RWB slams blogger jailing
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RWB) called on the Hanoi government to halt a “dangerous” trend in “Chinese-style” censorship after a French-Vietnamese blogger was jailed for three years for attempted subversion. Pham Minh Hoang, who holds dual nationality, “should not be in prison,” the media rights group said in a statement released late on Wednesday following the conviction by a Ho Chi Minh City court. The 56-year-old, the latest peaceful democracy advocate to be convicted, was accused of “blackening the image of the country” in a series of articles under the pen name Phan Kien Quoc.
Say it with carrots
If your girlfriend’s favorite color is orange and you want to propose, maybe dressing yourself and 48 friends as giant carrots is the best way to get her to say yes. That’s what one lovestruck man in Qingdao did recently for Lovers’ Day, according to Chinese news reports and photos posted online. As bemused shoppers — and his girlfriend — looked on, the man spoke into a microphone inside his costume about their first date six months ago. He then peeled away his disguise and proposed. Shoppers shouted “marry him, marry him,” and she accepted. The reports say the proposal took him three weeks to plan and cost 100,000 yuan (US$15,000).
Top suspect flees court
One of the nation’s most wanted criminals appears to have made one of the most mundane of escapes when he slipped from police custody by walking out of a Pretoria court door along with the public. Bongani Moyo, arrested this year after a much publicized manhunt where his picture was plastered over nationwide media, was due at a hearing related to the armed robbery of nearly three dozen banks. Police would not comment on the incident, while correctional services spokesman Phumlani Ximiya said: “He was picked up by the police so he could go to court, and escaped under the nose of the police. We warned the police that this person had escaped before and therefore they should tighten their security.”
Ban urges aid for N Korea
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday said in Seoul that North Korea should be given humanitarian aid regardless of “political considerations or any other calculations.” Seoul suspended aid shipments in 2008 because of rising cross-border tensions. It fears any resumption of the aid could be diverted to the North’s 1.1 million-strong military. But Ban, a South Korean, told journalists that UN agencies had confirmed through inspections earlier this year as many as 6.1 million people faced a “serious humanitarian crisis” in the North. “The most important thing is to save human lives,” he said.
‘Sea crazy’ pilot arrested
A “sea crazy” helicopter pilot was arrested on Nauru after illegally landing on the island in search of candy and soft drinks, the Australian Broadcasting Corp said yesterday. The 24-year-old’s helicopter was impounded and he was locked up after parking on a beach near Nauru’s main supermarket, while he bought chocolates and soda, Nauru spokesman Rod Henshaw said. He had been stationed on a Taiwanese fishing vessel for more than two months and told police he was going “sea crazy,” Henshaw said. The pilot and a passenger face a maximum fine of A$100,000 (US$103,000) for unauthorized landing and an immigration breach.
Nuts and bolts of trafficking
Drug traffickers have invented a new twist in the smuggling racket. Customs officials say they found a Peruvian man with a box of metal bolts in his baggage, trying to board a flight to South Africa. Agents using a scanner discovered that the bolts, which came with nuts screwed on them, were hollowed out. A total of 20.4kg of cocaine was packed inside.
Afghan pullout criticized
Former CIA director Michael Hayden says President Barack Obama is pulling troops from Afghanistan too soon. The retired general told a forum in Utah on Wednesday that it would be more strategic to draw down US troops after next summer, when fighting is expected to be heaviest. Hayden said some US troops should remain in Afghanistan for the long term, even if the number of troops is relatively small. He said the commitment of troops is more important for stability in the region than the number of troops. He spoke at a forum hosted by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch at the Utah Capitol.
Harper hails new trade pact
Visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended a free-trade agreement with Bogota on Wednesday, despite criticism about reported human rights violations in the country. Asked about alleged human rights violations in the country, Harper hailed the nation’s “progress” in tackling the issue. He said the deal, which comes into force on Monday, will include agreements on the environment and human rights.
Inmates’ Facebook disabled
Facebook has agreed to disable the profiles of prison inmates in California whose accounts have been updated while they are behind bars. “Access to social media allows inmates to circumvent our monitoring process and continue to engage in criminal activity,” California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation secretary Matthew Cate said in a statement on Monday. “This new cooperation between law enforcement and Facebook will help protect the community and potentially avoid future victims.” CDCR said prison inmates are allowed to have Facebook profiles created prior to their incarceration, but “if any evidence shows the account has been used while in the facility, Facebook Security will disable the account.” It said there have been “numerous instances in which inmates, using their Facebook accounts, have delivered threats to victims or have made unwanted sexual advances.” Inmates are maintaining their accounts using smuggled cellphones or having someone on the outside do it for them, the CDCR said.
New settler homes approved
Interior Minister Eli Yishai has given final approval for the construction of 1,600 new settler homes in east Jerusalem, his spokesman Roei Lachmanovich said yesterday. He also said Yishai was set to give final approval for another 2,700 settler homes in east Jerusalem neighbourhoods in “a couple of days.” “He has approved 1,600 homes in Ramat Shlomo and will approve 2,000 more in Givat Hamatos and 700 in Pisgat Zeev,” Lachmanovich said. The 1,600-house construction in Ramat Shlomo has already caused a diplomatic rift between Israel and Washington. However, Lachmanovich said the final approvals were “economic” not political, tying the final go-ahead to protests over housing prices and the cost of living that have shaken Israel in recent weeks.