Amnesty International on the surge of deaths in detention in Syria:
The 88 deaths represented a significant escalation in the number of deaths following arrest in Syria. In recent years Amnesty International has typically recorded around five deaths in custody per year in Syria.
“These deaths behind bars are reaching massive proportions, and appear to be an extension of the same brutal disdain for life that we are seeing daily on the streets of Syria,” said Neil Sammonds, Amnesty International’s researcher on Syria.
“The accounts of torture we have received are horrific. We believe the Syrian government to be systematically persecuting its own people on a vast scale.”
The victims recorded in the report were all swept up in arrests after Syrians took to the streets en masse from March this year. All male, the victims include 10 children, some as young as 13.
All the victims are believed to have been detained because they were involved, or suspected of being involved, in the pro-reform protests.
In at least 52 of these cases there is evidence that torture or other ill-treatment caused or contributed to the deaths.
Amnesty International has seen video clips of 45 of the cases – taken by relatives, activists or other individuals – and has asked independent forensic pathologists to review a number of these.
Injuries on many of the victims’ corpses indicate that they may have suffered horrendous beatings and other abuses. Signs indicating torture include burns, blunt force injuries, whipping marks and slashes....
Thirteen-year-old Hamza Ali al-Khateeb disappeared on 29 April during protests against the siege of Dera’a, and was later found dead with apparent blunt force injuries and a severed penis.
One video clip seen by Amnesty International shows the body of Tariq Ziad Abd al-Qadr from Homs, which was returned to his family on 16 June. His injuries included pulled-out hair, marks to the neck and penis possibly caused by electric shocks, an apparent cigarette burn, whipping marks, stab wounds and burns.
The body of Dr Sakher Hallak, who ran an eating disorders clinic in Aleppo, was discovered by the side of a road a few days after his arrest on 25 May. Sources told Amnesty International that his injuries included broken ribs, arms and fingers, gouged eyes and mutilated genitals.
A return to Kamchatka at English Russia:
More on the park here.
Klyuchevskoy Nature park was created in 1999 and included into the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List.
The park covers an area of 376,000 ha with Eurasia’s most grand and active Klyuchevksaya group of volcanoes in its center. It consists of 13 volcanoes, including 4 active (Klyuchevskoy, Plosky Tolbachik, Besymyanny, Ushkovsky) and 9 extinct ones (Kamen, Krestovsky, Ostry Tolbachik, Ovalnaya Zimina, Ostraya Zimina, Bolshaya Udina, Malaya Udina, Sredny, and Gorny Zoub).
Kluchevskoy volcano (4,750 m or 15,584 ft) is Eurasia’s highest.
In St George's Gardens, Bloomsbury:
Though Bloomsbury is stretching it. East Bloomsbury, maybe, if there is such an area. Near Mecklenburgh Square, one of Camden's hidden treasures.
"Euterpe, the muse of instrumental music. Terracotta figure, one of the nine muses which decorated the facade of the Apollo Inn (1898), on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Torrington Place."
I don't know about instrumental music: that's a meaty forearm. A prosthetic hand and she'd be a serious contender.
A Spanish man making a pilgrimage to thank the "Virgin of Miracles" for his survival in a road crash was killed along with two aunts when a car hit them, an official said Monday.
She has a dark sense of humour, that Virgin.
The 40-year-old truck driver was among a group of half a dozen pilgrims walking from his northwestern hometown of Ordes to Caion, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) away, said a spokeswoman for the mayor's office in Ordes.
"He survived a road accident last year and they were going to thank the 'Virgin of Miracles' of Caion," the spokeswoman said...
Traffic officials said they suspect the driver of the car that struck the pilgrims fell asleep at the wheel.
Always worth reading - Paul Berman, on Western intellectuals, the Arab Spring, and comparisons with 1989 (via):
In the intellectual world, the Islamists, like the pan-Arabists before them, have won an amazing number of debates. The universities and some of the magazines are, even now, filled with people who think that, if Arabs are oppressed, Zionism must be the principal culprit within the region, and Western Islamophobia must be the principal culprit abroad. The crowds chanting “The people want to topple the regime” in one country after another have altered these stubborn highbrow Western assumptions not at all. In a school where I teach a course, I discover in my mail slot a petition signed by university luminaries demanding action against Israel, but not a single manifesto or call for solidarity with the people of Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and other places.
The Middle East studies departments remind me of Latin American studies departments that I used to know in the 1980s, which radiated an influence from the reigning Fidelista Marxism of the Latin American universities of the time—except that in the Middle East studies departments of our day, the tendency leans toward Islamist apologetics....
In the intellectual and cultural worlds of the West, Islamism itself, the doctrine, has won these victories, which has deprived the Arab liberals of the kind of support that ought to be theirs—Islamism, together with the broader, radical anti-imperialism of which Islamism is a part.
But really, read the whole thing.
