Victims sue lottery winner
Two alleged victims of a registered sex offender have filed a lawsuit seeking damages for pain and suffering after the man won US$3 million in a Florida Lottery jackpot. Timothy Poole purchased the winning ticket earlier this month in Mount Dora, near Orlando. He took a lump sum payment of about US$2.2 million. Poole was accused of sexually battering a nine-year-old boy in 1999. Poole denied the allegations, but pleaded guilty to attempted sexual battery and was sentenced to time served. His probation was revoked in 2003 after he failed to show up for counseling. The lawsuit was filed by two brothers, who were aged 9 and 5 when Poole was arrested. In 2010, the Florida Legislature eliminated a statute of limitations for victims of sexual battery younger than 16.
Merida’s Coromoto closes
An ice cream store listed by Guinness World Records for its 863 different flavors has become the latest victim of Venezuela’s economic crisis. “We are closed during the season due to shortage of milk,” the famous Coromoto ice cream store in Merida posted on its Facebook page. Locals confirmed that the shop, hugely popular among tourists for its exotic and strange flavors, ranging from beer to beans, had been closed since Christmas Eve. A sign on the door asked customers’ forgiveness “for not attending you due to the lack of milk.” The country has been suffering acute shortages of basic goods, from toilet paper to spare tires, all year due to an economic slowdown, the highest inflation in the Americas and the impact of strict currency controls.
San Antonio fire kills five
Five people died on Sunday after a fire broke out at a senior-living apartment building in the San Antonio suburb of Castle Hills, authorities said. Ten other residents of the Wedgwood Apartments were hospitalized, and at least one is in critical condition, according to Bexar County Fire Marshall spokeswoman Laura Jesse. About 150 additional residents of the 11-story high-rise were taken by city buses to a local high school, and about 100 people remained there on Sunday afternoon. A total of 150 firefighters from San Antonio and six other fire departments responded to the blaze, which was reported shortly after 6am, San Antonio Fire Department spokesman Christian Bove said. The cause of the three-alarm fire is under investigation, but appears to have originated on the third floor, Jesse said. Not all of the 216 residents listed on the building’s rent rolls have been accounted for yet, Jesse added.
Vigilante leader arrested
The leader of one of Mexico’s first anti-crime vigilante groups was arrested along with 26 supporters over a shootout that killed his son and 10 others, authorities said. Hipolito Mora was taken in on an arrest warrant on Saturday for “probable murder” in the bloody Dec. 16 episode with a rival group, Michoacan State Special Commissioner Alfredo Castillo said. Another 26 vigilantes were also apprehended for their involvement, he said. Mora put up no resistance, according to prosecutors, as he was arrested for his involvement in the shootout between two vigilante groups that turned on each other in La Ruana. Six of Mora’s followers, including his oldest son, died, as well as five members of a rival vigilante group led by Luis Antonio Torres, known as El Americano, who is also wanted for arrest and whose whereabouts are unknown.
Liberal pope shirts pulled
ABS-CBN, the nation’s largest broadcaster, pulled souvenir T-shirts for an upcoming papal visit from its stores yesterday, after drawing fire from Catholic bishops irked by the words “No religion” emblazoned on the garments. Pope Francis, who has been praised for being reform-minded, is to visit the country next month. The T-shirts printed by the network bore the statement: “No race. No religion. I embrace diversity” and were marketed with the hashtag #PopeTYSM, which stands for “Thank you for the compassion” in Tagalog. While acknowledging that the statement was intended to convey Francis’ “openness,” the message was “misleading and quite frankly erroneous,” said Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines. “[Francis] has never said and taught that religion and race do not matter, because they most certainly do. It is what selfish, uncharitable and judgemental people do with religion and race that is a problem,” Villegas said.
New bird flu case sparks cull
Tokyo yesterday ordered the slaughter of about 42,000 chickens after officials confirmed the country’s second bird flu outbreak in less than a month. DNA tests confirmed the presence of the virus’ H5 strain at a farm in Miyazaki Prefecture after its owner on Sunday reported that several chickens had died suddenly, the local government said. Officials began the slaughter yesterday and asked farms within a 10km radius not to move their poultry outside of that perimeter. It is uncertain whether there is a link between the first outbreak and the second, a Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry official said, adding that further testing would be conducted.
Collapse at school kills 10
A scaffolding collapse at one of Beijing’s most prestigious high schools killed 10 construction workers and injured four others yesterday, officials said. The accident occurred at the start of the school day at Tsinghua High School, but did not affect any classrooms or other buildings used for instruction, Beijing’s Municipal Propaganda Bureau said. It added that the injured were in stable condition. A school official surnamed Jiang (江) said all the victims were building a gym at the school and that no teachers or students were hurt. Xinhua news agency said an initial investigation found that steel bars used to reinforce concrete had collapsed and caused the accident. It said police had detained several people, but gave no details about their identity.
Striking activists fight police
Opposition activists clashed with police during a nationwide strike yesterday, leaving one woman dead and several injured, as tensions grew ahead of the first anniversary of controversial elections. Police said a female teacher died after she was hit on the head by a rock thrown by an opposition protester in Noakhali District. The streets in Dhaka were largely deserted during the strike, with offices and schools closed and highways empty. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and 19 allies, including Islamist outfits, called the strike to protest a crackdown against their leaders and supporters by the security forces. BNP spokesman Rizvi Ahmed said that at least 400 party officials and activists have been arrested since Wednesday to thwart protests to mark the first anniversary of the Jan. 5 elections that the party boycotted. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League has ruled out polls before the end of her new term in 2019.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
An Australian graduate student arrested for spying and expelled from North Korea last year said that he was threatened with a firing-squad execution and told not even US President Donald Trump could save his “sorry arse.” Among the crimes Alek Sigley was accused of committing was posting a picture of a toy tank on Instagram, which his interrogators told him was military espionage. Sigley, 30, was studying for a master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang when he went missing in June last year, sparking alarm. A fluent speaker of Korean, he had written articles for several publications