17 executed despite calls to reconsider

Iraq executed 17 prisoners on Monday, all but one convicted for “terrorism,” shrugging off calls from international human rights organizations to reconsider the use of capital punishment.

In a statement on its Web site, the Justice Ministry said authorities had executed 15 Iraqis and an Egyptian convicted of terrorism for “carrying out crimes against the Iraqi people.” The other prisoner was convicted of an unspecified criminal offense.

Two of those hanged were women, the statement added, without saying when the executions were carried out. This year, a total of 67 people have been executed in the country.

After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled longtime dictator Saddam Hussein, occupation authorities suspended Iraq’s death penalty. It was reinstated in 2004 by the country’s transitional government. Since then, Iraqi governments have shown increasing enthusiasm for its use as a law-and-order tool to deter insurgents.

According to London-based Amnesty International, Iraq was ranked fourth among the top five executioners in 2011, after China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Rights groups have questioned whether defendants receive fair trials.

— Associated Press

New schoolbooks filled with mistakes

As Mexican children trooped back to school on Monday, they had already learned one lesson: You can’t believe everything you read in your textbook.

Their new government-provided books are riddled with the sort of errors that students are supposed to avoid: misspellings, errors of grammar and punctuation, and at least one city located in the wrong state.

The foul-up is an embarrassment for a government that is trying to overhaul Mexico’s much-criticized school system. Officials promised to give teachers a list of errors so they can try to manually correct at least 117 mistakes. The Education Department acknowledged that it found them only after 235 million elementary schoolbooks were already being printed.

Education Secretary Emilio Chuayffet has called the errors “unforgivable,” but he blames Mexico’s previous administration for the stumble. He says he was faced with choosing between stopping the printing of flawed textbooks so they could be corrected and making sure the country’s 26 million schoolchildren had textbooks for each subject at the start of classes.

Earlier this month, Chuayffet pledged to find out who was responsible. He also gave the Mexican Academy of Language the task of ensuring that future editions won’t have such errors.

— Associated Press

Floods force evacuations in Russia’s Far East: Flooding has forced about 20,000 people to flee their homes in Russia’s Far East since July, the country’s Emergency Situations Ministry said Monday. Three Far East regions about 3,100 miles east of Moscow are being evacuated, a ministry spokeswoman said. Authorities estimate that 14,000 additional people have been affected. Some of the evacuees have moved into emergency shelters.

Train runs over Hindu pilgrims, kills dozens: A train ran over a group of Hindu pilgrims at a crowded station in eastern India early Monday, killing at least 37 people. A mob infuriated by the deaths beat the driver severely and set fire to coaches, officials said. Several hours after the accident, flames and dark smoke could be seen billowing out of the train coaches, as protesters blocked firefighters from the station in Dhamara Ghat, a small town in Bihar state, officials said.

U.S. maintains Zimbabwe sanctions: The United States believes that Zimbabwe’s election was flawed and does not intend to change its sanctions policy toward the government of President Robert Mugabe without credible, transparent reforms, the State Department said Monday despite an endorsement of the recent vote by southern African leaders. The 15-nation Southern African Development Community, which helped broker a power-sharing deal after disputed elections in Zimbabwe in 2008, backed the reelection of Mugabe at a meeting in Malawi over the weekend.

U.S., South Korea start drills: The South Korean and U.S. militaries began annual drills Monday amid signs of easing tension on the divided peninsula, with North Korea’s state media shunning typical rhetoric against what they call a rehearsal for an invasion. Earlier this year, the Korean Peninsula saw a spike in tensions, with the North vowing nuclear war during annual springtime U.S.-South Korean military exercises. Pyongyang has since eased its rhetoric and pursued dialogues with Seoul and Washington.

— From news services