Society's ChildS


US: Blagojevich Gets 14 years in Prison for Corruption

Rod Blagojevich, the ousted Illinois governor whose three-year battle against criminal charges became a national spectacle, was sentenced to 14 years in prison Wednesday, one of the stiffest penalties imposed for corruption in a state with a history of crooked politics.

Among his 18 convictions is the explosive charge that he tried to leverage his power to appoint someone to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat in exchange for campaign cash or land a high-paying job.

Judge James Zagel gave Blagojevich some credit for taking responsibility for his actions - which the former governor did in an address to the court earlier in the day - but said that didn't mitigate his crimes. Zagel also said Blagojevich did some good things for people as governor, but was more concerned about using his powers for himself.

"When it is the governor who goes bad, the fabric of Illinois is torn and disfigured and not easily repaired," Zagel said.

As the judge announced the sentence, Blagojevich hunched forward and his face appeared frozen. Minutes later, his wife, Patti Blagojevich, stood up and fell into her husband's arms. He pulled back to brush tears off her cheek and then rubbed her shoulders.


Russian Police Arrest Hundreds in Anti-Putin Rally

© Agence France-Presse/Kirill Kudryavtsev Riot police detain a Russian opposition activist taking part in an unauthorized rally, on Triumfalnaya Square in central Moscow.
Russian riot police arrested hundreds of activists in central Moscow on Tuesday to stop a new protest alleging that elections were rigged in favour of Vladimir Putin's ruling party.

Helmeted police in green camouflage and interior ministry troops deployed in force for an event that was organised through the Internet after a rare thousands-strong protest on Monday startled the authorities.

Opposition supporters shouted "Shame on you fascists!" and "Russia without Putin" in a tense stand-off with hundreds of pro-Kremlin youth who descended on the site in advance.

Those detained in Moscow included former cabinet minister turned Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov -- released after being booked at a police station -- and several other members of opposition groups that were barred from running in the polls.

Mr. Potato

US: Blagojevich Expresses Remorse in Courtroom Speech

© Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated PressRod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, leaves his home in Chicago on Wednesday for the second day of his sentencing hearing on 18 corruption convictions.
Rod R. Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, apologized to residents of his state, to the judge in his case and to his family on Wednesday as he spoke in court during his sentencing hearing.

"I have nobody to blame but myself for my stupidity and actions, words, things that I did, that I thought I could do," he said.

Mr. Blagojevich spoke before the federal judge who will decide his sentence for 18 felony corruption convictions, including trying to sell or trade the Senate seat that President Obama left behind when he moved to the White House. Although he had been outspoken in the past about his innocence, Mr. Blagojevich was remorseful in court on Wednesday.

"I accept the peoples' verdict, Judge, they found me guilty," he said adding later, "All I can say is I never wanted to hurt anyone."

Mr. Blagojevich's crimes carry maximum sentences that could stretch into hundreds of years behind bars, but federal prosecutors say he deserves 15 to 20 years in prison. Mr. Blagojevich's lawyers said they were seeking far less, saying simply that they were advocating for "the lowest sentence possible."


US: Alec Baldwin: Booted from Plane for Playing Game

© Getty ImagesAlec Baldwin
You know when the flight attendants tell you to turn off all electronic devices prior to takeoff? They're not kidding -- even if you happen to be a star.

Actor Alec Baldwin was removed from an American Airlines flight leaving Los Angeles for New York on Tuesday when he was apparently too engrossed in a game of Zynga's Words With Friends to power down his iPad.

"Flight attendant on American reamed me out 4 playing WORDS W FRIENDS while we sat at the gate, not moving. #nowonderamericaairisbankrupt," the actor tweeted.

The incident caused a one-hour delay in the flight and kicked off a flurry of Internet chatter. Baldwin's own Twitter feed has been pulsing with caustic comments about his removal.

"Last flight w American," the 30 Rock star tweeted Tuesday afternoon, "Where retired Catholic school gym teachers from the 1950s find jobs as flight attendants."


China Arrests 600 in Huge Child Trafficking Bust, 178 Children Rescued

© Agence France-Presse/Peter ParksPhoto illustration. Chinese police have busted two huge child trafficking rings that spanned 10 provinces, arresting more than 600 suspects and rescuing 178 children, the government said Wednesday.
Chinese police have busted two huge child trafficking rings that spanned 10 provinces, arresting more than 600 suspects and rescuing 178 children, the government said Wednesday.

Child abductions and trafficking are rife in China, despite repeated police crackdowns -- a problem that many experts blame on the nation's strict "one-child" policy and lax regulations on adoption.

The public security ministry said in a statement that police in the southwestern province of Sichuan had chanced on clues that a child trafficking gang was operating there when dealing with a traffic accident in May.

Then in August, police in the southeastern province of Fujian discovered the existence of another gang involved in widespread child trafficking.

