Strike greets Singh visit
Shops, businesses and schools were closed in Kashmir after separatist groups called for a strike yesterday to protest a visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the disputed Himalayan region. Large numbers of police and paramilitary forces were deployed in Srinagar, Kashmir’s main city, a day after a daring rebel attack in which eight soldiers were killed and 13 were wounded. Police closed off several main roads in Srinagar. Paramilitary soldiers with automatic weapons swarmed a convention center where Singh was due to meet local officials later yesterday to review the progress of development projects in the state. Late on Monday, in a message to local news agencies, Kashmir’s biggest rebel group, Hizb-ul Mujahedeen, claimed responsibility for the attack. Authorities have directed residents of Srinagar’s old quarters to stay indoors, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Today, Singh is expected to inaugurate part of an ambitious rail line that connects southern and northern Kashmir. However, separatist groups say the Kashmir dispute cannot be resolved by economic grants and developing rail services.
Terror suspects arrested
Police on Monday arrested six people who are suspected of belonging to a radical Islamist cell and of preparing attacks in the country, a police source said. The suspects, aged 22 to 38, were arrested in and near the Paris region. They were all known to police for various offenses and one had appeared in an anti-terrorism investigation. They can be held for questioning for up to 96 hours before judges decide whether to put them under formal investigation.
The state-run news agency says police have raided homes in the capital, Ankara, detaining at least 20 people involved in protests against the government. The Anadolu Agency said yesterday that police searched about 30 addresses and rounded up 20 people with alleged links to “terror” groups and suspected of “attacking police and the environment” during nearly three weeks of protests that swept Turkey. The protests began in Istanbul on May 31 and quickly turned into widespread demonstrations against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership following a heavy-handed police clampdown on peaceful activists.
Train ad sweeps awards
A public service ad campaign that became an Internet hit for its black-humored list of reckless ways to die — such as “poke a stick at a grizzly bear” — has added to its luster by scooping up a record number of international advertising prizes. The three-minute short co-produced by Melbourne private rail service Metro Trains to teach people to be careful around trains, Dumb Ways to Die, has notched up more than 50 million views on YouTube since its release in November, sparked hundreds of parodies and even become a smartphone game. The clip employs a catchy tune and colorful blobs which die in a variety of ways, including “keeping a rattlesnake as a pet” and “selling both kidneys on the Internet,” before culminating in train-related deaths that are described as “the dumbest way to die.” It swept the awards at Sunday’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, winning a record five Grand Prix awards, 18 Gold Lions, three Silver Lions and two Bronze Lions, the most ever awarded to one campaign in the festival’s 59-year history.
Former governor charged
Federal prosecutors have charged a former governor with money laundering and embezzling millions of dollars from state coffers in a case that has outraged Mexicans because of reports of his extravagant spending. The federal Attorney General’s Office says former Tabasco state governor Andres Granier is at a hospital in Mexico City. A statement on Monday from the office says Granier also faces state charges and it will be up to a state judge to decide where he will go next. Ganier was hospitalized 10 days ago because of chest pains.
Lewinsky items on auction
A collection of items used in the investigation of former White House intern Monica Lewinsky’s sexual encounters with then-president Bill Clinton is being auctioned online, Nate D. Sanders Auctions said on Monday. The 32-item collection was submitted by Lewinsky’s former lover Andy Bleiler to special prosecutor Kenneth Starr during his investigation of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal in the 1990s, the auction house said in a statement. Lewinsky’s affair with married man Bleiler came to light during the investigation that led to Clinton’s impeachment by the House of Representatives in 1998 on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. Among the items up for auction is a signed Clinton letter to the Bleilers, photographs and cards from Lewinsky, and clothing gifted by Lewinsky to Bleiler’s wife, Kate Nason, who is putting them up for sale, the auction house said.
McDonald’s drops halal food
The only two McDonald’s restaurants in the country that were serving food prepared according to Islamic law have stopped several weeks after a US$700,000 settlement over a lawsuit that alleged the items were not consistently halal. The fast-food giant said in a statement on Monday that the locations in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, which has a large Muslim population, are no longer offering a halal McChicken sandwich or Chicken McNuggets in order “to focus on our national core menu.” The lawsuit was brought by customer Ahmed Ahmed in 2011.
Fungus forces inmates move
A federal judge on Monday ordered California state to move several thousand inmates out of two prisons because they are at a high risk of contracting a potentially deadly airborne fungus. US District Judge Thelton Henderson instructed corrections officials to transfer most black, Filipino and medically at-risk inmates because they are more vulnerable to health problems from valley fever. The fungal infection originates in the soil of the San Joaquin Valley, where Avenal and Pleasant Valley state prisons are located. About 3,250 of the two prisons’ 8,100 inmates fall into the categories covered by the judge’s ruling, but Henderson said inmates among those groups who have already had the disease do not have to be moved. Henderson gave the state seven days to begin moving the inmates and 90 days to finish the transfers.
Daredevil masters canyon
Daredevil Nik Wallenda completed a historic high-wire walk on a 5cm steel cable over the Grand Canyon on Sunday and was greeted by wild cheers after his hair-raising stunt. Wallenda, the self-described “King of the High Wire,” took 22 minutes, 54 seconds to walk 3,474m across the crimson-hued canyon with just a distant ribbon of the Little Colorado River beneath him.