India rape case — Protracted shouting by lawyers insisting that suspects in a high-profile gang rape case don’t deserve legal representation marked the first court appearance Monday of five defendants and raised concerns among legal and human rights campaigners that inflamed passions could trump the men’s legal rights. Apparently convinced of the defendants’ guilt based on media coverage of the case, members of a bar association representing lawyers in New Delhi’s Saket District Court announced last week that none of its members would represent the defendants.
Runaway oil rig — Nearly a week after it ran aground in the Gulf of Alaska, a stricken Shell Oil drilling rig was refloated by salvage crews late Sunday, officials reported Monday. In a statement, the unified command, a response team that includes representatives from Shell, the Coast Guard and Alaska’s environmental agency, said the rig, the Kulluk, was pulled from its spot along a rocky shoreline on Sitkalidak Island and was being towed to a sheltered harbor for inspection.
Syria fighting — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday expressed disappointment with Syrian President Bashar Assad for rejecting the most important elements of an international roadmap to end the country’s civil war — a political handover and establishment of a transitional governing body. Assad in a rare speech Sunday outlined his own vision for ending the country’s conflict with a plan that would keep him in power. He also dismissed any chance of dialogue with the armed opposition and called on Syrians to fight what he called “murderous criminals."
Drone strike — Several missiles fired from American drones slammed into a compound near the Afghan border in Pakistan early today, killing eight suspected militants, Pakistan officials said. The two intelligence officials said the compound was located near the town of Mir Ali in the North Waziristan tribal area.
Health spending — National health spending climbed to $2.7 trillion in 2011, or an average of $8,700 for every person in the country, but as a share of the economy, it remained stable for the third consecutive year, the Obama administration said Monday. The rate of increase in health spending, 3.9 percent in 2011, was the same as in 2009 and 2010 — the lowest annual rates recorded in the 52 years the government has been collecting such data. Federal officials could not say whether the low growth in health spending represented the start of a trend or reflected the continuing effects of the recession.
Immigration spending — The Obama administration spent nearly $18 billion on immigration enforcement last year, significantly more than its spending on all the other major federal law enforcement agencies combined, according to a report published Monday by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group in Washington.
Clinton back — If it’s true that politics is a contact sport, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got some extra protection Monday when her staff welcomed her back from medical leave with a personalized — and heavily padded — football helmet. Clinton’s return came about a month after she fell ill with a stomach virus that led to a fall, a concussion and a brief hospitalization for a blood clot in her head.
Elephants killed — Eleven elephants were slaughtered by ivory poachers and their tusks were chopped off, Kenyan officials said Monday, in one of the worst single episodes of poaching in Kenya in recent years. Kenyan officials said they discovered the 11 carcasses in Tsavo East National Park, one of the country’s tourism gems, underscoring the danger poaching presents not only to the species but also to one of the cornerstones of the Kenyan economy.
‘Speed Freak Killers’ — The FBI on Monday began the excavation of an abandoned well in Central California in a renewed search for possible victims of two men known as the “Speed Freak Killers." A team of the agency’s forensic experts will be joined by local authorities, California State University, Chico anthropologists and other investigators for the next few weeks to painstakingly dig up the San Joaquin County site mostly by hand, said Herbert Brown, the agent in charge of the FBI’s Sacramento office.
Australia wildfires — Firefighters battled scores of wildfires raging across southeast Australia early today with officials evacuating national parks and warning that blistering temperatures and high winds had led to “catastrophic" fire conditions in some areas. Thousands of firefighters were on standby across the nation’s most populous state of New South Wales.
Oil sands — The development of Alberta’s oil sands has increased levels of cancer-causing compounds in surrounding lakes well beyond natural levels, Canadian researchers reported in a study released Monday. And they said the contamination covered a wider area than had previously been believed. For the study, financed by the Canadian government, the researchers set out to develop a historical record of the contamination, analyzing sediment dating back about 50 years from six small and shallow lakes north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, the center of the oil sands industry.
Wild dog attack — Wild dogs mauled and killed four people whose bodies were found over the past two weeks in a park on the edge of Mexico City, authorities confirmed Monday. In one case, a teenage girl frantically called her sister with her cellphone to plead for help as the attack took place.
Insider attack — An individual wearing an Afghan army uniform turned his weapon against foreign troops, killing one in southern Afghanistan in another apparent attack by Afghans against their foreign allies, the NATO command said early today.
— From wire reports