‘The Professor’ dies aged 89
The actor who played “The Professor’’ on Gilligan’s Island, Russell Johnson, has died. His agent, Mike Eisenstadt, says Johnson died on Thursday morning at his home in Washington of natural causes. He was 89. Johnson was a busy, but little-known character actor when he was cast in the slapstick 1960s comedy about seven people marooned on an uncharted Pacific island. His character, high-school science teacher Roy Hinkley, built generators and other gadgets out of scraps of junk found on the island. Johnson later joked that the one thing the Professor never figured out how to do was to fix the leaky boat so the group could get back to civilization. During its three-season run on CBS, critics lambasted the show, but it found generations of new fans in reruns and reunion movies.
Drugs planes can be shot
Lawmakers on Friday approved legislation allowing the government to shoot down planes suspected of trafficking illegal drugs through the poor nation that has been hit by deepening gang violence. The legislation authorizes progressive use of force to make unidentified aircraft land. Only the country’s defense minister can order that a plane be shot down, the legislation said. Most of the cocaine destined for the US moves though Honduras, where Mexican drug gangs have moved in as they take increasing control over the drug trade from Colombian traffickers. The military shot down two small planes in 2012 that were suspected of carrying drugs. The incident pushed the US to suspend anti-drug radar support to authorities for about three months. Conservative Juan Hernandez was elected president in November last year after promising a tough militarized response to drug gang violence that has driven Honduras’ murder rate to the world’s highest.
Nine indicted in murder
A judge on Friday indicted nine people, including several with close ties to former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in the murder of a prominent journalist, officials said. Jean Dominique was assassinated in April 2000 in the courtyard of Radio Haiti-Inter, a station he owned. “The investigation is finished. We have officially submitted our report,” Judge Yvikel Dabresil told reporters. “Former president Aristide is not indicted,” he added, but confirmed that at least nine people, including a former senator and a former mayor of the capital Port-au-Prince, were.
President visits first lady
President Francois Hollande has visited the first lady for the first time since she was hospitalized late last week after a gossip magazine reported he was having an affair with an actress. An official at the presidential palace said on Friday that Hollande visited Valerie Trierweiler the previous evening. The 48-year-old journalist was admitted a week ago to Paris’ Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital for rest. His office said she had experienced a “crisis of nerves” upon learning of the report in Closer magazine last week that the 59-year-old president has been having an affair with Julie Gayet, 41. Europe-1 radio reported on Thursday night that Gayet told the radio station by telephone that rumors she is pregnant are untrue. Gayet has not spoken publicly about the matter, and her agent and lawyer have declined to comment on her private life.
Eighteen die in stampede
Eighteen people were killed in a stampede yesterday as tens of thousands gathered to mourn the death of a spiritual leader in India’s financial capital, police said. At least 40 other people were injured in the pre-dawn stampede when mourners thronged the home of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, the head of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community, Mumbai Police Commissioner Satya Pal Singh said. Burhanuddin died on Friday at the age of 102. Indian TV stations showed tens of thousands of white-clad mourners in the streets of Malabar Hill, an upmarket neighborhood in south Mumbai. Singh said the stampede occurred when the gates leading to the leader’s house were closed at about 1am. The crowds surged forward, with many people getting crushed near the gates and with no way to escape.
Pilot whales beached
More than 50 pilot whales beached themselves yesterday on the same remote New Zealand coast where another 52 whales have either died or been put down in the past two weeks.The Farewell Spit beach, at the top of the South Island, is a renowned death trap for whales. Of the 53 whales in the latest stranding, 13 were dead and efforts were being made to refloat the remaining 40. Regional department of conservation manager John Mason said he believes the whales were from the same pod herded out to sea after another stranding during the week. Farewell Spit, about 150km from the tourist city of Nelson, is frequently the scene of mass strandings by pilot whales, with scientists unsure why they swim ashore in large groups.
