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Northern Indiana man 3rd generation caring for court clock
Court Watch | 2017/12/28 11:23
Out of habit, as the Elkhart County Courthouse clock struck 11 on a recent morning, Blake Eckelbarger took out his cellphone and compared the time.

The century-and-a-half-old mechanism in the middle of Goshen trailed the timekeeping of his GPS satellite-aided phone by a minute. Thankfully it's an easy fix, he explained as he tinkered with the brass-colored gears and pins of the green-painted machine his grandfather and great-grandfather once cared for - a minute fast would mean advancing the hands through 11 hours and 59 minutes to set it right.

It's not the time it takes that's the hassle, since that's only 20 minutes, but the fact that he has to stop and wait for the bell to ring as an hour goes by every 10 seconds. It's the same story when he has to advance it one hour along with everyone else's clocks one

"Now it should be OK for another couple months," he remarked, before going into the usual weekly routine of oiling and inspecting the mechanism. It's a job he's had since 2000, when he happily took the offer to bring it back into the Eckelbarger family.

Eckelbarger's great-grandfather, Zena Eckelbarger, took care of the clock from 1923 until his death in 1941. Eckelbarger's grandfather, Dan Eckelbarger Sr., then held the duty for the next 50 years, into his 80s.

He remembers going up there with his grandfather on occasion, but didn't really learn how the clock works until he trained for a couple years under Hosea Jump, who held the contract since 1991 and who asked if he wanted the job. He still had to rely on Jump's expertise for another four or five years whenever an issue needed troubleshooting.

His duties, in addition to the weekly checks, include periodically making sure the clock faces are free of things like leaves or dead birds and that the bell and hammer are in good shape. Once a year, he spends a whole day disassembling the clockworks so he can lubricate the shafts and polish the gears.


Myanmar court extends detention for 2 Reuters reporters
Legal Business | 2017/12/28 11:23
A court in Myanmar extended the detention of two Reuters journalists on Wednesday and set their trial for Jan. 10 on charges of violating state secrets.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested Dec. 12 for acquiring "important secret papers" from two policemen. The police officers had worked in Rakhine state, where abuses widely blamed on the military have driven more than 630,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee into neighboring Bangladesh. The charges are are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

"We are just working as journalists. ... We never violate journalism ethics," Wa Lone told reporters as he and his colleague were led out of a police van into the courtroom in Mingalardon, on the outskirts of Yangon.

Their families wept as they got a chance to see them for the first time since their arrests.

"I want my husband to be free soon. And I trust him that he would never violate the law," said Wa Lone's wife, Pan Ei Mon.

U.S., U.N. and European Union officials are among others calling for their release.

Dozens of Myanmar journalists appeared at the court wearing black shirts as part of a protest against the journalists' arrests.

"We are facing the same kind of harassment under the civilian government as we did under the military government," said Thar Lun Zaung Htet, head of a local pressure group for press freedom. "It is not fair for the two journalists to be charged under the official secrets act because they were doing their job as journalists who tried to get information."

On Tuesday, authorities said they would drop charges against two Singaporean reporters and their local staff working for the Turkish state broadcaster TRT. They were arrested on Oct. 27 for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament building without permission.



Appeals court: Trump exceeded authority with travel ban
Court Watch | 2017/12/26 11:24
A federal appeals court panel has ruled that President Donald Trump once again exceeded the scope of his authority with his latest travel ban, but the judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put their decision on hold pending review by the U.S. Supreme Court, meaning the ban involving six majority Muslim countries will remain in effect.

The 77-page ruling released late Friday says Trump's proclamation makes no finding whatsoever that simply being from one of the countries cited in the ban makes someone a security risk.

Hawaii, which is suing to stop the ban, has argued that it will be harmful because families will be separated and university recruitment will be hampered.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court lifted temporary lower court orders that had prevented the latest ban from taking effect.

The status quo was maintained when the 9th Circuit stayed its decision, said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.

The ruling was unusual, but it's a unique case, he said, noting the Supreme Court has not set argument dates because it has not yet decided to grant an appeal.

"Given the shockingly rapid volley of executive actions and court decisions, this is surely just the latest in a long series of battles to come." Mary Fan, a University of Washington law school professor, said about immigration ban litigation.



Commission to recommend pretrial reforms for Illinois courts
Court Watch | 2017/12/25 11:24
Key players in the Illinois court system are set to scrutinize pretrial processes statewide to identify ways to make them fairer and more transparent.

The Illinois Supreme Court says the focal point of the push for reforms will be a Commission on Pretrial Practices. It’ll include everyone from judges and lawyers to legislators and court clerks.

Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier said in a statement last week that the aim is to enact “sensible and practical reforms” that, among other things, ensure pretrial detention is ordered only when a suspect poses a clear threat.

He says the commission’s goal will be to understand “where the greatest problems lie” and “how those problems differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.” He didn’t say when the commission hoped to release its recommended reforms.




Myanmar court sentences 4 family members in maid abuse
Court Watch | 2017/12/22 11:25
A court in Myanmar sentenced four members of a family to as much as 16 years in prison with hard labor on Friday after finding them guilty of enslaving and abusing their two teenage maids, in a case that has prompted widespread public outrage over the girls' treatment.

The two girls were 11 and 12 when they were sent to the city from their poor village in Myanmar's delta to work as maids for a family that owned a tailor shop. Five years later, a local journalist heard allegations of child abuse at the shop and investigated, pretending he wanted a suit. He wrote an article about the girls' broken fingers and scars from cuts, burns and beatings.

Police then investigated and arrested six family members who were accused of locking up and torturing the girls for five years, stabbing them with scissors and knives, and burning them with an iron. They were charged with assault and violations of anti-trafficking and child protection laws.

After a trial lasting more than a year, a district court in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, on Friday sentenced the mother, Tin Thuzar, to 16 years and one month and two adult children to 13 years and one month, defense lawyer Hnin Su Aung said. The husband of one of the children also received a sentence of 13 years and one month.


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