Hearing for alleged gunman
The alleged gunman in the Colorado cinema massacre of 12 people was due to be arraigned for trial yesterday, after testimony this week gave harrowing new details of the slaughter. James Holmes, 25, is accused of opening fire at a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie in a theater in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, killing a dozen people and injuring at least 58 more. At the hearing, he was to hear each of the 166 charges he faces, which include murder in the first degree for the 12 people who died and attempted murder for the injured, as well as possession of explosives or incendiary devices. He will also enter a plea.
Tattooed artist woos voters
His face covered in tattoos, Vladimir Franz has been meeting and greeting voters in an unconventional bid to become the country’s next president. Despite having no political track record, the 53-year-old drama professor, classical composer and visual artist — whose entire body is tattooed — was running third among nine contenders, according to some opinion polls. Voters were to head to the ballot box yesterday in their first direct presidential vote to replace their two-term head of state Vaclav Klaus. Sporting a fur coat, pointy shoes and a closely clipped mohawk hairdo, Franz has urged voters to overcome any apathy they may have towards established politicians. “The world of art gives you the capacity to speak authentically about things, you’re not infected with the newspeak that people are so fed up with these days,” Franz said.
Rewards attract hunters
A flourishing population of Burmese pythons in South Florida is devouring animals such as bobcats and opossums, and threatening endangered species. So the state devised a solution: offer cash for hunters to kill them. More than 670 hunters from at least 30 states have signed up for a contest called the “Python Challenge,” which begins today and offers US$5,000 in prize money for those who slay the longest and largest number of the invasive snakes. They will troll 526,091 hectares, including part of the Everglades National Park, looking for snakes that the state says threaten the ecosystem and native wildlife. Burmese pythons, native to Southeast Asia, eat endangered animals in and around the Everglades, including the Key Largo woodrat, a brown and white rodent with a hairy tail found only in the Florida Keys. Federal, state and local governments have spent more than US$6 million in Florida since 2005 trying to control pythons and other invasive constrictor snakes, the US Fish & Wildlife Service said. There are an estimated 30,000 pythons in the Florida Everglades, according the National Park Service Web site.
Parents target yoga
A group of California parents are campaigning for the withdrawal of school yoga classes they believe promote Hinduism. In an effort to boost student health, a school district in Escondido incorporated the yoga classes into its curriculum this week. However, a minority of parents, spurred by an evangelical Christian group, are calling for the program to be dropped. The parents are backed by the National Center for Law & Policy (NCLP), a Christian civil liberties organization that advocates for religious causes. The NCLP said it is considering suing the school because it claims yoga is inherently religious. Timothy Baird, the school district superintendent, said there is no religious element to the program.