100ft) cliff.


Oregon, US: 4 Kids, Mom Pulled from Burning House Were Stabbed

Medford - A mother and her four young children who were pulled from a burning house on Monday had stab wounds and died, and the father was under police watch.

Authorities said medics initially treated the victims on the lawn of the small house for smoke inhalation, but it later became clear the victims had also been stabbed. They were all pronounced dead after being taken to a local hospital. Autopsies are pending, and police were searching for the weapon used to stab the victims.

The 51-year-old father, who was also taken to the hospital, was not immediately charged, said Police Chief Tim George.

"He is not free to leave, let's put it that way," George said, adding that he did not think neighbors had anything to fear from a killer at large.

George characterized the fire as arson and the deaths of the 30-year-old woman, her sons aged 7, 6, and 5, and her 2-year-old daughter as homicides.


Florida, US: Teen Killed Parents, Then Had a Party

Port St. Lucie - A 17-year-old Florida boy is accused of beating his parents to death with a hammer and then throwing a party.

Tyler Hadley of Port St. Lucie is being held on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his parents, Blake and Mary-Jo Hadley. The bodies were discovered early Sunday morning after police received a tip.

Police believe the parents were already dead when the teen used Facebook to invite friends to his house for a party Saturday night.

Hadley is being held in juvenile detention. It's not yet known if he has an attorney.


UK Phone Hacking: Police Examine Bag Found in Bin Near Rebekah Brooks's Home

Charlie and Rebekah Brooks
© Tom Jenkins
Charlie and Rebekah Brooks.
Former NI chief executive's husband denies bag - containing computer, paperwork and phone - belonged to his wife

* * *

Detectives are examining a computer, paperwork and a phone found in a bin near the riverside London home of Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International.

The Guardian has learned that a bag containing the items was found in an underground car park in the Design Centre at the exclusive Chelsea Harbour development on Monday afternoon.

Bad Guys

UK Phone Hacking: John Yates Steps Down as Allegations Engulf Scotland Yard

John Yates
© Clara Molden
John Yates, the newly resigned Metropolitan Police chief.
Britain's chief counter-terrorism officer has become the latest victim of the phone hacking scandal yesterday, resigning amid claims that he helped a News of the World executive's daughter get a job at Scotland Yard.

Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who faced criticism for failing to reopen the Metropolitan Police's inquiry into phone hacking sooner, was being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission over his links to Neil Wallis, the former deputy editor of the Sunday tabloid.


News of the World journalist who claimed Coulson encouraged phone hacking is found dead at home

Found dead: Former News of the World journalist Sean Hoare
A former News of the World reporter who was the first to allege that Andy Coulson knew phone hacking was taking place at the paper was today found dead at home. Sean Hoare's body was found on a extraordinary day when a Met police chief resigned over the phone hacking scandal, four senior officers were facing questions and the Prime Minister was forced to call an emergency session of Parliament.

Police were tonight probing the possibility that Mr Hoare had killed himself and said that his death was 'not thought to be suspicious'. He was discovered at 10.40am at his home in Watford, Hertfordshire. A spokesman for Hertfordshire Police said: 'At 10.40am today police were called to Langley Road in Watford following the concerns for welfare of a man who lives at an address in the street.

'Upon police and ambulance arrival the body of a man was found. The man was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after. 'The death is currently being treated as unexplained but is not thought to be suspicious. 'Police investigations into this incident are ongoing.' Mr Hoare blew the whistle on the phone hacking scandal during an investigation by The New York Times last September.


New Jersey, US: Couple Kidnapped Israeli to Force Divorce

© Getty Images
A New Jersey rabbi and his wife surrendered to the FBI on Monday on charges they abducted an Israeli man, beat him and threatened to bury him alive if he didn't give his wife a religious divorce.

The case against David and Judy Wax in U.S. federal court marks a strange twist in a chain of events that started with a divorce dispute in Israel's Rabbinical Court over the victim's refusal to give his wife a "get," an Orthodox Jewish divorce document permitting a wife to remarry.

Absent from U.S. court documents is the name of the victim, Yisrael Briskman, who apparently fled Israel after refusing to grant a divorce. But his name shows up in a 2008 public notice from the High Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem, placed in religious publications in Israel and abroad.

The notice deems it forbidden for the Jewish community to do business with Briskman, extend kindness to him or give him a place to stay. It also calls upon the public to notify the court of Briskman's whereabouts.


Somali Pirates Hijack UAE Tanker in Indian Ocean

© Roberto Schmidt/Agence France-Presse
A Somali pirate carries his high-caliber weapon on a beach in the central Somali town of Hobyo in 2010.
Pirates have hijacked a petrol tanker belonging to the United Arab Emirates in the Indian Ocean and are sailing it to the Somali coast, the EU's anti-piracy body announced on Monday.

"Late on the morning of July 16, it was reported by the owners that the MV Jubba 20, a laden tanker, had been pirated in the northern Indian Ocean, on her regular route from the United Arab Emirates to the port of Berbera" in the breakaway state of Somaliland, said the European Union Naval Force Somalia.

The Jubba 20 is an oil tanker owned and flagged by the UAE with a deadweight of 4,831 tonnes, said a statement from the Brussels-based force.

Marine patrols found the ship on July 17 some 100 nautical miles north-west of Socotra Island, off the coast of Yemen, on its way to the northern Somali coast. Nine Somali pirates are reportedly on board.

There is no information yet on the condition of the 16-strong crew who include four Somalis as well as five Indians and nationals of Bangladesh, Sudan, Myanmar and Kenya.