In brief | Nation & World 10-30-13


Israel releases 26 Palestinian prisoners

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Israel freed 26 Palestinian prisoners early Wednesday, the second of four batches to be released as part of a deal that set in motion the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The decision to release the 26 has triggered anguish and anger in Israel, where many view the men as terrorists who have committed grisly crimes against Israelis. But jubilant celebrations erupted in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where the prisoners are seen as heroes who fought for independence, and were received by their families and Palestinian leaders.

Wednesday’s release was part of an agreement brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that brought Israel and the Palestinians back to the table for peace talks that had been paralyzed since 2008. In all, 104 convicts are to be released in four rounds over the coming months.

Court takes no action on abortion law ruling

AUSTIN, Texas — A federal appeals court didn’t act on an emergency motion Tuesday that would’ve allowed some new abortion restrictions to take effect in Texas, the latest step in a lengthy battle activists on both sides predicted would end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

State officials urged the panel to quickly hear their appeal of a judge’s ruling Monday striking down a requirement that doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic.

But the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans did not take action by the close of business Tuesday, leaving in place — at least for now — the judge’s permanent injunction blocking the new abortion rules from being enforced.

The judge agreed with abortion-rights activists that the restrictions, which were to take effect Tuesday, placed an unconstitutional burden on women seeking an abortion and didn’t make the process safer, as state officials had argued. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately appealed.

Dump in protection zone breaks pledge

AKHSHTYR, Russia — Trucks rumble to the edge of a gigantic pit filled with spray cans, tires and foam sheets and dump a stream of concrete slabs that send up a cloud of limestone dust. Other trucks pile clay on top and a bulldozer mixes everything together in a rudimentary effort to hide the mess. This landfill outside Sochi, which will host the Winter Olympics in 100 days, is smack in the middle of a water protection zone where dumping industrial waste is banned.

As a centerpiece of its Olympic bid, Russia trumpeted a “Zero Waste” program that promised the cleanest games ever, saying it would refrain from dumping construction waste and rely on reusable materials. But on a visit last week to Akhshtyr, just north of Sochi, The Associated Press found that Russia’s state-owned rail monopoly is dumping tons of construction waste into what authorities call an illegal landfill, raising concerns of possible contamination in the water that directly supplies Sochi.

The finding shows how little Russia has done to fulfill its ambitious green pledges. Its $51 billion budget for the Olympics contains no provisions for treating construction waste.

In a letter obtained by the AP, the Environmental Protection Agency in the area where Sochi is located told the Black Sea resort’s environment council in late August that it had inspected the Akhshtyr landfill and found “unauthorized dumping of construction waste as well as soil from excavation works.” The agency said it fined Russian Railways, whose Sochi project costs billions of dollars, $3,000 for the dumping. It didn’t order the dump closed.

The EPA’s Sochi representative visited the site earlier this month and insisted it was being cleaned up, villagers and activists who were present at that meeting said. The agency was unavailable for comment this week.

By wire sources