Police arrest US soldier
A US serviceman has been arrested for the alleged sexual assault of a Japanese woman, the latest in a series of criminal accusations sparking anger against US military bases. James Littlejohn, a 22-year-old airman first class who belongs to the Misawa Air Base, was arrested on Friday on charges of groping a 19-year-old woman in Hachinohe, a police spokesman said. Littlejohn allegedly forcibly touched the woman’s breasts and buttocks. He then fled in his car, but was taken into custody after police stopped him based on a description.
Train victims confirmed
Forensic and DNA tests have confirmed the identities of the 72 people killed in the country’s deadliest train crash in a decade, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday. A train traveling from Beijing to Qingdao derailed on Monday and collided with an oncoming train. Nine carriages from the first train tumbled into a ditch, while the second train was knocked askew on the tracks. The results of the identification tests conformed with information from the families of the victims, the report said. A government investigative panel has said the train was traveling at 131kph and blamed excessive speed for the crash in Zibo, a town in Shandong Province.
Cops seize 20kg of opium
Police seized 20kg of opium slabs worth some 70,000 ringgit (US$20,600) from a suspected dealer in the northern Penang state, a news report said yesterday. Police surrounded the car of the suspect, aged in his 30s, and discovered 20 slabs of opium after searching the vehicle, state police chief Salleh Mat Rasid said. “We planned for four days before deciding to act against the suspect,” he said. The suspect was believed to be waiting for a buyer at the time of arrest. Police said the man was being held for questioning before he is charged with drug possession and trafficking.
Mine kills British soldier
A British soldier serving with the NATO force died in an explosion that wounded two other troops, the alliance’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said yesterday. The soldier was killed after the vehicle he was traveling in hit a mine during a routine patrol near southern Helmand Province’s Naw Zad district on Friday, British Lieutenant Colonel Robin Matthews said. The soldiers were serving with the 40-country ISAF force which earlier confirmed the death but not the soldier’s nationality. The latest fatality takes to 48 the number of international soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year, most while fighting the Taliban.
Indian’s execution delayed
The execution of an Indian man condemned to death was delayed, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday. President Pervez Musharraf rejected Sarabjit Singh’s mercy plea in March, but deferred his execution by hanging until April 30 after a request from India. “The implementation on the orders of Sarabjit’s hanging has been stopped temporarily. It’s not clemency or anything else,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq said. He said the government would make a decision after consulting various ministries. Singh was sentenced to death in 1991 for spying and carrying out bomb blasts that killed 14 people, but his family said he was innocent and had crossed the border into Pakistan accidentally while he was drunk. Pakistani officials said Singh was arrested while trying to slip back into India after the blasts.
Insurgents vow vengeance
A US airstrike that killed the suspected al-Qaida leader brought warnings of vengeance from Islamic insurgents and the threat of a boycott that could jeopardize peace talks with the UN-supported government. The biggest alliance supporting the Islamic insurgency said it might pull out of planned talks next Saturday on escalating fighting and a humanitarian crisis that has caused thousands of civilian deaths and displaced hundreds of thousands over the past year. “The US strike can undermine the UN-sponsored peace parlay,” said Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, exiled chairman of the Alliance for Liberation and Reconstitution of Somalia.
Mosquito invasion feared
Authorities in the south fear a possible mosquito invasion in tourist resorts this summer and blame EU regulations that prevent them from using the most efficient insecticide. The area affected runs from the Camargue down to the Spanish border. Agents from the Entente interdepartementale de demoustication (EID), which clears thousands of hectares of marshland each year, said the new rules are forcing them to carry out this year’s operation in record time, and with no guarantee of success, following recent rain. For the first time since the early 1960s they cannot use temephos — a pesticide now banned by the EU.
Chance to curb AIDS: UN
A real opportunity exists to curb the AIDS epidemic in eastern Europe and central Asia, provided current progress can be stepped up and kept up, a top UN official said on Friday. “The region has all the necessary human intellectual and infrastructures assets to make this a success,” said Peter Piot, executive director of the UN AIDS panel UNAIDS and UN assistant secretary general, speaking on the eve of an AIDS conference in Moscow. “I think it’s fair to say that in this region we’re at a critical turning point,” he said during a telephone conference. “If current progress can be accelerated and sustained, there is a real chance to stop HIV,” the virus that causes AIDS. But “looking at the epidemics, it’s clear that we are still in a very dynamic phase of the epidemic,” he said.
