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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

A young man is skinned alive, a sign of new Taliban brutality

The 15-year war is taken an increasingly brutal turn
'The 15-year war is taken an increasingly brutal turn.'
KABUL — In a remote area of Afghanistan, where thousands of years of hardscrabble tribal culture increasingly mixes with a resurgent Taliban militancy, this is how Fazl Ahmad allegedly died.

Local officials in Ghor province said one of Ahmad’s distant relatives was suspected of killing a former Taliban commander. In December, militants dragged Ahmad from his house and cut out his eyes in retaliation.

Ahmad was still alive and screaming when the attackers began carving the skin off his chest, leaving his heart exposed. Then they threw the 21-year old laborer off a 10-story cliff, officials said.

“They skinned him alive,” said Ruqiya Naeel, a member of parliament from the area.

The Taliban denied involvement in the grisly crime, the aftermath of which was documented in a recently circulated video and photograph.

But even so, Ahmad’s death is the latest in a string of violent acts across Afghanistan over the past six months. Rattled officials say the 15-year war is taken an increasingly brutal turn.

“The amount of casualties, particularly with civilians, is a crime — a crime against humanity, a crime against Afghanistan, and a crime against our people,” a somber Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a meeting with reporters last week.

Since 2001, the United States has invested more than $100 billion building Afghan military and police forces, a judicial system and schools in hopes of moving the country closer to normality. But all that spending appears to have done little to slow a cycle of rage and revenge that has made Afghanistan one of the world’s most dangerous countries.

Horrific violence is nothing new in Afghanistan.

Public executions were common when the Taliban ruled the country in the 1990s, and tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed during the post-2001 Taliban insurgency. Afghanistan, like neighboring Pakistan, also has a long history of cultural and religious conservatism associated with violent retribution.

But analysts say the scale of the brutality continues to evolve as the Taliban becomes more fragmented and pushes out into additional areas of Afghanistan. Younger Taliban commanders also now operate more independently and are increasingly inspired by other brutal acts easily viewed on the Internet, the say.

As the original leaders of the insurgency die, they are being replaced by younger commanders who appear less interested in maintaining ties to the local areas in which they are fighting. These fighters also are more connected through the Internet to the global ambitions of militant Islamic groups, which is resulting in some Taliban commanders’ attempting to borrow the fear tactics used by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.


Source: The Washington Post, Tim Craig, June 11, 2016

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