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Tue, 28 Sep 2021
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Chinese 'Birth Agent' Charged in Hong Kong

© unknown
A woman has admitted arranging for mainland Chinese women to give birth in Hong Kong, reports said Saturday, the first prosecution of its kind as the southern city cracks down on the practice.

The Chinese city has been struggling with an influx of tens of thousands of mainland women who come to Hong Kong each year to give birth, to gain residency rights for their children and to circumvent China's one-child policy

Local women have taken to the streets to protest at the influx, which critics say has led to a shortage of maternity beds in hospitals. The outcry has prompted the government to step up enforcement.

Mainland woman Xu Li, 29, was charged in a Hong Kong magistrates' court on Friday for her role as a "birth agent", according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post and Apple Daily newspapers.


People Power! Europeans Protest Controversial Internet Pact

© Agence France-Presse/Nikolay Doychinov
Protesters hold a a banner and wear Guy Fawkes masks during a protest against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in downtown Sofia.
Tens of thousands of people marched in protests in more than a dozen European cities Saturday against a controversial anti-online piracy pact that critics say could curtail Internet freedom.

Some 41,000 people rallied in Germany, including 16,000 in Munich and 10,000 in Berlin, against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which was negotiated between the 27-nation European Union and 10 other countries.

Many brandishing "Stop ACTA" banners and wearing Guy Fawkes masks -- a symbol of hacker-led rallies -- the mostly young protestors also braved subzero temperatures to mass in cities such as Budapest, Bucharest, Bratislava, Prague, Paris, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius and Vienna.

ACTA is awaiting ratification from several governments, but intense opposition led by Internet users has forced some EU states including Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to freeze their ratification process.

"We see the suspension of ratification as a victory, but we cannot over-estimate it," said the vice-president of the Czech Republic's pirate party, Mikulas Ferjencik.


US: Community Takes Stand on San Onofre Nuclear Plant

San Onofre Nuclear plant
© Courtesy of SONGS
Laguna Beach will back San Clemente's appeals to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to ensure that San Onofre doesn't replicate last year's disaster in Fukushima, Japan.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 4 to 1 to send a letter to the commission requesting the resolution of public concerns before any consideration is given to extending San Onofre's operating license due to expire in 2022.

The letter had been requested by San Clemente Mayor Lori Donchak, but the action might be moot.

"Southern California Edison has not made a decision on whether we'll apply for renewal," said Edison spokesman Christopher Abel.

The majority of 14 speakers at Tuesday's meeting would be delighted if Edison immediately dismantled the plant, let alone opted not to renew the license.

Abel verified that 4,000 tons of high-level, radioactive waste are stored there.

"There is no way the plant should be storing waste material," said Kathleen Jepson-Bernier.


Transformer Explosions Redux? Mysterious Russia power station explosion triggers speculation of martians, nuke bomb, conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theorists came out of the woodwork after a massive explosion erupted south of St. Petersburg, Russia, on Monday, causing wild speculation and online concerns of the beginning of Armageddon.

As news and videos of the spectacular event went viral this week, the cause of the explosion ranged from Martian visitation to a nuclear bomb test gone wrong.

Comment: St. Petersburg's explosion, although not as impressive, is similar to the transformer explosion that happened in Fort Worth, Texas, US, last year in May,

Read Exploding Transformers - More than meets the eye? to learn more on the topic.


US: Woman Pleads Guilty in New York Newborn Kidnap Case

© The Associated Press/Wake County Bureau of Identification
Ann Pettway accused of kidnapping newborn baby Carlina White from Harlem Hospital in August 1987.
A woman who snatched a newborn baby from a New York City hospital in 1987, then raised the child as her own for more than two decades, pleaded guilty to a kidnapping charge Friday as the girl's true mother wept in the courtroom.

Ann Pettway, 51, appeared resigned to a life behind bars as she entered the plea at a federal courthouse in Manhattan. Her voice was flat as she briefly recounted how she took a train from her home in Bridgeport, Conn., to Harlem Hospital, where she scooped up Carlina White, a 3-week-old baby who had been brought to the emergency room by her parents.

"I went to the hospital. I took a child," she said. "It was wrong."

Pettway said little else during the hearing, and offered no explanation for why she would do such a thing. As part of her plea bargain, prosecutors agreed to recommend between 10 and 12½ years in prison, although the actual term will be set by a judge.

As Pettway admitted her guilt, Carlina's birth mother, Joy White, quietly cried in the courtroom gallery. Afterward, she told reporters that she was outraged at the plea bargain, and felt a decade in prison would be too light a punishment for the woman who had robbed her so cruelly. Justice, she said, would be a term of 23 years, one for every year she was separated from her daughter.


