BASE jumper rescued
Emergency workers rappelled down a cliff yesterday to rescue a BASE jumper trapped on a ledge 100m from the ground after his parachute became entangled on the cliff, a rescue service spokeswoman said. The man jumped off the cliff at Christmas Creek southwest of Brisbane but his chute apparently became snagged one-third of the way down the 150m high drop. He was rescued unhurt by State Emergency Service staff said the spokeswoman."He has no injuries so it's a lovely happy ending," she said. BASE jumping involves parachutists leaping off stationary objects such as buildings, bridges and cliffs.
Anti-PM protesters freed
Forty people who were arrested in Bangkok after illegally holding a demonstration on government premises have been released, police said yesterday. A few thousand supporters of media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul rallied in downtown Lumpini Park on Friday after which hundreds then broke into the grounds of Government House, calling on Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to resign. The 40 protesters, who were arrested on Saturday morning after ignoring police requests to leave, were freed unconditionally later that day, a police spokesman said. Thaksin in his weekly radio address on Saturday vowed to prosecute the protesters, saying they broke the law.
■ North Korea
US aid worker honored
Pyongyang has awarded a posthumous medal to an American aid worker to honor his relief work in North Korea the Yonhap news agency reported yesterday. The award was bestowed on Ellsworth Culver, former head of US-based aid agency Mercy Corps, at a ceremony in Portland, Oregon on Tuesday, according to Yonhap. The award is unusual given the relations between North Korea and theUS, which technically have been at war since the 1950-1953 Korean War. The two nations are currently locked in a standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. Culver, who died at the age of 78 in August last year, travelled to North Korea as Mercy Corps chief about 20 times to deliver medical and food supplies.
Militant suspect nabbed
Police arrested four suspected militants, three with links to an alleged Malaysian terror chief blamed for a series of bloody bombings in Indonesia since 2002, media reports said yesterday. National Police spokesman Brigadier General Anton Bachrul Alam said he could not yet comment on the case because the arrests had not been confirmed by the police anti-terror squad. The Jakarta Post newspaper said three suspected militants arrested on Friday in the town of Semarang in central Java had ties with Noordin Top, believed to be a senior member of the al-Qaeda-linked Southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiyah. Another suspect was detained in nearby Klaten district, the report said.
Rebels free activists
Communist rebels, disguised as army soldiers, raided a provincial jail and freed nine leftist activists, officials said yesterday. The guerrillas swooped on the jail in Batangas City, south of Manila, late on Saturday. Jail warden Lutgardo Catanauan said the five guards at the facility were disarmed and hog-tied by the rebels, who also took an undetermined number of firearms from the armory. He said at least one other inmate was able to escape during the attack.
Passage to India blocked
Egypt and France were locked in legal wrangling on Saturday over a decommissioned aircraft carrier containing asbestos, leaving the French warship stranded off the Egyptian coast for the third day running. Egypt said it could not allow the Clemenceau -- whose final destination is an Indian scrapyard -- to enter the Suez canal without the documents requested under the Basel convention banning the export of toxic waste. But the French defence ministry said it provided all necessary documents and stressed that the Clemenceau did not fall under the Basel convention.
Suspected Islamists held
Spain's High Court on Saturday remanded in custody 14 suspected Islamists accused of recruiting militants to send to Iraq to carry out suicide bombings as part of the al-Qaeda network, judicial sources said. Judge Fernando Andreu said in a court order that one group of eight suspects, based in the northeastern Catalan town of Vilanova i la Geltru, was based around a mosque. Iman Mohamed Samadi gave "radical speeches, particularly at Friday prayers, in which he requested prayers for mujahidins, or for people who had given their lives for the jihad [holy war]."
Sheikh Jaber dies
The ruler of the oil-rich Gulf state of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, died early yesterday after lengthy illness, state television announced. He was 78. According to Kuwait's Constitution the emir's distant cousin, Crown Prince Sheikh Saad Abdullah al-Sabah, who is 77 and ailing, should take over as emir. Analysts are predicting that Kuwait's Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, brother of the emir who runs the day-to-day political affairs of the country, will continue to manage those political affairs. Sheikh Jaber became emir in 1977 and for 29 years steered Kuwait through difficult times such as the eight-year Iran-Iraq war which ended in 1988.
Mourners remember Harrer
A special envoy of the Dalai Lama on Saturday joined mourners in a small Carinthian town to pay a last tribute to Heinrich Harrer, the Austrian mountaineer, explorer and writer who had become a friend and teacher of the Tibetan spiritual leader. Harrer, who died last week at 93, was a former Nazi who fled a British prisoner of war camp in India for the northern Himalayas. Keisang Gyaltsen, who represented the Dalai Lama at the memorial service, said that Harrer was "the last world-famous contemporary witness of a free Tibet."
Presidential vote begins
Finnish polling stations opened yesterday in a presidential election in which incumbent Tarja Halonen is the clear favorite. Finland's president is elected by popular vote every six years over two rounds, if no candidate secures an outright majority in the first round. Opinion polls showed Halonen with the support of up to 55 percent of the electorate, numbering 4.2 million voters. Halonen is facing seven other candidates. Her closest challengers are the Conservative Party leader Sauli Niinistoe and centrist Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, who are projected to take about 20 percent and 18 percent of the vote respectively.
■ United States
Parents told to stay home
A married couple who left the man's two young children home alone while they partied in Las Vegas for New Year's Day pleaded no contest to child endangerment and were sentenced to home confinement, a prosecutor said. Jacob Calero, 39, was given a 270-day sentence for two felony child endangerment counts, and Michelle De La Vega, 32, was ordered to serve 180 days for a misdemeanor accessory charge, prosecutor Dara Cashman said. They entered their pleas and received their sentences on Thursday. Joshua Calero, 10, and his mildly autistic brother, five-year-old Jason, were found unattended in their San Ramon home on Dec. 31. They spent one night alone before their maternal grandmother called police.
President will be `practical'
President-elect Evo Morales, further distancing himself from his fiery campaign rhetoric, said on Saturday he learned from a 10-day world tour that he needs to be pragmatic and do "good business" for Bolivia. "I understand perfectly that it's important to be practical," he told a news conference. "Now I am much more convinced that the work of the government, the work of the president, is to do good business for the Bolivian people." Morales, who campaigned on a platform of nationalizing the country's energy resources and ending US-backed efforts to halt coca cultivation, takes office on Jan. 22.
■ United States
Politicians eat raccoon
In most places, a politician has to kiss babies in order to succeed. Arkansas politicians have to eat raccoon. At the small east Arkansas town of Gillett every year, candidates and political junkies gather for its annual Coon Supper. The event is the ultimate meet-and-greet for the state's politicians. US Representative Marion Berry hosts a party at his farm before the annual dinner. He credits the gathering with his own political fortune. ``If it weren't for the Coon Supper, I probably wouldn't be in public life today," Berry said.
■ United States
Man sentenced to church
A judge sentenced a suburban Cincinnati man to attend services for six weeks at a predominantly black church for threatening to punch a black cab driver and using racial slurs.Brett Haines, 36, of Anderson Township, Ohio, picked church over spending 30 days in jail. Judge William Mallory offered Haines the choice on Friday after he was convicted of disorderly conduct. Haines was arrested in November for threatening cab driver David Wilson and Wilson's wife and telling them he hated black people. "It seems readily apparent to me that you don't like black people," Mallory told Haines. "That's OK with me. But you have to understand that you are at the whim and authority of a black judge."
■ United States
Family discredits testimony
An Indiana truck driver who claims that his identical twin brother, not he, tried to sell the names of US agents to Iraq's government, found his defense undermined by his own family. Shaaban Hafiz Ahmad Ali Shaaban's older brother testified on Friday in federal court in Indianapolis that no such twin exists. Meanwhile, Shaaban's 29-year-old son, Russian-born Ahmed Shaaban, testified that his father maintained several different passports and identities.The government alleges Shaaban traveled to Baghdad in late 2002 and agreed to sell the names of US agents and operatives to Iraq for US$3 million.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘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
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative