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U.S.: Stock Market Bloodbath: Dow Plunges 513 Points on Fear

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Fears about the global economy led to the biggest panic in financial markets since the 2008 financial crisis.

The Dow plunged nearly 513 points Thursday, its biggest point decline since Oct. 22, 2008. Only three of the 500 stocks in the Standard & Poor's 500 index had gains. Oil fell by 6 percent. The yield on the two-year Treasury note hit a record low as investors sought out relatively stable investments.

All three major stock indexes are down 10 percent or more from their previous highs, a drop-off that is considered to be a market correction. A drop of 20 percent or more signifies the start of a bear market, an extended period of stock declines.

Investors are increasingly concerned about the possibility of another recession in the U.S. and a debt crisis in Europe.

Bad Guys

US - Massachusetts Mom accused of punching toddler son on MBTA bus

Boston - A mother accused of punching her toddler son in the mouth on a city bus and shouting expletives at him was surrounded by a "hostile" crowd of passengers until police arrived, authorities said Wednesday.

Erica Ryan pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Roxbury District Court to a charge of assault and battery on a child causing injury. Prosecutors requested bail be set at $25,000; a judge set bail at $500 and ordered Ryan to stay away from the boy.


Somalia famine has killed '29,000 children' in the last 90 days

US officials say that the famine in Somalia has killed more than 29,000 children in the last 90 days.

Separately, the UN has declared that three new regions in Somalia are famine zones, making a total of five regions affected by famine thus far in the Horn of Africa country. The UN had said last month two regions were suffering from famine.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the UN's food arm, has said that famine is likely to spread across all regions of Somalia's south in the next four to six weeks.

Famine, as defined by the UN, refers to situations when at least 20 per cent of households face food shortages so severe that they are unable to cope with it and more than two people out of 10 000 people die daily.


Shell faces $410M payout over Nigeria oil spills

Spilled crude oil floats on the waters and covers the mangroves around the Niger Delta in June 2010

London -- Royal Dutch Shell faces having to pay compensation of potentially more than £250m ($410m) after the Anglo-Dutch oil group admitted liability for two spills in Nigeria following a legal claim brought in the UK.

The agreement comes after a class-action lawsuit was brought in the High Court by the Bodo Community in the Niger Delta against Shell and its subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).

Martyn Day, of law firm Leigh Day acting for the Nigerians, said that he was pleased Shell had admitted liability and agreed to concede to the English jurisdiction and court system.


Child Marriage a Scourge for Millions of Girls

Child Marriage
© REUTERS / Tanushree PunwaniFourteen-year-old child bride Lalita Saini (R) in Alsisar village, about 200 km (124 miles) north of Jaipur, India, April 25, 2007.

This story is part of a TrustLaw special report on child marriage.
  • A child is married every three seconds
  • Millions condemned to poverty and poor health
  • Children of child brides also at risk
New York - Child marriage, which steals the innocence of millions of girls worldwide and often condemns them to lives of poverty, ignorance and poor health, is one of the biggest obstacles to development, rights groups say.

A girl under the age of 18 is married every three seconds -- that's 10 million each year -- often without her consent and sometimes to a much older man, according to the children's charity Plan UK. Most of those marriages take place in Africa, the Middle East or South Asia.

"This is one of the biggest development issues of our time and we're committed to raising the voices of millions of girls married against their will," Plan UK head Marie Staunton said in her introduction to "Breaking Vows", a recent global report on child marriage.

From horrific childbirth injuries to the secret sale of "drought brides", the consequences of child marriage are explored in a multimedia documentary by TrustLaw, a legal news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Young children have babies -- your life is ruined, your education is ruined," said Kanta Devi, who was 16 when she married in Badakakahera village in India's Rajasthan state.

"You become upset with everything in your life," she told TrustLaw.

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child considers marriage before the age of 18 a human rights violation.

But according to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), there are more than 50 million child brides worldwide, a number that is expected to grow to 100 million over the next decade.


