Cherry blossom in bloom
It’s officially cherry blossom season again in Tokyo. The Japanese Meteorological Agency said yesterday that the country’s capital was officially in bloom, a closely watched announcement that marks the start of the yearly cherry blossom viewing season. The annual rite of spring goes back hundreds of years and involves sitting under sakura trees and taking in the fluffy pink flowers, which drop off about a week after they appear. In Tokyo, residents flock to parks to lay down tarps and claim the best spots, then host elaborate picnics and long drinking sessions. Japan designates certain trees for monitoring and considers a region to be in bloom when at least five or six flowers can be counted on the trees.
Sex offenders deported
Seoul has revised its immigration rules to impose a lifetime ban on convicted foreign sex offenders and has already deported two people accordingly, a news report said on Sunday. The justice ministry revised the rules last month so as to deport foreigners who have committed sex offenses in the country or elsewhere, Yonhap news agency said, citing a ministry official. “A foreigner convicted of a sex offense here or in any other countries will immediately be deported and will never be allowed to come back to South Korea,” the official said, adding that two people had been deported as a result.
Laborer killed, head burned
A laborer was murdered by brick-field workers who burned his head in a kiln in the belief this would redden their bricks, police said on Sunday. Four suspects were arrested for beheading the 26-year-old bricklayer in a remote town in the north on the instructions of the brick-field’s owners, local police chief Golam Sarwar Bhuiyan said. “They said the owners were unhappy as the brick-field was not producing reddish bricks despite enough heating. A fortune teller then suggested that the brick-field needed a human sacrifice,” he said. Police were searching for the owners and the fortune teller, he said.
US drones kill four people
Suspected US drones fired missiles at a house and a car in a militant-dominated tribal region near the Afghan border, killing at least four people. The attack on Sunday occurred in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, two intelligence officials said. The identities of those killed were not known, though the region is dominated by the Taliban’s Haqqani network, which is blamed for launching attacks across the border against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Airplane crash lands
An airplane with nine crew on board made a crash landing not far from Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport, news agencies reported yesterday, quoting airport officials. The Tu-204 aircraft, flying from Egypt, “had nine people on board, all crew members were alive, but two were hospitalized in serious condition,” Domodedovo’s spokeswoman Elena Galanova said as quoted by Interfax said. The emergency situations ministry said that four crew were injured. The airplane, which landed in a forest 1km away from the airport, caused no damage, they said.
Poker heist suspect nabbed
Police say a fourth man accused of taking part in a brazen daylight raid on a poker tournament in Berlin has been arrested. Berlin police spokeswoman Claudia Schwaiger said on Sunday that the 19-year-old suspect was arrested at Tegel airport on Saturday night after his lawyer told police he was there. Authorities had been hunting for four suspects who they said were armed with a revolver and a machete when they stormed the tournament on March 6 at a downtown Berlin hotel and made off with 242,000 euros (US$$327,860) in jackpot money. Images of the masked men had been captured on surveillance cameras. Two other suspects were arrested last week.
Navy ship drifting at sea
The Interfax news agency said a surveillance ship was drifting in the Sea of Japan after taking on water. The agency cited an unnamed representative of the Pacific Fleet as saying the ship Pribaltika reported that water was coming into its engine room, forcing shutdown of the main engine. The report said the ship was being taken by currents toward the Japanese island of Tsushima. There are about 170 crew aboard the ship, the report said. A spokesman for the Russian navy, Captain Igor Dygalo, declined immediate comment.
Israeli journalist released
An Israeli journalist detained by border guards a week ago has been released and repatriated, the Israeli embassy said yesterday. Yotam Feldman, 30, told police he had entered the neighboring portion of the Sinai peninsula legally to track African migrants seeking work or asylum in Israel when arrested. Israel’s Army Radio said Feldman flew to Tel Aviv at midnight and was met by Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai. Feldman’s father, civil liberties lawyer Avigdor Feldman, told the radio his son had been beaten by police. The Sinai border is a major transit route for African migrants and refugees seeking work or asylum in Israel.
