European MPs visiting
A European Parliament delegation has arrived in Tehran, the first by the EU’s legislative institution in more than six years. The official IRNA news agency yesterday said the eight-member delegation would stay until Wednesday. The delegation will meet Iranian lawmakers and officials, as well as dissident filmmaker Jafar Panahi and human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who jointly won the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov prize last year. The visit is a sign of warming ties in the wake of an interim deal reached last month between Tehran and six world powers to ease some sanctions on Iran for a series of nuclear concessions.
Haiyan deaths top 6,000
The death toll from Typhoon Haiyan that struck the central Philippines on Nov. 8 has reached 6,009, with 1,779 people missing, Major Reynaldo Balido, spokesman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said yesterday. Twenty-seven unidentified bodies were among the latest to be recovered under debris in typhoon-stricken coastal areas, including the hardest hit city of Tacloban, Balido said. Twenty to 30 bodies were still being found every day, but identifying cadavers in the advanced stage of decomposition and matching them with the missing is a difficult process and the reason why the number of the missing remains unchanged, he said. The homes of more than 16 million people were also either flattened or damaged by the typhoon, and officials said rebuilding would take at least three years.
Death for man who knifed 22
A knife-wielding attacker who stabbed 22 students at a primary school was sentenced to death yesterday by the Xinyang City Intermediate People’s Court. Min Yongjun (閔擁軍), 37, was found guilty of intentional homicide and condemned to death, almost a year after he stormed a school in Henan Province and slashed dozens of pupils. No one was killed, but 22 children were injured in the brutal attack, which took place on the same day that 20 children were shot dead at a primary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in the US. Under Chinese law those who plot or attempt to kill others can be convicted of intentional homicide, even if no one actually dies.
DR Congo, rebels ink peace
The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the M23 rebels signed a peace agreement on Thursday that will see the insurgent group demobilize its fighters and transform itself into a political party. Kenya’s presidency said Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who is the chairman of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, and Malawian President Joyce Banda oversaw the signing ceremony in Nairobi. The agreements also foresee that members of the M23 insurgency will be granted an amnesty for acts of war. They also allow for the return of refugees.
Burial made private
People will not be able to see former president Nelson Mandela’s remains being laid to rest in his boyhood home, Qunu, with his actual burial a strictly private, family affair, a government spokeswoman said yesterday. Once tomorrow’s initial public service has been completed, the moment of interment will — at the family’s request — be a purely private affair, spokeswoman Phumla Williams said. “They [the family] don’t want it to be televised. They don’t want people to see when the body is taken down.” After three days of lying in state in the capital, Pretoria, Mandela’s casket was to be flown to Qunu early this morning.
Law against rogues lifted
England’s repeat rascals can breathe a little easier tonight. Being an “incorrigible rogue” is no longer against the law. The Ministry of Justice said that the offense, created in the early 19th century, was one of more than 300 obsolete offenses that had been scrapped over the past year. The 1824 Vagrancy Act was aimed at the punishment of “idle and disorderly persons,” “rogues” and “vagabonds.” It defined an “incorrigible rogue” as a homeless person who violently resisted arrest or escaped confinement.
Queen upset over nuts
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was so incensed with royal police officers eating nuts from bowls left out in the corridors of Buckingham Palace that she drew lines on the sides in a bid to catch them out, a London court heard on Thursday. In e-mails submitted to the telephone hacking trial of journalists at Rupert Murdoch’s now defunct News of the World tabloid, its royal reporter said he had learnt that a memo had been issued to all officers telling them to “keep their sticky fingers out.” It said staff had put out a selection of nuts including cashews, almonds and Bombay mix around the palace for the 87-year-old queen. “Problem is that police on patrol eat the lot. Queen so narked [annoyed] she has started marking the bowls to see where the levels dipped,” it said.
Monster lobster caught
Joseph Ali says onlookers thought he was drunk when he dove into the nighttime waters around a California pier. However, he came away with a monster of a lobster. Ali tells the Orange County Register he was closing his father’s business, Zack’s Pier Plaza, on Monday when he saw the ocean was calm and decided to dive for dinner. He was down about 4m going after a smaller lobster when he saw the giant. He says it was too big to grab properly, but it latched onto him, and he wrestled it to shore. The lobster weighed nearly 8kg — 2.3kg is considered trophy-sized — and was likely at least 30 years old.
Coloring book sells out
A coloring book featuring tea party darling Senator Ted Cruz has become a hot-selling item in the US this holiday season. The cover features the senator, a Texan who galvanized right-wingers during the budget fight that partially shut down the federal government in October. He points to a tea plant with leaves that say “gun rights,” “free enterprise” and “lower taxes.” At the very top is a leaf reading “White House.” Cruz is an ardent supporter of the right to own firearms. The book shows him hunting, among other activities. It is already in its third printing after just six days, said Wayne Bell, the founder of Really Big Coloring Books Inc, which published the book. Cruz did not cooperate in its production.