Embassies cough up fines
The embassies of Kazakhstan and Nigeria in London have paid parking fines of ￡40,000 (US$65,000) ahead of a government report naming and shaming foreign missions for unpaid penalties, a council said on Wednesday. Westminster City Council said it was writing to the heads of state of countries who still have not paid up, including US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Kazakh embassy was the worst offender on the council’s list, but it has now coughed up ￡37,160 for 627 parking tickets built up from 2007 to last year, the council said in a statement. The Nigerian embassy, meanwhile, paid ￡3,450 for clocking up 78 parking tickets. The worst remaining offenders are the embassies of China, Turkey, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus, who collectively owe ￡72,880. Foreign embassies in London still owe the council a total of ￡1.1 million. “Citing ‘diplomatic immunity’ as an excuse for not paying tickets is clearly unacceptable,” said Lee Rowley, the council’s Cabinet member for parking. “It’s time these diplomats started to respect the rules of the road in the UK and stopped thinking they can do what they like at the expense of our taxpayers.”
Elephants surprise passersby
Two runaway circus elephants surprised passersby and police by showing up at a bus stop during a brief bid for freedom, officials in Hannover said. Dunia, a 40-year-old Indian elephant, and her counterpart Daela, a 25-year-old African elephant, were apprehended by police near the western city of Hannover last weekend nonchalantly munching on tree leaves and looking for all the world as if they were waiting for a bus. The pair had escaped from their enclosure at a nearby traveling circus and walked about 50m to the bus stop, police said. “It was simply an unlucky situation for the circus,” Hannover police spokesman Heiko Steiner said. “The two elephants were quite cooperative and peaceful. Everyone was amused.” If the two were trying to make an escape, they were not going far, Steiner said. The police station is only a stone’s throw from the bus stop, which is out of use during the summer school holidays.
Body found in undercarriage
Authorities at Madrid’s airport found the body of a Cuban man in the undercarriage of a plane that arrived from Havana on Wednesday, police said. The man “probably died from being crushed” after apparently hiding in the rear landing gear of the Iberia flight before it left Cuba, but an autopsy would determine the exact cause of death, a source in the Civil Guard police force said. Spanish media said the man had injuries to his head and chest.
Stinky feet help fight malaria
The smell of stinky feet may help scientists fight malaria-causing mosquitoes. Bed nets and indoor spraying have already substantially reduced the number of fatal malaria cases, but so far scientists have not come up with a good way to help combat mosquitoes outdoors. Fredros Okumu, the head of a research project at Tanzania’s Ifakara Health Institute, says that traps scented with the odor of human feet may be the answer as they attract four times as many mosquitoes as a human volunteer. The mosquitoes who fly into the trap are then poisoned. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada said on Wednesday they are giving Okumu US$775,000 to create an affordable trap that could be used outside homes.
Stepmom pleads not guilty
A California woman pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to a child endangerment charge in the case of her 10-year-old stepson, who is accused of fatally shooting his white supremacist father. Krista McCary also pleaded not guilty to four counts of criminal storage of a gun, said John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County district attorney’s office. McCary was charged after her neo-Nazi husband Jeff Hall was shot to death in their home on May 1. Authorities say the eldest of Hall’s five children took his parents’ gun off a shelf and shot him in the ear while he was sleeping. According to a police declaration filed in the case, McCary told investigators that Hall hit, kicked and yelled at his son to punish him, had been violent against her and pushed and spanked the boy’s younger sisters. The boy was due to appear in juvenile court July 22.
Intervene on obesity: doctors
The government should have the right to remove severely obese children from their parents’ home and place them in foster care, two doctors argued in a controversial editorial published on Wednesday. “State intervention may serve the best interests of many children with life-threatening obesity, comprising the only realistic way to control harmful behaviors,” wrote Lindsey Murtagh of the Harvard School of Public Health and David Ludwig of Children’s Hospital in Boston. “In severe instances of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable from a legal standpoint because of imminent health risks and the parents’ chronic failure to address medical problems.”
Inmate allowed child porn
A legal loophole is allowing a Washington state man accused of child sex crimes to view child pornography in jail. Weldon Marc Gilbert is acting as his own lawyer in the case, and that means he is entitled to review the evidence. The evidence in the case includes more than 100 videos seized from Gilbert’s Lake Tapps home after his 2007 arrest. Authorities say some of the footage was shot by Gilbert. The materials normally would be contraband at the Pierce County Jail, but restricting Gilbert’s access to the videos could result in a mistrial, the station reported on Wednesday. Gilbert worked as a pilot and is accused of using offers of flying lessons, money and alcohol to lure more than a dozen boys to his home, where police say he then molested them.
Mother’s grave misplaced
Evelyn and Hortense Edwards spent two decades visiting what they thought was their mother’s grave only to discover it contained the remains of a stranger. Now, the sisters are seeking US$25 million in damages from the Rosehill Cemetery in Linden, New Jersey, for emotional distress caused when they learned that their mother, Beatrice Williams, had been buried in the wrong plot. “It was devastating for them,” Mark Crawford, the sisters’ attorney, said in a telephone interview. He said they only discovered the mix-up after they complained to the cemetery about their mother’s grave falling into disrepair. An employee looked up the plot in question. “She said, ‘There’s a man buried there,’ and they said, ‘What do you mean there’s a man buried there?’” Crawford said. The complaint says the cemetery has acknowledged that the plot location in the sisters’ paperwork was incorrect. In a letter sent to the sisters last July, the cemetery said it believed their mother was in fact buried in another section, the complaint said.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”