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Saudi Arabia advertises for swordsmen as execution rate soars

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Saudi Arabia advertised vacancies for eight executioners Tuesday after beheading nearly as many people since the start of the year as it did in the whole of 2014.

The civil service ministry said that no qualifications were necessary and that applicants would be exempted from the usual entrance exams.

It said that as well as beheadings, the successful candidates would be expected to carry out amputations ordered by the courts under the kingdom’s strict version of Islamic sharia law.

Amputation of one or both hands is a routine penalty for theft. Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death.

Most executions are carried out by beheading, but a few are carried out by firing squad, stoning or crucifixion.

All are carried out in public and video footage sometimes appears on the Internet despite a ban on filming.

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In January, gruesome footage was posted of a Burmese woman protesting her innocence before being beheaded by a swordsman on a public street in the Muslim holy city of Mecca.

Ignoring her screams, the white-robed executioner forces her to lie down on the ground, near a pedestrian crossing, then severs her head with a curved sword.

The official Saudi Press Agency said that Layla bint Abdul Mutaleb Bassim had been sentenced to death for killing her husband’s six-year-old daughter.

The vacancies were advertised on the ministry’s website in the “religious jobs” section.

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Last year, Saudi Arabia executed 87 people, according to an AFP tally, ranking it third in the world for use of the death penalty.

Already this year, it has put 84 people to death in what human rights group Amnesty International has described as a “macrabre spike.”

The interior ministry says the death penalty is an important deterrent.

But on a visit to Riyadh this month, French President Francois Hollande said capital punishment “should be banned”.

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Critics lament as 126 House Democrats join forces with GOP to hand Trump ‘terrifying’ mass domestic spying powers

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Privacy advocates and civil liberties defenders are expressing outrage after the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday night voted down a bipartisan amendment designed to end, as one group put it, the U.S. government's "most egregious mass surveillance practices" first revealed by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In a final vote of 253-175, it was 126 Democrats who joined with 127 Republicans to vote against an amendment introduced by Rep Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that would have closed loopholes in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that critics charge has allowed the NSA to abuse warrantless surveillance capabilities and target the emails, text messages, and internet activity of U.S. citizens and residents. See the full roll call here.

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Pilots, including Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, tell US Congress more training needed on 737 MAX

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US pilots called Wednesday for enhanced pilot training on the Boeing 737 MAX before the aircraft is returned to service after being grounded worldwide following two deadly crashes.

The pilots -- including Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III, who famously landed a damaged plane on the Hudson River in New York in 2009 -- pushed back against the aviation giant's assurances that pilots will only need to review the 737 MAX modifications in a computer program.

Daniel Carey, president of the Allied Pilots Association, told a congressional panel he was encouraged by changes Boeing made to a flight system seen as a factor in both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes that killed 346 people.

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Shelling on American interests threaten Iraq’s fine line between Iran, US

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A nearly week-long barrage of anonymous shelling attacks on American interests across Iraq are intended to signal Iran's long reach and "embarrass" Baghdad amid spiralling US-Iran tensions, observers say.

The incidents were not claimed but largely originated from areas where Shiite-dominated armed groups loyal to Tehran and deeply opposed to Washington have free reign.

Starting Friday, mortars and rockets have rained down on the Al-Balad and Taji bases, the Baghdad military airport, and a military command centre in northern Mosul -- all sites where US troops and army equipment are present.

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