April 21, 2009

London taxi driver jailed for drugging and assulting female passengers

The Star Tribune reported a London taxi driver who repeatedly drugged and sexually assaulted female passengers was sentenced Tuesday to at least eight years in prison.

John Worboys, 51, of Rotherhithe, London, offered his female passengers champagne, claiming he had won cash gambling and invited the women to celebrate with him by having a drink. There were sedatives mixed in with the champagne, the Star Tribune said.

The BBC News reported Worboys was convicted of one rape, five sexual assaults, one attempted assault and 12 drugging charges committed from July 2007 to February 2008.

Worboys targeted single women how had been out drinking in London's West End, the BBC said.

The Star Tribune reported that some of the women had seamen stains on their clothes and police found DNA from other victims at Worboys’ home.

The Star Tribune reported that Worboys has been linked to at least 85 crimes. He was found guilty last month of assaulting 12 women after denying the charges.

Worboys’ assaults were particularly upsetting because they happened inside one of London’s black cabs, which are known to be a safe alternative to unregulated cabs, The Star Tribune said.

Justice David Penry-Davey told Worboys that “drivers of licensed black cabs have a worldwide reputation for their trustworthiness - you saw the opportunity of exploiting that trust and sexually abusing young women.”

The Star Tribune reported that Worboys’ assaults could have been stopped when he was arrested in July 2007 after a 19-year-old student reported Worboys forcing her to take a pill after the two shared a drink. Police did not perform drug tests or search Worboys’ home or car.

Worboys was released on bail after the 2007 attack and went on to commit 14 further offences, the BCC News said.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating why he was released.

Worboys has been banned serving as a taxi driver. The money he had raised from the black cab will be split among the victims.

April 15, 2009

Most-wanted Colombian drug-trafficker captured

The Associated Press reported that Colombian officials said that one of the most wanted drug dealers in Colombia, who was accused of offering his assassins a $1,000 bounty for each police officer they killed, was arrested Wednesday.

Daniel Rendon Herrera, 43, better known by his alias, "Don Mario," was arrested in the city of Apartado in a jungle raid involving over 300 police officers, presidential spokesman Cesar Velasquez told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Brazil.

Herrera is wanted in the United States on drug-trafficking charges as well, Drug Enforcement Administration Chief of Intelligence Anthony Placido said.

The Associated Press reported that Colombian officials were offering a $2 million reward for information leading to Herrera’s arrest. Police said Herrera was the main leader of Colombia’s drug-trafficking, right-wing paramilitary groups.

Police accused Herrera of offering his assassins $1,000 for every police officer they killed, the Associated Press said.

In the 1980s far-right paramilitary groups were formed to counter leftist rebel groups’ acts of kidnapping and extortion. These two groups eventually evolved into regional mafias, the Associated Press said.

The Associated press reported that these two groups are accused of committing over 10,000 murders and stealing millions of acres of land, sometimes with the help of local political, business and military leaders.

President Alvaro Uribe announced Herrera’s capture without saying his name. He told reporters that they had captured "one of the most feared drug traffickers in the world ... after long months of patient pursuit."

April 9, 2009

Father demands release of Am. jouranlist imprisioned in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran - The Star Tribune reported the father of an American journalist imprisoned in Iran and charged with espionage said Thursday that he will not leave the country until his daughter is released.

Roxana Saberi, 31, is a dual American-Iranian citizen. She was arrested in late January and was accused of working without press credentials. On Wednesday, an Iranian judge charged Saberi with spying for the United States, the Star Tribune said.

“I demand them to release my daughter as soon as possible so that she can return to her normal life and continue her job,” Saberi's father told The Associated Press. “I will stay here until she is freed.”

Saberi has been living in Iran for the last six years, working as a freelance reporter. She has reported for organizations including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp., the Star Tribune said.

The Star Tribune reported that the U.S. government has been pressing for Saberi’s release.

The U.S. government said Saberi is an American citizen. Although she grew up in Fargo, N.D., the Iranian judge told TV that they have not confirmed her American nationality, the Star Tribune said.

“She is certainly an American national,” her father told Star Tribune. “She also came to Iran and received an Iranian ID card and passport and according to Iranian law, she is Iranian too. She is actually a dual citizen.”

The Star Tribune reported that Iran accused Saberi of passing classified information to U.S. intelligence services.

“Under the cover of a journalist, she visited government buildings, established contacts with some of the employees, gathered classified information and sent it to the U.S. intelligence services,” the Iranian judge said Wednesday. “Her activities were discovered by the counterespionage department of the Intelligence Ministry,” he added.

Saberi’s father, Reza Saberi, was born in Iran. Him and his wife arrived in Iran Sunday and visited their daughter Monday at the Evin prison located north of Tehran. Evin is well known for holding political prisoners, the Star Tribune said.

Saberi’s parents were allowed to visit Monday for about 20 minutes. After visiting his daughter, Reza said she was “spiritually better than before” and that he has hope.

Human rights groups have criticized Iran for arresting journalists, saying it suppresses the freedom of speech. Iran has arrested several Iranian-American journalists in the past few years, accusing them of attempting to overthrow the Iranian government.

March 31, 2009

Migrant boat sinks off coast of Libya

The Associated Press reported that an overcrowded boat packed with migrants capsized Friday off the coast of Libya, leaving 20 dead and over 200 missing.

The boat’s capacity was 50, but about 250 people were aboard. The boat overturned about 30 miles of the coast of Libya, a very heavily travel route for migrants trying to reach Italy, Laurence Hart, an official of The International Organization for Migration, told The Associated Press.

“The boats have been stripped of everything to pack as many people in as possible so there are no life jackets,” Jean-Philippe Chauzy, a spokesman for International Organization for Migration, which is headquartered in Geneva, told the New York Times. “The option of survival is fairly limited.”

The New York Times reported that every year thousands of poverty-stricken people attempt to cross from Libya to Italy in hopes of finding work.

More than 20 people were rescued from the boat and 20 bodies were recovered on Sunday. Other boats were traveling in the same area when the storm struck.

"The second boat has vanished and only 21 were rescued and those were the ones who were able to swim," Libyan police spokesman Col. Najy Abou Harous told the Associated Press. "We found 21 other corpses. The rest are believed dead.”

The boats are not made to carry such large numbers of passengers.

"The boat capacity is 40 to 50 and the smugglers packed it with hundreds. These are wooden fishing boats, not for sailing," Harous said.

This time of year is considered the beginning of smuggling season in the Mediterranean Sea, according to Ron Redmond, chief spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The New York Times reported that in the past, smugglers suspended crossing the waters during the winter months due to the dangerous waters, however, due to the dwindling economy, “it is no longer a seasonal trend. It’s ongoing,” Chauzy said. “The arrivals on Lampedusa are regular.”

Lampedusa is a small island between the coasts of North Africa and Sicily that serve as a crossing point from Africa to Italy, where illegal immigrants have landed and try save money in order to reach Europe.

According to the International Organization for Migration, nearly 37,000 people crossed from North Africa to Lampedusa in 2008, the New York Times.

March 27, 2009

China bans YouTube

CNN reported that China blocked YouTube without an explanation earlier this week.

By early Wednesday the there was an error message, not allowing access to YouTube.

“We do not know the reason for the blockage and we are working as quickly as possible to restore access to our users,” said Scott Rubin, a spokesman for Google, which owns YouTube.

The Star Tribune reported that the cause for the blocked site might be because supporters of the Dalai Lama had fabricated a video that appeared to show Chinese police officers beating Tibetans after riots last year in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.

This isn’t the first time China has blocked YouTube. In March 2008, China blocked YouTube during riots in Tibet, CNN said.

