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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

New suspects named in Kim Jong-Nam murder trial

Kim Jong-Nam
Four men suspected of plotting with two women to murder the North Korean leader's half-brother were Monday named by police as North Koreans who fled Malaysia after the assassination.

They were identified at the trial of Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, the women accused of killing Kim Jong-Nam on February 13 with nerve agent VX at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in a hit that stunned the world.

The pair, who were arrested days after the assassination and face death by hanging if convicted, pleaded not guilty to murdering the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong-Un when the trial began on October 2.

They say they were tricked into believing they were taking part in a prank for a reality TV show and their lawyers have blamed North Korean agents.

The charge sheet says four other individuals still at large are suspected of murdering Kim along with the women, but does not identify them.

On Monday Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz, the main investigating officer, testified to the Shah Alam High Court outside Kuala Lumpur that the four were North Korean men who fled Malaysia after the murder.

They were known to the women by pseudonyms, he said.

Hong Song Hac, 34, was known as Mr. Chang; Ri Ji Hyon, 33, was known as Mr. Y; Ri Jae Nam, 57, was called Hanamori; and O Jong Gil was known as James.

An Interpol "red notice" was issued for the men after the murder at Malaysia's request. This alerts police in Interpol member countries to share information on the suspects with a view to potentially arresting and extraditing them to face justice.

CCTV footage of the men, who entered Malaysia between late January and early February, around the airport on the day of the murder has been shown in court.

They were seen changing their clothes after the murder before departing. Three of the men left Kuala Lumpur for Jakarta, Wan Azirul said. He could not recall the destination of the fourth.

The murder sparked a furious row between North Korea and Malaysia, with Pyongyang blamed for ordering Kim's death. North Korea has denied the allegation.

Source: Agence France-Presse, November 6, 2017


North Korea assassins bumped off Kim Jong-Un's brother with deadly nerve agent that could kill "tens of thousands" in chemical war: Pentagon report


Kim Jong-Un
The Center for Nonproliferation Studies estimates North Korea has between 2,500 and 5,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, including a large supply of VX, the deadliest nerve agent ever created. VX was used by two alleged North Korean assassins to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half brother in a Malaysian airport in February. 

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commanding officer of the U.K. Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment (CBRN) and NATO’s Rapid Reaction CBRN Battalion, has warned that tens of thousands could be killed in the event of a North Korean VX attack.

"I think we now know that they have 5,000 tons of VX," de Bretton-Gordon said, speaking to NBC News in September. "We know they have missiles capable of firing 4,000 to 6,000 miles, probably with a payload of half a ton, so half a ton of VX in those missiles could kill tens of thousands of people, and they could do that now, so that is a genuine concern."

In a June article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the military historian Reid Kirby said the types of artillery along the demilitarized zone, and vulnerability of children and the elderly, meant that a North Korean attack using the nerve agent Sarin could kill as many as 2.5 million people in Seoul and injure millions more.

Others experts though argue that there is little reliable information about the extent of North Korea's chemical and biological weapons program, and the state would likely rely on its extensive arsenal of weapons less dangerous to handle than biological agents in the event of an attack.

"Very little is known for sure about North Korea’s alleged bioweapons program. Much of the available data is drawn from scant intelligence estimates issued by the US, Russian, and South Korean governments, most of these estimates over a decade old," wrote Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley, an associate professor in the biodefense program at George Mason University, in July.

"More broadly, what is missing in assessments of the North Korean bioweapons threat is an understanding of the conditions required to produce bioweapons successfully—and an evaluation of whether North Korea meets the required conditions."

➤ Click here to read the full article

Source: Newsweek, Tom Porter, November 5, 2017


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