Fraud investigators arrested
A foreign husband-and-wife team of fraud investigators, whose firm did work for British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which is facing a bribery probe, have been formally arrested. Police in Shanghai had arrested Peter Humphrey, a British national, and Yu Yingzeng, a naturalized US citizen, diplomats from the two countries said. Humphrey is the founder of risk advisory firm ChinaWhys, while Yu, a certified fraud examiner, served as general manager. A statement by family members to the Wall Street Journal said the two were suspected of breaking laws related to purchasing personal information. “We only know that Ying and Peter did investigative work on corruption within foreign companies,” the statement said. “As corruption is high on the schedule of China’s government, the incarceration of Ying and Peter seems to be contradictory to China’s policy in itself.”
‘Funny air’ leads to arrests
Two teenagers have discovered laughter is not always the best medicine after they were arrested for selling balloons containing “funny air” — or laughing gas — to tourists. The pair, aged 17 and 19, were charged on Wednesday with trafficking in controlled substances, punishable by a maximum five-year jail term, after allegedly selling balloons containing nitrous oxide in the tourist resort of Pattaya. The gas, known locally as funny air, but more commonly referred to as laughing gas, induces euphoria and laughter when inhaled. It has several legitimate uses, including numbing pain during medical procedures such as dentistry. Nitrous oxide is legally available in many countries, but is controlled in Thailand. “They were charged under medical laws that ban selling or importing nitrous oxide,” police Lieutenant Colonel Passkorn Paikit said, adding that the balloons are commonly sold in the tourist hot spots of Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan. “[The balloons] sell for 120 baht [US$3.50] each and its effect can last for five to 10 minutes,” he said.
Flogging sentence scrapped
The High Court has overturned a public flogging sentence for a 15-year-old rape victim whose conviction sparked outrage among rights groups and focused attention on the island nation’s treatment of women. The High Court issued a statement on Wednesday saying that the girl, whose stepfather is on trial for raping her, had been wrongly convicted by a juvenile court of having premarital sex with another man. The government appealed on behalf of the teenager following an international outcry over the February sentence to punish her with 100 lashes when she reached the age of 18.
UN envoy ‘well-protected’
President Thein Sein’s spokesman, Ye Htut, said a UN human rights envoy was well-protected during a visit to a city wracked by religious violence, brushing off his claims that police did nothing as a 200-strong Buddhist mob descended on his car, kicking the windows and doors and shouting abuses. He said yesterday that UN rights rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana was never in any danger. Members of the crowd, he said, approached the convoy only to give Quintana a letter and a T-shirt, “so what Quintana said is very different from the true situation.” Quintana said that on arriving in the central city of Meikhtila to visit a camp for 1,600 displaced Muslims earlier this week, security forces stood by as a Buddhist crowd descended on his convoy.
Shooter had copious ammo
A 20-year-old with a history of mental illness and carrying nearly 500 rounds of ammunition was behind a US elementary-school shooting in the state of Georgia, police said on Wednesday. Michael Brandon Hill entered the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy near Atlanta on Tuesday armed with an AK 47-style assault rifle, then took one or two staff members hostage before surrendering, police said. No one was wounded in the incident. Special police teams surrounded the facility, organized its evacuation and Hill “started to fire from inside the school at our officers,” DeKalb County police chief Cedric Alexander told a press conference in Atlanta on Wednesday. Police returned fire, but Alexander did not comment on how they convinced the young man to surrender.
Shark victim passes away
A young German woman who was attacked by a shark and had her right arm bitten off died on Wednesday at a hospital in Hawaii, medics said. Jana Lutteropp, 20, passed away at Maui Memorial Medical Center after spending days on life support and in critical condition. She had been snorkeling not far from the shore on the island of Maui when she was attacked by a shark on Wednesday last week. A hospital spokeswoman, Carol Clark, released a statement from Lutteropp’s mother and sister, Jutta Lutteropp and Julia Broeske, that said the young woman had fought hard to survive the attack, the Maui News reported. “However, we are sad to say that she lost her fight today,” the statement said.
Jazz legend McPartland dies
Marian McPartland, a jazz pianist who was a glittering fixture in her musical genre over a career spanning six decades, has died at the age of 95, her record label said. English-born McPartland also hosted a program on National Public Radio (NPR) called Piano Jazz, which at more than 30 years was the longest running cultural program on the popular US radio station, Concord Music Group said. McPartland died of natural causes at her home in Long Island, New York on Tuesday night, NPR said.
Protesters block highways
Protesting coffee growers, farmers and truckers are blockading highways for a third day in various regions, with some protesters pelting riot police with rocks and homemade explosives. Police director General Rodolfo Palomino reports at least 61 arrests in the disturbances that began on Monday. The more than 30,000 protesters have an assortment of demands: Truckers want cheaper gasoline. Potato and onion growers are demanding lower prices for fertilizer. Coffee farmers want a government subsidy extended.
Court approves extradition
The Supreme Court has approved the extradition of a former Argentine judge who fled his home country to avoid trial on charges of crimes against humanity. The court said late on Wednesday that Otilio Romano should face a court in Argentina where he is accused of committing nearly 100 human rights crimes while working as a prosecutor during the country’s 1976 to 1983 military dictatorship. Romano is accused of using confessions obtained through torture as evidence against dissidents and with protecting military and security force members accused of crimes. He denies those and other charges. Romano fled to Chile in 2011. Chile refused to grant him political asylum last year and he was put under house arrest.