Other news media has been routinely blocked in China as well. Voice of America and the New York Times have been blocked by the Chinese government, along with censored television broadcasts including those by the BCC and CNN, especially when reporting on topics such as its policy in Tibet and Taiwan, CNN said.

CNN reported that the Chinese government did not directly say they blocked YouTube.

However, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang told CNN on Tuesday that, “China is not afraid of the Internet. We manage the Internet according to law … to prevent the spread of harmful information.”

China is not the only country to block YouTube. It has also been blocked for periods of time in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Turkey, the Star Tribune said.

March 13, 2009

Australian beaches declared disaster zone

The Star Tribune reported that Australian authorities declared a stretch of popular beaches along the coast a disaster zone Friday after tons of fuel oil leaked out of a cargo ship.

The government of northeastern Queensland state denied acting on the situation to late. A threat of a multi-million dollar lawsuit towards the shipping companies has been made, the Star Tribune said.

The possibility for long-term environmental damage is unsure. The Great Barrier Reef was not threatened; the affected area was further north of this region, the Star Tribune said.

The Star Tribune reported that wildlife authorities said that the only animals affected so far have been a handful of birds. However, animal conditions could get worse the longer the oil is on the beaches.

According to Britain's Swire Shipping Ltd., the Hong Kong-registered ship's owner, the containers aboard the ship had slipped from the deck as it rocked in the rough waters, ripping a hole in a fuel tank and spilling more than 11,000 gallons of fuel oil into the sea. The company later said that a diver who inspected the ship determined that the amount of oil leaked was “significantly more” than that, but no exact numbers have been reported.

The ship was brought to the port leaking. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said that the ship would not be allowed to leave until the circumstances of the spill have been explained, the Star Tribune said.

"We have detained the ship," authority chairman Graham Peachey told reporters. "It's not going anywhere until we release it."

March 3, 2009

Man accused of beheading pleads not guilty

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – The Associated Press reported that a man accused of beheading and cannibalizing a fellow passenger on Greyhound bus plead not guilty.

Vince Li’s murder trial began Tuesday. Li, a Chinese immigrant, is being tried for second-degree murder in the case of the death of Tim McLean, a 22-year-old carnival worker. The Star Tribune reported that McLean’s death was “a random, horrific attack.”

Li apologized to authorities and asked to be killed.

“I'm sorry. I'm guilty. Please kill me,” Li said in a statement, reported by the Star Tribune.

Li’s lawyers argue that he was mentally ill and not criminally responsible. The Star Tribune reported that a psychiatrist told the court Li is schizophrenic and believed God told him to do it.

According to statements from by-standing passengers, Li attacked McLean for “no apparent reason,” stabbing him several dozen times, the Star Tribune said.

Li attacked McLean at night while traveling along the Trans-Canada Highway in western Canada, the Star Tribune said.

The Star Tribune reported that as passengers fled in fear, Li severed McLean’s head and displayed it to some passengers outside. A police report said that Li cut off pieces of McLean’s body and ate them during this act.

Li allegedly tried to flea the bus several times but was locked inside. He then escaped through a window and was later arrested, the Star Tribune said.

The Associated Press reported that McLean’s mother wants the law changed so that anyone who commits a crime that is not criminally responsible will still serve jail time.

February 23, 2009

Explosion Kills 74 Miners

GUJIAO, CHINA – At least 74 people were killed after a coal mine explosion on Sunday in northern China, the Star Tribune reported.

The New York Times reported that this explosion was China’s deadliest coal-mining explosion since last year.,%20CHINA&st=cse

The coal mine is located in Tunlan, which is in Shanxi Province. The New York Times reported that Xinhua, the state news agency, said the blast occurred at 2:17 a.m. The mine was run by Shanxi Coking Coal Group, one of China’s leading producers of coking coal, the New York Times said.

The Star Tribune reported that 436 miners were inside the mine when the blast occurred. At least 74 died and 114 were hospitalized, including six that are in critical condition.

