Death sparks succession talk
The death of a North Korean military official and the naming of leader-in-waiting Kim Jong-un to the funeral preparation committee was jumped on by South Korean media yesterday as showing he had risen to second-in-command. South Korean media concluded that by being named immediately after leader Kim Jong-il to the funeral committee by the North’s state-run news agency KCNA, the leader’s third son had been elevated to the second highest position in the secretive state. The latest sequence is the clearest signal yet that he is officially in line to take over from his ailing 68-year-old father, Yonhap news agency reported.
Poll workers investigated
Hundreds of part-time workers used by an election body in a disputed September parliamentary vote are being questioned by a UN-backed watchdog for possible involvement in fraud, officials said yesterday. The Independent Election Commission has already thrown out almost a quarter of the 5.6 million votes cast in the Sept. 18 ballot. Final results still have not been announced. The commission said the names of almost 1,100 of its part-time workers had been given to the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission for checks into their possible involvement in fraud.
Man lives with rotting corpse
A man murdered his Thai girlfriend then lived with her rotting corpse in the lounge for almost a month as he read jokes to cheer himself up, a court was told yesterday. Gordon Hieatt, 47, pleaded not guilty in Auckland High Court to strangling Nuttidar Vaikaew in April last year, news agency NZPA reported. Prosecutor Rachael Reed said Hieatt killed Vaikaew, a Thai sex worker, during an argument in her Auckland apartment, then left her body on a bed in a curtained-off corner of the lounge. She said Hieatt’s computer records showed he allegedly admitted the killing and said he read jokes all day to cheer himself up.
Boy crushed by elephant
A 14-year-old boy was trampled to death by a wild elephant in southern Vietnam, a local official said yesterday. The boy was traveling to a jungle fishing area in Dong Nai Province with his stepfather and cousin on Sunday when the elephant attacked, official Ngo Van Son said. “The elephant got mad when hearing the noise of the motorcycles. The two adults ran away as the elephant approached, but the boy was stuck with the motorcycles,” he said. Son said the boy became trapped underneath the bikes and was crushed by the elephant.
MP3 jail sentence upheld
A court ruled yesterday that possession of instrumental music with titles praising North Korea violates a tough national security law. The supreme court upheld a two-year jail term, suspended for four years, given to a female activist identified only as Song. Song was charged in 2008 with storing 14 MP3 music files with titles praising North Korea on a USB storage device.
Rebels angry over statement
Muslim separatist rebels urged the government yesterday to retract a statement blaming them for a deadly bus bombing. Moro Islamic Liberation Front spokesman Von al Haq said the comments by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin were meant to discredit the group ahead of the planned resumption of negotiations.
Guilty plea in uranium case
Two Armenian men have pleaded guilty during a secret trial to smuggling highly-enriched uranium into Georgia and trying to sell it to an undercover agent, the Georgian interior ministry said yesterday. Sumbat Tonoian and Hrant Ohanian were arrested in a sting operation in March after they smuggled the 18g of uranium from Armenia into Georgia, Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said. He said they tried to sell it for US$1.5 million to an agent they believed represented Islamic radicals. Utiashvili called the operation “a big success for our nuclear smuggling unit,” after Georgia in recent years received nearly US$50 million in aid from Washington to help it combat trafficking in nuclear materials.
Nuclear waste train arrives
A train carrying 123 tonnes of nuclear waste completed its journey to Dannenberg yesterday, setting up a final showdown between police and protestors before the radioactive cargo is dumped underground. The consignment arrived after police spent Sunday night removing some 3,000 protestors blocking the tracks, authorities said. The 11 white containers must now be loaded onto trucks for the final 20km stretch by road to the storage facility in nearby Gorleben. A police spokesman said authorities did not expect any disruption during the loading operation, since the unloading station is surrounded by a high fence.
Putin mans up, again
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin just cannot stay away from manly pursuits. He took a Formula One race car out for a spin on Sunday, reaching speeds of about 240kph. Putin signed a deal last month with Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone to bring F1 racing to Russia starting in 2014 and his televised test drive could help raise the profile of the sport in Russia. The stunt also matches the action-man image Putin has cultivated over the years, beginning with his startling flight into Chechnya in 2000 in a fighter jet. Over the years, Putin has been seen flipping opponents on the judo mat, riding a horse bare-chested through the mountains and swimming in a Siberian river.
