Election candidate disrobes
A candidate running in a state poll stripped off at an electoral commission office yesterday in a bid to highlight the rights of nudists, a report said. Stuart Baanstra disrobed at the central Sydney building before being ushered away by security, carrying a sign saying “nude is not rude,” the AAP news agency reported. Speaking outside the commission room, where he arrived wearing a robe and a bow-tie bearing the Australian flag, Baanstra said he was a nudist and a gay man who “believes in the rights of people to live without clothes.” Baanstra, who is standing as an independent for an upper house seat in the New South Wales State election later this month, made the bold move during a draw to determine the position of candidates on the ballot paper.
Rains bring more misery
Soaking rains have cut roads to a handful of towns in the northeast of the country and added more misery to a region still cleaning up after a massive cyclone. Fresh floodwaters have inundated several homes that were damaged and leaking from the earlier storm, causing authorities to close schools yesterday in at least one affected town. A huge band of monsoon rain hanging over a coastal area south of Cairns has prompted flash-flood warnings from the Bureau of Meteorology in Queensland State. The area was battered by months of deadly floods that began late last year and by a giant cyclone last month. Officials say they are closely monitoring food and other supplies in the towns where roads have been cut.
Seven pirates arrested
Authorities have arrested seven Indonesians who allegedly tried to rob a tanker off the south of the country. First Admiral Zulkifli Abu Bakar of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency says the men, who were armed with axes and bayonets, boarded the Majuro-registered vessel anchored off Johor State before dawn on Wednesday, but the crew, led by a Russian captain, managed to sound the alarm. Patrol boats rushed to the scene within minutes and authorities caught the suspects, confiscating their wooden boat.
Tigers training in India: PM
Remnants of Sri Lanka’s defeated Tamil Tiger rebels are undergoing military training in India in a bid to revive their separatist campaign at home, the prime minister said yesterday. D.M. Jayaratne said an unknown number of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fighters were based at secret camps in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. “We have intelligence reports of three clandestine training centers operated by the LTTE in Tamil Nadu,” the prime minister said in a statement. He said the rebels, who were defeated by Sri Lankan government troops in May 2009, were hoping to relaunch their decades-long fight for an independent homeland. “Their next target is to create small-scale attacks,” Jayaratne said.
Tourist city bans birds
Birds cultivated for their edible nests are being banned from the capital of a Malaysian tourist island after the UN cultural agency warned that the business endangers efforts to preserve buildings. The bird breeders voiced fears yesterday that the ban would disrupt the lucrative business that existed for years before Georgetown became a World Heritage Site. The restrictions pose a problem for those who convert old buildings into small farms where sparrow-like swiftlets live.
Jesus not a violent rebel
Pope Benedict XVI has rejected the idea of Jesus as a political revolutionary and insisted that violent revolution must never be carried out in God’s name, in a new book scheduled for release yesterday. Jesus of Nazareth — Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection is the second installment of Benedict’s planned trilogy on Jesus. Already, 1.2 million copies have been printed in seven languages, and reprints of 100,000 more are planned for the Italian editions and 50,000 in German. In the book, Benedict says Jesus never advocated violent revolution, saying “the cruel consequences of religiously motivated violence are only too evident to us all.”
Fugitive felled by lasagna
Giancarlo Sabatini avoided police for a decade on the run, but couldn’t resist his wife’s lasagna. Police said Sabatini went into hiding in 2000, shortly after being given a three-year, eight-month prison sentence in a cocaine trafficking case. Acting on a tip, police staked out the homes of Sabatini’s wife and daughter on Tuesday in Rocca Priora, a town near Rome. When they spied the daughter leaving her mother’s house and furtively dashing toward her home bearing a tray of lasagna, police, suspecting a secret guest, burst in and arrested Sabatini. Many Italians prepare lasagna with meat sauce for lunch on the last Tuesday of Carnival. Police said Sabatini came from his hideout in Belgium to celebrate the last day before Lent with his family.