The minors that were trapped underground were found by late Sunday, the Star Tribune reported. It is unknown if all the bodies have been found.

Most the survivors were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, the Star Tribune said.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation.

The New York Times reported that China’s mining industry is the most dangerous in the world. The New York Times reported that the Chinese government has said that 80 percent of the 16,000 mines in China are operating illegally.

“Coal mines often experience the most serious accidents because so many of them are operating illegally,” Zhao Tiechui, a senior official in charge of coal mine supervision said. “The industry also sees the most frequent covering-up of accidents.”

February 19, 2009

3 Men Acquitted in Murder of Journalist

MOSCOW – The New York Times reported that three men were acquitted Thursday in the murder of a Russian journalist.

Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police investigator, were charged with the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian investigative reporter. The Moscow jury unanimously ruled to acquit the three men Thursday in hopes of laying the case to rest.

Politkovskaya, 48, was found dead in her apartment on Oct. 7, 2006 with a Makarov 9-millimeter pistol at her side, the New York Times said. The Russian Prime Minister at the time, Vladimir V. Putin, kept the event silent for three days, the New York Times reported.

Politkovskaya was a critic of the Kremlin. She was known for covering Moscow's war in Chechnya, which she characterized as “state versus group terrorism.” Politkovskaya documented massacre, torture, and the selling of corpse of soldiers to families for proper Islamic burial practices, the New York Times said.

The New York Times reported that investigators and colleagues of Politkovskaya concluded that she had been ordered to death in order to silence her, and some suspected state officials were involved.

“If the decision had been otherwise, it would mean that the real criminals, who are somewhere among us, could continue what they were doing,” Murad Musayev, the lawyer defending Dzhabrail Makhmudov, one of the Chechen brothers, told New York Times. “The only way to stop these crimes is to find the real criminals.”

A total of 10 men were arrested in connection with Politkovskaya’s murder. Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov were the three men charged with murder. Prosecutors believe a third brother, Rustam, shot Politkovskaya, but he has not been arrest. Police believe he is hiding.

Col. Pavel A. Ryaguzov is an official from the F.S.B., the domestic successor to the K.G.B., and was accused of having ties with the case.

“The fact that no one at all has been held accountable for this murder sends a very clear message to potential perpetrators: You can do it, and you can get away with it,” Tatyana Lokshina, deputy director of the Human Rights Watch Moscow bureau, told New York Times.

February 10, 2009

Australia's worst fires, death count may exceed 200

The New York Times reported that it could take months for the nearly 200 victims caught in the Southern Australian fires to be identified.

Police have confirmed 181 deaths. The state’s premier, John Brumby, said 50 people remain missing, exceeding the death toll over 200 said the New York Times.

It is unknown whether arsonists were involved in the worst fire that destroyed towns northeast of Melbourne, which killed 147 people.

Christine Nixon, the Victorian state police commissioner, told a local radio station on Tuesday that the fires that swept through the eastern region of Gippsland, killing 21 people, was deliberately set, and that police “believe there may be more.?

The New York Times reported that there are some suspects for certain cases and if arsonists are arrested they could be charged with murder charges.

Thousands of people were left homeless and in need of assistance. Over 900 homes were destroyed said the New York Times.

The New York Times reported that officials are being criticized for failing to notify and evacuate residents. Mass evacuations are rarely ordered, but residents are encouraged to create and follow a fire plan in emergency situations.

Survivors told New York Times that there was no time for an orderly evacuation.

Firefighters continue to battle two-dozen wildfires burning uncontrollably said the New York Times.

February 5, 2009

Phelps faces criminal charges for marijuana use

The Star Tribune reported that Michael Phelps might be facing criminal charges after a British tabloid printed a photo of him inhaling from a marijuana pipe.

The picture was taken when Phelps visited the University of South Carolina in Columbia while at a house party last November. It was first printed in News of the World.

The News of the World reported that Phelps went to the university unannounced to visit Jordan Mathews, a girl he was secretly seeing at the time.

