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Military trial of 17-year old Amal Hamamdeh from Mufakarah. Charge: Spilling water on soldier

Amal Hamamdeh
© Efrat Nakash
As reported here, during home demolitions in the cave-dweller village of Mufakarah, two young women who resisted nonviolently were arrested and charged with "assaulting soldiers" under the Israeli Occupation's draconian martial law. The older of the two, Sausan Hamamdeh, reached a plea bargain in December resulting in a fine. When reporting on that development, we were fairly confident that her 17-year-old cousin Amal Hamamdeh would see her charges dropped. After all, she just tried to hand Sausan a water bottle to wash her pepper-sprayed eyes, and when soldiers interfered some water were spilled on them. We were wrong.

The first court session in Amal's trial took place Sunday, Jabuary 15th 2012, at the military court and prison base of Ofer, in the West Bank north of Jerusalem. Charges pressed by the military prosecution against Amal include throwing water and spitting at a soldier, and swearing at the security forces. The defense, by Amal's attorney Neri Ramati (a Jewish Israeli lawyer, partner at the Gabi Lasky law firm), decided to admit pouring water on the soldier, and reject the allegations of spitting and swearing.

On the day of the arrest, while in transit to the Kiryat Arba police station, Amal was sexually harassed by one of the soldiers sitting with her in the army jeep. At the police station, the interrogators took advantage of her inexperience and lack of access to counsel (martial law is *very* convenient for interrogators and prosecutors), and managed to make her confess to throwing water at a soldier during the demolition. The next court session in Amal's trial has been scheduled for February 5th, 2012.

Crusader

In malpractice case, Catholic hospital argues fetuses aren't people - Lawsuit against Catholic Health Initiatives appealed to Colorado Supreme Court

hospital
© Mark Coggins via Flickr
Lori Stodghill was 31-years old, seven-months pregnant with twin boys and feeling sick when she arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in Cañon City on New Year's Day 2006. She was vomiting and short of breath and she passed out as she was being wheeled into an examination room. Medical staff tried to resuscitate her but, as became clear only later, a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged and the clog led to a massive heart attack. Stodghill's obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who also happened to be the obstetrician on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. His patient died at the hospital less than an hour after she arrived and her twins died in her womb.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Stodghill's husband Jeremy, a prison guard, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of himself and the couple's then-two-year-old daughter Elizabeth. Staples should have made it to the hospital, his lawyers argued, or at least instructed the frantic emergency room staff to perform a caesarian-section. The procedure likely would not have saved the mother, a testifying expert said, but it may have saved the twins.

The lead defendant in the case is Catholic Health Initiatives, the Englewood-based nonprofit that runs St. Thomas More Hospital as well as roughly 170 other health facilities in 17 states. Last year, the hospital chain reported national assets of $15 billion. The organization's mission, according to its promotional literature, is to "nurture the healing ministry of the Church" and to be guided by "fidelity to the Gospel." Toward those ends, Catholic Health facilities seek to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the Catholic Church authored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Those rules have stirred controversy for decades, mainly for forbidding non-natural birth control and abortions. "Catholic health care ministry witnesses to the sanctity of life 'from the moment of conception until death,'" the directives state. "The Church's defense of life encompasses the unborn."

Dollar

South African inflation accelerates as food prices climb

South African inflation accelerated to a seven-month high of 5.7 percent in December as food prices rose, supporting expectations the Reserve Bank will keep borrowing costs unchanged tomorrow.

The inflation rate climbed from 5.6 percent in November, Pretoria-based Statistics South Africa said on its website today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 23 economists was 5.7 percent. Prices advanced 0.2 percent in the month.

All 21 economists surveyed by Bloomberg predict the Reserve Bank will keep the benchmark repurchase rate at 5 percent tomorrow to support the economy while curbing price pressures from a weaker rand and rising food costs. The central bank's goal is to keep inflation within a range of 3 percent to 6 percent.

Cheeseburger

Droughts, rising food prices predicted for 2013

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In the dead of winter, planting crops is the last thing on most people's minds. But droughts are still raging across the American Midwest, causing consternation among farmers about their prospects for the spring.

If conditions don't improve, food prices will likely remain high this year after a record 2012 for grain futures.