Minority Rules: Scientists Find the Tipping Point

© GettyThe rapid change in the Middle East may be a good example of how opinion can be swayed.

To change the beliefs of an entire community, only 10 percent of the population needs to become convinced of a new or different opinion, suggests a new study. At that tipping point, the idea can spread through social networks and alter behaviors on a large scale.

The research is still in its early stages, and it's uncertain if the results will apply to all kinds of beliefs, particularly in tense political situations.

But the findings do provide insight into how opinions spread through communities. The model may also help experts more effectively quell misconceptions and influence the choices people make about public health behaviors and related issues.

"This is really a starting point to understand how you can cause fast change in a population," said Sameet Sreenivasan, a statistical physicist who specializes in network theory at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.

"The real world has a lot more complexity, obviously," he added. "But one of the things you can take away is that if you want to cause a fast change, there is an upper bound to how many people really need to commit."


US: Virginia Tech Lockdown Brings Back Ghost of 2007 Shooting

Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum says they received the call around 9 a.m. from Dietrick Dining Hall

The Virginia Tech campus was under lockdown, Thursday morning, after an alert posted on the official campus website warned that a gunman had been sighted in campus, bringing back memories of the 2007 shooting that left 33 dead.

According to the alert posted at 9:09 a.m., a white male, "6 feet tall, with light brown hair outside of New Residence Hall East" was seen holding what may have been a handgun, which was covered "by a cloth or covering of some sort."

However, when the security officials immediately arrived at the scene, no gunman matching the description was found. Officers, which come from at least five law enforcement agencies such as the Virginia State Police, the Blacksburg Police Department and Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, kept patrolling the campus, "continuing to look for the subject."


US: MichCon Fills In Detroit Sinkhole That Boy Fell Into

Relative Says Hole That Swallowed Boy Has Been Troublesome For Years

A 4-year-old boy was hurt Tuesday when he fell into a sinkhole on Detroit's east side while playing.

Michelle Edwards said her grandson was riding a tricycle near Young Street and Mac Crary Avenue when the front wheel came off, sending him tumbling into the hole.

"I ran down here and he said, "Grandma, I can't move my legs.' I called 911 because I didn't want to move him," Edwards said.


Poll: Muslims, atheists most likely to reject violence

© Flickr commons.
New data from polling firm Gallup shows that out of all the religious groups in the U.S., Muslims are most likely to reject violence, followed by the non-religious atheists and agnostics.

Through interviews with 2,482 Americans, Gallup found that 78 percent of Muslims believe violence which kills civilians is never justified, whereas just 38 percent of Protestant Christians and 39 percent of Catholics agreed with that sentiment. Fifty-six percent of atheists answered similarly.

When Gallup put the question a bit more pointedly, asking if it would be justified for "an individual person or a small group of persons to target and kill civilians," the responses were a bit more uniform. Respondents from nearly all groups were widely opposed to such tactics, with Protestants and Catholics at 71 percent against. Muslims still had the highest number opposed, at 89 percent. Seventy-six percent of atheists were also opposed.

2 + 2 = 4

US: Parents Defend Atlanta School Caught Up in Scandal

© Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.comParents of area school children line up to ask APS board member LaChandra Butler Parks, front with back to camera, and other school officials questions during a town hall meeting by Parks at Jean Childs Young Middle School in Atlanta on Tuesday, August 2, 2011.
Parents of students at an Atlanta public school where cheating was alleged to have occurred on a statewide test on Tuesday night defended their school and teachers at a town hall meeting.

"We've been extremely pleased with the instruction my children have received," said Quinnie Cook-Richardson, one of several parents at the troubled West Manor Elementary School who spoke at the meeting.

Her son's teacher had him reading within a year, she said, adding, "They are an example of what is right with Atlanta Public Schools."

Cook-Richardson was among a parade of parents who defended a school where the principal has been asked to resign because of the scandal surrounding the 2009 Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.