Cambodia criticized on vote
The government says Cambodia’s decision to bar exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy from July elections calls into question the vote’s legitimacy. US Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Friday that the US was disappointed by the announcement from Cambodia’s election committee that Rainsy has been removed from the official voter list because of criminal convictions that carry 12 years in prison. She said “credible observers” believe the convictions have been politically motivated. Rainsy, who lives in Paris, is widely viewed as the sole Cambodian politician with the charisma and resources to present any real challenge to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has dominated since the mid-1980s. Nuland said the exclusion of a leading opposition figure “calls into question the legitimacy of the whole democratic process in Cambodia.”
Police to charge caretaker
Officials say they are preparing to file criminal charges against a house caretaker who reloaded the pistol of a man who went on a shooting rampage near Manila that left nine people dead. Deputy Cavite provincial police chief Dionicio Borromeo says John Paul Lopez surrendered to authorities late on Friday, hours after the rampage, which left eight victims and the gunman dead. Eleven people were wounded in the incident in Cavite Province’s Kawit Township. Borromeo says Lopez explained that the gunman, Ronald Bae, had threatened to kill him if he did not reload bullets into the magazines of a .45 caliber pistol used in the killing spree.
Housing official probed
A former housing official is under investigation after allegations that his family owned 29 apartments were corroborated by the district government, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Friday. Prosecutors in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, will investigate Zhai Zhenfeng (翟振), the former director of the housing administration bureau in the city’s Erqi District, Xinhua said. The allegations, from a whistle-blower, were first posted on a microblog last week, the agency said. Similar online revelations in recent months have brought down government officials who maintained extramarital affairs, bought property and luxury items or abused their power.
Work resumes on plant
Construction has resumed on a “fourth-generation” nuclear power plant, suspended after the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster, which will be China’s biggest-ever nuclear facility, state media said yesterday. Construction on the coastal Shidao Bay nuclear power plant in Rongcheng, Shandong Province, resumed last month, the state-run China Internet Information Center reported, adding that the plant is “China’s biggest planned nuclear project.” The plant, which will be cooled by high temperature gas, will become “the world’s first successfully commercialized fourth generation nuclear technology demonstration project,” the report said. It is designed to be safer and cuts down on costs, the report quoted a spokesman from the China Huaneng Group, the biggest investor in the plant, as saying. The plant, expected to begin supplying electricity to the grid by 2017, will have a final generating capacity of 6,600 megawatts, the report said, adding initial investment in the project will be 3 billion yuan (US$480 million).
Atom smasher to be retooled
The world’s largest and most powerful atom smasher goes into a two-year hibernation in March, as engineers carry out a revamp to help it reach maximum energy levels that could lead to more stunning discoveries following the detection of the so-called “God particle.” With the reopening of its US$10 billion proton collider in early 2015, the stage will be set for observing more rare phenomena — and unlocking more mysteries, said James Gillies, chief spokesman for the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN). Physicists at CERN will not exactly be idle as the collider takes a break. There are still reams more data to sift through since the July discovery of a new subatomic particle called the Higgs boson — dubbed the “God particle” — which promises a new realm of understanding of the universe.
Church to allow gay bishops
The Church of England has dropped its opposition to gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops, provided the men concerned promise to remain celibate, it confirmed on Friday. The announcement by the church’s House of Bishops is likely to reignite a row that has split the state church since 2003, when gay cleric Jeffrey John was forced to withdraw as bishop of Reading under pressure from traditionalists. Women remain banned from becoming bishops. Gay men and women who are in civil partnerships have been allowed to join the clergy since 2005 so long as they vow to remain celibate.
Man’s tweets kill celebrities
Former Cuban president Fidel Castro, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Pope Benedict XVI — Italian Tommasso Debenedetti has killed them all in fake tweets aimed at exposing shoddy journalism that have earned him global notoriety. The latest victim of Debenedetti’s unusual hobby is British author J.K. Rowling, whose death in an accident he announced from a fake Twitter account purporting to belong to fellow writer John Le Carre. Debenedetti said the tweet was retweeted hundreds of times and a Chilean TV station even gave the false news as fact. The literary fake artist says his aim in all of this is to “show that Twitter has become a news agency — the least reliable in the world.” Among his many claims to Internet infamy, Debenedetti boasts of having forced Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi to deny the pope had died after sending a false tweet purportedly from Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.
