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India gang rape and murder case lawyer says victims were to blame

Delhi rape protest
Backlash ... protest over more comments blaming a 23-year-old victim for her assault and rape.
The lawyer representing three of the men charged with the gang rape and murder of a medical student aboard a moving bus in New Delhi has blamed the victims for the assault, saying he has never heard of a "respected lady" being raped in India.

Manohar Lal Sharma said his clients will plead not guilty to all charges tomorrow when they make their next court appearance. His comments come as Indians have reacted with outrage to the opinions of politicians and a religious preacher who have accused westernized women of inviting sexual assaults. Sharma said the male companion of the murdered 23-year-old was "wholly responsible" for the incident as the unmarried couple should not have been on the streets at night.

"Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady," Sharma said in an interview at a cafe outside the Supreme Court in India's capital. "Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect."


Seven injured after crane collapse in Queens, New York

© Instagram user JENNAVOX
A 300-foot crane crashed onto a building under construction in Long Island City, Queens, around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, while lifting a load, the authorities said.

There were seven people injured, three of them seriously, according to fire officials. None of the injuries was life-threatening, they said. There was no immediate explanation for why the crane collapsed. The mangled red crane could be seen stretching hundreds of feet, having smashed into plywood and concrete on the site.
35 story crane just collapsed outside my window in Long Island City! The sound was horrific!!! http://t.co/0yENgsF1

- UnSweetTee (@UnSweetTee) 9 Jan 13
The building under construction where the crane fell is 46-10 Vernon Boulevard, just behind the famous Pepsi-Cola sign on the East River.


Georgia mom shoots home invader, hiding with her children

© ABC News
A mother of two has been hailed a hero by her husband after she shot an intruder in their Loganville, Ga., home last Friday afternoon.
A mother of two has been hailed a hero by her husband after she shot an intruder in their Loganville, Ga., home last Friday afternoon.

"She protected the kids. She did what she was supposed to do as a responsible, prepared gun owner," said her husband, Donnie Herman, in an interview with ABC's Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV.

According to Herman and the Walton County Sheriff's Office incident report, Melinda Herman was working at home when a man began to ring the doorbell. She called her husband at work, who told her to gather their 9-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, and go hide. All three of them went to an upstairs crawl space, and Melinda brought along a .38 caliber handgun to the hiding place.

Her husband, meanwhile, called the police. In the 911 recording, Herman can be heard saying, "She shot him. She's shooting him, she's shooting him. Shoot him again."


15-year-old Saudi girl granted divorce from 86-year-old man

A 15-year-old Saudi girl who was forced to marry an octogenarian has been granted a divorce after a local human rights group intervened, the watchdog said on Wednesday.

The Saudi Human Rights Commission (SHRC) raised the case "after learning of the marriage of a minor girl to an 86-year-old man in Jizan" in southeast Saudi Arabia, the group's head Bandar al-Ayban said in a statement.

Al-Hayat daily had reported that the teenager locked herself inside the bedroom on her wedding night before fleeing the man's home and returning to her parents.

She had been married off to the man in exchange for a dowry worth around $17,300, the daily reported.


Chris Hedges explains how entire regions within the US are treated like exploited colonies

A Q&A with Chris Hedges on his latest book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.

© Aaron Huey
Pine Ridge Reservation
Emanuele: In Chapter One of your new book, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, you describe the horrendous conditions endured by the Native American population living in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. This population earns, on average, anywhere from $2,600-$3,500 a year, with 49% of the total population living in official poverty status. However in a broad sense, and to inject a historical context, you describe the systematic destruction of Native culture and society; namely, through the practices of physical termination and cultural genocide. Can you talk about why you began this journey in South Dakota and the importance of recognizing previous national injustices?

Hedges: Well, it's important because that's where the project of limitless expansion and exploitation, especially the plundering of natural resources, began. There you had the timber merchants and the railroad magnates, mine speculators, and land speculators seizing territory on the western plains and exterminated the native populations who resisted. Many of which did not even resist. Then, herding the remnants into what were originally prisoner of war camps, which then finally became tribal residencies and eventually reservations - breaking the natives capacity for self-sufficiency, while creating a culture of dependency. Remember, all of this is for profit. This became the template for which the American Empire expanded: the Philippines, Cuba and all throughout Latin America. And today, places like Iraq and Afghanistan. So that's why we wanted to examine where this ideology first took root; where it was first formed; and what happened to these peoples, because in an age of corporate capitalism, where there are no impediments left, what happened to them, is going to happen to us. In the end, we're all going to be herded on some form of a reservation.

This book is about these "sacrifice zones." Whether its in Pine Ridge, or southern West Virginia in the coal mines, or whether that be urban decay such as Camden, New Jersey, which is per capita the poorest city in the country, and on target this year to be the most dangerous, per capita in the country. As we've reconfigured American society, there's no longer any mechanisms to restrain these forces. And I think the other reason Pine Ridge is important, is because the native communities were structured very differently. People who hoarded and kept everything for themselves were disposed; everything was communal; there was an understanding that all forms of life, including the natural world, were sacred. This is unacceptable in a capitalist society where human and natural life are commodities that you exploit for money until exhaustion or collapse. We see the devastation visited on the western plains now being visited in places like the Arctic, where 40% of the summer sea-ice now melts, and the response is that it's a business opportunity, where people go and slam down half a billion dollar drill bits. It's insanity of course, because in the end, these forces will not only kill us off, but they'll kill themselves off as well. That is the awful logic behind it. I think Pine Ridge provides a window into how this ideology took root, and how it works.


All out of ammo: U.S. cops can't stay stocked up as gun and bullet sales soar

© AFP Photo / Spencer Platt
A spike in gun and ammunition sales has caused a nationwide shortage that has delayed police training exercises and is putting a substantial amount of weaponry in civilian hands.

Police in Atlanta, Georgia have been forced to delay training exercises due to a shortage of ammunition. The police department has put orders for more bullets on back-order, while officers are being deprived of the training that makes them capable of handling weapons.

"When you can't get ammunition, it is very concerning," Sandy Springs Police Chief Terry Sult tells WSBTV. "It affects our ability to be prepared. It affects the potential safety of the officers, because they're not as proficient as they should be."

The Sandy Springs Police Department is facing a shortage of tens of thousands of bullets and is scrambling to restock. The neighboring counties are facing an equally dire situation, with both practice ammunition and duty ammunition in short supply. Douglas County Chief Deputy Stan Copeland predicts it could be 6-8 months before the back-orders come in.

"We're going to get very concerned at the six-month level if that's all we have in stock, because then we have to start planning and rationing," Sult says.

Bad Guys

Saudi Arabia beheads young migrant maid for killing infant

© AFP Photo / Lakruwan Wanniarachi
Sri Lankan activists hold placards and shout as they march past a mosque to the Saudi Arabian embassy demanding the Sri Lankan government assist in the release of housemaid Rizana Nafeek in Colombo on July 8, 2011
Saudi Arabia has beheaded a young Sri Lankan housemaid despite years of appeals for clemency from her home country and widespread international condemnation. The woman was sentenced to death for the 2005 killing of an infant entrusted to her care.

Rizana Nafeek, 24, was executed on Wednesday morning in the town of Dawadmy, some 250 miles from the capital Riyadh, the Saudi Internior Ministry said in a statement.

Nafeek was sentenced to death in 2007 after her wealthy Saudi employer accused her of killing his 4-month-old daughter after the baby chocked while being bottle fed. The Saudi Interior Ministry issued a statement claiming the infant was strangled after a dispute between Nafeek and the baby's mother.

Sri Lanka appealed against the death penalty, but it was upheld by the Saudi Supreme Court in 2010.


U.S. suffers far more violent deaths than any other wealthy nation

© Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
It's not the frequency of the attacks that stands out -- it's the lethality.

The United States suffers far more violent deaths than any other wealthy nation, due in part to the widespread possession of firearms and the practice of storing them at home in a place that is often unlocked, according to a report released Wednesday by two of the nation's leading health research institutions.

Gun violence is just one of many factors contributing to lower U.S. life expectancy, but the finding took on urgency because the report comes less than a month after the shooting deaths of 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

The United States has about six violent deaths per 100,000 residents. None of the 16 other countries included in the review came anywhere close to that ratio. Finland was closest to the U.S. ranking with slightly more than two violent deaths per 100,000 residents.

For many years, Americans have been dying at younger ages that people in almost all other wealthy countries. In addition to the impact of gun violence, Americans consume the most calories among peer countries and get involved in more accidents that involve alcohol. The U.S. also suffers higher rates of drug-related deaths, infant mortality and AIDS.

Heart - Black

Mass donor organ fraud shakes Germany

© Photograph: Lester Lefkowitz/Getty
‘Too many transplant centres and too few donor organs’ are blamed for a scandal in Germany, where the medical council says some doctors manipulated health records to boost their patients’ position on waiting lists.
Criminal inquiry launched into transplant centres as senior doctors are accused of 'jumping' waiting lists.

German medical authorities are calling for an extensive overhaul of the country's organ transplant programme after transplant centres across Germany were placed under criminal investigation over allegations that they had systematically manipulated donor waiting lists.

Scores of patients are believed to have been given priority access to donor organs after doctors falsified the severity of their illnesses to ensure they received treatment ahead of other patients in Europe.

The revelations have led to accusations of widespread corruption and dishonesty in the system, and shattered public trust. Since the scandal emerged last year as a handful of cases that were initially believed to be isolated incidents, the number of Germans willing to donate organs has plummeted.

Post-death donations have dropped by between 20% and 40%, according to the German foundation for organ transplantation (DSO), which said the public's faith had been "massively shaken".

Eye 2

Germany's Catholic Church severs ties with criminologists who research sex abuse

Germany's Roman Catholic Church said on Wednesday it had severed ties with criminologists commissioned to research sexual abuse by clergy in a row over the right to publish their findings.

The Church announced in July 2011 it would open its archives, which date back to the end of World War II, to shed light on abuse claims, tasking the northern Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony to analyse evidence.

But "mutual trust" between the Bishops' Conference and the head of the research centre has been "shattered", the bishops complained, adding they would now search for a new partner in the project.

Bishop Stephan Ackermann, appointed to handle issues surrounding claims of sexual abuse of minors, said they had been forced to terminate their contract with the institute "for an important reason with immediate effect".

"Trust is indispensable however for such an extensive and sensitive project," he said in the Bishops' Conference written statement.