Festival blast victim dies
A 44-year-old woman who was severely burned in an explosion at a fireworks festival three two days ago became the first person to die from the accident on Saturday, police said. Hiromi Takeuchi was one of 60 people injured in the blast that ripped through food and drink stalls at an annual festival outside Kyoto. Police earlier said 18 were seriously injured with Takeuchi and an eight-year-old girl in critical condition. Police suspect that the explosion occurred when a vendor at one of stalls opened the cap of a gasoline container to refill an electric generator, press reports said.
Massive ‘yaba’ haul seized
Authorities yesterday seized about 980,000 illegal methamphetamine pills worth almost US$6 million stashed in a truck thought to be heading to Bangkok from the north, police said. Acting on a tipoff, narcotics police and military officials set up roadblocks in Chiang Rai Province. They found packs of the drug, known as yaba, hidden in the roof of a pick-up truck. “It is quite a big haul — another big haul — almost a million tablets,” deputy provincial police chief Virat Sumanaphan said. He said the drugs would cost up to 200 baht (US$6) per pill in Bangkok. Three men and a woman, all from Chiang Mai Province, were arrested on suspicion of drug smuggling.
The government yesterday ordered a temporary stay of executions following objections from President Asif Ali Zardari and rights groups, days before they were due to resume after a five-year moratorium. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government in June scrapped the moratorium on the death penalty in a bid to crack down on criminals and Islamist militants, but yesterday it announced that executions, which had been scheduled to begin this week, would be stayed temporarily following objections from Zardari. The stay would last until Zardari returns from abroad to discuss the matter with Sharif, a statement said. “In due deference to the wish of the president, it has been desired that all executions of death sentences may be held in abeyance till the discussion takes place,” it said.
Policeman probed for abuse
Authorities have begun investigating a policeman who grabbed a seven-month-old baby girl from her parents and threw her on the ground, fracturing her skull, state media said yesterday. Guo Zengxi, a policeman in Linzhou, Henan Province, was on his way to a karaoke bar after drinking with friends one evening last month when he saw a man holding a baby accompanied by his wife, the Legal Evening News reported. After betting with his friends that the child was just a doll, Guo touched her face then grabbed her from her father, before lifting her up and smashing her on the ground, the report said. The baby suffered three cranial fractures and was taken to hospital, the daily said. She will be sent to Beijing for further treatment, according to local authorities. Guo, who was off-duty at the time, received 15 days of disciplinary confinement, but no additional punishment. Details of the case generated outrage on social media sites on Saturday, with authorities promising to act. “All officials will handle the case according to law and disciplines and have no leniency,” Linzhou city officials said in a statement. Last month, a two-year-old Chinese girl was thrown to the ground by a man in a row with her mother over parking. She died a few days later, provoking outrage and sadness among Chinese netizens.
Syrian funds investigated
A man has been detained in Oslo on suspicion of raising money for Syria that could have gone to a terrorist group, the domestic intelligence service said on Saturday. Martin Bernsen, a spokesman for the police security service, said the man was detained on Friday and released, though he remains a suspect and faces a preliminary charge of financially supporting a terror organization. Preliminary charges are a step short of formal charges and a conviction on that charge carries a maximum prison sentence of six years. Police did not identify the suspect, but broadcaster TV2 said he was Farid Bendriss of the Al Furqan Relief group. The organization said on Facebook that police seized 300,000 kroner (US$50,730) on Friday. Bernsen declined to comment. Al Furqan said the money was to be sent to Syrian refugees next week.
Merkel warns on extremism
Chancellor Angela Merkel says anti-Semitism and racism remain a threat to democracy in Europe almost 70 years after the end of World War II. Merkel cited the ongoing trial of five alleged neo-Nazis over the killing of 10 people between 2000 and 2007, and that Jewish schools and synagogues still require police protection, as evidence of the problem domestically. She said Europe needs to be vigilant against far-right extremists who seek to spread a distorted account of history. Merkel’s comments came on Saturday in a weekly online address three days before a planned visit to the remains of the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. Almost 6 million European Jews were murdered in the Holocaust orchestrated by the Nazi party.
