Ex-UN man blasts Mahathir
A war crimes tribunal set up by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad was criticized yesterday by a former UN official and activists, who say the body lacks legitimacy. Param Cumaraswamy, the former UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said there was no legal basis for the tribunal. He also told the Sun newspaper that during his tenure as prime minister Mahathir had not signed Malaysia onto a statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). "If he was genuinely concerned ... he should have got the government to sign the statute then. He never bothered," Param was quoted as saying. Last week Mahathir launched a tribunal which he said would focus on victims of abuse in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, saying the ICC was biased.
EU wants `killings' report
The EU wants to work with the Philippines to help end a spate of extrajudicial killings of activists and journalists, but it has yet to receive a copy of a fact-finding commission's report, an official said yesterday. The commission, headed by former Supreme Court justice Jose Melo, submitted its findings to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo last month, but the government has not released them. Melo was quoted as saying the probe showed "military elements" were involved in most of the killings. Arroyo has said soldiers and rebels were both to blame, and has defended the military against allegations of human rights abuses. The human-rights group Karapatan lists 832 summary killings since Arroyo took office in 2001.
■ South Korea
Racial tolerance encouraged
Fifth and sixth graders will be given textbooks on racial tolerance in an attempt to ease discrimination against mixed-race children, the education ministry said yesterday. The new ethics texts would deal with the difficulties facing children of multicultural backgrounds and adopted children. The books will be in use when the new school year begins next month. "The success story of the Korean-American Super Bowl hero Hines Ward raised fresh awareness of the discrimination experienced by mixed-race people in South Korea last year," Yang Won-taek, a senior ministry official, was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying. "We felt the need to change school textbooks to educate people, from their early childhood, on how to help biracial children live their lives as healthy members of South Korean society."
Awami drops Majlis alliance
The Awami League party has called off an election alliance with a radical Islamist group, a party official said, following pressure from its supporters and other allies. The Awami made the deal with the Khelafat Majlis in December, saying it was part of a strategy to win national elections. But the alliance with the Majlis -- who support the Islamist ideals of Afghanistan's Taliban -- was criticized by the league's partners who said it compromised the party's secular credentials.
Security officer detained
A National Security Committee officer has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in trafficking nearly 200kg of illegal drugs, including 53kg of heroin, the Interior Ministry said on Monday. Major Tokhirjon Rakhmatov was one of three men arrested on Sunday near Dushanbe after police found the drugs in the car they were riding in, an official said.
Police impound town
Police have impounded an entire neighborhood built illegally on the outskirts of Naples, part of an operation magistrates hope will uproot the Mafia wealth hidden behind the day-to-day mob shootings that plague the city. In three raids this month, police sealed off with crime scene tape 50 new buildings containing more than 300 flats as well as 22 small villas that have appeared on broccoli fields in Casalnuovo, on the rural fringes of Naples' sprawling suburbs. Local politicians may have used legislation allowing amnesties on illegal building to let the Naples Mafia start the construction, claimed Tommaso Sodano, head of the Italian senate's environmental commission.
Nazi stooge hospitalized
Nazi collaborator Maurice Papon, convicted for his role in deporting Jews to Auschwitz during World War II, has been admitted to hospital with heart problems, his lawyer said on Monday. Papon, 96, was taken to hospital last week and is due to have surgery in a private clinic this week to adjust his heart pacemaker, his lawyer Francis Vuillemin said. Papon was the first top French Vichy official to be convicted of complicity in crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail. His trial confronted France with the reality of its collaboration with Nazi occupiers. Papon walked free pending an appeal and briefly fled to Switzerland before being incarcerated in 1999.
■ United Kingdom
Turkey house reopened
Europe's largest turkey producer, Bernard Matthews, will have reopened the turkey slaughter house yesterday that was shut down after a bird flu outbreak. It was closed and 160,000 turkeys at a nearby farm were destroyed after the outbreak earlier this month. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs granted permission on Monday for it to reopen. The British outbreak has also ignited a diplomatic feud with Hungary after Britain announced last week it had concluded the disease probably entered the country in shipments of turkey meat from Hungary contaminated during a January outbreak there.
Inflation breaks record
The annual inflation rate leapt to a new record 1,593.6 percent last month, showing no respite in a crisis marked by chronic shortages of foreign exchange, food and fuel and unemployment of more than 80 percent. Inflation, which the government has dubbed its number one enemy, is the highest in the world. Critics blame President Robert Mugabe's politically-driven policies including the seizure of land from white farmers to resettle landless blacks.
Menchu mulls presidency
Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu announced the formation of an Indian-led political movement whose primary aim is to back her probable bid for the presidency this fall. Menchu is in talks with two minor leftist parties that have offered to make her their presidential candidate. The movement, known as Winaq, does not have time to register itself as a political party before September. "For the 200 years of the Guatemalan republic, we Indians have been voters but not elected officials and this is the moment to change that," Menchu told a news conference on Monday.
Bodies found in drug probe
Authorities on Monday exhumed the bodies of 12 people who may have died from taking medications contaminated with diethylene glycol, a chemical cousin of antifreeze. Medical examiners took tissue samples from the corpses after relatives voiced suspicions that their loved ones had been killed last year by tainted cough syrup, antihistamine tablets, calamine lotion or rash ointment. The exhumations are part of an investigation into a scandal in which companies allegedly sold tainted ingredients to the government health agency, which used them to produce medicines blamed in the deaths of at least 51 people.
■ United States
Bear drops by
The last thing Lorraine Grossman expected to see as she gazed out the kitchen window of her daughter's home in Maplewood, New Jersey, was a 95kg bear. The scream Grossman let out was loud enough to startle the wandering bear, who turned tail and scurried some 12m up a tree. More than 50 neighbors gathered to watch and the bear soon grew tired. The bear remained wedged in a web of branches until it was shot with a tranquilizer dart on Sunday. The bear hung on for 10 minutes before dropping neatly into a taut net set up below. The bear was released at a state wildlife-management area.
■ United States
Eggs baste highway
Drivers on their way to breakfast in northern Virginia found it all over the road after nearly 165,000 eggs spilled out of an overturned tractor-trailer and onto the Capital Beltway. "It looked like a large omelet," said Michael Karbonski, of the Virginia Department of Transportation. The tractor-trailer crashed into a guard rail early on Sunday, spilling its runny load and forcing officials to close an exit ramp and an interstate lane for several hours. The truck driver fled the scene before police arrived. State police spokesman Sergeant Terry Licklider said the driver would likely face charges for fleeing and possibly other offenses.
■ United States
Arabic public school to open
The New York City school system will open its first public school dedicated to teaching the Arabic language and culture in September, with half of its classes eventually taught in Arabic, officials said on Monday. The school, the Khalil Gibran International Academy, will serve grades 6 to 12 and will be in Brooklyn, although a specific location has not been determined. Debbie Almontaser, a 15-year veteran of the school system who is the driving force behind the school will be its principal. She said that ideally, the school would serve an equal mix of students with backgrounds in Arabic language and culture and those without such backgrounds.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big