Iraqi debt relief offered
Japan is willing to forgive the "vast majority" of its Iraqi debt if other Paris Club creditor nations do the same, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement yesterday during a visit by US envoy James Baker. Iraq owes Japan US$4.1 billion, but that number reaches an estimated US$7.76 billion when late penalty fees are included. The US has been encouraging creditors to assist Iraq by relieving part of its crushing debt. Baker, who has already won agreements on Iraqi debt relief from several European nations, met early yesterday with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi amid reports that Tokyo was considering some relief.
Bomb suspects face life
Indonesian prosecutors yesterday demanded that two Muslim militants be sentenced to life imprisonment for helping assemble two bombs that blew up in a nightclub district on Bali island last year. Abdul Ghoni and Syawad, alias Sarjio, are accused of violating anti-terror laws that carry a maximum penalty of death. Both remained silent during separate hearings at the Denpasar District Court. Prosecutors told the court that both men took part in planning meetings ahead of the bombs that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, on Oct. 12 last year.
■ The Philippines
Senator joins race
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's most bitter political rival filed his application yesterday to run in next year's presidential election, in a candidacy that has split the opposition and could mar its chances of beating Arroyo. Senator Panfilo Lacson is the first to file a candidate's certificate in a campaign that already includes declared candidates Arroyo and Fernando Poe Jr., an action film star and opposition newcomer who has been garnering strong voter support in opinion polls. Accompanied by hundreds of followers, Lacson filed his certificate at a jam-packed Elections Commission office, vowing to halt crime, fight corruption and revive the country's shaky economy if he is elected.
Rats safe from ratcatchers
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has a rat department that feeds on an annual budget of 7.8 million rupees (US$173,000) but doesn't catch any rodents, it was reported yesterday. Not many people know about the rat department's existence. Those who are in the department are clueless about the number of rats in the city or what is being done about them, the Times of India newspaper reported. Some civic officials smelt a rat after going through the MCD's annual accounts. They noticed the rat department spent only 50,000 rupees (US$1,100) on anti-rodent drives. The rest of the budget was spent on salaries, the report said.
Asylum seekers join fast
The number of asylum seekers hospitalized due to a protest fast at a Pacific island detention center has risen to 18, an increase of seven over the past three days, officials said yesterday. The hunger strikers are being treated at a hospital near the camp on the island of Nauru, where they began refusing food three weeks ago to protest Australia's refusal to accept them as refugees. A spokeswoman for the Australia's Immigration Department said the patients have been rehydrated and offered food.
■ United States
More bodies found in mud
Authorities on Sunday found the bodies of five more people caught in a mudslide that engulfed a church camp on Christmas, and urged people in mountain areas scorched by fall wildfires to prepare for heavy rains that could trigger more devastation. Two children washed away from the St Sophia Camp were found tangled in debris in a cement catch basin in downtown San Bernardino. Two women and a man were found closer to the camp. The grim discoveries brought the total number of bodies recovered from the Greek Orthodox camp to 12, with a baby boy and a teenage boy still unaccounted for.
Rebels kill five Russians
Five Russian soldiers were killed and six wounded in a series of attacks on military positions in the republic of Chechnya, an official in the Kremlin-backed Chechen administration said Sunday. Chechnya's separatist rebels open fire daily on Russian military positions in the republic, including checkpoints. In all, positions were fired on 15 times over the past day, the official said on condition of anonymity. In the republic's capital Grozny, a Chechen policeman's corpse was found on Sunday morning, the official said. Chechens who work with the Russian forces or civil administration are often targeted by rebels. Also Sunday, Apti Khakiyev, the deputy interior minister of Ingushetia, which borders Chechnya to the west, was killed when his car came under fire.
Former president sentenced
A Mauritanian court on Sunday convicted former president Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah of plotting to overthrow the current head of the northwest African state and handed him a five-year suspended jail term. Ould Haidallah, who had vehemently denied planning the ouster of President Maaouiya Ould Taya while running in a controversial election against him last month, was also ordered to pay 400,000 ouguiyas (US$1,550). He said he planned to lodge an appeal with the supreme court.
Smoky bars could go
The smoke-filled bar may soon be a thing of the past in Italy. Since yesterday, more than 200,000 bars and restaurants are subject to a new rule that requires designated smoking areas to be sealed off from the rest of the premises and equipped with powerful ventilators. Owners have 12 months to comply, or face heavy fines and temporary closure. A second rule, starting on New Year's Day, blocks vending machines from operating between 9am and 7pm. In the future, the machines will only accept purchases from customers with an electronic identity card proving they are not
Berger takes the lead
A pro-business former mayor of Guatemala City had a strong lead over a center-left engineer who billed himself as the candidate of the poor late Sunday in a presidential run-off election marred by low voter turnout. With 71 percent of the votes counted, conservative Oscar Berger had 55.9 percent, compared to 44.02 percent for his opponent, Alvaro Colom. Berger served as mayor of Guatemala City from 1990 until 1999 and garnered 29 percent more votes in the capital than his opponent, according to initial results released by the election commission.
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
RALLYING A DEFENSE: Former envoys wrote an op-ed piece defending Anna Lindstedt, who was removed for attempting to free Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai in China Sweden’s former ambassador to Beijing goes on trial in Stockholm on Friday for allegedly overstepping her mandate by trying to negotiate the release of a Chinese-Swedish dissident held in China. Anna Lindstedt is accused of brokering an unauthorized meeting during her time as ambassador to free publisher Gui Minhai (桂民海). Lindstedt — a veteran envoy who had previously represented Sweden in both Vietnam and Mexico, and acted as Sweden’s chief negotiator at the 2015 climate summit in Paris — has denied the charges. Gui, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders out of a Hong Kong book
‘LEAST WE CAN DO’: The gesture was made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality that targeted minorities They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the US in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by US President Donald Trump. As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody. “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do
From boiled catfish soup to spicy fried frog, an eight-year-old in pyjamas and a chef’s hat is delighting Myanmar with her culinary prowess in a nation still being told to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moe Myint May Thu’s mother posted a video online at the end of April showing off her daughter’s skills as the youngster threw together some spicy fried prawns. With her wide, gap-toothed grin, the video has bounced across social media and brought stardom to the child along with an online moniker: “Little Chef.” She now sells dishes to order and is counting the dividends. “I just