Captain caught with clams
Japanese authorities formally arrested a Chinese ship captain yesterday for transporting clams from North Korea in violation of a ban on all imports from the country, an official said. The captain, 58-year-old Liu Mingguo, is suspected of trying to bring 55 tonnes of clams from North Korea to the southern port of Shimonoseki on board a Chinese-flagged cargo ship in February, Coast Guard official Yukitoshi Masaki said. The case is the first known violation of Tokyo's total ban on imports from North Korea following its nuclear test in October, Kyodo News agency reported.
Longest concert ends
Japanese musicians overcame fatigue and a strong earthquake to set the record for the world's longest concert yesterday, playing nonstop for 184 hours in a program that ranged from Beethoven to the Beatles. More than 900 musicians aged six to 89 took turns performing in the nine-day marathon -- with breaks of no more than five minutes between acts -- at a small railway station in Hikone city in western Japan, according to organizer Kuniko Teramura. An official from the Guinness Book of World Records was on standby to certify the record at 10am yesterday, she said.
Anti-graft official ousted
Malaysia's top anti-corruption official, who is facing a police investigation into graft allegations against him, will not have his contract renewed, a report said yesterday. Zulkipli Mat Noor's contract to head the Anti-Corruption Agency expired yesterday, according to the official Bernama News Agency, which said the prime minister's department announced just before midnight on Friday that it would not be extended. No reason was given, Bernama said. Zulkipli, 57, has refuted the graft allegations, saying that accusations of unaccounted wealth were "baseless."
Rat poison sickens 57
Fifty-seven people were hospitalized after eating food laced with rat poison at a restaurant in eastern China, state media said on Friday. Customers who ate breakfast on Thursday morning at the restaurant in Zhejiang Province's Yongkang City fell ill and were admitted to hospital, the official Xinhua news agency said. Tests confirmed they had ingested rat poison, it said. Police are investigating the incident and suspect that someone deliberately poisoned the food, it said. All the patients, including children from two local primary schools and a kindergarten, were in stable conditions, it said. China has suffered hundreds of deaths from poisonings in recent years.
Sex education ruled out
India's Maharashtra state has refused to introduce sex education in schools, with politicians saying it can corrupt young minds, a news report said yesterday. The western state's government also banned books that instruct teachers on how to present sex education in the schools, following opposition from lawmakers, the Indian Express newspaper reported. The decision was recently announced by Hasan Mushrif, junior state minister for school education, in the state legislature. Maharashtra is considered India's richest state and its capital, Mumbai, is the country's financial and entertainment hub. Although India is making economic strides, most people remain conservative about sex and even talking about it is still considered taboo. Engaging in homosexual acts is a crime.
■ UNITED STATES
Mob trains in strip club
Two accused members of a notorious New York crime family turned a strip club into a training ground for mobsters, prosecutors told a jury on Thursday in closing arguments in a Mafia extortion trial Salvatore "Fat Sal" Scala, 64, an accused Gambino crime family captain, and Thomas "Monk" Sassano, 61, an alleged soldier in Scala's crew, both face extortion charges in Manhattan federal court. Prosecutors said the men used the VIP Club to host lavish parties for business associates and extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from the club.
Bolivians denied entry
A group of 82 Bolivians tried a novel way to migrate to Europe: They took a luxury cruise. The Bolivian group embarked in Brazil alongside well-heeled Argentine and Dutch passengers, but when the vessel reached its European stopovers of Tenerife, Cadiz and Valencia this week, police officers refused to let them into the country. A spokesman for the interior ministry said immigration officials suspected they had come to reunite with family and find jobs. Bolivians do not require tourist visas to enter the country. Some 4,000 have passed through Madrid's Barajas airport in the past 10 days.
Pharaoh's hair retrieved
An archeological team traveled to France on Thursday to retrieve 3,200-year-old strands of hair from the mummy of Pharaoh Ramses II. The existence of the hair came to light last year when some of the strands were offered for sale on the Internet for between US$2,668 and US$3,336, in addition to tiny pieces of resin and embalmed cloth taken from the mummy. The seller said he obtained the relics from his deceased father, who had worked in a French laboratory entrusted with analysing and restoring the body of Ramses in the 1970s. French authorities arrested the suspected seller in November.
