Kim’s yacht sails to burial
Pyongyang has put Kim Jong-il’s yacht in the family mausoleum and had to build a railway to get it there, a report said yesterday, as the nation prepares to mark one year since the late leader’s death. The reclusive state has been putting together a collection of some of Kim’s possessions at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, which houses the preserved body of his father, Kim Il-sung, Yonhap news agency said. Quoting unidentified South Korean officials, Yonhap said that the embalming of Kim Jong-il’s body, which is eventually expected to be laid next to that of his father in the imposing structure, is almost complete. To get to the palace, the yacht was sailed from the eastern port of Wonsan 1,500 nautical miles (2,778km) around the Korean Peninsula to the western port of Nampo, from where it was towed 44km inland to Pyongyang. Power lines had to be taken down, a temporary rail track was laid and part of the wall of the mausoleum knocked down to get the boat inside, the report said. The North has reportedly set Dec. 1 to 20 as a mourning period for Kim Jong-il, who died of a heart attack on Dec. 17.
Phones to light up harbor
Sydney’s world-famous New Year’s Eve fireworks will go interactive with a smartphone-powered light show, officials announced on Thursday. The light show, described by City of Sydney officials as a “world first,” will run through an app on iPhone and Android smartphones that will illuminate the screens with color at scheduled intervals leading up to midnight. The city is hoping to attract more than 1 million people to the harbor foreshore to witness the fireworks, and organizers want the crowds to hold their phones aloft to form a synchronized wave of color. “In a city of great diversity we come together at New Year’s Eve to embrace the future and celebrate all that we are and the potential that tomorrow holds,” Kylie Minogue, the event’s creative ambassador, said in a video message at the official launch.
Mafia boss caught in Bali
Italian police have arrested a fugitive Mafia boss living in a luxury home on the island of Bali in a joint operation with Indonesian authorities, police said yesterday. Antonino Messicati Vitale has served 10 years in prison in the past for Mafia association and is wanted on new charges of extortion. He is believed to be head of the Sicilian Mafia clan of Villabate, which was at the center of a bloody gang war in the 1990s. Messicati Vitale, whose father Pietro was gunned down in 1988, was one of the most high-profile Mafia bosses still on the run. Investigators tracked Messicati Vitale by bugging and wiretapping his family and allies and then tracking a group of his relatives who traveled to Bali.
McAfee out of hospital
US Internet security guru John McAfee was discharged from a Guatemalan police hospital on Thursday after being admitted with what his lawyer called “heart problems,” a hospital official said. The official, Oscar Gonzalez, told reporters that tests showed McAfee was likely suffering from “anxiety and high blood pressure” but did not reveal any cardiac malfunction. McAfee is to be deported to Belize over a murder probe. McAfee, who had been on the run for weeks from Belizean authorities, was taken back to a detention facility in Guatemala City once doctors determined the 67-year-old American’s life was not in danger, Gonzalez said. The software pioneer applied for asylum in Guatemala after fleeing across the border over the weekend, but that request was rejected. He is wanted for questioning over the murder last month of his US expatriate neighbor in Belize.
New fears for Hugo’s health
The rumor mill over the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is again spinning wildly as cancer-related treatment has forced the leftist anti-US firebrand to skip another international summit. Chavez, 58, has repeatedly claimed to have beaten an unspecified cancer in his pelvic region that was diagnosed in 2011 and shrugged off his illness to see off a unified opposition and secure another six-year term on Oct. 7. Weeks after his hard-fought re-election, Chavez said that “God willing” he would attend yesterday’s Mercosur summit and preside over Venezuela’s hotly anticipated debut outing as part of the group, which it joined in July. However, on Thursday, hosts Brazil announced that the bombastic and once-omnipresent Venezuelan leader would have to forego the gathering as he is still in Cuba receiving treatment. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, who was also promoted to vice president after the election, was due to take Chavez’s place alongside the leaders of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay in the meeting of the South American trading bloc.
Defense goods man charged
A New York man has been criminally charged with illegally exporting defense articles and goods with military applications to Taiwan and China, one day after prosecutors announced charges against four people over exports to China and Iran. Mark Henry was accused of trying to ship military-grade material used to coat rocket nozzles to Taiwan, and microwave amplifiers that have military applications to China, without first getting licenses from US government agencies. Henry, 49, operated an export company known as Dahua Electronics Corp from April 2009 to September this year.
Bus driver finds US$500,000
Vienna’s transport authority says a city bus driver checking a bag left behind by a passenger had the surprise of his life — 390,000 euros (US$504,000) in neatly stacked 500-euro bills. Transit authority spokeswoman Anna-Maria Reich says the driver handed the stash to police, who tracked down the owner, an unidentified elderly woman. However, the driver has nothing to show for his honesty beyond praise from superiors. Weeks later, the owner has not contacted him to offer a reward. The incident happened last month and Reich confirmed details first reported on Thursday by several Austrian tabloids. It was unclear why the woman was carrying so much cash.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference