Sinking toll climbs to 39
The death toll from one of the nation’s worst ever river boat sinkings has jumped to 39, including many children, local officials and state media said on Sunday. Rescuers were still hunting along the Niger River for the missing after Friday night’s tragedy, while survivors hailed local villagers for preventing an even heavier death toll. The state broadcaster ORTM said the search for more bodies would continue yesterday. At least 210 people survived.
France may boost troops
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says Paris may increase its troop presence in the country to back an African Union (AU) peacekeeping force. During a visit to Bangui on Sunday, Fabius said the 450 French soldiers now based at the airport “will be involved in operations to restore security.” A senior French diplomat says the number of troops could grow to 700, though they will not be involved in front-line operations.
Labor leader favors women
New Labor leader Bill Shorten yesterday appointed 11 women to his frontbench and described Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s inclusion of just one as “ridiculous.” Shorten, who won a vote to become opposition leader on Sunday, unveiled a new 30-person Cabinet, including ex-health minister Tanya Plibersek as his deputy, ex-finance minister Penny Wong as Senate leader and nine other women — a balance he described as “particularly pleasing.”
Sex show owner arrested
Authorities yesterday said they had arrested the owner of a sex show visited by pop singer Rihanna — he latest crackdown inadvertently triggered by the singer’s tweets. The Phuket bar owner as been charged in connection with the lewd performance, district chief Veera Kerdsirimongkol said. “It was the result of the visit by Rihanna. The authorities will be more strict toward inappropriate shows or wildlife attractions,” he said.
UN protests draft rule
The UN AIDS agency yesterday condemned a draft regulation to ban HIV-positive people from spas and public bathhouses, as campaign groups expressed outrage over the proposal. The proposed Ministry of Commerce rule is the latest instance of longstanding discrimination against HIV-positive people in the country. A draft was posted online by the State Council and orders spas and similar establishments to prominently display signs prohibiting “people with sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS and infectious skin diseases.” Hedia Belhadj, country coordinator for UNAIDS, yesterday there is no risk of transmission of HIV in a spa or bathhouse setting. She urged that “any other policies preventing people living with HIV from accessing public or private services also be revised”.
US citizen dies in jail
The government said a US citizen it detained in the Sinai Peninsula last month for violating curfew was found dead on Sunday in his jail cell, the second foreigner to die in detention in recent weeks. The US embassy in Cairo confirmed that an American citizen held prisoner in Ismailia died from an apparent suicide. It had no further comment. The US Department of State identified the American as James Lunn, but denied he was a retired US Army officer, as security officials had claimed.
Jackman raises US$1.85m
Hugh Jackman threw himself a birthday party with 4,500 guests, but they had to pay to attend. The actor spent his 45th birthday on Saturday at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, where he sang, danced and told stories for “One Night Only,” a benefit concert that raised US$1.85 million for the Motion Picture & Television Fund. “This is probably the most narcissistic way to spend your birthday,” he said after the show. “I chose my favorite songs and told stories about my life.” The organization provides healthcare and other services to entertainment industry workers and retirees.
Popcorn and ads don’t mix
Eating popcorn in the cinema may be irritating not just for fellow moviegoers, but for advertisers: Researchers from Cologne University have concluded that chewing makes people immune to film advertising. The reason why advertisements manage to imprint brand names on our brains is that our lips and tongue automatically simulate the pronunciation of a new name when we first hear it. Every time we reencounter the name, our mouth subconsciously practices its pronunciation. However, according to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, this “inner speech” can be disturbed by chewing, rendering the repetition effect redundant.
FN wins in by-election
The far-right Front National (FN) won a bellwether by-election on Sunday, cementing the party’s status as a political force to be reckoned with by capitalizing on economic gloom and fears of rising crime. The party’s candidate, Laurent Lopez, garnered 53.9 percent of the vote in the second round of the by-election in the southeastern town of Brignoles, officials in the Var department said. When Lopez made it into the run-off after the Oct. 6 first round vote, it sent shockwaves across the nation and prompted calls by the ruling left for a “republican front” to stem the party’s progress. The left, which had no candidate, had urged voters to choose the center-right UMP candidate Catherine Delzers, who Var officials said received 46.1 percent of the vote in Sunday’s ballot.
‘Terror tunnel’ found
The government on Sunday froze the shipment of building materials into Gaza after discovering a sophisticated “terror tunnel” into the Jewish state from the Palestinian territory, said Guy Inbar, spokesman for the defense ministry unit responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories. He did not say how long the ban would remain in force. Officials said that a tunnel running 450m into Israel and allegedly intended as a springboard for militant attacks had been uncovered by troops. Exposing the tunnel “prevented attempts to attack Israeli civilians and soldiers,” Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a statement.
Moore sculpture stolen
A Henry Moore sculpture has been stolen from a Scottish park, police said on Sunday, the latest of several thefts of his works in recent years. The 1950 bronze, entitled Standing Figure, was one of four Moore works in the Glenkiln Sculpture Park near Dumfries in southwest Scotland. Moore, who died in 1986 aged 88, was widely regarded as Britain’s best 20th-century sculptor. Police Scotland said the theft took place between Thursday and Friday, and they were “conducting enquiries” and appealing for information on any “suspicious activity” in the area.