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This is America: 9 out of 10 public schools now hold mass shooting drills for students

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How "active shooter" drills became normal for a generation of American schoolchildren.
"Are you kids good at running and screaming?" a police officer asks a class of elementary school kids in Akron, Ohio.
His friendly tone then turns serious.
“What I don’t want you to do is hide in the corner if a bad guy comes in the room,” he says. "You gotta get moving."
This training session — shared online by the ALICE Training Institute, a civilian safety training company — reflects the new normal at American public schools. As armed shooters continue their deadly rampages, and while Washington remains stuck on gun control, a new generation of American students have learned to lock and barricade their classroom doors the same way they learn to drop and roll in case of a fire.
The training session is a stark reminder of how American schools have changed since the 1999 Columbine school shooting. School administrators and state lawmakers have realized that a mass shoot…

In rare move, Texas parole board recommends clemency for death row inmate Thomas Whitaker

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For the first time since 2007, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to recommend a lesser sentence for a death row inmate. 
In an exceedingly rare move, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted Tuesday to recommend a lesser sentence for a death row inmate facing execution.
The board voted unanimously in favor of clemency for Thomas Bartlett Whitaker, a man who is set to die on Thursday evening. The decision now falls on Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who can approve or deny the recommendation to change Whitaker’s death sentence to life in prison.
The last time the board recommended clemency for a death row inmate was in 2007. An Abbott spokeswoman did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Whitaker, 38, was convicted in the 2003 murders of his mother and 19-year-old brother as part of a plot to get inheritance money. His father, Kent Whitaker, was also shot in the attack but survived and has consistently begged for a life sentence for his son.
“Victims’ rights sh…

Missouri Fought For Years To Hide Where It Got Its Execution Drugs. Now We Know What They Were Hiding.

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The state of Missouri did everything it could to keep secret where it got the drugs it used to put 17 inmates to death. Now, BuzzFeed News has discovered the supplier is a pharmacy repeatedly found to engage in hazardous practices that could put patients — and convicts — at risk.
The state of Missouri has engaged in a wide-ranging scheme — involving code names and envelopes stuffed with cash — to hide the fact that it paid a troubled pharmacy for the drugs it used to execute inmates.
Procuring execution drugs has become almost impossible, as major pharmaceutical companies stopped making them or refused to provide them for capital punishment. Missouri itself faced a crisis in early 2014, when the previous pharmacy it had been using was exposed in the press and stopped providing the state with drugs. Scrambling, Missouri found a new pharmacy and stockpiled the lethal injection drug pentobarbital, enabling it to set a record pace for executions, scheduling one a month for more than a ye…

Turkey “holds a different status in terms of its moral values”: Erdoğan

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said the government was wrong to shelve an attempt to criminalize adultery and extra-marital sex (zina) in 2004, an issue that caused a major row between Turkey and the EU during accession talks at the time.
“This society holds a different status in terms of its moral values,” Erdoğan said at the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) weekly parliamentary group meeting in Ankara on Feb. 20.
“This is self-criticism. I must say that in the EU process we made a mistake ... We should now evaluate making regulations about adultery and perhaps consider it together with the issue of harassment and others,” he added.
“This is an issue where Turkey is different from most Western countries,” Erdoğan said.
The president also went on to signal that the death penalty could once again be brought to the agenda.
“Of course, the death penalty is not currently legal. But the issue of the death penalty is especially important for us due to its relationship to te…

Parkland school shooter makes first live appearance in court

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Shackled and wearing a red jump suit, school shooter Nikolas Cruz made his first live appearance in a Broward County circuit court five days after he walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and fatally shot 17 people in the worst school shooting in Florida history.
Cruz, a slightly built teen, did not say anything and never looked up at the crowd or the judge from his seat at the defense table. He kept his head and eyes downcast, even as his defense attorney whispered to him. It was a tense atmosphere — Cruz was surrounded by Broward Sheriff’s deputies as news media members and lawyers watched from the gallery.
He is facing 17 counts of premeditated murder and could face the death penalty. The Broward County Public Defender’s Office, which is representing Cruz, has already said he will admit guilt if prosecutors will waive execution as punishment.
After his arrest last week, Cruz made a first court appearance via closed-circuit television from a detention facility. He was held with…

Iran slams Sweden for giving citizenship to death row 'spy'

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Iran has formally criticised Sweden over its decision to grant nationality to an Iranian professor sentenced to death on spying charges, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
Sweden granted citizenship last week to Ahmadreza Djalali, a Stockholm-based specialist in emergency medicine.
READ ALSO: Sweden grants citizenship to academic facing Iran death sentence
He was arrested during a brief visit to Iran in April 2016 and found guilty in October of passing information about two Iranian nuclear scientists to Israel's Mossad intelligence agency that led to their assassinations.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said the decision to grant a convict citizenship was "very strange, unprincipled and questionable" and that the Swedish ambassador was summoned on Monday.
"Iran's strong protest was conveyed to the Swedish ambassador with regards to the move by the Swedish government to grant nationality to a person who has confessed to spying for Mossad and …

Decision day for father trying to save son from Texas death penalty

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Kent Whitaker, struggling to halt the looming execution of the son who upended his life 14 years ago, should know shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday whether his efforts have passed the first critical hurdle.
Whitaker long ago forgave his son, Thomas Whitaker, for setting up the ambush that killed his wife and only other child as they returned to their Sugar Land home in December 2013. With Thursday’s execution date approaching, Kent Whitaker begged the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend that his son’s death sentence be reduced to life in prison.
If a majority of the seven-member board favors clemency, the decision on whether to commute the death sentence would be up to Gov. Greg Abbott.
The board will vote around 1 p.m., with out-of-town members faxing their ballots in to the parole board’s Austin office. Shortly after that, Kent Whitaker and his lawyer, Keith Hampton, expect to receive a phone call to learn the results.
Thomas Whitaker, now 38, was sentenced to death for luri…

U.N. Rapporteurs Call on U.S. Government to Halt Doyle Hamm’s Execution

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Planned US execution of seriously ill Doyle Hamm may amount to torture, UN experts warn
Press Release: United Nations Human Rights Commissioner
GENEVA (16 February 2018) – Two UN human rights experts have called on the US Government to halt the execution of a seriously ill man amid concerns that the use of a lethal injection could amount to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, and possibly torture.
The Special Rapporteurs also expressed concern that Doyle Hamm, who is due be executed in Alabama on 22 February, may not have received a fair trial. Mr. Hamm was convicted of robbery and murder in 1987 and has been on death row for more than three decades.
The execution is due to go ahead even though Mr. Hamm has cancer and medical professionals have previously had difficulty accessing his veins.
“We are seriously concerned that attempts to insert needles into Mr. Hamm’s veins to carry out the lethal injection would inflict pain and suffering that may amount to torture,” sa…

Iraq to deport suspected French jihadist who served sentence

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An Iraqi court ordered the release and deportation of a suspected French jihadist sentenced Monday to seven months in prison for entering the country illegally, saying she had already served her time.
Melina Boughedir, 27, was arrested last summer in former Islamic State group stronghold Mosul with her four children, three of whom have been repatriated to France.
Wearing a black dress and purple headscarf, she entered the courtroom holding her other child, a boy with blond hair.
Speaking in Arabic, she said that she had been a housewife in Mosul.
"I entered Syria with my French passport but Daesh (IS) took it from me. I stayed in Syria for four days and then came to Mosul with my husband and four children".
She said that her French husband Maximilien, whom she said had been a cook for IS, was killed as Iraqi forces battled to oust the jihadist group from Mosul, which was recaptured last July.
Asked her if she regretted what she did, she replied: "Yes".
Iraq in Dec…

EU Delegation condemns Botswana on capital punishment

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The European Union (EU) has added its voice to growing chorus by human rights activists condemning capital punishment following the execution of double murder convict, Joseph Tselayarona, last weekend.
Following the brutal murder of his girlfriend, Ngwanyanaotsile Keikanne and her 3-year-old son Miguel in 2010, Tselayarona was convicted by a Gaborone High Court in March last year for the offences.
He was sentenced to a 20-year jail term for the murder of his girlfriend and handed a death penalty for the murder of the son.
He later appealed the judgement but it was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on November 23rd last year.
Tselayarona’s execution at Gaborone Central Prison on Saturday morning reignited the debate on capital punishment as activists took to social media criticizing government for its stance on capital punishment.
Botswana government has always maintained its position on the death penalty and no death row inmate has ever received any presidential clemency in the country…

Rajasthan mulls death penalty for child rapists

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Jaipur (Rajasthan) [India], Feb 20 (ANI): The Rajasthan government will soon table a bill in the state assembly seeking death penalty for those convicted of raping minors.
Rajasthan minister Gulab Chand Kataria told ANI that his government similar to that of Madhya Pradesh is mulling to bring a law under which, those convicted of raping minors will be executed.
"We are working on bringing a law similar to that has been made in Madhya Pradesh which awards death for the rape of children aged 12 or below. It will be tabled in the assembly when it is ready," he said.
The Madhya Pradesh Assembly on December 4 last year, unanimously passed 'The Penal Law (Madhya Pradesh Amendment) Bill-2017' to award death sentence to those found guilty of raping girls aged 12 or below.
As per the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) 2016 report, cases of crime against children have become rampant in Rajasthan in the recent past.
The BJP-ruled state recorded 4,034 such cases in 2016, which…