Daily Archives: October 8, 2011

First Woman Tried for War Crimes in Bosnia

The trial of Albina Terzic for charges of inhuman treatment of prisoners began Tuesday.  Terzic is the first woman tried for war crimes in Bosnia.  If she is convicted, she will be just the fifth woman in the world convicted for war crimes.  Terzic entered a plea of not guilty in response to the charges.

The trial for Albina Terzic for warcrimes began this week (Photo courtesy of Radio Netherlands)

The trial for Albina Terzic for warcrimes began this week. (Photo courtesy of Radio Netherlands)

Terzic’s indictment, filed in April 2011, states she

used to hit [the detainees] with a police baton on their necks, shoulders and heads, slap them, encouraged dogs to attack them, tortured, abused, humiliated and insulted them in various ways, by, among other things, forcing the detainees into having sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence.

The alleged mistreatment occurred in a school building and a factory from May to July 1992.

Only one other woman from Bosnia has been convicted for war crimes, and she was tried in The Hague.  Biljana Plasvic pled guilty to crimes against humanity and was released from prison in 2009 after serving most of her eleven-year sentence.  Twenty to thirty women are being investigated for war crimes by the State Prosecutor’s office.  Two women accused of committing war crimes were apprehended in the United States earlier this year.

Azra Basic, who went by the alias “Issabell”, was arrested in Stanton, Kentucky last May.  She is accused of abusing and murdering civilians in 1992 in Derventa prisons.

Last April, Rasima Handanovic was arrested in Oregon for helping the Army of Bosnia attack a village in central Bosnia.  The attack left sixteen dead and four injured.

A 2010 report from the International Court Tribunal for Yugoslavia reported only 526 female fatalities out of 62,626 total combatant fatalities in the war.  About 5,360 of the 90,000 troops serving with the predominantly Bosniak Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina were women.

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U.N. Condemns Attack on Humanitarian Workers

Coat of arms of the Republic of Burundi.

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Five humanitarian workers and two civilians were killed on October 4 by rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  The United Nations has called on the DRC government to investigate this incident, capture the perpetrators, and prosecute them. This was the deadliest attack on humanitarian aid workers in the country’s history.

Rebels ambushed a vehicle transporting members of a local educational group in Malinda. DRC officials blame the attack on members of the Congolese militia and rebel forces allied with Burundi’s National Liberation Front (FNL).

The FNL is a Burundian rebel group based in Congo that coördinates attacks in both DRC and Burundi, including last month’s attack on a bar in Burundi that left more than thirty people dead. Meanwhile, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) is a Rwandan rebel group that is accused of carrying out many attacks against civilians, including killings and mass rapes.

The U.N. claims that roughly forty incidents involving humanitarian aid workers have taken place since August 2011.  Since January 2011, 140 such attacks have taken place.

Beginning in 1999, the U.N. has supported a peacekeeping force up to 20,000 uniformed personnel in DRC. The forces have helped DRC emerge from a fractious civil war and allowed national elections to take place in 2006, the first democratic elections in more than forty years. Much of DRC, a nation as large as Western Europe, remains peaceful. However, plagues the eastern part of DRC.

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California to Crack Down on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

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On Friday, federal officials warned marijuana dispensaries throughout California to shut down or face civil and criminal action as part of a crackdown on the state’s medical marijuana industry.

Four United States attorneys in California said they would move against landlords who rent space to the storefront operators of medical marijuana dispensaries, whom prosecutors suspect of using the law to cover large-scale for-profit drug sales.

In October 2009, the Obama administration said federal prosecutors would not prosecute patients who use marijuana or the operators that distributed it for medical reasons in a state where it had been legalized.

Advocates for medical marijuana say the crackdown will not have an impact on the amount of marijuana coming through the state, but it will push people with a legitimate need to an underground market.

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On This Day…

In 1982, all labor organizations in Poland, including Solidarity, were banned.

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Tomas Transtromer Wins Nobel Prize for Literature

Tomas Transtromer, a Swedish poet, won the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday.

The assembled journalists cheered upon hearing that Mr. Transtromer had won the prize.

Mr. Transtromer, 80, has written more than fifteen collections of poetry, which have been translated into English and sixty other languages.

Critics have praised Mr. Transtromer’s poems for their accessibility, noting his elegant descriptions of long Swedish winters, the rhythm of the seasons and the palpable, atmospheric beauty of nature.

Mr. Transtromer was born in Stockholm in 1931 to a schoolteacher mother and a journalist father. He studied literature, history, religion and psychology at Stockholm University, graduating in 1956, and worked as a psychologist at a youth correctional facility.

In 1990, Mr. Transtromer suffered a stroke that left him mostly unable to speak, but he eventually began to write again.

On Thursday afternoon, the stairwell in Mr. Transtromer’s apartment building filled with journalists from all over the world seeking reaction, the Swedish news media reported.

Visibly overwhelmed, Mr. Transtromer finally appeared, accompanied by his wife, Monica. Speaking on his behalf, she said her husband was most happy that the prize was awarded for poetry. “That you happened to receive it is a great joy and happy surprise, but the fact the prize went to poetry felt very good,” she said.

There was also celebration among Swedes, many of whom have read Mr. Transtromer since his first book of poems was published when he was just twenty-three.

