September 26, 2012 in Nation/World

In brief: Stanford, NYU study blasts drone program

From Wire Reports

Far more civilians have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas than U.S. counterterrorism officials have acknowledged, a new study by human rights researchers at Stanford University and New York University contends.

The report, “Living Under Drones,” also concludes that the classified CIA program has not made America any safer and instead has turned the Pakistani public against U.S. policy in the volatile region. It recommends that the Obama administration re-evaluate the program to make it more transparent and accountable, and to prove compliance with international law.

“Real people are suffering real harm” but are largely ignored in government or news media discussions of drone attacks, said Stanford’s James Cavallaro, one of the study’s authors.

Cavallaro said the study was intended to challenge official accounts of the drones as precise instruments of high-tech warfare with few adverse consequences. The Obama administration has championed the use of remotely operated drones for killing senior Taliban and al-Qaida leaders, but the study concludes that only about 2 percent of drone casualties are top militant leaders.

Chavez leads Venezuela race for president

Caracas, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez held a 10-point lead over rival Henrique Capriles in one of the final polls ahead of Venezuela’s Oct. 7 election, but the survey released Tuesday showed the challenger narrowing the gap.

The poll by Datanalisis, one of Venezuela’s most respected polling firms, found that about 49 percent said they intend to vote for Chavez and about 39 percent said they plan to vote for Capriles.

About 11 percent didn’t reveal a preference, said Luis Vicente Leon, who heads the polling firm.

The results showed Capriles narrowing the 46-31 percent lead that Chavez held in June’s poll by the same company.

Islamist radical charged for ripping up Bible

Cairo – Egyptian prosecutors referred to trial Tuesday a well-known radical Islamist who tore up an English copy of the Bible during a protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo against an anti-Islam film produced in the United States.

The case against Ahmed Mohammed Abdullah is a rare example of Egypt’s blasphemy laws – often condemned by rights groups as restrictive of freedom – used against someone who allegedly insulted a religion other than Islam.

Abdullah, also known as Abu Islam, was filmed during a protest outside the embassy two weeks ago as he stood before the crowd and ripped up the holy book. “Next time I will urinate on it,” he says in another video. Both videos were posted online.

Contempt toward “heavenly” religions – a term usually taken to include Christianity, Islam, and Judaism – is punishable by up to five years in Egypt.

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