Gillard calls for debate
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard challenged her opponent yesterday to a public debate on the economy in a move one analyst said suggests her campaign for re-election this month is becoming desperate. Gillard threw down the challenge to debate Tony Abbott, leader of the conservative Liberal Party, for a second time during the five-week campaign ahead of a general election on Aug. 21. Abbott, however, refused. “It’s becoming even clearer that with the economy at the center of this campaign ... Mr Abbott should step up to a debate on the economy,” Gillard told reporters.
Activists receive award
An international human rights group has honored six Vietnamese activists for their courage in the face of political persecution in Vietnam. The six were among 42 writers from 20 countries to receive the annual Hellman/Hammmett award, New York-based Human Rights Watch announced yesterday. All of this year’s awardees from Vietnam are activist writers whose work was suppressed by the government in its efforts to restrict free speech, control independent media and limit access and use of the Internet, it said.
US may blacklist financiers
The US is expected to blacklist three key North Korean figures suspected of handling secret funds for leader Kim Jong-il as part of its new sanctions, a report said yesterday. Washington is devising the measures to punish the North for an alleged deadly March attack on a South Korean warship and to push it to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. Yonhap news agency, quoting an unidentified government source, said one of the three officials is Kim Tong-myong, head of the North’s Tanchon Commercial Bank. Overall, the US is expected to add 10 to 20 North Korean entities and individuals to its blacklist, the report said.
Peace agreement threatened
Nepal’s former rebels threatened yesterday to recruit new members for their military wing, raising fears the peace process that ended a decade of fierce fighting may be in jeopardy in the Himalayan nation. The communists’ threat followed an announcement this week by Nepal’s army that it wanted 3,400 personnel to join. New recruits would be sought for the communist party’s military wing because the army violated the peace agreement by launching its own recruitment drive, Chandra Prakash Khanal, deputy commander of the Maoist’s People’s Liberation Army, said. Khanal said it was still to be decided how many personnel it plans to retain. “Recruitment by either the Nepal Army or the Maoist army constitutes a breach of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” the UN said.
PETA attacks queen’s boots
A pair of high-heeled woolly Ugg boots to be worn by the country’s representative at the Miss Universe Pageant later this month has come under fire on two fronts — tackiness and animal cruelty. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) asked Jesinta Campbell not to wear Ugg boots or a lamb’s wool shrug at the pageant in Las Vegas on Aug. 23 because it was cruel and unethical, using Australian wool sourced from mulesed sheep. Mulesing, a common practice among Australian farmers, involves removing strips of wool-bearing skin from the buttocks of sheep in a bid to reduce a potentially lethal maggot infestation called flystrike.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
A high-profile extradition case between London and Moscow has taken a surprise pause amid an investigation into the mysterious death of a Russian millionaire’s mother, who was found covered in blood in her Moscow apartment. A London court on Monday postponed a hearing into the extradition of Yevgeny Chichvarkin, a 35-year-old businessman who insists he should not be sent back to Russia because someone has murdered his mother and his own life is in danger. Chichvarkin says the extradition request by Russia is politically motivated because he had spoken out against corruption in Russia’s police force.
Offer likely to be refused
The country signaled on Tuesday it would likely reject the Brazilian president’s offer to give refuge to an Iranian woman convicted of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning. The case of 43-year-old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani triggered an international outcry that prompted Iran to at least temporarily withdraw the stoning part of her sentence. The mother of two could still be hanged, however. Iran says the woman has also been convicted of murder.
Campbell given security
War crimes judges on Tuesday ordered special security measures for fashion model Naomi Campbell when she testifies at the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, barring photographers from catching her entering or leaving the courtroom. The judges say Campbell’s fears for her safety and privacy are legitimate because of her high profile and the intense media interest in her appearance. Campbell was summoned to testify about whether she received diamonds from Taylor after a celebrity-studded dinner in South Africa in 1997.
Kidnapped pilot released
An Indian pilot who was taken hostage by rebels has been released unharmed after being forced to walk through the bush for five days, the Indian embassy said on Tuesday. Syed Mazher, 25, a co-pilot for a local airline, was taken hostage on July 24 when rebels attacked his plane after he landed at Walikale airstrip, a bumpy track that doubles as the town’s main road and is the route out for locally mined tin ore. Indian Ambassador Devendra Srivastava said the pilot’s toenails had fallen off as a result of the long bush walks. “It has been a great effort by everyone and we are very grateful to get our man back,” he said, adding that two helicopters from the UN peacekeeping force had flown into the area to assist in the rescue.