The U.S. National Weather Service released its drought forecast last week, showing persistent or worsening dryness in the Midwest and the southern third of the nation.

Bad Guys

Film exposes link between U.S. evangelicals and violent antigay Ugandan movement

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Money raised by evangelical Christians in the United States is fueling a violent antigay movement in Uganda, according to the "Gospel of Intolerance" by filmmaker Roger Ross Williams.

"American evangelicals are sending millions of dollars in donations to Africa to spread their message by funding Ugandan pastors and sponsoring missionaries, many of who do good work feeding the hungry and providing shelter to orphans," Rev. Kapya Kaoma explained in the mini-documentary, which was published online Tuesday by the New York Times. "But some of that money just goes to feed a dangerous ideology that teaches that gays, lesbians, transgender, and bisexual people do not have a place in God's kingdom and are a threat to society."

Nuke

Fracking wastewater threatens to drown Ohio

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© billb1961/Flickr
First, the good news: Using the process known as hydraulic fracturing to create natural gas wells produces less wastewater than wells created using more conventional methods, according to a new study in the journal Water Resources Research. Scientists from Duke and Kent State universities found that fracked wells create 35 percent as much wastewater per unit of gas when compared to conventional wells. The scientists note that this upsets the common idea that fracking creates more wastewater than other types of gas extraction.

But now the bad news. Because of fracking, gas extraction is up 570 percent since 2004 in the Marcellus shale region, which means that there's a whole lot more wastewater overall to deal with.

Laptop

Court: Sex offender Facebook ban unconstitutional

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An Indiana law that bans registered sex offenders from using Facebook and other social networking sites that can be accessed by children is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The 7th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Chicago overturned a federal judge's decision upholding the law, saying the state was justified in trying to protect children but that the "blanket ban" went too far by restricting free speech.

The 2008 law "broadly prohibits substantial protected speech rather than specifically targeting the evil of improper communications to minors," the judges wrote.

Cheeseburger

Spain's unemployed youth head to low-paying fast food jobs in the U.K.

Mcdonalds
© Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images
Carlos Hernandez Sonseca studied six years for a bachelor's degree and couldn't find a job near his home outside Madrid when he graduated in 2011. Last year, he took an increasingly well-worn path to the U.K.

The 27-year-old journalist now washes and chops vegetables eight hours a day at the Vital Ingredient salad bar in London's financial district, making 260 pounds (US$418) before taxes in a 40-hour week. Thirteen other Spaniards are among a workforce of 17, said manager Francisco "Chico" Baumle, a Brazilian.

U.K. fast-food jobs and other low-wage roles have been dominated by Poles and others who arrived after the European Union expanded eastward in 2004. Now they're joined by young Spaniards who can't find work at home, where unemployment hit 25% last year. In the financial year to April, 30,370 Spaniards registered to work in the U.K., up 25% from the previous year, and more than double the 2009-10 levels, according to data from the Department for Work and Pensions.

"We are a lost generation, for sure," Hernandez Sonseca said. "Spain has nothing to offer us, so we go abroad and we work as salad makers and kitchen porters. They are losing money and they are losing skilled people."

The newest workers have it toughest in Spain's labour market, where the jobless rate among adults under 25 reached 52% in the third quarter of 2012, according to the most recent data from Spain's National Institute of Statistics.

Black Magic

China: Man at zoo bit an ostrich to death in elaborate suicide attempt

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© Shenzen Satellite Television
You'd think the safest place for animals is usually a zoo. That apparently isn't the case in China. At a zoo in China's Guangdong province over the weekend, a man apparently bit and killed a large flightless bird as part of an elaborate suicide attempt. Here's the Shenzen news report:


According to the blog The Nanfang, the man slashed his wrists after police were called. "As he began to lose strength, Li lay on the ostrich's corpse like a pillow before police approached him tentatively. He offered little resistance before police dragged him away," writes Kevin McGreary.

Hearts

Family copes with 20-year-old toddler who never grew up

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© Screenshot via CNN.com
Brooke Greenberg, 20, is a genuine medical mystery: she's a girl who's barely aged, despite living for two decades.

Appearing on CNN's Headline News on Tuesday, her parents explained that she's stumped doctors so badly that they call her stunted development "Condition X." There's nobody else like her in the world.