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Eye 1

Delhi gang-rape case: The court met in secret but all of India was watching

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© The Associated Press/Manish Swarup
A Delhi policeman clears the way for a prisoner van entering the court complex where the accused gang rapists faced their first hearing.
At about 2pm there was a ­sudden ­moment of ­relative quiet in ­courtroom 207. The angry ­exchanges stopped. No one moved ­except the two dozen policemen, in khaki coats, who shoved the lawyers, the journalists and the simply curious aside. "They are coming," a barrister muttered.

There was no need to ask who "they" were. There has been no need through the three weeks since the rape of a 23-year-old medical student in south Delhi, on 16 December. To say that this vast, seething city of 17 million has talked of no one else and nothing else would be an exaggeration.

But there was little sense that anyone was ready to move on. News channels continue to devote hours to issues that received minutes of airtime a month ago; front pages still carry every twist in the investigation; and conversations naturally turn to the woman whose ashes were scattered on the Ganges last week, and to what should be done to the six men who are accused of raping her repeatedly on a moving bus before dumping her on a roadside.

Five of the men - a sixth, a juvenile, is being held separately - had been brought from the high-security Tihar prison in the mid-morning. This was a pre-trial hearing at which they would be presented with the multiple charges against them: rape, abduction, banditry, murder and others. The case would be sent on to a higher court by the metropolitan magistrate Namita Aggarwal. If they are convicted a death penalty seems a certainty.

"It should be a straightforward thing," said SK Singh, a supreme court advocate at the hearing, who said he represented the family of the victim.

By noon the accused were yet to appear. They waited in a cell beneath six floors of land disputes, rent rows, robberies, frauds and traffic offences. In their absence Aggarwal presided over a 20-minute shouting match sparked by the offer of one advocate to defend them. "I know the whole country thinks they are guilty and the evidence is against them ... but their families have contacted me," he said.

Local lawyers, who voted to refuse to represent the alleged rapists, hurled themselves across the room, shouting abuse. "This is a very, very heinous crime and we are human beings living in society," explained Rajpal Kasana, of the Saket Bar Association. The court will have to appoint a lawyer for the men over the coming days.

Bulb

Underground blasts cut power at University of Oregon, leave 3,000 students in the dark

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© The Register-Guard, Kevin Clark/Associated Press
An electrical fire beneath the University Health, Counseling and Testing Center at the University of Oregon Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 closed the building for the day. The problem was being handled by maintenance workers and electricians according to Dana Mills the Director of the Health Center.
Eugene, Oregon - A series of explosions hit an underground utility system Monday at the University of Oregon, plunging several student dormitories and other buildings into darkness as crews scrambled to restore power.

Nobody was hurt, but about 3,000 students living on campus had no power in their rooms, university officials said. Campus police stepped up patrols, and the university gave away flashlights. Officials planned to bring in generators, but the task wasn't complete by evening.

University officials said electrical equipment overheated, causing circuits to ignite and melt.

The blasts were audible above the ground and from several hundred feet away. A video clip from the campus showed puffs of smoke coming from a manhole cover, and university officials said smoke also was visible inside the university health building, which was evacuated and closed for the rest of the day. A slight smell of burning rubber lingered outside for hours.

It could take days to permanently repair electrical circuits, university spokeswoman Julie Brown said.

Without electricity to power a television or charge a laptop, students were given additional entertainment options Monday, including a watch party for the college football championship game.

In a dormitory near the blast, pitch-black stairwells became obstacles for students trying to get to class, said Camila Rowland, a freshman majoring in psychology.

USA

America is being systematically transformed into a totalitarian society

Totalitarian Society
© EndofThe AmericanDream
If someone were to ask you for an example of a "totalitarian society", how would you respond? Most Americans would probably think of horribly repressive regimes such as the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Communist China, East Germany or North Korea, but the truth is that there is one society that has far more rules and regulations than any of those societies ever dreamed of having.

In the United States today, our lives are governed by literally millions of laws, rules and regulations that govern even the smallest details of our lives, and more laws, rules and regulations are constantly being added. On January 1st, thousands of restrictive new laws went into effect all over America, but most Americans have become so accustomed to the matrix of control that has been constructed all around them that it does not even bother them when even more rules and regulations are put into place.

In fact, a growing number of Americans have become totally convinced that "freedom" and "liberty" must be tightly restricted for the good of society and that "the free market" is inherently dangerous. On the national, state and local levels, Americans continue to elect elitist control freaks that are very eager to tell all the rest of us how to run virtually every aspect of our lives.

According to Merriam-Webster, the following is one of the ways that the word "totalitarian" is defined: "of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation especially by coercive measures". And that is exactly what we are witnessing in America today - nearly all aspects of our lives and of the economy are very tightly controlled by a bunch of control freaks that just keep tightening that control with each passing year.

We still like to call ourselves "the land of the free", but the truth is that we are being transformed into a totalitarian society unlike anything the world has ever seen before. Where will we end up eventually if we keep going down this road?

Dollar

As UK families face ever-rising bills, energy chief is walking away with up to £13m

The boss of an energy giant that has doubled its prices in just seven years could pocket a £13million payoff.

Phil Bentley, who is to leave British Gas within months, has presided over above-inflation hikes that have pushed average bills past £1,300 a year.

The latest punishing rise of 6 per cent comes as millions endure the greatest squeeze on living standards since the 1920s.
Phil Bentley
© Daily Mail, UK
The boss of British Gas, Phil Bentley, could pocket a £13million payoff despite the company doubling its prices in just seven years.
In stark contrast, 53-year-old Mr Bentley's potential windfall would be enough to pay a typical family's gas and electricity bill for 9,500 years.

