Disabled activist freed
Disabled activist Ni Yulan (倪玉蘭) yesterday said she had been freed from jail, but was in very poor health after spending more than two years locked up for “picking quarrels.” Ni has been confined to a wheelchair since sustaining serious injuries during an earlier stint in jail. “Right now I’m in a very poor state of health because on top of the injuries I suffered when I was tortured before going to prison, I’m suffering from thyroid cancer and a lymphoma behind my left ear,” said Ni, who is in her 50s. “It’s been a year since I’ve seen the sun and I’m very weak.”
Yousafzai wins rights award
The Pakistani schoolgirl who survived a Taliban assassination attempt has won an award named for a murdered Russian journalist. Malala Yousafzai was shot as she traveled to school in northwest Pakistan in October last year. She was declared winner of the Anna Politkovskaya Award on Friday. The award is given annually by group RAW in WAR to a female human rights defender. RAW in WAR says 16-year-old Yousafzai was chosen “for her courage to speak out when nobody else dared, for her strength to give a voice to the many women and girls, whose voices cannot be heard, and for her passionate belief in promoting education for girls.”
Man crushed by grapes dies
Emergency services say a man has died after being crushed by grapes during the annual harvest in the central wine producing region of Castilla-La Mancha. A local rescue service center said on Friday the man was pulled out of a winery grape reception bay that he fell into the day before, just as a truck unloaded 5 tonnes of grapes ready for crushing into juice for winemaking. Ambulance operators and firefighters tried to resuscitate the man, but he was declared dead just before midnight on Thursday.
Syrian refugees depart for UK
Dozens of Syrian migrants hoping to flee to Britain have left a northern port they were occupying after the government said it would consider emergency lodging for them. A humanitarian aid group official said the 50 to 60 migrants were likely to spend the night in the city streets of Calais after authorities in Britain refused to grant them legal entry there. Vincent Deconinck, a regional official with the Secours Catholique charity, said nearly all had left the port on Friday and many were now likely to try to sneak across the English Channel illegally. Deconinck said only a few were likely to take up an offer from the government for temporary housing in the nearby city of Arras, giving them the time to formally request asylum.
New accusation in Knox trial
A mobster has testified in Amanda Knox’s third trial, saying the US student did not kill her British roommate and that it was his brother who did it. Luciano Aviello’s testimony on Friday at an appeals court marks the latest flip-flop by the convicted mafioso. Aviello testified previously that his brother killed Meredith Kercher in 2007, but later recanted. Neither the defense nor the prosecution view Aviello’s testimony as reliable, but the nation’s highest court said it should be revisited at the new appeals trial. Knox and co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito were convicted in the murder, and then acquitted on appeal in 2011. Knox has not returned to the country for her third trial.
Man sets himself on fire
A man who set himself on fire on the National Mall in Washington on Friday was hospitalized in critical condition after bystanders used the shirts off their backs to tamp down the flames, police and witnesses said. Police responded to an emergency call about a fire shortly before 4:30pm on the Mall lined by the Smithsonian museums, police spokesman Hugh Carew said. The man, who has not been identified, was conscious when he was taken to Washington Hospital Center. He was in critical condition on Friday night, the hospital Twitter feed said. A helicopter landed in the middle of the Mall to transport the man. Nicole Didyk, an environmental engineer for the Federal Aviation Administration, said she was out for a run when she saw spotted a man with small flames on him. She said she watched in shock as several men rushed toward him, searching as they ran for water or blankets. “Nobody had anything, so they just ended up pulling off their shirts and tamping him down with them,” Didyk said. “They got him to sit down and roll on the ground to put [himself] out.” Throughout the ordeal, the man on fire “was stunningly silent,” she said.
City aims for coffee record
A city claimed to set a world record on Friday after 13,800 people gathered in a town square for a cup of coffee, a feat designed to promote the beverage in a nation that grows the beans, but consumes little. The event was organized by authorities in the eastern province of Boyaca and the farmer-funded National Federation of Coffee Producers in the world’s biggest producer of smooth-tasting “washed” arabicas. The organizers said they have submitted evidence of the event held in Boyaca’s capital, Tunja, to Guinness World Records. The Guinness Web site says the largest ever “coffee party” was in Jugendpark, Cologne, Germany, in August 2009, at which 8,162 participants were served an iced coffee drink.
Grant to help slum residents
Thousands of youths in a Rio de Janeiro slum immortalized in a hit movie are to benefit from a multi-million dollar program designed to give them a career, organizers said on Friday. About 40,000 people aged between 15 and 29 from the Cidade de Deus (“City of God”) community are to get assistance from a government initiative sponsored by the Inter-American Development Bank. The Rio state government is weighing in with US$24 million to add to a US$60 million grant from the bank, organizers said. Cidade de Deus was famously depicted in the 2002 Oscar-nominated film by Fernando Meirelles City of God, about the residents’ struggle for survival amid extreme drug-gang related violence.
Bus crash kills 14
At least 14 people died on Friday when a bus hurtled down a hillside on the outskirts of Mexico City, ejecting six victims through the windows and leaving 25 injured, police said. Before it careened off the highway, the bus was en route to Toluca in the hills of the State of Mexico. “There wasn’t a collision with another vehicle, but instead the bus veered off the asphalt and plunged down the mountainside about 100 or 120 meters,” state attorney general Miguel Angel Contreras said. The cause of the accident remained unclear, he said. Local television footage of the accident’s aftermath accident showed the bus upside down, wreckage strewn amid broken tree branches as emergency workers stretchered off survivors.