■ NEW ZEALAND
Big tax cuts announced
Taxpayers are to see their biggest personal tax cuts in 20 years in the annual budget as the Labour-led government battles to reverse sagging voter support ahead of a general election due by mid-November. Finance Minister Michael Cullen unveiled the NZ$62 billion (US$48 billion) budget yesterday, set to take effect in July. The centerpiece is a NZ$10.6 billion package of personal tax cuts — timed to take effect on Oct. 1, just weeks ahead of the poll. The income tax cuts — the first from Cullen in nine annual budgets he has delivered — are to roll out over three years.
■ SOUTH KOREA
Hostage pays US$10.3m
Police said yesterday they have arrested a 53-year-old man for kidnapping his millionaire former college classmate and extorting US$10.3 million from him. Police said the suspect, identified only as Lee, was arrested on Wednesday, a day after the victim was released from an 80-day confinement. Lee was accused of colluding with seven colleagues, who are still being hunted, to steal 10.8 billion won (US$10.3 million). The gang periodically drugged their victim to prevent him from contacting police and at other times ordered him to talk with his family by telephone so they would not become suspicious, the JoongAng Daily reported. They forced him to take out loans worth 7.8 billion won using his properties as collateral and drained 3 billion won from his bank account. Police started an investigation after the victim’s sister told them his home had been vacant for a long time and he was calling her at unusual hours. He was freed unharmed on Tuesday.
■ NEW ZEALAND
Tourist strips after whistles
An Israeli tourist who felt harassed when road workers whistled at her yesterday stripped naked in response, police said. Workmen in the small farming town of Kerikeri were repairing the main street when the young woman took offense at their attention. She calmly stripped bare to use an ATM, then put her clothes back on and walked away. Sergeant Peter Masters said the woman told police she didn’t take kindly to the men’s wolf-whistles. “She said she had thought, ‘I’ll show them what I’ve got,’” he said. “She’s not an unattractive-looking lady. She was taken back to the police station and spoken to and told that was inappropriate [behavior] in New Zealand,” he added.
■ UNITED STATES
Arctic voyage record set
A British yachtsman became the first man to sail around the world via the Arctic north of Russia on Wednesday. Adrian Flanagan, 47, set off on his 48,000km trip in October 2005 and returned to The Royal Southern Yacht Club on Wednesday morning. The Kenyan-born adventurer said it was a “tremendous relief” to have finished but added that there was “not a prayer” he would do it again because of the dangers it entailed. Incidents en route included being followed by pirates in Brazil and being swept overboard from his stainless steel sloop Barrabas just five days into the challenge.
Log tosser suspect arrested
Police arrested a 30-year-old drug user on Wednesday, accusing him of hurling a log off a bridge over a highway and killing a mother in the passenger seat of a moving car on March 23. That attack led to a spate of copycat attacks all over country. Nikolai H has admitted deliberately throwing the 6kg chunk of wood, which smashed through the windscreen of a family’s car on autobahn No. 29 near Oldenburg, police said. A 33-year-old woman in the car was killed nearly instantly. Her husband and two children survived. The suspect came forward on April 5, initially claiming he had discovered the log lying on the road before the attack and shifted it to the roadside so it would not be an obstruction. Police said he later admitted to throwing the log.