Nonagenarian has bar mitzvah
A 91-year-old Dutch Jew who fought the Nazis in World War II has marked his bar mitzvah, the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony — decades after the traditional date. Hans De Leeuw says he was “shaking” during the service — usually meant for 13-year-olds — at Jerusalem’s Western Wall on Sunday. De Leeuw put on phylacteries, ritual objects strapped to the arm and forehead, and donned a prayer shawl. He called the ceremony “a tremendous event,” saying he didn’t do it earlier because of his secular upbringing and the war.
Queen joins Facebook
Queen Elizabeth II is now on Facebook. The queen has launched a series of official pages offering the Web site’s 500 million users daily updates on her engagements, the royal household said on Sunday. The 84-year-old monarch will be featured in videos, photos and news items on the site, which launched yesterday, alongside other members of the country’s royal family, including Princes William and Harry. However, because the pages will be corporate, people won’t be able to request to become friends with the queen. A royal official said the queen had personally approved the plan, but has not used the site herself.
Leaky nuclear plant shuts
Workers at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Montpelier, Vermont, detected radioactive water seeping from a leaky pipe in the complex on Sunday, forcing the plant to shut down to make repairs. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the public was not in any danger. Plant spokesman Larry Smith said the nuclear reactor was taken out of service at 7pm and estimated it would take 13 hours for it to cool down enough so technicians could enter the area to make repairs. Work to fix the pipe was to begin yesterday morning, he said. The cause of the leak was not immediately known. Smith said the leak of about 60 drops a minute was spotted earlier on Sunday during routine surveillance. It was coming from a 60cm wide pipe that was part of the circulation system involving the reactor. The water was being collected by a sump pump and cycled back through the system, he said. It was the second shutdown within the hour at a plant owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. A transformer exploded at a nuclear power plant north of New York City, forcing an emergency shutdown of one of its reactors.
Media condemn Chavez
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tries to control ideas and restrict news with techniques that recall Cold War-era eastern Europe or Cuba, the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) in Merida, Mexico, said on Sunday. “Chavez seeks to control ideas, and to impose silence” for those critical of his leftist government, said David Natera, who delivered a report on the state of press freedom in the South American nation at the IAPA annual meeting. There have been 113 reported incidents of assaults on reporters in the past year in Venezuela, the report found. Natera said Chavez has shut down and harassed some media and expropriated others as a “social control strategy” so that “the people will have to depend on the state exclusively to get jobs or food.”
Afghan troop request mulled
Canada’s defense minister said in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Sunday that the country was considering a US request to keep troops in Afghanistan past next year, but switch them from a combat to a training role. Defense Minister Peter MacKay said the troops would not remain in Afghanistan’s volatile southern Kandahar Province. Parliament has mandated that the combat mission end next year. Ottawa has about 2,900 troops in Afghanistan. More than 150 soldiers have been killed and more than 1,500 have been wounded since the country first sent troops to support the US-led invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. MacKay said Ottawa is not prepared to say how many troops might stay, but said NATO has identified a shortfall of about 900 troops to conduct training.
Twenty killed in shootouts
At least 20 people were killed in drug-gang violence over the weekend in Ciudad Juarez, including seven found dead outside one house. The seven men were believed to have been at a family party when they were gunned down on Saturday night, said Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office in Chihuahua state, where Ciudad Juarez is located. Five were found dead in a car and the other two were shot at the entrance of the home. Eleven other people were killed on Saturday in the city, including two whose bodies were found dismembered, Sandoval said.
CLOSELY TRACKED: A US officer said that the warplanes were watched as they flew from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya and were photographed multiple times The US Africa Command flatly rejected Russian claims that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on Friday that the 14 aircraft flown in reflect Russia’s long-term goal to establish a foothold in the region that could threaten NATO allies. US Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director of intelligence, said that the US tracked the MiG-29s and Su-24 fighter bombers flown in by Russian military, passing through Iran and Syria before landing at Libya’s al-Jufra air base. The base is the main forward airfield for Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army, which has been waging an
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
Singapore’s otters, long adored by the city-state’s nature lovers, are popping up in unexpected places during the COVID-19 lockdown, but their antics have angered some and even sparked calls for a cull. With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping center, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish stolen from a pond. While many think of tiny Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also relatively green for a busy Asian city, and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant wildlife. There are estimated to be about
‘LEAST WE CAN DO’: The gesture was made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality that targeted minorities They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the US in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by US President Donald Trump. As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody. “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do