Bomb blast kills seven
At least seven people, including a child, were killed yesterday in a bomb attack on a police van taking officers to guard polio vaccination teams in the northwest. The blast in Sir Dheri, about 30km north of Peshawar, came a day after gunmen killed three polio workers in Karachi. Police said that up to 5kg of explosives were used in the bomb, which was detonated remotely. An official of the district administration confirmed that the police team was on its way to provide security to polio workers when it came under attack.
HRW criticizes policy
Human Rights Watch (HRW) yesterday said the nation has damaged its human rights record by persistently undercutting refugee protections, including a “draconian” policy to send asylum seekers to Pacific island camps. The international group’s annual World Report said successive governments had prioritized domestic politics over international legal obligations towards asylum seekers, who faced “draconian new policies” diverting them to third countries. “2013 did really represent a new low in the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers for Australia,” HRW Australia director Elaine Pearson told reporters in Jakarta at a launch of the report.
Labor leader remembered
Trade unionists yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of prominent labor leader Chea Vichea, defying a government ban on rallies following a deadly crackdown on garment workers earlier this month. Chea Vichea, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, was gunned down in 2004 in broad daylight at a Phnom Penh newsstand — a killing decried by activists as an attempt to silence his union. More than 100 people marched to a park where a statue of Chea Vichea stands just meters from the spot where he was killed.
Ex-spy boss sentenced
A court yesterday sentenced the former head of the National Intelligence Service to two years in prison for taking bribes. Won Sei-hoon, who resigned in March last year after four years at the head of the agency, was convicted of accepting 160 million won (US$150,000) in bribes from the former head of a construction company while in office. “Heavy punishment is inevitable because the nature of the crime is severe,” Seoul Central District Court judge Lee Bum-kyun said. Won also faces charges in a separate case of meddling in the 2012 presidential election by allegedly organizing an online smear campaign against the opposition party candidate.
Expat apologizes for posts
A Porsche-driving British man who referred to public transport commuters as “poor people” has apologized after his Facebook posts sparked an online furor. Anton Casey, a 39-year-old senior wealth manager, had also referred to washing “the stench of public transport off me” in one of his posts. Furious online readers flooded Web sites on which his remarks were reposted with comments, many of which subjected him and his family to verbal abuse. “I would like to extend a sincere apology to the people of Singapore,” Casey said in a statement issued through a public relations firm on Tuesday. “I have the highest respect and regard for Singapore and the good people of Singapore; this is my home.” He is a permanent resident of the city-state and married to a former local beauty queen.
Soros extends his support
Financier and philanthropist George Soros has extended his financial support for the nation by establishing the first in a series of “solidarity centers” for people worst hit by the economic crisis. The center in Thessaloniki, a hub for non-governmental organizations offering healthcare and legal counsel, has been deluged with requests already. Soros committed US$1 million for heating oil last year after mayors, unable to warm up schools, appealed for help. He has provided support for heating oil to 190 institutions, including orphanages, nurseries and homes for the elderly.
Leading author outs himself
Binyavanga Wainaina, one of Africa’s leading literary figures, has responded to a wave of recent anti-gay laws on the continent by publicly outing himself in a short story. The author and founder of the influential Nairobi-based literary journal Kwani said he would continue to travel to Nigeria, where gay and lesbian people face arrest and up to 14 years in prison under new legislation; and Uganda, where lawmakers passed a bill imposing life sentences for homosexual acts. “I’m a pan-Africanist — I belong to this continent,” Wainaina said.
Students kills assistant
A Purdue University engineering student opened fire inside a basement classroom on Tuesday, killing a teaching assistant and prompting officials to put the campus in West Lafayette, Indiana, on lockdown. Cody Cousins, who is believed to have targeted 21-year-old senior Andrew Boldt, surrendered to a police officer within minutes of the attack, Purdue Police Chief John Cox said. Investigators were trying to determine a motive for the shooting, which happened at about noon.
Snowden denies Russian aid
Former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden said he acted alone in leaking government secrets and that suggestions by some lawmakers he might have had help from Russia were “absurd,” The New Yorker magazine reported on Tuesday. In an interview the magazine said was conducted by encrypted means from Moscow, Snowden was quoted as saying: “This ‘Russian spy’ push is absurd.” Snowden said he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no help from anyone, much less a government.” US Representative Mike Rogers said on Sunday he was investigating whether Snowden had help from Russia in stealing and revealing US government secrets.
Haiti envoy pleads for funds
UN special envoy Pedro Medrano warned yesterday that cholera deaths in Haiti will surge and spread to other countries unless more funds are found to battle the epidemic. More than 8,330 people have already died from the cholera epidemic that started in 2010 that many blame on UN peacekeepers in the country. Medrano said cash is lacking for purification tablets, antibiotics and staff.
Ford back on the booze
A new video surfaced on Tuesday showing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in an apparent drunken stupor. The clip shot in a fast-food restaurant depicts Ford slurring his words, swearing and sometimes breaking into Jamaican patois. Confronted by reporters, Ford acknowledged the footage was shot late on Monday and admitted he had been drinking. “A little bit, yeah,” he said.