Jailed lawyer allowed visit
A human rights group says imprisoned rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) has been allowed a family visit for the first time in nearly 10 months at a prison in Xinjiang region. New York-based Human Rights in China quoted Gao’s wife, Geng He (耿和), as saying on Tuesday that the Jan. 12 visit confirmed that the lawyer is still alive. The group said Gao appeared clear-minded and spoke normally during the visit by his younger brother and father-in-law in Shaya County. It was the second time family members were allowed to visit Gao since the advocate for constitutional reform and religious rights was imprisoned in December 2011 for violating probation. Gao was convicted in 2006 of inciting subversion of state power and sentenced to three years, but released on probation.
Roh’s daughter sentenced
Roh Jeong-yeon, the daughter of former president Roh Moo-hyun was handed a four-month suspended jail sentence yesterday for illegally transferring 1.3 billion won (US$1.2 million) abroad. She was convicted of transferring the money to the US to buy an apartment in New Jersey in 2007, without reporting the transaction to financial authorities. It was not immediately known whether she would appeal the ruling by the Seoul Central District Court. The former president jumped to his death from a cliff behind his retirement home in May 2009 after being questioned by prosecutors about suspected corruption scandals involving his family. Roh Moo-hyun’s brother, Roh Geon-pyeong, was arrested in 2008 on separate bribery charges before being pardoned in 2010.
Scientists grow kidney tissue
Researchers yesterday said they have succeeded in growing human kidney tissue from stem cells for the first time in a potential breakthrough for millions with damaged organs who are dependent on dialysis. Kidneys have a complex structure that is not easily repaired once damaged, but the latest findings put scientists on the road to helping a diseased or distressed organ fix itself. Kenji Osafune of Kyoto University said his team had managed to take stem cells — “blank slates” capable of being programmed to become any kind of cell — and nudge them specifically in the direction of kidney tissue. Osafune said they had succeeded in generating intermediate mesoderm tissue from the stem cells, a middle point between the blank slate and the finished kidney tissue. While the research is not aimed at growing an entire working kidney, he said the method his team had developed would help scientists provide a source of cells for regenerative therapy.
Mayor shot as elections near
A mayor of a remote town was shot dead in a Manila hotel car park, authorities said yesterday, in one of the first salvos of the traditionally bloody election campaign season. Political rivalry is strongly suspected as the motive of the attack on Tuesday night that killed Erlinda Domingo and wounded her bodyguard, Commission on Election spokesman James Jimenez told reporters. “Police are looking at it as election-related. Remember we are already in the campaign period,” Jimenez said. Domingo assumed the mayoral post in Maconacon in 2009 after the incumbent was killed in another ambush and was standing to retain her post, Jimenez said. With politicians gearing up to contest thousands of positions in mid-term elections in May, authorities on Jan. 13 imposed a nationwide ban on guns being carried in public.
Fight erupts in gunfire
A fight between two people erupted in gunfire at a Houston-area community college, leaving three people wounded, including a maintenance worker caught in the crossfire. No one was killed, but the volley of gunshots just after noon on Tuesday on the Lone Star College campus sent students and others scrambling for safety and sparked fears of another campus massacre slightly more than a month after 26 people were killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Harris County sheriff’s officials said late on Tuesday that Carlton Berry, 22, had been charged with aggravated assault in the shooting. Berry remained hospitalized, the officials said. The conditions of the other person involved in the shooting and the maintenance worker were not available. Authorities offered no details about what led to the fight.
Art ‘dealers’ sent to prison
A federal court handed down prison terms on Tuesday to a US man and a Mexican woman for trying to sell a US$3 million Henri Matisse painting stolen from a Venezuelan museum. Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, a 46-year-old resident of Miami, was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison, while 50-year-old Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo of Mexico City got one year and nine months. The pair had initially denied in court that they conspired to transport and sell Odalisque in Red Pants, but then changed their story and pleaded guilty in October. Venezuelan authorities realized in 2003 that the painting hanging at the Museum of Contemporary Art in the capital Caracas was a fake. The exact date of the theft is unknown, though December 2002 has been suggested. The indictment accused Marcuello of negotiating the sale of the Matisse for approximately US$740,000 with undercover FBI agents. The painting has been valued at US$3 million.
Stuart Hall faces 15 charges
Police on Tuesday charged veteran BBC broadcaster Stuart Hall with one offence of rape and 14 of indecent assault committed between 1967 and 1986. The assaults involve 10 girls aged between nine and 16 years old, and the rape charge concerns a woman aged 22 when the alleged offence took place in 1976. Hall was bailed to appear before magistrates in Preston, northwest England, on Feb. 7. Hall has been a familiar face and voice in British broadcasting for half a century and was last year awarded an Order of the British Empire. His eccentric and distinctive soccer match summaries have made him a cult figure on BBC radio.
Art-theft suspects arrested
Authorities have arrested three men suspected of stealing paintings by Picasso, Matisse and Monet from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum in October last year, news agency Mediafax said on Tuesday. Thieves made off with seven paintings, which also included a Gauguin, a Lucian Freud and a Meyer de Haan, thought to be worth tens of millions of dollars in a brazen and meticulously planned operation. A Bucharest district court made a ruling late on Monday allowing authorities to hold three men for 29 days. The court made the ruling in response to a request from Romania’s DIICOT government prosecuting office, which investigates organized crime and terrorism. The theft was one of the art world’s most dramatic in recent years and one of the biggest ever in the Netherlands.