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Thu, 08 Dec 2022
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Iraq Falling Back into 'Authoritarianism': Human Rights Watch

unrest @ Iraq
© Agence France-Presse
Iraq is falling back into authoritarianism and headed towards becoming a police state, despite US claims that it has helped establish democracy in the country, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

The criticism from the New York-based HRW comes less than a year after thousands of Iraqis took to the streets nationwide to criticise the government for poor services.

"Iraq cracked down harshly during 2011 on freedom of expression and assembly by intimidating, beating and detaining activists, demonstrators and journalists," HRW said in a statement accompanying its annual report.

HRW noted that Iraq remains one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, that women's rights remain poor and civilians have paid a heavy toll in bomb attacks.


Christians Waking Up? Voluntary 'De-Baptism' Rising in Europe

© Reuters
Pope Benedict XVI baptizes one of 21 newborns during in the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican, Jan. 9, 2011.
Sunday evening youth mass in Saint-Germain-des-Pres is overflowing with parishioners. People stand in aisles or sit cross-legged in corners of the cavernous, sixth century Paris church.

Father Benoist de Sinety, parish priest at Saint Germain for the past three years, says he has always had the good fortune of seeing crowds of young people seeking their bearings or rediscovering faith. But he knows it is not the same everywhere.

Churches in France and elsewhere in Europe have been battling falling numbers, a trend evident not only in the empty pews, but in the sharp fall in baptisms. But "de-baptisms", a church's deletion of one's name from the official baptismal registry at a parishioner's request, are a recent phenomenon, and they are taking place in both Protestant and Catholic communities.

There are no official statistics, but experts and activists count the numbers of those seeking de-baptism in the tens of thousands, and websites offering informal "de-baptism" certificates have mushroomed.

Heart - Black

US, Wisconsin: Accused Abuser Claimed "Ghost" Injured His Wife

© unknown
Cops: Man battered spouse, tried to blame apparition

A Wisconsin man charged with domestic abuse told cops that a "ghost" was actually responsible for injuries suffered by his wife, according to police.

The bizarre claim by Michael West, 41, did not prevent the Fond du Lac man's arrest for strangulation, battery, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. West is pictured in the mug shot at right.

According to a January 18 criminal complaint, West and his spouse got into an argument Sunday that turned violent. The victim told cops that West twice strangled her, and that he punched her in the face when she tried to dial 911.


US, Alaska: Former Army Soldier Sentenced for Killing Wife, Baby

Kip Lynch
© unknown
Kip Lynch
A former Army soldier who was convicted of killing his wife and baby daughter shortly after returning from combat in Afghanistan was sentenced on Friday to 80 years in prison for the crimes.

Kip Lynch, 22, was found guilty last summer of first degree murder in the April 2010 shooting death of his 19-year-old wife Racquell and second-degree murder of their 8-month old baby, Kyirsta.

Lynch shot his wife numerous times in the back, head and neck while she was holding their infant daughter, according to police reports.

The bullets passed through her body, killing both mother and child, according to police reports. Lynch then turned the gun on himself in an apparent suicide attempt, but survived.

The bodies of his wife and baby remained in the family's Anchorage apartment for a weekend before they were discovered.

Lynch was found in critical condition but recovered.


22 Show Horses Killed in Fast-Moving New Jersey Barn Fire

© Dawn J. Benko/The Star-Ledger
Firefighters from the Lafayette Fire Department put out hotspots.
Authorities say a fast-moving fire destroyed a barn owned by a noted New Jersey equestrian family, killing 22 show horses worth tens of thousands of dollars each.

State Police Sgt. Brian Polite says the barn was engulfed in flames when troopers arrived around 1:40 a.m. Saturday in Lafayette. The blaze was soon extinguished, but all the horses inside were killed.

Betty Hahn, whose family owns the barn, tells The Star-Ledger that the animals were valued at $10,000 to $60,000 apiece. Her family has competed and won awards in equestrian competitions along the East Coast.

She said no hay or fuel was stored in the barn, so she's baffled about how the blaze began.

Officials would not say whether they considered the blaze suspicious, citing the ongoing investigation.


