By Toru Hanai and Elaine Lies KORIYAMA, Japan (Reuters) - Some of the smallest children in Koriyama, a short drive from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, barely know what it's like to play outside -- fear of radiation has kept them in doors for much of their short lives. Though the strict safety limits for outdoor activity set after multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in 2011 have now been eased, parental worries and ingrained habit mean many children still stay inside. And the impact is now starting to show, with children experiencing falling strength, lack of coordination, some cannot even ride a bicycle, and emotional issues like shorter tempers, officials and educators say. "There are children who are very fearful.
By Sharon Bernstein LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California Democrats adopted a platform on Sunday calling for an inflation-adjusted minimum wage and an end to solitary confinement in prisons as part of a strongly progressive agenda in a state where the party has gained dominance by moving to the political center. The platform also called for free preschool for all 4-year-olds and legalization of medical marijuana, measures that have drawn skepticism from Governor Jerry Brown, who remains widely popular as he prepares to run for an unprecedented fourth term after yanking his party toward the middle. Brown's governing style, which has placed an emphasis on budget austerity while repairing California's chronic fiscal woes and reviving the state's sagging economy, has at times put him at odds with the liberal wing of his party. "If we don't solve the problem of income inequality we will lose our souls and we will lose our republic." Confident going into the 2014 election season with wide majorities in both houses of the state legislature and control of all statewide elected offices, Democratic leaders at the California party's annual convention hope to see their success pushed eastward in a bid to retake a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Newborns freezing to death in hospital incubators, doctors cutting off limbs to stop patients from bleeding to death, surging cases of polio: a new report published on Monday paints a dire picture of Syria's collapsing healthcare system. The report, issued by charity Save the Children, said some 60 percent of Syria's hospitals have been damaged or destroyed since the start of the three-year-old conflict and nearly half of its doctors have fled the country. Over 140,000 people have died in the war, which started as a peaceful protest movement against President Bashar al-Assad and degenerated into civil conflict fuelled by regional and international rivalries. In its report, Save the Children described the fallout from the collapse of the medical system as "horrific," as remaining hospitals and medical staff struggle to treat hundreds of thousands of people wounded by the fighting.
A Delaware judge said Royal Bank of Canada should be held liable to former shareholders of Rural/Metro Corp because it failed to disclose conflicts of interest that tainted the $438 million buyout of the ambulance operator. Bankers at RBC Capital Markets were so eager to collect higher fees that they convinced Rural/Metro directors to sell the company in June 2011 to private equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC at an unreasonably low $17.25 per share, wrote Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster of the Delaware Chancery Court. Former Rural/Metro Corp shareholders are seeking about $172 million from Toronto-based RBC, representing the difference between the buyout price and what they believe the company was worth, according to published reports.
(The story corrects organization name to American Action Network in paragraph 15, from American Action Forum. The Network is an affiliate of the Forum that is allowed to engage in political activities under U.S. tax law.) By David Morgan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans, looking for ways to turn November's congressional elections into a referendum on President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, are trying to portray Obamacare as a danger to Medicare. The aim is to court one of the biggest and most reliable voting blocs in midterm elections, senior citizens and people near retirement, by depicting Republicans as defenders of the federal healthcare program for 42 million seniors. It's an attempt to turn the tables on Democrats, who in the 2012 presidential election attacked Republican Mitt Romney over Republican proposals to overhaul Medicare.
By Drazen Jorgic and Philippa Croome KAMPALA (Reuters) - With a World Bank scholarship and top grades in the first year of her masters degree in agriculture, 27-year-old Cleo Kambugu should be well on the road to her goal of an academic career in Uganda. Instead, she's working out how to leave after the passing of a law that toughens prison sentences for homosexuality and a tabloid campaign to "out" gays. "There is totally no hope right now," said Kambugu, still legally a man despite a sex change in the last year that is not recognized by Uganda, a nation that now has some of the toughest anti-gay laws on a continent where 37 states ban homosexuality. The bill, signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni on February 24, has forced embattled gays deeper into the shadows, by threatening life in jail for "aggravated homosexuality" and a seven-year term for "aiding and abetting homosexuality".
A blue balloon announcing "Baby Boy" fluttered on Saturday outside the home where the family has since returned after Jessica Rosado, who was nine months pregnant when she arrived at the hospital near her home in Tampa, gave birth after having labor induced. Rosado, her partner Ronnie Morales and her two young daughters fell ill on Monday evening after eating some bottom round steak bought from a local Wal-Mart, according to the Tampa Police Department.
By Barbara Liston ORLANDO (Reuters) - A judge set bail at $1.2 million on Saturday for a pregnant woman facing attempted murder charges for driving a minivan carrying her three young children into the surf off a Florida beach, according to jail records. Ebony Wilkerson, 32, has been charged with three counts of first-degree attempted murder and three counts of child abuse in the incident, which occurred on Tuesday at Daytona Beach. Wilkerson had come to Florida three days before the episode to escape an abusive marriage, according to the arrest affidavit. The children told investigators their mother had been acting "crazy" since they arrived in Florida, and Wilkerson's sister tried twice to get mental health treatment for her the day before she drove the van into the water, the affidavit said.