Skinny models discouraged
Skinny models will not be banned from Paris catwalks but a voluntary charter to make the fashion industry more aware of the health risks of being very thin will be introduced, the Health Ministry said on Friday. Designers, model agencies and others in the fashion industry have been widely attacked for promoting an emaciated look that seems to contribute to eating disorders in young women. Countries like Spain, Italy, Brazil and India have taken steps to keep underweight models off catwalks. Two anorexic Latin American models died last year. The Health Ministry official said a commission reviewing the issue would not recommend a ban.
US arms shield unwelcome
The government denied yesterday that it was ready to let the US place part of its controversial missile defense shield on Russian territory. Foreign ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement that such reports "do not accord with reality and absolutely do not reflect Russia's position on the problem of missile defense." His statement came after a foreign ministry official said anonymously on Friday that the government would consider allowing the deployment on its territory of elements of a collective missile defense shield for the European continent, with US participation.
■ UNITED STATES
Midshipmen found `immature'
A Naval Academy probe into allegations of lewd behavior and heavy drinking on a Caribbean cruise found that up to 10 midshipmen were "immature" but committed no crimes. The findings were announced on Friday. The investigation began after a passenger alleged that she and other women were groped on the Carnival cruise ship Glory during the academy's spring break from March 10 to March 18. Some of the midshipmen also were accused of offering alcohol to teenage girls. The investigation determined there were 37 midshipmen on the ship.
■ UNITED STATES
Taxi driver stiffed on fare
A taxi driver told police he was stiffed on a US$8,200 cross-country fare by a woman he shuttled roughly 4,200km from Beverly Hills, California, to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The meter in Levon Mikayelyan's taxi cab hit the staggering fare after a journey that ended at a Holiday Inn. Mikayelyan said the rider's family paid him only US$800, Chapel Hill police spokeswoman Jane Cousins said on Friday. "We do get reports of people who are not able to pay cab drivers, but certainly not with this amount," Cousins said. Authorities and the cab company did not release the woman's name and it was unclear why she chose to take a taxi instead of another means of transportation.
■ UNITED STATES
Astronaut to run marathon
An astronaut who was determined not to lose her place in the Boston marathon will run this month's race in space and circle the world twice before the winner crosses the finish line. Sunita Williams will be tethered to a treadmill aboard the international space station 338km above Earth when the starting gun fires on April 16. At an orbiting speed of 28,164kph, she will travel the race distance of 42km 5.4 seconds. Williams, 41, an American astronaut who joined the space station crew in December, qualified for the race by finishing last year's Houston marathon in 3 hours, 29 minutes and 57 seconds.
■ UNITED STATES
Gin and tonic bandit nabbed
A scofflaw who came to be known as the gin and tonic bandit went to the same restaurant every Wednesday for a month, ordered two drinks and a rib-eye steak, then skipped out on his US$25.96 bill. His dining, drinking and dashing days might be over. Police arrested Douglas Samulak, 56, of Nashville, Tennessee, on preliminary charges of theft and resisting law enforcement. He was jailed on a US$2,000 bond. Each Wednesday night for four weeks running, the same man had come into the same O'Charley's restaurant and ordered the two drinks and the steak, restaurant manager Teresa Tolbert told police.
■ UNITED STATES
Tornadoes wreak havoc
Another wave of storms swept through Texas and Oklahoma, spawning at least three tornadoes in central Texas, dumping rain into swollen creeks and rivers and forcing an evacuation at an assisted living center. The storms on Friday came just days after dozens of tornadoes swept from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the central Plains, killing at least four people in three states. As the slow-moving thunderstorms moved into Oklahoma, more than 80mm of rain fell. Authorities issued flash flood warnings in 10 counties in the southern and central parts of the state. In central Texas, tornadoes damaged an indoor rodeo arena and yanked down power lines.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”