Manado flood kills 17
The death toll from rain-triggered landslides and flash floods on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island has climbed to 17. National Search and Rescue Agency operational chief Tatang Zainuddin said rescuers were still looking for about 15 people believed to be buried under a landslide outside Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi province. Days of torrential rains caused landslides and flash floods in Manado and surrounding areas on Wednesday. Zainuddin aid the death toll rose to 17 on Friday when the body of the chief of a local public health center was pulled from the debris. More than 1,000 houses were flooded by overflowing rivers in the region, forcing about 10,000 displaced people into temporary shelters. The government on Friday declared a two-week emergency response to cope with the disaster.
Activist’s trial date set
Chinese dissident Xu Zhiyong (許志永) is to go on trial on Wednesday on charges of disrupting public order, his lawyer said on Friday. Xu is a prominent legal activist who founded the New Citizens’ Movement, a loose network of campaigners on a variety of social issues including corruption and equal access to education. At least six other activists associated with Xu’s group have been charged and are also expected to be tried soon. Xu’s lawyer, Zhang Qingfang (張慶方), said he and another lawyer met on Friday with prosecutors, who rejected their protests over the charges. He said the trial would be held at Beijing’s Intermediary Court. Zhang said no media or outside observers will be allowed to attend.The charge of disrupting public order appears to be linked to Xu’s call for people to hold monthly dinners to discuss China’s constitution and other issues.
Stunned nun, 31, bears son
A Salvadorean nun who said she had no idea she was pregnant gave birth in Italy this week after she felt stomach cramps in her convent and was rushed to hospital, Italian media reported on Friday. The 31-year-old mother and her boy, who weighs 3.5kg, are doing well and other new mothers in Rieti hospital have begun collecting clothes and donations for her, the reports said. “I did not know I was pregnant. I only felt a stomach pain,” the nun was quoted as saying at the hospital, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. La Repubblica said she gave birth on Wednesday. ANSA said the nun had named her baby Francesco (Francis) — also the pope’s chosen title and one of the most popular names in Italy, where Saint Francis of Assisi is the much-loved national patron saint. The nun belongs to the “Little Disciples of Jesus” convent in Campomoro near Rieti, which manages an old people’s home. Reports said she would keep the baby. Her fellow nuns were quoted as saying they were “very surprised.”
Restaurant attack injures 7
At least seven people were reported injured on Friday when a restaurant came under attack in a southern Russian republic that is home to insurgents who have threatened to strike next month’s Winter Games in Sochi. “The first explosion came when a grenade launcher fired at the second floor of the restaurant. The second came when a parked car blew up,” an interior ministry source in the mostly Muslim North Caucasus republic of Dagestan was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS. The unidentified security source had initially said that the incident in the republic’s capital Makhachkala had led to several fatalities. However, the republic’s interior ministry quickly issued an official statement saying that no one had been killed. The Interfax news agency quoted its own local interior ministry source as saying that five civilians and two policeman had been injured in the violence.
Viking ship lands at museum
More than a millennium after it sailed the seas, the remnants of the longest Viking warship ever discovered have traveled to the British Museum. The 37m wooden longboat discovered on the banks of a fjord in Roskilde, Denmark, in 1997 is the centerpiece of “Vikings: Life and Legend,” which opens at the London museum on March 6. The ship has been dated to about 1025 and may have been used by Cnut the Great, who ruled a Viking empire taking in England, Denmark and Norway. The museum on Friday showed journalists the remains of the ship, which consists of a modern steel frame holding surviving timbers of about a fifth of the vessel. The exhibition runs at the British Museum to June 22, and moves to Berlin in September.
Rhino poaching hits record
A total of 1,004 rhinos were poached for their horns in South Africa last year, a record number and an increase of more than 50 percent from the previous year, the country’s department of environmental affairs said on Friday. Rhino hunting is driven by soaring demand in newly affluent Asian countries such as Vietnam and China, where the animal’s horns are prized as a key ingredient in traditional medicine. Rhino horn has a street value of more than US$65,000 per kilogram (NT$1.9 million) in Asia, conservation groups say, making it more valuable than platinum, gold or cocaine.