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Nation and World briefs for January 12

Inmates’ uncertainty on Guantanamo prison’s 15th anniversary

MIAMI (AP) — The looming presidency of Donald Trump has created a deep sense of uncertainty for inmates at Guantanamo on the 15th anniversary of the arrival of the first prisoners at the U.S. base in Cuba.

Nineteen of the remaining 55 prisoners are cleared for release and could be freed in the final days of Barack Obama’s presidency, part of an effort to shrink the prison since the administration couldn’t close it on his watch.

But those left behind will face the future under Trump, who has said he wants to keep Guantanamo open and recently called on Obama to halt releases.

“There is a great deal of anxiety and fear,” said Pardiss Kebriaei, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based organization that represents five prisoners.

That backdrop has given a feeling of urgency to anti-Guantanamo demonstrations scheduled for Wednesday’s anniversary in London, Los Angeles and Washington, featuring activists in the orange prison jumpsuits that came to symbolize the detention center though now they are typically worn only by a handful of detainees who have violated detention center rules and are on “disciplinary status.”

Fierce battles leave hospital in Iraqi city of Mosul gutted

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — After weeks of airstrikes and artillery fire, Mosul’s al-Salam hospital is little more than a burnt-out shell. Retaken from the Islamic State group by Iraqi forces this month, the building’s top floors were almost completely destroyed. The gardens around the complex are strewn with medical records and supplies. Bright blue hospital bedsheets hang from nearby trees.

The hospital in eastern Mosul was the scene of one of the most significant setbacks for Iraqi troops in the nearly 3-month operation to retake Iraq’s second-largest city. On Dec. 6, after advancing too quickly, Iraqi forces found themselves surrounded by IS fighters in the hospital complex. Pummeled by wave upon wave of militant counterattacks, dozens were killed and wounded, according to Iraqi military and hospital officials, eventually forcing a withdrawal.

Some Iraqi army officers blamed the setback on insufficient air support by the U.S.-led coalition. Others faulted poor leadership and a lack of coordination among the many disparate Iraqi forces participating in the Mosul offensive, including tribal and militia fighters who maintain their own command structures.

Following the December withdrawal, Iraq’s elite rapid-response unit joined the Iraqi army on Mosul’s southeast front and the U.S.-led coalition increased its air campaign, despite an initial reluctance to use airstrikes against IS in the vicinity of the hospital.

Over the past month, coalition planes dropped 25 bombs on the hospital complex, according to a Pentagon statement provided to The Associated Press. After weeks of static front lines, the renewed air and ground assault brought Iraqi forces to the edge of the Tigris River. Since the Mosul operation was launched in October, Iraqi forces have slowly clawed back about a third of the city.

Pew survey: Officers more reluctant to use force, make stops

ATLANTA (AP) — The so-called “Ferguson effect” — officers backing off of policing out of fear that their actions will be questioned after the fact — has been talked about but never really quantified. A new study suggests the effect is a reality, with three-quarters of officers surveyed saying they are hesitant to use force, even when appropriate, and are less willing to stop and question suspicious people.

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center questioned at least 8,000 officers from departments with at least 100 officers between May 19 and Aug. 14 last year — most of it ahead of the fatal shootings of five officers in Dallas and three officers in Baton Rouge.

What it found was a significant fear among police about their safety and about carrying out some of the everyday acts of policing.

It also shows a stark difference in how white and black officers view the protests that have taken place after some of the high-profile shootings of black suspects in the past several years, with black officers believing the protests are genuine acts of civil disobedience designed to hold police accountable, while white officers are more skeptical of the protesters’ motives.

“White officers and black officers have very different views about where we are as a country in terms of achieving equal rights,” said Kim Parker, the director of social trends research for the Pew Research Center.

Families: Forgiving church shooter doesn’t mean sparing life

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Just because some of the families of the nine people killed and three people who survived a racist massacre in a Charleston church have forgiven the man convicted in the shootings doesn’t mean they think his life should have been spared.

There are a broad range of feelings among the loved ones who were at Emanuel AME ranging from those who think there is no justification to taking a life anytime to those who believe the biblical Old Testament justice of an eye for an eye.

Dylann Roof will soon be off to federal death row, but the families he shattered when he entered Emanuel AME Church and fired 77 shots at the end of Bible study get one last chance to confront him Wednesday as U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel verifies the jury’s sentence at a hearing.

It’s the only chance for them to speak to Roof and the court directly, without having to answer specific questions.

The willingness to forgive dominated the news in the days after the June 17, 2015, shootings as victims’ families and survivors offered Roof forgiveness at his bond hearing. But there are many like Melvin Graham who said forgiveness is still a work in progress and he will forever grieve the death of his sister Cynthia Hurd.

North Korea is a bad trip if you’re looking to get high

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea has been getting some pretty high praise lately from the stoner world.

Marijuana news outlets including High Times, Merry Jane and Green Rush — along with British tabloids, which always love a good yarn — are hailing the North as a pothead paradise and maybe even the next Amsterdam of pot tourism. They’ve reported North Korean marijuana to be legal, abundant and mind-blowingly cheap, sold openly to Chinese and Russian tourists at a major market on the North’s border for about $3 a pound.

But seriously, North Korea? Baked?

The claim that marijuana is legal in North Korea is not true: The North Korean penal code lists it as a controlled substance in the same category as cocaine and heroin. And the person who would likely help any American charged with a crime in North Korea emphatically rejects the idea that the ban is not enforced.

“There should be no doubt that drugs, including marijuana, are illegal here,” said Torkel Stiernlof, the Swedish ambassador. The United States has no diplomatic relations with the North, so Sweden’s embassy acts as a middleman when U.S. citizens run afoul of North Korean laws.

 

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