Bookie calls opposition win
A bookmaker yesterday began paying out bets on a conservative opposition victory, declaring the nation’s election race on Saturday next week already over for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s struggling Labor government. With nine days to go, online bookmaker Sportsbet said it had begun paying A$1.5 million (US$1.34 million) in bets received on a victory for opposition leader Tony Abbott’s center-right coalition, because the outcome was already clear. “As far as Sportsbet’s betting markets are concerned, the Abbotts can start packing up their belongings ahead of their imminent move to Kirribilli House,” Sportsbet spokesman Haydn Lane said, referring to the prime minister’s residence in Sydney.
Top ‘militant’ arrested
Police have arrested the alleged cofounder of top home-grown militant group the Indian Mujahideen, blamed for a string of attacks in recent years in Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad, reports said yesterday. Yasin Bhatkal was arrested on the India-Nepal border near the town of Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, TV channels NDTV and CNN-IBN reported, citing unnamed sources. The banned Indian Mujahideen came to public attention in November 2007 following serial blasts in Uttar Pradesh and is blamed for multiple attacks since in cities across the country in which hundreds of people have been killed.
Kaesong committee inked
The two Koreas formally signed an agreement yesterday forming a joint committee that will meet next week and is tasked with reopening and running a joint industrial park shut down in April. The initial challenge facing the 12-member committee is hammering out a schedule that will lead to the resumption of operations at the Kaesong complex. The South’s Unification Ministry said the first meeting would take place on Monday in Kaesong, 10km inside the North Korean border. The complex was established in 2004 as a rare symbol of North-South reconciliation and survived a series of crises on the Korean Peninsula that saw other joint projects collapse. However, operations were suspended in April when the North withdrew all its 53,000 workers at a time of heightened military tensions.
Amnesty excludes activists
The government will free more than 15,000 convicts to celebrate the nation’s independence day, the president’s office said yesterday, in a major amnesty that excludes prominent political prisoners. The 15,446 detainees, including 1,842 women, will be released for the 68th National Day anniversary, which falls on Monday, said Giang Son, an official in President Truong Tan Sang’s office. The mass pardon is one of the nation’s largest in recent years. However, no prisoners sentenced for “propaganda” against the state or attempting to overthrow the communist regime — charges frequently used against activists — appear on the amnesty list. Among those to be released are four prisoners sentenced for national security crimes, including two ethnic minority Montagnards, Vice Minister of Public Security General Le Quy Vuong told reporters. Sixteen foreigners — five Chinese, four Cambodians, two Taiwanese, two Malaysians, one American, one Australian and one Belgian — will also be released. They were jailed for “violations of social order,” drug crimes or human trafficking.
Kerry makes plea to Iran