Same sex marriages mulled
The government is considering whether to allow same-sex couples to marry or legally register and receive rights, positioning it to become the first country in Asia to do so. The Ministry of Justice’s proposal to include same-sex couples in the country’s marriage law has surprised gay-rights activists. No one knows whether it will survive long enough to be debated by the National Assembly next year, but supporters say the fact that it is even being considered is a victory in a region where simply being gay can result in jail sentences or whippings with a rattan cane.
Rescue effort saves whale
Rescuers and navy divers on Saturday helped a sperm whale return to the sea after it was stranded in shallow waters off the coast of West Java Province for four days. The 11m whale had been stuck near Pakis Jaya beach since Wednesday, attracting residents who paid US$0.50 each for boat rides close to the animal, thereby hampering rescue efforts. “We gradually pulled the whale into deeper waters with a tugboat. When it reached a depth of 20m we released it back into the sea,” Benvika from the Jakarta Animal Aid Network said.
Serial killer to be executed
Xinhua news agency says a serial killer in Yunnan Province has been sentenced to death for murdering 11 people. A court in Kunming found Zhang Yongming (張永明), 56, guilty on Saturday of killing his victims between 2008 and this year. He showed no remorse in court. Xinhua said Zhang strangled his victims and used various methods, including dismembering and burning the bodies, to destroy evidence. It said he had been sentenced to death in 1979 for another homicide, but was released after his sentence was reduced. Xinhua earlier said authorities fired or disciplined 12 police officers for inadequately investigating the murders.
Earthquake rattles country
A magnitude 5.7 earthquake yesterday shook an area near the Indian border. The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at a depth of 68.4km. The country’s meteorological and seismic agency put the magnitude at 5.8 with an official saying no casualties or damage had been reported. The quake occurred at 8:51am. The official said the epicenter was about 215km northwest of Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city. The area affected is not densely populated.
Alleged scammer arraigned
A woman who lived for months with the corpse of a companion was arraigned on Friday on charges of cashing his pension and Social Security retirement checks. Linda Chase, 71, appeared in court three weeks after police found the remains of Charles Zigler in a chair in the living room of their Jackson house, 64km south of Lansing, in southern Michigan. Police entered the home on July 6 after Zigler’s relatives said they had not heard from him and could not get inside. Chase has said she did not want to part with the body and talked to it while watching stock car races on TV. Chase is not charged with any crimes related to Zigler’s death or her failure to report it. Police believe the 67-year-old died of natural causes in December 2010, although Chase said it was last year. Chase is charged with forgery for converting checks worth US$28,000 intended for Zigler. A judge released her after advising her to appear for all court dates.