US envoy arrives
A US envoy arrived in yesterday to try to bring Pyongyang back to nuclear disarmament negotiations, in what will be the first high-level dialogue between the administration of US President Barack Obama and the communist state. Stephen Bosworth and his six-member team flew from the US air force base at Osan in South Korea for their three-day mission. Their arrival was reported by the North’s official news agency in a one-sentence dispatch. After months of tensions marked by the North’s nuclear test and missile launches, Obama is using his trademark direct diplomacy to attempt to bring Pyongyang back to the six-nation negotiations it quit in April. A senior US official said in Washington that Bosworth would offer no new incentives.
UN urges restraint
The UN urged the government and opposition Maoists to exercise restraint after deadly clashes between police and landless settlers in the west of the country. The UN’s human rights agency said it was investigating allegations that security forces used excessive force when they evicted the squatters, mostly Maoist supporters, from government-owned land. One police officer and at least four of the settlers were killed and dozens more people were wounded during the eviction on Friday, prompting the Maoists to call a nationwide general strike.
Stomach drugs seized
Customs officials said yesterday they had arrested a Pakistani man at Bangkok’s international airport with 98 aluminum foil packages in his stomach containing more than 1kg of heroin. Chaudhry Ijaz Rasul, 34, was arrested as he attempted to clear customs at Suvarnabhumi Airport early on Monday morning on a Thai Airways flight from Lahore, Pakistan. The authorities forced Rasul to go to the toilet to expel the drugs, which weighed 1.3kg with a street value of approximately 3.9 million baht (US$117,750), an official said, adding the man had confessed. Rasul was charged with drug possession and trafficking, which carries a possible death sentence.
Gambler loses case
A compulsive gambler who wagered close to US$1.4 billion during a 16-month betting spree lost his lawsuit against the country’s largest casino yesterday when a judge ruled he was not exploited. High-flying property developer Harry Kakavas claimed Melbourne’s Crown Casino facilitated his pathological betting, despite knowing he had a problem that was so severe he had already been banned from one establishment.
Al-Qaeda claims kidnappings
A spokesman for al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed the kidnappings of one Frenchman and three Spaniards, seized late last month in Mali and Mauritania, in a sound tape released yesterday by al-Jazeera television. “Two units of the valiant mujahidin managed to kidnap four Europeans in two distinct operations: the first in Mali where Frenchman Pierre Camatte was seized on Nov. 25, and the second in Mauritania where three Spaniards were held on Nov. 29,” spokesman Saleh Abu Mohammad said. “France and Spain will be informed later of the legitimate demands of the mujahidin.” He did not go into detail about the demands.
Cop dies in fishing shootout
A police colonel was shot dead and another officer wounded in a shootout between security forces and fishermen in Cairo during a licensing crackdown, security sources said on Sunday. Security forces scoured Cairo’s riverside for 28 fishermen wanted for questioning after the shooting on Saturday, which broke out after police demanded to inspect fishing licences, the sources said.
Fire toll reaches 117: reports
News agencies are reporting that the death toll from last weekend’s nightclub fire has reached 117 as four people died in hospital overnight. Three agencies cited the Emergencies Ministry as saying yesterday that the four died at hospitals in the city of Perm. About thirty of the 120 hospitalized remain in critical condition after Saturday morning’s blaze. Prosecutors suspect negligence and on Monday charged four people — the club’s co-owner, its manager and entertainment director and the head of a fireworks company whose indoor show sparked the blaze.
Fight Iran with Twitter: PM
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told the US to use Twitter and other social networking sites to fight against the leadership of Iran. “Iran prevents people from freely accessing the Internet,” a senior official quoted him telling parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. “Using the Internet and Twitter against the Iranian regime is something extraordinary that the United States can do,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying said. Twitter was a favorite media for Iranian demonstrators who had joined opposition protests against the June re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, claiming the vote was fraudulent.
