Inauguration to feature Psy
Gangnam Style star Psy will perform at the presidential inauguration ceremony next month, an official said yesterday, after the hit song made history as the most-watched video on YouTube. The rapper is to perform to a 60,000-strong audience during the ceremony to be held at the National Assembly in Seoul on Feb. 25, spokesman for president-elect Park Geun-hye told reporters. Park Geun-hye, 60, is the daughter of the late military strongman Park Chung-hee and won the election last month to become the country’s first-ever female president. Psy, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, made Internet history last month when Gangnam Style clocked more than 1 billion views on YouTube.
Law against kidnap signed
Authorities on Saturday signed into law harsher measures against men who kidnap women to force them into marriage, introducing prison terms of up to 10 years. President Almazbek Atambayev signed new legislation punishing men who snatch brides with up to seven years in prison. Previously, men faced three years in jail for forcing a woman into marriage, and abduction was not considered an aggravating circumstance. The practice began as a way of avoiding paying bride money or bypassing parental disapproval. However, it has now become common for men to snatch women with whom they are not in a romantic relationship and force them into abusive marriages that often end in divorce or even suicide.
Managers held for impiety
Two hotel managers have been arrested for organizing a “nirvana-style” dinner with “Buddha Bar” music that hurt the religious feelings of locals, police said yesterday. The executives from a deluxe beach hotel at Beruwala, outside of the capital, were remanded in custody until today after allegations that their promotional material offended the nation’s Buddhists, police spokesman Prisantha Jayakody said. “The two managers were arrested on a charge of causing offence to Buddhists,” Jayakody said. The hotel management said an internal memo to staff described the dinner last week as a “nirvana-style” buffet with Buddha Bar music, but they meant no offence to any religious group. Authorities have slapped a de facto ban on albums of Buddha Bar, the trendy Paris nightspot known for its lounge music.
US ship’s apology accepted
President Benigno Aquino III has welcomed the US Navy’s apology for a minesweeper that went aground on a World Heritage-listed coral reef, but said it would not be exempt from penalties. The priority was to remove the damaged USS Guardian from Tubbataha Reef even as an investigation was under way to determine why it strayed into the area, Aquino told reporters in Davos, Switzerland. The 68m vessel has been stuck since Jan. 17. Its hull has been punctured and is now flooded. The incident has caused anger in the former US colony and ally in the Asia-Pacific. While both the embassy and the head of the US Navy’s Pacific fleet have apologized for the incident, they have not yet explained the exact cause. The head of the marine park supervising Tubbataha has said the ship ignored warnings that it was entering a protected marine sanctuary. Under the country’s law, the sanctuary is off-limits to ships except for research or tourism vessels approved by the government.
Probe ordered after fire
The government has ordered an investigation into allegations that the sole emergency exit was locked at a garment factory where a fire killed seven female workers, an official said yesterday. The fire on Saturday at the Smart Export Garment factory occurred just two months after a blaze killed 112 workers in another factory near the capital, raising questions about safety in the garment industry, which exports clothes to leading Western retailers. The gates of that factory were locked.
Protesters target leader
About 1,000 people took to the streets yesterday to protest against Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s (梁振英) policy speech, which they said offered nothing new on tackling a housing crisis and poverty. Leung pledged, among other things, to increase housing supply in the densely populated territory and tackle poverty in his policy address earlier this month that was widely seen as an attempt to halt mass protests against his leadership. Protesters held up a colorful array of banners, some of which portrayed Leung as a vampire and Pinocchio. “Leung Chun-ying does not have the heart or the ability to solve the problems for the Hong Kong people,” said Icarus Wong, vice-convener of one of the protest organizers, Civil Human Rights Front. Protesters also called for universal suffrage in the former British colony, which returned to China in 1997.
Merkel talks of responsibility
The nation has “an everlasting responsibility” for the crimes committed by the Nazis, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday, just days ahead of the 80th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s takeover of power. “Naturally, we have an everlasting responsibility for the crimes of national-socialism, for the victims of World War II, and above all, for the Holocaust,” Merkel said in a podcast on her Web site. Her remarks came as the world prepared to mark Holocaust Memorial Day yesterday, the date in 1945 when the Soviet army liberated Auschwitz. In another significant date, Wednesday will mark eight decades since Hitler was appointed chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933, by then president Paul von Hindenburg. “We must clearly say, generation after generation, and say it again: with courage, civil courage, each individual can help ensure that racism and anti-Semitism have no chance,” Merkel said. “We’re facing our history, we’re not hiding anything, we’re not repressing anything. We must confront this to make sure we are a good and trustworthy partner in the future, as we already are today, thankfully.”
Acne drug probe opens
The country’s health regulator ANSM has opened an inquiry into acne drug Diane-35, which is also used as a contraceptive, after four deaths linked to the drug in the past 25 years. ANSM said yesterday that Diane-35, produced by German drugmaker Bayer, is authorized in 135 countries and sold in more than 116. Last year about 325,000 women in the nation used the drug, ANSM said. It said the four deaths were due to thrombosis linked to the use of Diane-35. Three other deaths possibly connected to the drug, reported by the media, were linked to other health issues, the agency said. Diane-35, also sold as Dianette in some countries, reduces acne for women by regulating hormones, according to several medical Web sites.
Funeral gets drive-through
Mourners at a fast-food fan’s funeral wanted him to have it his way, so they arranged for his hearse — and the rest of the procession — to make one last drive-thru visit before reaching the cemetery. David Kime Jr “lived by his own rules,” daughter Linda Phiel said. He considered the lettuce on a burger his version of healthy eating, she said. To give him a whopper of a send-off on Saturday, the funeral procession stopped at a Burger King in York, Pennsylvania, where each mourner got a sandwich for the road. Kime got one last burger too, the York Daily Record reported. It was placed atop his flag-draped coffin at the cemetery. Kime, 88, a World War II veteran, died on Jan. 20. Restaurant manager Margaret Hess and her crew made 40 burgers for the funeral procession. “It’s nice to know he was a loyal customer up until the end — the very end,” she said.
Activist shot to death
One of the country’s most longstanding land reform activists, Cicero Guedes, was found dead on Saturday, riddled with bullets and dumped at the side of a highway, supporters said in a statement. The Landless Farmworkers’ Movement (MST) said Guedes’ corpse was found in Campos dos Goytacazes, in Rio de Janeiro State. Police believe he was killed between late Friday and early Saturday. The group charged that the activist’s killing was “fruit of the [systemic] violence of the large landholdings system, the impunity in [MST supporters’ murder] cases, and the slow pace” of government-led land reform. Guedes had for 11 years coordinated a squatting campaign on abandoned land in Campos, 275km north of Rio de Janeiro, which is surrounded by large landholders’ farms.
US actor denied residency
Immigration officials have denied US actor Randy Quaid’s request for permanent resident status. Quaid can appeal the decision to the federal court. US officials last year refused to seek extradition of the actor and his wife to face felony vandalism charges in Santa Barbara, California, but US authorities in the coastal town say they will still have the couple arrested if they return to the US. Quaid has sought to stay in the country, claiming he was being hunted by “Hollywood star-whackers” who had killed his friends David Carradine and Heath Ledger. Quaid’s troubles began in 2010 when he and his wife were arrested for causing more than US$5,000 in damage to a hillside home they were renting. Randy Quaid is the older brother of actor Dennis Quaid and is best known for his roles in films such as National Lampoon’s Vacation and Independence Day.
Ontario to have gay premier
The country’s most populous province, Ontario, is getting its first female premier and the country’s first openly gay premier after the provincial Liberals chose a new leader. Former Ontario minister of education Kathleen Wynne won the party’s leadership race on Saturday. Wynne is making history as the country’s first openly gay premier, a subject she confronted head-on in a speech on Saturday morning. Wynne says Ontario is ready for a gay woman as premier and says she does not believe Ontarians hold prejudice in their hearts. Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated Wynne, and thanked outgoing Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who is stepping down after nine years in office. He won a third term last year, but his party was reduced to a minority of the seats in the legislature and relies on the opposition to pass legislation.