Flaming-Horned Bull Fatally Gores Man in Spain

© The Associated Press/Alberto Saiz
A reveler releases a bull with flaming horns during a festival in honor of Saint Anthony, the patron saint of animals, in the streets of Gilet, a town near Valencia, Spain, in the early hours of Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012.
A flaming-horned bull trampled and fatally gored a man early Saturday during a festival in eastern Spain, an official said.

Large balls of flaming wax are traditionally affixed to the beasts' heads before they are let loose to rampage through squares and narrow streets in such festivals.

The mayor of Navajas, population 730, said emergency services in his town were unable to save the life of the 45-year-old man whose name was withheld. Jose Vicente Torres said the accident happened when the man, who had traveled from Alboraia, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) to the south, tripped just as the bull was released.

Torres said the bull charged the man, gored him and then stamped on his head, causing him "irreversible injuries." He said he had offered his condolences to the man's family, but would not cancel similar events scheduled for early Sunday.

"Although ours is a small town, many people from outside come to visit our feast dedicated to Saint Anton," Torres said, adding that black bows had been tied to town hall flags as a mark of respect and mourning.

Heart - Black

US: 3 Dead in Fire at New York House Rented by Students

A fire tore through a private home being rented by Marist College students near campus early Saturday morning, killing three people, authorities said.

The victims were identified as two female Marist students in their early 20s and one male, who was not a student at the school. Their names have not been released. Four other people in the house escaped without serious injuries.

Marist College postponed two basketball games "out of respect for the students affected by this tragedy," Deborah DiCaprio, Marist's vice president and dean for student affairs, said in a statement Saturday.

The off-campus house on Fairview Avenue was being rented by six female Marist students, Town Police Chief Thomas Mauro said.
© unknown
Devastation: The fire which killed three people in Poughkeepsie early yesterday morning


Canada: British Columbia Mill Explosion and Fire Injures at Least 19 People, 2 Missing

© unknown
Two people are unaccounted for after a fire and explosion tore through a sawmill east of Burns Lake, B.C., on Friday, officials confirmed.

In a written statement released Saturday by the Burns Lake Native Development Corporation, the Village of Burns Lake and the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, officials say two people are missing "according to information from the scene of the incident." No names have been released.

In an interview with Global Television Saturday morning, Burns Lake fire chief Jim McBride said he believed they were probably dead.

Nineteen people suffered minor to serious injuries, Northern Health Authority spokesman Steve Raper told CBC News on Saturday.

Five people have been released from hospital, while seven were taken to the University Hospital of Northern B.C. Prince George. Two others were taken to hospital in Smithers, one was transported to hospital in Vanderhoof and four people with critical injuries were airlifted to hospitals in Edmonton and Vancouver.


Anonymous' Megaupload Revenge Shows Copyright Compromise Isn't Possible

police line tape @ megaupload
© n/a
Anonymous' devious and speedy campaign to undermine the defenders of copyright yesterday served both as revenge for the loss of Megaupload and a demonstration of the futility of trying to police the Wild West of the Internet.

Within minutes of the Justice Department's triumphant announcement about the seizing of the massive file-sharing site, their own website was taken offline by a massive denial of service attack. The Web presences of the FBI, the MPAA, the RIAA, and several entertainment corporations involved in the case soon followed, as those tasked with protecting the Web from piracy were once again unable to protect themselves.

The speed and ease with which those sites were taken down should certainly give pause to those who think that any Congressional act is likely to stop troublemakers on the internet. As Gawker's Adrian Chen explained, the method used to launch the attacks was both simple and crafty - supporters simply distributed an innocent looking link that, once clicked, temporarily turned the user's computer into attack bot, often without their knowledge. There's little harm to the user, but it allows those doing the attacking to quickly and easily enlist thousands of Internet users to join in the fun/mayhem.


Indian teacher stunned by $10bln bank balance

© Agence France-Presse
An Indian high school teacher, with a monthly salary of around $700, was astounded when a routine online check of his bank account showed a balance of almost $10 billion.

Parijat Saha, from the town of Balurghat in West Bengal state, said he had checked his State Bank of India account online last Sunday to confirm reception of a 10,000 rupee ($200) interest payment.

"Instead I saw this astronomical amount," he told AFP by telephone.

The account showed a balance of 496 billion rupees.