Militias to stay: Aquino
President Benigno Aquino III yesterday rejected calls to disband state-funded militias. Aquino said the government did not have enough money to rely solely on overstretched regular military and police forces to fight insurgencies, and as such, had to use the cheaper alternative of state-backed paramilitary forces. “If you hire more people [in the military and police], you increase the pension obligations that we obviously cannot support,” Aquino told a news conference. “In the interim each community has a right to protect itself, especially those in far-flung areas, and the key to that are these CAFGUs [state-funded Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units].” His remarks came as relatives of 57 people killed in the worst political massacre made emotional appeals for justice yesterday as the nation marked the slaughter’s first anniversary.
Hogan tax probe dropped
Detectives said yesterday they had dropped a five-year-old criminal investigation into Crocodile Dundee star Paul Hogan’s tax dealings. Crime Commission Chief Executive John Lawler said in a statement that they were not pursuing the probe for a range of reasons, including “insufficient prospects of securing convictions.” Tax and crime investigators had fought Hogan in a five-year legal battle in Australian and US courts to investigate suspicions that he used offshore bank accounts to conceal earnings after his low-budget Crocodile Dundee movie trilogy became an international hit in 1986. However, the 70-year-old is still being pursued separately by the Australian Taxation Office over a disputed multimillion-dollar tax bill.
Police nab 34 in drug raid
Police have arrested 34 people and seized 6,000 cannabis plants in the biggest series of drug raids in the history of Victoria state. Police Deputy Commissioner Ken Jones said yesterday that the ongoing operation had smashed a cartel that had raked in an estimated A$400 million (US$395 million). The organized crime group producing the cannabis had connections to New Zealand and Vietnam and had been operating for two years, Jones said.
Public toilets not up to par
A Ministry of Housing and Local Government official said yesterday that despite a public awareness campaign, more than half of the 5,700 public toilets in schools, restaurants, shopping malls and other places failed government cleanliness tests. Only 7 percent of the toilets inspected earlier this year got the maximum five stars, the official said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol. More than 51 percent of the toilets received only one or two stars. The best toilets got cash prices on Monday at a celebration of World Toilet Day.
Cow pat energy on the way
A dairy farm in Liaoning Province is installing the world’s largest system to turn steaming cow pats into enough electricity to power thousands of homes, Technology Review magazine said yesterday. The device at the Huishan Dairy is 10 times bigger than similar systems and will take the excrement from 60,000 cows and capture methane from the fermenting pats, the report said. It will generate almost six megawatts of electricity — enough power for 3,500 US-size households but could service many more Chinese ones, which consume less energy.
Nazi suspect dies before trial
The world’s third-most wanted Nazi suspect has died before he could be brought to trial, a court said on Monday. Samuel Kunz, the 89-year-old former Nazi death camp guard accused of participating in the murder of 430,000 Jews, died on Nov. 18, Bonn’s state court said in a statement. Kunz was indicted on charges he was involved in the entire chain of killing Jews at the Belzec death camp. He was set to be charged in a youth court because he was a minor at the time of the atrocities, but no date had been set for his trial. Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s top Nazi hunter, said it was important that Kunz had been indicted, even if it was “incredibly frustrating” that he had died before being brought to trial. Kunz, a retired civil servant, was No. 3 on a list of most-wanted former Nazis.
Nazi site allowed to reopen
An Iranian Web site for devotees of Nazi Germany has been allowed to reopen after being blocked briefly by government censors, a news site reported. The site, irannazi.ir, says it is the home of the “Historical Research Society for World War Two and the Third Reich.” According to conservative news Web site TABNAK it was blocked temporarily but then reopened, saying the suspension had been due to complaints by Iranian Jews. When Reuters tried to access the site on Monday it was blocked by the state filter which prevents access to many sites, but it was visible on computers using a proxy server. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance was not available to comment.