Debtor shoots wife, kids
A distraught debtor shot and killed his wife and two daughters in a Moscow apartment to spare them the burden of his financial misery, the Interfax news agency reported, quoting a police source. The man, identified as Yuri Merkind, then boarded a train and headed more than an hour out of Moscow before surrendering himself and his pistol to police in Vladimir, about 190km east of the capital. Investigators found many receipts of debts owed in the apartment as well as a note apparently by Merkind on which he wrote: “We voluntarily left this life.” The bodies of Merkind’s wife and daughters, aged six and 16, were discovered on Saturday by his son, who was on home leave from the military, investigators said.
War photographer dies
CNN photojournalist Margaret Moth, who survived a near-fatal gunshot wound to the face while filming in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the wars there in the early 1990s, has died. She was 59. CNN spokesman Nigel Pritchard confirmed that Moth died on Sunday in Minnesota, where she was in hospice care. A CNN obituary said she had suffered from colon cancer for three years. Moth was seriously wounded by sniper fire that hit a CNN van in July 1992 in Sarajevo. After several reconstructive surgeries, she returned to the war-torn country two years later, a documentary on her life said.
Two students killed
Two men killed in a shootout between soldiers and gunmen near a prestigious university in the north were graduate students, not suspected drug traffickers, officials said. The victims were studying engineering at Monterrey Tech University, Nuevo Leon state Attorney General Alejandro Garza y Garza said. Army officials mistakenly told state prosecutors that two suspected gunmen died in Friday’s clash, Garza y Garza said late on Saturday. Monterrey Tech University rector Rafael Rangel said in a news release that both students had scholarships for academic excellence and had been at the college minutes before the shootout.
Aftershocks hit Concepcion
Two powerful aftershocks sent people scrambling out of their homes on Sunday in the coastal city of Concepcion, which took the brunt of last month’s massive earthquake, but no tsunami alert was needed, officials said. The magnitude 5.7 aftershocks were centered offshore, 56km west of Concepcion, at a depth of 35km, the navy’s oceanographic observatory said. The national emergency agency, meanwhile, said the aftershocks were below the tsunami-generating threshold, so no tsunami warning was issued.
Residents torch city hall
Hundreds of angry residents in a town have torched the city hall to protest the death of two teenagers in a police chase. Television footage shows residents attacking the municipal headquarters in Baradero, 100km north of Buenos Aires. The 16 and 17-year-olds died on Sunday, apparently after police tried to stop them for riding a motorcycle without helmets. Police Major Aldo Carossi said witnesses told officers the youths tried to flee. A police truck and the motorcycle crashed during the ensuing pursuit, killing the teens.
Tyson’s pigeons investigated
An animal welfare group wants New York City prosecutors to investigate Mike Tyson’s reality TV show about pigeon racing. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said the Brooklyn-based show was cruel to animals and its races could involve illegal gambling. The show will follow Tyson as he competes in pigeon races. The former world heavyweight champion has raised pigeons all his life, but is a racing rookie. The show is scheduled to air next year on Animal Planet. A spokeswoman said there had never been plans for wagering on the races. She said the pigeons would be “cherished and respected by their owners,” including Tyson. PETA sent a letter last Tuesday to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office requesting an investigation. District attorney spokesman Jonah Bruno said the office was looking into the allegations.
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
PAPAL POLITICS? The controversial Australian prelate’s return to Rome comes just days after the pope fired one of his most powerful opponents over a financial scandal Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ former finance minister, is to soon return to the Vatican during an extraordinary economic scandal for the first time since he was cleared of child abuse allegations in Australia five months ago, a church agency said yesterday. Pell is to fly back to Rome today, CathNews, an information agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said, citing “sources close to” Pell. Pell’s return follows Francis last week firing one of the cardinal’s most powerful opponents, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, over a financial scandal. Pell was regarded as the third-highest-ranking Vatican official and was attempting to wrestle the Holy See’s