Frenchman given parole
A Frenchman was freed on parole from a prison in Jakarta yesterday more than 14 years after he was caught smuggling drugs into Bali, his mother said. Michael Blanc, 40, was arrested the day after Christmas in 1999 at Denpasar Airport in Bali with 3.8kg of hash hidden in diving canisters. “He has come out of prison. He has signed his release papers,” his mother, Helene Le Touzey, said. It is rare for authorities to grant a foreign prisoner parole.
‘Cartel leader’ detained
A government official says federal forces have detained three members of the Knights Templar drug cartel, including one he describes as a leader who was behind a lot of the bloodshed in Michoacan State. National Public Safety System Executive Secretary Monte Rubido on Sunday said that Jesus Vazquez Macias, 37, was detained along with two other men as part of the strategy to bring security back to Michoacan. However, a vigilante group spokesman says Vazquez Macias was not a cartel leader, but a top hit man. Spokesman Estanislao Beltran says the self-defense groups will applaud the government’s work only after the cartel’s top four leaders are arrested.
Small plane crashes
A Canadian pilot was among two people feared dead on Saturday when the small plane he was flying went down in thick Amazon jungle two minutes after takeoff, authorities said. Civil Aviation Authority Director Zulfikar Mohammed said an all-day search failed to locate the single-engine Cessna Caravan aircraft. Trans Guyana Aviation spokesman Kit Nascimento said the plane was being piloted by Canadian Blake Slater. Also aboard was Dwayne Newton of Guyana. Special forces troops and the air corps have joined several privately owned aircraft to search for the missing plane.
Fire destroys historic village
A large blaze on Sunday raged through a historic village in the west, destroying many of its famed 18th and 19th-century wooden houses and forcing the evacuation of residents, police said. The fire in the riverside village of Laerdalsoyri, about 200km northwest of Oslo, began in a house on Saturday evening. The blaze raged out of control overnight and it took firefighters until Sunday afternoon to extinguish it. Laerdalsoyri is located in the West Norwegian Fjords area, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Police said 23 buildings, including 16 homes, were destroyed, and hundreds of residents had to be evacuated. Local media said several buildings listed as historic monuments were affected. In all, 177 people were admitted to hospitals for observation or treatment for smoke inhalation.
Conductor Abbado dies
Claudio Abbado, a star in the great generation of Italian conductors who was revered by musicians in the world’s leading orchestras for developing a strong rapport with them while still allowing them their independence, has died. He was 80. Raffaela Grimaudo, spokeswoman for the Bologna mayor’s office, said Abbado died yesterday morning. Abbado made his debut in 1960 at La Scala in his home city of Milan and went on to be its musical director for nearly 20 years. He served as musical director of the Vienna State Opera, the Berlin Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra and chief guest conductor of the Chicago Philharmonic. He also founded his own all-star orchestra in Lucerne, Switzerland.