Health minister resigns
The Public Health Minister resigned yesterday after being implicated in a corruption scandal over a health care scheme funded under the government’s US$43 billion economic stimulus package. It was the third ministerial resignation since the government took office a year ago and the latest setback for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is facing mounting pressure to dissolve parliament and call an election.
Bird abusers fined
Two courts fined 27 men for abusing birds prized for their singing abilities by making them fight in a cage, an official said yesterday. The men paid fines of 130 ringgit (US$38) each after pleading guilty on Monday in two Kuala Lumpur courts to charges of committing cruelty to animals, a Magistrate’s Court official said on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to make public statements. The men gathered at a recreational club where bird-watchers and other enthusiasts meet and placed two Oriental Magpie Robins in a cage to watch them fight.
Mock self-kidnapping fails
A 22-year-old with a taste for the high life unsuccessfully staged his own kidnapping at the weekend, demanding US$40,000 from his father to fund a trip to Macau, reports said yesterday. His bungled attempt landed him in jail rather than in the Chinese gambling resort when he was caught red-handed picking up the ransom at a New Delhi shopping mall. “His girlfriend wanted to celebrate the New Year’s Eve in Macau,” a senior police officer in New Delhi told the Hindustan Times daily yesterday. “He wanted to fulfill her wish but was not able to bear the expenses.”
Susan Boyle to perform
Scottish singing sensation Susan Boyle has brought her act to the country. The 48-year-old church volunteer who rocketed to fame with her surprising performance on Britain’s Got Talent arrived at Tokyo’s international airport yesterday to prepare for a guest appearance on the country’s premier vocal variety show, which will be aired live on New Year’s Eve by Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK.
Special parking for women
A shopping center has opened a car park that offers women drivers bigger-than-normal parking spaces to accommodate what it sees as their special needs. Wang Zheng, an official at the Wanxiang Tiancheng shopping center in Hebei Province’s Shijiazhuang City, said on Monday the women-only parking lot aimed to address women’s “strong sense of color and different sense of distance.” The spaces are “1m wider than normal parking spaces,” Wang said, adding that the mall had “installed signs and security monitoring equipment that corresponded more to women’s needs.”
Magnate gets special pardon
Convicted former Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee will be granted a special pardon to allow the influential business magnate to rejoin efforts to bring the Winter Olympics to South Korea, the government said yesterday. Lee, 67, stepped down in April last year after 20 years at the helm of the Samsung Group after being indicted in connection with losses at a Samsung affiliate and for tax evasion. He was cleared of culpability for the business losses but was fined in August and sentenced to a suspended three-year prison term for tax evasion.
Police arrested nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu yesterday for violating a ban on speaking to foreigners, a police statement said. Vanunu was jailed as a traitor in 1986 and served an 18-year sentence after discussing his work as a technician at Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor with a British newspaper, an interview that led experts to conclude the facility had produced fissile material for as many as 200 atomic warheads. After his release from jail in 2004, defense authorities barred him from traveling abroad or having contact with foreigners.