Iranian lunch cancelled
A lunch meeting between a leading parliamentarian and counterparts from Iran has been canceled because the beer-loving Belgian could not stomach a ban on alcohol. "Even for the tolerant Herman De Croo, that was a bridge too far," De Croo, a Dutch-speaking Liberal, said. De Croo, president of parliament's lower house, had been due to entertain the speaker and members of the Iranian parliament yesterday during their visit to Belgium -- famous for its diversity of beer brands. But he said lunch had been canceled because the Iranians, who as Muslims do not drink alcohol, wanted their hosts to do the same.
Shooting in the air banned
A top Shiite Muslim cleric issued a fatwa edict banning shooting in the air after three people were killed by gunfire celebrating the re-election of the Shiite parliament speaker. Shooting in the air and setting off fireworks among people or on the streets, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah said, "is forbidden because of its major negative consequences and because it is intimidating and annoying." Rifle shots and gunfire echoed around Beirut from the moment warlord-turned-politician Nabih Berri was re-elected speaker.
Police chief run over
A graft-tainted former police chief fell out of a squad car which then rolled over his legs in a bizarre incident after a court ruled he would face a second trial on corruption charges. Tafa Balogun is accused of stealing and laundering US$100 million in his three years as police inspector general in one of the most high-profile cases resulting from a government crackdown on graft. Police tried to drive Balogun away to complete bail formalities but his defense lawyer resisted and in the confusion Balogun was shoved into a police car which sped off before the doors were closed. A short distance away Balogun fell out of the car and the back wheels went over his legs.
■ United Kingdom
Abortion law change nixed
Proposals to amend the UK abortion law to stop women having late terminations were overwhelmingly rejected by British doctors. After a passionate debate, the British Medical Association voted by three to one to maintain the present limits, restricting abortions to the first 24 weeks of pregnancy except in extreme circumstances. The conference was told that many women had a late termination because local health boards failed to provide facilities for a prompt abortion at an earlier stage in the pregnancy.
■ United Kingdom
Victim wins record sum
The Roman Catholic church was warned by lawyers that it is likely to face further claims for compensation for the prolonged sexual abuse of children carried out by one of its priests after a victim was awarded a record ?635,000 (US$1,140,000) in damages. The figure, awarded to a 35-year-old man who was abused over a 10-year period by the priest, Father Christopher Clonan, is the largest settlement the church has conceded in the UK. The man, known as A, was abused between the ages of seven and 18, and now suffers from schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder and has lived for the past five years in a mental health home. By the time the boy was 12 he was being anally raped and forced to perform oral sex.
■ United States
Teacher, students arrested
Two failing students face arson charges after accepting teacher Tramesha Lashon Fox's offer of a passing score in exchange for torching her car in a botched insurance scheme, Texas authorities said on Wednesday. "All three have confessed," senior fire investigator Dustin Deutsch of the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office said. Fox, 32, was in the process of surrendering to authorities, Deutsch and Fox's attorney told reporters. Roger Luna, 18, was arrested on Tuesday while Darwin Arias, 17, was not yet in custody, Deutsch said. The two males each face one count of arson, punishable by two to 20 years in prison. Fox faces charges of arson and insurance fraud, also punishable by two to 20 years in prison.
Bombing suspect shot
Police shot dead a suspected suicide bomber near Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's office in Ankara yesterday. Television showed live footage of police shooting at the man, said to be around 35 years old, in a street in the leafy central district of the capital. A reporter saw the man lying dead in a pool of blood. Witnesses said the suspected bomber had been unable to detonate his explosives. The incident revived memories of four devastating suicide bomb attacks in Turkey's largest city Istanbul in November 2003. More than 60 people were killed in those attacks.
Demolition turns deadly
The Zimbabwe police finished demolishing a squatter camp outside Harare that once had at least 10,000 residents on Thursday, killing as many as four people, a day after a UN envoy met with President Robert Mugabe to discuss the refugee crisis that similar mass evictions have set off. After three days of work, the police destroyed and burned the remains of the Portafarm settlement. Mugabe's government established the camp more than a decade ago for homeless peasants who had migrated to the city seeking work. Human rights and charitable groups said two women had died in the demolition.
Displaced citizen gets home
A man who has lived for more than a year at Nairobi's international airport to protest being denied entry to Britain has finally been granted UK citizenship and plans to fly there within days. In a real-life African version of Tom Hanks' movie The Terminal, Sanjai Shah, 43, has been eating cafeteria food, sleeping on plastic transit lounge chairs, and showering in arrival hall toilets since May last year. Shah obtained a British Overseas Citizen passport since he was born in Kenya when it was under colonial rule. But when he flew to England without a return ticket or sufficient funds, he was deported with "prohibited immigrant" stamped in his passport -- negating the document.
Coffee foils robbery
A shop clerk armed with a pair of scissors and a cup of coffee foiled a robbery in the capital Zagreb on Thursday, state news agency Hina reported. A man in a motorcycle helmet entered the corner shop brandishing a knife and told the cashier to hand over the money in the cash register, Hina said, quoting a police report. "The collected and brave shop-clerk, 50, pointed a pair of scissors at him, then took a cup of hot coffee in her other hand and poured it on him," the report said. The robber, who is believed to have suffered burns, ran off with only the clerk's mobile phone.
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
PLAYING THE VICTIM? A Chinese spokesman sent a statement to Australian media saying that Beijing had ‘irrefutable’ evidence of Canberra’s widescale espionage Australia yesterday unveiled the “largest-ever” boost in cybersecurity spending, days after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out about a wave of state-sponsored attacks suspected to have been carried out by China. Morrison and government officials said the country would spend an additional A$1.35 billion (US$928 million) on cybersecurity, about a 10 percent hike, taking the budget for the next decade to A$15 billion. The largest chunk of the new money would help create 500 jobs within the Australian Signals Directorate, the government’s communications intelligence agency. Morrison on June 19 said that a “state-based actor” was targeting a host of