Thousands flee Sabah unrest
Almost 5,000 Filipinos have fled the state of Sabah since security forces launched an offensive to root out Islamic invaders loyal to an obscure Philippine sultan, a government agency said yesterday. The Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said it had recorded 4,983 adults and children who had arrived in the south of the archipelago after fleeing Sabah due to the ongoing fighting. The Filipinos began arriving early this month after clashes broke out between Malaysian forces and followers of the Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III, who claims Sabah as his territory. About 200 followers of Kiram, some of them armed, arrived in Sabah last month in an attempt to claim the state for the sultanate, reviving a centuries-old territorial row. The incursion and a Malaysian counter-assault has left more than 60 militants dead along with 10 security personnel, according to Malaysian authorities, and strained relations with Manila.
Man on trial for injuring 23
A man who hacked and injured 23 school children in December last year will be tried on charges of intentional homicide and jeopardizing public safety. The municipal prosecutor’s office for the city of Xinyang in Henan Province said on Friday in a statement that it has charged Min Yongjun (閔擁軍), who allegedly broke into an eldery woman’s house one morning and stabbed her with a kitchen knife before he went to a nearby elementary school and injured the 23 children as they arrived for class. There has been a string of such stabbing attacks on schoolchildren in recent years, alarming parents and schools which increased safety measures.
Bar offers Buddhist cocktails
Buddhist monk Yoshinobu Fujioka enjoys bringing his congregation together, one cocktail at a time. Fujioka owns the 23-seat “Vowz Bar” in central Tokyo, where Buddhist chants replace karaoke songs and the shaven-headed bartenders serve up sermons and homilies along with the drinks. “People would gather in a Buddhist temple and drink together, we’ve just updated the tradition to fit our times,” said Fujioka, who also works at a temple just outside Tokyo. “They become totally different believers here, the distance between them and myself diminishing. They are more connected with each other,” he added, dressed in traditional black robes. Vowz Bar has been going strong for 13 years and the cocktail list includes the vodka and cognac-based “Perfect Bliss” as well as “Infinite Hell.” The special is called “Enslavery to Love and Lust” and costs about ￥800 (US$8.51).
Dinosaur park plan unveiled
A mining magnate who is building a replica of the ill-fated Titanic yesterday unveiled his latest scheme — a park of giant robotic dinosaurs. Clive Palmer, who last month in New York launched an ambitious plan to build and sail the Titanic II, said he had ordered more than 100 life-size dinosaur robots from China to populate his resort. “We’ll have the world’s biggest dinosaur exhibit, with 165 animatronic dinosaurs,” Palmer said. He already has two of the towering creatures — named Jeff and Bones — on display at his Palmer Coolum Resort on the Sunshine coast north of Brisbane and boasted that the public “haven’t seen anything yet.”
Terror probe detainees freed
Prosecutors have announced the release of three people detained earlier this week as part of an investigation into the deadly terror attacks in Toulouse that targeted Jews and paratroopers. A spokeswoman for the prosecutors, Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, says the three, including a soldier, were freed on Friday. None was charged in the case. Investigators in the terror case are trying to understand whether Mohamed Merah — the man police say killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers in March last year — had any help. Merah was killed in a shootout with police after his deadly spree. Five people had been detained earlier, but all were freed after questioning. Only Merah’s brother, Abdelkader, has been charged with complicity in the case and is being held.
War criminal given 45 years
A court on Friday convicted a Montenegrin man of multiple counts of murder, torture, rape and looting during the country’s 1992-1995 war, and sentenced him to 45 years in prison — the highest sentence ever issued in the country. Judge Zoran Bozic said that Veselin Vlahovic, killed 31 people, raped a number of Bosniak and Croat women and tortured and robbed non-Serb residents of a Sarajevo suburb while fighting for the Serbs. Among other crimes, the judge described how Vlahovic cut the throats of two brothers in front of their mother, then killed her and raped the men’s wives. During the trial some of the 112 witnesses described the rape of women late in their pregnancies and mothers being raped in front of their children.
Building collapse kills 17
The death toll from the collapse of a building in the country’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, has climbed to 17, a senior government official said yesterday. The building of more than 12 stories, which had been under construction, collapsed on Friday morning near a mosque in the Kariakoo District around the city center. Several cars were crushed by falling masonry. The country’s buoyant economy has fueled a building boom, especially in Kariakoo and the city center, but the speed of construction has raised concerns about standards.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Bozize seeks exile in Benin
Ousted President Francois Bozize is requesting exile in the tiny West African nation of Benin days after rebels invaded and overthrew his government of a decade, officials said. Bozize has made a request to reside in Benin, Benin Minister of Foreign Affairs Nassirou Arifari Bako confirmed late on Thursday. “It is true that he has asked Benin to welcome him, but nothing has been decided yet,” Bako said. “It’s a delicate subject.” Thousands of armed rebels invaded the capital of the country last weekend, and Bozize and his family fled to neighboring Cameroon amid the chaos.
Police chase cow herd
Police and firefighters have taken on the role of urban cowboys in a two-day round-up of a herd of cows that broke out of a fenced-off pasture and decided to go into town. A police statement says the 43 animals defied attempts by police and volunteer firefighters to recapture them after wandering off on Thursday and heading toward the Upper Austrian town of Freistadt. After being chased away from the railway station, they endangered motorists by stampeding onto a two-lane highway before running into a town suburb. Eighteen cows remained on the loose on Friday.
Free shotgun plan divides
A campaign promising free shotguns for people to protect themselves in troubled neighborhoods of an Arizona city has divided residents in the community still reeling from a 2011 shooting rampage that killed six people and wounded a congresswoman. Shaun McClusky says guns are the solution to Tucson’s crime problem, and he is working with the Armed Citizen Project to give shotguns to single women and homeowners. Donors have committed about US$12,000 to the Arizona effort. It costs about US$400 for each participant to receive a shotgun and weapons training. The Armed Citizen Project based in Texas seeks to arm neighborhoods in 15 cities by the end of the year. The group says that at least 13 single women in Houston have already received shotguns.
Sea lions overwhelm centers
Hundreds of starving sea lion pups are washing up on beaches in southern California, overwhelming rescue centers and leaving scientists scrambling to figure out why. At island rookeries off the coast, 45 percent of the pups born in June last year have died, said Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service based in Seattle. Normally, less than one-third of the pups would die. It has become so bad in the past two weeks that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an “unusual mortality event.” That will allow more scientists to join the search for the cause, Melin said. Pups are normally weaned from their mothers in April. Even the pups that are making it are markedly underweight, Melin said.
Jolie didn’t plagiarize: judge
A federal judge says actress Angelina Jolie did not steal the story for her movie In the Land of Blood and Honey from a Croatian author. City News Service reported Friday’s tentative ruling in Los Angeles would quash the lawsuit accusing Jolie of copyright infringement. In 2011, author James Braddock sued Jolie and the film company that made the film, saying it was partly based on his book The Soul Shattering. US District Judge Dolly Gee wrote in a tentative ruling that the plots, characters and themes in the two works were not “substantially” similar, though both centered on war romances. Jolie wrote, directed and co-produced the film.
Mercy killer gets probation
An 86-year-old man, who carried out a mercy killing by shooting his ailing wife in the head, was sentenced to probation on Friday after an emotional hearing where family members tearfully spoke on his behalf. George Sanders could have faced more than 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter. The judge opted for probation. The World War II veteran told authorities his wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1969, and the couple moved from Washington to the retirement community of Sun City outside Phoenix in the 1970s for the warm, dry climate. Virginia Sanders, 81, had been diagnosed with gangrene on her foot just a few days before the shooting. In a videotaped confession, George Sanders said his wife begged him to kill her. Wrapped in a blanket as he sat being questioned by a detective, Sanders appeared frail and tired in the hours after he shot his wife in the head. “She never wanted to outlive me and be left at the mercy of someone else,” he said. “We loved each other so much. It was a wonderful life in spite of all the hard things we had at the end.”