Figures from the watchdog Consumer Focus put the average bill at £735 in 2006 - a year before Mr Bentley became managing director. Today it is £1,353 - an increase of 84 per cent.

Handcuffs

Child porn suspects arrested after Feds post photos

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© ICE
Special Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement have identified and arrested a suspect in a child pornography case.
Special Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement identified and arrested two suspects in a child pornography cases less than 24 hours after releasing photos of the alleged abusers to get the public's help in finding them.

Federal agents and officers of the Los Angeles Police Department took Letha Mae Montemayor, 52, into custody on Thursday night after identifying her by both her facial appearance and her tattoos, which were present in the photographs depicting alleged child abuse. Montemayor was arrested hours after ICE placed photos of "Jane Doe" on line.

ICE officials say the incriminating photos of the suspect had been widely circulated and are believed to have been taken approximately 11 years ago. According to court records, the photos depict the suspect and an unidentified male allegedly abusing a young girl believed by authorities to be about 13 years old.

The images first surfaced in a 2007 investigation by ICE agents in Chicago, but agents had run out of leads to identify the alleged perpetrators and their victim before asking for the public's help.

Christmas Lights

Woman seeks to keep middle finger light display

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A middle finger light display has a neighborhood in the news today. A woman placed the display with holiday lights on her roof as a message to one of her neighbors -- whom she says stole her dog. On Jan. 7, ABC News reported that Sarah Childs is now asking a judge to let her keep her offensive (to some) lights up.

"She says police threatened her with fines and arrest because of the lights. She and the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana sued the city and police (sic)," ABC News reported. The argument that the display is not protected by the constitution is being made by the city.

House

U.S. banks agree an $8.5 billion foreclosure settlement

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© Reuters / Jonathan Ernst
Owners of wrongfully repossessed houses could now get up to $125,000 as ten major US banks agree to settle federal complaints. This will end a foreclosure review process begun by a 2011 enforcement action.

Under the new agreement, those people who had their homes seized and then sold would get the biggest pay offs, while banks who failed to modify people's loans in light of a change of income would get off more lightly. The settled compensation is anywhere between $1000 and $125,000.

The initial 2011 enforcement review was ordered because banks and mortgage companies had bypassed steps in the foreclosure process and had mishandled people's paperwork.

The banks involved include the Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, MetLife Bank, PNC Financial Services and Sovereign.

Monday's settlement was announced by the Office for the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Reserve and covers up to 3.8 million people who had their homes repossessed in 2009 and 2010.

Red Flag

90-year-old Saudi man buys underage girl for marriage

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© AFP Photo / Hassan Ammar
Saudi young girls perform at the "Spring Al-Riyadh" festival.
The marriage of a 90-year-old man to a 15-year-old girl has sparked condemnation from human rights and social media activists throughout Saudi Arabia, while the groom insists that he has committed no crime.

The girl, who was sold by her parents for almost $20,000, reportedly became terrified of the man on their first wedding night. After locking herself in her room for two days, she managed to escape and return to her parents.

In an interview, the 90-year-old man insisted that his marriage was "legal and correct," and that he had paid a dowry of $17,500 to marry her, pan-Arabic news website Al Arabiya reported.

He said that on his first night with the bride, she went into the bedroom before him, locking the door from the inside so he could not enter, making him "suspicious about some kind of conspiracy" between the bride and her mother.

Friends of the bride's family said that she was frightened on the wedding night, and escaped to her parents' house after locking herself in the room for two consecutive days.

The man has vowed to sue his in-laws to return either the girl or the dowry.

Black Magic

Animal sacrifice reaches South Beach, Maimi

Goats
© Brian Squibb
Goats, roosters and other animals are routinely sacrificed in Santeria rituals.

The posh Miami neighborhood of South Beach gets a lot of visitors every day, from European supermodels to tourists gawking at the area's splendid Art Deco architecture.

But other, less welcome visitors have found their way to South Beach's sun-splashed shores - the mutilated bodies of animals killed in what some believe was a Santeria ritual sacrifice, reports NBC News.

Early this morning, the butchered remains of a goat and two roosters were found in a popular waterfront park; the animals' heads had been cut off and their bodies tossed into the water.

The discovery was made directly across from celebrity-studded Star Island, home to numerous actors and entertainers.

Santeria is an Afro-Caribbean religion whose practitioners often engage in animal sacrifice, according to the BBC. A large community of Caribbean immigrants call the Miami area home.

Bomb

Alabama teenager faces prison for plot to blow up high school

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© Reuters / Lucy Nicholson
A 17-year old Alabama teen was arrested for allegedly planning to bomb his high school using homemade explosives. The boy wrote about his planned 'terrorist attack' in a journal that a teacher found left behind in a classroom.

Derek Shrout, a student at Russell County High School, used bomb-making information that he found on the Internet to construct a device that Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor says was "a step or two away from being ready to explode."

Shrout had prepared his bombs using several dozen small tobacco cans and two large cans, which he drilled holes into and filled with pellets. Investigators did not find black powder, butane and fuses, which are necessary to complete the explosives. But Taylor knew what he was doing: in his journal, the teen correctly outlined the necessary steps to complete the deadly grenades.

The teenager apparently had sketched out two large cans labeled "Fat Boy" and "Little Man," the code names of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

"It would have been serious," Taylor said in an interview with the Columbus Ledger-Inquirer.