British embassy to reopen
The British embassy in Sana’a was to reopen yesterday after being closed for 12 days because of security concerns. “British Embassy #Yemen open as normal from Sunday 18 August. Apologies for the brief hiatus,” British Ambassador Jane Marriott tweeted. The UK Foreign Office said on Aug. 6 it had withdrawn all staff from the embassy due to a high threat of kidnapping. Washington also evacuated diplomatic personnel from Yemen on Aug. 6 because of a terrorism threat. France and Norway closed their embassies in Sana’a as well. The move followed the unprecedented closure of US diplomatic missions across the Middle East and North Africa early this month.
Tourist killed in Venice
A German tourist was killed and his three-year-old daughter seriously injured when a gondola carrying them on Venice’s Grand Canal collided with a ferry on Saturday. The man appeared to have been crushed between the two boats near the historic city’s famous Rialto Bridge, a spokesman for Venice’s fire brigade said. The girl suffered a head injury and was taken to a hospital in Padua for treatment, he added.
Boat crash kills four
Media reports say that a boat being piloted by a captain suspected of being drunk crashed into a barge, killing four people and injuring 49. The Interfax news agency, citing regional police and emergency services, said the crash occurred on Saturday on the Irtysh River, 10km from the Siberian city of Omsk. The boat, an express ferry to a popular monastery, was carrying 60 passengers. Police told Interfax the captain appeared to be “under the influence of alcohol” when detained.
Meade to make Asia visit
Secretary of Foreign Affairs Antonio Meade travels to Singapore and China on Saturday on a mission to boost trade with the two Asian nations. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) promised to increase investment when he visited the country in June. Meade will follow up on that agreement in China, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. Meade will meet his Singaporean counterpart, Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam, in the city-state, the nation’s second-largest investor from the Asia-Pacific region after Japan, the ministry said. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade agreement being negotiated by nine countries including Australia, the US and Singapore, will also be on the agenda.
Four attacked by bears
Four people suffered minor injuries in separate grizzly bear attacks in the world-famous Yellowstone Park and nearby forests, authorities said on Friday. The first incident occurred on Thursday when a group of four hikers came face-to-face with a young bear cub on a trail in the Idaho park. The mother of the cub appeared almost immediately and charged the hikers. The confrontation lasted about one minute, with the hikers cheating death by spraying bear repellent. In a separate incident on the same day, two employees of the Bureau of Land Management in Idaho were attacked while performing a forest health assessment, the Los Angeles Times reported. One of the two men needed treatment for bite wounds on his thigh and buttocks, while the second man was bitten on the hand as he attempted to use bear spray.
Group fights child porn
A task force in Indiana is building a national reputation for its aggressive pursuit of child pornographers worldwide. The Internet Crimes Against Children group includes federal, state and local law enforcement officials who track down people who record or collect videos depicting children being sexually abused. They follow the computer trail wherever it leads, resulting in arrests in the UK, Australia and elsewhere. Assistant Attorney Steve DeBrota is credited with leading the charge. He began pursuing child pornographers in 1991 and is now one of a handful of prosecutors advising the attorney general on child porn cases. Department of Justice figures show Indiana had 166 arrests for manufacturing, distributing or possessing child pornography in 2011.
US rail firm to keep running
The Transportation Agency on Friday determined that the US rail company whose runaway oil train crashed into Lac-Megantic on July 6, killing 47 people, has adequate insurance to keep operating for the next month-and-a-half. The agency said that Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway provided evidence it had adequate third-party liability insurance coverage to operate from Tuesday to Oct. 1. The agency’s decision reversed an order given last week that would have halted the company’s operations starting this week. Agency spokeswoman Jacqueline Bannister said the rail company must show it has the funds to pay the self-insured portion of its operations or the regulator will suspend its operations from Friday. The company was granted creditor protection on Aug. 8 after it said it could not afford the cleanup and reconstruction costs of the accident, in which 72 tankers of crude oil crashed into the center of the town, destroying 40 buildings.