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Wikileaks founder in court to fight extradition effort

LONDON — Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said at a court hearing on Monday that they think he will not receive a fair trial if he is extradited to Sweden to face accusations of sexual misconduct.

The hearing, scheduled to continue on Tuesday, marks the culmination of an acrimonious public battle with prosecutors in Sweden who have sought since September to question Assange, 39, about accusations made against him in Stockholm last summer by two women who volunteered for WikiLeaks, one in her early 30s and another in her mid-20s. One of the women contends that he forced her to engage in unprotected sex after she had taken him to her apartment for the night.

The hearing was the result of the Swedish prosecutors’ action in early December in issuing a European arrest warrant for Assange, a step that led to his being jailed for nine days and then released on bail. Assange’s lead lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson, told the court there would be “a real risk of a flagrant denial of justice” if the Swedish government succeeded in securing his extradition, because his case would probably be heard in closed sessions, with no reporters or other outsiders present, in keeping with Swedish policy in sex cases. In such circumstances, he said, even if Assange were to be acquitted, “the stigma would remain.”

Big banks to pay more to insure deposits

Big financial institutions will pick up a greater portion of the cost to protect deposits when banks fail, under a plan adopted Monday by federal regulators.

The new fee structure, which takes effect in April, will result in about 110 large banks covering about 80 percent of the premiums paid into the government’s deposit insurance fund each year, up from 70 percent. The fund, administered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, is expected to collect $14 billion in premiums this year.

The change, approved unanimously by the five-member board of the agency, was a result of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations that passed last year. Addressing complaints by small banks that they were taking on too much of the financial burden to save failing banks, the law directed the FDIC to re-evaluate the fees according to the value of assets held by each bank, instead of the level of deposits.

U.S. plan to replace principals runs into a snag

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The $4 billion program begun by the Obama administration in 2009 to radically transform the country’s worst schools included, as its centerpiece, a plan to install new principals to overhaul most of the failing schools.

That policy decision, though, ran into a difficult reality: There simply were not enough qualified principals-in-waiting to take over. Many school superintendents also complained that replacing principals could throw their schools into even more turmoil, hindering nascent turnaround efforts.

As a result, the Department of Education softened the hit-the-road plans for principals of underperforming schools laid out in the program rules. It issued guidelines allowing principals hired as part of local improvement efforts within the past two years to stay on, then interpreted that grandfather clause to mean three years.