World News Quick Take

Agencies

Wed, Aug 01, 2012 - Page 7

BANGLADESH

Lawmaker blackmailed

A lawmaker filmed naked with a woman in his office was forced to undress at gunpoint by a gang who used the footage to extort money from him, police said on Monday. Assistant police commissioner Abdul Ahad said officers had arrested five people, including three women, on charges of blackmailing the lawmaker, who is allied with the government. “They ordered him to strip. One female blackmailer became nude and the others forced the MP to make a video with her,” Ahad said. The incident took place in Dhaka in May and the gang allegedly demanded 5 million taka (US$61,000) from the lawmaker — identified as Abdul Jabbar by the local media — or threatened to release the film on the Internet.

AUSTRALIA

‘Butt cracker’ injures man

A man suffered severe and painful burns to his bottom after he placed a firework between his buttocks in a misconceived party trick, a report said on Monday. Police in the sparsely populated Northern Territory said the man was taken to a hospital after the stunt backfired at Darwin’s Rapid Creek around midnight on Saturday. “It appears that a party was in full progress when a young male decided to place a firework between the cheeks of his bottom and light it,” local police spokesman Garry Smith told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “What must have seemed to be a great idea at the time has obviously backfired and resulted in the male receiving quite severe and painful burns to his cheeks, back and private bits.”

CHINA

Officials reject US report

Beijing has rejected the latest US report on religious freedom as arrogant and ignorant, saying it is based on rumors and groundless allegations. A commentary published yesterday by the Xinhua news agency said the report was “continuing a notorious practice of blatantly interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.” The annual US Department of State report released on Monday criticized what it called a lack of religious freedom in the Asian giant as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea.

PHILIPPINES

Oil prospects offered

Manila offered three oil and gas exploration contracts in the disputed South China Sea yesterday, including two in areas claimed by China, an official said. All three blocs off the coast of Palawan are part of Philippine territory, Energy Undersecretary Jose Layug said, dismissing China’s territorial claims. Tensions between the Manila and China over the South China Sea have been running high because of disputes over the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) to the south of the prospects, and Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island, 黃岩島) to the north.

CHINA

Beijing to probe moon

Beijing will next year attempt to land an exploratory craft on the moon for the first time, state media reported, in the latest project in the country’s ambitious space program. The third lunar probe will blast off in the second half of next year, the Xinhua news agency reported late on Monday. Other reports said it would land and transmit back a survey of the moon’s surface. If successful, the landing would be the country’s first on the lunar surface and mark a new milestone in its space development.

UGANDA

Plea for no contact

President Yoweri Museveni on Monday advised people to avoid shaking hands, casual sex and do-it-yourself burials to reduce the chance of contracting the deadly Ebola virus after an outbreak killed 14 people and put many more at risk. Museveni’s advice came as scared patients and health workers fled a district hospital in the west where several cases of Ebola were being treated and as the authorities tried to alter people’s behavior to stop the virus spreading. “We discourage the shaking of hands because that can cause contact through sweat which can cause problems ... and avoid promiscuity because these sicknesses can also be transmitted through sex,” Museveni said in a public statement. There is no treatment for Ebola. The WHO has said the origin of the latest outbreak has not yet been confirmed, but that 18 of the 21 confirmed cases so far were understood to be linked to one family.

UNITED STATES

Gay marriage in platform

The Democratic Party is aiming to include support for gay marriage in its party platform this year for the first time in its history, a Democratic source said on Monday. The platform drafting committee unanimously approved language on Sunday endorsing same-sex marriage among the policy positions that will be presented to the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, where President Barack Obama will formally accept the party’s nomination in early September to run for re-election. The approval was first reported in The Washington Blade, which said the language also rejected the Defense of Marriage Act, a law passed by Congress in 1996 that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman and denies federal benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples.

ECUADOR

Assange’s mom worried

The mother of WikiLeaks frontman Julian Assange said on Monday after meeting with Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino that she’s worried about her son’s health after nearly seven weeks’ confinement at the nation’s London embassy. “He is under a lot of stress and it’s been long-term stress now for nearly two years and in conditions which are similar to detention,” Christine Assange said. Her son took refuge in the embassy on June 19, requesting political asylum after exhausting all legal appeals to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about sexual misconduct allegations. Patino said his country is doing “everything possible to protect the life of Mr Assange.”

BOLIVIA

Reward offered in case

The relatives of a French couple that disappeared nearly two years ago have offered a US$10,000 reward for information on their fate, local media reported on Monday. Jeremie Bellanger, 25, disappeared with his companion Fannie Blancho, 23, in the northeastern town of Guayaramerin on Aug. 29, 2010. Fannie’s daughter Bounty, three, who accompanied the couple on their trip, was left with a landlady when her mother disappeared, in what many believe to be a double homicide. “We want to find the bodies and bring them back to France, and maybe the reward money will help us obtain information,” Bellanger’s father Patrick Bellanger, told Bolivian news agency Fides. The main suspect in the couple’s disappearance, Jaime Martinez, is in custody but denies any connection with the incident. Another suspect originally accused of being an accomplice was released on probation in December last year.