Malls ban wearing caps
Police in the capital have banned the wearing of caps in shopping malls to stop criminals concealing their identity from security cameras. The ban was imposed after a gang of hammer-wielding robbers looted a jewelry store at a popular suburban Manila shopping mall on Dec. 15. The suspects are believed to have used baseball caps to hide their identities. Police officials for Manila and its suburbs met with shopping mall security officials last week, telling them to bar people wearing caps from entering as a security precaution, Metro Manila police spokesman Chief Inspector Robert Domingo said. “We studied their strategies. If they want to commit a crime, they wear caps. That way, the [closed-circuit] TV will not be able to photograph their faces,” he said yesterday. He said mall security guards had been instructed to politely ask those wearing caps or any hats that may hide their faces, not to wear them inside.
Afghans set up camp
About 200 Afghan asylum
seekers and their supporters set up camp late on Sunday in the western town of Mons, demanding to see Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo to press for residency papers. The demonstrators had marched 70km from Brussels to see Di Rupo, who is also mayor of Mons. After learning the prime minister was on a trip abroad and would not return until yesterday, they vowed to camp out in Mons’ main square — decked out in Christmas decorations and vendors — until they could see him. The Afghans had been occupying a Brussels church for four months in a protest demanding permission to legally stay in the country. The archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, Andre Leonard, has lent his support to their campaign. While Di Rupo has expressed some sympathy for their plight, his state secretary for asylum, Maggie De Block, has taken a harder line, saying the Afghans’ requests would be processed as for any other would-be refugee.
Airports shut due to strike
Authorities shut the nation’s international airports yesterday after workers at its civil aviation authority went on strike, officials at the transport ministry and airports said. The strike was due to a dispute with the finance ministry over the independence of the civil aviation authority, an official at the transport ministry said. The finance ministry froze the authority’s funds, he said. “The strike is ongoing until our demands are met,” the official said, declining to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly to media. Officials at Sana’a, Aden and Mukalla airports confirmed the shutdown.
Coalition deaths grow to 8
NATO says an attack in an eastern province has killed one of its service members.
A statement from the US-led coalition says the soldier died after coming under direct fire by enemy forces yesterday. The coalition, known as the International Security Assistance Force, provided no other details or the nationality of the killed soldier. Insurgents have increased attacks in recent months, intensifying a campaign to regain territory as foreign forces draw down ahead of a full withdrawal at the end of next year. Yesterday’s death brings to eight the number of coalition deaths so far this month. On Tuesday last week, six US soldiers died when their Black Hawk UH-60 went down during a mission in Zabul.
Officer tried for saving cat
A question is to be raised in parliament over the case of an army officer who was sent for trial at a military court last week for saving the life of a dying cat. Lieutenant Barbara Balanzoni, a reservist who has since returned to her civilian job as an anesthetist in Tuscany, is charged with gross insubordination. She committed the alleged offense while serving as medical officer at a NATO base in Kosovo. It is claimed that, by attending to the cat, Balanzoni disregarded an order issued by her commanding officer in May last year forbidding troops at the base from “bringing in or having brought in wild, stray or unaccompanied animals.” She faces a minimum sentence of one year in a military penitentiary. Balanzoni said she intervened after receiving a call to the infirmary from military personnel, alarmed by the noises the cat was making. Balanzoni said the veterinary officer was in Italy when she received the call. “Far from disobeying orders, I was following military regulations, which state that, in the absence of a vet, the medical officer should intervene,” she said. She said she found that the cat had been unable to deliver the last of her kittens, which was stillborn and certain to die.
Harris facing more charges
Veteran Australian entertainer Rolf Harris, who stands trial in April accused of indecently assaulting two underage girls, is to face three further charges of sexual assault, the public prosecutor said yesterday. “The three counts will be prosecuted in addition to the 13 alleged sexual offenses with which Mr Harris was charged on 29 August 2013,” a Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said. The prosecutor said the additional charges are for assault, relating to a girl aged 19 in 1984; indecent assault on a girl aged seven or eight in 1968 or 1969; and indecent assault on a girl aged 14 in 1975. Harris, 83, already faced nine counts of indecent assault, as well as four counts of making indecent images of children.
Teen saved by her glasses
A teenage girl avoided serious injury when her glasses deflected a bullet fired during a drive-by shooting at her Seattle home, police said on Sunday. The 16-year-old was asleep on her living room couch at about 9:40pm on Saturday when shots were fired from a dark-colored sedan as it passed her house, Seattle police spokesman Detective Mark Jamieson said. Several bullets went through the walls of the house and one through the front window, Jamieson said. One of the bullets struck the bridge of the teen’s glasses, he said. She suffered only minor injuries and was treated at a local hospital, he added. “She is very, very fortunate,” Jamieson said.
In Texas, it’s Pancho Claus
He usually has black hair and a black beard, sometimes just a mustache. Like Santa, he wears a hat — though often it is a sombrero. He dons a serape or a poncho and, in one case, a red and black zoot suit, and he makes his grand entrance on lowriders or Harleys or led by a pack of burros. Meet Pancho Claus, the Tex-Mex Santa. Amid all the talk about Santa Claus’ race, spawned by a Fox News commentator’s remarks that both Santa and Jesus were white, there is, in the Lone Star State, a Hispanic version of Santa — handing out gifts to low-income and at-risk children. “We have kids that we ask: ‘Did Santa Claus come to see you?’ and they say: ‘No he didn’t, but Pancho Claus did,’” said Robert Narvaiz, vice commander for Lubbock’s American GI Forum.
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
A Malaysian student whose cellphone was stolen while he was sleeping has tracked down the culprit: a monkey who took photo and video selfies with the device before abandoning it. Zackrydz Rodzi, 20, on Wednesday said that his mobile phone was missing from his bedroom when he woke up on Saturday. He found the phone’s casing under his bed, but there was no sign of robbery in his house in Johor state. JUNGLE When his father saw a monkey the next day, he searched in the jungle behind his house. Using his brother’s cellphone to call his own device, he found it covered
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
Australia is notorious for its venomous spiders, snakes and sea creatures, but researchers have now identified “scorpion-like” toxins secreted by a tree that can cause excruciating pain for weeks. Split-second contact with the dendrocnide tree, a rainforest nettle known by its Aboriginal name gympie-gympie, delivers a sting far more potent than similar plants found in the US or Europe. A team of Australian scientists said that they now better understand why the gympie-gympie’s sting haunts those unlucky enough to brush up against its leaves. Victims report an initial sting that “feels like fire at first, then subsides over hours to a pain reminiscent