Putin lands big fish
Russian President Vladimir Putin landed a pike weighing 21kg on a recent weekend trip to Siberia, the Kremlin said on Friday, in the latest leisure stunt by the Russian strongman. The Kremlin said that Putin was joined on the trip by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, in a clear bid to prove Russia’s top two remain unified despite reports of growing strains. State television showed Putin laughing in astonishment as he pulled the massive pike out of the water, with the fish then being kissed on its gills by the Kremlin chief. “It was very interesting relaxation. Putin and Medvedev socialized very warmly, talked and went swimming,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state ITAR-TASS news agency. Several pictures published by the Kremlin also showed Putin fishing in his now traditional summer pose of naked torso and dark sunglasses. The television pictures did not show Medvedev doing any fishing, but instead standing on the bow of a motorboat taking pictures with a telephoto lens. Peskov said the “very beautiful” pictures taken by Medvedev had now been put on the Kremlin Web site.
Bird cleared of spying
Authorities detained a bird on suspicion it was spying for Israel, but freed it after X-rays showed it was not embedded with surveillance equipment, newspapers said on Friday. The kestrel aroused suspicion because of a metal ring on its foot carrying the words “24311 Tel Avivunia Israel,” prompting residents in the village of Altinayva to hand it over to the local governor. The bird was put in an X-ray machine at a university hospital to check for microchips or bugging devices, according to the Milliyet newspaper, which carried a front-page image of the radiogram with the title “Israeli agent.”
‘Pink Panther’ escapes
A Bosnian from the “Pink Panther” gang of international jewel thieves escaped from a Swiss prison in a dramatic break-out involving a fellow inmate and two armed accomplices, police said on Friday. Milan Poparic, who was serving a sentence of almost seven years for a 2009 robbery at a jewelry store, is the third “Pink Panther” to escape from a Swiss prison since May. Along with convicted kidnapper, arsonist and money-launderer Adrian Albrecht, Poparic broke out of the Orbe prison in western Switzerland on Thursday evening, local police said. During an exercise period, the accomplices rammed a gate and barbed wire with a van, before using ladders to escape. They made off with Poparic and Albrecht in a second vehicle.
Tutu slams homophobia
South African peace icon Desmond Tutu on Friday said he would rather go to hell than worship a homophobic God. “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place,” the retired archbishop said at the launch of a UN gay equality campaign in Cape Town. “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this,” he said, condemning the use of religious justification for anti-gay prejudice. Launched by the UN Human Rights Office, the public education campaign “Free and Equal” aims to raise awareness of anti-gay violence and discrimination. Tutu compared the project to the fight to end apartheid, a struggle in which he played a pivotal role. “I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid,” he said.
New York to ban shark fins
New York State is banning trade in shark fins starting on July 1 next year in an effort to protect the marine predators. State Governor Andrew Cuomo, who signed the law on Friday, said an estimated 73 million sharks are killed worldwide to meet the market demand. The fins are used in a soup popular in Chinese cuisine. The so-called “finning” of sharks — catching them, cutting off their fins and returning them to the water to die — is already illegal in the country’s coastal waters. New York also prohibits sport fishing for many shark species. Environmental groups say the absence of sharks causes other fish to overpopulate, which can damage ocean ecosystems.
Man too fat to execute dies
A 220kg convicted murderer who escaped execution after his lawyers argued he was too fat to be put to death, has died in prison, authorities in Ohio confirmed on Friday. Ronald Post, who spent 28 years on death row for the 1983 killing of a hotel worker, had been due to die by lethal injection in January. Yet he won a reprieve in December last year after his lawyers filed a motion arguing that a lethal injection would be “torturous and lingering” due to his enormous size. Post’s lawyers had argued that such an injection could take up to 16 hours to work. Post’s death penalty was commuted to life in prisonment without the possibility of parole after Ohio Governor John Kasich ruled he had not received a good enough defense at his trial, but he did not pardon Post nor call for a retrial.
