Poll observers idea nixed
The government yesterday dismissed suggestions that foreign observers were needed to monitor the upcoming election, with the deputy prime minister saying he does “not respect” Westerners. It would be “inappropriate” to allow outside involvement in the poll, which is due in June or July and comes after deadly street protests last year, Suthep Thaugsuban said. “I don’t respect farangs. We do not have to surrender to them,” he said, using the Thai word for Westerners. Thailand has never officially allowed election monitors to operate during its polls, but anti-government “Red Shirts” have recently called for international observers to be present. “I am surprised that the Red Shirts do not respect our country’s sovereignty ... I don’t understand why they constantly call for foreign involvement, it is inappropriate,” Suthep told reporters.
Shooting probe concluded
Investigators say they have concluded “for now” that security forces did not shoot a Japanese journalist who was killed during protests in Bangkok last year. Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto, 43, was shot on April 10 last year during a chaotic clash between anti-government protesters and soldiers. He was one of two journalists and about 90 other people killed during mass protests and street clashes that lasted 10 weeks. The head of Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation said yesterday that a joint investigation with police had ended with the conclusion “for now” that government forces did not kill Muramoto. Tharit said investigators would accept any new evidence and would continue searching for Muramoto’s killer, but they had no leads.
Anwar prosecution rests
Prosecutors have finished questioning all their witnesses in opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy trial. Hearings have been delayed repeatedly since Anwar was first charged in August 2008 with having sex with a male former aide. Anwar insists the charge is part of a government conspiracy to crush his political career, but authorities deny plotting against him. The prosecution’s 27 witnesses included the 25-year-old man who claims Anwar coerced him into having sex. Both the prosecution and defense are scheduled to present a summary of their case so far on April 18.
Suicide bomber kills five
A suicide bomber rammed a car loaded with explosives into a police station yesterday, killing five and wounding more than two dozen people, police said. It was the second attack in as many days against police in Hangu, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province that has been hit by militants many times over the past several years. The dead included one officer and four passers-by, said Rashid Khan, the top police official in Hangu. Most of the wounded in the attack in Doaba were also passers-by, he said. On Wednesday, a roadside bomb struck a police patrol in Hangu, wounding six officers.
Kim sends cash to Japan
Kim Jong-il has sent US$500,000 to ethnic Koreans in Japan to help them recover from a devastating earthquake and tsunami, the Korean Central News Agency reported yesterday, without elaborating. Kim’s money was apparently meant for pro-Pyongyang residents in Japan. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Koreans live in Japan, some supporting Pyongyang, while others back Seoul.
Ex-metro chief under probe
The government yesterday opened a criminal investigation against the former head of the Moscow metro, one of the highest profile targets yet in an anti-corruption drive. Dmitry Gayev, who quit this year as chief of one of the world’s biggest metro systems, is suspected of abuse of office, Irina Dudukina, spokeswoman of the investigative committee of the interior ministry, told Interfax. Prosecutors said Gayev was suspected of making 112 million rubles (US$4 million) in illegal income during his term as head of the Moscow metro from 1995 to this year. Gayev was long seen as an ally of former Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, who was ousted last year by President Dmitry Medvedev over a breakdown of trust amid persistent allegations of large-scale corruption.
Sexist remarks not allowed
The interior ministry has released a guide to reducing sexist language in government offices of a nation renowned for its machismo. The Manual for the Non-Sexist Use of Language is a “tool to familiarize federal public workers with the use of non-sexist strategies in the Spanish language,” according to the introduction of the guide distributed on Wednesday. The manual seeks to reduce comments that enforce sexual stereotypes, such as “If you want to work, why did you have children?” or “You’re prettier when you keep quiet,” according to the document. It also seeks to avoid referring to women in terms of possession, such as “Pedro’s wife.” The recommendations came amid concern over a rise in female homicides, also called femicides, in which women are targeted for their gender.