Robber busted by urine
A Swedish bank robber forgot to cover his tracks and left three bottles of urine behind after hiding inside a bank vault in Copenhagen for three days. The 27-year-old man and his accomplice used the bottles to relieve themselves after sneaking into the vault on a Friday in May and remaining there until the bank opened again the following Monday. While inside, the robbers emptied 140 safety deposit boxes of at least US$500,000 in cash and jewelry. However, they forgot to take the urine when they left “so we were able to get their DNA samples from the bottles,” prosecutor Frederik Larsen said on Wednesday. The evidence helped prosecutors win a 21-month prison sentence for the Swede on Tuesday. His accomplice is still at large and the loot hasn’t been recovered.
Police link questioned
The police officer in charge of questioning two women who say they were raped and molested by WikiLeaks frontman Julian Assange is a friend of one of the alleged victims, the Expressen daily reported yesterday. The unnamed officer had exchanged personal messages with one of Assange’s alleged victims over the Internet more than a year before taking statements from her about the claims. The woman officer, who like the alleged victim referred to by a London court as Miss A was active in the Swedish Social Democratic Party, had also continued posting negative comments on Facebook about Assange, and had voiced support for the lawyer representing the two women, Expressen reported. It said the officer in question must have realized as soon as the two women came in to provide statements in August that one of them was her acquaintance and co-party member, but she had not removed herself from the case and had instead gone on to interrogate the second alleged victim.
New lupus drug approved
The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the first new drug to treat lupus in more than 50 years, a milestone that medical experts say could prompt development of other drugs that are even more effective in treating the debilitating immune system disorder. Known as Benlysta, the injectable drug is designed to relieve flare-ups and pain caused by lupus, a potentially fatal ailment in which the body attacks its own tissue and organs. Biotech drugmaker Human Genome Sciences Inc spent 15 years developing Benlysta and will co-market it with GlaxoSmithKline PLC. Experts stress that Benlysta is not a miracle drug: It only worked in 35 percent of North American patients tested and was not effective for patients with the deadliest form of the disease. Additionally, it did not show positive results in African-Americans, who are disproportionately affected by lupus.
Students get rude awakening
Chronically tardy and truant students at a Massachusetts high school are getting a rude awakening — a pre-recorded morning wake-up call from their school principal. The so-called “robo-calls” that began on Wednesday are aimed at rousing about 500 students, the worst-offending sleepyheads, from bed and getting them to school on time. “It’s 6:15 and it’s Durfee High School calling,” booms the voice of principal Paul Marshall of B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River, according to vice principal Ross Thibault.
Rare Frisco pics found
A museum volunteer has unearthed what the Smithsonian Institution believes to be the first — and perhaps only — color photographs of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire that nearly leveled the city. The six never-published images were snapped by photography innovator Frederick Eugene Ives several months after the April 1906 “Great Quake,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Most were taken from the roof of the hotel where Ives stayed during an October 1906 visit. They were stowed amid other items donated by Ives’ son, Herbert, and discovered in 2009 by National Museum of American History volunteer Anthony Brooks while he was cataloguing the collection. Ives’ work is probably the only true color documentary evidence, Shannon Perich, associate curator of the Smithsonian’s photography history collection, told the Chronicle. She says Ives was one of only a few photographers experimenting with color photography in the early 20th century and that his San Francisco images were meant to be viewed through a 3-D device which never became a commercial success. The pictures are street-level shots of San Francisco’s shattered downtown and rooftop views overlooking kilometers of ruins.
Clapton auctions guitars
Eric Clapton’s guitars rocked New York City on Wednesday as an auction of them brought in millions of dollars. A 1948 Gibson L-5P sold for US$82,960, well above its pre-sale estimate of US$20,000 to US$30,000. And a replica of a prized Clapton guitar that duplicates the cigarette burns and belt buckle scratches found on the original sold for US$30,500 at the auction. The sale at Bonhams New York included 75 guitars and 55 amps from the British artist’s collection and brought in US$2.15 million. Proceeds were to benefit a drug and alcohol treatment center Clapton founded in the Caribbean.
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
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong (FCC) yesterday said that reporters in the territory were experiencing “highly unusual” visas problems, and called on the US and China to stop using the media as a political weapon. Journalists have been caught up in US-China tensions, with both sides placing limits or expelling reporters from their territories in the past few months. Now the spat is filtering into Hong Kong, a regional press hub nominally in charge of its own immigration policies. The FCC said in a statement that multiple media firms had reported delays getting visas in recent months. “The delays have affected journalists