By John Whitesides WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eight months before the November 4 elections, Republicans have expanded the number of competitive races for U.S. Senate seats and have a growing chance of gaining control of that chamber and stalling Democratic President Barack Obama's second-term agenda. Public dissatisfaction with the president, concerns about his healthcare overhaul and a sluggish economy, and a series of retirements by key Democratic senators in conservative states have made a rugged year for Democrats even more so, analysts and strategists in both parties say. Republicans, who are widely expected to retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, need a net gain of six seats to take back the 100-member Senate. Although the primary season is just starting and the candidates in many races are not set, polls suggest Republicans have boosted their odds of gaining additional Senate seats by becoming competitive in politically divided states such as Michigan and Colorado, where a year ago they were given little chance of winning.
By Laila Kearney SARATOGA, California (Reuters) - Teenagers who share sexually explicit images of others on the Internet to harass them could soon face tougher punishment under California legislation proposed on Friday, spurred by the suicide of a teen after images of her sexual assault were circulated to other students. The new bill, dubbed Audrie's Law after 15-year-old Audrie Pott, who killed herself in Los Altos in September 2012, is the latest effort by lawmakers in California and other states to curb online cruelty that has been blamed for a number of teen suicides. The law would make it a crime for juveniles, those under age 18, to take or distribute images of a sexual nature of a minor with the intent to harass, shame or intimidate the person, said Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who helped draft the legislation. The proposed law would also allow juveniles to be tried as adults if they are accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated, developmentally disabled or otherwise incapacitated person.
By Al-Zaquan Amer Hamzah PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (Reuters) - A Malaysian court convicted opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy and sentenced him to five years in prison on Friday, shattering his plan to take control of the country's richest state and stoking political tension in the Southeast Asian nation following a divisive national election last year. The former deputy prime minister, who was previously jailed for six years on sodomy and corruption charges, will not be jailed immediately as his lawyers won a stay of the sentence pending an appeal. But the ruling bars Anwar from running for a seat in the state assembly of Selangor this month, a move that would likely have paved the way for him to become chief minister of Malaysia's most populous state - a potent platform from which to attack the government ahead of the next national election. This has been choreographed," he added, saying the government had underestimated "the wrath of the people." A government spokesman said that Malaysia had an "independent judiciary." "This is a case between two individuals and is a matter for the courts, not the government," the spokesman said.
By Roberta Rampton MIAMI (Reuters) - President Barack Obama gave a feel-good campaign-style speech at a gymnasium packed with screaming high school students on Friday, sketching out the main points of his populist agenda ahead of a special election in Florida on Tuesday. Obama did not mention the race for the House of Representatives seat that had been held by the late Republican Bill Young in a congressional district that includes St. Petersburg, a city north of Miami. The White House said it was a coincidence that his speech came just before the election. Obama and his family plan to spend the rest of his weekend in Florida, at a lush Key Largo private resort.
The Obama administration said on Friday Verizon Communications Inc's Terremark unit will remain under contract as host of the federal website HealthCare.gov to better ensure a smooth end to Obamacare's open enrollment period on March 31. Terremark's contract with the Department of Health and Human Services was due to expire on March 30, the day before the end of open enrollment for 2014, a time when high daily volumes are expected as consumers from 36 states rush to use to website to sign up for subsidized private health insurance. It would be extended for up to seven months, according to federal documents. Hewlett-Packard Co has been named to replace Terremark as website host and operator of the department's federal data center as part of Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
By Ronnie Cohen NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who have trouble sleeping tend to have less volume in certain regions of the brain than those without sleep problems, a new study of Persian Gulf War veterans suggests. "People discount the importance of sleep. "The study suggests we shouldn't discount sleep importance," she said. In their study, sleep was associated with the amount of gray matter in the brain's frontal lobe in particular.
By Barbara Liston and Kevin Gray ORLANDO/MIAMI (Reuters) - A pregnant woman who drove a minivan with her children inside into the surf off a Florida beach was charged with three counts of attempted murder, law enforcement officials said on Friday. A tourist's video showed lifeguards and bystanders rushing to help rescue the woman, Ebony Wilkerson, and her children, ages 3, 9 and 10, as their van bobbed in the waves on Daytona Beach on Tuesday. Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said Wilkerson told authorities she was not trying to hurt the children. Wilkerson, 32, was arrested on Friday after a mental health evaluation and charged with three counts of child abuse.
By Anjuli Davies and Sophie Sassard LONDON (Reuters) - For top Morgan Stanley financier Cecile Houlot-Hillary, every day brings pressure in the form of complex bond deals, intense competition and demands from high level clients. But, says the 17 year veteran of investment banking, the most challenging part of her career so far has been navigating her three spells of maternity leave. "It was clearly the crunch point - coming back and making sure I was still on track and nothing was going to stop me." Her successful return to work was largely down to the support of her managers, says French-born Houlot-Hillary, who believes such coaching is key for banks and their female employees. The 39-year-old, co-head of debt capital markets for financial firms at Morgan Stanley, is now a key player in the bank's diversity program, which includes coaching for women returning to work after having children.
Attorneys for the man charged with mass murder for shooting dozens of people at a Colorado movie theater have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to force a reporter to reveal confidential sources she used for a story about the massacre. James Holmes, 26, faces the death penalty in the shooting rampage that killed 12 people and injured dozens more at a screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20, 2012. His attorneys filed a petition on Thursday, asking the Supreme Court to consider overturning a 2013 ruling by New York's top state court, the Court of Appeals, which found that New York's journalist shield law protected Fox News reporter Jana Winter from being compelled to testify in Holmes' case in Colorado. Holmes' lawyers said Winter's testimony is necessary to determine the identity of law enforcement officials who violated a gag order and divulged some of the contents of a notebook Holmes allegedly sent to a psychiatrist before the shooting incident.