Tony Abbott under fire
Opposition leader Tony Abbott came under fire yesterday for appearing in front of placards branding Prime Minister Julia Gillard a “bitch” and a “witch.” Abbott spoke at an anti-carbon tax rally in Canberra on Wednesday framed by banners with slogans like “Ditch the witch.” One labeled Gillard “Bob Brown’s bitch,” in reference to the leader of the left-wing Greens party, which is a key partner in her ruling Labor coalition. Both the government and the Greens called on Abbott to apologize for appearing to endorse the derogatory sentiments. While Abbott, nicknamed “Mad Monk” because of his aborted training as a Catholic priest, expressed regret, he refused to say sorry. “I think a few people went over the top,” he said. “If the prime minister had been straight with the Australian people before the election, we wouldn’t be in quite the situation we are now in.” Last month Gillard broke her election promise not to introduce a carbon tax and is now proposing a price on carbon pollution from July 1 next year.
Envoy quits over WikiLeaks
Carlos Pascual became the nation’s first ambassador to lose his job over thousands of sensitive diplomatic cables released by the WikiLeaks Web site. Pascual faced a harsh choice as the release of secret cables made his job in Mexico nearly impossible: Quit to rescue one of the US’ most strategic relationships or weather the storm to show that diplomats should not suffer for doing their jobs. His frank cables detailing infighting and jealousies among Mexican security forces contrasted with public US praise for Mexico’s fight against drug trafficking. They deeply angered Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who repeatedly stated he could no longer trust the ambassador. Even opposition lawmakers said they became reluctant to meet with Pascual.
Dissidents briefly detained
Dissident Guillermo Farinas, winner of last year’s international Sakharov rights prize, said on Wednesday he was detained for several hours along with other opposition figures. “I was arrested along with other brothers [on Tuesday] night when we went to our homes, because apparently they thought we were going to carry out some activity,” Farinas, 48, said by telephone from his home east of Havana. The journalist said he was released on Wednesday without being told why he had been detained.
Bus driver was sober: lawyer
A lawyer for the driver of a tour bus that crashed in New York City on its way to Chinatown and killed 15 people says he was sober and fully awake when the accident happened. Sean Rooney told the New York Times driver Ophadell Williams was in control of the bus until a tractor-trailer veered toward it on a highway. He says the driver claims he lost control after swerving to avoid the truck. Rooney scoffs at reports passengers told police the bus repeatedly swerved onto the highway shoulder before the March 12 crash. He calls the reports “nonsense.” He says Williams doesn’t smoke, drink or do drugs. Investigators are looking into whether Williams was asleep or distracted as he drove from a casino in Connecticut. Williams has not been charged.
Study of controllers ordered
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is directing that two air traffic controllers be on duty at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport late at night following an incident in which two airliners landed without tower clearance because they couldn’t reach the lone controller. LaHood said in a statement he has also ordered the Federal Aviation Administration administrator to study tower staffing at other airports around the country. An aviation official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the incident, said the controller had fallen asleep.
Abduction raid frees baby
A seven-month-old baby girl from Paraguay was returned to her teenage mother on Wednesday after police raided a criminal ring that abducted and trafficked children, officials said. Lis Sebastiana’s 19-year-old mother, identified only as Sandra, arrived in Argentina in September with a promise from members of the ring for work in the capital. Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, however, Sandra was taken to a clinic for a medical examination where she was told her then-two-month-old baby had asthma and needed urgent hospital care — at which point her child was taken away. It was unclear whether she was sold outright. Sandra was able to later escape the gang members and file a police report.
‘Hyena’ gets life sentence
A retired general nicknamed “The Hyena,” active during the 1976 to 1983 military junta period, was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity on Wednesday. It was the sixth life sentence for Luciano Menendez, 83, who was head of the army’s Third Corps during the dictatorship period and was responsible for 11 provinces in central and northern Argentina. On May 20, 1976, soldiers and provincial police under Menendez’s command broke into a home in the northern city of Tucuman and killed five alleged members of the leftist Montonero guerrilla group. Menendez was found guilty of twice-aggravated homicide and unlawful entry in the case.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big