After a long period of evidence-gathering, more than 5,000 police officers from 10 different provinces across China launched a joint offensive on November 30, arresting 608 suspects.


Canada, Quebec: Gatineau's Values Guide For Immigrants Stirs Controversy

© unknownThe city of Gatineau, Que., has released a 'statement of values' aimed at immigrants, giving them advice ranging from the illegality of honour killings and bribing public officials to cooking smelly foods.
One of Quebec's biggest cities is throwing out the welcome mat to immigrants with a 16-point guide to local values, which range from refraining from bribing officials, killing people for honour, to cooking smelly foods.

The city of Gatineau says its newly released "statement of values" is aimed at helping newcomers integrate. But critics say it infantilizes them and treats immigrants "like they came out of a cave."

The guide is already drawing comparisons to the controversial code of conduct adopted by the Quebec village of Hérouxville during the heat of the province's reasonable accommodation debate in 2007. Unlike Hérouxville, however, which banned stonings even though it only had a single immigrant family, Gatineau is home to about 250,000 and has seen a surge in international immigration in recent years.

The administration of Mayor Marc Bureau says it published its list of "essential values" to help the newly arrived fit in and learn "how to interact" in their new environment, according to the guide.


Up to 40,000 Children Mine Gold in Mali: Rights Group

mercury in gold pan
Between 20,000 and 40,000 children work in artisanal gold mines in Mali, Africa's third-largest producer of the precious metal, Human Rights Watch said in a report Tuesday.

In a statement, HRW said that "children as young as six dig mining shafts, work underground, pull up heavy weights of ore, and carry, crush, and pan ore."

It also said that many children "work with mercury, a toxic substance, to separate the gold from the ore. Mercury attacks the central nervous system and is particularly harmful to children."

HRW children's rights researcher Juliane Kippenberg said children carried loads heavier than their own weight, climbed into unstable shafts, and touched and inhaled mercury, one of the most toxic substances on earth.


Canada: Congo Protests Turn Violent in Toronto, Ottawa

© The Associated Press/Simon MainaCongolese riot-policeman stand guard on the streets of Goma. Tensions from the presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo spilled across the Atlantic on Tuesday when pro-democracy protests in two Canadian cities turned violent.
Tensions from the presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo spilled across the Atlantic on Tuesday when pro-democracy protests in two Canadian cities turned violent.

In the capital Ottawa, police formed a line around the DRC embassy and used pepper spray to prevent dozens of protesters from storming the building.

Meanwhile in downtown Toronto, Canada's largest city, a group of about 150 protesters swarmed a police car and threw dirt at officers, prompting police to respond in force, sending 30 cars and cordoning off roads around the demo.

Electoral authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday postponed declaring the winner of the polls, as protests exploded worldwide. Early results showed President Joseph Kabila heading for re-election.


Canada: A British Columbia Family's Secret: How They Helped Their Parents Die

© Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and MailTwo boys stand with right-to-die protesters as they demonstrate recently outside the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
Buried in a stack of affidavits filed in a right-to-die case is a remarkable, anonymous document that breaks a deep, long-held family secret about how two chronically ill parents were guided to death.

It is sworn by a 63-year-old social worker from British Columbia who identifies himself only as L.M., because he fears he, his sister and others could face criminal charges for assisting in the deaths.

The document - one of many that chronicles the shattering emotional journeys endured by those involved in assisted deaths - illustrates a key argument being made in Carter versus the Attorney-General of Canada.

Joseph Arvay, a lawyer representing the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and a group of individuals challenging the Criminal Code, has told court that because it is illegal for physicians to help the chronically ill die, people are forced to help take lives secretly, the way women once sought back-alley abortions.

Heart - Black

Indian Couples Whose Families Disapprove Turn to the Love Commandos

© Candce Feit/The Globe and MailVeer and Puja Bharti faced violence and disapproval of their love marriage because they are from different castes.
New Delhi- They met on the bus to college in 2005. Soon he was cutting class all morning to ride the bus and make sure he had the chance to talk to her. Puja Bharti says she knew within moments of speaking to her now-husband, Veer, that it was love. And she knew that this love was going to be a big problem.

Veer and Puja are from different jati in the Hindu caste system. And although they have thoroughly modern Indian families who sent them to earn college degrees and urged them both into business, neither family would tolerate the idea that their children should have a "love marriage," as it is known here.

Mr. Bharti's father confronted him about the relationship in 2008, and when he refused to renounce Puja, beat him up and threw him out of the house. He moved in with friends in another city, found a job and started saving money in the hope of persuading her to elope. Her family, meanwhile, began a campaign of physical assault and emotional abuse that escalated until, one day in September, she overheard her brother saying the time had come to kill her, since she stubbornly refused to marry any boy the family chose for her. So Ms. Bharti ran away and used her last rupees in a payphone call to Mr. Bharti. And he in turn made a call to a number he'd read in the paper, and saved just in case.

He called the Love Commandos. And they kicked into action.