Japanese schoolgirl murders and dismembers her friend

Japanese schoolgirl murders and dismembers her friend

A 15-year-old school girl in Japan was arrested on Sunday on suspicion of murdering one of her friends and fellow classmates and then dismembering the body.

The suspect, whose name has not been released, admitted to beating her friend, strangling her, and severing her head and left hand, according to local news agency reports on Sunday.

The girl allegedly beat her 15-year-old friend, Aiwa Matsuo, in the head with a metal instrument before strangling her to death in the city of Sasebo, in Nagasaki Prefecture, south-west Japan.

The victim’s body was eventually found in the suspect’s apartment on her bed on Sunday morning and investigators quickly discovered the murder tools nearby.

Matsuo had reportedly went out to meet friends on Saturday afternoon, but was eventually reported missing by her parents when she failed to return later that night.

The suspect, who graduated from the same high school as the victim and lived away from her parents, claims to have acted alone.

While violent crime is still relatively rare in Japan, this isn’t even the first time that the city of Sasebo has made headlines when one schoolgirl has murdered another.

Rape trial put on hold because the judge fell asleep

Rape trial put on hold because the judge fell asleep

A rape trial has collapsed after a senior judge was accused of falling asleep as an alleged child abuse victim was in the middle of giving evidence. Recorder Philip Cattan apparently nodded off as the young victim was being questioned by the defense during the trial at Manchester Crown Court.

Barristers complained that the judge had fallen asleep as the first alleged victim was cross-examined. The trial was abandoned and must now start again. The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office said Mr. Cattan could not comment while the matter was investigated.

The 65-year-old judge was asked by barristers to send the jury out of court so that a point of law was raised, on the first day of the trial of John Quigley, 49, on Monday. It was then that Judge Cattan was confronted with claim that he had slept through a crucial part of the case – evidence given by the under-aged alleged victim via video-link.

The claim led the judge to discharge the jury and to order a retrial, meaning the complaint has cost the taxpayer around £10,000. The family of the alleged victim witnessed the judge’s apparently falling asleep, the Manchester Evening News reported.

Mr. Cattan is a recorder – a barrister who spends between 15 and 30 days a year sitting as judge. If he is found guilty of misconduct, any disciplinary action will be decided by the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice. In the case Mr Cattan was presiding over, a man was on trial for raping a child and other sexual offences against children.

It also means the witness will have to give evidence again in the new trial, which will take place next month under a new judge. The case is expected to last five days. She was the first of two alleged victims to testify that they were abused by John Quigley when they were very young girls between 2006 to 2013.

John Quigley, 49, of Avon Road, Burnage, south Manchester, denies 10 sexual offences against children including rape and sexual assault. A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “The jury has been discharged in the trial of R v John Quigley at Manchester Crown Court. Read more about the story here.



As U.S. ties worsen, Russia takes aim at McDonald’s

As U.S. ties worsen, Russia takes aim at McDonald’s

Nearly a quarter-century after McDonald’s startled and delighted Soviets with their first taste of American fast-food culture, the company is now facing a suit that could ban it from selling some of its signature products.

The Russian consumer protection agency said Friday it is taking the company to court for selling foods that contain more fats and carbohydrates than are allowed by national regulations. “We have identified violations which put the product quality and safety of the entire McDonald’s chain in doubt,” Anna Popova, the watchdog’s head and Russia’s chief sanitary inspector, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

The suit comes amid especially high tensions between Moscow and Washington over the Ukraine crisis; the United States has slapped an array of sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine for allegedly supporting separatist rebels who are fighting in eastern Ukraine.

There’s no demonstrable connection between the McDonald’s suit and the tensions, but the consumer protection agency, Rospotrebnadzor, has a history of actions that appear to dovetail Russia’s political agenda. As tensions between Russia and Georgia escalated before their 2008 war, Russia banned the import of Georgian wine and mineral water, two of its major export products, for failing to meet sanitary norms.

Last year, as tensions heated up over Ukraine’s desire to sign a trade pact with the European Union, Russia banned imports of chocolates made by the company of Petro Poroshenko, a tycoon who supported the EU deal and is now Ukraine’s president.

The regulator says the company is deceiving consumers about the energy value of its Cheeseburger Royales, Filet-o-Fish, Cheeseburgers and Chicken Burgers and about nutritional value of its milkshakes and ice creams. It also said in a statement that Caesar wrap sandwiches and a vegetable salad were contaminated with coliform bacteria, which indicates the likelihood of food poisoning.

The animosity is a far cry from the fascination that Muscovites had for McDonald’s when it opened its first outlet in the Soviet Union in 1990; customers waited in hours-long lines to experience the efficient service and reliable availability of items that were rare novelties in the Soviet era.

After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, other American and European chains staked out their own territory. Russian malls now have food courts virtually identical to America’s, except that Cinnabon, Sbarro, and other familiar names are written in Cyrillic. Read more about the story here.

Tripoli and Benghazi in smoke as rival militias fight for control of Libya

Tripoli and Benghazi in smoke as rival militias fight for control of Libya

Heavy black smoke rose over southern Tripoli on Thursday after rival militias exchanged artillery and rocket fire in a battle over the Libyan capital’s airport that has killed more than 50 people in nearly a fortnight of fighting.

At least nine people were killed and 19 wounded, mostly civilians, in heavy clashes overnight in Benghazi as government forces tried to oust Islamist militants holed up in Libya’s eastern port city, medical sources said on Thursday.

Fighting between rival militia for control of the Libyan capital’s airport has left at least 47 dead in the worst clashes in six months. It has also led to the evacuation of oil expatriates and prevented some staff reaching a key oil field denting production there.

Sporadic blasts echoed across the city from the morning in clashes that have deepened fears of post-war Libya becoming a failed state, with a fragile government unable to control heavily armed brigades battling for power.

Two main rival militias in Tripoli exchanged fire with Grad rockets, shells and anti-aircraft cannons for control of the main airport, shutting down most international flights and prompting the United Nations to pull its staff out of Libya.

Fighting in the capital and the eastern city of Benghazi is the heaviest since the 2011 war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi. It has closed most international flights to Libya and has prompted the United States to pull out embassy staff.

Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday Turkey may evacuate its embassy in Tripoli, a day after his ministry advised all Turkish citizens to leave the North African country due to the worsening security situation.

The fighting has also taken a toll on Libya’s fragile oil industry. The significant El-Feel oil field has reduced production due to the clashes and total output slipped around 20 percent to 450,000 barrels per on Monday.

Western powers hope the formation of a new parliament in August after a legislative election in June will open the way for the factions to forge a political settlement over the new government.

The previous parliament, known as the General National Congress, was caught up in deadlock between Islamist and nationalist factions, and blamed by many Libyans for their country’s fragile progress to democracy. Read more about the story here.

16 killed and 200 injured in rocket attack on a school in Gaza

16 killed and 200 injured in rocket attack on a school in Gaza

At least 16 people were killed after rockets struck a U.N.-run school sheltering Palestinians in northern Gaza, officials said on Thursday. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 200 people were wounded in the attack. This marks the fourth time that a UN facility has been hit since Israel began Operation Protective Edge on July 8, the BBC reports.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed horror at the Thursday attack on the school at Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza strip. “Many have been killed – including women and children, as well as U.N. staff,” he said in a statement. “Circumstances are still unclear. I strongly condemn this act.”

Nearly 750 Palestinians and at least 32 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the fighting, which intensified last week when Israel launched a ground operation to destroy tunnels used by Hamas to deploy a regular stream of rockets into Israel. The international community has struggled to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, even as the United Nations has condemned both sides in the conflict.

The Israeli military said it was investigating the school incident. Israel Defense Forces spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner told Reuters TV: “It could be errant fire from the IDF or rockets landing from Gaza terrorists but we still don’t know, there’s still a question mark.”

Survivors told CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen that they were warned that the school was targeted and they were preparing to leave when they say Israeli forces opened fire. Kamel al-Kafarne, who was in the school, said that the U.N. was putting people on buses when three tank shells hit. “We were about to get out of the school, then they hit the school. They kept on shelling it,” he said.

Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry, said that besides the 15 dead, 200 people had been wounded in the attack. The director of a local hospital said various medical centres around Beit Hanoun were receiving the wounded.

In the West Bank, some 10,000 protesters marching in support of their Gaza compatriots clashed with Israeli troops and at least one protester was killed and some 200 were injured, Palestinian hospital officials said. Read more about the story here.


Thousands of Afghan allies are being left to die at the hands of the Taliban

Thousands of Afghan allies are being left to die at the hands of the Taliban

The United States will withdraw almost completely from Afghanistan at the end of the year, but for many of the Afghan interpreters that served alongside U.S. combat troops, their tour of duty is far from over.

