Hearing for alleged gunman
The alleged gunman in the Colorado cinema massacre of 12 people was due to be arraigned for trial yesterday, after testimony this week gave harrowing new details of the slaughter. James Holmes, 25, is accused of opening fire at a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie in a theater in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, killing a dozen people and injuring at least 58 more. At the hearing, he was to hear each of the 166 charges he faces, which include murder in the first degree for the 12 people who died and attempted murder for the injured, as well as possession of explosives or incendiary devices. He will also enter a plea.
Tattooed artist woos voters
His face covered in tattoos, Vladimir Franz has been meeting and greeting voters in an unconventional bid to become the country’s next president. Despite having no political track record, the 53-year-old drama professor, classical composer and visual artist — whose entire body is tattooed — was running third among nine contenders, according to some opinion polls. Voters were to head to the ballot box yesterday in their first direct presidential vote to replace their two-term head of state Vaclav Klaus. Sporting a fur coat, pointy shoes and a closely clipped mohawk hairdo, Franz has urged voters to overcome any apathy they may have towards established politicians. “The world of art gives you the capacity to speak authentically about things, you’re not infected with the newspeak that people are so fed up with these days,” Franz said.
Rewards attract hunters
A flourishing population of Burmese pythons in South Florida is devouring animals such as bobcats and opossums, and threatening endangered species. So the state devised a solution: offer cash for hunters to kill them. More than 670 hunters from at least 30 states have signed up for a contest called the “Python Challenge,” which begins today and offers US$5,000 in prize money for those who slay the longest and largest number of the invasive snakes. They will troll 526,091 hectares, including part of the Everglades National Park, looking for snakes that the state says threaten the ecosystem and native wildlife. Burmese pythons, native to Southeast Asia, eat endangered animals in and around the Everglades, including the Key Largo woodrat, a brown and white rodent with a hairy tail found only in the Florida Keys. Federal, state and local governments have spent more than US$6 million in Florida since 2005 trying to control pythons and other invasive constrictor snakes, the US Fish & Wildlife Service said. There are an estimated 30,000 pythons in the Florida Everglades, according the National Park Service Web site.
Parents target yoga
A group of California parents are campaigning for the withdrawal of school yoga classes they believe promote Hinduism. In an effort to boost student health, a school district in Escondido incorporated the yoga classes into its curriculum this week. However, a minority of parents, spurred by an evangelical Christian group, are calling for the program to be dropped. The parents are backed by the National Center for Law & Policy (NCLP), a Christian civil liberties organization that advocates for religious causes. The NCLP said it is considering suing the school because it claims yoga is inherently religious. Timothy Baird, the school district superintendent, said there is no religious element to the program.
Landslide kills 16
A landslide yesterday swept through a village in the steep, snow-dusted mountains of the south, burying dozens of people and killing at least 16, the local government and state media said. The landslide smothered 16 homes shortly after 8am in Zhaojiagou Village, and hours later more than 40 people were missing, a notice said. Rescuers recovered 16 bodies, among them a family of seven, said a report on the Web site of the Yunnan Daily, the official newspaper of the provincial government. Reports did not say what triggered the landslide, but they occur periodically in the region, which is prone to earthquakes and heavy rains.
Indian troops kill soldier
Indian troops fired across the disputed Kashmir border and killed a soldier on Thursday, the military said, the third deadly incident in the disputed Himalayan region in recent days. Authorities said the shooting was unprovoked, while the Indian military said its troops responded to fire from soldiers across the frontier. The tit-for-tat fighting threatens to reverse recent progress the two countries have made in improving their historically antagonistic relationship. The two countries have fought three major wars since they achieved independence from British India in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.
Hotel fire kills seven
A fire yesterday swept through a hotel in a resort city, killing seven people — three Americans, three Filipinos and a South Korean — authorities said. The three US men and the South Korean man were found dead in separate rooms in the Dryden Hotel in Olongapo City, a former US naval base, police Senior Inspector Gil Arizo Domingo said. The bodies of three Filipino women were found in separate parts of the hotel, he said.
Python found on plane
Passengers on a flight to Papua New Guinea were shocked to look out their cabin windows to find a huge snake on the wing of the plane. The 3m non-poisonous amethystine python appeared about an hour into the Qantas flight between Cairns in northern Queensland and the Papua New Guinean capital, Port Moresby, on Thursday. A crew member told media that the initial reaction when the python’s presence was first reported was: “You’ve got to be kidding.” The slithery stowaway was believed to have crawled onto the plane from scrubland or mangroves that surround the airport in Cairns. Qantas said there was no impact on the safe operation of the aircraft due to the snake’s presence. The Bombardier Q400 was cleared to resume flying after it landed in Port Moresby. The snake, unfortunately, was found dead on arrival.