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Human Condition: Picture of drug-addled Ukrainian prostitute among the most startling press photographs of 2012

From the disturbing image of a drugs-addicted prostitute smoking a cigarette, to a haunting picture of a desperate mother standing alone amidst the devastation of the Japanese Tsunami - the World Press Photo contest offers a vivid reflection of the world we live in.

An exhibition of the winning entries, which went on show at the Southbank Centre in London today showcases the best in photojournalism from across the globe and features startling pictures from the world in 2011.

This year's top prize was awarded to Spanish photographer Samuel Aranda for his image of a mother cradling her son in her hands after he has been overcome by tear gas during an anti-government demonstration in Yemen.

© World Press Photo 2012 Exhibition
Tragic: This work by Brent Stirton won first prize in the Contemporary Issues Singles category. it shows Maria, a drug-addicted sex worker, resting between clients in the room she rents in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine. The country has the highest incidence of HIV/Aids in Europe, according to UNICEF


India's secret shame: Owl sacrifice mars Hinduism's biggest holiday

Eagle Owl
© Diptendu Dutta/AFP/Getty Images
An Indian man holds a rare Eagle owl after it was rescued from an house in Siliguri on July 15, 2011.
New Delhi - As the rest of India celebrates Hinduism's festival of lights on Tuesday, unscrupulous witch doctors known as "tantriks" will sneak into the country's dark corners to kill some of its rarest and most majestic birds of prey.

It's India's secret shame - unknown even to most devout Hindus. But the religion's most important holiday, Diwali, marks a supposedly auspicious time for the sacrifices of threatened and even critically endangered owls - a rite that some believe can win favor from the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.

"You take the leading newspapers of today itself, there will be 50, 20, 30 ads from tantriks advertising remedies of almost all kinds," said Abrar Ahmed, an expert on the trafficking of birds.

"When people can be milked out, these tantriks will prescribe something which is difficult to get - they'll say an owl of 5 kgs or a certain weight or certain size. There is where they make money.... They are the ones creating a demand."

India is home to 32 species of owls, 13 of which Ahmed discovered being sold as part of the illegal trade in wild birds. Most, if not all, are included on International Union for Conservation of Nature's "Red List" of threatened species, while at least one, the forest owlet, is critically endangered, according to "Imperilled Custodians of the Night," a report Abrar wrote for Traffic in 2010.

Arrow Up

California teen steps into rattlesnake nest, survives

Rattlesnakes Nest
© RupertRay/Flickr
A teenage California girl searching for a cell phone signal to call her mother in a rural area outside San Diego inadvertently stepped into a nest of rattlesnakes and was bitten six times, but survived.

The 16-year-old, Vera Oliphant, spent four days in the intensive care unit of Sharp Grossmont Hospital, and doctors gave her 24 vials of antivenom after she was bitten by an adult rattlesnake and five young rattlers outside her uncle's home.

"I was trying to find a signal to call my mom and text my boyfriend," Oliphant said on Friday, a day after she was released from the hospital following the October 27 incident.

"I didn't see them until I already stepped on their nest and I felt them biting me."

"My vision started to go right away. First it looked like the snakes blended into the leaves and then I started seeing black spots around the edges and I started blacking out."

She returned to her uncle's home in Jamul, outside San Diego, and he immediately packed her into the car and rushed her to the emergency room, she said.


Sandy refugees say life in tent city feels like prison

Oceanport, New Jersey
© Michelle Conlin/Reuters
Oceanport, New Jersey - It is hard to sleep at night inside the tent city at Oceanport, New Jersey. A few hundred Superstorm Sandy refugees have been living here since Wednesday - a muddy camp that is a sprawling anomaly amidst Mercedes Benz dealerships and country clubs in this town near the state's devastated coastal region.

Inside the giant billowy white tents, the massive klieg lights glare down from the ceiling all night long. The air is loud with the buzz of generators pumping out power. The post-storm housing - a refugee camp on the grounds of the Monmouth Park racetrack - is in lockdown, with security guards at every door, including the showers.

No one is allowed to go anywhere without showing their I.D. Even to use the bathroom, "you have to show your badge," said Amber Decamp, a 22-year-old whose rental was washed away in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

The mini city has no cigarettes, no books, no magazines, no board games, no TVs, and no newspapers or radios. On Friday night, in front of the mess hall, which was serving fried chicken and out-of-the-box, just-add-water potatoes, a child was dancing and dancing - to nothing. "We're starting to lose it," said Decamp. "But we have nowhere else to go."

Bad Guys

BP disaster survivors removed from federal courtroom during fairness hearing

cherri in front of courthouse
© Cherri Foytlin
Three BP oil disaster survivors and community advocates were forcibly removed from the fairness hearing on the BP class-action settlement yesterday, moments before the federal court heard objections to how that settlement would compensate people made sick by the disaster. The fairness hearing allowed U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to hear arguments from those who negotiated the deal, as well as those with objections to the class action, before the settlement is accepted or rejected.

Louisiana residents Cherri Foytlin, Kindra Arnesen, and Michelle Chauncey were asked by Judge Barbier to leave for allegedly "live streaming audio" of the hearings, and were escorted out by U.S. Marshals. The women were quietly listening to the proceedings and say they had no intention of interrupting, and don't even know how to "live stream". They believe they were unjustly targeted because they have been speaking out for their families and their communities.

"It's ironic - this is exactly the place where objections are meant to be heard and instead, we have four Louisiana residents forcibly removed because the court felt threatened that they might speak out," says Bryan Parras of Houston, Texas - an environmental justice expert and Managing Advisor with the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health.