Afghan interpreters who helped American soldiers through more than a decade of combat are being left to die at the hands of the Taliban, as detailed in a new, multi-part documentary by Ben Anderson of Vice News.

Thousands of Afghan allies who lived, worked, and dodged Taliban fire side by side with American soldiers, under the promise that they would be eligible for U.S. visas after their service are facing increasing threats from enemy combatants as American troops withdraw, advocates say.

The series says 80% of Afghans who formerly interpreted for U.S. troops are unable to acquire a visa to come to the United States. It details their life-threatening concerns in Afghanistan. “Interpreters have become a very big target of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger told Reason.com. “There’s been a lot of beheadings of people that have worked with the West.”

Those who apply for U.S. visas have frequently found their applications stuck in opaque bureaucracy of the State Department and other government agencies, often for years. Recent reforms have helped speed up the process, the State Department has issued nearly all of the visas it was allotted by congress for Afghan interpreters in 2014, but advocates say more needs to be done.

With the U.S. planning to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, many of these vulnerable interpreters may be left on their own. Even those who do receive visas to come to America, with the promise of three months rent, furniture, and employment, are often neglected. Read more about the story here.


U.N. sends first unofficial aid to the people of Syria

U.N. sends first unofficial aid to the people of Syria

Nine trucks carrying food and other supplies crossed into Syria through a Turkish checkpoint Thursday, the first to do so under a U.N. resolution authorizing cross-border aid deliveries without Syrian government approval.

“A convoy of nine trucks crossed into Syria today from the Turkish crossing at Bab al-Salam, carrying UN food, shelter, water purification and sanitation supplies,” said Amanda Pitt, the spokeswoman for UNOCHA, the UN humanitarian office.

The UN Security Council last week adopted a resolution authorizing the cross-border aid deliveries without the consent of the Damascus regime, to help more than one million civilians. More relief shipments are due to leave from three other crossing points, Bab Al-Hawa in Turkey, Al-Ramtha in Jordan, and Al-Yarubiyah in Iraq, in the coming months.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said at least 241,000 people in areas besieged by government or opposition forces. “The parties have continued to obstruct humanitarian assistance to those most in need and to withhold consent for operations in a completely arbitrary manner as a tactic of war,” Ban said in the report, dated Wednesday.

Ban denounced “indiscriminate aerial bombings by government forces and indiscriminate shelling by armed opposition, extremist, and … terrorist groups.” He said non-Syrian fighters are increasingly participating in the fighting, supporting all sides.

Ban has reported monthly to the Security Council on the implementation of a resolution adopted in February demanding rapid, safe and unhindered aid access in Syria. The United Nations says that resolution had failed to make a difference and that the humanitarian situation on the ground had worsened.

The action then taken by the council on July 14 was a follow-up to the February resolution. The new resolution threatens “further measures in the event of non-compliance”. The council would need a second resolution to impose punishments.

Approximately 10.8 million people need humanitarian assistance in Syria, including 4.7 million in hard-to-reach areas and at least 241,000 living in areas besieged by either government or opposition forces, ban said. Read more about the story here.



South Korea is boosting its economy with a $40 billion stimulus package

South Korea is boosting its economy with a $40 billion stimulus package

South Korea unveiled a $40 billion stimulus package Thursday as the finance minister warned of a risk of recession after the economy grew at its slowest rate for more than a year in the second quarter.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy, which relies heavily on exports, is seeing a slower-than-expected recovery in global demand, while domestic consumption has been fragile, partly as a result of the ferry sinking that hurt tourism and services.

Companies from Starbucks to television home shopping networks say that they saw a marked decrease in spending following the disaster, while school outings were suspended and local festivals cancelled.

A further drag on private spending came from restrictions on handset sales imposed on local phone operators, who had offered excessively large smartphone subsidies.

The stimulus plan of 41 trillion won ($40 billion) includes 11.7 trillion won in expanded fiscal spending and 29 trillion won in extra financing support. The lion’s share will be spent in the remainder of this year, with 3.0 trillion won earmarked for the beginning of 2015, the ministry said in a statement.

The stimulus package was announced just hours after the central Bank of Korea released second quarter figures showing the economy posting its slowest growth in more than a year, partly due to sluggish consumer spending following the Sewol ferry tragedy.

“Domestic spending will likely improve (in the coming months) and the pace of recovery will depend on the effects of the government’s stimulus policies,” said Lee Seung-hoon, economist at Samsung Securities.

“We see a high possibility of a rate cut in August, but it will be a one-off thing,” he said, adding the rate reduction would be more to cooperate with the government’s stimulus efforts than because of any serious cyclical downturn.

