Volcano spews 5km plume
Residents in the southern city of Kagoshima were busy washing ash off the streets yesterday after a nearby volcano spewed a record-high smoke plume into the sky. Ash wafted as high as 5km above the Sakurajima volcano in the on Sunday afternoon, forming its highest plume since the Japan Meteorological Agency started keeping records in 2006. Lava flowed about 1km from the fissure, and several huge volcanic rocks rolled down the mountainside. Kagoshima officials said in a statement that this was Sakurajima’s 500th eruption this year alone.
Joint military drills start
The country began annual joint military drills with the US yesterday that North Korea usually calls a rehearsal for invasion. North Korean state media have not made major statements on the exercises thus far. The Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills set to continue until Aug. 30 are computer-simulated war games that involve 30,000 US and 50,000 South Korean troops, according to the Ministry of Defense and the US military command in Seoul.
Baseballer murdered in US
A family was yesterday struggling to come to terms with the “senseless” death of their baseballer son in a random drive-by shooting by three teenagers in the US. Chris Lane, 22, was in the US on a baseball scholarship and was jogging in the small town of Duncan, Oklahoma, when he was shot in the back on Friday last week and left to die on the side of the road. Three teenagers aged 15, 16 and 17 were arrested and face the death penalty, Duncan Chief of Police Danny Ford told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “They wanted to be Billy Bob Badasses. I think they were on a killing spree. We would have had more bodies that night if we didn’t get them,” Ford said.
First same-sex couples wed
Dozens of same-sex couples said “I do” yesterday as the nation became the first Asia-Pacific country, and only the 14th in the world, to legalize gay marriage. Vows were exchanged in venues ranging from an airliner cruising at 9,150m to a historic bath house as gay men and women took advantage of the law change. The amendment to the Marriage Act was passed by parliament in April, but did not come into effect until yesterday.
Prison riot quelled
Security forces have retaken control of an overcrowded prison in North Sumatra Province following a night-long riot, and have captured most of the estimated 30 convicts who escaped, authorities said yesterday. The riot erupted on Sunday afternoon at the Labuhan Ruku jail, which was built for about 300 prisoners, but houses more than 850. Local police chief Lieutenant Colonel Japerson Sinaga said the riot began when a warden was beaten by inmates who had just been transferred to the facility from other prisons. Inmates torched the prison and at least 30 prisoners overpowered security guards.
Floods kill 105
Devastating floods at opposite ends of the country have left 105 people dead and forced hundreds of thousands to evacuate their homes in recent days, officials and Xinhua news agency said yesterday. Flooding in the northeast that left 72 people dead was described as “the worst in decades” by Xinhua, while another 33 people died in Guangdong Province, where 510,000 were evacuated.
The nation will become the first in Europe to join a small group of nations which recognize a third or “undetermined” sex when registering births, the Suddeutsche Zeitung said. From Nov. 1, babies born without clear gender-determining physical characteristics will be able to be registered without a sex on their birth certificates, according to the report. While transsexuals are already legally recognized, hermaphrodites — those with both male and female genitalia — have always been forcibly registered as one or other sex at birth.
Ennahda agrees to talks
The governing Islamist party Ennahda switched course on Sunday and agreed to meet with opposition parties to seek a consensus on resolving the country’s worst political crisis since its 2011 Arab Spring revolution. Fethi Ayadi, chairman of the party’s supreme council, said the talks could start by the end of the week and could consider opposition demands for a caretaker technocrat government to find a way out of the current standoff. Ennahda chairman Rached Ghannouchi firmly rejected that demand on Thursday last week, prompting criticism from opposition leaders who accuse his party of complacency toward threats from violent hardline Salafis.
Al-Qaeda plots attacks: ‘Bild’
Al-Qaeda is plotting attacks on Europe’s high-speed rail network, the mass circulation daily Bild reported yesterday, citing intelligence sources. The extremist group could plant explosives on trains and tunnels or sabotage tracks and electrical cabling, Bild said. Bild said the information came from the US National Security Agency, which had listened in to a conference call involving top al-Qaeda operatives. The attacks on Europe’s rail network was a “central topic” of this call, Bild said. Authorities have responded with discrete measures such as deploying plainclothes police officers at key stations and on main routes, the daily said.
Rare Ferrari auctioned
A rare 1967 Ferrari owned by an orphan-turned-millionaire sold at auction for US$27.5 million. The red Ferrari was one of only 10 ever built, and its single-family ownership increased interest in the sale, the Los Angeles Times reported. The owner, the late Eddie Smith, was a former mayor of Lexington, North Carolina. He died in 2007 at age 88. “This is a bittersweet moment for us,” Eddie Smith Jr told a crowd before bidding began on Saturday. In keeping with his father’s philanthropy, the family was giving all proceeds to various charities, Smith Jr said.
Gunman holds three hostage
A gunman took three people hostage at the city hall in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt yesterday, officials said, and a planned election rally there featuring Chancellor Angela Merkel was canceled. The hostage-taker was a young man armed with a handgun, and the hostages were believed to include Ingolstadt Deputy Mayor Sepp Misslbeck, police spokesman Hans-Peter Kammerer said. The incident started shortly before 9am. Police said they are in contact with the man by telephone. There is no immediate word on what he wanted. The dpa news agency reported that Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said the man had previously stalked a female employee at the city hall. The hostage-taking happened several hours before Merkel was due in the city for a late afternoon rally in the square in front of the city hall.