Leader laments traffic safety
A state leader has said a deadly trio of riding flashy motorbikes, speaking on the telephone while driving and trying to impress women has caused a jump in fatal road accidents among young people. “If there is a good motorcycle, a good mobile or a good girlfriend, then accidents are bound to happen,” Raman Singh, the chief minister of Chhattisgarh State, told a traffic safety conference on Saturday. More than 110,000 people were killed in road accidents last year, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, with bad roads, speeding vehicles and poor driving among the many contributing factors. Singh told a seminar in the state capital, Raipur, that 55 percent to 60 percent of all road accident victims were young people.
Marathon ban reversed
Beijing marathon organizers have reversed a decision to refuse Japanese runners, reports said yesterday. Japanese runners had been barred from taking part in the Nov. 25 event due to concerns for their safety as tensions between the two countries ran high over a territorial dispute. However, officials have now updated their Web site to include “Japan” in the list of applicants’ nationalities, after the Japanese embassy in Beijing lodged a protest, the Yomiuri Shimbun and Jiji Press said.
Policemen accused of rape
Three policemen have been accused of gang-raping an Indonesian woman at a police station in a northern town. Lau Chiek Tuan, a local politician, said that the 25-year-old woman came to his office in the town of Prai just hours after the alleged rape on Friday. Lau said he held a press conference on Saturday where the woman claimed the three officers in a patrol car stopped a taxi she boarded on Friday morning. “They asked to look at her passport, but when she produced a photocopy, they still took her to the police station. It was just an excuse to bring her in,” he said. “She could identify the three men who raped her in a room where there was a mattress — I don’t know for what reason there is a mattress in a police station,” he added. News reports cited Penang police chief Abdul Rahim Hanafi as confirming that three policemen were remanded for a week on Friday night and suspended from duty pending investigations.
Bomb plot suspects arrested
Police said yesterday they had arrested three members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and thwarted a bomb attack. Intelligence operatives intercepted the men on Thursday night on the island of Basilan, a known hotbed of the extremists, regional police said in a statement. Police said the three allegedly planned to set off the bomb in a heavy populated urban area. The suspects were members of a squad responsible for carrying out sabotage attacks to divert military and police attention as other members stage kidnappings, police said. The Abu Sayyaf is a small group of militants blamed for the country’s worst terrorist attacks, including a ferry bombing in 2004 that killed more than 100. The group is on the US government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. A number of foreign hostages are believed held by the Abu Sayyaf in the south, including two European bird-watchers seized in February and an Australian abducted in December last year.
Give church winnings: Welby
Gamblers who made money betting on the identity of the next spiritual head of the Anglican church should donate their winnings, the newly nominated Archbishop of Canterbury said. “Thought in the night, those who made money betting on me give it to their local church! I suspect it was less than papers suggest,” Justin Welby, 56, a former oil executive who was named the next leader of the world’s 80 million Anglicans on Friday, wrote on Twitter. Bookmakers said they suspended betting on Welby getting the job earlier in the week after a sudden flurry of bets. He explained later: “It’s a very strange feeling when you find yourself having odds quoted on you at a bookie. Generally speaking I am not a horse, I think that’s a really important point to get across.” Bookmaker Ladbrokes said it had donated ￡1,000 (US$1,560) to Canterbury Cathedral following the comments by Welby, who will become the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury after incumbent Rowan Williams retires next month.
President’s son in hot water
Central African Republic (CAR) President Francois Bozize has had police detain his son for several days for not paying an 8 million Central African CFA franc (US$15,250) hotel bill, a police source said on Saturday. “Captain Kevin Bozize is being detained ... on the orders of the head of state,” the source said on condition of anonymity. “He spent a few days at the Ledger Plaza hotel and did not pay his bills for the room, meals and other services. His bills are estimated to be nearly 8 million francs.” The younger Bozize was detained on Tuesday and is being held at the investigative arm of the national police (SRI). “When the hotel manager asked him to pay the bills, he refused. Having been informed of the situation, his father summoned both of them and in front of the manager he [Kevin] confirmed that he stayed at the hotel and said he paid all the bills. Both he and the manager were detained by the SRI, but after the facts were verified, the manager was freed.”