The government also promised tax breaks for companies that gave workers high wage increases and heavier taxes on cash kept in reserve by South Korean corporations, which offer low dividends by international standards.

“Over the past 10 years, corporate savings have risen sharply and that has pretty much come at the expense of household savings, which helps to explain why private consumption is so weak,” said Ronald Man, an economist at HSBC.

“If these tax measures boost dividends and wages, it is basically reallocating corporate savings towards households and this will support private consumption over the medium term.” Read more about the story here.


The F.A.A. has lifted its ban on flights to Israel

The F.A.A. has lifted its ban on flights to Israel

Ben Gurion International Airport is usually packed with travelers in the peak tourism season of mid-July. But on Wednesday, one day after all U.S. and other major international airlines halted flights to and from Israel, the summer traffic had slowed to a trickle.

The 24-hour flight stoppage, prompted by a Federal Aviation Administration order Tuesday, came after shrapnel from a rocket fired by Gaza Strip militants reached the vicinity of the airport. That left thousands of homebound Israelis stranded abroad and international visitors stuck in Israel.

By Wednesday morning, stories were surfacing of incoming flights turning around in midair, and Israeli airlines had announced extra flights to retrieve passengers stranded in Europe and Turkey.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lobbied Secretary of State John Kerry Tuesday evening to rescind the ban, as Israeli officials argued the American government was giving Hamas a victory. The airport is a mere 50 miles from Gaza, the scene of intense fighting between Hamas fighters and the Israeli military, who are determined to halt the firing of rockets into Israel. Many of the rockets have been intercepted by the U.S.-backed Iron Dome missile shield.

The decision even drew rebuke from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who flew to Tel Aviv on Tuesday to demonstrate the safety of the route. “I’m just trying to show that it’s safe, and a great place to visit, and Israel has a right to defend its people, and they’re doing exactly what they should be doing,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday Texas Sen. Ted Cruz promised to place a procedural hold in the Senate on all Obama administration nominees to the State Department until his questions on the FAA were answered. He accused Obama of using the flight ban to pressure Israel into accepting a ceasefire with Hamas to end the weeks-long conflict.

The FAA lifted the ban late Wednesday night, saying in a statement that before making the decision, the agency had “worked with its U.S. government counterparts to assess the security situation in Israel and carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation.” Read more about the story here.




Teenager dies while trying to circumnavigate the globe

Teenager dies while trying to circumnavigate the globe

An Indiana teenager who was attempting to set a record for an around-the-world flight was killed when his plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean, and crews were searching Wednesday for his father, who was also on board.

Family spokeswoman Annie Hayat said the plane flown by 17-year-old Haris Suleman went down shortly after leaving Pago Pago in American Samoa Tuesday night. Hayat said the body of Haris Suleman had been recovered, but crews were still looking for Babar Suleman.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor in Los Angeles said the single-engine Hawker Beechcraft plane crashed into the ocean Tuesday night under unknown circumstances. The National Weather Service reported gusty conditions in the area Tuesday night, with winds gusting as high as 40 mph at 9 p.m.

“Relatively strong surface winds, especially the overnight gusty conditions, coupled with airflow turbulence created by the American Samoa mountains, may been enough to create hazardous flying conditions,” weather.com meterologist Chrissy Warrilow said.

Hiba Suleman and Azher Khan, a family friend and local president of the charity for which Haris and Babar Suleman were trying to raise money, spoke at a news conference at the Islamic Society of North America in Plainfield.

The family was notified of the crash by the U.S. Coast Guard early Wednesday, Indianapolis time, Suleman said. At that point, the Coast Guard had searched about six hours, found Haris but was still looking for her father, Hiba Suleman said.

The Sulemans left Indiana on June 19 in hopes of making the trip in 30 days to set the record for the fastest circumnavigation around the world in a single-engine airplane with the youngest pilot in command to do so. The father and son were using the trip to raise money for the Citizens Foundation, a nonprofit that builds schools in Pakistan.

They missed the 30-day timetable, in part due to food-borne illness, but planned to return home Sunday. The Sulemans had made stops throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and the South Pacific, and the teenager told The Indianapolis Star earlier this month that he was enjoying each visit.

“There is so much beauty and culture in each country that I couldn’t possibly witness all that I want to in the span of two days,” he said in an email to the newspaper. “That’s the maximum time we’ve been able to spend at a stop.” Read more about the story here.