Ten illegal migrants drown
Ten illegal immigrant Indonesians, including two pregnant women, drowned when their boat capsized in rough seas off the southern coast, maritime authorities said yesterday. The bodies of five men and five women and the rickety wooden boat they were traveling in washed ashore earlier in the week, marine police official Mohammad Muhi said. The group was believed to be illegally journeying back to Batam, Indonesia from Johor state, Mohammad said. A search and rescue operation is underway because the ill-fated boat could have carried up to 35 people, he said.
Airline strike threat shelved
The union representing Cathay Pacific flight crews yesterday said it had shelved plans for industrial action over the Christmas holidays after the airline agreed to improve their working conditions. Staff had threatened to stop serving alcohol and smiling at passengers as part of a “work-to-rule” action over a salary dispute that could have thrown hundreds of flight schedules into chaos. However, the 6,000-strong Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union said it had decided to call it off after reaching a deal with the flag carrier following a two-day negotiation mediated by the territory’s labor department.
Branson to be stewardess
British billionaire Richard Branson will finally wear a red skirt and serve as a stewardess on Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia in May next year after losing a Grand Prix bet with the founder of the airline. Virgin boss Branson and AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes had agreed in 2010 that whichever of their teams (then Virgin and Lotus) finished lower in the constructors’ championship in their debut season, the losing owner would serve on the other’s airline. Branson lost as Lotus finished 10th and Virgin 12th, but the trip was postponed early last year after Branson injured himself while skiing.
The principal of a top high school was removed yesterday from his post and is being investigated by the anti-corruption bureau, authorities said. Former River Valley High School headmaster Steven Koh Yong Chiah, 58, was replaced “with effect from 20 December 2012,” the education ministry said in a statement. It said Koh had been redeployed while the investigation was under way. “The Ministry of Education has been informed by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau that Mr Steven Koh Yong Chiah, principal of River Valley High School, is assisting in its investigation,” the statement read.
Banker to be extradited
A court yesterday ordered the extradition of a fugitive Italian banker found guilty of laundering money for some of Italy’s top mobsters through New York pizzerias in the 1970s and 1980s. Dressed in an orange prison uniform, Vito Roberto Palazzolo told a judge: “This is not the rule of law!” Palazzolo was convicted in Italy in 2006 following the “Pizza Connection” investigation, which exposed a US$1.6 billion heroin and cocaine smuggling operation from 1975 to 1984. He was sentenced to nine years in prison for links to the Mafia. The 65-year-old Sicilian was arrested at Bangkok’s airport on March 30 as he prepared to board a flight to South Africa, his adopted homeland, where he went by the name Robert von Palace Kolbatschenko. The Criminal Court in Bangkok said the extradition will take at least 30 days.
Talabani to be treated in EU
President Jalal Talabani has left a Baghdad hospital and is being transferred to Germany for treatment after suffering a stroke earlier this week, his office said yesterday. The 79-year-old Kurdish statesman was admitted to hospital on Monday night. “Treatment has allowed suitable conditions for his excellency to be transferred outside the country,” the statement said, adding that Talabani’s health had improved. It was uncertain whether he would be able to return to his post and his potential exit from politics is raising concerns about what could be a messy succession battle.
Clinton still on sick leave
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the country’s most-traveled high-ranking diplomat ever, has had her wings clipped by ill health and will not be able to make any trips for several weeks, a top aide said on Wednesday. Clinton, 65, has been off work sick since early this month after she contracted a bad stomach virus during a five-day trip to Europe. She had to cancel a planned trip to North Africa and Abu Dhabi due to the illness. Her doctors at the weekend said she had become severely dehydrated due to the effects of the stomach bug and had fainted, suffering a concussion. They have recommended that she rest at home for a second week and stay off work.
WWII letters delivered
Letters written by German soldiers stationed on the Channel Island of Jersey have finally been delivered, 71 years after they were stolen in an act of resistance against the Nazi occupation. The 90 letters and cards were taken just before Christmas 1941 by a group of young men who “liberated” a German military post box in St Helier. They were passed to a friend for safekeeping. Five years ago, the man, who wishes to remain anonymous, handed them over to the Jersey Archive, where staff began the slow process of trying to get them to their original destination, a spokesman for the archive said. Jersey Post contacted its German counterpart, Deutsche Post, which found 10 families related to the original recipients who still live in the same places and finally delivered some of the messages.
Miss Universe crowned
The US’ Olivia Culpo was crowned Miss Universe 2012 late on Wednesday, beating out beauties from around the world to claim the coveted title. The title of first runner-up went to the contestant from the Philippines, Janine Tugonon. Last year’s winner, Leila Lopes of Angola, crowned the jubilant 20-year-old Culpo to succeed her in a year-long reign. It is the first win for an American woman since 1997. Miss Venezuela, Irene Sofia Esser Quintero, placed third in the contest. Fourth place went to Miss Australia, Renae Ayris, and fifth to Miss Brazil, Gabriela Markus.
Reagan-era judge dies
Robert Bork, former president Ronald Reagan’s famously rejected conservative Supreme Court nominee, died on Wednesday at age 85. Bork’s family confirmed his death to local media in Arlington, Virginia. Bork’s confirmation hearings in the Senate in 1987 were marked by a highly partisan and contentious debate that eventually gave rise to the term “borked” — used especially by the US right to mean an attack of a political figure based on his views. Democrats were strongly opposed to Bork’s stance on civil liberties and the rights of women and African Americans.