Top militant arrested
Police arrested a leader of a Muslim militant group believed to be responsible for deadly bombings in the Philippines, a police spokesman said yesterday. Dinno-Amor Rosalejos Pareja was arrested late on Friday at his hideout in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur Province, 840km south of Manila, according to Senior Superintendent Leonardo Espina. Espina said that Pareja, who is also known as Abu Jihad and Khalil Pareja, is the leader of the Islamic militant group Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM), which is allegedly responsible for several deadly terrorist attacks in Manila and in the southern Philippines.
Smuggled ivory seized
Police have seized almost 100kg of ivory, the second seizure of its kind in recent weeks, state media reported yesterday. Police found the 17 pieces of ivory weighing 94kg after they stopped a car traveling in the wrong lane on a highway in northern Thanh Hoa Province, the Vietnam News said, citing police. The car’s owner said he was bringing the ivory from central Nghe An Province to Hanoi, the report said.
Life for prostitute killer
The Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced a man suspected of killing five sex workers to life in jail after finding him guilty of one of the murders, a media report said yesterday. Somkid Phumphuang, 45, was found guilty by the court on Friday of killing Warunee Phimphabut, 25, a nightclub singer, on Jan. 30, 2005, in Mukdahan Province, the Bangkok Post reported. Somkid was accused of drowning Warunee in a hotel bathtub and robbing her of belongings worth 50,000 baht (US$1,470). He is accused of killing and robbing another four sex workers and masseuses.
Terror test scares urbanites
The city of Bandar Seri Begawan simulated a chemical attack, an embassy bombing and a mock hotel kidnapping on Wednesday in a move that alarmed residents who thought it was real. Police staged the exercise to test counter-terrorism readiness following last month’s Indonesian hotel bombings. The exercise, which involved live explosives to simulate a chemical attack at a shopping mall in the main business district, caused some bystanders to make emergency calls thinking the attacks were real. A small explosive was also detonated in front of the US embassy to simulate a bombing attack, while a hostage-taking drama was staged at the Sheraton Utama hotel, where the mock terrorists demanded US$10 million in ransom. The police said the public had been given notice that a counter-terrorism exercise would be held before the start of the fasting month this weekend.
Student granted bail
An Australian student accused of killing a Hong Kong taxi driver in a late-night crash was granted bail yesterday after a murder charge against him was reduced to manslaughter. Kelsey Mudd, 22, was initially charged with murder and placed in custody after the taxi in which he was a front-seat passenger broke through a crash barrier and collided with three other cars on June 27. The crash reportedly happened after a dispute between Mudd and taxi driver Wong Chi-ming, 58, a father of two who was declared dead in hospital hours later. At a court hearing on Friday, however, prosecutors downgraded the charge from murder to manslaughter. No plea was entered and Mudd, whose father and stepmother attended the hearing, was granted bail until Sept. 23. Prosecutor Edmond Chan told an earlier hearing that Mudd was three times over the drink-drive limit at the time of the crash.
English daily now weekly
A newspaper that helped expose a major corruption scandal said yesterday it was shutting down its daily English-language print edition, citing difficulties caused by the global economic crisis. In a front-page note to readers, Thanh Nien Daily said it was being transformed into a weekly paper to be launched on Sept. 4. Thanh Nien is a popular Vietnamese-language daily, the publication of which will continue despite the closure of the English edition, which has been produced for almost two years. Its demise leaves the state Vietnam News, published by the official Vietnam News Agency, as the country’s only English-language paper to appear seven days a week.
Two in court on sex charges
Two French nationals were to appear in a Phnom Penh court yesterday charged with soliciting sex from a minor and producing child pornography, national media reported. The men, named by the Cambodia Daily newspaper as 62-year-old Michel Jean Raymond Charlot and 60-year-old Claude Jean-Pierre Demeret, were arrested after Charlot solicited a 16-year-old female at a well-known red-light district in Phnom Penh and brought her back to his guesthouse. The girl then told the police about Demeret. Police searched the room at the guesthouse where Demeret was staying and found a collection of sexually explicit videos and photographs of him, most of which the police said were taken in Thailand. A search of Charlot’s room uncovered a collection of similar photographs and videos. Police said evidence against the men included children’s underwear and toys.
Elephants banned at beach
A town has banned circus elephants from bathing at its beaches over concerns the animals’ excrement could pollute the water and pose a health hazard to other swimmers. Last year, elephants from one of the circuses that tour many towns in the summer months were allowed on to the beach at Granville, in Normandy, to exercise and paddle in the waves. Inspectors checking water quality, however, found traces of their droppings in the sea and issued a warning over health standards at the beach, which is popular with local and foreign holidaymakers. “Circuses are more than welcome,” said Roland Huet, an official at Granville’s town hall. “But this year the rules governing their stay clearly specify they cannot allow any animals, including elephants, to bathe on our beaches because of the risk of pollution,” he said.
Official takes aim at Google
The country’s data protection watchdog on Friday demanded that Google immediately withdraw the “Street View” facility it has started offering on its map of the country. Federal data protection and transparency officer Hanspeter Thuer released a statement warning that the US-based Internet giant was not respecting conditions he set to respect personal privacy. Thuer said that based on public comments and his own browsing, many faces and vehicle number plates had not been covered up or were insufficiently blurred. He “demands that Google Inc immediately withdraw its online service Google Street View concerning Switzerland,” the statement said. The Street View facility allows users to take a ground level panoramic view of some locations on Google Maps, based on still photographs taken by specially equipped vehicles.
Doctors transplant jaw
Doctors completed the first-ever transplant of a tongue and jaw on Tuesday, surgeon Pedro Cavadas said on Friday. The 43-year-old patient, who lost the lower half of his face during treatment for a malignant tumor 11 years ago, is recovering well and could be released in 10 days, Cavadas told a news conference in Valencia. The unidentified patient was given a tongue and jaw as part of a face transplant operation, the first carried out in the country. “The patient should recover the capacity to speak intelligibly, to swallow ... recover sensitivity in his tongue and his face,” the surgeon said. Tuesday’s transplant, the eighth involving a face since the surgery was pioneered in 2005, was particularly difficult because previous surgery had rendered the veins, arteries and nerves normally connected in these operations useless, Cavadas said.
City bans ‘annoying’ buskers
A city in central England said two buskers, or street performers, who plagued a suburb by repeating the same two songs have been banned from performing for two years. Birmingham City Council said on Friday that the men angered residents with late-night and out-of-tune renditions of two tracks — Wonderwall by Oasis and Faith by George Michael. Acoustic guitar player James Ryan, a 40-year-old, and 39-year-old Andrew Cave — who used garbage can lids to accompany Ryan — were banned from busking by a judge at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court. The pair are barred from entering the Birmingham suburb of Moseley Village and playing musical instruments there. The council said both men were also banned from begging anywhere in England or Wales.
Suspected cat killer on bail
A self-employed graphic designer methodically killed at least four of his girlfriend’s cats and tortured two others while the unsuspecting woman continued to adopt new ones over a four-month period, authorities said on Friday. Sean Lynde was arrested on Friday on charges including six counts of felony animal cruelty. He pleaded not guilty at state Supreme Court in Manhattan and was freed on US$5,000 bond. Lynde moved into his girlfriend’s apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side on Oct. 1, authorities said. Three days later, her 15-year-old cat, Cleo, was found dead behind a dryer with her mouth full of laundry detergent and a broken jaw. A necropsy revealed the cat had head trauma from being beaten, said Joseph Pentangelo, assistant director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. A second cat, 12-year-old Zoe, suffered extensive head trauma and had to be euthanized by the end of the same month, Pentangelo said. In November, the woman adopted two kittens, Willie and Betty. Willie became unresponsive after his first night in the couple’s home and had trouble walking because his legs had stiffened from trauma, Pentangelo said. He was returned to his adopter. The second kitten, Betty, died on Nov. 24. Lynde told the veterinarian the kitten had suffered head damage and stopped breathing after falling off a table, Pentangelo said. The woman adopted two more kittens, Emo and Bonafide, on Dec. 18. Later that day, Emo was treated for a broken paw. He was reported missing on Jan. 22. Shortly before Christmas, Bonafide suffered trauma resulting in blindness and brain damage, Pentangelo said. The kitten’s body was found Jan. 23 with its neck broken. A tipster called animal welfare after the fourth cat’s death.
Woman sues Brookfield zoo
A woman is suing a Chicago zoo for a fall last year near a dolphin exhibit, accusing zookeepers of encouraging the mammals to splash water and then failing to protect spectators from wet surfaces, local media reported on Thursday. In her suit filed last week, Allecyn Edwards said she was injured while walking near an exhibit at Brookfield Zoo, where a group of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins were performing, media said. Officials “recklessly and willfully trained and encouraged the dolphins to throw water at the spectators in the stands, making the floor wet and slippery,” but failed to post warning signs or lay down protective mats or strips, the suit said, the reports said. Edwards is demanding more than US$50,000 for lost wages, medical expenses and emotional trauma from the Chicago Zoological Society and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, which operate the zoo in Chicago’s southwest suburbs.
You’ve got mail and an STD
The Health Ministry has created a Web site to let people inform partners they have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) via an e-mailed virtual postcard. The official in charge of the ministry’s STD and AIDS programs notes that many people have a hard time telling partners they are infected. Mariangela Simao said in a statement this week that the e-mails could help people “tackle these diseases directly and with minimum exposure.” One of the cards shows a young man reclining in his underwear. It reads: “Hi! I don’t know if this is the best way to tell you, but I’ve learned that I have an STD.” The card suggests the recipient see a doctor.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong (FCC) yesterday said that reporters in the territory were experiencing “highly unusual” visas problems, and called on the US and China to stop using the media as a political weapon. Journalists have been caught up in US-China tensions, with both sides placing limits or expelling reporters from their territories in the past few months. Now the spat is filtering into Hong Kong, a regional press hub nominally in charge of its own immigration policies. The FCC said in a statement that multiple media firms had reported delays getting visas in recent months. “The delays have affected journalists