Security vow after blasts
Deputy prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon yesterday promised to tighten security after two homemade pipe bombs detonated near the up-scale Paragon shopping mall in Bangkok on Sunday evening, slightly injuring two passers-by. “We will strictly enforce security across the country. We need to have high security checks in some areas,” Prawit told reporters. “We can’t say who is behind this ... it could be people who have bad intentions, or are linked to politics or people who think differently.” The blasts occurred about 8pm on a walkway leading to the mall.
Father, daughter executed
A father and daughter who belonged to a fringe religious group were executed yesterday for beating a woman to death at a McDonald’s restaurant, reportedly after she rebuffed their attempts to recruit her. The pair were among a group of five members of the banned Quannengshen cult convicted of attacking the woman in Shandong Province, surnamed Wu, after she refused to give them her phone number. The three others convicted over the attack were given prison terms ranging from seven years to life. Quannengshen members believe that Jesus has been reincarnated as a Chinese woman.
Key criticizes critic
Prime Minister John Key yesterday hit back at criticism by prize-winning author Eleanor Catton, saying she had no more political insight than All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. The author of The Luminaries sparked an uproar last week at a literary festival in India when she said she was angry with her nation’s treatment of the arts. She said the nation was dominated by “neo-liberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture.” Key said Catton’s political views carried no more credence than those of McCaw. “She has no particular great insights into politics, she is a fictional writer,” Key told Television New Zealand, adding he had read some but not all of The Luminaries.
Airline steward testifies
The daughter of the boss of Korean Air treated flight crew like “feudal slaves,” a chief steward said in court yesterday. Heather Cho, the former head of Korean Air in-flight service, is on trial for breaking aviation laws and conspiring with other company executives to force crew members lie about an incident on Dec. 5 last year. Chief steward, Park Chang-jin, who Cho ordered be removed from a flight, said that she “was like a beast that found its prey gritting its teeth as she became abusive, not listening to what I had to say at all… I don’t think Cho showed an ounce of conscience, treating powerless people like myself like feudal slaves, forcing us to sacrifice and treating it as if it was the natural thing to do.”
Detainees escape center
Scores of inmates yesterday staged a pre-dawn mass breakout from a young offenders center by tying bedsheets together and then scaling down the walls of the three-story building, police said. A total of 91 inmates, including several convicted murderers, managed to flee the facility in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, although 35 were later recaptured, Police Superintendent Om Prakash said. “They removed an iron grille from a window at the back of the building while police were guarding the front,” Prakash said. “This was done so professionally that no one got a whiff.”
Schools close as storm hits
The northeast yesterday braced for the second major snow storm in a week after a huge winter system dumped more than 30cm of snow in the Chicago area, closing schools from the Midwest to New England. Chicago Public Schools, the country’s third-largest public school system, along with districts in Detroit, Michigan; Providence, Rhode Island and Boston canceled classes yesterday as the National Weather Service issued storm warnings and watches continued from western Iowa into upper New England.
Al-Nusra bombs pilgrims
A blast ripped through a bus carrying Lebanese Shiite pilgrims in Damascus on Sunday, killing at least nine people, a monitor said, in an attack claimed by al-Qaeda’s local branch. The Observatory for Human Rights said at least 20 people were wounded in the explosion near Souq al-Hamadiyeh district, and that six of the dead were Lebanese. The Lebanese agency that organized their trip gave the same death toll. State media, which reported a toll of six dead and 19 wounded, said the blast was caused by an explosive device rather than by a suicide bomber. Officials had found and defused a second bomb that had been placed inside the bus before it detonated, the SANA news agency said. Al-Nusra Front claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted online.
Houthis issue deadline
The Houthi movement on Sunday gave political factions three days to agree to a way out of a crisis that led to the resignation of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi before the group imposes its own solution. The nation has been in political limbo since Hadi and the government of Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah resigned less than two weeks ago after the Houthis seized the presidential palace and confined the head of state to his residence in a struggle to tighten control over Yemen.
Mugged pensioner to move
A disabled pensioner who was violently mugged outside his home has spoken of his amazement after well-wishers raised more than ￡220,000 (US$330,500) for him to move residence. Alan Barnes, 67, who is 1.37m tall and visually impaired, suffered a broken collarbone when he was attacked on his doorstep in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, on Jan. 25. The attacker rifled through his pockets after shoving him to the ground and demanding money, but ran off when his frail victim called for help. After reports of the attack, a local beautician, Katie Cutler, set up a fundraising page aiming to raise ￡500 — but donations quickly flooded in from 17,000 well-wishers from as far afield as Canada, Holland and New Zealand. Donations topped ￡220,000 on Sunday — 48 hours after the page was launched — as Barnes said he planned to use the money to buy a new house.
Magna Carta copies on show
The four surviving original Magna Carta copies went on display together for the first time yesterday, as the nation begins its 800th anniversary celebrations for a contract with global significance. Considered the cornerstone of liberty, modern democracy, justice and the rule of law, the 1215 English charter forms the basis for legal systems around the world, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the US Constitution.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘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
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread