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Fri, 23 Feb 2018
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As the floods recede, Bangkok blame game begins

Image
© Apichart Weerawong/AP
A Thai couple and a dog ride on a floating material through a flooded road in Don Muang district of Bangkok, Thailand, on Nov. 14.
Thailand - One of the most striking things about the Thai floods is the sheer ingenuity people have shown to simply get around.

I've seen all manner of aquatic contraptions, from rafts made from empty drinking water bottles to crafts fashioned from larger plastic drums, with a bicycle mounted on the deck driving a home-made propeller through the increasingly fetid waters.

Thailand's National Science and Technology Development Agency even ran a competition called "Mobility in the Time of Flood," which attracted 89 entries and was won by another bicycle-driven raft cobbled together by a bunch of students. The Bangkok Post devoted most of its back page to the contest Tuesday under the headline "Amateur Inventors to the rescue."

It provided a note of humor amid increasingly angry recriminations over who's to blame for a deluge that's swamped a third of the country and killed more than 600 people. The floods have also affected some 10,000 factories, and hit the global supply chain for automotive parts and hard disk drives.

Handcuffs

US man jailed for making child pornography at school

A former elementary school principal in Iowa was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday after pleading guilty to one count of producing child pornography involving students at his school, officials said.

Robert Burke, 43, admitted that as head of the school in Dubuque, Iowa, he had "used hidden cameras in the school bathroom to secretly capture videos depicting the genitals of male students," said the US Justice Department

Burke also admitted to saving the videos on computer hard drives at his home.

He was uncovered after an FBI agent in Washington downloaded eight images of child pornography that were traced back to Burke's residence, officials said in a statement.

Burke insisted he "not touched any children in a sexual manner," and US officials said they had no evidence that contradicted that claim.

A forensic examination of Burke's computer equipment also "revealed no evidence that Burke shared the videos he produced at the school," according to the statement.

Along with 360 months in prison, Burke was also fined $25,000.

"As an elementary school principal, Burke was in a position of trust and authority over his students," said US Attorney Stephanie Rose.

"He took advantage of that trust, and he used his position of authority to exploit the children he was supposed to protect."

Evil Rays

Amid million-man march, Egypt military OKs new government, elections

Cairo - As a swelling crowd of tens of thousands continued to fill Cairo's Tahrir Square Tuesday, Egypt's ruling military council agreed to form a new government that will hold a presidential election before July, bowing to protesters' demands for a swifter transfer of power, politicians who met the army said.

The politicians who attended the discussions in Cairo also said that a parliamentary election, scheduled to start on Nov. 28, would go ahead as scheduled after violence during protests against the ruling military council cast doubt on its timing.

"Presidential elections to be held by the end of June and the final preparations for handing over power by July 1," Emad Abdel Ghafour, head of ultra-conservative Nour (Light) party, told Reuters, adding that he expected the vote on June 20.


Other politicians also said the election would be held by July 1, but did not give a date for the voting.

Attention

School Murder Scandal Shocks France

The French government has condemned the judiciary's handling of a teenager accused of rape who went on to murder a girl from his boarding school.

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© Reuters
Agnes's burned body was found in a forest close to her school
The boy, identified as Mathieu M, 17, had spent four months in jail for raping a minor in southern France.

He had been under judicial supervision. The school said it had not been fully aware of his past.

Last Friday, the body of Agnes, 13, was found in a forest close to the school. She had been raped and burned.

Star

South Korean lawmaker fires tear gas in parliament amid anger at US trade pact


Seoul, South Korea - South Korea's parliament ratified a long-stalled free trade deal with the United States on Tuesday after ruling party lawmakers forced a vote amid shouts and shoves from opposition rivals.

Comment: As free trade largely benefits transnational corporations, it's refreshing to see that some lawmakers still care enough about the consequences for ordinary people and understand that such trade agreements go against their national interests. With revolution sweeping the world, Kim Seon-dong may end up being a hero to ordinary South Koreans in the near future. Sadly his act did not seem to awaken the South Korean parliament.


Pistol

US, North Carolina: Woman kills 2, injures 4, then kills self

Image
© unknown
Mary Ann Holder
Mary Ann Holder wanted to see her married former flame one last time as their bitter love triangle threatened to open a new and potentially costly chapter in court.

