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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Iran’s Hard-Line Press Adds to Bounty on Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie
TEHRAN — A group of hard-line Iranian news media organizations says it has raised $600,000 to add to a bounty for the killing of the British novelist Salman Rushdie.

Iran’s former supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, in 1989 calling for Mr. Rushdie to be killed because of his book “The Satanic Verses,” which the ayatollah found to be blasphemous and insulting toward Muslims. Mr. Rushdie has since then been living largely out of sight and under the protection of bodyguards.

The semiofficial Fars news agency, one of the organizations involved, reported that the new reward money was gathered during a trade fair called the Islamic Republic’s Digital Media Exhibition. It quoted the secretary of the exhibition saying that the $600,000 had been announced last week to mark the anniversary of the 1989 fatwa.

The Iranian government distanced itself from calls for Mr. Rushdie’s death under former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who declared in 1998 that the fatwa had ended. But the religious authorities said it could not be withdrawn by anyone other than Ayatollah Khomeini, who died four months after issuing it. His successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in 2005 that the fatwa remained valid.

The decree had already put a considerable price on Mr. Rushdie’s head: A religious organization called the 15 Khordad Foundation initially offered a $2.7 million reward to anyone carrying out the fatwa, then increased it to $3.3 million in 2012. The new money, bringing the total bounty to nearly $4 million, came from 40 news outlets listed by Fars, which said that it had contributed $30,000.

Iranian hard-line organizations tend to make symbolic gestures involving the Rushdie fatwa every year around its anniversary, Feb. 14. Whether the bounty really would be paid is unclear.


Source: The New York Times, Feb. 24, 2016

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