Talking of prosthetic limbs (below), here's Matthew Syed in the Times (£), arguing that Oscar Pistorius, the Blade Runner, should be allowed to compete in athletics events like the World Championships and the Olympics:
[W]e have a criterion for distinguishing between “good” and “bad” discrimination in the real world. Discriminating against an innumerate candidate for a maths professorship is good and fair. That is the kind of discrimination I love. Discriminating against a black person for a maths professorship, on the other hand, is bad and unfair. We look to the higher purpose (teaching maths effectively), which the Ancient Greeks called telos, to provide us with an operable concept of fairness.
Bu there is no telos in sport, no purpose beyond entertainment. That is why we have no way of adjudicating fairness. In boxing, the world flyweight champion makes more money than a heavyweight novice, even though he would stand no chance of beating him. Is this fair, or desperately unfair? There is no sensible answer, beyond that provided by the free market.
Which brings us back to Pistorius. Is it fair that he should run on blades? It is like asking whether it is fair for horses to carry weights in a handicap. All sporting rules are arbitrary. If you don’t like the decision of the International Association of Athletics Federations to allow him to compete, create a new version of athletics where amputees on blades are excluded. That is your right. And you can ask spectators which they would prefer to watch. But please don’t ask a court to adjudicate.
Sport must have rules, and they must discriminate between winners and losers. That is the meaning of sport. But the rules themselves are neither fair nor unfair. They are arbitrary.
This is - ahem - nonsense on stilts. The reason we have flyweight boxers is to allow smaller fighters to have a go. It's arbitrary in the sense that any division into varying abilities is arbitrary, but it's not totally arbitrary. It makes sense, just as it makes sense to have a system of promotion within the various football leagues so that we don't see Manchester United playing against a team of schoolboys (and we'll ignore the sniggering at the back there, thank you).
A more apt boxing comparison would be a fighter with artificial arms. Would that be allowed? With current technology it'd be viciously, comically one-sided, but it's easy to imagine fancy artificial arms being developed soon capable of some serious power. Or just the hands: unscrew your usual delicate everyday hands and screw in those solid chrome-plated fists of fury. Either way it's immediately obvious that it's a non-starter. The whole point is that, within the weight category, both fighters should be equally equipped with a full set of original 100% human limbs, or it isn't fair. And, contra Syed, sport is crucially dependent on that notion of fairness. Otherwise it's just a fairground attraction: the Great Blondino vs. Magneto the Metal Man.
What if Pistorius swapped his current blades for new ones made from the latest carbon-fibre titaniumised kryptonite, and he could cut three seconds off his time? It's entirely plausible (well, apart from the kryptonite bit). He'd come in five yards ahead of the opposition. Would that be OK? And if not - for those who think he should be allowed to compete in all and every athletics competition - why not?
There are two factors here, I think, which explain why so many otherwise sensible people support this strange idea of allowing Pistorius to compete on equal terms. The first is that we get carried away by all the feel-good stuff. There's the inevitable "what-an-inspiration-the-man-is", overcoming handicaps and all that. And we're all primed to respond to that idea of discrimination: note Matthew Syed's careful inclusion of the case of a black person being refused a professorship, to prime the right anti-discrimination responses and make us feel good about ourselves and our wonderful inclusivity.
The other factor is that Pistorius is coming in at about the right time to make it appear that his blades are just a straight swap for knees, calves, ankles and feet. He managed to make the semi-final in the World Championships, but not the final. At a less advanced stage of artificial limb construction he wouldn't have stood a chance. In a few years time....well, it's at least plausible that double amputees like him will be steaming far ahead of their able-bodied rivals. So we think, yes, if he hadn't had the misfortune to lose his legs, that's about the kind of times he'd be putting in anyway, so it's petty really to make such a fuss about it. Disabilities should be invisible to the modern sensitive and well-brought-up person. We pretend we don't notice them, and here, with Pistorius - look! - they really don't make a difference.
But they do. The arbitrariness is not in the nature of sport, but in the fact that the technology of Pistorius's blades are, for the moment, allowing the illusion that we have some kind of level playing field and can pretend that it makes no difference whether your lower legs are real or artificial. But of course it makes a difference. Good luck to the man, but I don't think for a moment he should be competing in next year's Olympics.
Two staff at a security company have been fired for placing an electronic tag on an offender's false leg:
The pair were fooled by Christopher Lowcock, 29, who wrapped the prosthetic limb in a bandage when G4S set up the system at his Rochdale home.
He was then able to remove the limb and break a curfew imposed for offences involving drugs, driving and a weapon.
G4S sacked the pair for committing a serious disciplinary offence, it said.
In a statement the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said procedures "were clearly not followed in this case and G4S have taken action against the staff involved".
"Two thousand offenders are tagged every week and incidents like this are very rare," a spokesman added....
A spokeswoman for the company said it placed electronic tags on "70,000 subjects a year on behalf of the Ministry of Justice".
"Given the critical nature of this service we have very strict procedures in place which all of our staff must follow.
"In this individual's case two employees failed to adhere to the correct procedures when installing the tag. Had they done so, they would have identified his prosthetic leg."
"Back soon, love...I'm just hopping down to the pub..."