While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Dec 23 edition

India to increase punishment for minors after gang-rapist freed

Indian lawmakers on Tuesday (Dec 22) passed a bill allowing harsher punishments for juveniles aged 16 to 18 after an outcry over the release of a young rapist who served three years in a detention facility for his part in a notorious gang-rape in 2012.

“I think the ayes have it, the ayes have it, the ayes have it. The bill has been passed,” P.J. Kurien, a speaker of the upper house of parliament, said after a day-long debate on the bill.

The release two days ago of the youngest convict in the case of the fatal gang-rape of medical student Jyoti Singh in Dec 2012 triggered widespread calls for amendments to the existing law.


US 'deserter' once held by Afghan militants appears in court

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who was held by insurgents in Afghanistan for five years before being freed in a prisoner swap, appeared in court on Tuesday (Dec 22) charged with desertion.

The 29-year-old soldier appeared before a military tribunal at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to be formally arraigned on two charges. He did not enter a plea.

If convicted on a charge of desertion, Bergdahl could serve up to five years in prison, receive a dishonorable discharge, lose his rank and forfeit all pay.


Third killer whale death at SeaWorld park in six months

An 18-year-old killer whale has died at the SeaWorld park in San Antonio, the park said on Tuesday (Dec 22), raising concern among animal groups that have criticised the company for years over its treatment of captive marine mammals.

The female whale, named Unna, was the third whale to die at the Texas park in six months.

SeaWorld said in a statement that Unna died on Monday from a "resistant strain of a fungus called Candida."


Egypt hires airport security consultants after crash

Egypt said on Tuesday (Dec 22) it has appointed a global consultancy firm to review security at its airports, nearly two months after a Russian airliner crash in the Sinai killed 224 people.

London-based Control Risks, a specialist in protecting organisations in hostile environments, will initially review security at Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh airports, officials said.

The tourism minister denied the move was linked to the Oct 31 crash.


Football: Platini unable to take appeal straight to Court of Arbitration for Sport

Fifa have told the suspended Michel Platini that he cannot go straight to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to appeal his eight-year ban from the game, the Frenchman's lawyers revealed on Tuesday (Dec 22).

The banned UEFA president must wait to receive a notice of what motivated the ethics committee of world football's governing body to give him his suspension before then going to Fifa's own appeals committee. Only if they reject his appeal can he then go to CAS.

The timetable of such a process means his chances of standing for the Fifa presidency at elections on Feb 26, even if the ban were overturned, are slim in the extreme.