US, New Hampshire: 14-Year-Old Shoots Self in Face in Cafeteria

© The Associated Press/Matthew Cavanaugh
An unidentified parent of a Walpole Elementary School student speaks to a police officer outside the school where a 14 year old male student shot himself in front of many classmates in the school's cafeteria in Walpole, NH Friday, Feb. 10, 2012.
A 14-year-old shot himself in the face in a New Hampshire elementary school cafeteria filled with dozens of students eating lunch, officials said Friday.

The teen, identified by a relative and fellow students as Hunter Mack, was hospitalized after shooting himself around 11 a.m. at Walpole Elementary School in southwestern New Hampshire. Police locked down the school for several hours, but no one else was injured.

Cheshire County Attorney Peter Heed told The Associated Press the student might have been upset about a "relationship issue" with a girl.

"It clearly involved a relationship issue; I think that is fair to say," Heed told the AP.

As of Friday afternoon, the student was in serious condition in the intensive care unit.

"Our hearts go out to the family of this young man and our thoughts go out to all of the students that were in the school at this time," Heed said at an afternoon news conference.


US: Uzbek Man Pleads Guilty in Plot to Kill Obama

Ulugbek Kodirov
© The Associated Press/Shelby County Sheriff's Dept
22-year-old Ulugbek Kodirov, who is scheduled for a hearing Friday, Feb.10, 2012 in Birmingham, Ala.
A man from Uzbekistan who pleaded guilty Friday to plotting to kill President Barack Obama with an automatic rifle claimed he was acting at the direction of an Islamic terror group in his home country.

Authorities said Ulugbek Kodirov had discussed trying to kill the president as he campaigned for re-election because he would be out in public more often. Kodirov entered the plea during a hearing in Birmingham before U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallon, an Obama appointee.

Defense attorney Lance Bell said the 22-year-old Kodirov avoided a potential life sentence by pleading guilty. He faces up to 30 years in prison, though Bell expected Kodirov to receive about half that. The judge also told Kodirov that he will face deportation once he's released from prison.

Kodirov pleaded guilty to three counts: Threatening to kill the president, possessing an automatic weapon, and providing material support to terrorists. Four other charges were dropped as part of the deal.

Area Muslims who knew Kodirov were stunned to learn of his plans.


US: Obama Shift Seeks to Defuse Birth-Control Fight

© Reuters/Larry Downing
President Barack Obama, in an abrupt policy shift aimed at quelling an election-year firestorm, announced on Friday that religious employers would not be required to offer free birth control to workers and the onus would instead be put on insurers.

But Catholic Church leaders and Obama's Republican opponents, who had railed against the Democratic president's new rule on contraceptives as a violation of religious freedom, signaled that divisions remain over the hot-button social issue.

The compromise by the Obama administration sought to accommodate religious organizations, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, outraged by a new rule that would have required them to offer free contraceptive coverage to women employees.

Instead, the new approach puts the burden on insurance companies, ordering them to provide workers at religious-affiliated institutions with free family planning if they request it, without involving their employer at all, the White House said.

"Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women," Obama told reporters in the White House briefing room as he sought to put the political furor to rest.


Canada, British Columbia: Emailed Rave Rape Pictures Earn Teen Probation

A teen convicted of emailing pictures of an alleged rape at a rave in Pitt Meadows, B.C., that were eventually posted by others on Facebook has been sentenced to 12 months probation for distributing obscene material.

The teen, who cannot be named because of his age, was also sentenced to write an essay on the harmful impact of social media by the judge on Friday in provincial court in Port Coquitlam.

He was initially charged with production and distribution of child pornography, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge in December.


US: Girls excluded from 'Red Tails' field trip; Thousands of Texas schoolboys brought to see the WWII film

© Associated Press
A scene from "Red Tails," a new film about black fighter pilots in World War II.

Female students stayed in classroom and watched Akeelah and the Bee

Dallas, Texas: When 5,700 fifth-grade boys in Dallas' public schools recently went to see a movie about black fighter pilots in World War II, the girls stayed in school and saw a different movie instead.

One of the pilots is among those asking why.

A spokesman for the Dallas Independent School District said officials took only boys to see Red Tails Thursday because space at the movie theater was limited. Jon Dahlander told The Dallas Morning News that leaders of the district also thought boys would enjoy the movie more than girls.

Red Tails tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the legendary pilots during World War II who become the first black aviators to serve in the U.S. military. The movie opened last month.

Some female students were shown a different movie instead: Akeelah and the Bee, about an 11-year-old girl who competes in a national spelling bee.