A court in eastern Pakistan has sentenced a Christian couple to death for sending a blasphemous text message insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, their lawyer said Saturday. Judge Mian Amir Habib handed the death sentence to Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta…
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El Salvador has arrested more than 30,000 suspected gang members since President Nayib Bukele in March launched his "war" on criminal groups terrorizing the country, police said on Monday.
Bukele announced a state of emergency in late March following a bloody weekend in which 87 people were killed in gang-related violence.
Since then, the police and military have been rounding up suspected gang members using emergency powers that have done away with the need for arrest warrants.
The small Central American country has also increased sentences for gang membership five-fold, to up to 45 years.
The national civil police force said on Twitter that "536 terrorists were arrested on Sunday May 15, the date at which we reached 50 days since the beginning of the state of emergency."
"The total number captured since the beginning of the war on gangs is 30,506."
The wave of detentions is unprecedented in a country of 6.5 million people that has suffered decades of violent crime driven by powerful gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18.
These gangs count some 70,000 members, and including the recent detentions about 46,000 of them are behind bars, according to authorities.
Rights groups have denounced the arrest of many minors with no gang links.
Earlier this month, Vice President Felix Ulloa told representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross that the arrests were necessary to fight the gangs.
"The Salvadoran state is assisted by Jus ad Bellum (Latin for 'right to war') to defend the people against gang criminal violence," he said.
Jus ad bellum is an international set of criteria to be consulted before the use of armed force or resorting to war.
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In a decision Monday that liberal Justice Elena Kagan warned will further corrupt the nation's money-dominated political system, the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority struck down a campaign finance regulation limiting federal candidates' ability to use campaign funds to repay personal loans.
"When they give money to repay the victor's loan, they know he will be in a position to perform official favors."
Established by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, the rule barred candidates from using more than $250,000 in campaign funds collected after an election to recoup their loans to their own campaign.
The legal challenge to the cap was brought by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who intentionally violated the $250,000 cap during his 2018 reelection bid in order to pursue a repeal of the limit, which he characterized as a violation of free speech.
As CNN explained:
A day before he was reelected in 2018, Cruz loaned his campaign committee $260,000, $10,000 over the limit—laying the foundation for his legal challenge to the cap... [H]e could have been repaid in full by campaign funds if the repayment occurred 20 days after the election. But Cruz let the 20-day deadline lapse so that he could establish grounds to bring the legal challenge.
The high court's 6-3 decision strikes another blow to the nation's campaign finance restrictions, which were already weak and rife with loopholes that big donors readily and frequently exploit.
"This extreme Supreme Court continues to erode our remaining campaign finance rules and enable even more corruption," Sean Eldridge, founder of the progressive advocacy group Stand Up America, tweeted in response to the decision.
"Big Republican donor interests built their supermajority to deliver wins like this one."
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) added that "the right-wing Supreme Court has issued yet another preposterous decision effectively legalizing government corruption at the request of Republicans."
In her dissent, Kagan argued that the court's ruling will make even more common the kinds of "crooked exchanges" that have long sullied the U.S. political system, which is awash in money from corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals.
"Political contributions that will line a candidate's own pockets, given after his election to office, pose a special danger of corruption," Kagan argued, pointing to the issue of recouping personal loans. "The candidate has a more-than-usual interest in obtaining the money (to replenish his personal finances), and is now in a position to give something in return. The donors well understand his situation, and are eager to take advantage of it. In short, everyone's incentives are stacked to enhance the risk of dirty dealing."
Kagan went on to contend that quid pro quos—political favors carried out in exchange for money, in this case post-election donations—could become more rampant thanks to the Supreme Court's new ruling, which was authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, who helped orchestrate the high court's infamous Citizens United ruling and other attacks on campaign finance law.
"Post-election donors can be confident their money will enrich a candidate personally," Kagan wrote. "And those donors have of course learned which candidate won. When they give money to repay the victor's loan, they know—not merely hope—he will be in a position to perform official favors. The recipe for quid pro quo corruption is thus in place: a donation to enhance the candidate's own wealth (the quid), made when he has become able to use the power of public office to the donor's advantage (the quo)."
"The politician is happy; the donors are happy. The only loser is the public. It inevitably suffers from government corruption," she continued. "In allowing those payments to go forward unrestrained, today's decision can only bring this country's political system into further disrepute."
In a statement, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) voiced agreement with Kagan's dissent, calling the high court's ruling "another victory for right-wing donors in their assault on our campaign finance system, and another step toward unlimited special-interest spending in our elections."
"Big Republican donor interests built their supermajority to deliver wins like this one," Whitehouse added, "wins that help special interests skirt our democratic process to achieve what they want."
The shooter targeted Black grocery shoppers, just as previous gunmen have preyed on other victims from minority groups, and the collective failure to condemn their hateful -- but coherently expressed -- ideology has allowed a domestic terrorist movement to build and grow, posing a threat to individuals and institutions, wrote historian Kathleen Belew for The Atlantic.
"All of this violence represents only half of the urgent threat we must now confront," wrote Belew, an assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago and the author of Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America. "The other half of white nationalism is in our halls of governance and on our televisions, claiming ignorance of its most violent outgrowths. Think for instance of the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021: Although white-power and militant-right activists represented a small group of the participants, they were the most organized, the ones with tactical gear and advance planning. They were the ones with intergroup communication and battle readiness."
The insurrection was carried out as performative activism, and not mass-casualty violence, that was intended to draw others to their anti-democratic cause -- and Belew said it worked.
"Despite increased surveillance and deplatforming in the immediate aftermath, researchers have documented a regrouping: upticks in web traffic in white-power spaces, local organizing, and online radicalization," she wrote. "We may yet find that the alleged shooter in Buffalo, only 18 — who wrote that he became radicalized in January 2022 — was propelled by that latest wave in this cresting sea."
White supremacists use mass violence as a recruitment tool, and mass shooters copy and paste one another's manifestos into their own justifications to kill.
"All of this is much too important to ignore as a disconnected string of events or to set aside as simply inexplicable acts of hate and prejudice," Belew wrote. "The alleged shooter in Buffalo is said to have written that boredom, isolation, and internet radicalization led him to his act. When we imagine how many others like him are in front of their screens, alone but together, we might summon an appropriate level of concern to move us to action. Every person should demand accountability from our elected officials for these events, whether January 6 or yesterday’s mass shooting. The death toll is still mounting, and the threat to our democracy grows."