The great Gitmo kitten mystery

Bravo to Cleveland attorney Carlos Warner for realizing that the best way to get the internet to pay attention to a story about Guantanamo detainee Majid Khan is to make it about "adorable kittens". The Toronto Star's Michelle Shephard reports

The rumour about Khan having a cat began this summer when another detainee, Rahim al-Afghani, wrote his Ohio lawyer. The letter took two months to clear Guantanamo’s security censors. It read: “Majid Khan has a cat.”

Carlos Warner, the Cleveland federal public defender, wondered if Khan was given the cat as a reward for co-operating with prosecutors — something JTF-GTMO appears to deny. Does al-Afghani want a cat, as an incentive to co-operate?

Warner, a lawyer who knows the value of a good quote, told an Associated Press reporter: “I can’t confirm or deny whether he wants an adorable kitten.”

It is not about the cat, really. Warner was frustrated that the benign information took two months to be released. He knew it was a made-for-headlines way to illustrate what Guantanamo’s army of civilian and military defence lawyers complain are “draconian” censorship laws.

Feral cats are apparently plentiful around Guantanamo, but prison authorities will not discuss whether they have been given to some detainees as pets -- a deliberately absurd issue that attorneys say exemplifies a culture of secrecy that makes it impossible for them to mount an effective defence for their clients. 

Kittehs aside, I actually wouldn't be surprised to hear a question about Guantanamo at tonight's debate. Obama raised a few eyebrows in his Daily Show interview last week by saying, “I still want to close Guantanamo.” Romney famously promised to "double Guantanamo" during 2008 primary debate. 


Italian seismologists convicted for not predicting earthquake

I'm all for calling people out for bad predictions, but this is ridiculous:

An Italian court convicted six scientists and a government official of manslaughter on Monday and sentenced them to six years in prison for failing to give adequate warning of a deadly earthquake which destroyed the central city of L'Aquila and killed more than 300 people in 2009.

The seven, all members of an official body called the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, were accused of negligence and malpractice in their evaluation of the danger of an earthquake and their duty to keep the city informed of the risks.

Earthquake prediction may have improvied in recent years, but it's certainly not an exact science. And what exactly would authorities have done if they had received a warning? Evacuated the region? Earthquake-proofed a 14th-century city in a matter of months?

If the ruling stands, it's not likely to encourage a new generation of Italians to take up seismology. And don't be surprised if the National Commission's next report warns of 9.4-magnitude earthquakes, tsunamis in Venice, an eruption of Vesuvius, and a plague of locusts just to be on the safe side.