Visit Liu Xia: activist
Chinese activists are urging the public to visit dissident Liu Xiaobo’s (劉曉波) wife to highlight that she has been under house arrest since her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. Activist Hu Jia (胡佳) yesterday said that Chinese citizens and foreign politicians should visit Liu Xia (劉霞) at her guarded Beijing apartment to help her regain freedom. A Hong Kong online newspaper, Mingbao, published a detailed guide for visiting the home. Hu and other activists brushed past a guard to visit the home last week. Hu is taking a cue from an earlier mobilization to visit blind activist Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) in Shandong before he escaped house arrest last spring.
Taliban mock US pullout
The Taliban yesterday likened the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan to its pullout from Vietnam, calling it a “declare victory and run” strategy. A statement from the militant group said the ongoing transfer of security operations from US troops to Afghan forces was a retreat similar to the US withdrawal from South Vietnam prior to the communist victory there in 1975. “They want to flee from Afghanistan just as they turned tail and ran from Vietnam,” the Taliban statement said. “When America faced utter destruction in Vietnam, they came up with the formula ‘declare victory and run’ and want to utilize the formula of ‘transfer security and run’ here in Afghanistan.”
Rain in trouble over photos
Pop star Rain is facing questions after paparazzi photos showed him out on the town with a top actress. The defense ministry yesterday said it was investigating whether Rain broke military rules by meeting actress Kim Tae-hee while on duty. Rain is fulfilling his compulsory army service as an entertainer for the military. He is not allowed to have private meetings while outside his Seoul base for official duties such as recording and performing. The ministry says a brief lockup in a military jail cannot be ruled out as a penalty. Kim’s agency admits that the two have dated for a month. Rain’s agency neither denies nor confirms it. Rain joined the military in October 2011 and is scheduled to be discharged in July.
UK tourist killed at party
Police have arrested a suspect in the death of a British tourist struck by a stray bullet at a New Year’s Eve party on the island of Koh Pa Ngan. Police Colonel Krittakarn Kramomthong yesterday said that 22-year-old Stephen David Ashton was shot in his torso early on Tuesday morning and died in a hospital. He said police arrested a 26-year-old Thai man and confiscated his pistol. The suspect is expected to be charged with manslaughter.
Thousands take icy plunge
A record 40,000 people braved icy temperatures on the North Sea coast on Tuesday to take a cold plunge, setting a new record for the traditional New Year’s Day dip, organizers said. “There were around 10,000 swimmers in Scheveningen and a record number of 40,000 across the Netherlands,” spokeswoman Jiske Barten said. In the resort of Scheveningen, a district of The Hague and the main spot among the 102 nationwide for the growing annual event, many of the bathers wore Christmas hats and sported swimwear in the national orange color as they ran into the sea, screaming and laughing despite the water temperature of 8oC.
Heiress left millions to city
A shy New York woman whom no one took to be wealthy left a shockingly happy surprise when she died: US$20 million in donations to the city’s libraries and main park. Mary McConnell Bailey lived modestly and volunteered at a hospital and schools, before dying at 88 last year, the New York Post newspaper reported on Tuesday. Now, the Post says, it emerges that the New York Public Library and Central Park Conservancy recently received checks from her estate worth US$10 million apiece. “You would have never known” she was rich, the Post quoted her former best friend and neighbor, Lizanne Stoll, as saying. According to the Post, Bailey came from a wealthy family and moved to New York in the 1940s, then inherited a fortune. However, she spent little and lived in a basic Manhattan apartment.
Ten dead in stampede
Ten people, including four children, died and 120 were hurt in a stampede at an evangelical vigil in Luanda on New Year’s Eve, the news agency Angop reported. It quoted civil protection spokesman Faustino Sebastiao as saying the victims were crushed by the crowd and asphyxiated at the entrance to the Cidadela Desportiva stadium after only two of the four gates had been opened. Twelve of the injured were still in hospital on Tuesday. “We were expecting 70,000 people but far more turned up,” said Ferner Batalha, a bishop of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.
Raid triggers confrontation
An raid by undercover soldiers disguised as vegetable vendors ignited rare clashes in the northern West Bank on Tuesday, residents said, leaving at least 10 Palestinians wounded. The clashes began early on Tuesday after special forces troops disguised as merchants in a vegetable truck arrested a man. Regular army forces then entered the town, prompting youths to hurl rocks to try to prevent more arrests. The troops fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition as youths set tires and garbage cans on fire to block the passage of military vehicles. In several hours of clashes, dozens of masked youths hid behind makeshift barriers, hurling rocks and firebombs at soldiers. Tamoun resident Faris Bisharat said 10 men were wounded, some by live fire. Bisharat said the wanted men belong to Islamic Jihad, a violent group sworn to the country’s destruction. It was not clear how many men the troops sought to arrest.
Palestinian numbers surge
The Palestinian statistics bureau estimates that Arabs will outnumber Jews in the country by the end of the decade, a scenario that could have grave implications for the Jewish state. The bureau on Tuesday said 5.8 million Arabs live in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. That compares with about 6 million Jews, according to government data. It said that based on current birth rates, the two populations would be equal in 2016, and in 2020, Arabs would outnumber Jews by 7.2 million to 6.9 million.
Paparazzo hit by car, dies
Police say a paparazzo was hit by a car and killed after taking photographs of Justin Bieber’s white Ferrari in Los Angeles. Los Angeles police officer James Stoughton said the photographer, who was not identified, died at a hospital shortly after the crash on Tuesday evening. Stoughton said Bieber was not in the Ferrari at the time.