Trafficking suspects held
Police yesterday announced that last week they arrested six people suspected of being part of a human trafficking network and who may have helped a bomber who killed 20 people at a Bangkok shrine last month escape from Thailand. The suspects joined two people already in detention who might have helped the bomber, who Thai police said was a foreigner of unknown identity, flee the kingdom. Four of the six people are believed to be Uighur Muslims, who come from China’s Xinjiang region, said Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, director of the counterterrorism unit. Ayob said the six were not directly linked to the bombing, but to a human-trafficking gang.
‘Balloongate’ hearing held
A woman yesterday was charged with insulting Prime Minister Najib Razak by dropping balloons bearing pro-democracy messages near him during a public event, her lawyer said. The case against Bilqis Hijjas — dubbed “Balloongate” on social media — has drawn public ridicule as an example of government overkill in pressuring its critics. Bilqis Hijjas, 36, a dance producer, dropped yellow balloons with the words “justice,” “democracy” and “media freedom” from an upper floor of a shopping mall while Najib and his wife attended a function below on Aug. 31. Her protest came one day after a massive rally in Kuala Lumpur was held to back demands that Najib resign over allegations of corruption and abuse of power. She has been charged with “insulting behavior” that could affect public order. The penalty is just 100 ringgit (US$23), but Bilqis’ lawyer said she was contesting it on “principle.”
Typist just wants to work
A streetside typist in Lucknow who became an overnight star when an image of a policeman kicking his typewriter went viral has said he is fed up with all the attention and just wants to go back to typing letters. The photograph of the officer harassing Kishan Kumar, 60, provoked an outpouring of sympathy from people outraged at his treatment. Local authorities reacted swiftly, suspending the officer who destroyed the typewriter and promising compensation of 100,000 rupees (US$1,500) as well as a new machine. However, Kumar said that his new-found celebrity has made it impossible for him to work. “I just can’t work with so many people surrounding me. I haven’t earned a single penny for the past two days,” he said. “What will I feed my family if I do not get to earn?... I come here to work, not to give media interviews.”
Centenarian sets record
A fleet-footed centenarian yesterday raced into the Guinness World Records book and declared himself a “medical marvel” as he continues to stalk sprint king Usain Bolt. Hidekichi Miyazaki, dubbed “Golden Bolt,” clocked 42.22 seconds in Kyoto to set a 100m world record in the over-105 age category — one for which no mark previously existed — a day after reaching the milestone age. “I’m not happy with the time,” the pint-sized Miyazaki said after recovering his breath. “I started shedding tears during the race because I was going so slowly. Perhaps I’m getting old!” He said he could do better. “My brain might not be the sharpest, but physically I’m tip-top. I’ve never had any health problems. The doctors are amazed by me. I can definitely keep on running for another two or three years.”
Buildup for Russia forces?
A leading defense research group has distributed what it says is satellite imagery that suggests the government might be preparing to receive Russian forces. IHS Jane’s on Tuesday said the images dated a day earlier show construction of new buildings, surface clearing, the grading of terrain and the presence of tents like those used by Russian military units at the Istamo weapons storage complex and al-Sanobar military complex north of the coastal city of Latakia. The publication said images also showed “a substantial increase in fast jets stationed on the runway.” US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday said that Russia’s military support for President Bashar al-Assad could raise the risk of confrontation with coalition forces fighting the Islamic State. In an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, Kerry said he had told Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov the US was worried by Moscow’s military backing of al-Assad.
Pope travels in a Fiat
Pope Francis was hard to spot in the motorcade of more than 20 armed SUVs and police cars that motored into Washington late on Tuesday. The pontiff ditched the fancy wheels in favor of a much more modest ride: a Fiat. After he stepped off his airplane at Joint Base Anderws in Maryland, Francis was driven into town in the back of a tiny charcoal gray Fiat 500L. The four-door model was sandwiched between two enormous black SUVs in the motorcade. A half-hour or so later, the Italian-made car could be spotted rounding the corner at the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican’s diplomatic mission, where Francis was spending the night.
Snow by any other name
Researchers at the University of Glasgow have compiled 421 words relating to snow for a new Historical Thesaurus of Scots. They range from “snaw” — plain old snow — to “spitters,” small drops of wind-driven snow, and “flindrikin,” a slight snow shower. The first sections of the thesaurus, covering weather and sports, were published online yesterday. As befits a country renowned for its gray, damp, drizzly climate, Scots also contains multiple words for rain and mist. “It’s a bit surprising that snow would give rain a run for its money,” said Susan Rennie, lecturer in English and Scots language at Glasgow. Rennie said the wide range of weather-related terms shows how important it was for people in Scotland to distinguish “quite subtle gradations of weather.” The compilers of the thesaurus want readers to send in their own words to add to the list, and hope the book may encourage the return of some forgotten terms.
Monkey owns selfies: PETA
A rare crested macaque monkey who snapped a well-known grinning “selfie” should be declared the photo’s owner and receive damages for copyright infringement after it was used in a wildlife book, animal rights activists said in a lawsuit filed in the US District Court in San Francisco on Tuesday. Naruto, a six-year-old macaque who lives free in a nature reserve in Sulawesi, Indonesia, took the image and several others about four years ago using a camera left unattended by British photographer David Slater, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said in the suit. Slater said he felt “rather bemused” and persecuted by the lawsuit, which he said seemed to be a publicity stunt. He said he was disappointed PETA did not contact him in advance.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong (FCC) yesterday said that reporters in the territory were experiencing “highly unusual” visas problems, and called on the US and China to stop using the media as a political weapon. Journalists have been caught up in US-China tensions, with both sides placing limits or expelling reporters from their territories in the past few months. Now the spat is filtering into Hong Kong, a regional press hub nominally in charge of its own immigration policies. The FCC said in a statement that multiple media firms had reported delays getting visas in recent months. “The delays have affected journalists