Officials detained 16 transvestites for taking part in a beauty pageant, the New Sunday Times said yesterday. The participants were held as they contested the “Miss Universe Asia 2008” title at a resort hotel in the northeastern state of Kelantan, which is ruled by the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS), the paper said. The PAS wants to turn Malaysia into a theocratic state under Islamic rule, and has made headlines for ordering fines for women wearing skimpy clothes and stricter enforcement of laws on separate male and female lines in shops. Mohamad Abdul Aziz, chief assistant director of enforcement in the state, told the paper that 16 people aged between 20 and 30 were detained. Some were dressed in Malay traditional outfits and others in evening gowns, the paper said. Mohamad said another group of 50 transvestites who were preparing to join the competition managed to escape arrest, while about 300 people were present at the hotel to watch the event.
Scientists granted bail
Two Czech scientists arrested for allegedly stealing rare butterflies and insects in order to sell them on the Internet were granted bail on Saturday, an official said on Saturday. Emil Kucera, 52, and Petr Svacha, 51, were arrested last month at a hotel in Darjeeling. Officials said they were caught with more than 50 species of butterflies and rare insects captured in a national park. Forest officer Utpal Nag said authorities have a strong case against the visiting scientists. The pair, who deny the charges, have received support from the international scientific community and a petition with more than 500 signatures demanding their release has been presented to the prime minister.
Pedophile sentenced to jail
A 49-year-old HIV-positive musician who molested boys in Cambodia was jailed on Friday for six-and-a-half years, with the court ruling that he must be detained afterwards until he was no longer a risk. Judge Stefan Becker said in Kiel that the accused was perverted, incorrigible and unwilling to accept behavioral therapy. “He can’t alter the fact that he is a pedophile, but if he had wanted, he could have changed the way he copes with his pedophilia,” Becker said. An eight-year-old Cambodian boy had credibly testified about the sex acts with boys. The victim was only six at the time. The man is already serving a sentence for using a forged Danish passport to travel to Cambodia. His German passport had been taken away from him because of earlier offenses.
Storm kills three at sea
Three people died in rough seas when one of the worst storms to hit the country in a decade blasted the North Island, news reports said. Two fishermen died as their commercial boat was blown onto rocks in the Bay of Plenty yesterday morning. A helicopter winched two others off the boat. The body of James Moore, a rafting guide who fell from his canoe in 7m sea swells, was found washed up onto an island. Police said Moore disappeared about 500m from shore as he and three others took to the sea after a race they were to compete in was canceled. The other three made it back to land. Winds gusting to 165km an hour lashed the North Island, leaving 60,000 homes without electricity and blocking highways with landslides and floodwaters. The MetService had warned the country to prepare for “no ordinary storm.”
Navy joins US exercise
The navy is participating for the first time in the “Rim of the Pacific” exercise with 20,000 personnel from the maritime forces of nine other countries, officials said yesterday. Hosted by the US Navy, the exercise consists of an onshore planning phase as well as a 22-day sea phase off the coast of Hawaii. Singapore dispatched the RSS Steadfast, a frigate, to join the 34 ships, six submarines and 150 aircraft from Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Peru, the UK and the US, a navy statement said. The exercise started yesterday and continues through Thursday.
Court upholds execution
A court upheld the death sentence of a former securities trader charged with embezzling 97.56 million yuan (US$14.31 million), the Legal Daily reported yesterday. Yang Yanming (楊彥明) was sentenced to death in 2005 and has kept silent on the whereabouts of the misappropriated funds, the paper said. He was the general manager of the Beijing securities trading department of China Great Wall Trust and Investment.
King endorses new minister
King Bhumibol Adulyadej endorsed Tej Bunnag as the new foreign minister, a royal statement said on Saturday. Tej’s appointment comes after his predecessor, Noppadon Pattama, was forced to resign on July 10 for signing an agreement with Cambodia later ruled unconstitutional. British-educated Tej, 64, is a career diplomat and has been working as a royal adviser since he retired in 2004. His first crucial task will be to represent Thailand in peace talks with Cambodia in Siem Reap today in a bid to end a tense stand off by thousands of troops on the border.
Drunks force landing
Two British women caused panic on a holiday flight from Greece when they attacked cabin staff with a vodka bottle and fought to open the emergency exit at 9,000m, one screaming: “I want some fresh air!” The drunken pair had to be wrestled to the ground and restrained with plastic handcuffs as astonished passengers looked on. The XL Airways Boeing 737 charter flight from the Greek island of Kos to Manchester was forced to make an emergency landing in Germany, where heavily armed police hauled away the women, aged 26 and 27, to cheers from other travelers.
Eight foreign workers seized early on Saturday near a major oil export terminal south of the country were released hours later, an army spokesman said. “The eight men have been voluntarily released by the kidnappers and no ransom was paid,” Lieutenant-Colonel Musa Sagir said, without giving details on who the kidnappers were. Six armed men in speedboats had attacked a ship near the major oil export terminal of Bonny Island, firing at two civilians and seizing the eight workers, he said earlier, describing their motives as “financial and criminal.” The raid came a day after five foreign oil workers were kidnapped during a similar attack in the same area.
