■ The Philippines
Ople gets hero's burial
The Philippines buried late foreign secretary Blas Ople at the Heroes Cemetery yesterday, a state honor it denied former dictator Ferdinand Marcos whom he had served loyally. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo dropped a white flower into Ople's grave, soldiers fired a 21-gun salvo and a helicopter showered white orchids during the ceremony at Manila's main army camp. Ople, 76, died of a heart attack in a Taiwan hospital last week after being stricken ill on a plane while on a foreign trip. Ople served Marcos for two decades as labor minister until the dictator was overthrown in a "people power" revolt in 1986.
`Terrorist' not deported
Malaysian authorities have postponed the planned deportation yesterday of an alleged senior leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group shortly before he was due to board a flight to his home country, Indonesia, where he was expected to walk free. Mohammad Iqbal Rahman, who'd been in Malaysian custody for 30 months on suspicion of militant links, never showed up for the flight despite immigration officials telling his family to prepare to join him at the airport. Iqbal's wife, Fatimah Zahrah Abdul Aziz, said she'd learned that his deportation was delayed after she'd checked in to board yesterday morning's flight from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta.
Troops destroy rebel camps
Bhutan said yesterday its troops had destroyed 28 camps set up by Indian rebels in the tiny Himalayan kingdom and were searching for militants hiding in dense forests. The Buddhist kingdom launched its biggest military offensive early last week against around 3,000 guerrillas who had set up camps in its southern jungles for their battle against New Delhi's rule in India's remote northeast. "Our security forces have taken over all the camps established in the country by the militants," Yeshey Dorji, spokesman for the foreign office, said by telephone from Bhutan.
Government blasts US
Mainly-Muslim Malaysia blasted the US government yesterday over a report accusing it of restricting religious freedom. "It is shocking for the US State Department to issue such a misleading, irresponsible and untruthful report," Deputy Information Minister Khalid Yunus said. "The whole world knows the religious freedom that exists in Malaysia, that we have close relationships and understanding among the people as far as freedom of religion is concerned," he said. Khalid urged the US government to ensure that future reports were factually correct in order not to create "unnecessary animosity" in bilateral relations.
War on drugs kills opium
Thailand's "war on drugs" launched this year has slashed opium production in the north by 80 percent to about 160 hectares, the army said according to a report yesterday. "Opium plantations have sharply decreased in the area," Lieutenant General Picharnmeth Muangmanee, commander of the Third Army which patrols the border with Myanmar, told the Bangkok Post. "This is not only because the military has destroyed more than 640 hectares of opium fields but also because of the tough anti-drug policy which has scared the hilltribespeople from growing opium poppies," he said. The Third Army launched a fresh three-month crackdown against drug crops on Dec. 18.
■ United States
Translator charges dropped
The US military has dropped three charges against a U.S. Air Force translator who worked at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp that holds al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects, but six charges, including espionage, remain in place, a military spokesman said on Saturday. Senior Airman Ahmad al Halabi of Detroit, Michigan, was arrested on July 23 and accused of carrying jail maps, letters and other sensitive documents away from Guantanamo.
President to win election
Guinea's longtime leader Lansana Conte was easily expected to win another term as president yesterday, after opposition parties boycotted the balloting, leaving a little-known parliamentarian as the only challenger for the post. Opposition leaders pulled out of the race last month, accusing Conte of plotting to rig the poll. Conte's government has denied the allegations. Conte's only opponent was Mamadou Bhoye Barry, the sole representative in parliament of the Union for National Progress, a party loosely allied with Conte's ruling Party for Unity and Progress.
■ Saudi Arabia
US sailors seize drugs
US sailors seized drugs with a minimum street value of US$3 million in the North Arabian Sea on Saturday, with the crew of an Arab sailing boat throwing bags of suspected drugs overboard as the Navy bore down on it, the US Navy 5th Fleet said. US sailors from the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea boarded two dhows, or Arab sailing boats, at dawn and detained 21 crew, the 5th Fleet said in a statement issued from its headquarters in Bahrain. A US Navy aircraft filmed the crew of one dhow throwing approximately 200 bags of suspected drugs overboard as it "attempted to outrun the interception forces," the statement said.
Leftist group raided
Police raided an alleged hideout of the radical leftist Red Brigades terrorist group on Saturday, finding a huge cache of explosives weeks after major sweeps that picked up nine people linked to the notorious organization. Authorities believe that the basement near Rome's Termini train station in central Rome had been used by Red Brigades members who have since been arrested, the ANSA news agency said. Police made no arrests on Saturday. Some 100kg of explosives were found, as well as detonators, floppy disks and Red Brigades documents, ANSA said.
■ Vatican City
Austrian miracle recognized
The Vatican on Saturday recognized a miracle performed by Charles, the last emperor of Austria and a relative of the colorful 19th-century empress "Sissi," officially setting him on the path to beatification. Beatification, in which a person is declared blessed, is a key step towards sainthood, itself attained following the Roman Catholic Church's approval of two miracles. Charles sat on the throne of the now-defunct Austro-Hungarian empire between 1916 and 1918. "He served his people with justice and charity. He sought peace, helped the poor, cultivated a spiritual life," said the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints. It gave no details on the miracle attributed to him.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
SURGE CONTINUES: India recorded its steepest spike of more than 57,000 new virus cases in 24 hours, as Vietnam went from no virus deaths to reporting three South Korean prosecutors yesterday arrested the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect as part of an investigation into allegations that the church hampered the government’s COVID-19 response after thousands of worshipers were infected in February and March. Prosecutors in the central city of Suwon have been questioning 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, over charges that the church hid some members and underreported gatherings to avoid broader quarantines. The Suwon District Court granted prosecutors’ request to arrest Lee over concerns that he could temper with evidence. Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying they are