Aitutaki has first bank heist
The remote Pacific island of Aitutaki was reeling after its first ever bank heist, the local mayor said yesterday. Thieves broke into the local branch of the Bank of the Cook Islands in the dead of night last week and emptied its safe, taking savings belonging to the community, Aitutaki Mayor John Baxter said. He said the tiny island, about 3,200km northeast of New Zealand, was abuzz with speculation about the crime, which reportedly netted about NZ$200,000 (US$170,000). Police, including a retired detective, had been flown in from the capital, Rarotonga, to investigate, he said. Baxter said the police had already cleared local youths in the deeply religious community of any involvement in the crime. Aitutaki is a magnet for cruising yachts, and Baxter said police were investigating whether the thieves could have moored a boat, carried out the heist, then sailed away.
Beer cooler driver fined
A man had his driving license suspended for 10 months and was fined after he was caught driving a scooter made of a motorized beer cooler capable of carrying several dozen drinks — after knocking back a few. The unconventional scooter featured a cooler box mounted on a wheeled frame and powered by a 50cc engine, complete with a steering handlebar. The cooler doubled as a driver’s seat and was able to hold up to 48 bottles of beer. Chris Petrie, 23 and from the northeastern state of Queensland, bought the vehicle over the Internet for A$600 (US$630). While assembling it at a friend’s house, the two sampled a few beers before Petrie decided to drive it home, according to a local TV station. He was caught by the police en route and found to be more than three times over the legal blood alcohol limit, and was charged with drinking and driving, and driving without a license.
Kim Jong-il holidays
Kim Jong-il enjoyed a summer holiday sailing on his yacht and staying at his coastal villa as the country struggles to recover from devastating floods, a report said yesterday. Kim has been staying in the northeastern port of Hamheung since early this month and sailing as he has done in previous years, South Korean news agency Yonhap said. It is not clear whether the reclusive leader has now left the villa to return to Pyongyang. The holiday shows Kim has not changed his lavish lifestyle despite international sanctions banning the sale of yachts and other luxury goods to the regime, Yonhap said. South Korean officials declined to confirm the report. Last year, the country made a failed attempt to buy two luxury yachts worth more than US$15 million.
‘Avatar’ villagers protest
More than 100 villagers dressed as the forest people from the hit film Avatar protested in the capital yesterday against the destruction of the country’s Prey Lang forest. With their faces painted blue and green and donning hats made of leaves, the demonstrators called for an end to the exploitation and deforestation of the largest lowland evergreen forest remaining in Southeast Asia. Joined by monks and environmental activists, villagers from the forest gathered outside Phnom Penh’s royal palace for a religious ceremony before spreading out across the city to distribute leaflets about Prey Lang. They say the forest, a source of livelihood for about 200,000 mainly Aborigines, is under threat from illegal logging and a spate of concessions granted for rubber plantations and mineral exploitation.