Troops clash with rebels
A government official said clashes between troops and Shiite rebels had resumed overnight in the aftermath of a bombing near a mosque in the north, where 18 worshippers died. The official says three soldiers and four of the rebels of Abdel-Malek al-Hawthi group have been killed in clashes in the remote mountain province of Saada near the Saudi border. Meanwhile, families buried yesterday their beloved ones killed when a bomb rigged to motorcycle blew up after Friday prayers, the official said.
Island swarmed by migrants
Fair weather and calm seas have seen ever more illegal migrants arrive from Turkey on the island of Leros, prompting an appeal to Athens for help yesterday. The eastern Aegean region’s prefect Ioannis Makhairidis called on central government authorities to declare a state of emergency on Leros after 300 more migrants — many of them minors — arrived there over the past three days. These swelled the already large numbers of migrants, which making it impossible for the local 8,000 population to sustain normal life, ANA news agency reported. It said a total of 115,000 illegal immigrants have arrived over the past 12 months.
■ UNITED STATES
Disorderly bride guilty
A bride and groom arrested at their wedding reception after the bride trashed a set of conga drums in a spat with the band have pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. The bride was also accused of breaking a speaker in a dispute over the music at the April 5 reception in the Port Chester, New York. Fabiana Reyes has been sentenced in Village Court to the six days she already spent in jail. The 41-year-old also paid the band US$1,500 for the damage. Her 42-year-old husband, Elmo Fernandez, and their 21-year-old daughter, Helen, also pleaded guilty to interfering with Reyes’ arrest.. The daughter says the couple were legally married in 1986 but delayed their church wedding until last month.
■ UNITED STATES
Nanny takes on coyote
A California nanny pulled a two-year-old girl from the jaws of a coyote when the animal attacked the toddler and tried to carry her away in its mouth, officials said. The girl was playing on Friday in a sandbox at Alterra Park in Chino Hills in San Bernardino County. Around 10:30am, the caretaker heard screaming and saw a coyote trying to carry the child off in its mouth, officials said. The babysitter grabbed the child and pulled her from the coyote’s grasp, the sheriff’s department said in a statement. The coyote ran into nearby brush. The child was treated for wounds to her buttocks, but was released.
■ UNITED STATES
Defendant arraigned in lot
A suburban New York music shop owner accused of selling knockoff Gibson Les Paul guitars has been arraigned in a pickup truck in a courthouse parking lot after his lawyer said the 227kg defendant could not walk into the courthouse. State Supreme Court Justice Robert Doyle said the man’s “severe weight problem” prompted the unusual proceeding on Thursday in Riverhead. A defense lawyer also had given the court a doctor’s letter.
■ UNITED STATES
Ex-death row inmate freed
A former death row inmate was freed on Friday after prosecutors dropped all charges against him in a killing in which his conviction was overturned two years ago. Levon Jones was convicted of robbing and shooting to death an alcohol bootlegger in 1987 in North Carolina. After his conviction in 1993, based largely on the testimony of his former girlfriend, Jones spent 13 years on death row. Appeals lawyers argued that his original defense at trial was incompetent, partly for failing to challenge the weak credibility of the girlfriend. In 2006, a federal judge agreed and threw out the original conviction, but Jones remained in jail awaiting retrial. A few weeks ago, the girlfriend recanted her testimony, saying that she had mostly lied in the trial. On Friday, North Carolina prosecutors dropped the charges against Jones, saying that they no longer had enough evidence to pursue a retrial.
Corpse found in freezer
A man from La Prairie, Quebec, was arrested on Friday after his mother’s corpse was found stuffed inside a freezer at their condemned home south of Montreal. Police made the grisly discovery on Thursday while searching the son’s home after a local clinic reported it had not heard from the 73-year-old woman for weeks, said police sergeant Martine Isabelle. The woman’s 50-year-old son, Daniel Martin, turned himself in to police on Thursday, said Isabelle. Isabelle said an autopsy could not be performed on Friday because the corpse was still frozen.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and