More reunions proposed
The president has proposed the rival Koreas hold reunions of Korean War-divided families on a regular basis. The country has made similar proposals in the past, but President Park Geun-hye’s latest overture yesterday came after the two Koreas last month held their first reunions of families separated by the 1950 to 1953 Korean War in more than three years. Park said more, regular family reunions should be held because time is running out for elderly people separated by the war and politics. Analysts say North Korea has been reluctant to increase family reunions due to worries that doing so could open the country to influence from more affluent South Korea and threaten its grip on power.
Prostitute wins case
A prostitute has won substantial damages for sexual harassment by a brothel owner, with sex workers hailing the decision as a landmark ruling that shows the country as a world leader in protecting their rights. In what media reported as a “world first,” the Human Rights Review Tribunal awarded the 22-year-old brothel worker NZ$25,000 (US$21,000). The tribunal heard the brothel owner reportedly told the woman he could do what he liked with the women who worked for him. Over a three-month period, the older man belittled and frightened the woman until she felt unsafe and on edge, became depressed and turned to alcohol, according to the tribunal’s decision released yesterday. “The fact that a person is a sex worker is not a licence for sexual harassment — especially by the manager or employer at the brothel,” the ruling said.
Activist’s organs failing
Prominent human rights activist Cao Shunli (曹順利), detained in September last year for staging sit-ins at the foreign ministry, has organ failure and only a few days to live after being denied medical treatment in detention, said a close friend yesterday. News of Cao’s deteriorating health comes two days before the start of a session in Geneva of the UN Human Rights Council, a body to which China was elected with controversy in November last year. “Yesterday at 10 am, the hospital informed the family members to rush to the hospital and said the condition is terminal,” Liu Xiaofang (劉曉芳), a close friend of Cao, told reporters. Liu also went to the hospital and spoke with a doctor surnamed Su who was treating Cao. “He stressed one point: Cao Shunli’s situation is extremely bad and was caused by her long time in detention. He’s extremely dissatisfied with the situation and told the police: This is a person’s life, you can’t treat this as a game,” she said Cao’s kidneys were failing and the doctor told Liu she had two or three days to live. Cao staged a two-month sit-in with other activists outside the foreign ministry beginning in June to press for the public to be allowed to contribute to a national human rights report.
Pre-dawn crash kills 15
At least 15 people, including 13 children, were killed when a bus carrying students on a trip to the seaside collided with a truck in the east on Friday, police said. More than 30 others were injured in the pre-dawn accident in Prachinburi involving the double-decker bus and an 18-wheel truck, the authorities said. The students, aged 10 to 14 years old, were heading to the resort city of Pattaya from the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima.
Mapuche leader sent to jail
A court sentenced a leader of the country’s Mapuche population to 18 years in jail on Friday for a fire that killed an elderly farmer and his wife. The fire in January last year was part of a wave of attacks in in the Araucania region where the indigenous Mapuche claim historic rights. The home of Werner Luchsinger, 75, and his wife Vivianne McKay burned to the ground and their charred bodies were found inside. Celestino Cordova was convicted last week for his “unequivocal participation” in the attack. The court dismissed the government’s claim that the crime was terrorist in nature, which would have carried tougher penalties than under criminal law.
Police dog’s killer jailed
A man who killed a police dog earlier this year has been sentenced to 26 months in prison. Paul Joseph Vukmanich, 27, was high on drugs and fleeing from police in October last year, when he repeatedly stabbed the dog named Quanto. Officers had set the German shepherd loose after Vukmanich was caught driving a car with stolen plates and ran away on foot. Judge Larry Anderson said Friday that Vukmanich is also banned from owning a pet for 25 years.
Mix of drugs killed Hoffman
A toxic mix of heroin and other drugs killed Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46, New York City officials said on Friday. A spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner said Hoffman died from a mix of heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and benzodiazepines, which are drugs such as Xanax and Valium that are widely prescribed for anxiety, trouble sleeping and other problems. His death on Feb. 2 this year was ruled an accident.
EPA moves to block mine
Environmental authorities made a rare move on Friday to block a massive copper and gold mine in Alaska before it even gets under way, in a bid to protect wild salmon. The Pebble Mine project has the potential to be one of the biggest open-pit copper mines, but once built, it could threaten the exceptionally rich sockeye salmon fishery in the Bristol Bay area, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in a statement. “Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble Mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said. The EPA action could lead to an unprecedented federal ban on a mining project before the company behind it even puts in a permit request and is a victory for environmental activists, fisheries and indigenous groups who had been fighting the mining project for the past three years.
Sarcophagus lid seized
Officials have seized an ancient Roman sarcophagus lid from a New York City storage facility on behalf of Italian officials, who say it was looted from Italy decades ago. A marble statue of a reclining half-clad female is carved in the lid of the funeral box. Authorities do not know when it entered the country. Federal prosecutors said in court papers filed on Thursday the statue is believed to be one of the antiquities illegally obtained by Italian art dealer Gianfranco Becchina. Becchina was convicted in 2011 of trafficking in plundered Roman artifacts. He ran an antiquities gallery in Basel, Switzerland.