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Couple in Greece mystery girl case deny abduction

Pair deny abduction charges and claim girl given by mother who could not look after her.

A Roma couple accused of abducting a mystery four-year-old girl dubbed the "blonde angel" by Greek media told a court today that her biological mother willingly gave her to them as a baby because she could not look after her.

The couple were ordered held in custody pending trial on charges of abduction and procuring false documents.

The discovery of the girl, known as "Maria", has riveted Greece and prompted thousands of calls with leads from across the world as authorities try to track down her real parents, as DNA tests have shown she was not born to the Romas.

The case has raised questions about whether children are being stolen to order and whether the couple were part of a wider child trafficking ring - in addition to deepening mistrust between the Roma community and the Greeks.


Eight things you need to know in following the Maryville case

Daisy Coleman and Matthew Barnett
© Heavy.com
Daisy Coleman and her accused attacker Matthew Barnett
Eight things you need to know to get up to speed in the Maryville sexual assault case, based on interviews, law enforcement records and other documents gathered by The Star in the last seven months:

1. About 1 a.m. on Jan. 8, 2012, two teenage girls sneak out of a slumber party and are picked up and driven to the home of a 17-year-old Maryville High School senior named Matt Barnett. Daisy Coleman, 14 at the time, alleges she blacked out after being given multiple drinks and was sexually assaulted by Barnett. Her 13-year-old friend says she was forced to have sex with a 15-year-old boy. Another 17-year-old, Jordan Zech, allegedly takes phone video of the encounter between Barnett and Daisy. Afterward, Daisy is carried out of the house, crying, driven back to her home and left outside in freezing temperatures, where she is discovered by her mother the next morning.

2. Barnett soon is charged with sexual assault, a felony, and endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor. Zech is charged with sexual exploitation of a minor, a felony. Barnett, grandson of a former state representative, tells the sheriff's office that he'd been aware that Daisy had been drinking before having sex with her but says she was only "buzzed," not yet drunk, when the encounter took place. Zech admits to shooting a portion of the encounter between Barnett and Daisy. The 15-year-old admits to having sex with the 13-year-old girl even though she had said "no" multiple times. His case is handled in juvenile court. Nodaway County Sheriff Darren White, whose office investigated the case, later says he "absolutely" believed prosecutions would follow, adding, "I would defy the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department to do what we did and get it wrapped up as nicely as we did in that amount of time."

Comment: For more see:

'I'm Not Saying She Deserved To Be Raped, But...' Daisy Coleman and America's Culture of Psychopathy


Commuter train crashes in Argentina injuring 80 passengers and angry mob yells 'murderer murderer' at driver

  • The Buenos Aires train slammed into the bumper at the end of the line Saturday at the same station 52 people were killed in a crash last year
  • This time there was no immediate report of deaths, but at least 80 people were injured including an 8-year-old boy
  • A mob quickly formed, unleashing its fury at the train operators and chanting 'murderer, murderer!' at the injured driver
  • Officers intervened and the driver was soon hospitalized under police custody though he tested negative for alcohol

Scary: A Buenos Aires commuter train, pictured, slammed into the bumper at the end of the line Saturday at the same station in Argentina's capital where 52 people were killed in a similar crash last year
A Buenos Aires commuter train slammed into the bumper at the end of the line Saturday at the same station in Argentina's capital where 52 people were killed in a similar crash last year.

This time there was no immediate report of deaths, but at least 80 people were injured.

A mob quickly formed, unleashing its fury at the train operators. Passengers chanted 'murderer, murderer!' at the injured driver through the shattered cabin window. Officers intervened and the driver was soon hospitalized under police custody.

Comet 2

American Apocalypse: The case for divine retribution

I don't believe in God. However, I do believe in divine retribution. Without going into the specifics of this somewhat counterintuitive theology, suffice to say here that its central axiom is the idea that actions have consequences. One cannot go on committing evil without reaping a whirlwind or two. Eventually Nemesis overtakes Hubris, and the results aren't pretty.

This is our future. Or, at least, one hopes it is - otherwise, there is no justice in this world, or perhaps even in the next.

This struck me as I was reading a column by Steve Chapman, a mildly conservative journalist with vaguely libertarian leanings: according to him, people on the right (of which I count myself one) are "addicted to apocalypse." He takes us through decades of conservative apocalyptic rhetoric, from Ronald Reagan predicting the end of freedom in America due to the depredations of Medicare to Ted Cruz - the liberal media's villain of the moment - who recently said:

"The challenges facing this country are unlike any we have ever seen. ... (T)his is an administration that seems bound and determined to violate every single one of our Bill of Rights. We're nearing the edge of a cliff. ... We have a couple of years to turn this country around, or we go off the cliff to oblivion." Citing Reagan, Cruz declared: "One day we will find ourselves answering questions from our children and our children's children, 'What was it like when America was free?'"


Banksy riles Big Apple

British graffiti artist Banksy has been told to stop painting murals in New York.

While delighting lovers of street art by painting a new work in a surprise location in the city every day this month, the elusive artist has incurred the wrath of Michael Bloomberg, New York's mayor.

The tough-on-crime Mr Bloomberg said that graffiti ''does ruin people's property'' and was ''a sign of decay and lost control''.

''Nobody's a bigger supporter of the arts than I am,'' said the mayor, who donates millions of dollars from his personal fortune each year to the city's artistic institutions. I just think there are some places for art and some places where - no art. You running up to somebody's property or public property and defacing it is not my definition of art. Or it may be art, but it should not be permitted. And I think that's exactly what the law says.''

