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News Briefs

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By: Jill Odom

U.S. declares to defend itself and South Korea if attacked

Secretary of State John Kerry announced today that the United States would defend itself and its “treaty ally” South Korea. Tensions have been raised in North Korea due to UN sanctions and joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea. The Pentagon has deployed two missile destroyers, USS Decatur and USS McCain, to the area. Pyongyang announced its intent to restart its main Yongbyon nuclear complex. The facility was shut down in July 2007 as part of a disarmament-for-aid deal. Yongbyon poses a threat to be taken seriously because it provides North Korea a way to create new nuclear weapons. The U.S. has been urging the Chinese and Russian governments to pressure North Korea to reconsider their plans for Yongbyon.

Amnesty International outraged at Saudi paralysis sentence

A 24-year-old man in Saudi Arabia is facing paralysis if he cannot pay $266,660 in compensation.  Ali al-Khawahir was 14-years-old when he paralyzed his friend during the attack of the Eastern Provence town of al-Ahsa. He has been in prison for 10 years since he stabbed his friend in the back. The law of qisas, or law of equality in punishment, requires that he suffer the same penalty as his victim unless he can pay the blood money. Amnesty International, a human rights group, is outraged by this ruling and says that carrying out this retribution would be considered torture. Amnesty is demanding that Saudi Arabia respect the international legal obligations and this isn’t the first time their interpretation of Islamic law has attracted criticism for its cruelty.

Mick and Mairead Philpott convicted of manslaughter

In Derby, England, Mick Philpott and his wife, along with friend Paul Mosley were found guilty for the death of his six children after setting his house on fire in attempt to frame his ex-girlfriend Lisa Willis, after she left him with her four children. The six children who died in the blaze died from smoke inhalation ranged from 5 to 13-year-old Duwayne, who passed away two days later in the hospital from the same cause.  Philpott was the father of 17 children and was the main organizer of the twisted plot in an attempt to pin arson on Willis and gain custody of her children. He had planned to rescue the children and have Willis prosecuted but it went horribly wrong, ending in the six children dying in their sleep. Philpott had lived along with Willis and his wife Mairead and both women’s children. The jury was not told of Philpott’s past conviction where he  broke into his 17-year-old girlfriend’s house and stabbed her multiple times. Authorities were suspicious of Philpott’s callousness and lack of distraught at the magnitude of the loss.

Obama propose a brain mapping initiative

President Obama has announced an initial $100 million investment on the study of the brain to provide more information of Alzheimer’s and epilepsy. After seeing how much the Human Genome project revealed in the world of genetics, he now wishes to do the same with the brain. The project was named Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, better known as BRAIN. The project will begin in 2014 and will be carried out by both public and private sector scientists. The investment will be studying how the billions of cells interact in the brain. Scientist will also study how the brain is related to behavior and how it records, stores and processes information. The National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation will all be involved with the process. Obama claims it will create new jobs and boost the economy, believing it is worth the investment to know more about the enigmatic grey matter.

Airline makes weight-based fares

Small South Pacific airline, Samoa Air has started charging its passengers by weight. The airline just flies three aircraft right now, two 10-seaters and one four-seater. The company flies to Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Niue, Tokelau, the North Cook Islands and Wallis and Futuna islands in French Polynesia but they are looking at getting a much larger airbus that would be able to travel to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, but plan to stick to the weight-based payment for that one too. When booked online the traveler would enter their weight and the guessed weight of their baggage. If it is slightly over they are lenient but there are no refunds for significantly lighter luggage than they estimated. Families are pleased with this set up because children fly for less but others worry that this is a “fat tax.” However for the small carrier it works and their business is extremely dependent on weight so chief executive Chris Langton has no intention of changing anytime soon.