According to the Star Tribune it is unknown if the party was on campus grounds. The Richland County Police can pursue charges as long as it took place within county limits.

The New York Times reported that Phelps apologized for his behavior. He admitted the photo was authentic.

“I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment,? Phelps told New York Times. “I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.?

This isn’t Phelps first encounter with police. The News of the World reported that Phelps was charged with driving under the influence in 2004, receiving 18 months probation at the age of 19.

Phelps’ endorsements might be at stake. According to the New York Times, Gary Hall Jr., a United States swimmer who won four medals at the 1996 Olympics, was suspended for three months after he tested positive for marijuana. The current World Anti-Doping Agency code doesn’t consider cannabis a banned substance when the swimmers are not in competition session.

After charged, Hall lost all of his endorsement deals. What’s in store for Phelps?

“We have been in touch with those sponsors,? the United States Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel told New York Times, “and let them know that we’re disappointed and that going forward we expect different and better conduct.?

Lt. Chris Cowan, a member of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, is determined to press charges.

“The bottom line is, if he broke the law, and he did it in Richland County, he's going to be charged,? Cowan told Star Tribune.

February 3, 2009

Ban on Funding for Abortion Lifted

The New York Times reported that President Barack Obama lifted the abortion ban of using federal dollars by non-governmental organizations to provide and discuss abortions in family-planning centers outside the United States on Jan. 23 reversing George W. Bush’s policy.

The former policy, also known as the “Mexico City Policy,? was created by Reagan, continued through George Bush Sr.’s presidency, was uplifted by Clinton, was re-implemented by George W. Bush, and finally uplifted once again by Obama. It required that all non-governmental organizations agreed to “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations? before receiving funds from the United States according to Fox News.

Organizations, such as Plan Parenthood, welcomed Obama’s decision to uplift the ban. “No longer will health care providers be forced to choose between receiving family planning funding and restricting the health care services they provide to women," it told the New York Times.

Other pro-life activists weren’t as pleased. “Planned Parenthood is a billion-dollar company and they do not need additional resources to burden the American taxpayer,? told Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, to the New York Times.

The New York Times reported that the United States spends over $400 million each year on family-planning organizations overseas. With the anti-abortion ban uplifted, there is fear that Americans’ tax money is being spent in the wrong areas of interest at a time of financial crisis.

Obama and many supporters believe otherwise. “For the past eight years, (the restrictions) have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries,? Obama said in a statement that was printed in a New York Times’ Jan. 23 article.

To keep controversial outburst at a minimum, Obama waited until after the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling on Jan. 22, marking 36 years since abortion was legalized in all 50 states.

January 30, 2009

Afghanistan's first skateboard school

The New York Times reported Oliver Percovich, 34, of Australia plains to open the first skateboarding school in Kabul, Afghanistan after approval from authorities.

Percovich moved to Kabul with his girlfriend, a researcher, in 2007. He spent his days skateboarding around town, which caught eyes of many Afghan children.

He has spent two years establishing the skateboarding school, Skateistan. There have been several set backs to his plans.

In Nov. a car was bombed only 20 yards from the skate site, making people question the children’s safety. However, Percovich continued to teach skateboarding classes.

Percovich told New York Times that his goal is to bring together children of different social classes and ethnic backgrounds. Certain cultural standards interfere with this.

When young Afghan females reach puberty, they are no longer to mix with males. This is called veil. Percovich believes he can overcome this obstacle by providing classes separating the girls and boys in the new indoor skate complex.

Percovich has raised enough money to begin the project and is now waiting for the signal to begin. In Oct. he received $50 thousand from the Norwegian Embassy and contributions from two other Embassies giving him a total of $180 thousand contributed for his project according to the New York Times.

“Afghan kids are the same as kids all over the world,? Percovich told New York Times. “They just haven’t been given the same opportunities. They need a positive environment to do positive things for Afghanistan and for themselves.?