Central bank van ambushed
Gunmen ambushed a bank van and made away with more than US$50 million on a highway east of Tripoli, officials said on Tuesday. The brazen heist underscores the weakness of the central government in the North African country, where authorities are struggling to control unruly militias. A security official said that the central bank van had no guards accompanying it when was ambushed near the city of Sirte late on Monday. The official news agency LANA quoted a bank official who was with the van as saying that a single carload of guards was escorting the money on its way from Sirte’s airport to the local bank, but they were unable to resist the 10 attackers. The money was a mix of foreign currency and Libyan dinars. LANA quoted Colonel Khaled al-Akari, a security official in Sirte, as saying troops had closed the entries and exits of the city to try to apprehend the thieves.
Brotherhood leader arrested
The Interior Ministry said a key figure in the Muslim Brotherhood had been arrested after months on the run. The ministry said Essam el-Erian, the deputy leader of the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, was apprehended in the early hours of Wednesday in an apartment in an eastern Cairo suburb. El-Erian is one of the few senior Islamist figures who was still on the run. The media-savvy el-Erian was among the group’s more moderate figures, but turned hardline and went into hiding after the July 3 coup that ousted former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the same group. Egypt’s new, military-backed authorities have cracked down on the group, arresting hundreds of Brotherhood figures, and putting top leaders on trial on charges of inciting violence and murder.
Minister lauds date nights
The secret to a lasting marriage is not humor, patience, shared interests or an equal division of household chores. It is government intervention. That, at least, is the hope of the ruling Populist Party, which is promoting date nights as a cure for flagging marriages in an attempt to reduce the country’s divorce rate. The new minister for children, equality and social inclusion, Solveig Horne, said the government needed to cut divorce rates — and that encouraging couples to try date nights was a good place to start. “It is important to find small pockets of time where parents can be lovers,” she said. Divorce rates are at 40 percent in Norway. Having been through a divorce herself, Horne is convinced that allocating time to a partner can have a huge impact on a relationship. “Maybe I didn’t have success [in marriage] because we didn’t have any date nights,” she said.
Bitcoins net apartment
A man who purchased US$24 of bitcoins and then promptly forgot about it for four years was able to buy an apartment in central Oslo thanks to the massive appreciation of the virtual currency. In 2009, Kristoffer Koch was doing research on encryption and on a whim decided to invest a small sum in the recently created bitcoins — a means of payment over the Internet. Koch, now 29 and working as an engineer, only remembered the investment in April when he read an article about the soaring value of bitcoins. His 5,000 bitcoins were suddenly worth about US$690,000. After spending a full day trying to remember his password, Koch cashed in 1.1 million kroner (US$186,000) by selling a fifth of his fortune. After deducting taxes, the money was enough for the deposit and restoration of a 2.6 million kroner apartment in Oslo.
A court found a 21-year-old man guilty on Tuesday of the rape, mutilation and murder of a teenager in a case that shocked a nation with one of the world’s highest levels of sexual violence. The 17-year-old victim, Anene Booysen, was found at a building site in the town of Bredasdorp, 130km east of Cape Town, in February with wounds that included a slit from her stomach down to her genitals. Johannes Kana confessed to raping Booysen, but denied disemboweling her.
Couple given long terms
A Washington State couple accused of starving, beating and forcing their adopted daughter outside as punishment were sentenced on Tuesday to decades in prison for her death. Larry and Carri Williams were convicted on Sept. 9 of manslaughter in the death of a teenage girl they adopted from Ethiopia. Carri Williams was also found guilty of homicide by abuse. Hana Williams was found dead on May 12, 2011, in the backyard of the family home in Sedro-Woolley, about 100km north of Seattle. The autopsy said she died of hypothermia, with malnutrition and a stomach condition as contributing factors. Carri Williams was sentenced to just under 37 years, the top of the standard sentencing range, by Judge Susan Cook who said she probably deserved more time in prison, the Skagit Valley Herald reported. Her husband received a sentence of nearly 28 years. Both also were found guilty of assault of a child for punishing a boy they adopted in 2008 from Ethiopia at the same time as Hana.
Rough landing for test plane
A new, smaller version of NASA’s space shuttle is recuperating from a rough first landing. The Dream Chaser space plane is being designed by Sierra Nevada Corp. It is vying to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station in four or five more years. The Nevada-based company tested a full-scale model at Edwards Air Force Base in California on Saturday. A helicopter dropped the unmanned craft from 3,810m in a first free flight reminiscent of NASA’s drop tests of the shuttle prototype Enterprise in the 1970s. Everything worked well for the automated Dream Chaser model until the end, when the left landing gear deployed too late and the test vehicle skidded off the runway. Company space systems chief Mark Sirangelo on Tuesday said that damage was minor. He said the minute-long test flight was a success despite the ending.
Briton favors shorter talks
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant suggested a new tactic on Tuesday to stop diplomats at the world body from speaking for too long — turn off their microphone. During a recent visit with the Security Council to the African Union Peace and Security Council in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, Lyall Grant was impressed by its procedures. “I, for one, would support implementing here the African Union Peace and Security Council practice of cutting off speakers who have exceeded their allotted time by turning off their microphones,” he told the Security Council. Speakers at UN meetings can be limited by the president using a gavel, but this is rare. In 1960, then-Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro took to the UN podium to blast US imperialism for about four hours. During Britain’s presidency of the council in June, Lyall Grant cut off several speakers, some of whom officially complained.