Progress in abduction treaty
Tokyo yesterday moved one step closer to adopting a long-delayed treaty on child abductions when the Cabinet gave its approval, a government spokesman said. Japan is the only G8 nation that has not joined the 1980 Hague Convention, which requires that children be returned to their usual country of residence if they are snatched during the collapse of an international marriage. Hundreds of non-Japanese parents, mostly men from the US, have been left without any recourse after their estranged partners took their children back to Japan. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said following Cabinet approval, the government would swiftly submit the legislation to parliament.
Party delays vote petition
The party of outgoing Prime Minister Raila Odinga, defeated in presidential polls by Uhuru Kenyatta, will file a petition today challenging the election result, officials said. Odinga’s Coalition for Reform and Democracy has alleged fraud in the March 4 vote. Party officials had been due to file their petition yesterday, but said they were delaying the case until today — the final day allowed — as civil society groups were expected to first submit separate petitions. “It is our wish that our petition is not mixed up,” Odinga party official and former land minister James Orengo told reporters.
Doctor faces more trials
Prosecutors yesterday said they would pursue remaining charges against an Indian-born surgeon, including two counts of manslaughter, after he was cleared over the death of another patient. Jayant Patel, 62, was acquitted on Wednesday of the manslaughter of 75-year-old Mervyn Morris, who died three weeks after the surgeon operated on his bowel in Queensland’s Bundaberg Base Hospital in 2003. Prosecutor Michael Byrne told the Supreme Court in Brisbane that the state would pursue all outstanding matters relating to Patel’s time in Bundaberg from 2003 to 2004.
Crown Casino hit by sting
The nation’s largest casino has alerted police to a betting scam in which a high-roller reportedly netted A$32 million (US$33 million) in an Ocean’s Eleven-style heist. Melbourne’s Herald-Sun yesterday said a foreigner staying at the Crown Casino was involved in the sting, which it believes accessed the venue’s own surveillance cameras, which are constantly trained on players and croupiers. Information gleaned from the images taken by the cameras was apparently signaled to the high-roller as he played cards, the paper said, comparing it to the movie Ocean’s Eleven. Crown said a staff member had been sacked and the patron involved banned after the scam was uncovered several weeks ago, the newspaper added.
Space station crew delayed
Three Russian and US astronauts were stuck for one more day aboard the International Space Station after foul weather delayed their landing yesterday in the steppes of Central Asia. Since October last year, NASA’s Kevin Ford and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeny Tarelkin have been aboard the orbiting outpost, a US$100 billion research laboratory that flies about 400km above Earth. Fog and freezing rain at the landing site in Kazakhstan prevented helicopters from setting up for the crew’s return to Earth, NASA TV commentary said during live mission streaming. A spokesman for the Russian space agency Roskosmos said the landing would be pushed back to today.
Man held over stolen art
A man attempting to sell paintings by Picasso, Monet and other masters back to the Dutch gallery from where they were stolen has been arrested in Germany. Thieves made off with seven paintings worth more than 50 million euros (US$65 million) from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum last October in a brazen and meticulously planned operation. Die Welt newspaper said prosecutors in Cologne had confirmed the arrest of a 46-year-old man, but said it was unclear whether he was part of the gang or whether he really had access to the stolen paintings.
Hostage taker asks for pizza
A man took four people hostage for several hours on Thursday in a bizarre abduction where his only demand was a takeaway pizza and a fizzy drink, police said. The man, apparently armed with a pistol and explosives, burst into a college in the city of Astrakhan 1,500km southeast of Moscow, and took four people hostage. After several hours he released the two female students, a teacher and a security guard unharmed. “His only demand was a pizza and Sprite,” police spokesman Pyotr Rusanov told reporters. Police cordoned off the building and met the man’s demands before detaining him, he added.
Death sentence overturned
A federal appeals court on Thursday threw out the convictions of a woman sentenced to death in the notorious 1989 killing of her four-year-old son. Prosecutors said Debra Jean Milke told her son Christopher he was going to see Santa Claus at a mall. Instead, he was taken into the desert by her boyfriend and another man and shot three times as part of what prosecutors said was a plot to collect a US$50,000 life insurance policy. A three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that the prosecution failed to disclose information about a history of misconduct by a detective who testified that Milke confessed to plotting the murder. There was no other witness or recording of the purported confession by Milke, who has proclaimed her innocence.
TV commercial shark dies
A whitetip shark shipped from New York and placed into an outdoor pool for a Kmart commercial in Los Angeles died after showing signs of distress, an official from the animal welfare group that monitored the production said on Thursday. The American Humane Association, which certifies film and TV productions with animals, had a representative at the scene of the shoot on March 6 and it says everything possible was done to ensure the 1.5m shark’s safety. The shark’s death follows longstanding criticism of the use of animals in Hollywood productions.