Videotaped Confessions Televised In Mexico

MEXICO CITY, Martinique, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Mexican law enforcement officials are taking to the TV airwaves, televising videotaped confessions that critics call suspect.

The Washington Post reports officials have resorted to the confessions — known as “the presentation” — more and more as a tactic to try to prove to skeptical viewers the suspects police arrest are guilty of crimes of which they are accused.

The confessions are often coerced, or suspects are duped or promised a break if they quickly confess, human rights advocates and defense lawyers say.

The Post noted surveys of prison inmates in three Mexican states, conducted by researcher Marcelo Bergman of the Center for Economic Research and Education in Mexico City, found half confessed because they were guilty while 35 percent said they did so because they were threatened or tortured.

“These kinds of declarations have absolutely no value in court,” said John Ackerman, a professor at the Institute for Legal Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Ackerman told the newspaper the confessions could bring better deals for the accused or help them avoid prosecution if they argue they were tortured or threatened.

“It’s all part of a deal. If you confess in public, we might cut you some slack. That’s the deal,” said Ackerman, also editor of the Mexican Law Review.

Whatever effect they have on cases, the confessions provide gripping television, the Post said.

STD Experiments On Unwitting Guatemalans

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Federal investigators said they determined Monday U.S. researchers conducted sexual disease experiments on unwitting Guatemalans in the 1940s.

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues reported U.S. government researchers knew they were acting unethically when they intentionally infected people with sexually transmitted diseases without the subjects’ knowledge because just a few years earlier they had obtained consent before similar experiments in Indiana, The Washington Post reported.

“These researchers knew these were unethical experiments and they conducted them anyway,” said commission Member Raju Kucherlapati of Harvard Medical School. “That is what is reprehensible.”

The various experiments conducted decades ago involved at least 5,500 prisoners, mental patients, soldiers and children, the Post said. At least 1,300 of them were exposed to syphilis, gonorrhea and chancroid, the commission said.

At least 83 subjects died, though it could not determine how many deaths were a direct result of the experiments, the commission said.

“This is a dark chapter in our history,” commission Chairwoman Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania said. “It is important to shine the light of day on it. We owe it to the people of Guatemala who were experimented on, and we owe it to ourselves to recognize what a dark chapter it was.”

President Barack Obama ordered the investigation after the experiments, which had approval from some Guatemalan officials, came to light last October. Guatemala is conducting its own investigation.

The research, conducted between 1946 and 1948, had been aimed at determining whether taking penicillin after sex would protect against syphilis, gonorrhea and chancroid.

The Post said researchers infected subjects by bringing them to infected prostitutes, placing STD bacteria on the wounds they made on their penises, faces and arms, or injecting infectious material into their spines.

Motorcyclist’s Throat Sliced By Line

TORONTO, Aug. 29 (UPI) — A 26-year-old motorcyclist hospitalized after his throat was cut by a wire or string strung across a road in Toronto said he saw blood but felt no pain.

“I didn’t feel anything and then all of a sudden there was blood squirting in front of me,” Humayun Kobir told CablePulse24-TV, Toronto, with his throat bandaged Monday after his release from the hospital.

Kobir said he was on his way to work and slowed when he felt his helmet rattle Sunday.

He was taken to St. Michael’s Hospital with serious injuries after running into the line about 4 p.m., the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Kobir told CP24 a man put a shirt around his neck to stop the bleeding before paramedics arrived.

Toronto police said they were trying to determine whether a kite line or fishing line had been strung across the roadway — and whether it had been put there intentionally.

CP24 said the line appeared to have been tied or tangled around a light pole.

Toronto Police Staff Sgt. Mike Gottschalk told the CBC kite fliers used the area for “kite fights,” in which one kite flier tries to sever an opponent’s string.

Police said kite strings had been found tangled in wires and trees in the area Sunday, and some residents said they often find kite string on the ground and in trees nearby, CP24 reported.

Bear Shot Near Crowded Festival

UNIONTOWN, Pa., Aug. 29 (UPI) — A black bear was shot and killed Sunday after getting too close to a downtown street festival in Uniontown, Pa., police say.

Police received multiple reports of sightings of the 350-pound bear as it made its way closer to the city’s downtown area, where thousands of people were gathered, the Herald Standard reported.

Police Chief Jason A. Cox said the bear died immediately upon being shot once in the head after it was located about two blocks away from where the festival was taking place.

“With the festival going on and with the bear being in a highly populated area, the decision was made that the risk was too great and the bear was shot,” Cox said.

Patrolman Jason Fidazzo said it is likely the bear was drawn to the populated area by the smell of food from the festival.

Group Calls For Huge Protest In Cairo

CAIRO, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Young Egyptian activists called Monday for a huge demonstration in Cairo to demand, among other things, an end to military trials of civilians.

The Revolution Youth Coalition, in a post on its Facebook page, urged Egyptians to participate in the demonstration Friday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the Middle East News Agency reported.

Unofficial statistics indicate more than 12,000 civilians have faced military trials and some are serving sentences in military prisons. Others face charges, including thuggery and expressing anti-military opinions, the news agency said.

The coalition said the trials do not meet international standards for fairness.