Qaddafi funded party: report
Prosecutors said on Tuesday they were investigating after a respected weekly newspaper published excerpts of what it said was a diary suggesting there were transfers of money from Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to late far-right politician Joerg Haider’s inner circle. Falter said it had obtained the diary of Walter Meischberger, a former member of Haider’s Freedom Party. Falter is publishing what is describes as excerpts of the diary that mention a transfer of 45 million euros (US$59.4 million) by the Libyan leader in connection with an unnamed Haider confidant and say others visiting Iraq also received millions of euros from Iraq and from accounts belonging to Hussein’s family. It says Meischberger had secondhand knowledge of the transfers.
Wyclef Jean will run: ‘Time’
Haitian-American music star Wyclef Jean will announce his bid for president of Haiti this week, Time magazine reported on Tuesday. Haiti is scheduled to vote on Nov. 28 to elect a new leader to replace President Rene Preval, whose term ends in February. “If I can’t take five years out to serve my country as President, then everything I’ve been singing about, like equal rights, doesn’t mean anything,” Jean said in an interview with Time. Last week he said he was taking the necessary legal steps toward running for president. Many analysts predict Jean would easily win the presidential election. Jean emigrated to the US when he was nine, but has maintained his Haitian citizenship.
■ UNITED STATES
Palin engagement off, again
Bristol Palin has broken off her engagement to Levi Johnston for a second time — less than a month after telling the world she planned to marry the father of her son. The 19-year-old daughter of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin was quoted on Tuesday as telling People magazine “It’s over. I broke up with him.” She said her on-again, off-again relationship with Johnston, 20, soured on July 14 — the day the couple announced in Us Weekly that they had secretly become engaged again. Palin said Johnston told her that same evening he might have fathered a baby with another teenage girl. The girl has since denied Johnston is the father.
Man happy dog ate toe
A Michigan man says he’s grateful his dog ate most of his toe while he was passed out drunk. Jerry Douthett says Kiko’s action helped uncover an undiagnosed diabetic condition and led to treatment that could save his life. The Grand Rapids Press reported that the 48-year-old musician knew for a while something was wrong with his foot. He resisted seeking care until giving in to his wife’s pressure. Before going for an appointment, Douthett says he went out drinking, then came home and passed out. When he awoke, the terrier was beside him in bed and lots of blood was where his toe used to be. His wife rushed him to a hospital, where doctors found a bone infection and amputated the rest of the toe.
Toes text plea for help
Police say an Atlanta woman tied to her bed by an armed burglar was freed by police after she used her toes to type a message to her boyfriend. Atlanta police Captain Van Hobbs says the woman’s boyfriend called police dispatchers on Tuesday morning to say she told him she’d been bound since midnight, media reports said. Hobbs says the 39-year-old woman told police the intruder, who had a handgun and wore a ski mask, went through her belongings, then bound her before stealing her car. He says the laptop was on her bed with her and she was able to use her toes to type and contact her boyfriend.
Lady Gaga makes list
Singer Lady Gaga, France’s first lady Carla Bruni and Spanish actor Javier Bardem were chosen by Vanity Fair magazine as among the world’s 45 best dressed people. Also included in the list in next month’s edition were actresses Diane Kruger, Carey Mulligan, Princess Maria of Denmark and US first lady Michelle Obama, along with Samantha Cameron, wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron, filmmaker Martin Scorcese, designer John Galliano, soccer player David Beckham and Argentine polo player Nacho Figueras.
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
BEYOND CULTURE: The US State Department was expected to announce that the Chinese government-funded institutes would have to register as foreign missions US President Donald Trump’s administration is increasing scrutiny of a long-established Chinese-government funded program that is dedicated to teaching Chinese language and culture in the US and other nations, the latest escalation of tensions with Beijing. The US Department of State was expected to announce as soon as yesterday that Confucius Institutes in the US — many of which are based on college campuses — would have to register as “foreign missions,” according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified. The designation would amount to a conclusion that the institutes are “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by