Fritzl cellar sealed off
The cellar where Josef Fritzl held his daughter for 24 years and fathered seven of her children is being filled to the top with cement, the man appointed to care for Fritzl’s estate said on Thursday. Confirming a report in the daily Kronen Zeitung, Walter Anzboeck said work has started and the basement should be filled with concrete in about two weeks. Fritzl’s daughter Elisabeth disappeared from the town of Amstetten in 1984 at age 18, re-emerging in 2008 from the dungeon-like basement chamber where her father had kept her captive. A court found him guilty of raping her thousands of times. Of the seven children she bore him, one died in captivity after Josef Fritzl refused to allow medical treatment. Josef Fritzl was sentenced to life in a prison psychiatric ward in March 2009. Elisabeth Fritzl and her children were given new identities. No decision has been made public on whether the house will be torn down as advocated by some Amstetten residents, who fear their town will be forever linked to the Fritzl case.
Jewish man shot at holy site
Police say a guard has shot a Jewish man dead at a key Jerusalem holy site. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says a private security guard at the Western Wall yesterday “fired a number of shots” at a man who appeared suspicious. The guard told police the man, an Israeli, had his hands in his pockets and shouted in Arabic just before the guard opened fire, Rosenfeld said. The man, in his 40s, died at the scene. Rosenfeld said police cordoned off the area after the shooting and are investigating the incident. The Western Wall, a remnant of the biblical Jewish Temples, is the holiest site where Jews can pray. The site and the area around it has in the past been a flashpoint for violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
Smuggled ivory destroyed
The government is destroying more than 5 tonnes of smuggled elephant tusks worth an estimated US$10 million to show it is fighting the illegal ivory trade. According to the government’s wildlife bureau, the US Agency for International Development and the anti-wildlife-trafficking Freeland Foundation, it is the biggest known destruction of elephant ivory outside Africa, where most smuggled tusks originate. Workers were using a backhoe yesterday to crush the tusks. The stockpiles have been seized by authorities since 2009. The Southeast Asian nation has been used as a transit route between Africa and the rest of Asia, particularly China and Thailand, for smuggled ivory. Ivory can fetch up to US$2,000 per kilogram on the black market and more than US$50,000 for an entire tusk.
Air force chiefs die in crash
Senior members of the country’s air force were killed on Thursday when a helicopter they were flying in crashed near Lake Managua, officials said. Ten people died in the crash, including Air Force Chief of Staff Colonel Manuel Lopez, the head of Air Force counterintelligence, Colonel Chester Vargas, and air defense chief Lieutenant Colonel Aldo Herrera, the Nicaraguan Army said in a statement. The MI-17 helicopter went down after visiting the El Papalonal firing range in La Paz Centro, 52km northwest of the capital, Managua, the statement said. The officers were returning to Managua when, soon after departing, the helicopter pilot made an emergency call to warn of unspecified flight difficulties, said army spokesman, Colonel Orlando Palacios. Early reports citing witnesses said that the helicopter caught fire and exploded during flight, plunging to Earth from a height of about 1,500m.
FAA probes near miss
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement yesterday that a Delta Airlines Boeing 747 arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport came close to a Shuttle America Embraer E170 departing from LaGuardia Airport around 3:45pm on June 13. The aircraft were “turning away from each other at the point where they lost the required separation,” the FAA said. Both aircraft landed safely.
Two die in fireworks blast
Two people were killed after a series of explosions at a fireworks factory near Montreal early on Thursday which flattened the building. Fireworks could be seen popping in the smoke billowing from the warehouse in Coteau-du-lac, Quebec, 50km southwest of Montreal, for nearly three hours after an initial spark at about 9am local time. The noise from the blasts could also be heard from several kilometers away, according to reports, before about 150 firefighters managed to get the blaze under control. The two dead are believed to be employees of fireworks maker BEM. Authorities are still trying to determine what caused the fire, Quebec police spokeswoman Joyce Kemp said. Dozens of people meanwhile were evacuated from nearby homes and a campground as a precaution after the fire erupted. A highway connecting Montreal and Toronto was also closed, as was a train line linking Montreal to Ottawa.
Governor can deny execution
A US governor can deny the execution of a death row inmate who wants to die, a court ruled on Thursday. Oregon’s governor opposes the death penalty and intervened weeks before Gary Haugen was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in 2011. Governor John Kitzhaber has vowed to block any execution during his term in office and urged a statewide vote on abolishing the death penalty. More than half of US states still have the death penalty, but officials have mixed feelings about it. Haugen, who was convicted of two murders, has said his reprieve was invalid because he refused to accept it. The governor argued that his clemency power is absolute, and nobody — certainly not an inmate on death row — can prevent him from doing what he believes to be in the state’s best interest. Oregon has executed two inmates since voters reinstated the death penalty in 1984. Both, like Haugen, waived their appeals in the late 1990s. Kitzhaber, who was governor then, declined to intervene — a decision he now regrets.