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Man Behind Megaupload Remains Defiant

Image
© Reuters
Megaupload chief Kim Dotcom, formerly known as Kim Schmitz, was arrested in Auckland on Thursday
Kim Dotcom, the 37-year-old man behind Megaupload.com, was already a notorious figure in the online file-sharing world before he was forced out of the "panic room" of his $24m New Zealand mansion and arrested, in one of world's largest criminal copyright cases.

Despite being convicted for computer hacking and later insider trading in Germany in the late 1990s, the man formerly known as Kim Schmitz has always denied any wrongdoing.

But since moving to Hong Kong - "an awesome place to do business and to host my new phantom persona", he said in one interview - and then to New Zealand, he has never been shy about flaunting his success either.

His home in Auckland is one of New Zealand's most expensive properties. To celebrate his move there last year, he sponsored a $500,000 New Year's eve fireworks display and told the New Zealand Herald that he had donated generously to the country's earthquake relief fund. The US Deparment of Justice says his personal earnings in 2010 totalled $42m as he owns 68 per cent of the Mega empire.

Info

Dragon Year Spells Nightmare For Mothers

Dragon Baby?
© Corbis
The infrastructure will need to be boosted to handle the population growth.

Having a baby in the "Year of the Dragon" is a dream come true for many ethnic Chinese who see the zodiac as an auspicious and powerful portent. But for some Hong Kong mothers, it's a nightmare.

Tens of thousands of pregnant mainlanders come to Hong Kong to give birth every year, taking up limited beds in maternity wards and pushing up delivery costs.

The problem is expected to peak in the Year of the Dragon, which comes every 12 years in Chinese astrology and usually results in a baby boom.

"We didn't plan for a Dragon baby," says 38-year-old Michele Lee, who is expecting her second child, a girl, in April. "It was exciting when we first found out the news but very soon that excitement turned into worry about whether we'll get a place in hospital."

Hong Kong women have recently taken to the streets in protest over the influx of mainland Chinese mothers to the semi-autonomous former British colony. Having their babies in the glitzy -- and relatively free -- southern city entitles the child to rights of abode and education, while providing a loophole the size of Victoria Harbor to China's one-child policy.

Lee says she tried to book a maternity bed at her gynecologist's hospital soon after she found out she was pregnant, but it was already too late.

"I couldn't get my preferred private hospital to deliver even though I'm willing to pay and both me and my husband are Hong Kong residents," she says. "Some friends told me I should start registering my Dragon baby girl for kindergarten -- it's like a fight for hospitals, a fight for schools. I have to remind myself to take it easy."

Bizarro Earth

US: Man Sexually Abuses Dog, Posts Pictures Online


Metairie, Louisiana (CNN/WVUE) - State police arrested 21-year-old Blake Sanderford and charged him with taking video while he sexually abused his dog and then posting pictures of the assault on the internet.

"This was one of the more repugnant acts that we have ever seen, and that we hope not to see," said Robin Beaulieu of the Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter where the dog is currently being tested and treated.

The pictures were reportedly spotted by a web surfer outside of Louisiana who notified authorities who then began focusing on the victim's home.

Attention

South African Woman Accused of Cutting Baby From Womb

A South African woman appeared in court yesterday accused of leaving a pregnant woman for dead after slicing her open and stealing the unborn child from her womb.

Loretta Cooke (29) from Randfontein in west Johannesburg was remanded in custody at Randfontein Magistrate Court after state prosecutors were granted an adjournment to allow them investigate the case further.

The grisly murder was perpetrated last week, but the police initially thought 34-year-old Valencia Behrens had bled to death after giving birth. In addition, they could not locate the deceased's newborn baby at the crime scene.

Attention

US: Virginia Is for Potheads?

Marijuana
© Minyanville

When this country got torpedoed by the Great Recession of 2007, we experienced the largest collapse in state revenues on record. Now, nearly two years after the bottom fell out of the economy, all but four states have been forced to cut services for residents. More than 30 states have raised taxes and 29 still face budget shortfalls.

Among the states struggling to dig itself out of the financial abyss is Virginia, whose budget deficit reached $2 billion in 2012. Even at 8.3% growth in 2011, Virginia won't fully restore its losses from the recession until 2019.

But David Englin, a Democratic delegate from Arlington, is unwilling to wait seven more years for a recovery and has a creative proposal to give Virginia's economy an instant shot of adrenaline. It's House Joint Resolution 140 and it's raising eyebrows among some of his fellow lawmakers and constituents.

