NRA experts received grants
Four out of the six members of a government team drafting new safety standards for nuclear reactors have received thousands in grants from the nuclear industry, a report said late on Saturday. The four experts have received between ￥3 million (US$37,000) and ￥27 million each in grants, donations and compensation in the past three to four years, Kyodo News reported, citing data disclosed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). The NRA said the members “have been selected in line with rules, and there should be no problem,” shrugging off concerns that judgments could be swayed, the report said. The NRA requires experts to disclose remuneration and donations, but has no rules for disqualifying them in light of such information, it said.
Aquino to raise island spat
President Benigno Aquino III yesterday said the country would raise overlapping claims to the South China Sea during a summit of Asian and European leaders in Laos this week. Aquino said he expects to hold bilateral meetings with the leaders of the EU, Poland, Switzerland, Norway and Italy during the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting beginning in Laos today. Among other issues, the leaders were expected to talk about increasing economic cooperation and seek ways to limit the impact of fiscal crises hobbling some European nations, he said. Aquino added the country would seek “suggestions on ways to craft a just and peaceful agreement on the West Philippine Sea.” Manila refers to the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.
Aussie defense chief to visit
Secretary of Defense Voltaire Gazmin yesterday said Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith plans to visit early next year to discuss ways to bolster security cooperation and the entry of Australian forces for military exercises under a new pact. The Senate in July ratified an accord that would allow Australian troops to train in combat exercises with Philippine forces in the country. It was a long-delayed pact that got backing from lawmakers alarmed by Manila’s recent territorial spats with Beijing. Gazmin said that he and Smith would discuss how to enhance joint exercises, including those that would help their forces better deal with natural disasters, terrorism and other threats. Washington is the only other country with a similar visiting forces agreement with the Philippines.
Man arrested for sedition
Police have arrested a 27-year-old quantity surveyor for allegedly posting seditious remarks on Facebook about the royal family of Johor, a southern state, his brother said yesterday. Ahmad Abd Jalil was arrested in Kuala Lumpur on Friday night and handed to police in Johor, where he may have to beg forgiveness from the sultan, his brother said. The government has said it plans to repeal the controversial Sedition Act, which has previously been justified as necessary to curb racial conflict. However, authorities have continued to invoke the act, under which those found guilty can be jailed, and Ahmad’s arrest is at least the third in two years related to the Johor royal house. Ahmad’s lawyer, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, told reporters he had not been allowed to meet any family members or lawyers since being brought to Johor. “The alleged crime happened here so there is no reason to take him to Johor. They should just take his statement and let him go, this is not a violent crime,” she said.
Tourists escape Nile boat fire
A fire probably caused by a short-circuit aboard a cruise ship forced 77 tourists to be evacuated until the blaze was put out, state-run news agency MENA reported on Saturday, adding that no one was hurt. The fire broke out at near the stern of the Nile cruise ship between the pharaonic hub of Luxor and the town of Esna, also home to archeological sites, in the south of the country. MENA said that some of the 77 tourists refused to re-embark after the fire was extinguished. It did not give the nationalities of those on board. Nile cruises are a major attraction in the country where tourism is a key revenue earner.
Official faces drug charges
A police chief in the city of Rosario has been arrested for alleged ties to drug trafficking, a judicial source said on Saturday. Nestor Fernandez was arrested late on Friday on charges of alleged collusion with drug traffickers, the same charge being faced by the former police chief of Santa Fe Province, Hugo Tognoli, the source said. Tognoli was taken into custody on Monday after spending the weekend on the run and denied all allegations against him to the judge overseeing the case, said his lawyer, Eduardo Jauchen. Tognoli, who had resigned days before he was detained, is accused of protecting a drug lord and allowing the sale of cocaine to the owner of a brothel. The city of Rosario is located 310km north of the capital, Buenos Aires.
Six killed while worshipping
Six men who were holding a ceremony before a Goddess of Death altar were slain in a town in the north of the country, authorities said on Saturday. The occult figure, with its roots in indigenous culture, is also worshipped in the US. Although not part of the Christian religious tradition, it is widely seen as a sort of “patron saint” of drug traffickers and criminals. The men were holding the ceremony on Friday, a day after All Souls Day, in a town near Torreon, Coahuila state, prosecutors said. Two carloads of men rolled up, got out and opened fire, gunning down the six, prosecutors added. Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead (All Saints Day) by decorating the tombs of their deceased kin. The six men slain were decorating a Goddess of Death altar in similar style when they were killed, but the motive was not immediately clear. In 2003, the government recognized the Goddess of Death as a religious organization, but then under pressure from the Roman Catholic church, withdrew their recognition. The country’s drug war has claimed an estimated 60,000 lives in the past six years.
10 more killed in Sao Paulo
At least 10 people, including a suspected drug trafficker, were shot dead in the Sao Paulo metropolitan area in a 24-hour period in a worsening wave of violence in which military police have been targeted, officials said on Saturday. The latest victims were among some 20 people shot in the country’s most populous city. In the latest incident, a suspected drug trafficker was gunned down by state military police officers on Saturday after refusing an order to stop his vehicle on a Sao Paulo highway. Media reports identified him as a drug baron from Sao Paulo’s Paraisopolis slum, where 600 heavily-armed military police moved in on Monday after receiving information that a crime boss there had ordered the killing of military officers. Six other fatalities occurred in the nearby town of Sao Bernardo do Campo, including three killed in a shootout with police.