Man's tattoo picture on Facebook threatens cop, lands him in jail

A Minnesota man is in jail because of a Facebook picture of what police call a threatening tattoo.

Investigators say the tattoo on Antonio Jenkins' arm is a death threat against a Minneapolis police officer.

"This is the first time I've heard of a case like this," said department spokesman Sgt. Bill Palmer.

Investigators say 20-year-old Jenkins posted a picture of his tattoo on Facebook. It showed a pig with a gun in its mouth, wearing a uniform with a badge number and an officer's name. The officer it referenced took it as a direct threat against his life.

"You want to put that on your body as a tattoo, you want to post that on a social media site, you're going to get charged with a felony," Palmer said.


Teen beats up 81 year-old woman, steals her Apple computer

  • Washington- D.C. Police have made an arrest in the case of a masked burglar who beat up an 81-year-old woman in her home in upper Northwest D.C.

    18-year-old Tyran McElrath, of Southeast D.C., has been charged with burglary.

    On Wednesday afternoon, just before 1 p.m., a letter carrier discovered a homeowner who appeared beaten and confused just outside the front door of her home on the 3500 block of McKinley Street, NW. The police report filed in the case says an intruder gained entry into the home by breaking out a rear window, and struck the elderly woman in her face and head with his fist. The victim was hospitalized after the attack.

    Police say the burglar took an Apple computer from the home.

    Heart - Black

    Mentally disabled woman raped on California bus


    The suspect arrested in the rape of a mentally disabled teen aboard a Metro bus has an extensive criminal history, including charges of sexual assault, authorities said Friday.

    Kerry Trotter, 20, of South Los Angeles, was arrested early Friday after the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced that detectives were searching for a man who had boarded a bus and for 10 minutes raped an 18-year-old woman. Trotter is being held on $1 million bail.

    Authorities were also investigating whether the bus driver took appropriate action when the rape was reported aboard his bus. A lone witness had tried to get the driver's attention while the assault occurred, according to sheriff's department officials.

    The attack happened about 5 p.m. Wednesday after the victim and her attacker boarded Bus Line 217 at La Cienega and Jefferson boulevards, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

    The 10-minute attack occurred at the rear of the bus, deputies said.

    After it was over, the rapist got off the bus at Sepulveda Boulevard and Slauson Avenue, the route's last stop.


    Two soldiers prescribed 54 drugs: Military mental health "treatment" becomes Frankenpharmacy

    army pills
    © CCHR
    The monstrous psycho-pharmacological experiment on U.S. military troops continues .
    The mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) announces the second in a four-part series by award-winning investigative journalist Kelly Patricia O'Meara exploring the epidemic of suicides in the military and the correlation to dramatic increases in psychiatric drug prescriptions to treat the emotional scars of battle. The second installment covers psycho-pharma's disastrous chemical experimentation within the military ending in sudden unexplained deaths, including those of Marine corporal Andrew White and Senior Airman Anthony Mena who were prescribed a total of 54 drugs between them, including Seroquel, Effexor, Paxil, Prozac, Remeron, Wellbutrin, Xanax, Zoloft, Ativan, Celexa, Cymbalta, Depakote, Haldol, Klonopin, Lexapro, Lithium, Lunesta, Compazine, Desyrel, Trileptal, and Valium.

    The devastating adverse effects mind-altering psychiatric drugs may be having on the nation's military troops are best summed up by Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein, writing "nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change."

    Just as the fictional character, Dr. Frankenstein, turned to experiments in the laboratory to create life with fantastically horrific results, the psychiatric community, along with its pharmaceutical sidekicks, has turned to modern day chemical concoctions to alter the human mind. The result is what many believe is a growing number of equally hideous results culminating in senseless deaths, tormented lives and grief-stricken families.

    The nation's military troops are taking their lives at record numbers and seemingly healthy soldiers are dying from sudden unexplained deaths. That's a fact. The data are clear, yet, despite growing evidence pointing to the enemy among us, the monstrous psycho-pharmacological experiment continues (see Part 1: Psychiatric Drugs and War: A Suicide Mission).

    To truly understand the madness that has become the military's mental health services, one only need review a few cases before the horror of these unorthodox and destructive psycho-pharmacological experiments is exposed. Marine corporal Andrew White and Senior Airman Anthony Mena are just two examples of psycho-pharma's disastrous chemical experimentation.

    Comment: Read Part 1: Psychiatric Drugs and War: A suicide mission


    The Rolling Jubilee: Group spends $500 on distressed debt, buys out $14,000 worth of outstanding loans

    rolling Jubilee
    © Reuters
    As a test run the group spent $500 on distressed debt, buying $14,000 worth of outstanding loans
    A group of campaigners linked to the Occupy Wall Street movement is buying-up distressed loans for pennies in the pound and cancelling them to "liberate debtors at random".

    The Rolling Jubilee project is seeking donations to help it buy-up distressed debts, including student loans and outstanding medical bills, and then wipe the slate clean by writing them off.

    Individuals or companies can buy distressed debt from lenders at knock-down prices if it the borrower is in default or behind with payments and are then free to do with it as they see fit, including cancelling it free of charge.

    As a test run the group spent $500 on distressed debt, buying $14,000 worth of outstanding loans and pardoning the debtors. They are now looking to expand their experiment nationwide and are asking people to donate money to the cause.

    David Rees, one of the organisers behind the project, writes on his blog: "This is a simple, powerful way to help folks in need - to free them from heavy debt loads so they can focus on being productive, happy and healthy.