Government denies charges
The Philippine government defended itself yesterday against accusations that it had influenced a court to allow corruption-accused former president Joseph Estrada to leave jail to visit his holiday home. Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said there had been no government involvement in the decision of the special anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan, to allow Estrada to visit his villa east of Manila. "This is all under the control of the Sandiganbayan. Whatever was implemented by the jailers of our former president was within the decision ... of the Sandiganbayan," Bunye said. Prosecutors insist that the court would not have condoned Estrada's excursions without instruction from President Gloria Arroyo's government.
Red Crescent official killed
A director of the Afghan Red Crescent Society was shot dead in the troubled southern province of Zabul, officials said yesterday. Mohammad Isah was killed near the provincial capital of Qalat late on Saturday when armed men forced his car to stop, dragged him from the vehicle and executed him. His younger brother traveling in the same vehicle was unharmed. Zabul governor Kheyal Mohammad Husseini said it was too early to say who was behind the attack. "It is not yet clear," he said. "It could be a local problem, it could be the work of terrorists."
Space program to continue
Japan, undaunted by the failed launch of spy satellites late last year, aims to revive its H-2A rocket program by launching a weather satellite as early as November. Improvements on the rocket boosters that caused the failure last November are almost complete and a science ministry report is to be finalized today paving the way for the next launch. A spokesman for the space agency could not be reached for confirmation. In November Japan had to destroy its sixth H-2A rocket just 10 minutes after lift-off as one of its two rocket boosters failed to separate from the fuselage in the second phase of the flight.
TV helicopter crashes
A helicopter chartered by a TV news station crashed while filming a highway accident in central Japan yesterday, killing all four aboard, police said. Witnesses said the helicopter went down after it hit a power line, a Nagano prefecture police official said. A reporter and cameraman for Shinetsu Broadcasting were covering the collision of a truck and van about 240 km southwest of Tokyo when the helicopter crashed. The pilot and mechanic were also killed. The 53-year old pilot was a veteran with 5,500 hours of flying experience.
Nail-gun prank `stupid'
A handyman said he was stupid to shoot himself in the head with a nail gun in a prank which left him with a nail lodged in his brain. Brad Shorten, a father of three from Victoria state, was enjoying a few beers with friends when they began joking about industrial accidents. Shorten, 33, picked up a nail gun which he thought was empty, pointed it at his head and pulled the trigger. "My mates and I were talking about construction site accidents and taking your eye out with a nail gun, and I foolishly put the gun to my head and pulled the trigger," Shorten said. "I did a very stupid thing," he said.
Blast hits apartment
A powerful blast probably caused by a gas leak ripped through an apartment building in Moscow early yesterday injuring eight people, a spokesman for the capital's police said. Eight residents of the building were rushed to hospital, while other residents refused to be hospitalized, the Interfax news agency quoted Alexander Matonin as saying. The blast in a high-rise apartment building in the south of the city was probably caused by a gas explosion, the ITAR-TASS news agency quoted a police official as saying. "The witnesses' first testimonies and the nature of the damage" pointed to a gas explosion, the official said.
Aristide alleges kidnapping
Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide says his departure from his country was a "kidnapping" as heavily armed "white men" surrounded the National Palace, according to a statement released on Saturday. "During the night of the 28th of February 2004, there was a coup d'etat. One could say that it was a geopolitical kidnapping. I can clearly say that it was terrorism disguised as diplomacy," Aristide said in the statement, a transcript of a Friday radio address "to the Haitian People and the World" delivered by cellular telephone to a California radio station. The US has repeatedly dismissed Aristide's contentions that he was kidnapped when he left Haiti on Feb. 29.
■ United Kingdom
Abramovich nation's richest
The owner of Chelsea football club, Russian Roman Abramovich, is the richest person in Britain with a family fortune almost seven times that of Queen Elizabeth II, a report by a British weekly newspaper said on Saturday. Abramovich's ?7.2 billion (US$13.1 billion) wealth puts him top of the Mail on Sunday Rich Report 2004, ahead of food packaging tycoon Hans Rausing and the Duke of Westminster who owns a swathe of properties in central London. The report lists the 300 richest British-based men and women whose combined wealth comes to ?147.3 billion -- up 28 percent on on a year ago.
■ United States
Break for Mexican visitors
Some Mexicans will be able to enter the US without undergoing digital fingerprinting and photographing, broadcaster KEYE in Austin, Texas, reported late Saturday. Mexican President Vicente Fox concluded a two-day visit Saturday at the private home of US President George W. Bush in Texas. Fox announced Saturday that Bush had promised to waive requirements for digital biometric data collection on those Mexicans who make frequent trips into the US and hold so-called border crossing cards.
■ South Africa
Theron jets home
Award-winning actress Charlize Theron and her entourage jetted into South Africa on a free flight on Saturday, a week after she promised to bring home her Oscar. Theron sparked high excitement and pride in her home country when she took the Academy Award for best actress in a lead for her role in the film Monster last Sunday. A presidential reception and glitzy dinner is planned for the 28-year-old former ballerina and model, dubbed South Africa's "Golden Girl," during her stay in the country.