Defense secretary pays visit
Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth arrived in Afghanistan early yesterday on a surprise visit, the Ministry of Defense announced in London, as the British death toll this year in Afghanistan rose to 100. Ainsworth arrived in Helmand Province, where he was due to meet British troops and Afghan officials, the ministry said. His arrival coincides with a visit by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates who flew into Kabul yesterday for talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and commanders about Washington’s new strategy to send 30,000 extra troops to fight the Taliban. The British toll in Afghanistan rose to 100 with the death of a British soldier announced on Monday night in Helmand, where the majority of British forces are deployed. The unnamed soldier was shot and killed in a gunfight with Taliban insurgents.
Authorities bust visa scam
Authorities arrested 11 people on Monday in an alleged US work-visa scam that raked in more than US$50 million from thousands of Brazilians. People seeking temporary working visas were charged up to US$15,000 each in what a statement from the US consulate called one of the largest cases of US visa fraud ever. Police are still searching for seven suspects, prosecutor Aline Alves said. Alves said unidentified US-based immigration lawyers and Brazilian middlemen hatched the scheme by getting temporary visas authorized by the US Department of Homeland Security, and then charging exorbitant rates to land those visas tied to jobs that rarely existed. While some got jobs in the US, many more paid the fees, received visas and arrived in the US to find they had no job. An even larger number paid the fees and were refused visas.
Cow licks damage house
Jerry Lynn Davis called the Hawkins County Sheriff’s office in Tennessee on Thursday, complaining that a neighbor’s cows had been licking his house. In the process, Davis says the curious bovines did about US$100 in damage by ripping off a screen window, cracking the glass and pulling down a gutter. The Kingsport Times-News reports that Davis’ home is next to a fence enclosing the cows’ pasture. They managed to poke their heads through to lick the house, though a deputy’s report did not indicate what made the house so tasty.
‘David’ depicted as Santa
A Texas homeowner who adorned his front lawn with a reproduction of Michelangelo’s “David” as a scantily clad Santa got more than just jolly laughs from his neighbors. Barry McBee says he hoped to make people chuckle by adding a Santa hat and white beard to the statue. Then parents started calling city officials in Big Spring saying their children were asking why Santa was naked. The city said the statue did not violate any town ordinances and there were no obscenity issues. But an official asked McBee to put more clothes on David. He added a pair of black and white velvet shorts, with a Christmas bow.
‘Silly’ not to allow flagpole
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said on Monday that it is “silly” to think that a 90-year-old Medal of Honor winner is being asked to remove a flagpole from his front yard. Retired Army Colonel Van Barfoot, a World War II veteran, is fighting to keep the 6.5m pole at his home. His homeowners association said the pole violates the neighborhood’s aesthetic guidelines. Gibbs said “the president [Barack Obama] believes — I think all of us believe — that the very least we can do is show our gratitude and thanks to somebody that served our country so admirably.” He went on to say that “it’s silly to ... think that somebody that’s done that can’t have a flagpole and ... show the proper respect and appreciation that any flag deserves by flying that in their neighborhood.”
Cops hunt bad breath bandit
Police in a Detroit suburb are looking for a bank robber who tellers say has crooked yellow teeth and particularly bad breath. The Detroit Free Press reports that Ferndale police say the man hit the same branch in October and again last week. Lieutenant William Wilson says tellers remember the man as tall, thin and “having very offensive breath and real yellow teeth.” Witnesses also say he looks and smells dirty.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
A Malaysian student whose cellphone was stolen while he was sleeping has tracked down the culprit: a monkey who took photo and video selfies with the device before abandoning it. Zackrydz Rodzi, 20, on Wednesday said that his mobile phone was missing from his bedroom when he woke up on Saturday. He found the phone’s casing under his bed, but there was no sign of robbery in his house in Johor state. JUNGLE When his father saw a monkey the next day, he searched in the jungle behind his house. Using his brother’s cellphone to call his own device, he found it covered