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Cult

Aum Shinrikyo cult fugitive surrenders to Japan police

Image
© AP
Makoto Hirata (rear centre) was arrested on suspicion of abduction
A former member of Japan's Aum Shinrikyo cult has turned himself in to police after nearly 17 years on the run, one of three remaining fugitives.

Japanese police said Makoto Hirata gave himself up at a police station in Tokyo just before midnight on New Year's Eve.

He had been in hiding since the cult's sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995, which killed 13 people.

He was immediately arrested on suspicion of conspiring to kidnap the brother of a follower of the cult.

Cult

Japan: Tokyo Sarin Attack Cult Member Hands Himself In

A fugitive former member of the doomsday cult that released deadly sarin gas on the Tokyo subway turned himself in after 17 years in an act that could delay the execution of the group's leader.
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© unknown

Makoto Hirata, 46, one of Japan's most wanted men, walked into Marunouchi police station in central Tokyo at 11.50pm on New Year's Eve, apparently telling officers he wanted to "put the past behind him".

Hirata was one of three members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult still being sought over the sarin attack on March 20, 1995 which killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000. It remains Japan's deadliest act of domestic terrorism.

Nearly 200 people associated with the cult have since been convicted of offences including murder, abduction and producing nerve gas. Thirteen of those, including cult founder and leader Shoko Asahara, 56, are on death row after being sentenced to hang.

In November, the country's Supreme Court rejected a final plea for clemency from Seiichi Endo, 51, the 13th person to be sentenced to death. The other death row prisoners had been kept alive until the conclusion of Endo's appeal. Its failure appeared to clear the way for all the executions to be carried out.

However, Hirata's voluntary arrest could now put them on hold again as convicted cult members may be needed as witnesses in his trial.

Handcuffs

US, Colorado: Armed Man Shot, Several Arrested in New Year's Eve Hotel Brawl

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© unknown
Violence marred New Year's Eve celebrations at the Red Lion Hotel in Aurora where numerous fights broke out, culminating with police shooting an armed suspect, authorities said.

The trouble began at about 11:40 p.m. Saturday when two off-duty officers working a New Year's Eve party at the hotel, located at 3200 S. Parker Rd., called for additional backup to deal with unruly guests, said Aurora Police Sgt. Cassidee Carlson.

Additional officers arrived, but the crowd of approximately 750 people became more aggressive, so even more officers were called in to break up the party.

Several people were arrested.

Heart - Black

US: Philadelphia Sees Bloody Year's End and Start; 6 Dead

crime scene tape
© unknown
Police in Philadelphia report a bloody end to the old year and the start of a new one with six people killed and others injured around the City of Brotherly Love.

Police said shortly before midnight, a 36-year-old man and 31-year-old woman were found shot to death in a car north of the center of the city.

A few hours later, a 23-year-old man was found nearby with a gunshot wound and died at a hospital.

A few minutes after midnight, a 77-year-old man died after he was stabbed in a domestic dispute in south Philadelphia. A 52-year-old man was arrested.

In northeastern Philadelphia early Sunday, a 47-year-old man was shot to death.

A 26-year-old man died Saturday afternoon after he was shot six to nine times in north Philadelphia.

Source: The Associated Press

Ambulance

UK: Scenes From the Streets of Shame 2012: Emergency Calls TREBLE as Britain 'Celebrates' Another New Year in the Same Old Way

  • 77 people arrested in London as 3,000 police officers flood the streets
  • Ambulance crews in the capital receive 2,333 calls
Emergency services were inundated with 600 calls an hour last night as revellers up and down Britain drank in 2012.

Paramedics were stretched to the limit and in Cambridge a Territorial Army field hospital was set-up to deal with drunk partygoers.

The London Ambulance Service said at the peak they were dealing with over 600 calls per hour which is more than three times as many as on a normal night.
Image
© Joel Goodman/LNP
Manchester: A man collapses on the pavement next to an ambulance as two revellers walk past eating a late night takeaway

Heart - Black

Two Die, 561 Hurt in Italian New Year Fireworks Mishaps

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© Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images
Fireworks explode over the ancient Colosseum as part of the celebrations of Italy's 150-year anniversary as a unified state in central Rome on March 16, 2011
Two men were killed and 561 other people were wounded as Italians celebrated the New Year with massive displays of illegal and homemade fireworks, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday.

Of those wounded, 76 were children under the age of 12.

Marking New Year's Eve festivities with fireworks is a deadly Italian tradition. Up to 2,000 cities, towns and villages had banned them this year, but police said they still seized thousands of tonnes of fireworks, including more than a thousand rocket launchers.

