Beware the Migaloo
Officials yesterday warned the public to stay away from “Migaloo,” a much-loved white humpback whale who has reappeared off the eastern coast. Queensland authorities reminded enthusiasts Migaloo was a “special-interest” whale with a 500m exclusion zone for boats, jetskis and aircraft enforced by a maximum fine of US$13,300. “The whale-watching regulations are there to protect the whales, but also to protect people from these huge, unpredictable mammals,” state environment minister Kate Jones said. “Adult humpbacks can weigh more than a fully loaded semi-trailer so you need to stay out of their way.”
Royalty defers ban decision
A council of the royalty has deferred a decision on whether to ban religious conversion of minors by one parent without the spouse’s consent — a source of several interfaith disputes in this Muslim majority country. A meeting of the king and state sultans decided late on Monday that they would consult Islamic authorities first before deciding whether to approve a proposed amendment banning such conversions without both parents’ consent. That puts on hold proposed amendments to laws that were aimed at appeasing non-Muslim minorities, who feel their rights have come under threat and that they lose out in conversion disputes. The endorsement of the monarchs is necessary before the government can push any change in religion-related laws through parliament.
Serial rapist jailed
A serial rapist who dressed his unconscious victims in his collection of women’s underwear and filmed assaults on them was jailed for 28 years yesterday. Victorian Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Warren said John Xydias, 45, had degraded women in a spree lasting 15 years which media described as one of the country’s worst sex crimes. “Your offending was sustained over a period of 15 years, your conduct was not low-level or less-serious rape,” Warren said. “The worst aspect of your conduct was the degrading and dehumanizing of your victims.” Xydias showed little emotion as the sentence was read out. He pleaded guilty to 25 counts of rape and 61 indecent assaults at the Melbourne house he shares with his parents and at the family holiday home. The crimes were discovered when Xydias’ girlfriend handed a suspicious DVD to police, who searched his home and found 13 videos of his sex assaults as well as recording equipment and women’s underwear. Xydias denied doping his victims with date-rape drug Rohypnol and said they had fallen unconscious after drinking and smoking cannabis. The court earlier heard that one of the women had been unconscious for two days. Xydias will serve a minimum of 20 years before being eligible for parole.
Sihanouk to return home
Former king Norodom Sihanouk will return to his homeland for a two-month visit after being successfully treated for cancer in Beijing, a handwritten message on his personal Web site said. The 86-year-old retired monarch said he would return to Cambodia this month to stay at a royal residence in the northern city of Siem Reap. “Between July 9 and September 2009 I shall have the honor and the joy to live in Cambodia among my beloved relatives,” he said. But Sihanouk said he would have to return to Beijing after two months to continue his medical treatment.