Bush Sr bald to support kid
Former president George H.W. Bush on Friday said shaving his head in support of a young leukemia patient whose father is in his security detail was “the right thing to do.” The former president was interviewed at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, by his granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager, a correspondent with NBC’s Today show. “A lot of the agents shaved their heads, and I said why not me?” Bush told his granddaughter. A photo released on Wednesday by Bush’s office showed two-year-old Patrick, who is undergoing leukemia treatment, and the elderly ex-president each sporting bald heads and similar blue polo shirts and khakis. Bush said that he simply wanted to “bring happiness” and “just identify” with Patrick. The former president’s wife, Barbara Bush, said she was “thrilled” by the new do. “I think he looks beautiful. He looks younger,” she said.
Drug company goes bananas
A drug company on Friday said it was considering a banana-flavored version of its pain reliever after the world’s oldest man attributed his longevity to the fruit and the drug, Anacin. Spanish-born Salustiano “Shorty” Sanchez-Blazquez, a 112-year-old former coal miner who lives in upstate New York, was named by Guinness World Records as the oldest certified man on the planet on Thursday. According to Guinness, Sanchez-Blazquez is currently the only male born in 1901 with proof of birth. In a statement, he said he believed he had lived to such an old age thanks to a daily dose of a banana and six tablets of Anacin. That delighted Anacin’s manufacturer, Insight Pharmaceuticals. “Our scientists had never looked into the banana before, but now that the certified oldest man in the world credits bananas and Anacin as his life-extending combo, we’re certainly going to explore whether a new ‘Bananacin’ product makes sensel,” marketing vice-president Jennifer Moyer said.
Man ‘too fat to stay’
An obese South African man has been told he is too fat to live in the country despite shedding 30kg since he moved there six years ago, a report said yesterday. Albert Buitenhuis — who now weighs 130kg — and his wife, Marthie, said they face deportation after an application to renew their work visas was rejected because of his weight. Immigration New Zealand (INZ) cited the demands his obesity could place on health services and said their medical assessors deemed Albert no longer “had an acceptable standard of health.” The couple said they moved from South Africa to the main South Island city of Christchurch six years ago when Albert weighed 160kg and their annual work visas were renewed without any problem. An INZ spokesman said Buitenhuis was rejected because his obesity put him at “significant risk” of complications including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and obstructive sleep apnoea.
‘People smugglers’ arrested
Police detained four Indonesians allegedly involved in arranging an Australian-bound refugee boat which sank earlier this week, killing at least 15 people, a local police official said yesterday. The four men were arrested on Wednesday and Thursday in two nearby cities after the boat sank off the southwestern coast of Java Island on Tuesday, killing among them six children and a pregnant woman, Cianjur city police boss Dedy Kusuma Bakti said. “The four helped arrange the boat trip. They are part of a people-smuggling syndicate. Some of them had organized several boat trips to Australia,” he said, adding that they could be charged with people smuggling, which carries a jail sentence of between five and 15 years under the country’s immigration law. The number on the overloaded boat was unclear. Police have said about 200 people were aboard, but an asylum seeker has said 250 people made the perilous journey.
Floods, mudslides strike
At least 21 people have been killed and four reported missing in floods and mudslides that hit a province where at least 95 others died this week in twin earthquakes, state media reported yesterday. Floods, landslides and rockfalls have been reported since Thursday in the northwestern province of Gansu following heavy rains, the official Xinhua news agency said, quoting the local government. Several villages in the province were cut off, with power and communication lines down and roads blocked, the government said. In one village, named Rongguang, more than half of the houses had been destroyed in the disasters, a rescuer said. Xinhua said 30,000 people had been evacuated, with more heavy rain forecast.
Biden, wife get orchid honor
US Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, received a customary honor on Friday — an orchid named after them — as they paid an official visit to the tropical city state. The city has long used orchid-naming to recognize international leaders, with high-profile political figures including former South African president Nelson Mandela and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher having blossoms at Singapore’s National Orchid Garden. The Bidens were feted at a ceremony at the 63-hectare garden, where a new hybrid orchid, Dendrobium Joe and Jill Biden, was named in their honor. The vice president signed a symbolic “birth certificate” officially naming the orchid.