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Thursday, Oct 23rd

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ACLU faults police Taser policies in Iowa

Iowa taseringPolicies on Taser use by Iowa law enforcement agencies are inadequate and alarmingly varied, with only a handful of the state's 99 sheriff's departments specifically prohibiting using electric shocks on pregnant women, the elderly, children or people who are already restrained, the first statewide review of the weapons shows.

The state's lack of officer training requirements also jeopardizes public safety while potentially depriving citizens of their constitutional rights against excessive force and cruel or unusual punishment. The deficiencies expose police agencies to potentially serious and expensive liabilities, the study by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the University of Iowa College of Law Clinic concludes.

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Rights group: Airstrikes on IS oil facilities killed civilians

Air strikes kill civiliansAt least 10 civilians were killed when U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State targets struck an oil facility and a gas processing plant in Syria on Friday, an observer group reports.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said seven civilians were killed at a Konoco gas factory in Der-Ezzor province, and three were killed in similar strikes on oil fields in the countryside around Shadadi. One was reportedly below age 18.

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Catholic bishops drop moves to accept gays

Bishopes drop move to accept gaysRoman Catholic bishops on Saturday reversed a historic acceptance of gays, dropping parts of a controversial document that had talked more positively of homosexuals than ever before in Church history.

The document, issued at the end of a two-week assembly, or synod, of some 200 Roman Catholic bishops from around the world, pointed to deep divisions within the Church on issues such as reaching out to homosexuals and Catholics who have divorced and re-married in civil services.

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Do Detroit's water shutoffs violate international law? UN to investigate.

Detroit water shut-offsTwo human rights experts from the United Nations plan to visit Detroit this weekend to investigate whether the city is violating international laws by disconnecting water service to thousands of homes belonging to people who haven't paid their utility bills, according to news reports.

The visit is coming in the wake of a letter sent to the UN Human Rights Council detailing potential human rights violations apparent in the water shutoffs. The letter – authored by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan – argues that the shutoffs are unjustified because many of those affected can't afford to pay their bills. The letter also says that the shutoffs disproportionately affect Detroit’s African-American residents.

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UK fracking faces bust amid Opec oil price war

UK FrackingExperts have warned that a rush to start fracking for oil across Britain may already be over before it has even begun as the slump in global crude oil prices makes the controversial method of drilling look increasingly uneconomic.

Bids from oil companies for licences to search and potentially drill for oil onshore in the UK are due on October 28. The auction of mineral exploration rights across vast swathes of the country will, it is hoped, spur a shale oil and gas “revolution” similar to that which has helped transform the US economy.

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Simushir, fuel-laden Russian cargo ship, adrift off Canadian coast after tow lines part

Russian container ship driftingA Russian cargo ship carrying hundreds of tons of fuel is once again adrift off the west coast of Haida Gwaii after a Canadian Coast Guard vessel lost three tow lines.

A spokesman with the Canadian Forces' Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria told CBC News at 11:30 a.m. PT that the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Gordon Reid had tried three times to attach lines to the incapacitated ship, but that all three lines had "parted."

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Conservative US cardinal demoted by pope

Cardinal Raymond BurkeCardinal Raymond Burke, the conservative American who holds the top position in the Vatican’s justice system, on Friday told BuzzFeed he was being demoted.

Burke, a former archbishop of St Louis, has publicly challenged Pope Francis on issues including abortion and homosexuality.

A preliminary report from the church’s extraordinary synod on the family, released on Monday, signalled a readiness to adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards homosexuality, divorce and other “irregular” family situations.

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Himalayan storm disaster claims seven more victims

Nepal disasterThe death toll in the Himalayan trekking disaster has risen sharply with the discovery of at least seven more bodies in the snow on a pass in Nepal.

Thirty-nine people are known to have died when an unseasonal storm swept high ridges and passes on Tuesday, on a popular 320km trekking route around Annapurna, the world’s 10th tallest peak, catching scores of western walkers.

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Senate’s inquiry into CIA torture sidesteps blaming Bush, aides

Bush torture eraA soon-to-be released Senate report on the CIA doesn’t assess the responsibility of former President George W. Bush or his top aides for any of the abuses of the agency’s detention and interrogation program, avoiding a full public accounting of one of the darkest chapters of the war on terror.

“This report is not about the White House. It’s not about the president. It’s not about criminal liability. It’s about the CIA’s actions or inactions,” said a person familiar with the document, who asked not to be further identified because the executive summary – the only part to that will be made public – still is in the final stages of declassification.

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