Artist under investigation
An artist under investigation for allegedly vandalizing roads saw more than 11,000 Internet users yesterday petitioning online for leniency. Police declined to identify the 25-year-old woman arrested, but said she faced a maximum three-year jail term and a fine of up to S$2,000 (US$1,500) if convicted. A police statement said the woman, dubbed “Sticker Lady” by the local media, is alleged to have painted “MY GRANDFATHER ROAD” on several streets last month. She is also alleged to have pasted captioned stickers on traffic lights, pavements and pedestrian crossings. The case has sparked uproar on the Internet, with many feeling the artist, identified as Samantha Lo in local media, was simply expressing creativity and should be treated with leniency.
Police hunt alleged killer
Police yesterday said they were hunting for a village strongman accused of beating to death an “untouchable” neighbor who broke strict caste-based rules by using a local handpump. Mohan Paswan, in his late 40s, was lynched in Parhuti village in Bihar State on Thursday last week when he disobeyed an order by a local thug not to use the pump during a heatwave. “Paswan was attacked and brutally thrashed by village strongman Pramod Singh and his henchmen for taking water,” local police official Saroj Kumar said. “Police have been trying hard to arrest the accused in the case, but they are absconding.”
Ex-defense chief charged
Former Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) chief Peter Lim was charged with accepting sex for favors yesterday in the most serious corruption case involving senior government officials in almost 20 years. Lim “is accused of having corruptly obtained sexual gratification from two female vendors and one potential female vendor to the SCDF on 10 occasions between May 2010 and November 2011,” a spokesman for the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau said. Lim, along with Central Narcotics Bureau director Ng Boon Gay, was replaced in February, with authorities saying the two men were being investigated by the bureau. The Straits Times’ Web site reported Lim, who is 51, appeared in court alone yesterday, but did not say if he entered a plea.
High-priced sex ring busted
Police have busted a high-end sex ring and arrested four people, including a former beauty queen, for pimping models, singers and actresses to wealthy clients, state media said yesterday. Police discovered the alleged ring after raiding a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City over the weekend and finding two women — who have confessed to working for the ring — with two clients, the Thanh Nien newspaper said. The women told police they worked for beauty queen Vo Thi My Xuan, 29, and could earn up to US$4,000 for each appointment, the report said, adding the ring included about 20 models, singers, actresses and students.
Prince Tomohito dies
Prince Tomohito, cousin of Emperor Akihito, died yesterday, a palace official said. He was 66. Tomohito, who openly admitted to an alcohol problem, had been suffering from cancer of the larynx. He had undergone cancer-related surgery a reported 16 times, most recently in March. Known as “the bearded prince,” Tomohito was one of the more outspoken members of the imperial family.
Ancient ‘vampires’ unearthed
Archeologists in Bulgaria have unearthed two skeletons from the Middle Ages pierced through the chest with iron rods to keep them from turning into vampires, the head of the history museum said on Tuesday. According to pagan beliefs, people who were considered bad during their lifetimes might turn into vampires after death unless stabbed in the chest with an iron or wooden rod before being buried. “These two skeletons stabbed with rods illustrate a practice which was common in some Bulgarian villages up until the first decade of the 20th century,” national history museum chief Bozhidar Dimitrov said after the recent find in the Black Sea town of Sozopol.
Ex-player on hunger strike
A former member of the Palestinian national soccer team remains on hunger strike over his imprisonment by Israel without charge, or trial, despite an agreement that was reached last month in order to end a mass protest by Palestinian prisoners. Mahmoud Sarsak, 25, has refused food for 80 days, since 19 March. He began his hunger strike after his “administrative detention” order was renewed for the sixth time. He was arrested in July 2009 while on his way from his home in Gaza to a national contest in the West Bank. Sarsak is due to be visited for the first time today, by a doctor from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) — an Israeli organization — following legal submissions. A PHR spokeswoman said although Sarsak may be taking fluids and supplements, “every day that this goes on he is at risk of death or permanent damage.”