Hitler statue causes outrage
The country’s chief rabbi on Friday voiced outrage over a statue of Adolf Hitler kneeling at a Holocaust site in Warsaw, part of an installation by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. “When it comes to showing the figure of Hitler, we have an extra special responsibility to be sensitive to those who suffered because of what Hitler created, to Holocaust survivors, to non-Jewish survivors, to those who didn’t survive,” Rabbi Michael Schudrich said. The wax statue depicts Adolf Hitler with a child’s body dressed in a grey suit, kneeling in prayer. It was installed in a courtyard of the former Warsaw Ghetto in mid-November. The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem also recently slammed the statue. Nazi Germany imprisoned nearly half a million Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto inside a walled-off 4km2 area of the city. About 100,000 died inside from starvation, disease or summary execution, while others were deported to death camps.
Alleged conspirator arrested
Police on Friday arrested a man accused of entering a kidnapping conspiracy with a New York City police officer who had allegedly plotted to cook and eat women. Michael Vanhise, 23, was arrested at his home in New Jersey and taken before a Manhattan federal judge to face the kidnapping charges, law enforcement officials said. According to prosecutors, Vanhise agreed by e-mail in February last year to pay the officer US$5,000 to kidnap and deliver him a woman, whom Vanhise would then rape. The officer, Gilberto Valle, allegedly agreed to the kidnapping, writing that the woman would be sedated and “stuffed into a large piece of luggage and wheeled out to my van.” Valle, who was aiming for promotion to sergeant, also had plans to kidnap women so that he could roast them at home and eat them, prosecutors say. The 28-year-old has been charged with kidnapping conspiracy and illegally accessing the police database.
‘Warlock’ makes predictions
Antonio Vazquez is a cherubic 72-year-old with twinkling eyes, a long white beard and a knack for predicting things that do not actually happen. For more than three decades, the self-proclaimed “Grand Warlock” has been doing tarot card and horoscope readings to reveal what is in store for the coming year. On tap for this year, according to the Grand Warlock: a new war in the Middle East, chaos in Venezuela and a tough year for Obama. However, it is not all bad news. Vazquez said it will be a great year for Mexico, a country that has struggled with drug violence and a slow economy.
Toy guns destroyed
Mexico City authorities say they have destroyed thousands of toy guns in an effort to fight real crimes committed with fake weapons. Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said on Friday that officials believe that at least three of every 10 violent crimes in Mexico City is committed with a realistic toy gun. The guns were confiscated from shops in Mexico City and the surrounding state of Mexico. Authorities ban virtually all civilian gun ownership and requires that toy weapons be made of transparent or brightly colored plastic. Sunday is Three Kings Day, when Mexican children receive the largest number of holiday gifts. Official statistics show that there were 82,117 robberies and 1,349 homicides in Mexico City in the first 11 months last year.
Saudi accused of child rape
A sergeant in Saudi Arabia’s air force was jailed in Las Vegas on charges that he pulled a young boy into a hotel room and sexually assaulted him on the morning of Sin City’s big New Year’s Eve fireworks extravaganza. Mazen Alotaibi, 23, faces charges including kidnapping, sexual assault with a minor and felony coercion that could get him decades in state prison, according to police and charging documents obtained on Friday.The boy, who is younger than 14, told police the man forced him into a room at the Circus Circus hotel on the Las Vegas Strip and raped him. Police arrested Alotaibi after being called to the hotel before 9:30am on Monday. The boy, who lives out of state, was staying at the hotel with his family, McGrath said. He was taken to a local hospital for medical treatment and evidence collection and released later to family members. McGrath said Alotaibi produced a Saudi Arabian military identification and said he was stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland near San Antonio, Texas.