His remarks echoed a decade-long debate in Britain and Australia over what should be done about murals on the streets of London by the artist, whose works now sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds.


Obamacare sticker shock: premiums for young healthy people will jump in 45 states

obama care cost

Young people in 45 states will see their health insurance premiums increase under Obamacare because the law relies on the money they pay into the system to offset the cost of caring for older enrollees, according to a new study.

Virginia leads the pack, as individuals aged 27 and under will see their health insurance premiums jump by 252.5 percent -- $416.55 -- according to the Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis.

Virginians under the age of 50 will see their premiums jump by an even greater percentage, rising from $228 to $991.03.

Such increases are not a surprise to the law's architects. "I have always said when looking at this bill, that if I were a young person, I can see elements of this bill that I wouldn't like in the short run," Henry Aaron, vice chairman of the D.C. health exchange, told the Washington Examiner last November.

Heritage expects monthly premiums for young people to drop in Colorado, Ohio, New York, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, "because those states had already over-regulated insurance markets that led to sharply higher premiums through adverse selection," according to study author Drew Gonshorowski.

The Heritage Foundation's Chairman Jim Demint cited the premium increases as one of the chief reasons his organization pushed for lawmakers to defund Obamacare most recent continuing resolution to fund government in the absence of a proper budget.

Demint argued that the defund push preserved one policy victory on spending. "If the Republicans had not fought on Obamacare, the compromise would have been over the budget sequester," he wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Thursday.

Joel Gehrke is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.


Global hunt for parents of mystery girl found in Greece

Greek police have launched an international search to establish the identity of a little girl found living with a Roma couple who are not her parents.

They hope Interpol can help solve the mystery of the girl, aged around four, who was discovered in central Greece. Suspicions were aroused as she bore no resemblance to the two adults.

"During questioning about the girl, they gave conflicting answers," a news conference was told by Vassilis Halatsis, the Police Director of Thessalia province. "The constantly changing claims of the supposed parents consolidated our beliefs that these were not the biological parents of the child."


Fukushima radiation levels hit 2-year high: workers contaminated in latest mishap

Hazmaat suited Fukushima workers
This handout picture taken by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) on August 26, 2013.
Seawater just outside one of Japan's damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactors registered radiation levels on Wednesday 13 times the previous day's reading, the operator of the crippled nuclear plant said on Thursday.

Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), said combined Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 readings just outside the damaged No. 2 reactor jumped to 1,200 becquerels per liter on Wednesday, the highest levels recorded since late 2011.

Regulatory limits for Cesium, which emits powerful gamma radiation and is potentially fatal to humans, is 90 bq/liter for Cesium-137 and 60 bq/liter for Cesium-134.


US quietly releasing $1.6B in Pakistan assistance

Nawaz Sharif
© AP
The U.S. has quietly decided to release more than $1.6 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan that was suspended when relations between the two countries disintegrated over the covert raid that killed Osama bin Laden and deadly U.S. airstrikes against Pakistani soldiers.

Officials and congressional aides said ties have improved enough to allow the money to flow again.

American and NATO supply routes to Afghanistan are open. Controversial U.S. drone strikes are down. The U.S. and Pakistan recently announced the restart of their "strategic dialogue" after a long pause. Pakistan's new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, is traveling to Washington for talks this coming week with President Barack Obama.

But in a summer dominated by foreign policy debates over the coup in Egypt and chemical weapons attacks in Syria, the U.S. hasn't promoted its revamped aid relationship with Pakistan. Neither has Pakistan.

The silence reflects the lingering mutual suspicions between the two.

The Pakistanis do not like being seen as dependent on their heavy-handed partners. The Americans are uncomfortable highlighting the billions provided to a government that is plagued by corruption and perceived as often duplicitous in fighting terrorism.

Congress has cleared most of the money, and it should start moving early next year, officials and congressional aides said.

Over three weeks in July and August, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development informed Congress that it planned to restart a wide range of assistance, mostly dedicated to helping Pakistan fight terrorism. The U.S. sees that effort sees as essential as it withdraws troops from neighboring Afghanistan next year and tries to leave a stable government behind.

Other funds focus on a range of items, including help for Pakistani law enforcement and a multibillion-dollar dam in disputed territory.


Charge Sen.Ted Cruz with sedition- Leftist organizations demand

Ted Cruz
© AP
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas
I appeared on NPR on Wednesday and was surprised to hear a caller say that Sen. Ted Cruz should be charged with sedition. "I'm really baffled by the fact that the discussion has not ever reached the point where charges of sedition should be brought up against him for conspiring and bullying others to work with him to undermine the American economy ... full faith and credit," the caller said. "He's done so much damage to the standing of the United States in the world. And if you read the Sedition Act, it seems like it really applies."

A colleague on the panel, the Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy, assured the caller, "There is no possibility of that." And the conversation moved on. But it turns out that in a few corners of the left, there are activists who would like to see Cruz, along with other Republicans and conservatives who have expressed strong opposition to Obamacare, charged with inciting rebellion against the United States government.

After Cruz and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin appeared together last weekend on the National Mall, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow reported the event in front of a screen with pictures of Cruz and Palin and the title LATEST SEDITION. Maddow did not utter the word itself, but viewers certainly got the message.