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World briefly for Jan. 21

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POSTED: January 21, 2013 9:44 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — His second term already under way, President Barack Obama aims to set an optimistic tone when he takes the oath again to lead a divided nation seeking solutions to economic woes at home and conflict overseas.

Hundreds of thousands are expected to gather on the National Mall to witness Obama's swearing in and inaugural address Monday. The celebrations will extend across the nation's capital, including the traditional inaugural parade and a pair of glitzy formal balls.

In his inaugural address to the crowd in Washington and millions more watching on television, Obama will urge lawmakers to find common ground when they can, and preview his second term goals, including comprehensive immigration reform, stricter gun control laws, and an end to the war in Afghanistan.

"What the inauguration reminds us of is the role we have as fellow citizens in promoting a common good, even as we carry out our individual responsibilities that, the sense that there's something larger than ourselves, gives shape and meaning to our lives," Obama said, previewing his address during brief thank-you remarks to donors at a reception Sunday night.

The mood surrounding Obama's second inaugural is more subdued than it was four years ago, when the swearing in of the nation's first black president drew 1.8 million people to the Mall. Still, organizers were expecting up to 700,000 to attend Monday's events, which would make it the largest second-term inaugural in history.

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New Delhi gang-rape case to start in fast-track court set up to handle crimes against women

NEW DELHI (AP) — Legal proceedings in the fatal gang-rape attack on a student in India's capital were set to begin Monday in a fast-track court for crimes against women that has stirred debate over how best to deliver justice to rape victims.

Five men were due to appear in the special court Monday afternoon to face charges they raped and murdered a 23-year-old woman aboard a moving bus in the capital last month in an assault that shocked many in the country for its brutality. A sixth suspect in the attack claims to be a juvenile and his case is being handled separately.

Police say the victim and a male friend were heading home from an evening movie Dec. 16 when they boarded a bus, where they were attacked by the six assailants. The attackers beat the man and raped the woman, causing her massive internal injuries with a metal bar, police said.

The victims were eventually dumped on the roadside, and the woman died two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.

Lawyers for the accused say police mistreated their clients and beat them to force them to confess. One lawyer said he would ask the Supreme Court to move the trial out of New Delhi.

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Death toll climbs past 80 at Saharan refinery; Algeria says militants were going to blow it up

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — The death toll from the terrorist siege at a natural gas plant in the Sahara climbed past 80 on Sunday as Algerian forces searching the refinery for explosives found dozens more bodies, many so badly disfigured it was unclear whether they were hostages or militants, a security official said.

Algerian special forces stormed the plant on Saturday to end the four-day siege, moving in to thwart what government officials said was a plot by the Islamic extremists to blow up the complex and kill all their captives with mines sown throughout the site.

In a statement, the Masked Brigade, the group that claimed to have masterminded the takeover, warned of more such attacks against any country backing France's military intervention in neighboring Mali, where the French are trying to stop an advance by Islamic extremists.

"We stress to our Muslim brothers the necessity to stay away from all the Western companies and complexes for their own safety, and especially the French ones," the statement said.

Algeria said after Saturday's assault by government forces that at least 32 extremists and 23 hostages were killed. On Sunday, Algerian bomb squads sent in to blow up or defuse the explosives found 25 more bodies, said the security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

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Still going: Long-lived NASA rover Opportunity commencing tenth year of exploration on Mars

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Opportunity, NASA's other Mars rover, has tooled around the red planet for so long it's easy to forget it's still alive.

Some 5,000 miles away from the limelight surrounding Curiosity's every move, Opportunity this week quietly embarks on its tenth year of exploration — a sweet milestone since it was only tasked to work for three months.

"Opportunity is still going. Go figure," said mission deputy principal investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis.

True, it's not as snazzy as Curiosity, the most high-tech interplanetary rover ever designed. It awed the world with its landing near the Martian equator five months ago.

After so many years crater-hopping, Opportunity is showing its age: It has an arthritic joint in its robotic arm and it drives mostly backward due to a balky front wheel — more annoyances than show-stoppers.

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In Mexico, self-defense squads are springing up against drug-fueled violence

AYUTLA, Mexico (AP) — The young man at the roadside checkpoint wept softly behind the red bandanna that masked his face. At his side was a relic revolver, and his feet were shod in the muddy, broken boots of a farmer.

Haltingly, he told how his cousin's body was found in a mass grave with about 40 other victims of a drug gang. Apparently, the cousin had caught a ride with an off-duty soldier and when gunmen stopped the vehicle, they killed everyone on the car.

"There isn't one of us who hasn't felt the pain ... of seeing them take a family member and not being able to ever get them back," said the young civilian self-defense patrol member, who identified himself as "just another representative of the people of the mountain."

