Leadership rules changed
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was branded “Recycled Rudd” by some in media after he lost power in an internal government leadership wrangle and then snatched it back in a similar showdown three years later. Yesterday, he succeeded in changing the ruling party’s regulations to make his job safer. Labor Party lawmakers agreed at a three-hour meeting with his proposal to tighten rules dictating how a prime minister can be dumped by a government. Previously, disgruntled Labor lawmakers could force a leadership ballot if they could persuade a third of their colleagues to sign a petition. They changed it to require a signing by at least 75 percent of Labor lawmakers, and the decision is no longer for lawmakers alone to make. Unelected members of the party now have half the votes in any ballot to decide a prime minister.
Bombs dropped for safety: US
The US military yesterday said it had jettisoned four unarmed bombs on the Great Barrier Reef during a training exercise only because civilian boats had strayed into the drop zone. The US 7th Fleet had earlier said only that the planned target range was “not clear of hazards” at the time, forcing the two Harrier jets to dump their ordnance within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which will work with the defense department to recover the bombs, said they were considered low risk and about 30km from the nearest reef.
Villagers flee volcano
A disaster official says hundreds of people have fled their villages along the slopes of the country’s most volatile volcano after it started belching smoke and ash. Disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho says Mount Merapi on Java rumbled as heavy rain fell around its cloud-covered crater early yesterday. He says the volcano unleashed a column of dark red volcanic material 1,000m high. The ash made the rain thick and muddy in several villages as terrified residents fled to safety.
Hunger weakens blogger
A well-known blogger, jailed for 12 years for anti-state propaganda, is “very weak” after a month-long hunger strike protesting at his treatment in prison, his family said yesterday. Nguyen Van Hai — a founding member of the banned “Free Journalists Club” who is better known by his alias Dieu Cay — has not eaten for 30 days, his ex-wife Duong Thi Tan said. “He is very weak... He spoke softly and couldn’t sit up unaided,” she said, following a visit to the prison by the couple’s son on Saturday. She said Dieu Cay went on hunger strike to protest against his treatment in a prison in Nghe An Province. Dieu Cay was sentenced in September last year, along with two other bloggers who received jail terms of 10 years and four years.
Police kill terror suspects
Police shot dead two terrorist suspects armed with a homemade bomb yesterday and arrested another two, officials said. Counter-terrorism police chief Ansyaad Mbai said the men were part of a violent Islamist group and were shot as the anti-terror police unit Detachment 88 conducted a raid on the street in an East Java town. The police squad ambushed the men as they waited for public transport in Tulungagung district, national police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said. One of those killed, identified as Dayah, “took out a weapon and began firing at the squad, which led to a gunfight,” Amar said. Police seized a revolver and a homemade bomb.
Hezbollah wing listed
The Union yesterday placed the military wing of the Lebanese party Hezbollah on its terror list in a major change of its policy toward the region. It’s 28 foreign ministers reached the decision unanimously at their monthly meeting, swiftly swaying the last nations that had any doubts. The blacklisting would mean imposing visa bans on individuals and asset freezes on organizations associated with the group. However, the implementation will be complicated since officials would have to unravel the links between the different wings within Hezbollah’s organizational network and see who could be targeted for belonging to the military wing. It could take up to two weeks before names of individuals and organizations are added to the list, officials said.
Minister pledges security
Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls said on Sunday that security forces would remain in place “as long as necessary” after a second night of violence in the Paris suburbs sparked when police on Thursday stopped a woman for wearing a veil. Valls told French radio he would keep in place “a significant police presence until a lasting calm is restored” in and around the satellite town of Trappes. Police made four arrests in the region early on Sunday, as they came under a hail of projectiles and rioters burned about 20 vehicles in Trappes and surrounding areas. However, things were calmer than on Saturday night, when about 250 youths gathered in Trappes and hurled stones at police, who responded with tear gas.
Jets found on N Korea ship
Authorities have found two Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter jets and anti-aircraft missile batteries aboard a North Korea-flagged ship seized this month as it tried to pass through the Panama Canal after leaving Cuba. “Apparently these aircraft were in use because they had fuel,” President Ricardo Martinelli said during a visit to the port of Manzanillo, where the boat is being unloaded. Cuba has said the shipment consisted of “obsolete” weapons it was sending to North Korea to be refurbished and returned.
Silva approves compromise
President Anibal Cavaco Silva has accepted a compromise reached by the coalition government that allows it to stay in power. In an address to the nation on Sunday night, Silva ruled out early elections, opting for “the best alternative,” which is “the continuation in office of the current government.” The coalition nearly split on July 2 when Minister of Foreign Affairs Paulo Portas, the leader of the junior party, threatened to resign. A compromise was reached when Portas was appointed deputy prime minister, but this step required the president’s agreement, which he gave on Sunday.
Families decry slow trial
Families of victims killed in the 1990s war condemned the slowness of the trial of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on Sunday, the fifth anniversary of his arrest. “We regret the slowness of the process against Karadzic,” who is being tried before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, two associations of the relatives of victims killed during the 1992-1995 war said. “Many witnesses in the process against Karadzic are unfortunately dying so many will not have a chance to testify,” they said. Karadzic faces 11 charges, including two counts of genocide and accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity.