Friday 20 April 2018

Start of Ramadan marred by bomb blasts that kill one and injure seven

Muslims have begun fasting for the start of the Ramadan holy month in Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere around Asia, but the sombre occasion was marred in Buddhist-dominated Thailand by two bomb blasts that killed one person and injured seven.

The Muhammadiyah group, Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organisation, told its 30 million followers that Ramadan started on Friday, but the government declared the official start as yesterday, when most of the remaining 190 million Indonesians began the dawn-to-dusk fast.

Dozens die after bus goes over cliff

A bus carrying holidaymakers heading for a beach in western Mexico went off a cliff, killing at least 24 people.

Nayarit state prosecutor's spokesman Leonel Escobedo said three children -- two boys and a girl -- were among the dead. Another 31 people were injured in the accident in the town of Tequepexpan.

Pope's butler released from custody

POPE Benedict XVI's jailed butler was released from custody yesterday and placed under house arrest as a decision on whether to indict him neared.

Paolo Gabriele is suspected of stealing and leaking documents in a case that exposed corruption, infighting and power struggles at the Vatican's highest levels.

Air Force instructor in sex scandal

A US Air Force instructor implicated in a sweeping sex scandal at one of the nation's busiest training bases has been convicted in a military court of raping a female recruit and sexually assaulting several others.

A seven-strong military jury at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio found Staff Sgt Luis Walker guilty on all seven counts he faced, including rape, aggravated sexual contact and multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault.

Syrian fighting spreads to Aleppo

Syrian rebels yesterday fought for control of the nation's border crossings as clashes spread to the city of Aleppo, the latest sign of an escalating conflict that is driving thousands to escape to neighbouring countries. Al Jazeera TV added that Aleppo's intelligence chief fled to Turkey.

Street fighting in Aleppo is ominous for al-Assad's regime, since the wealthy city to the north of the country has, so far, largely stayed out of the uprising.

Opposition sources added that Syrian security forces killed 131 people yesterday, including 28 in Damascus.

Human-trafficking case dismissed

A judge in Hawaii has dismissed a human trafficking case against executives and business associates of a labour recruiting company accused of exploiting hundreds of farm workers from Thailand.

The prosecution's request for dismissal was granted in the case against the chief executive and others affiliated with Los Angeles-based Global Horizons Manpower.

It was the US's largest-ever human trafficking case, involving about 600 Thai workers placed in US farms.

Sixty-one schools face abuse probe

Chile is to investigate 61 schools in the country's capital for child sex abuse, in the latest government move to address a sharp rise in reports of such crimes.

Attorney general Sabas Chahuan said his office would look at 49 schools in eastern Santiago and 12 on the city's west side. Several teachers have recently been accused of sexually molesting children at schools in affluent neighbourhoods in the eastern portion of Santiago.

Bush to skip Republican convention

Former US president George Bush is skipping the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, next month, where presumptive nominee Mitt Romney will officially become the party's standard bearer.

"President Bush was grateful for the invitation," his spokesman said, adding that the ex-president "is confident that Mitt Romney will be a great president."

Scientists try to crack monsoon code

SCIENTISTS aided by supercomputers are trying to unravel one of Mother Nature's biggest mysteries -- the vagaries of the summer monsoon rains that bring life, and sometimes death, to India every year. In a first-of-its-kind project, Indian scientists aim to build computer models that would allow them to make a quantum leap in predicting the erratic movements of the monsoon.

Military chopper crash claims 10 lives

A Brunei air force helicopter has crashed, killing at least 10 people, mostly military cadets being flown home after training. The defence ministry said the helicopter crashed in a rural district on its way to the capital of Brunei, a sultanate on Borneo island.

In addition to the 10 people who were killed, two were injured and two were missing. Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah visited the two young armed forces cadets who survived the crash and expressed "great sadness".

Mars Rover to undergo risky mission

NASA's new Mars rover is heading for a risky do-or-die touchdown next month to assess conditions for life on the planet, but the US space agency may not know for hours whether it arrived safely, managers said.

That's because the satellite that NASA was counting on for real-time coverage of the Mars Science Laboratory's descent into Gale Crater, located near the planet's equator, was sidelined last month by a system glitch.

Eye-opening study on Bounty's clans

Descendants of the famous Bounty mutineers who now live on an isolated Pacific Island have among the lowest rates of myopia in the world and may hold the key to unlocking the genetic code for the disease.

A new study of residents on Australia's Norfolk Island, 1,600km north-east of Sydney, showed the rate of myopia, or short-sightedness, among Bounty descendants was about half that of the general Australian population.

Low-key Chinese launch for iPad

The latest iPad has received an uneventful launch in China after Apple settled a lawsuit with a local company over ownership of the popular tablet computer's name.

Just a few dozen customers waited at Apple stores in Beijing and Shanghai. They had to order iPads in advance online, following a January incident in which people who wanted the latest iPhone threw eggs and shouted at employees after managers cancelled the opening of Apple's main Beijing store because of the crowd size.

This time the Apple stores opened on time and there was no disruption. Apple cleared a potential legal hurdle to the release when it settled a dispute this month with a Chinese company over ownership of the iPad name.

Palestinian grocer settles 'Bruno' libel

A Palestinian grocer portrayed as a terrorist in the film Bruno has settled his slander action against its star Sacha Baron Cohen and US chat show host David Letterman, his lawyer said. Details of the settlement were not revealed.

Ayman Abu Aita's court papers said the "peace-loving" christian thought he was talking to a journalist about peace activism.

In the 2009 comedy, Baron Cohen plays an Austrian fashion journalist aiming to make peace in the Middle East. He interviews Abu Aita, who is labelled in a caption as a member of the militant Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade. Baron Cohen also discussed Bruno's encounter with a "terrorist" on Letterman's CBS Late Show.

Sunday Independent

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