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The Leader of Europe's 'Last Dictatorship' Is Facing an Unprecedented Challenge. Here's What It Could Mean for Belarus

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Europe’s longest serving leader Alexander Lukashenko has long worked hard to seem invincible. He has dominated past elections that the U.S. has deemed neither free nor fair and brokered no dissent and suppressed protests. Now, he is facing an unprecedented challenge as he runs for a sixth term as president of Belarus in elections on August 9. A former teacher and political novice, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has emerged as his main rival, pledging to topple Lukashenko’s regime and restore democracy.
Tens of thousands have rallied across Belarus in some of the country’s biggest opposition protests in a decade, amid mounting frustration over the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, combined with grievances about the economy. Referring to Lukashenko, protestors chanted ‘stop the cockroach’ and held placards reading ‘change!’.
“For the first time in his 26-year rule, Lukashenko knows the majority don’t support him,” says Aleksandr Feduta, a former aide to the incumbent, who was i…

California: Jury recommends death penalty for Charles “Chase” Merritt

Charles “Chase” Merritt
SAN BERNARDINO, June 25 — A Southern California jury yesterday recommended the death penalty for a man convicted this month of the 2010 sledgehammer killings of a family of four whose bodies were later found buried in the Mojave Desert, media reports said.

A San Bernardino County Superior Court jury found Charles “Chase” Merritt, 62, guilty on June 10 of four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of a former business associate, Joseph McStay, and his family.

The same jury yesterday recommended Merritt receive the death penalty for the murder of McStay's wife, 43-year-old Summer, and their two sons, four-year-old Gianni and three-year-old Joseph Jr, CNN and other media reported.

The jury recommended a life prison sentence without parole for the murder of Joseph McStay, 40, according to media reports.

The deaths baffled detectives for years after the family was reported missing in February 2010 from their San Diego home.


Crosses are placed near the graves where the McStay family were buried
Their skeletal remains were unearthed in 2013 from shallow graves near Victorville, northeast of Los Angeles.

The four had been killed inside their home the day they were last heard from, and died of blunt-force trauma.

A rusty sledgehammer believed to be the murder weapon was recovered from the burial site, detectives testified at trial.

The slayings resulted from a financial dispute between McStay, who owned a business making decorative fountains, and Merritt, a welder who worked for McStay fabricating the custom pieces, authorities said.

“We're disappointed, but the fight does not stop,” Jacob Guerard, Merritt's attorney, told the Los Angeles Times.

Merritt is due back in court in September for sentencing.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has imposed a moratorium on the death penalty, but prosecutors across the state continue to try death penalty cases.

Source: Reuters, Staff, June 25, 2019


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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