Fine for illegal protest soars
Russia’s lower house of parliament approved a bill on Tuesday that would raise the fine for participating in an unauthorized protest 150-fold. If, as expected, the bill becomes law, protesters whose rallies are not officially sanctioned will face fines of up to 300,000 rubles (US$9,000), up from the current 2,000 rubles. The potential punishment is far more severe than for many other crimes. A sampling of other offenses and their maximum penalties under Russian law: prostitution (2,500 rubles); illegal use of an automobile (120,000 rubles); nuclear materials storage violations (5,000 rubles for regular citizens, 40,000 rubles for public officials); performing an abortion without medical qualifications (80,000 rubles); violating safety precautions in designing, building and using nuclear energy facilities that could cause danger or radioactive contagion (200,000 rubles); and organizing prostitution (500,000 rubles or three years in prison).
Spain needs help: Kauder
The leader of Germany’s conservative parliamentary group, Volker Kauder, yesterday urged Madrid to seek help from the EU rescue fund the European Financial Stability Facility to solve Spain’s banking crisis. “Spain is going to have to make a decision, and I think it should seek protection from the fund ... because of its banks,” Kauder said. As head of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Kauder is a close aide to Chancellor Angela Merkel, but Germany has until now taken care not to exert pressure on Spain as it battles the latest blaze in the eurozone debt crisis. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has refused so far to seek financial assistance from the EU that would come with strings attached, but has acknowledged that the situation with the banks is critical.
Vodka served to toddler
A company that manages a Hawaii dinner cruise has acknowledged mistakenly serving alcohol to a three-year-old boy. Army Specialist Bingyan Cai said her son Michael’s orange juice contained vodka while they were dining aboard the Alii Kai catamaran on May 26. She noticed her son turning red, acting unruly and mumbling, the active duty mom stationed on Oahu told Hawaii News Now.” She tried his drink and tasted alcohol, even offering it up to family members and nearby tourists for confirmation. She notified the boat staff and was given bottled water, but was told not to make a fuss so as to not ruin the ride for tourists, Cai said. The company that manages the cruise, Roberts Hawaii, apologized in a statement on Monday, saying it was mortified by the error. The family received a refund of nearly US$300 for the cost of the dinner cruise.
‘Bath salt’ precursor banned
The government said on Tuesday it was moving to ban the main substance used to make “bath salts” — the drug linked to a grisly attack in the US in which a man almost killed another by chewing his face. The drug — which resembles regular bath salts in texture — can spark an often aggressive, chaotic experience for users, including intense hallucinations. Key to the production of the illegal drug is a synthetic stimulant known as MDPV that, under new regulations expected to take effect within months, will become illegal to produce, own, deal, export or import. Reports have suggested that a nude assailant who gnawed the face of a homeless man in Miami last month was likely under the influence of “bath salts.”
Cannibal cultists charged
Three Brazilians have been charged with murdering three women and eating their flesh as part of a cult in which they sought to purify their souls and control population growth, police said. Authorities on Tuesday brought the charges against the three — Jorge da Silveira and Isabel Pires, a married couple in their early 50s, and 25-year-old Bruna da Silva — accusing them of murdering three women aged 17 to 31 between 2008 and this year in Pernambuco State. “The accused admitted to consuming the flesh of their victims,” police spokesman Paulo Berenguer told reporters, adding that investigators were looking into whether they were involved in the deaths of four other people.
Madoff staffer admits fraud
A former employee at the investment firm run by Ponzi scheme mastermind Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty on Tuesday to paying fake salaries as part of a tax fraud scheme. Craig Kugel, 38, pleaded guilty in the federal court in New York to false tax returns, false statements and tax fraud conspiracy. Kugel faces a maximum sentence of 19 years in prison and will be sentenced on Dec. 13.
Ex-governor’s ranch seized
Federal prosecutors have seized a ranch and the offices of former Tamaulipas governor Eugenio Hernandez Flores. A state official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said soldiers and federal agents with the organized crime branch of the Attorney General’s Office raided Flores’ properties on Tuesday. US authorities allege a previous governor of the northern border state, Tomas Yarrington, took money from the Gulf and the Zetas cartel. Neither Hernandez nor Yarrington have been charged with any crime.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and