John Freeman, the editor of the literary magazine Granta, said:

He is to Sweden what Robert Frost was to America. The national character, if you can say one exists, and the landscape of Sweden are very much reflected in his work. It’s easy because of that to overlook the abiding strangeness and mysteriousness of his poems.

In the United States, Mr. Transtromer is a virtual unknown, even to many readers of poetry.

The selection of a European writer for the literature Nobel — the eighth in a decade — renewed criticisms that the prize is too Eurocentric. The last American writer to win a Nobel was Toni Morrison in 1993. Philip Roth has been a perennial favorite but has not been selected.

The committee noted after the announcement on Thursday that it had been many years since a Swede had won. It happened in 1974 when Eyvind Johnson and Harry Martinson shared the prize.

The Nobel Prize comes with an honorarium of nearly $1.5 million.

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Oakland Raiders Owner Dies at 82

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Al Davis, the owner of the Oakland Raiders, died today, the team said on its website. He was 82.

Davis was part of professional football for six decades. He joined the Raiders in 1963. Since then, the team has had twenty-eight winning seasons and won three Super Bowl championships.

Davis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.

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Supreme Court Looks for Balance Between Religious Freedom and Protection from Discrimination

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On Wednesday, the Supreme Court Justices struggled to find a theory that would strike a balance between avoiding government interference in the internal affairs of religious groups while protecting employees from discrimination.

There was widespread agreement that the government’s proposed approach, giving limited weight to the First Amendment in disputes between religious groups and their employees, is too narrow.

Leondra R. Kruger, a lawyer for the government, said the court’s analysis should be essentially the same whether the employer accused of discrimination was a labor union or a church.

The case, Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was brought by Cheryl Perich, who was a teacher at a Lutheran school when she was given a diagnosis of narcolepsy. She was fired for pursuing an employment discrimination claim based on her disability. Ms. Perich taught mostly secular subjects but also taught religion classes and attended chapel with her class.

Douglas Laycock, a lawyer for the church, argued that the court should recognize  a “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination laws, one that forbids the government from interfering in the relationship between religious groups and those employees whose duties include religious ones.

“If you teach the religion class,” he said, “you’re clearly a minister.”

But several justices appeared uncomfortable with the task of deciding who is and is not a minister.

The Supreme Court has in recent terms been sympathetic to retaliation claims in employment discrimination suits, and the government lawyer pressed that point.

Justice Breyer proposed avoiding the First Amendment questions and limiting religious groups to a defense specified in the Americans With Disabilities Act, which says, “A religious organization may require that all applicants and employees conform to the religious tenets of such organization.”

Walter Dellinger, one of Ms. Perich’s lawyers, said that defense did not apply to retaliation claims.

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Principal Allegedly Assaults Student Who Wants a Gay-Straight Alliance

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Chris Sigler wants a Gay-Straight Alliance at his Tennessee high school, but his principal says no. When Chris wore a shirt to school supporting the club, the principal allegedly assaulted Chris, and neither the school nor the sheriff’s office has investigated the assault since it occurred last Friday.

Chris was taking an economics exam when Principal Maurice Moser stormed into the classroom and ordered all other students to leave. (Chris’s sister, who was in the same class, refused to go.) Principal Moser shoved Chris against the wall, repeatedly bumped his chest against Chris, and shouted, “Who’s the big man now?”

Chris, who is straight, had been trying since August to create a Gay-Straight Alliance at Sequoyah High School. Chris wanted to create the club to offer support for gay students, including his sister, Jessica, who is bisexual. But Principal Moser blocked Chris from creating the group.

Chris created a home-made T-shirt to support the club. The back of his shirt read, “Gay-Straight Alliance: We’ve Got Your Back.”

If you’re interested, there is a petition on Change.org calling for a thorough investigation of the alleged assault.

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Iowa Republicans Set Caucus Date

Republican Party Election Day Watcher Ribbon, 1904

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According to CNN, Iowa Republicans have set January 3 as the date for the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, two members of the committee that will formally decide the date.

Drew Ivers, a member of the Iowa GOP Central Committee, told CNN that January 3 is the “consensus date.” Another member, A.J. Spiker, said, “The 3rd will clearly be the date.”

Ivers and Spiker told CNN the entire committee discussed the date by telephone. Iowa Republicans said a date has not been officially decided and won’t be until the committee meets formally and sets the date, but Spiker said that was merely a formality.

Iowa traditionally holds the first nominating contest in the nation and the date of its caucuses were up in the air because Florida moved its primary to the last day in January and threw the rest of the Republican calendar into disarray. Party rules call for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina to hold the first caucuses and primaries.

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DOJ Asks Federal Court to Block Alabama Immigration Law

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The Department of Justice has asked a federal appeals court to block enforcement of Alabama’s controversial new immigration law.

The law allows police officers to check the legal status of people, detain them, and turn them over to federal authorities. Supporters and opponents of the law describe it as the strictest state immigration law in the nation.

Since the law came into force, more than 2,000 Hispanic children have been pulled out of school, according to the Alabama secretary of education.

Friday’s action comes after a federal district judge in Alabama on Wednesday denied an emergency request from the Justice Department and civil rights groups aimed at blocking parts of the new law.

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