Half of air force obsolete
Half of the weapons and equipment used by the air force are obsolete and need urgent replacement, a top defense official has said. Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, pointing to investment by the government in defense, said half of the existing fighter jets, radars, transport aircraft and air defense weapons will be upgraded by 2014-2015. The country is reportedly negotiating a US$3.5 billion aircraft defense deal with the US that will be signed next month when US President Barack Obama visits the capital.
Naik said the air force was also likely to make a US$25 billion defense deal with Russia this year to buy advanced stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft. India’s air force is just a third of the size of rival China’s and far short of what is needed to to meet the security challenges facing the country, he said. In February, New Delhi announced a US$32 billion defense budget, a 4 percent increase on last year, when spending was hiked by a quarter.
Transsexual denied marriage
A transsexual who sued the government in an unprecedented bid to marry in her new gender lost her case yesterday, with a judge arguing that it was not an issue for the courts to decide. The Chinese woman, who is in her 20s and known only as “W” under anonymity rules, is one of a few people to have undergone sex change surgery in a public hospital, and had her gender altered on her identity card. However, the city’s Registrar of Marriages ruled last year that she could not marry her boyfriend because her birth certificate — which cannot be changed under Hong Kong law — says that she is still a man. In his ruling, High Court Judge Andrew Cheung said there was insufficient evidence “to demonstrate a shifted societal consensus in -present-day Hong Kong regarding marriage to encompass a post-operative transsexual.” Mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan already allow transsexual people to marry the opposite sex in their new gender, said Michael Vidler, W’s solicitor.
Clown wins most votes
The incoming Congress decided from weekend elections will have to make room for a colorful new member: a professional clown who won more votes than any of them. Tiririca, a 45-year-old television humorist whose real name is Francisco Oliveira, scooped up 1.3 million votes in Sunday’s polls to represent Sao Paulo, the highest number of votes for any federal deputy across the country. His TV campaign ads, featuring him dancing around in a tiny hat and multi-colored outfit with a cheesy smile, were easily the most irreverent spots in the lead-up to the general elections. “It couldn’t get any worse. Vote for me,” was his campaign slogan, which were followed by a number of riffs tapping into public cynicism about politics. “What does a federal deputy do? I have no idea — but vote for me and I’ll let you know,” went one of his ads. “Vote for me as federal deputy so I can help the needy — especially my family,” he said in another.
EU president’s haiku win fan
Prime Minister Naoto Kan brought along his own copy of EU president Herman Van Rompuy’s haiku and had it autographed on Monday. A Japanese government spokesman, Noriyuki Shikata, said that at bilateral EU-Japan talks on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe Meeting, Kan asked Van Rompuy to sign a copy of his April-published first book of haiku, or mini-poems in the Japanese style.
Norman Wisdom dies at 95
British comedian and actor Norman Wisdom has died at the age of 95. His family says he died peacefully late on Monday at a nursing home on the Isle of Man. He had suffered a series of strokes in the months before his death. Wisdom specialized in family-friendly slapstick comedy in the 1950s and 1960s. He was known for his roles as a clumsy underdog battling against adversity. He also acted in Broadway in the 1960s, when he was nominated for a Tony Award for his work in the comedy Walking Happy. His films included Trouble In Store in 1953 and The Night They Raided Minsky’s in 1968, which he made in Hollywood. His subsequent career was largely based in television.
Tehran flights to resume
Egypt and Iran have agreed to resume direct flights between their capitals for the first time since 1979, Egypt’s Ministry of Civil Aviation said on Monday, but an official played down any chance of a political thaw. The two countries severed ties in 1980 following Iran’s Islamic revolution and Egypt’s recognition of Israel. Sameh Hefni, head of Egypt’s civil aviation authority, and Hamid Ghavabesh, deputy chief of the Iranian national aviation company, signed an agreement providing for up to 28 flights between Cairo and Tehran per week, the ministry said in a statement. No start date for the flights was given.