■ United Kingdom
Diana tapes shock Charles
Prince Charles was said to be deeply shocked at the broadcast Thursday of never-before-aired audio tapes by the US television network NBC, the Times of London newspaper reported Saturday. The 55-year-old prince is especially concerned about how his two sons, William, 21, and Harry, 19, will react to the renewed interest in their mother almost seven years after her death, according to the Times report. Around 17 million Americans tuned in to the first of two instalments, in which NBC aired passages of taped interviews made by a secret intermediary for a book that shocked royals and the British public when it appeared in 1992: Andrew Morton's best-selling Diana, Her True Story.
■ United States
David Crosby arrested
Musician David Crosby was arrested on marijuana and gun possession charges early Saturday at a Times Square hotel, hours after earning a standing ovation at a New Jersey concert, police said. Crosby, 62 was arrested at 1am at the DoubleTree Suites Hotel with 28 grams of marijuana, a .45-caliber handgun and a hunting knife in his possession, police said. The veteran rocker had checked out of the hotel, but left behind a piece of luggage. A hotel worker found the luggage, discovered the drugs and weapons and called authorities, police said. Crosby later called the hotel to say he would be returning to pick up the luggage, and was greeted by police when he came back, investigators said.
■ United States
New bird flu case found
A case of avian flu has been found at a commercial chicken farm on Maryland's Eastern Shore, the US agriculture department said. It is the same strain, H7, found last month in two flocks in Delaware, but officials said there was no known connection with the cases in the two states. The outbreak is at a Pokomoke City farm with about 118,000 6-week-old broiler chickens. Officials quarantined the farm on Friday evening. The birds were to be destroyed yesterday morning and their remains kept in the chicken houses where they are killed. Officials said 210,000 chickens on a nearby farm under the same ownership also would be destroyed because of "shared personnel and equipment." Also, the state agriculture department quarantined 71 farms in a 10km radius of the farm where the case was found.
US preparing genocide trials
The United States is dispatching a large team of prosecutors and other criminal experts to Iraq to prepare for likely genocide trials of Saddam Hussein and his closest associates, a justice official said late Saturday. The move marks the first specific step by the administration of President George W. Bush toward a practical resolution of the fate of the ousted Iraq leader blamed for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of his own citizens as well as those of neighboring countries. "We are just literally there as advisers to the Iraqi special tribunals," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We are joining the other nations of the coalition -- the Spanish, the British, the Australians, the Polish, and several others, who are also going to be contributing the same types of personnel." The first members of the US team, which includes about 50 prosecutors, investigators, legal and forensic experts, were scheduled to leave for Baghdad on the weekend.
‘DEEPLY DISTURBING’ In one extreme case at an Ontario nursing home, an elderly patient was believed to have choked to death while being fed lying down Conditions at Ontario nursing homes hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as described by troops helping out there, are “deeply disturbing,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday. The Canadian military last month deployed troops at the height of the pandemic to five elderly care homes in the nation’s most populous province to fill severe staff shortages. The military said that it found blatant disregard for infection control measures and “horrible” care of seniors that verged on abuse, a report said. The troops said that among other forms of mistreatment, residents had been “left in beds soiled in diapers,” crying for help and
Less than two months after detecting its first COVID-19 infection, Montenegro is the first nation in Europe to declare itself free of the coronavirus, a success story the tiny nation hopes would lure tourists to its Adriatic coast this summer. For weeks hotel staff have been raking empty beaches as the pandemic kept away visitors who would normally be arriving by plane, cruise ship and road this time of year, but finally there is a sliver of hope after Montenegro announced it no longer has any active cases of COVID-19. Tourism operators have already seized the opportunity to brand Montenegro as “Europe’s
With cat photographs and sometimes scathing irony, Switzerland-based Mathieu Rebeaud biochemistry researcher has nearly tripled his Twitter following since the COVID-19 pandemic began. With 14,000 followers, he posts almost daily, giving explanations on the latest scientific research and, in particular, aims to fight misinformation that spreads as fast as the novel coronavirus. He is among a growing number of doctors, academics and institutions who in the past several weeks have adapted and amplified their scientific messaging in hopes of countering what has been termed an “infodemic” — a deluge of information, including widespread false claims, which experts have said can pose a
NEW ZEALAND PM unfazed by quake Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern barely skipped a beat when an earthquake struck during a live TV interview yesterday morning. She interrupted Newshub host Ryan Bridge to tell him what was happening at the parliament complex in the capital, Wellington. “We’re just having a bit of an earthquake here Ryan, quite a decent shake here,” she said, looking up and around the room. “But, um, if you see things moving behind me.” The magnitude 5.6 quake struck in the ocean about 100km northeast of Wellington, the US Geological Survey said. The quake hit just before 8am and