Mbeki gives advice on Bashir
President Thabo Mbeki said on Saturday that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir must not be prosecuted for war crimes, for fear of upsetting the peace process in Darfur. Mbeki said Bashir’s continued presence as head of state was also required to assist Sudan’s general post-civil war security. “It is important that both of those processes should proceed and both of them require the very active participation of President Bashir,” Mbeki told public TV in an interview given on Friday in Bordeaux, France, where he had attended an EU-South Africa summit.
FARC representative nabbed
Police on Saturday arrested a woman suspected of being the representative of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in the country, media reported, quoting police and government sources. The 57-year-old Spanish woman, Maria Remedios Garcia Albert, raised funds for FARC, the El Mundo newspaper said, citing the Interior Ministry. E-mails sent to her from computers used by Raul Reyes, the FARC chief killed during a Colombian military raid into Ecuador in March, led to her arrest in Madrid, the newspaper said. No one at the police or Interior Ministry was available to comment on the reports on Saturday.
Twenty-nine people convicted of drug trafficking, murder and rape were hanged in Tehran’s Evin prison yesterday, in the largest mass execution in the Islamic republic for years, the state broadcaster said . The hangings were carried out in the notorious prison at 5:10am, it said on its Web site. The latest hangings brought to at least 155 the number of executions carried out in the country this year. Amnesty International reported that last year the Islamic Republic applied the death penalty more often than any other country apart from China, executing 317 people during the year. The hanged men had records of repeated crimes including rape, murder with torture and armed robbery.
Thieves take paintings
Thieves disguised as cops stopped a truck and made off with 15 paintings of late Antonio Berni “of great national value,” Culture Secretary Jose Nun said on Saturday. “The robbers, disguised as cops, forced the truck to make a detour, transferred the cargo to another truck and threatened our employees with weapons,” said Jorge Mendez, who runs the transportation company that owns the truck. The artist’s son Juan Antonio Berni described the stolen paintings as “the core work” of his father, who died in 1981. Auction house reports show that Berni’s paintings have been sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Volcano goes active
The Llaima volcano, one of the country’s most active, erupted again on Saturday, sending a stream of lava down its slope and spewing a long plume of ash, authorities said. At the same time, the Chaiten volcano rumbled once again and could be preparing for another eruption, a local volcanologist said. Recent seismic activity and ash emissions from Chaiten could lead to the “worst-case scenario” for reactivation, Jorge Munoz of the nation’s geological service said. The Chaiten volcano, located 1,200km south of Santiago, began erupting on May 2, emitting clouds of ash and rock that forced the evacuation of thousands around the town of Chaiten. Residents have yet to return.
Three swimmers missing
Authorities said three swimmers drowned and three are missing in two days of treacherous ocean currents at Long Island and New York City beaches. At least three more have been rescued. In Long Beach, police lieutenant Bruce Meyer said a swimmer or surfer died on Saturday after he was spotted struggling about 45m from shore. Another man had drowned at the same beach on Friday while playing football in the water after lifeguard hours. A third swimmer drowned on Friday afternoon at Sandy Bar Beach on Long Island’s East End.
Woman gives 18th birth
A Romanian immigrant has given birth to her 18th child in British Columbia, making her the province’s most prolific mother in 20 years. Proud dad Alexandru Ionce said on Saturday that his 44-year-old wife, Livia, gave birth on Tuesday. Their daughter Abigail weighed in at 3.5kg. “We never planned how many children to have. We just let God guide our lives, you know, because we strongly believe life comes from God and that’s the reason we did not stop the life,” Alexandru Ionce said. The couple immigrated from Romania in 1990 and now live in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
Randy Pausch dies
Randy Pausch, a computer science professor whose “last lecture” about facing terminal cancer became an Internet sensation and a best-selling book, died on Friday. He was 47. Pausch died at his home in Chesapeake, Virginia, said Jeffrey Zaslow, a Wall Street Journal writer who co-wrote Pausch’s book. Pausch was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer in September 2006. His popular last lecture at Carnegie Mellon University in September 2007 garnered international attention and was viewed by millions on the Internet. In it, Pausch celebrated living the life he had always dreamed of instead of concentrating on impending death. The book The Last Lecture leaped to the top of the nonfiction best-seller lists after its publication in April and remained there last week.
CLOSELY TRACKED: A US officer said that the warplanes were watched as they flew from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya and were photographed multiple times The US Africa Command flatly rejected Russian claims that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on Friday that the 14 aircraft flown in reflect Russia’s long-term goal to establish a foothold in the region that could threaten NATO allies. US Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director of intelligence, said that the US tracked the MiG-29s and Su-24 fighter bombers flown in by Russian military, passing through Iran and Syria before landing at Libya’s al-Jufra air base. The base is the main forward airfield for Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army, which has been waging an
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
Singapore’s otters, long adored by the city-state’s nature lovers, are popping up in unexpected places during the COVID-19 lockdown, but their antics have angered some and even sparked calls for a cull. With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping center, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish stolen from a pond. While many think of tiny Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also relatively green for a busy Asian city, and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant wildlife. There are estimated to be about
‘LEAST WE CAN DO’: The gesture was made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality that targeted minorities They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the US in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by US President Donald Trump. As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody. “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do