First activist goes home
The first of 30 Greenpeace activists arrested after a protest over Arctic oil drilling has left Russia, the environmental group said on Thursday, with all expected to get clearance to leave Russia by yesterday. Soviet-born Swedish activist Dima Litvinov crossed the Finnish border after receiving an exit stamp in his passport. Thirteen others have also received the stamp which allows them to leave, Greenpeace said, with rest of the “Arctic 30” expected to go through the process yesterday. “Now I’m going home to my bed, my wife, my kids and my life,” Dima said in a statement. “I’m leaving Russia feeling like we won something here.”
Car rammed into palace gate
A theater director rammed a car into the rear gate of the French presidential palace on Thursday in a protest over cuts to government funding for the arts, police and state officials said. The 67-year-old Italian national was arrested as he attempted to force his way through the 19th century Grille du Coq, which leads into the gardens of the Elysee palace. A police source said the man was slightly injured in the collision and was being held in custody at a Parisian hospital. The source said the man was first arrested on Wednesday near the palace after pulling a model Harlequin — a comic theater character — from his car and setting it on fire. Police had arrested him, but let him go shortly afterwards. President Francois Hollande was working in the palace as usual at the time of the incident, a press officer said. The gate was now being given a fresh coat of paint, he added.
Santas rob jewelry shops
Four armed men dressed as Santa robbed a jewelry shop in a Tirana mall, police said on Thursday, while another “Santa gang” injured two people during a robbery in neighboring Kosovo. The four thieves, armed with automatic weapons, burst into the Tirana shop on Tuesday, threatening the owner at gunpoint as they filled sacks with luxury goods, Interior Ministry spokesman Florion Seriani said. Seriani said their abandoned car was found 2km from the mall. Police found two automatic weapons in a trash can near the mall, believed to belong to the thieves. In Kosovo on Thursday, two people were injured when three armed men dressed as Santa fled a jewelry shop after robbing it in the southern town Prizren.
Bus crash kills at least 29
A bus carrying New Year travelers plunged off one of the highest bridges in the kingdom’s northeast, leaving at least 29 people dead, police said yesterday. The accident occurred at about midnight on Thursday night in Lom Sak district, Phetchabun Province, while the bus was en route to the northern province of Chiang Rai. “We suspect the bus driver fell asleep,” said Major General Sukit Samana, police commander of Phetchabun Province. Twenty-eight bodies were found in the ravine and one died in hospital.
New record hottest peppers
Ed Currie holds one of his world-record Carolina Reaper peppers by the stem, which looks like the tail of a scorpion. On the other end is red fruit with a punch of heat nearly as potent as most pepper sprays used by police. Last month, Guinness World Records decided Currie’s peppers were the hottest on Earth, ending a more than four-year drive to prove no one grows a more scorching chili. The heat of Currie’s peppers was certified by students at Winthrop University who test food as part of their undergraduate classes. The science of hot peppers centers around chemical compounds called capsaicinoids. The higher concentration the hotter the pepper, said Cliff Calloway, the Winthrop University professor whose students tested Currie’s peppers. The heat of a pepper is measured in Scoville heat units. Zero is bland, and a regular jalapeno pepper registers about 5,000 on the Scoville scale. Currie’s world record batch of Carolina Reapers comes in at 1,569,300 Scoville heat units, with an individual pepper measured at 2.2 million. Pepper spray weighs in at about 2 million Scoville Units.
McDonald’s life site closed
McDonald’s is shutting down a Web site intended to provide employees with work and life guidance after it generated negative publicity for the company. Media and labor groups, such as the “Low Pay is Not Okay” campaign that helped organize strikes by fast-food workers, have criticized the McResource program for creating unrealistic budgets and offering advice that was out of touch with its workers’ pay. Last week, CNBC reported that the Web site, which is run by an outside company, discouraged eating fast food as part of its tips for healthy living. Oak Brook, Illinois-based McDonald’s said on Thursday that irrelevant or outdated information and content taken out of context from the Web site generated “unwarranted scrutiny and inappropriate commentary.”
Vegas Christmas tree burnt
A 13m Christmas tree at an open-air mall in Las Vegas went up in flames just after the holiday shopping season ended. Clark County Fire Chief Jon Klassen tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal that crews found flames reaching 30m into the air when they arrived at about 2am on Christmas morning. Klassen says it appears faulty wiring in the artificial tree may be to blame.
Town Square spokesman Jaimesen Mapes says firefighters were quickly able to extinguish the fire, and nobody was hurt.
Biting fish injure 70
A swarm of biting fish injured more than 70 people who were bathing at a popular beach on Christmas, a medical official said on Thursday. A seven-year-old girl had her finger partially amputated and dozens more suffered bite wounds on their extremities from the fish, a relative of the piranha called palometas, said Federico Cornier, the director of emergency services in the city of Rosario. “This is not normal,” Cornier said on television. “It’s normal for there to be an isolated bite or injury, but the magnitude in this case was great ... this is an exceptional event.” The attack happened off the popular beaches of the Parana River near Rosario, 300km north of Buenos Aires, where many Argentines were seeking relief from a heat wave over the holiday.
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
CHANGING PERCEPTIONS: In its tender, the Hong Kong administration said that it had failed to ‘mobilise the community to support law enforcement actions’ The Hong Kong government has agreed to pay millions of pounds to a discreet London-based PR firm to counter coverage of the territory in the international media. Consulum, which has also represented Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was on Monday awarded the ￡5 million (US$6.2 million) one-year contract to improve Hong Kong’s reputation — the same day that China passed national security legislation targeting the territory. The Mayfair-based PR business was founded by Tim Ryan and Matthew Gunther Bushell, two former employees of Bell Pottinger, an agency that has been criticized for representing some governments and leaders that other businesses