Englin wants Virginia's state-owned liquor outlets, called ABC stores, to start selling marijuana.

At least, for now, he wants the General Assembly to allow for a study on the economic impact of the sale and taxing of pot in Virginia as well as the feasibility and practicality of legalization.

Bad Guys

Costa Concordia Adds Discount Insult to Injury

Costa Concordia
© Minyanville

What has to be the one thing a passenger of the ill-fated Costa Concordia doesn't want? Next to ever having to hear Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" again, it would have to be setting foot on the deck of another Costa Cruises ship.

But a future voyage at sea is precisely what parent company Carnival Corp is offering survivors of the cruise liner that had to be evacuated in the middle of the night before it sank off the shores of the Italian island of Giglio. In an attempt to stem the tide of personal injury lawsuits with which the world's largest cruise operator is about to be slapped, Carnival has put an offer on the table.

Perhaps an all-expenses-paid voyage to a choice of any of the cruise line's ports? No? OK, so maybe not free but heavily discounted, right?

What are we talking here? Seventy-five percent off? Fifty percent?

Try 30.

"The company is trying to do everything they can for those passengers directly affected," said a spokesman for Costa Cruises. "The company is not only going to refund everybody but they will offer a 30 per cent discount on future cruises if they want to stay loyal to the company."

Eye 1

US, Florida: Immigration Authorities Released Man Who Went on to Kill 3 in North Miami

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© Manatee County Sheriff's Office
Kesler Dufrene
In a year-old mystery, a felon freed after he could not be returned to Haiti killed three people. Was it random, or was he working with someone?

When burglar Kesler Dufrene became a twice-convicted felon in 2006, a Bradenton judge shipped him to prison for five years. And because of his convictions, an immigration judge ordered Dufrene deported to his native Haiti.

That never happened.

Instead, when Dufrene's state prison term was up, Miami immigration authorities in October 2010 released him from custody. Two months later, North Miami police say, he slaughtered three people, including a 15-year-old girl in a murder case that remains as baffling today as it did the afternoon the bodies were discovered.

DNA on a rifle found inside the house and cellphone tracking technology later linked Dufrene to the Jan. 2, 2011, slayings.

Sherlock

US, California: Body Parts Case: LAPD Probes Whether Victim Knew Killer


Detectives investigating the death of a man whose head, hands and feet were found along a hiking trail near the Hollywood sign are focusing on whether the killing was tied in some way to his personal life, according to law enforcement sources.

The sources stressed that detectives were not fully clear on the motive in the killing of Hervey Medellin, 66, a retired Mexicana Airlines employee. But investigators are looking into whether he was killed by someone he knew.

Detectives have not made any arrests, and the sources, who spoke on condition of annoymity because the case was ongoing, said they continued to examine other scenarios as well.

USA

US: South Carolina's Attorney General Detects Voter Fraud

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© unknown
Attorney General Alan Wilson
South Carolina's attorney general has notified the U.S. Justice Department of potential voter fraud.

Attorney General Alan Wilson sent details of an analysis by the Department of Motor Vehicles to U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles.

In a letter dated Thursday, Wilson says the analysis found 953 ballots cast by voters listed as dead. In 71 percent of those cases, ballots were cast between two months and 76 months after the people died. That means they "voted" up to 6 1/3 years after their death.

The letter doesn't say in which elections the ballots were cast.

The analysis came out of research for the state's new voter identification law. The U.S. Justice Department denied clearance of that law.

Wilson told Nettles he asked the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate.

Source: The Associated Press

Star of David

The Palestinian children - alone and bewildered - in Israel's Al Jalame jail

Israel's military justice system is accused of mistreating Palestinian children arrested for throwing stones






Palestinian children locked up in solitary confinement by Israel.

The room is barely wider than the thin, dirty mattress that covers the floor. Behind a low concrete wall is a squat toilet, the stench from which has no escape in the windowless room. The rough concrete walls deter idle leaning; the constant overhead light inhibits sleep. The delivery of food through a low slit in the door is the only way of marking time, dividing day from night.

This is Cell 36, deep within Al Jalame prison in northern Israel. It is one of a handful of cells where Palestinian children are locked in solitary confinement for days or even weeks. One 16-year-old claimed that he had been kept in Cell 36 for 65 days.

The only escape is to the interrogation room where children are shackled, by hands and feet, to a chair while being questioned, sometimes for hours.