Now he has joined hundreds of other men in the southern Mexico state of Guerrero who have taken up arms to defend their villages against drug gangs, a vigilante movement born of frustration at extortion, killings and kidnappings that local police are unable, or unwilling, to stop.

Vigilantes patrol a dozen or more towns in rural Mexico, the unauthorized but often tolerated edge of a growing movement toward armed citizen self-defense squads across the country.

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15-year-old New Mexico boy accused of killing parents, 3 younger children

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A horrific scene awaited officers responding to an emergency call at a New Mexico home — five family members dead, all with multiple gunshot wounds. The victims were later identified as parents and their three young children and the suspected attacker as their 15-year-old son.

Investigators trying to piece together what led to the violence late Saturday night found several guns believed used in the shootings, including one assault rifle, Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston said Sunday. The owner of the weapons hasn't been determined.

"There's no other way to say it, except that we have a horrific crime scene down there that we are working on," said Houston.

Nehemiah Griego, 15, was arrested on murder charges following the shootings at the residence in a rural area southwest of downtown Albuquerque, the sheriff's department said.

Authorities identified the victims as Greg Griego, 51, his wife Sara Griego, 40, and three of their children: a 9-year-old boy, Zephania Griego, and daughters Jael Griego, 5, and Angelina Griego, 2.

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Minister tells grieving Newtown, Conn.: MLK Jr.'s words of healing 'needed now more than ever'

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — A former leader of one of the nation's most prominent liberal Protestant churches told residents still grieving one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history that Martin Luther King Jr.'s words of healing and nonviolence "are needed now more than ever."

The Rev. James A. Forbes Jr., the first black minister to lead New York's historic Riverside Church, spoke Sunday night at the Newtown Congregational Church in a service honoring King and the elementary school shooting victims.

About 300 residents filled the church for the community worship service, called For the Healing of Newtown, on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Forbes delivered a sermon calling for a transformation and healing of communities.

"The saddest face I ever saw on Martin Luther King was at the funeral of the four little girls slain in Birmingham, Ala.," he said. "We ask today, as King did then, 'Lord, what can come out of this that will honor those lost in this tragedy?'"

Twenty Sandy Hook Elementary School first-graders and six school officials died in the Newtown shooting last month. The gunman who attacked them had killed his mother at home before going to the school and later committed suicide.

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Investigators turn focus to Japanese maker of Boeing 787 batteries

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese and U.S. investigators are conducting a probe of the maker of the lithium ion batteries used in Boeing's grounded 787 jets.

Tsutomu Nishijima, a spokesman for GS Yuasa, said Monday that the investigators visited the company's headquarters in Kyoto, Japan and that Yuasa was cooperating with the probe.

He said he could not comment on details of the investigation or on whether it would continue beyond Monday. Transport Ministry officials also would not immediately comment on the investigation or its findings.

After an overheated battery forced an emergency landing of an All Nippon Airways 787 flight last week, all 50 787s that Boeing has delivered to airlines have been grounded. The manufacturer has halted deliveries of new planes until it can address the electrical problems.

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John Legend, 2 Chainz, Doug E. Fresh, Rosario Dawson, more honored at Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball

WASHINGTON (AP) — John Legend believes hip-hop played its part in helping Barack Obama become president, and he's proud at how the genre has matured over the years.

"I think hip-hop had a role in making sure we elected a black president in America because we made it so that black people were in people's homes ... through our music and through our culture," the R&B crooner said Sunday night at the Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball.

"I think it made Barack Obama and more people like him possible, so I'm really thankful for hip-hop and the role it plays in society," he continued.

Legend was awarded the humanitarian award at Sunday's event, and it was one of many honors handed out at the Harman Center for Arts.

Hip-hop pioneers MC Lyte and Doug E. Fresh were both given lifetime achievement awards. Fresh even hit the stage, beat boxing while comedian-actor-singer Wayne Brady cooed Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" At one point, Brady even busted out his own rhymes.

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49ers, Ravens to meet in Super Bowl of firsts, none bigger than Harbaugh brothers' showdown

This Super Bowl will be filled with firsts — and one significant last.

The Harbaughs, San Francisco's Jim and Baltimore's John, will be the first pair of brothers to coach against each other in the NFL title game.

Quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers and Joe Flacco of the Ravens each will be playing in his first Super Bowl — where success is the ultimate measure of elite QBs.

It'll be Baltimore's first crack at a championship in a dozen years, San Francisco's first in 18. They are a combined 6-0 in Super Bowls (the 49ers own five of those victories), so one club will lose the big game for the first time.

And middle linebacker Ray Lewis, Baltimore's emotional leader and top tackler, will be playing in the final game of his 17-year career before heading into retirement.

 

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