Human Rights Watch said this month at least 10,000 civilians were sentenced this year in unfair proceedings and that all of them should be retried. An official with the group said at the time the country “needs to urgently review the legal framework which [deposed President Hosni] Mubarak used for years to silence his critics.”

The coalition said other demands will include a timetable for handing power over to an elected civilian government and an end to the country’s anti-protest laws.

The group also called for an overhaul of a July parliamentary elections law, saying it opens polling places to tribal biases and vote-buying.

The rally will also call for restoration of security to the streets, and setting minimum and maximum wages, the coalition said.

81-year-old Man Arrested In Wife’s Death

HOUSTON, Aug. 29 (UPI) — An 81-year-old Texas man has been charged with murder in the death of his 74-year-old wife, who was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head Sunday night.

Police went to the south Houston home of Johnny Walter Bass and his wife, Jewel Bass, to investigate reports that couple had not been heard from for a while, the Houston Chronicle reported. They said Johnny Bass confessed to shooting his wife.

Police said he told officers his wife was lying on the bed because he had shot her early Friday. Johnny Bass was arrested and charged with intentionally shooting his wife with a deadly weapon.

Neighbors reported they often heard the elderly couple yelling at each other as they did outside work around the house. Still, many were shocked at the apparent violence, saying the Basses were friendly and talkative.

“It’s horrible. It’s devastating,” said neighbor Cecil Bates. “They were good neighbors and didn’t bother nobody. What came over him, I don’t know.”

Chilean President Reaches Out To Activists

SANTIAGO, Chile, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has called for dialogue with student activists after protests led to the killing of a teenager last week, officials said.

Pinera said the Chilean government is taking full responsibility for the death of Manuel Gutierrez Reinoso, 16, who was shot dead last Thursday during a clash between protesters and police, La Tercera reported Monday.

“After three months of protests, strikes and hunger strikes, we have seen violence flourish. We believe it is time for peace, unity, dialogue and agreements,” said Pinera.

Witnesses blamed police for firing the shot that killed Gutierrez, marking the first fatality in months of demonstrations across the country.

The Chilean Student Confederation has agreed to sit down with Pinera in exchange for the removal of Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter, who they said was responsible for the death of Gutierrez.

Demonstrations for education reform started in April when thousands of students took to the streets across Chile.

Nigeria, Ethiopia: Support NTC In Libya

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Nigeria and Ethiopia urged other African countries to follow their lead in supporting the National Transitional Council as the official government of Libya.

Nigeria called the move an effort to prevent the loss of more civilian lives in Libya, The (Lagos) Guardian reported Monday.

“In the interest of peace and stability and the well-being of the people of Libya, the governments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia have decided to jointly recognize the National Transitional Council as the interim legitimate authority in Libya,” the two countries said in a statement.

“We call upon all peace-loving countries in general, African countries and the African Union, in particular, to contribute to peace and stability in Libya by recognizing the authority and legitimacy of the NTC.”

Nigeria said the recent events in Libya, where rebels are in the process of overthrowing strongman Moammar Gadhafi, showed the NTC is in control of most of that country.

In the statement, Ethiopia and Nigeria said they “are on the side of the NTC at this important juncture of the history of Libya.”

The two countries pledged to support the NTC in “the difficult tasks of establishing an inclusive transitional government, reconstruction, national reconciliation and peace-building in order to meet the yearnings and legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people for human rights, democracy, the rule of law and good governance.”

Jailed Russian Oil Magnate Writes Column

MOSCOW, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed chief executive of Russian oil company Yukos, has joined the Russian weekly The New Times as a columnist, the publication said.

A strong critic of the Kremlin, Khodorkovsky has previously contributed to other Russian opposition publications, including Novaya Gazeta and Nezavisimaya Gazeta. His current column, called Jail People, focuses on the individuals he meets during his imprisonment, the Russian International News Agency reported.

Khodorskovsky was convicted of fraud in December for stealing oil from his company along with business partner Platon Levedev. He was finishing an eight-year prison term for tax evasion at the time and is now expected to be released from prison in 2016.

“I often feel terror at just how human lives are being wasted, at destinies broken by self and by the soulless System,” Khodorkovsky wrote in his column.

Mexican Police Arrest 5 In Casino Torching

MEXICO CITY, Aug. 29 (UPI) — Mexican police have arrested five alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel accused of setting fire to a casino that killed 52 people last week, officials said.

Nuevo Leon state Gov. Rodrigo Medina said the suspects, ages 18 to 37, admitted to participating in Thursday’s arson attack at the Casino Royale in the capital city of the northeastern Mexican state, Monterrey, Milenio reported Monday.

Medina said fingerprints that were left behind and surveillance cameras that show two men filling large jugs with gasoline at a nearby gas station helped capture the men.

Police are investigating whether the attack could have been in retaliation for the casino’s failure to pay extortion money to the gang. Two other suspects are still wanted.

Mexican gangs are responsible for extorting thousands of business owners who pay fees to fund the drug organizations.

Los Zetas is one of the largest drug smuggling and crime gangs in Mexico, founded by former Mexican special forces soldiers.