Check bouncers set free
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has released about 290 people convicted of bouncing checks from prison, the state news agency said on Saturday, the latest step by one of the world’s richest countries to help its citizens deal with their debts. Signing checks without sufficient funds to back them is a criminal offense under UAE law and the order to release citizens who had defaulted on check payments was given last month by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan. In May, the president allocated about 5 million dirhams (US$1.4 million) to settle defaulted loans for each indebted Emirati. The UAE central bank told commercial banks in August to extend maturities on certain personal loans held by UAE citizens by more than four years. The state news agency said on Saturday authorities have given certificates to those released from jail protecting them from future criminal prosecution over their cases. However, an official quoted by the agency said creditors could still try to recover debts through civil courts. The latest amnesty does not extend to all debtors. A number of foreigners, most of them real estate developers and businessmen who worked in Dubai during its economic boom several years ago, remain in prison after being convicted and sentenced over bounced checks.
Rare truffle gifted to Obama
A small village renowned for its white truffles announced on Saturday it would give US President Barack Obama a record specimen weighing in at more than a kilo as a re-election present. “A 1.012kg truffle from Acqualagna will be gifted to the President of the United States Barack Obama to celebrate his reelection,” the local authorities said in a statement. The truffle, a rare subterranean mushroom prized in haute cuisine, is to be delivered to the US on Nov. 18 and Acqualagna officials said they hoped Obama would show up in person to pick up his gift. The price per kilo of white truffles has recently shot up to around US$3,800.
Famous items sold at auction
Judy Garland’s blue and white gingham dress from The Wizard of Oz sold for US$480,0000 at a Beverly Hills auction on Saturday, while a slice of Prince William’s wedding cake fetched US$1,375. Julien’s Auctions said the price for the pinafore dress and white puffy-sleeved blouse that Garland wore throughout the 1939 film classic was in line with estimates. However, it was well below the sky-high figures paid last year for Hollywood costumes worn by Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn and a similar dress worn during tests for The Wizard of Oz that fetched US$910,000 last year. Auctioneer Darren Julien said the price difference was due to the fact that only a few test dresses were made for The Wizard of Oz, while there are about seven versions of Garland’s signature gingham pinafore. The buyer of the Judy Garland dress, made by MGM costume designer Adrian, was not identified.
Bank robber, 16, jailed
Police say a 16-year-old boy who used prosthetics and dreadlocks to conduct armed robberies in disguise has been jailed for five years. Police say Miles Alura pretended to be an elderly man with facial prosthetics, make-up and a hair piece to steal ￡50,000 (US$79,400) of jewelry from a shop in Kent in July. They say he produced two handguns and tied up employees before fleeing. That robbery was linked to one in London a month earlier, when Alura wore fake dreadlocks to rob a jeweler of ￡100,000 worth of stock.
Mayor stages tent protest
The mayor of an impoverished town near Paris has pitched a tent outside parliament and gone on hunger strike to demand emergency funds from the country’s cash-strapped government, arguing that economic crisis is pushing dozens of towns like his near to ruin. Mayor Stephane Gatignon, whose high-profile protest started on Friday, says the global financial crisis is strangling his town, Sevran, and that he needs 5 million euros (US$6.4 million) by tomorrow to pay municipal bills. “In concrete terms, we’ve reached the end of the road. We have no more access to loans,” said Gatignon, a member of the Green Party whose town is just a short train commute north of the world’s most visited tourist capital, Paris. He says he needs the extra funds to pay firms for public works and more broadly argues that the government must grant larger aid to the 100 poorest towns in the country — where unemployment is often well above the national average. Government Minister Marylise Lebranchu said that government aid for such cases was set to rise under local funding packages due to be put to a vote in parliament tomorrow, though she did not commit to meet Gatignon’s additional demand.