Johnson ridicules Parisians
London Mayor Boris Johnson took a swipe at sneaky Parisians on Monday, comparing the number of hire bicycles stolen in the British and French capitals. Johnson said just three bicycles had been stolen since London’s city-wide hire scheme was unveiled, compared with hundreds in Paris. “Do you know how many bicycles we have had stolen in London in the course of two months?” he asked the Conservative Party’s annual conference in Birmingham, to laughter and applause. “Only three bicycles have gone solo. Does it tell you that we have a bike hire scheme that is to the French scheme as a Rolls-Royce is to a 2CV? Yes, it certainly does,” he said. “Does it tell you that the people of London are more honest than the light-fingered Parisians? I would point out that in Paris over a comparable period they managed to lose 500 bicycles. They lost 3,000, nicked, during the first three months of the scheme,” he said. “You’ll be wondering what’s happened to those three bicycles. We have them. Not only do we have them, we have the culprits,” he added, to huge cheers. A total of 5,000 bicycles are available from 315 docking stations across London, many of them near landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London.
Acolyte guilty of sex abuse
A former Roman Catholic acolyte and church youth director has been convicted of sexually abusing children and sentenced him to four years and nine months in prison. The state court in the central city of Darmstadt on Monday found the 31-year-old guilty of abusing six boys, aged 11 to 13, a court spokeswoman said yesterday. The court said the eight abuse cases took place in Catholic and Protestant parishes between 2001 and 2004. The defendant, referred to only as Sven K. under German privacy laws, led youth groups and organized children’s theater events. Sven K. was convicted of giving the boys large amounts of alcohol and, in at least one instance, -marijuana-laced cookies, before abusing them.
Gore hopeful on summit
Former US vice president Al Gore expressed optimism on Monday about possible advances at a key UN climate summit in Mexico in December, as gridlocked talks reopened in China. “I’m one of those who are in the field of optimism about the meeting in Cancun,” Gore, who won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with the UN panel on climate change, told a meeting of business leaders in Mexico City. Gore said he was not necessarily optimistic for a final deal in Cancun, but rather for “the goal that we are going to reach, we have to reach this goal.”
Police find drug cash stash
Police have recovered a huge stash of money, including US$29 million and 17 million euros (US$23.4 million) in cash, believed to belong to wanted drug trafficker Daniel “El Loco” Barrera, officials said. “It’s the biggest seizure of drug money in this country’s history,” Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera said in a statement released late on Monday. About 20 people were detained in the raid, including at least three who are also wanted in the US for links to drug trafficking.
Naked Cowboy aims high
New York Times Square fixture The Naked Cowboy, a strapping guitar player known for busking in his briefs, 10-gallon hat and boots, says he will be donning a normal outfit on his next adventure: a run for the White House. Robert Burck said in a statement on his Web site that he will be jumping in the 2012 presidential race. “America needs a president who believes in America ... America, I will fight to give the power back to the people,” Burck, a 40-year-old conservative, says on his Web site. The cowboy unsuccessfully ran for mayor of New York last year.
Parliament wiffs a spliff
Activist Samuel Mellace lit up a joint on the floor of parliament on Monday, with lawmakers looking on, CTV television reported. Mellace took seven or eight tokes before security whisked him away. About 4,000 Canadians are able to smoke medical marijuana, but Mellace said he wanted them to be able to buy products derived from marijuana such as creams or biscuits. “My wife can’t smoke her medication because she has lung cancer, so I make the butter and smoothies,” Mellace said. “It’s ridiculous to think that I could go to jail for easing my wife’s suffering.” He’s pushing to get the medical marijuana law broadened.
Sexting prosecutor resigns
The 50-year-old Wisconsin prosecutor who tried to launch an affair with a 26-year-old domestic violence victim resigned in disgrace on Monday. Calumet County District Attorney Ken Kratz said in a statement that he had lost the confidence of the people “primarily due to personal issues which have now affected my professional career.” Kratz said he was receiving treatment for “these conditions.” He also apologized to his family for the “embarrassment and shame” he has caused them. Kratz reportedly sent 30 text messages to a woman while he prosecuted her ex--boyfriend on a strangulation charge, calling her a “hot nymph” and asking if she would enjoy secret contact with a married district attorney. The woman complained to police about the harassment and Kratz was removed from the case. Several other women have since come forward with accusations Kratz used his position to try to start relationships with them.
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
A squad of gun-toting police officers patrolled Myanmar’s sacred site of Bagan under the cover of night, taking on plunderers snatching relics from temples forsaken by tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions. Each evening as dusk falls, about 100 officers fan out across the plain of Bagan covering 50km2, sweeping flashlights over the crumbling monuments to scour for intruders. “Our security forces are patrolling day and night,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Sein Win told reporters. “We have it under control for the moment, but it’s a challenge.” The central Burmese city is strewn with more than 3,500 ancient monuments — stupas, temples, murals and sculptures