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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…

WikiLeaks outs gay people in Saudi Arabia in ‘reckless’ mass data dump

WikiLeaks Julian Assange speaking from the Ecuadorian Embassy, London, UK.
Reminder: Homosexuality is a capital offense in Saudi Arabia.

Whistleblowing group WikiLeaks is under fire for publishing Saudi government data that outs gay men, leaving them at risk of attack.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most repressive countries when it comes to LGBT rights, and gay people can face punishments ranging from a fine or flogging up to to the death penalty.

Internet whistleblowing website WikiLeaks is known for routinely publishing illicitly-obtained government data from around the world – recently coming under fire for publishing emails illegally hacked from the servers of the US Democratic National Convention. That hack was thought to have been perpetrated by Russian-backed hackers.

Wikileaks has now been accused of carelessly and recklessly publishing unredacted data from Saudi Arabia in a mass info dump, including the personal records of hundreds of people.

Among the thousands of documents, the data released includes the personal information identifying at least one gay man – as well as a number of rape victims and people living with HIV.

It also makes public the identity of domestic workers who had been tortured or sexually abused by their employers – even listing the women’s passport numbers, alongside their full names.

One of the cables includes private details of a Saudi man detained for ‘sexual deviation’ – the charge for homosexuality – raising fears of reprisals or ‘vigilante’ attacks.

One partially disabled woman whose private debt information was released in the data dump told Associated Press: “This is a disaster.

“What if my brothers, neighbours, people I know or even don’t know have seen it? What is the use of publishing my story?”

A doctor whose patients’ data was released branded the leak “illegal”.

Embattled WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who has spent years hiding in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy, said previously: “The Saudi Cables lift the lid on an increasingly erratic and secretive dictatorship that has not only celebrated its 100th beheading this year, but which has also become a menace to its neighbours and itself.”

Source: Pink News, Nick Duffy, August 23, 2016

Private lives are exposed as WikiLeaks spills its secrets


CAIRO (AP) — WikiLeaks' global crusade to expose government secrets is causing collateral damage to the privacy of hundreds of innocent people, including survivors of sexual abuse, sick children and the mentally ill, The Associated Press has found.

In the past year alone, the radical transparency group has published medical files belonging to scores of ordinary citizens while many hundreds more have had sensitive family, financial or identity records posted to the web. In two particularly egregious cases, WikiLeaks named teenage rape victims. In a third case, the site published the name of a Saudi citizen arrested for being gay, an extraordinary move given that homosexuality is punishable by death in the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom.

"They published everything: my phone, address, name, details," said a Saudi man who told AP he was bewildered that WikiLeaks had revealed the details of a paternity dispute with a former partner. "If the family of my wife saw this ... Publishing personal stuff like that could destroy people."

WikiLeaks' mass publication of personal data is at odds with the site's claim to have championed privacy even as it laid bare the workings of international statecraft, and has drawn criticism from the site's allies.

Attempts to reach WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange were unsuccessful; a set of questions left with his site wasn't immediately answered Tuesday. WikiLeaks' stated mission is to bring censored or restricted material "involving war, spying and corruption" into the public eye, describing the trove amassed thus far as a "giant library of the world's most persecuted documents."

The library is growing quickly, with half a million files from the U.S. Democratic National Committee, Turkey's governing party and the Saudi Foreign Ministry added in the last year or so. But the library is also filling with rogue data, including computer viruses, spam, and a compendium of personal records.

The Saudi diplomatic cables alone hold at least 124 medical files, according to a sample analyzed by AP. Some described patients with psychiatric conditions, seriously ill children or refugees.

"This has nothing to do with politics or corruption," said Dr. Nayef al-Fayez, a consultant in the Jordanian capital of Amman who confirmed that a brain cancer patient of his was among those whose details were published to the web. Dr. Adnan Salhab, a retired practitioner in Jordan who also had a patient named in the files, expressed anger when shown the document.

"This is illegal what has happened," he said in a telephone interview. "It is illegal!"

The AP, which is withholding identifying details of most of those affected, reached 23 people — most in Saudi Arabia — whose personal information was exposed. Some were unaware their data had been published; WikiLeaks is censored in the country. Others shrugged at the news. Several were horrified.

One, a partially disabled Saudi woman who'd secretly gone into debt to support a sick relative, said she was devastated. She'd kept her plight from members of her own family.

"This is a disaster," she said in a phone call. "What if my brothers, neighbors, people I know or even don't know have seen it? What is the use of publishing my story?"

Medical records are widely counted among a person's most private information. But the AP found that WikiLeaks also routinely publishes identity records, phone numbers and other information easily exploited by criminals.

The DNC files published last month carried more than two dozen Social Security and credit card numbers, according to an AP analysis assisted by New Hampshire-based compliance firm DataGravity. Two of the people named in the files told AP they were targeted by identity thieves following the leak, including a retired U.S. diplomat who said he also had to change his number after being bombarded by threatening messages.

The number of people affected easily reaches into the hundreds. Paul Dietrich, a transparency activist, said a partial scan of the Saudi cables alone turned up more than 500 passport, identity, academic or employment files.

The AP independently found three dozen records pertaining to family issues in the cables — including messages about marriages, divorces, missing children, elopements and custody battles. Many are very personal, like the marital certificates which reveal whether the bride was a virgin. Others deal with Saudis who are deeply in debt, including one man who says his wife stole his money. One divorce document details a male partner's infertility. Others identify the partners of women suffering from sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and Hepatitis C.

Lisa Lynch, who teaches media and communications at Drew University and has followed WikiLeaks for years, said Assange may not have had the staff or the resources to properly vet what he published. Or maybe he felt that the urgency of his mission trumped privacy concerns.

"For him the ends justify the means," she said.

Source: AP, August 23, 2016

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