Activist gets refugee status
The Seoul Administrative Court has granted refugee status to a woman who fled China after helping escapees from North Korea there, saying she could face severe punishment from Beijing if sent back. The court ruled in favor of the woman, an ethnic Korean identified only as Lee, a court spokesman said yesterday. It reversed the justice ministry’s decision to deny her refugee status. Lee, who lived near the border, said she had helped about 20 refugees flee North Korea until police raided her house in March last year. Her husband was arrested, but Lee escaped with her daughter.
Carr defends US troops
China must respect Australia’s sovereign right to have US Marines deployed in the Northern Territory as Washington enhances its presence in the Pacific, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said yesterday. Canberra last year agreed to host up to 2,500 US Marines in the north, a significant strategic shift by Washington that irritated China. Carr told the Australian Financial Review the decision was not aimed at China. “Just as Australia has taken a balanced view of China’s rapid military modernisation, China should recognise Australia’s sovereign right to reframe its alliance with the US as part of its own defence policy,” he said.
PCCW keeps Syria online
A firm that tracks the pathways of the Internet says a Chinese company is keeping war-torn Syria connected to the Internet as other telecoms companies withdraw. The Syrian government ultimately controls Internet connection to the outside world, but it’s a major route for rebel communications and news from the country, as the civil war intensifies. Hong Kong-based PCCW Ltd (電訊盈科) is now carrying most of the Internet traffic to and from Syria, US-based Renesys Corp said. PCCW has shouldered the load as Turk Telecom, the main phone company in Turkey, dropped away on Aug. 12. It’s not clear what killed that connection, but Turkey has protested the Syria regime’s actions. China is one of Syria’s few international allies.
Ten dead from fighting
The death toll from fighting between Sunni Muslims and Alawites in Tripoli climbed to at least 10 overnight, medical sources said yesterday, in clashes that the city’s residents described as some of the heaviest since the civil war. More than 100 people have been wounded in the fighting that erupted this week along a sectarian fault line between the Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the Alawite area of Jebel Mohsen. After a lull, Tripoli was rocked by about two dozen explosions between 2am and 6am, apparently caused by rocket-propelled grenades, witnesses said. The fighters have also been using automatic machine guns.
Man freed after 27 years
The longest-serving Syrian prisoner in Israel has been freed after 27 years behind bars, official news agency SANA said yesterday. It said Sedki al-Maket, who was arrested in August 1985 for resisting the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights, was released and had returned to his home town on the strategic plateau. He was jailed by a military court for 27 years and served his sentence in several prisons in Israel, SANA said. Maket, 45, comes from Majdal Shams, the largest town on the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and unilaterally annexed in 1981.
Man threatens Obama
An armed man was arrested in Seattle, Washington, on Tuesday for allegedly sending an e-mail that threatened President Barack Obama, a justice official said. “When the Secret Service and local police went to his apartment to investigate, they discovered that he was armed, he was taken into custody without incident,” said Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the US Attorney’s Office in Washington state. Law enforcement officers were searching the house for weapons and suspicious material, Langlie said.
Fire destroys 50 buildings
Fifty buildings were destroyed by a 8,700 hectare wildfire raging in Northern California that has forced the evacuation of about 3,000 people near the small town of Manton, fire officials said late on Tuesday. Dubbed the Ponderosa Fire, the lightning-sparked blaze roared through brush and heavy timber in Tehama and Shasta counties, about 200km north of the state capital, Sacramento, since it started on Saturday. Firefighters were finally able to survey the damage from the air in one of the more heavily populated areas affected on Tuesday.
Woman dead with 31 cats
A woman has been found dead in her suburban home, where she lived with 31 cats. Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies were forced to wear breathing equipment to enter the residence in Mesa, Arizona, early on Tuesday. They had been called to check on 64-year-old Maria Elena Cimino. It is unclear how long Cimino had been dead, but authorities say she apparently died of natural causes. Sheriff’s officials say it appears the woman was a hoarder and the home was in poor condition. The sheriff’s office and the Humane Society are trying to rescue as many of the 31 feral cats and kittens as possible and decide where to keep them. Authorities say many are severely underweight and appear to have upper respiratory infections and conjunctivitis.
US$1bn of pot uprooted
More than 578,000 cannabis plants, worth more than US$1 billion, have been uprooted from forests and national parks in a major operation in the west, the Justice Department said on Tuesday. The two-month enforcement operation, which began on July 1 in seven states — California, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington — was led by the nation’s anti-drug and forest authorities.
Poll set for April next year
The country, rocked two months ago by the ouster of former president Fernando Lugo, will hold general elections in April next year, the superior court of electoral justice said on Tuesday. “Some 3.5 million people are registered to vote,” in the April 21 polls, court head Alberto Ramirez said during a ceremony attended by President Federico Franco, who came to power in June after Congress sent Lugo packing. “It has been rumored that this government would not organize elections, or that it intended to delay them to stay in power for a longer time,” Franco said. “The process will be completed when the new president takes office on Aug. 15,” next year, Franco said, pledging to step down on that date. Congress had accused Lugo, a leftist, of “improperly fulfilling his duties” in connection with a deadly land dispute, and quickly moved to remove him from office. His ouster was widely criticized by Latin American leaders, who say the president did not have time to mount a defense.