A man holding five people hostage at a bank was arrested yesterday after police stormed the building by breaking through a window, Kyodo News reported. All the hostages were freed. Koji Nagakubo, 32, took the hostages at knifepoint on Thursday at a bank in Aichi Prefecture, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government. Japan dissolved parliament’s lower house this month for a Dec. 16 election that is likely to return the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party to power with a conservative former prime minister at the helm.
TV journalist shot dead
A state TV reporter was shot dead in the capital on Wednesday, the latest in a string of employees of pro-government media to be killed, the official SANA news agency reported. “An armed terrorist group assassinated journalist at the Public Authority for Radio and Television, Basel Tawfiq Yousef, in the Tadamun neighborhood of Damascus,” the news agency said. Tadamun has seen heavy fighting between rebels and troops since the outbreak of major violence in the capital in July. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the journalist was targeted because activists regarded him as a member of the militia supporters of President Bashar al-Assad.
Hanoi arrests 11 ‘pirates’
Vietnamese authorities have arrested 11 suspected pirates aboard a chemical tanker after the first such hijacking in the waters around Malaysia in years, the International Maritime Bureau said yesterday. The Malaysian-owned vessel lost communication on Saturday while on its way from Johor State to Sarawak State on Borneo Island, said Noel Choong, head of the bureau’s Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting center. After the center sent out an alert, Vietnamese marine authorities managed to intercept the tanker on Thursday, arresting 11 suspects. The tanker’s nine crew members had been released at sea on Wednesday by the pirates, said Choong, adding that the crew were all safe after being rescued by local fishermen.
Gold tree for US$4.2m
For those seeking a glow to their Christmas this year, a jewelry store in Tokyo has just the answer: a pure gold revolving “tree” covered in Disney characters. The tree-like ornament is made of 40kg of pure gold, standing about 2.4m high and 1.2m in diameter. It is decorated with pure gold plate silhouette cutouts of 50 popular Disney characters and draped with ribbons made of gold leaf. The price tag? A mere ￥350 million (US$4.2 million). For those with less ready cash, the store offers a smaller 25cm-high version that features 20 Disney characters for ￥2 million.
Author Courtenay dies
Best-selling author Bryce Courtenay, who wrote about the struggles of life in Australia and South Africa, died at his home in Canberra, his publisher said yesterday, just two weeks after his latest novel was published. His death late on Thursday came less than three months after he told fans he had stomach cancer. He was 79. Known for his dedication to work and prolific output, often writing for 12 hours a day, Courtenay sold more than 20 million books.
NZ in court against whaling
New Zealand has joined Australia in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a case against Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said yesterday. McCully said the country would support Australia’s case in the ICJ after diplomatic initiatives have failed to halt Japanese whaling in the region. Australia filed a complaint against Japan at the ICJ in 2010, arguing that Japan was violating the “International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling” by killing whales for research purposes. In December 2010, the New Zealand government decided in principle to intervene in the case. Intervention is a procedure that enables a non-party to the case to put its legal views before the court.
Couple arrested for sex in taxi
A British woman and Irish man accused of engaging in sexual activities in a Dubai taxi were sentenced on Thursday to three months in prison and then deportation, their lawyer said. The case is the latest in which Westerners have fallen foul of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) decency laws, highlighting cultural differences as the UAE seeks a balance between maintaining its Muslim identity and catering for a vibrant tourism industry. The couple denied charges of “breach of honour with consent” and committing “an indecent act in a taxi” when they appeared in court last month.
Helicopter crash kills one
One American was killed and four people were injured after a helicopter crashed near an exclusive resort in the Bahamas on Thursday afternoon, according to local police. The helicopter went down at Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club on Great Guana Cay in the Abacos island chain, according to Superintendent Noel Curry at the Marsh Harbour police station. The CBS television news Miami affiliate identified one of the survivors as Jeffrey Soffer, hotel heir and head of the Miami-based Turnberry Associates, one of the country’s leading property firms.
Chain car crash kills two
Two people died and more than 80 were hurt when at least 140 vehicles collided on a Texas highway in dense fog, leaving trucks twisted on top of each other and authorities rushing to pull survivors from the wreckage. The Thursday morning crash happened on Interstate 10 about 128km east of Houston. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Rod Carroll said 80 to 90 people were transported to hospitals, with 10 to 12 of those in serious to critical condition. He said 140 to 150 vehicles were involved in the pileup. Carroll said the fog was so thick that officers did not immediately realize they were dealing with multiple accidents. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, a crash on the eastbound side of the highway led to other accidents in a dangerous chain reaction.