Some A380 flights resumed
Qantas yesterday announced the partial resumption of A380 flights, but said most of its superjumbos would remain grounded and the trans-Pacific Los Angeles route was off-limits after a mid-air engine blast. Chief executive Alan Joyce said he would be on the first Airbus A380, which will leave Sydney for London via Singapore on Saturday — more than three weeks after the explosion forced a Sydney-bound flight to make an emergency landing. “We’re completely comfortable with the operation of the aircraft,” Joyce told reporters. He said two superjumbos would be back in action on the London route this week, the first after having two new engines fitted.
Piracy suspects go on trial
Ten suspected pirates captured during the hijacking of a German cargo ship in April went on trial in Hamburg on Monday in the nation’s first modern-day piracy trial. The suspects were accused of boarding the German-flagged Taipan at gunpoint in April with the aim of demanding a ransom. Hamburg public prosecutor’s office spokesman Wilhelm Moellers said the accused included seven adults and three youths who, once their ages had been determined, could be tried under juvenile law and face prison sentences of 10 years if convicted. The adults face 15-year sentences.
Prince Philip to take it easy
Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, will step down as president or patron of more than a dozen organizations when he turns 90 next year. Buckingham Palace said Philip will reduce his commitments, but will still be associated with more than 800 organizations. Among other positions, Philip will step down from his role as chancellor of the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge. He will also relinquish his presidency of the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth.
Nine killed in drug fight
Nine people were killed in several separate episodes of drug-related violence, including two soldiers who had been kidnapped and a woman who led a rural police unit, authorities said on Monday. The bodies of the two soldiers, aged 37 and 32, were found wrapped in blankets and with their mouths duct-taped shut in Gomez Palacios city, said Alejandro Moreno, with the Durango state prosecutors office. They had been kidnapped on Friday. Police commander Guadalupe Navarro was shot to death in Sinaloa as she approached a house with another policeman, who was wounded in the attack, the state prosecutor’s office said. In Nayarit state, a military unit engaged a suspected hit squad for organized crime in a firefight that resulted in the death of five civilians and one soldier, the National Defense secretariat said.
Libertarian Party chief dies
David Nolan, whose opposition to the Vietnam War and former president Richard Nixon’s wage and price controls impelled him in 1971 to join with a few friends to found the Libertarian Party to fight against government power, died on Sunday in Tucson, Arizona. He was 66. Mark Hinkle, chairman of the party’s national committee, said Nolan appeared to have had a heart attack or stroke while driving his car. He lived in Tucson. Though its membership has always been relatively small, the Libertarian Party became a forceful voice for limiting government regulation. It has argued for curbs on police power, lifting abortion restrictions, open immigration and an end to foreign wars.
‘Hoarders’ rats up for grabs
About 1,000 rats are awaiting adoption in San Jose, California, after being rescued from a house featured on the A&E reality TV show Hoarders. The Humane Society trucked the rodents over the weekend from Los Angeles to San Jose, where more than 30 volunteers and nonprofit staff helped move the rats into Andy’s Pet Shop in San Jose, which agreed to temporarily house them. Lauren Paul of the nonprofit North Star Rescue told the San Jose Mercury News that the previous owner’s daughter had brought home a pregnant rat one day and the litter began multiplying quickly. The man’s neighbors called Hoarders producers after the rats began tearing apart the house.
Funeral home broadcasts
A funeral home is broadcasting its services live over the Internet, giving some of the millions of Brazilians living abroad the chance to say a final goodbye to their loved ones. The Gonzaga funeral home says it has started streaming video of burials, masses and funeral processions in real time to those who can’t make it to the ceremonies. It even provides an online chat room. Funeral home director Eres Gonzaga said on Monday it charges about US$60 an hour.
Pastor offers to step down
A pastor in Neptune Township, New Jersey, who believes Facebook leads to infidelity has offered to step down over a past affair that involved a three-way sexual relationship with his wife and a male church assistant. Pastor Cedric Miller spoke to his flock at Living Word Christian Fellowship Church for about an hour on Sunday. His sermon came days after the Asbury Park Press reported the 48-year-old testified in 2003 that he had a threesome 10 years ago. Miller apologized for what he said was a foolish transgression from his past.