Sunday news round-up: February 16th-22nd

An ongoing series that gathers some main headlines from the week, for people too busy to keep an eye on the news.

Top Story: Ministry of Defense and weapons manufacturers accused of cosy relationship: Documents obtained by British newspaper The Guardian reveal that a number of influential arms dealers and weapons manufacturers are employed in high positions at the MoD, sparking fears that the government is in bed with those who deal in death. The documents show that employees from BAE, MBDA, MSI and Babcock (companies which deal in drones, missiles, and nuclear submarines) all occupy high-level jobs at the MoD. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said the revelations are further proof that the government has an “uncomfortably close relationship with arms manufacturers and a shady record of arming dictatorships”.

Obama asks Congress for limitless open-ended war with ISIS: Despite conducting air-strikes and bombing campaigns against the terrorist group, Barack Obama has finally asked Congress to authorize the use of force against ISIS. A draft bill released by the White House calls on Congress to accept the President’s authority to wage a three year war with ISIS with no geographical limits. Although the bill does not specifically ask for authorization for ground offensives, the language used has faced criticism for providing a “blank cheque” for an open-ended war anywhere across the globe. Since it gained independence in 1776, the U.S. has been at war for 92% of its lifetime – 219 years of war out of 239 total years of existence.

Labour Party candidate beaten and arrested by Israeli soldiers: Labour city council candidate and long time human rights activist Mick Bowman has been pepper sprayed, beaten to the ground, and arrested by Israeli forces after he took part in a weekly demonstration against the occupation in the West Bank village of Bil’in. Bowman was detained without charge for 24 hours before being released from custody, and witnesses attest that he was not performing any disruptive or violent acts when he was subdued. Labour MEP Judith Kirton-Darling has promised to confront Israeli ambassadors to the UK and EU over the police brutality that Bowman endured.

Israel accused of literally flooding the Gaza Strip: Amidst a raging storm that saturated the land, the Gaza Strip is now enduring further flood conditions after Israel opened a series of dams near the border. Hundreds of Gazans have been displaced and many have fled to the UNRWA operated refugee centres, which are underfunded and overcrowded. Gaza Civil Defense Services spokesman Muhammad al-Midana warned that any further dam openings in Israel would make large areas of Gaza uninhabitable.

  • Related: Israel to demolish 20,000 homes in Jerusalem: The government of Israel has short-listed around 20,000 Palestinian homes for demolition, citing inadequate planning permission and a lack of permits by the owners. While planning applications in Jerusalem are, expensive, complicated and rarely approved, Israeli Jews are not subject to the same restrictions and are often exempt from certain taxes in occupied areas.

Aggressive strain of HIV discovered in Cuba: An unusually aggressive strain of HIV, which can lead to AIDS in just 3 years, has been discovered in HIV+ patients in Cuba. The strain was discovered by researchers at a Belgium-based laboratory which found that the virus accelerates much faster than its conventional counterparts. It is thought that the speed comes from a fusion between two conventional strains of HIV, which fuse and create a new strain if a person is infected by both types. As always, the researchers’ report urges sexually-active people to take precautions, for unprotected sex vastly increases the risk of transferring HIV.

‘One way trip to Mars’ selection process begins: The Mars One project has whittled down thousands of applicants to just 50 men and 50 women, who will now train and compete for 24 places on the potential colony which hopes to be completed by 2023. The Mars One project will need billions of pounds to find a suitable colony space, conduct robotic missions, and ship the colony parts to the Red Planet, but has yet to secure adequate funding. If the project goes ahead and is completed, it will be the greatest technological achievement in human history. The stuff of science fiction is coming to light before our very eyes.

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