Nation and World | Sunday, Jan. 13


Online activist Swartz, who faced trial, dies

NEW YORK — 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.

He was pronounced dead Friday evening at home in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for New York’s chief medical examiner.

Swartz was a prodigy who as a teenager helped create RSS, a family of Web feed formats used to gather updates from blogs, news headlines, audio and video for users. He later co-founded the social news website Reddit, which was later sold to Conde Nast, as well as the political action group Demand Progress, which campaigns against Internet censorship.

In 2011, he was arrested in Boston and charged with stealing millions of articles from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Prosecutors said he broke into a computer wiring closet on campus and used his laptop for the downloads.

Obama planning smaller 2nd inaugural

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s second inauguration is shaping up as a high-energy celebration smaller than his first milestone swearing-in, yet still designed to mark his unprecedented role in American history with plenty of eye-catching glamour.

A long list of celebrity performers will give the once-every-four years right of democratic passage the air of a star-studded concert, from the bunting-draped west front of the Capitol, where Obama takes the oath Jan. 21, to the Washington Convention Center, which is expected to be packed with 40,000 ball-goers that evening.

The first family will lead a parade of clanging bands, elaborate floats and marchers, including costumed dancers, prancing horses and military units, down Pennsylvania Avenue. The president will dance with the first lady, whose dress seems destined to be most anticipated fashion statement of the second Obama administration.

Estimates of turnout are 600,000 to 800,000, compared with the 1.8 million in the record crowd on the National Mall four years ago to see the first swearing in of a black president.

Syrian army makes advances in Damascus

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian troops advanced in a strategic suburb of Damascus and bombarded other areas around the capital Saturday in a push to secure President Bashar Assad’s seat of power as rebels make gains in the north.

A government official said regime forces had taken much of Daraya, an area on the edge of a major military air base just south of the capital, after nearly two months of heavy fighting that anti-regime activists say has killed dozens of people and uprooted tens of thousands more from their homes.

The announcement came a day after rebels and Islamic militants seeking to topple Assad took full control of the northwestern Taftanaz air base in a significant blow to the military. The back-to-back declarations highlight the see-saw nature of the conflict in Syria, where one side’s victories in one area are often followed by reverses in another.

Syrian troops have been battling since November to regain Daraya from the hands of anti-government fighters. The suburb is flanked by the key districts of Mazzeh, which is home to the military air base of the same name, and Kfar Sousseh, which holds the government headquarters, the General Security intelligence agency head office and the Interior Ministry.

By wire sources