King cobras go missing
Eighty-two deadly snakes have apparently been stolen from a Red Cross facility in Bangkok, and police fear they were destined for the stew pot. The 82 king cobras had been kept with other poisonous snakes at the Red Cross' compound in downtown Bangkok, where they are milked for their poison to be used as serum for snakebite medicine. On Jan. 13, workers discovered that 32 cobras were missing. A week later, 30 more were gone. After 20 more snakes went missing on Feb. 2, Red Cross veterinarian Montri Chiewbamrungkiet filed a complaint with the police.
■ North Korea
US tones down rhetoric
The US said that North Korea need not completely dismantle its nuclear weapons arsenal before receiving benefits under an aid-for-disarmament proposal offered to the Stalinist state. "I don't think anyone is asking DPRK to completely disarm ... and only then will the United States and other members of the six-party process give them benefits," senior State Department official Evens Revere said Friday. "That's not the explanation we provided to the DPRK," he said, referring to Pyongyang's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Officer urges cooperation
Tribal elders in northern Pakistan must work with the army to evict foreign terrorists in the region near Afghanistan or else the military will do it by force, a top counterterrorism commander warned. Lieutenant General Safdar Hussain told tribal leaders in Pakistan's North Waziristan region late Friday that the presence of foreign fighters endangers peace and stability in the country. "Although all tribes have signed agreements not to provide safe havens to the terrorists, credible intelligence reports suggest that a number of terrorists are still present there," a military statement quoted Hussain as saying.
Storm threatens Darwin
Darwin battened down the hatches yesterday as its worst cyclone threat since Tracy devastated the city 30 years ago tore towards it along the country's northern coast. Cyclone Ingrid, which has been terrorizing northern Australian towns for a week, regained intensity yesterday as it headed for Darwin. Meteorologists upgraded it to a category five storm, the most dangerous. With Ingrid rated more dangerous than category four Tracy, generating winds of more than 290km an hour, Pope said a cyclone warning for Darwin was imminent. On Saturday afternoon, Ingrid was around 500km east of Darwin and heading west at 20km an hour.
Pirate-fighting plans made
Malaysia may adopt British maritime counterterrorism tactics to prevent attacks by pirates and terrorists in the Malacca Strait, one of the world's most important trade routes, news reports said yesterday. The tactics, which include the use of radar to boost nighttime surveillance, could be modified for use by a new maritime agency in Malaysia that is expected to be operational by the end of the year, the reports quoted Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak as saying. "The agency's primary role is to ensure the safety of the Straits of Malacca and to respond swiftly to any crisis arising from pirate attacks or other incidents," The Star newspaper quoted Najib as telling Malaysian journalists in London.
■ United Kingdom
Troop to receive top medal
A British soldier who braved gunfire to rescue dozens of comrades in southern Iraq is to receive the first Victoria Cross, the military's top award for bravery, issued in 23 years, a report said yesterday. Private Johnston Barry, an armored vehicle driver from the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, has been approved for the honor by the Ministry of Defense, the Daily Mail reported. The 24-year-old, who was born in Grenada in the West Indies, was part of a British convoy attacked in Al-Amarah, southern Iraq, in May last year, the paper said.
Iraq shooting probe begins
Satellite phones used by Italian intelligence officers following the release of a hostage in Iraq are in the hands of Italian secret services and will be examined by experts investigating the fatal shooting of one of the agents by US troops, according to news reports. The killing of Nicola Calipari by US forces on March 4 shocked Italy, and Premier Silvio Berlusconi and other top officials have demanded an explanation from Washington. The incident also posed a problem for Berlusconi -- a staunch US ally who sent 3,000 troops to Iraq despite deep opposition from Italians.
Local elections to be held
Voters in ethnically tense Macedonia will choose local government leaders in elections today that are seen as a test of the tiny republic's aspirations to forge closer ties with Europe and escape a legacy of Balkan instability. The elections in this former Yugoslav republic -- monitored by international observers and closely watched across the region -- implement reforms granting greater local autonomy, worked out after an ethnic Albanian rebel insurgency in 2001. An internationally brokered cease-fire paved the way for the reforms, including the redrawing of Macedonia's municipal map, which will be used in elections for the first time Sunday.
Police blow up student's car
A student who removed the license plates of his car to have them straightened returned to find police had blown up the vehicle because they feared it contained a bomb, a newspaper reported Friday. Police in the southern city of Evora, located 150km of Lisbon, said they were called in Thursday after a local resident reported they saw a man quickly walk away from the car after removing both sets of license plates, the 24Horas daily said. The busy parking lot was then cordoned off and police explosives experts were called in who decided to blow up the automobile, police officer Gloria Dias told the paper. "We took adequate measures as everything indicated there was an explosive device in the car," he said.
■ The Vatican
Mountain named after Pope
A peak in the Appenines mountain range of central Italy will be given the name of Pope John Paul II on the pontiff's 85th birthday May 18, organizers said. Aldo Napoleone, president of the organizing committee, said a path would be cleared to a medieval chapel near the 2,424-meter peak, which at present has no official name. The pope, once a keen mountaineer and hiker, has made several excursions in the range, a couple of hours north of Rome.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference