Candidates gear up for poll
Candidates were yesterday making final appeals to voters ahead of today’s upper house elections that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition is expected to easily win. With the economy picking up, many people are giving credit to the prime minister’s economic policies, dubbed “Abenomics,” that have lifted stocks and eased pressure on exporters by weakening the yen. Polls indicate that the election will give Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner New Komeito a majority of seats in the 242-seat upper house, where half the seats are up for grabs. That would give the LDP-Komeito bloc control of both chambers of parliament, making it easier to pass legislation.
Authorities said on Friday that 27 Indonesians have been rescued after their boat overturned, but one person died and seven others are still missing. Maritime Enforcement Agency official Mustapa Kamal Abas said in a statement that the boat was heading to Indonesia’s Batam Island on Thursday when its engine failed and it overturned after being hit by waves. The people on the boat were working illegally in Malaysia and thought to be returning home for Ramadan. Mustapa said that 28 people, including three women and an infant, hung on to the boat for 12 hours before being rescued by a tanker off Malaysia’s southern Johor state. He said that one of the women died shortly after they were rescued.
Baby elephant tusks seized
More than 1,000 ivory tusks, mainly from baby elephants, were seized by customs in their biggest haul in three years, officials said on Friday. The tusks, which weigh more than 2 tonnes and are worth about US$2.3 million, were discovered at the city’s main port at the Kwai Chung terminal in a cargo container from Togo. It was headed for China and the bags of tusks were hidden beneath planks of wood. “We profiled a container from Togo, Africa, for cargo examination. First, we found irregularities at an X-ray check. Then, we opened the container and discovered the tusks of different sizes,” said Wong Wai-hung, a customs commander. It was the biggest ivory seizure in the southern Chinese city since 2010.
Opposition offices targeted
A gunman fired a shot early yesterday into one of the main offices of the opposition party, a day after the exiled leader of the opposition, Sam Rainsy, returned home to an exuberant welcome by supporters ahead of this month’s general elections. The office in the capital, Phnom Penh, was closed for the night and nobody was injured in the attack. “This attack was orchestrated by those in power,” opposition party spokesman Yim Sovann said. He said security guards were sleeping when the shot shattered a window at about 3am. Police were sent to investigate, Phnom Penh police chief Lieutenant General Chhun Sovann said.
Seven people die in gunfight
Seven people were killed when communist insurgents attacked a rural army outpost on the southern island of Mindanao, the military said yesterday. Six rebels and a pro-government militiaman were killed, while another militiaman was wounded during the five-hour gunbattle on Friday, the military said, adding that the attack only ended after they deployed helicopter gunships.
Woman falls from coaster
A woman riding a roller coaster at a Six Flags amusement park in North Texas died on Friday, and witnesses say she fell from a ride that is billed as the tallest steel-hybrid coaster in the world. The accident happened on Friday evening at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington. Park spokeswoman Sharon Parker confirmed that a woman died while riding the Texas Giant roller coaster, but did not specify how she was killed. However, witnesses told local media outlets that the woman fell. “She goes up like this. Then when it drops to come down, that’s when it [the safety bar] released and she just tumbled,” Carmen Brown said. Brown said she was waiting in line to get on the ride when the accident happened. Six Flags expressed sadness over the death and said it was temporarily closing the section of the park around the accident site.
Kanye, paparazzi scuffle
Police were investigating a scuffle on Friday between rapper Kanye West and a cameraman at Los Angeles International Airport, where paparazzi have been known to spend time in hopes of snapping shots of celebrities. Numerous witnesses were interviewed about the afternoon incident to compile a report for detectives to investigate, LAX Police Sergeant Steve Savala said. TMZ posted a video of the tussle, showing West being thronged by cameras while trying to get into a white Mercedes Benz waiting curbside. As flashbulbs illuminate his face, West accuses the paparazzi of trying to provoke him “so I have to pay you, like, US$250,000.” He then lunges at a photographer’s camera and tries to wrestle it away. West has had similar run-ins with paparazzi at the Los Angeles airport before, trading barbs with photographers who follow his every move.
Elderly men held captive
Four elderly men were held captive for possibly as long as a decade in a Texas home where they were forced to hand over their benefit checks, police said on Friday. Three of the men were so badly malnourished that they were taken to hospital. Authorities are still trying to determine whether three mentally challenged women — who lived in much better conditions in the home — were also coerced. One man, who did not live in the Houston home, has been taken into custody for questioning, but has not yet been charged. The men were living in a converted garage, where they were forced to sleep on a linoleum floor and had no access to a bathroom, Houston police spokesman Kese Smith said. “They were enticed to that location with the promise of beer and cigarettes and not allowed to leave and forced to turn over checks,” Smith said.
‘Z-40’ in maximum security
The leader of the brutal Zetas drug cartel was transferred to a maximum security prison on Friday, four days after marines catpured him in the north of the country, an official said. Miguel Angel Trevino, alias “Z-40,” had been held in a facility of the federal attorney general’s office in Mexico City since his capture on Monday. The official from the attorney general’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Trevino was taken to one of the country’s four top security prisons, but the exact location was confidential. After Trevino’s arrest near Nuevo Laredo, he was accused of drug trafficking, organized crime, murder, torture and money laundering. When marines stopped his pick-up truck and detained him with two associates before dawn on a dirt road, they found US$2 million and eight heavy weapons.