Fake victim photo goes viral
The father of a student in the south has complained to police after Internet users circulated a photograph of his daughter on social media claiming it was the Delhi gang-rape victim, officers said yesterday. A picture tribute to the dead Delhi woman has gone viral on Facebook. Her name and identity have been withheld by police and the media in line with a law that entitles victims of sex crime and their families to anonymity to protect them from social stigma. Vinayakumar, an assistant commissioner in the cybercrime unit of the Kerala police, said the photograph used in the Facebook tribute was a fake and had caused distress.
‘Ghost gum’ trees burned
A pair of “ghost gum” trees in the outback made famous in watercolors by Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira have been destroyed in a suspected arson attack, shortly before they were due to be placed on a national heritage register. Namatjira is credited with bringing ghost gums, native trees featured in Aboriginal Dreamtime stories and named for their white bark that glows in moonlight, to wider public consciousness as a symbol of national identity. Northern Territory Indigenous Advancement Minister Alison Anderson said the pair of ghost gums that frame the West MacDonnell Ranges and feature in many of the late Namatjira’s works were found burned to the ground a few days ago.
Police seize illegal ivory
Authorities have made their third big seizure of illegal ivory in three months after confiscating more than 1 tonne of the elephant tusks worth US$1.4 million. The customs department yesterday said it found 779 pieces of ivory weighing about 1,300kg in a shipping container sent to the territory’s port. The discovery in late October of nearly 4 tonnes in two shipments worth US$3.4 million was the territory’s biggest seizure in a single operation. A shipment found in November was about the same size as the one found on Thursday.
Ex-spy chief criticizes PM
A retired spy director says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acted irresponsibly regarding Iran’s nuclear program and accuses him of prioritizing personal concerns over national interests. Yuval Diskin, director of the Shin Bet intelligence agency from 2005 to 2011, says Netanyahu tried to convince him and his colleagues to approve what he called an “illegal” decision to attack Iran. Diskin spoke in an interview to a filmmaker who made a documentary about the nation’s spymasters. The interview appeared yesterday in the daily Yediot Ahronot. Netanyahu’s office in a text-messaged statement called Diskin’s comments “baseless.”
Depardieu becomes Russian
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed a decree granting citizenship to French movie star Gerard Depardieu, who has threatened to give up his French passport to protest a proposed tax hike on the rich. Depardieu said on Sunday that a decision by France’s highest court to strike down a 75 percent tax rate on millionaires would change nothing in his highly publicized decision to move out of France. At his end-of-year press conference Putin said he was ready to offer Depardieu — whom he called a businessman and a friend — a Russian passport to resolve his tax row.
Political detentions surge
A total of 6,602 political detentions were recorded last year, a 60 percent surge from a year earlier, a rights watchdog said on Thursday. Last month alone, such arrests reached 567, according to the Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation. In 2011, the number of arrests over the year was 4,123. The monthly average number of arrests for political reasons reached 550 last year, compared to 343 in 2011 and 172 in 2010, according to the commission. The group also said the number of political prisoners “convicted or awaiting trial” increased from 65 to 82 over the past months.
CIA, lawmakers disagree
Lawmakers are accusing the CIA of misleading the makers of the Osama bin Laden raid film, Zero Dark Thirty, by telling them that harsh interrogation methods helped track down the terrorist mastermind. The film shows waterboarding and similar techniques as important to finding bin Laden in Pakistan, where he was killed by Navy SEALs. A three-year Senate investigation showed that such methods produced no useful intelligence. The CIA’s acting director, Michael Morell, recently contradicted that, saying harsh techniques did produce some tips that led to bin Laden.
Protesters hinder judges
Thousands of protesters in the capital, Tegucigalpa, are blocking Supreme Court judges from entering the court’s building, saying they want to “clean up Honduras’ justice system.” Protest organizer Marco Antonio Bhaday said they want all 15 Supreme Court judges to be removed from their posts. The Congress last month voted to dismiss four of the justices after they rejected a plan by President Porfirio Lobo to reform the corrupt national police. The judges have appealed the decision. Bhaday said the judges are preventing justice from being delivered in the Central American country. He is president of the Employers Federation.
Adele still tops charts
Turns out Adele ruled last year, too — and set a record while she was at it. The British singer’s 21 was the highest-selling album for the second consecutive year, according to last year’s sales figures released by Nielsen SoundScan on Thursday. That is a first in the SoundScan era. Adele sold 4.4 million copies of the album last year after selling 5.8 million in 2011. She crossed the 10 million threshold in November and was only rivaled by Taylor Swift, whose Red was second on the list with 3.1 million albums sold. Swift led a record five country artists into the top 10 last year. Gotye scored the year’s top-selling song with Somebody That I Used To Know, featuring Kimbra. The song was downloaded a record 6.8 million times.