Pistol

Americans Buy Record Numbers of Guns for Christmas

Image
© Alamy
Americans bought record numbers of guns last month amid an apparent surge in popularity for weapons as Christmas presents.

According to the FBI, over 1.5 million background checks on customers were requested by gun dealers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in December. Nearly 500,000 of those were in the six days before Christmas.

It was the highest number ever in a single month, surpassing the previous record set in November.

On Dec 23 alone there were 102,222 background checks, making it the second busiest single day for buying guns in history.

The actual number of guns bought may have been even higher if individual customers took home more than one each.

Explanations for America's surge in gun buying include that it is a response to the stalled economy with people fearing crime waves. Another theory is that buyers are rushing to gun shops because they believe tighter firearms laws will be introduced in the future.

Cell Phone

Apple: Time to Make a Conflict-Free iPhone

I've witnessed firsthand the horror caused in the Congo by the militias' trade in minerals, which is why I'm petitioning Apple
Image
© Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images
Boys working at a copper mine in south-east DR Congo. Campaigners stress that rebel militias are being funded through corrupt metals trading.

My name is Delly Mawazo Sesete. I am originally from the North Kivu povince in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a deadly conflict has been raging for over 15 years. While that conflict began as a war over ethnic tension, land rights and politics, it has increasingly turned to being a war of profit, with various armed groups fighting one another for control of strategic mineral reserves.

Near the area where I grew up, there are mines with vast amounts of tungsten, tantalum, tin, and gold - minerals that make most consumer electronics in the world function.

These minerals are part of your daily life. They keep your computer running so you can surf the internet. They save your high score on your Playstation. They make your cell phone vibrate when someone calls you.

While minerals from the Congo have enriched your life, they have often brought violence, rape and instability to my home country. That's because those armed groups fighting for control of these mineral resources use murder, extortion and mass rape as a deliberate strategy to intimidate and control local populations, which helps them secure control of mines, trading routes and other strategic areas.

Dominoes

Chile arrests Israeli tourist for forest fire

Chile burning by israeli
© AFP
The fire has so far destroyed nearly four per cent of the total area of the national park
Prosecutor says traveler has acknowledged negligently allowing fire to start, burning 11,000 hectares of Patagonia park.

Chilean officials arrested and later released on bond an Israeli tourist suspected of causing a forest fire that burned more than 11,000 hectares in the country's Torres de Paine national park in Patagonia.

Regional prosecutor Juan Melendez identified the traveler as Rotem Singer, 23, and said the man had acknowledged a role in negligently allowing the fire to start deep in the south of the country.

The government deployed four planes and a helicopter to the remote mountainous region, where 300 firefighters, soldiers and forest rangers continued to battle the blaze.

The fire, which began on Tuesday, advanced rapidly in dry conditions, forcing authorities to evacuate 700 people, mostly tourists, from the park, which is located about 3,000km south of Santiago.

Singer acknowledged that he did not properly extinguish a roll of toilet paper he had been burning, Melendez said after a hearing in Puerto Natales.

But Singer's family say they believe he is innocent and was being used as a "scapegoat".

"He could not have caused this disaster," Hezi Singer, his father, told Israeli military radio. "He was a kilometre away from the fire when his friends woke him up."

Gear

US: New Year Brings New Attacks on Evolution in Schools

Evolution
© Public Domain
Naturalist Charles Darwin's first sketch of an evolutionary tree, found in the First Notebook on Transmutation of Species (1837).

The new year is bringing new controversy over teaching evolution in public schools, with two bills in New Hampshire seeking to require teachers to teach the theory more as philosophy than science.

Meanwhile, an Indiana state senator has introduced a bill that would allow school boards to require the teaching of creationism.

New Hampshire House Bill 1148 would "require evolution to be taught in the public schools of this state as a theory, including the theorists' political and ideological viewpoints and their position on the concept of atheism."

The second proposal in the New Hampshire House, HB 1457, does not mention evolution specifically but would "require science teachers to instruct pupils that proper scientific inquire [sic] results from not committing to any one theory or hypothesis, no matter how firmly it appears to be established, and that scientific and technological innovations based on new evidence can challenge accepted scientific theories or modes."

Innovation can indeed overturn old ideas, but the theory of evolution is too well-established to be tossed out like yesterday's garbage, scientists say.

"Bill 1457 turns skepticism into bewilderment," said Zen Faulkes, a biology professor at the University of Texas, Pan America. "It would ask teachers to say to students, 'Don't commit to the hypothesis that uranium has more protons than carbon,' or 'Remember, kids, tomorrow we might find out that DNA is not the main molecule that carries genetic information.' Evolution is as much a fact as either of those things, so it should be taught with the same confidence."