Links to Start Your Week 1/18/15

Latin America

Honduras had 100 recorded murders in the first 10 days of 2015, calling into question the government’s assurance that its policy of using the military to do police work in the streets has curbed crime. This week the Honduran congress is debating whether to enshrine the policy in the constitution.

Middle East

Two Italian women who had been abducted in Syria were released and returned to Rome. It’s not clear what group had been holding them.

The Saudi blogger who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes (50 every Friday) had his latest lashing postponed after doctors examined him and determined that he had not healed enough from the last 50.

Europe

European police are sweeping up suspected militants in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

On the bright side, the Muslim Malian immigrant who helped hide customers in the grocery store where he worked from one of the gunmen after that attack is getting his French citizenship.

Africa

The major terrorist attack that is getting less attention in the media was Boko Haram’s latest rampage in Nigeria. 2,000 Nigerians were killed.

Security

Al Qaeda has claimed credit for the Charlie Hebdo attack, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should believe them. They may be trying to use the attack to gain more publicity for themselves, since they have lately been overshadowed somewhat in the headlines by ISIL. Furthermore, there are a range of ways Al Qaeda could have been involved, from simply inspiring the attackers to actually ordering the shooting, and so far we don’t know which, if any of these, is the case.

Meanwhile, France has a new law restricting speech that supports or attempts to justify terroristic violence. So much for those marches in support of free speech. Up to 100 people are already under investigation. As far as I can tell, this goes beyond the tradition limits sometimes imposed on speech (such as not allowing speech that would incite panic or violence,) since it is targeting speech that is essentially commenting on acts that have already been committed. Some cited under the new law went to trial and were sentenced within three days. “The accused did not have to threaten actual violence to run afoul of the law.” Also, France was the leader of the Western world in crackdowns on free speech even before this incident.

A bunch of historians weighed in on whether Obama will be better remembered for reducing troop numbers in Afghanistan and Iraq or for his role in expanding our drone program. I’m more inclined to believe that he will be better known for his role in the drone program, for the ways in which it has enabled violent intervention that we are able to convince ourselves are cost-free, the way he has arrogated more power for the president to order individual people put to death without any checks on that power, and the simple fact that Iraq and Afghanistan will probably continue to be recipients of security support for years to come, and I think odds are good that we will maintain troops there for a long time.

Ashton Carter, Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, received $20,000 from a consulting firm that provides political intelligence to investors. So, like so many public figures, he has cozy ties to the private sector. His wife also has major investments in defense companies that may prove a conflict of interest if he is confirmed.

The FBI and Justice Department are seeking charges against former general David Petraeus for allegedly leaking classified information to his mistress.

Environment

Ocean life is facing a mass extinction. This is mostly due to loss of habitat based on pollution and climate change, but overharvesting some species is also contributing to the problem.

Police Violence

This is actually a story about a lack of police violence. A white “survivalist” who shot a police chief four times was not arrested or charged. I guess the police had some dangerous unarmed black teenagers to deal with or something, so this guy wasn’t a priority.

Human Rights

This is an investigation into the possible murders of three Guantanamo inmates, reported as suicides. One of the inmates had initially been pegged as a high-level operative in a Qaeda, only to have the intelligence community belatedly determine that there was no credible evidence linking him to terrorism. But since this is Guantanamo we’re talking about, once you’re there, odds of you leaving are slim to none, regardless of actual guilt.

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