The meeting ended with Randall Lamb, 40, being shot and Holder, 36, taking her own life Sunday. Later, police found that Holder gunned down five children, including her two sons and the older boy's girlfriend. Two of the five died, and three others were listed in critical condition Monday.

Investigators were trying to unravel the violent chain of events and understand why Holder took out her rage on children. Holder left notes taking responsibility for the shootings and apologizing for the pain she was causing, Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes said. The notes also indicate Holder was angry about how her relationship with Lamb ended.

"They were obviously shot for the purpose of killing them. You can call it an execution, you can call it a shooting, you can call it whatever you want. The result is the same," he said. "We may never know exactly what her thoughts were and why."

Heart - Black

US: Plea deal in California gay classmate killing


A Southern California teenager pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder for killing a gay student during a computer lab class three years ago in a plea deal that will send him to prison for 21 years and avoid a retrial.

Brandon McInerney, 17, pleaded guilty to the murder charge, as well as one count each of voluntary manslaughter and use of a firearm, said Ventura County Chief Deputy District Attorney Mike Frawley. McInerney is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 19.

The case drew wide attention because of its shocking premise: McInerney, in a fit of homophobic rage, killed 15-year-old Larry King at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard because he was offended by King's dress and how the victim interacted with him.

Larry King's father, Greg King, told KABC-TV he understands why prosecutors agreed to the plea deal.

"I don't think that 21-year sentence is justice for my son, but I understand the reality that was facing the DA of trying to convict a defendant who was 14 ... when he committed the murder," Greg King said.

Wolf

US, South Carolina: Sesame Street, Disney music composer charged with making and distributing child pornography

Image
© CCDC
Fernando Rivas, a former Porter-Gaud School instructor and local composer, has been charged with producing, distributing and possessing child pornography.
The Emmy and Grammy-award winning composer pleaded not-guilty to all charges

An Emmy and Grammy-award winning composer who wrote music for Sesame Street was arraigned on charges of coercing a child "to engage in sexually explicit conduct" in South Carolina on Monday, court documents showed.

Fernando Rivas, 59, a Cuban-born musician educated at New York's Julliard School, was arrested on April 19 after an investigation led police to his Charleston home. Police discovered photographs of a 4-year-old girl naked and "restrained in handcuffs and other bondage-type devices," according to Charleston's Post and Courier.

Rivas admitted to handcuffing the child, taking the photos and emailing them to two other individuals, the newspaper said, citing police documents.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges, which also included production and distribution of child pornography and is currently under house arrest, according to the Post and Courier.

Pistol

Armed man sparks siege at US Air Force base

A siege is underway at a US Air Force base after an armed man barricaded himself inside a building.
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© ALAMY
Schriever Air Force Base

The unnamed man is said to be carrying a handgun and is a member of the 50th Security Forces Squadron, a unit responsible for guarding Schriever Air Force base.

As yet no shots have been fired and the man has not taken any hostages but security personnel are surrounding the employment process building where he is based.

The building has been evacuated and "special control measures" are in place at the base, which is just south of Denver.

"The security of Schriever personnel and their families is paramount. We are taking every precaution to ensure their safety," Colonel James P. Ross, 50th Space Wing commander said in a statement.

The 50th Security Squadron is tasked with security at the 6,000-strong base and it is likely that the armed man's comrades are involved in the siege.

A negotiator from the El Paso County Sherriff's office has been sent to help with the situation.

Butterfly

Egypt's Cabinet submits resignation amid protests, violence

Cairo - Egypt's Cabinet offered to resign Monday night, government officials said, as thousands of people gathered again in Cairo to protest the military-led government.

The military leadership accepted the mass resignation soon after the prime minister's office said it was offered, said Lt. Col. Amr Imam, a spokesman for the ruling Supreme Council for the Armed Forces.

But a short time later, a spokesman for Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said that the resignation was not complete. Mohammed Hegazy said around 11 p.m. (4 p.m. ET) that Egypt's ruling military council "is currently in another session with the Cabinet and has not accepted" the Cabinet members' proposed mass resignation "yet."

Tahrir Square -- the hub of the activist movement that led to the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak 10 months ago -- was packed again Monday with protesters calling for Egypt's military leaders to step down.