Darfur leader killed: army
The army killed a key rebel leader from the Darfur region, state media reported yesterday, three days after anti-government forces said they had begun advancing on the capital Khartoum. “The Sudanese army announce that they killed Khalil Ibrahim in fighting today west of Wadbanda in North Kordofan,” the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) said. Ibrahim headed the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the most heavily armed group in the Darfur region. The report could not be independently confirmed. On Saturday SUNA, quoting army spokesperson Sawarmi Khaled Saad, said the military was combing the North Kordofan-North Darfur border area after JEM “attacked civilians” and targeted local leaders while looting their property in the Umm-Gozain, Goz Abyadh and Aramal areas. Saad gave no casualty figures. JEM announced on Thursday through its London-based spokesperson that its forces were advancing from Darfur eastward toward the capital Khartoum.
Pianist could avoid jail term
A prosecutor’s office said it might not seek the customary seven-and-a-half-year prison sentence for noise pollution for a pianist who practiced at home. The office for the northeastern region of Catalonia said in a statement released late on Friday that it was studying a request for a partial pardon for 26-year-old Laia Martin, a professional musician, given that a “prison sentence could be considered overly stringent.” The office recommended prison earlier in the week after a neighbor claimed noise contamination from Martin’s eight-hour practice sessions had left her with psychological damage.
Thousands attend funerals
Thousands of people on Saturday attended prayers in memory of the 44 people killed by suicide bombers in Damascus as charge and counter-charge swirled over who was behind the attacks. The funeral prayers, at central Omayyad Mosque, came as an Arab League delegation met Foreign Minister Walid Muallem to discuss the arrival of a team to oversee a deal aimed at ending nine months of bloodshed. Mourners prayed before flag-draped coffins, while a crowd outside waved portraits of embattled President Bashar al-Assad and banners of the ruling Baath party as police stood watch. Religious Affairs Minister Abdel Sattar al-Sayyed read a statement from Christian and Muslim religious leaders “denouncing the criminal attacks on Friday ... and the murder, destruction and sabotage,” part of a “dangerous plot against Syria.”
Troops fire on protesters
Troops commanded by relatives of outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh have attacked a crowd of more than 100,000 protesters peacefully marching into the capital, killing at least 13 and driving the president to promise to leave the country. Yielding to pressure to defuse the country’s turmoil, Saleh said on Saturday he would leave for the US after forces overseen by his son and nephew opened fire on the protesters. They had marched for four days and 320km on foot to pressure the government not to give Saleh immunity from prosecution, in the first march of its kind in the impoverished nation that is home to a dangerous al-Qaeda offshoot. After protesters arrived at the southern entrances to the capital, forces of the elite Republican Guard fired on them with automatic weapons, tear gas and water cannons, sparking hours of clashes.
Famous crossing made over
A New York museum is unveiling a more accurate version of one of the nation’s most iconic scenes, George Washington crossing the Delaware River. The new painting shows Washington on a flat-bottomed ferry instead of the rowboat seen in the famous 1851 painting by Emanuel Leutze. The New York Times says the new picture shows Washington’s troops in the dead of night during a snowstorm, while the original shows a bright sky. It also eliminates the “Stars-and-Stripes” flag, which had not been adopted at that time. Washington crossed the river on Christmas 1776 to mount a surprise attack on Hessian forces at the Battle of Trenton during the Revolutionary War for independence from Britain. Artist Mort Kunstler painted the new picture. It debuts today at the New-York Historical Society.
Santa goes surfing
Before settling into his sleigh for his long slog delivering presents around the world, Santa Claus took a few hours’ break to go surfing on Saturday on the waves of the Pacific near Los Angeles. Surfing teacher Michael Pless, 61, took to the waves on Seal Beach wearing a custom-fitted “Surfing Santa” suit and a red bonnet, completing the looks with Santa’s traditional white beard. “I wanted to bring the spirit of Christmas to the beach,” he said. Pless, who has surfed as Santa Claus since the 1990s, said adults “think it’s absolutely great” and kids “think it’s absolutely fun” to bring a bit of the North Pole to sunny California.
Teen scales top seven peaks
A teenager became the youngest person to climb to the summit of the seven tallest mountains on Earth’s seven continents, according to his mother and his Web site. Jordan Romero, 15, called his mother, Leigh Ann Drake, on Saturday to confirm that he’d reached the top of Mount Vinson Massif in Antarctica. The California native beat the record previously held by British climber George Atkinson, who completed the ascents at age 16 in May. Romero’s team began the climb on Wednesday. Romero’s Facebook page, “Find Your Everest,” marked reaching the summit, but the climb is hardly over. “Descent still to come then we celebrate,” a post to the Facebook page read. Romero completes the climbs with his father and stepmother.
Man jailed for bestiality
A California man was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison for choking and sexually assaulting a chihuahua, and must now register as a sex offender, Sacramento prosecutors said on Saturday. Robert Edwards De Shields, who is confined to a wheelchair, was convicted last month of the crimes against the eight-month-old chihuahua mix living with the family of the South Sacramento home where he rented a living space. He was high on methamphetamine at the time of the attack. In March the owners found the dog almost lifeless, in pain and in shock, with De Shields in the garage. A veterinarian later found traces of asphyxiation, as well as serious injuries to the animal’s rectum and internal organs. De Shields, a meth addict, has been in and out of custody for years. In the last 19 to 20 years, he has only been free from jail or monitoring by the authorities for about five months, except for periods when he was on the run, according to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread