Bookie calls opposition win
A bookmaker yesterday began paying out bets on a conservative opposition victory, declaring the nation’s election race on Saturday next week already over for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s struggling Labor government. With nine days to go, online bookmaker Sportsbet said it had begun paying A$1.5 million (US$1.34 million) in bets received on a victory for opposition leader Tony Abbott’s center-right coalition, because the outcome was already clear. “As far as Sportsbet’s betting markets are concerned, the Abbotts can start packing up their belongings ahead of their imminent move to Kirribilli House,” Sportsbet spokesman Haydn Lane said, referring to the prime minister’s residence in Sydney.
Top ‘militant’ arrested
Police have arrested the alleged cofounder of top home-grown militant group the Indian Mujahideen, blamed for a string of attacks in recent years in Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad, reports said yesterday. Yasin Bhatkal was arrested on the India-Nepal border near the town of Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, TV channels NDTV and CNN-IBN reported, citing unnamed sources. The banned Indian Mujahideen came to public attention in November 2007 following serial blasts in Uttar Pradesh and is blamed for multiple attacks since in cities across the country in which hundreds of people have been killed.
Kaesong committee inked
The two Koreas formally signed an agreement yesterday forming a joint committee that will meet next week and is tasked with reopening and running a joint industrial park shut down in April. The initial challenge facing the 12-member committee is hammering out a schedule that will lead to the resumption of operations at the Kaesong complex. The South’s Unification Ministry said the first meeting would take place on Monday in Kaesong, 10km inside the North Korean border. The complex was established in 2004 as a rare symbol of North-South reconciliation and survived a series of crises on the Korean Peninsula that saw other joint projects collapse. However, operations were suspended in April when the North withdrew all its 53,000 workers at a time of heightened military tensions.
Amnesty excludes activists
The government will free more than 15,000 convicts to celebrate the nation’s independence day, the president’s office said yesterday, in a major amnesty that excludes prominent political prisoners. The 15,446 detainees, including 1,842 women, will be released for the 68th National Day anniversary, which falls on Monday, said Giang Son, an official in President Truong Tan Sang’s office. The mass pardon is one of the nation’s largest in recent years. However, no prisoners sentenced for “propaganda” against the state or attempting to overthrow the communist regime — charges frequently used against activists — appear on the amnesty list. Among those to be released are four prisoners sentenced for national security crimes, including two ethnic minority Montagnards, Vice Minister of Public Security General Le Quy Vuong told reporters. Sixteen foreigners — five Chinese, four Cambodians, two Taiwanese, two Malaysians, one American, one Australian and one Belgian — will also be released. They were jailed for “violations of social order,” drug crimes or human trafficking.
Kerry makes plea to Iran
Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday called for the release of two men who hold dual US-Iranian citizenship who are jailed in Iran, saying Washington was “deeply concerned” about their fate. Amir Mirzai Hekmati, a former US Marine, was sentenced to death in January last year on charges of espionage that Kerry said were “false.” Abedini was handed an eight-year prison sentence in January for his role in establishing underground Christian churches. Kerry also asked for help in locating Robert Levinson, an ex-FBI agent who went missing while on a March 2007 trip to probe cigarette counterfeiting in the region. Tehran has said it has no new information about Levinson and that he is not in the country.
Talks offered to more rebels
President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday said he is ready to start talks with the country’s second-largest rebel movement, the National Liberation Army. He made the remark one day after the group freed a Canadian engineer it had held for seven months — a precondition he had set for such talks. The government already is holding peace negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
UN finds sanctions violated
The Security Ministry says a preliminary report by a team of UN experts has determined that a North Korean cargo ship seized for carrying weapons violated UN sanctions. The ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that the Cuban weapons found under sacks of sugar, including equipment for launching missiles, “without a doubt” violated sanctions meant to halt sophisticated arms sales to Pyongyang. The UN experts have yet to publish their report.
Flash floods kill 24
Twenty-four people were killed in the riverside capital of Bamako on Wednesday when torrential rains provoked flash floods that washed away homes in several neighborhoods, Minister of Internal Security and Civilian Protection Tiefing Konate said in a statement. Six neighborhoods were all hit by floods during rain storms that lasted most of the day, and 19 people died in the Taliko neighborhood alone, the statement said.
Bus crash kills 41
At least 41 people were killed and 27 injured yesterday in a bus crash west of Nairobi, the Kenyan Red Cross said. “It is a horrible scene. Bodies are strewn all over,” a traffic police official said by telephone from the scene near the town of Narok. The bus was about halfway into its journey from Nairobi to Homa Bay when it veered off the road and plunged into a valley, rolling over several times.
Colonel Meow sets record
Colonel Meow has 23cm hair. That is good enough to put the Himalayan-Persian mix into the latest edition of the Guinness World Records book, due out on Sept. 12. Owners Anne Marie Avey and Eric Rosario, of Los Angeles, say the two-year-old cat got its name because of his epic frown and fur. It takes both of them to brush the cat’s fur three times a week. Three independent veterinarians verified the length of the cat’s hair and submitted their findings to Guinness before he won the title. Avey says the 4.5kg cat has his own Web site, Facebook page and YouTube channel with more than 2 million views. Avey says Colonel Meow also sheds up a storm.