North envoy flees to South
A North Korean embassy official in Ethiopia has defected through Seoul’s diplomatic mission in Addis Ababa, YTN cable news network in Seoul said yesterday. YTN said the 40-year-old medical doctor, identified only as Kim, fled to the South Korean embassy and asked for political asylum last October. It said the defection prompted the North Korean ambassador in Ethiopia to make a protest call to his South Korean counterpart. South Korean foreign ministry officials escorted him to Seoul in early November, it said. The South’s foreign ministry declined to comment.
New probe over Japan aid
A Vietnamese official jailed for abuse of power in a scandal that led Japan to suspend aid to Vietnam is under investigation for graft in the same case, the official police newspaper said yesterday. The new probe into Huynh Ngoc Sy, a former transport official, was announced on Monday, the Cong An Nhan Dan (People’s Police) newspaper said. After finding new evidence in files received from Japanese prosecutors, Vietnamese police are investigating whether Sy received bribes of up to US$262,000 from Tokyo-based Pacific Consultants International (PCI), the Thanh Nien newspaper reported. Sy is already serving a three-year sentence after being convicted last September of abusing his position.
Japanese faces charges
A Japanese woman appeared in court yesterday on charges of trafficking 3.5kg of methamphetamines, which will see her executed if convicted. Mariko Takeuchi, 35, appeared tired and nervous during the appearance at a sessions court outside the capital Kuala Lumpur. “We have received the chemist report. It said she was carrying 3.493 grams of methamphetamines. She faces the mandatory death sentence if convicted,” her lawyer S. Prakasah told reporters outside the sessions court. The lab results reduced the amount of drugs in question from an earlier allegation of 4.7kg of methamphetamines. Judge Zulhelmy Hasan agreed to a prosecution request to transfer the case from the Sepang sessions court to the High Court, which is empowered to deal with capital cases. No date has been fixed for the start of the trial.
Court removes ban on book
The Kuala Lumpur High Court on Monday overturned a government ban on a book about Muslim women that authorities claimed was a misinterpretation of Islam and a threat to public stability, a lawyer said yesterday. The verdict marks a rare occasion that a publisher has successfully challenged the home ministry’s power to block books considered inappropriate. The court ruled that Muslim Women and the Challenge of Islamic Extremism did not pose any threat to national security, said Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a lawyer for Sisters in Islam, the Malaysian women’s advocacy group that published the book.
No more cat and dog meat
Dog and cat meat could be off the menu under China’s first law against animal abuse, the Chongqing Evening News said yesterday. People who eat either animal would face fines of up to 5,000 yuan (US$730) and up to 15 days in jail if the law is passed, the report said. It said “organizations” involved in the practice would be fined from 10,000 to 500,000 yuan. The report gave no other details.
Burton to head Cannes jury
Visionary screen storyteller Tim Burton is to head the jury at this year’s Cannes film festival from May 12 to May 23, in what the US director said “is a dream come true.” “After spending my early life watching triple features and 48-hour horror movie marathons, I’m finally ready for this,” the US director said in a statement released by the festival yesterday.
Seven ‘militants’ jailed
A court yesterday sentenced seven suspected al-Qaeda members to between five and 10 years in jail after convicting them of plotting to attack foreign interests and tourists. The seven were arrested while preparing explosives and monitoring tourist buses to attack them, police said. Their trial began on Oct. 17. They were convicted of “plotting to form an armed gang to execute criminal acts targeting foreign tourists and interests and government installments,” the verdict read.
‘Illegal’ car race kills eight
Eight Kuwaiti youths were killed and 14 others injured, seven in critical condition, when several cars collided during an unofficial car race, a security source and witnesses said yesterday. Dozens of youths were watching the race in Doha, 20km west of Kuwait City, around midnight on Monday when the accident took place, witnesses said. Two of the racing cars went astray, smashed into four other parked vehicles, hitting many spectators, which caused the number of casualties to rise, a security source said. Illegal car races are common in this affluent Gulf state where car ownership is very high.
Americans sought asylum
Government figures show that dozens of Americans and Canadians have applied for asylum in the UK in the past few years on the grounds that they were persecuted in their own countries. Home Office figures show 45 Americans and 15 Canadians tried to obtain asylum in Britain between 2004 and 2008. The British government says all of the applicants were refused. The Home Office was unable to give information explaining why.
