Defense talks with US begin
US and Philippine officials are expected to agree on an increase in the number of US military ships, aircraft and troops rotating through the Philippines, Manila officials said, as tensions simmer with China over its maritime claims. Senior US and Philippine officials met yesterday in Manila to discuss strengthening security and economic ties at a time of growing tension over China’s aggressive sovereignty claims over vast stretches of the South China Sea. “What we are discussing right now is increasing the rotational presence of US forces,” Philippine Assistant Secretary for American Affairs Carlos Sorreta told reporters. A five-year joint US-Philippine military exercise plan would be approved this week, he added. One US official said Washington was not ready to wade directly into the territorial dispute in the South China Sea and would instead focus on strengthening security ties with long-standing allies like Manila.
Ozal autopsy reveals poison
The exhumed body of former president Turgut Ozal, who led the country out of military rule in the 1980s, contained poison, but the cause of death was unclear, media reported an autopsy as revealing yesterday. There have long been rumors that Ozal, who died of heart failure in 1993 aged 65, was murdered by militants of the “deep state” — a shadowy group of security establishment figures and criminal elements. Ozal’s efforts to end a Kurdish insurgency and create a Turkic union with central Asian states have been cited as motives for would-be enemies. Ozal survived an assassination bid in 1988. The national forensic institute completed the autopsy on Tuesday and the results will be sent to prosecutors who are investigating suspicions of foul play, the state-run Anatolian news agency said. Previous media reports have said Ozal’s body, dug up in October on prosecutors’ orders, revealed traces of insecticides, pesticides and radioactive elements.
Local-made choppers shown
State television said the country has put its first domestically produced helicopters into service, displaying them at an air show. The report said the 12-passenger Panha-1 and eight-passenger Panha-2 helicopters have military capabilities. The unveiling came on Tuesday during an aviation exhibition on the Gulf island of Kish. The government also displayed a new six-passenger airplane and landing gear for a jet fighter. The nation began a military self-sufficiency program in 1992. It periodically announces accomplishments in the fields of industry and military production. Ten countries, including Russia, China, Ukraine, Indonesia, Malaysia and Sudan, are participating in the exhibition, which ends tomorrow.
Paper to publish pet obits
Grieving pet owners can soon share their feelings about their deceased furred family members via obituaries in the nation’s largest newspaper, the Straits Times. The paper’s pets section will let pet owners publish goodbye messages to their non-human companions along with a photo. In a report on the country’s pet care market, research firm Euromonitor said: “Many pet owners are increasingly treating their pets as household members and are therefore pampering their pets with luxurious food, products and services, just as they would dote on their family.” Needless to say, the obituaries are not free — they will each cost S$50 (US$40.96), with a goods and services tax of 7 percent on top of that.
A former police officer who murdered nine people during a 1986 crime spree in Florida was executed on Tuesday after his attorneys’ last-minute appeals were rejected. Manuel Pardo, 56, was pronounced dead at Florida State Prison at 7:47pm, about 16 minutes after the lethal injection process began. His attorneys had tried to block the execution by arguing that he was mentally ill, but federal courts declined to intercede. Prison officials said his final words were: “Airborne forever. I love you, Michi baby,” referring to his daughter. Pardo also wrote a final statement that was distributed to the media, in which he claimed that he never killed any women, but “accepted full responsibility for killing six men.”
Terror suspects arrested
Federal authorities on Tuesday arrested two Alabama men on terrorism charges, accusing them of plotting to wage violent jihad overseas after meeting online in 2010. Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair and Randy Wilson, also known as Rasheed Wilson, were arrested in separate locations in Georgia, according to the FBI and US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama. Authorities said Wilson was a friend and former roommate of Omar Shafik Hammami, a US citizen who was added to the FBI’s most wanted list of terrorism suspects last month. Hammami is suspected of being a senior leader in al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based militant group, and is wanted on terrorism charges in Alabama. Wilson was taken into custody in Atlanta as he attempted to board a flight headed to Morocco on Tuesday, and Abukhdair was apprehended at an Augusta bus terminal, authorities said.
Quintuplets’ mom dies
Mary Ann Darling Fischer, the woman who gave birth to the first known surviving quintuplets in the nation, passed away on Sunday at age 79. Thrust into the spotlight after giving birth to the four girls and one boy, Fischer and her then-husband retreated into the most quintessential South Dakota activities: They took part in a bowling league, hunted pheasants and attended regular Sunday church services. “I would rather go into the delivery room than come down here,” Fischer said as she faced 30 reporters at her first news conference following the birth of the babies. The Fischers didn’t know they were expecting quintuplets until a few days before the babies were born two months premature. Andrew Fischer said he “shook,” while Mary Ann, 30 at the time, started crying when the doctor told them that instead of one baby, they were having five.
‘Doomsday’ good for village
Believers of a Mayan calendar prediction that the world will end on Dec. 21 have flooded into a small village near the ancient city of Ephesus. Some New Age spiritualists are convinced of a Dec. 21 “doomsday” foretold by Mayan hieroglyphs — at least according to some interpretations. Sirince, a village of about 600 inhabitants, has a positive energy, according to the doomsday cultists, who say that it is close to an area where Christians believe the Virgin Mary ascended to heaven. The Mayan prophecy has sparked a tourism boom in the village, which is now expected to host more than 60,000 visitors, local media said. “It is the first time we witness such an interest during the winter season,” local media quoted hotel owner Ilkan Gulgun as saying.