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Briefs

Internet activist Swartz kills self

– A co-founder of Reddit and activist who fought to make online content free to the public has been found dead, authorities confirmed Saturday, prompting an outpouring of grief from prominent voices on the intersection of free speech and the Web.

Aaron Swartz, 26, hanged himself in his Brooklyn apartment weeks before he was to go on trial on accusations that he stole millions of journal articles from an electronic archive in an attempt to make them freely available. If convicted, he faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.

Swartz was “an extraordinary hacker and activist,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international nonprofit digital rights group based in California wrote in a tribute on its home page. He “did more than almost anyone to make the Internet a thriving ecosystem for open knowledge, and to keep it that way,” the tribute said.

Swartz was a prodigy who as a young teenager helped create RSS, a family of Web-feed formats used to gather updates from blogs, news headlines, audio and video for users.

Syrian forces take Damascus suburb

Syrian troops have captured most of a strategic Damascus suburb used by rebels as a base to threaten key regime facilities in the capital, a government official said Saturday.

The announcement that regime forces had taken Daraya came a day after anti-government activists said rebels and Islamic militants seeking to topple President Bashar Assad took full control of Taftanaz air base in the northwest. That dealt a significant blow to Assad’s military, with helicopters, tanks and multiple rocket launchers seized.

Vatican presses for ‘ordinary’ families

The Vatican is pressing its opposition to gay marriage, insisting Saturday that children should grow up with a father and a mother after Italy’s high court upheld a lower-court ruling and granted custody of a child to his gay mother.

In its decision Friday, the Court of Cassation said there was no “scientific certainty or experience-based data” to support the father’s claims that the child’s development was being damaged by living with his mother and her female partner. Such an argument was “mere prejudice,” the court said.

“In reality, the child must be born and grow up in ... the ordinary way, that is with a father and mother,” Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, told Vatican Radio.

800 sign up for ‘Python Challenge’

Nearly 800 people have signed up to hunt Burmese pythons on public lands in Florida.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is holding a monthlong “Python Challenge.” Officials are offering cash prizes to whoever brings in the longest python and whoever bags the most pythons.

The Burmese python is an invasive species that experts say is decimating native wildlife in the Florida Everglades.

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