Father stabbed over game
A man who argued with his son over Sony PlayStation tactics was recovering in hospital on Monday after the teenager stabbed him in the neck with a 40cm kitchen knife, police said. The man suffered a deep cut to the throat after his 16-year-old son, Mario, attacked him during an argument on Sunday over the soccer video game FIFA 2009. Police said the argument broke out when the 46-year-old storekeeper offered his son advice on tactics to improve his play, and then turned the television off in response to his son’s behavior. Fetching a knife from the kitchen, Mario stabbed his father in the neck before returning to clean the weapon at the kitchen sink in front of his mother and leaving it to dry on the draining board. His mother told the Il Corriere della Sera daily: “I saw Mario come back into the room, he seemed calm, he went to the sink and I noticed him washing a knife,” Monica told the newspaper. “Then my husband came into the room with a hand round his neck, dripping blood.” The teenager shut himself in his bedroom after the attack and made no attempt to resist arrest, police said. The game had been given to Mario a few days earlier, as a birthday present. “We bought him FIFA 2009 because we didn’t want him playing violent games,” his mother told Il Corriere.
Prince bids for office
Could actress Zsa Zsa Gabor be California’s next first lady? That may seem implausible, but her ninth husband, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, a German-born socialite with no previous political experience, on Monday announced his own independent campaign to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor. Von Anhalt, 65, launched his long-shot bid for office with a news conference in West Hollywood and the unveiling of a large billboard on the Sunset Strip, showing him smiling and dressed in a military-style coat adorned with various medals. Von Anhalt described himself as a longtime Republican and fiscal conservative who is liberal on social issues like gay marriage rights.
No more ‘D&D’ for inmate
A convicted murderer serving life in prison in Wisconsin has lost his legal battle to play Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) behind bars. Kevin Singer filed a lawsuit against officials at Wisconsin’s Waupun prison after a policy was initiated in 2004 to eradicate all D&D game materials among concerns that playing it promotes gang-related activity. The 33-year-old Singer is a devoted player of the fantasy role-playing game that involves recruiting others to play as a group. He argued that his First Amendment rights were being violated and demanded that D&D material confiscated from his cell be returned. The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that the prison’s policy was reasonable.
Huge Mayan head found
Archeologists have discovered a huge Mayan sculptured head that suggests a little-known site in the jungle-covered Peten region may once have been a significant city. The stucco sculpture, which is 3m wide and 3.5m tall, was buried for centuries at the Chilonche ruins, close to the border with Belize. The recent discovery of the head, which dates from the early Classic period between 300AD and 600AD, means the site is much older than previously thought. Unlike the famous Mayan cities of Tikal and El Mirador, little excavation has been carried out at Chilonche.
Picasso to be repaired
A painting by late Spanish artist Pablo Picasso accidentally damaged by a visitor last week will be repaired in time for a large exhibition of the artist’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in April. The Actor, a painting from Picasso’s rose period, will be restored at the museum’s conservation laboratory, the Met said on Monday. The accident occurred when a patron participating in an art class lost her balance and fell on the canvas, creating a 15cm tear.
Pernell Roberts passes on
Actor Pernell Roberts, who shocked Hollywood by leaving the TV Western Bonanza at the height of its popularity, then found fame again years later on Trapper John, M.D., has died. He was 81. Roberts, the last surviving member of the classic Western’s cast, died of cancer on Sunday at his Malibu home, his wife Eleanor Criswell told the Los Angeles Times. Although he rocketed to fame in 1959 as Adam Cartwright, eldest son of a Nevada ranching family led by Lorne Greene’s patriarchal Ben Cartwright, Roberts chafed at the limitations he felt his Bonanza character was given. Roberts agreed to fulfill his six-year contract but refused to extend it.
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
Former US vice president Joe Biden on Friday said he “should not have been so cavalier” after he told a radio host that African Americans who back US President Donald Trump “ain’t black.” In a call with the US Black Chamber of Commerce that was added to his public schedule, Biden said he would never “take the African American community for granted.” “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” Biden said. “No one should have to vote for any party based on their race or religion or background.” Biden faced criticism after his comments earlier on Friday on The Breakfast Club, a