Friday, March 31, 2017

Park Geun Hye: From president to prisoner - in just three weeks, East Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Park Geun Hye: From president to prisoner - in just three weeks, East Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Park Geun Hye: From president to prisoner - in just three weeks

SEOUL • In just three weeks, South Korea's first female president has moved from the country's highest seat of power to a jail cell.

A judge yesterday ordered the arrest of Ms Park Geun Hye, who was ousted on March 10 for violating the Constitution and meddling in corporate affairs. The swift moves to detain her after she lost power - and immunity - followed months of street protests fuelled by anger over business and political ties dating back to her father, former president Park Chung Hee, that underpinned the nation's rise in the 1970s.

Long an icon of South Korea's conservatives, Ms Park campaigned on a promise to repeat her father's "miracle of Han river", an era of rapid economic growth spurred by funnelling state resources into a handful of family-run companies known as chaebol. In turn, they gave generous donations to politicians, a dynamic that still hinders Asia's fourth-largest economy and ultimately led to her downfall.

"Without Park Chung Hee, there would be no Park Geun Hye as we know her," said Professor Park Tae Woo at Korea University in Seoul, who is not related to them. "But she didn't realise she lived in a different era, one where people had stronger ownership of their government and wouldn't tolerate a leader acting like a royal princess."

Ms Park, 65, says she has not taken a single penny for herself from the donations that firms like Samsung Electronics made to entities controlled by her friend Choi Soon Sil. Still, the Constitutional Court upheld an impeachment motion against her for what it called "illegal and unconstitutional" acts.

Yesterday, as she was driven to the Seoul Detention Centre through a barrage of media flashbulbs, Ms Park stared straight ahead, apparently trying to maintain her composure.

According to normal procedure, she would have been processed - including being fingerprinted and having her mugshot taken - changed into prison garb with her prisoner number on the chest, and put in a cell. Under South Korean law, prosecutors now have up to 20 days in which to indict her.

Ms Park is in the same detention centre as Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong, who is accused of bribing Choi in return for government backing of a 2015 merger that helped him consolidate control over South Korea's biggest conglomerate. He denies wrongdoing.

Ms Park's arrest ensures that her case will remain a key issue ahead of the May 9 election to replace her. The leading candidates commented yesterday, with a spokesman for front runner Moon Jae In saying her detention would help clean up South Korea's image and turn the page on its "painful history". Meanwhile, Mr Hong Joon Pyo, a candidate for her Liberty Korea Party, urged people to forgive her.

Despite the public outrage, breaking up the relationships between the chaebol and political leaders once and for all will not be easy.

Professor Gilles Hilary at George town's McDonough School of Business said: "The connections between the state and chaebol are deep. The strength of these connections makes it unlikely that they will disappear in the short run."


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Imam apologises for offensive remarks caught on video, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Imam apologises for offensive remarks caught on video, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Imam apologises for offensive remarks caught on video

An imam at Jamae Mosque in Chinatown who made controversial remarks about Christians and Jews has apologised for his actions.

In February, a video of him reportedly reciting a prayer in Arabic that said "God help us against Jews and Christians", among other things, was circulated online.

Yesterday, Imam Nalla Mohamed Abdul Jameel, 47, apologised to a group of leaders from various faiths at a closed-door meeting at the Harmony in Diversity Gallery in Maxwell Road. The gathering was organised at his request.

"I fully respect the laws of the land and appreciate the concerns of her people. I am truly sorry that I had offended you, and I must bear full responsibility for my actions, as part of my duty to all Singaporeans and residents," he said.

"I am filled with great remorse for the inconvenience, tension and trauma that I have caused to this peaceful country."

The imam, who hails from India, also said: "As a resident here from a foreign land, I should have practised my faith in accordance with, and appropriate to, the social norms and laws of this country. I fully admit that my said actions have no place, (whatsoever), in this extremely multi-religious and multicultural society."

He clarified that the additional supplication he read, "God help us against Jews and Christians", was not from the Quran, but was from an old Arabic text which originated from his village in India.

"This episode has educated and enlightened me, and I am deeply thankful to God for this realisation. I am also very relieved that the society has remained calm. I am glad that the police gave me the full opportunity to explain myself during the investigations," he added.

His apology came a month after Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam told Parliament that police were investigating the imam as well as the actions of all involved.

The video, posted by investment associate Terence Nunis, a Muslim, sparked a storm in the community, which felt it could be used to cast aspersions on Islam.

The imam was placed on leave while investigations are ongoing.

Last month, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim called for calm and unity, saying there is no space for extremism or exclusivism here.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, which is assisting police in investigations, had said there can be no room for discourse that promotes intolerance, enmity or violence against other communities.

Mufti Fatris Bakaram had also said the community had to ensure that religious texts are read appropriately and not misunderstood.

Yesterday, Bishop Terry Kee, who was at the meeting, said the incident is a lesson for religious leaders to exercise sensitivity and care when they talk about other faiths.

"I appreciate the humility of the imam in acknowledging his error and also his courage to stand up and make a public apology. I believe that this will go a long way in restoring the faith and the relationship with Christians and Jews, in particular, and of course with all faiths," he said.

Mr Mohamed Abdul Jaleel, chairman of the Bencoolen and Abdul Gafoor Mosques, said: "Now that the imam has realised his mistake and he has apologised, let us move on from here... We must do all we can to preserve and protect the peace and harmonious living we have enjoyed all these years."

When asked for an update on the investigations yesterday, the Ministry of Home Affairs said: "We note the apology. It is not appropriate to comment at this juncture because investigations are not finalised."

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Tamil Nadu farmers reel from drought

From president to prisoner --- in just 3 weeks

Imam apologizes for offensive remarks caught on video

Botanic Gardens grows and gets a forest to call its own

Minor collision on the tarmac at Changi ( airport )

Worried boyfriend see app to find victim

Cyclone Debbie triggers floods in Australia

Thursday, March 30, 2017

'Bite' from Zika worse for previous dengue victim?, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

'Bite' from Zika worse for previous dengue victim?, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

'Bite' from Zika worse for previous dengue victim?

Even as the flurry surrounding the Zika virus dies down, a new concern has emerged in the scientific community studying the virus at the cellular level.

According to a paper published last December in the international scientific journal Clinical And Translational Immunology, people who have developed immunity to dengue may develop a worse reaction to Zika, if they contract it later.

Zika and dengue are both flaviviruses that are transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

A person infected with either virus usually develops a fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes and, less often, muscle aches and a headache.

United States researchers studied cells of those who had contracted secondary dengue infections.

Such an infection occurs when a patient contracts dengue, after having developed immunity from a first infection.

Their laboratory experiments showed that having a Zika infection after contracting dengue is worse compared with just having a Zika infection on its own.

A cohort study of people who contracted Zika while having an immunity to dengue is currently under way in Brazil by a different team of researchers.

The result of this study is expected in one to two years' time.

The symptoms of Zika infections are generally milder compared with dengue's. However, Zika infections have been linked to microcephaly and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

"It is currently not known whether the enhancement of Zika infection with a pre-existing dengue immunity also leads to a more severe disease, such as microcephaly and related congenital abnormalities in infants, or Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults," said Florida Gulf Coast University Professor Sharon Isern. "But the worry is that it may."

Babies born with microcephaly have abnormally small heads, and may develop conditions such as intellectual disability and problems with speech and movement.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare disorder in which a person's immune system attacks his nerves.

The research paper, published by Prof Isern and seven other scientists, is one of three supporting the hypothesis that a patient who has had dengue could develop a more severe Zika infection.

How exactly does having a prior dengue infection make a current Zika infection worse?

When a person is infected with a virus for the first time, his immune system produces antibodies to destroy it. The next time his body encounters the same virus, it produces the same antibodies to prevent illness. This is called immunity.

However, in the case of dengue, if a person is infected with another dengue serotype (there are four in total), his antibodies from the earlier infection will bind to the new virus serotype, but will not prevent it from infecting cells.

These antibodies will also carry the virus to immune cells not already infected by the new virus.

The process is called antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE).

Meanwhile, other experts have pointed out caveats to the latest findings.

Firstly, ADE happens only under certain conditions, said Professor Ooi Eng Eong, deputy director of Duke-NUS Medical School's Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme.

"There is enhancement but in a very narrow range. When you have too many cross-reactive antibodies, or too little, you don't get that enhancement," said Prof Ooi, who has studied ADE by simulating its effects using vaccines for Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever, both flaviviruses.

But if the environment is indeed favourable, this could mean a more sustained secondary infection, said Prof Ooi. If this is the case in a Zika infection, the chances of the virus crossing the placenta to the foetus could be higher, he added.

Secondly, scientists are unclear about the time gap between a dengue and a Zika infection, and its effect on the Zika infection.

For dengue, studies suggest that reactions to the virus are worse if the first and second dengue infections are more than two years apart.

Thirdly, dengue ADE studies show that a second infection could, instead, have a protective effect, said Professor Annelies Wilder-Smith of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine .

She added that in the first six months, and possibly up to 11/2 years after a person is infected, he could be cross-protected against the other dengue serotypes.

Prof Wilder-Smith said scientists have inferred that a reaction like ADE can occur between the dengue and Zika viruses, because the two show a similar make-up and also evolve in a similar fashion.

However, studies on ADE have provided varying results so it is premature to conclude what the actual interactions will be.

"What we now need, to complement laboratory-based studies, is to carry out prospective cohort studies," said Prof Wilder-Smith, who is leading the cohort study in Brazil.

But one thing is certain.

It is not easy to develop a dengue or Zika vaccine.

Said Prof Isern: "With both Zika and dengue vaccines, the challenge is to design a vaccine that elicits strong protection, without inducing an antibody response that could serve to enhance a natural infection.

"Care must be taken to include pieces of the virus in the vaccine formulation, which will elicit strong neutralising antibodies, and not solely enhance antibodies that coat the virus without destroying it."

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First Zika cluster of 2017 reported at Simon Place in Hougang, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

First Zika cluster of 2017 reported at Simon Place in Hougang, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

First Zika cluster of 2017 reported at Simon Place in Hougang

SINGAPORE - Two locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus have been confirmed at Simon Place, near Kovan in Hougang. Both are residents from the same household.

The cluster was notified on Tuesday (March 28) and vector control operations are being carried out. MOH declined to reveal personal details of the two, but The Straits Times understands neither is pregnant.

Apart from the two new cases, there have been six other isolated Zika cases detected in Singapore this year.

A cluster is formed when at least two cases have onset within 14 days and are located within 150m of each other.

Residents should remain vigilant in detecting mosquito breeding spots, as there could still be asymptomatic or mild, undiagnosed cases which can cause further transmission of the virus.


The National Environment Agency (NEA) has commenced vector control operations and outreach activities at the cluster.

As of Wednesday (March 29), NEA has inspected about 120 out of some 400 premises in Simon Place for mosquito breeding, alongside ground checks in the vicinity.

Seven breeding habitats in homes and three in other premises have been detected and destroyed.

Indoor spraying of insecticides, together with thermal fogging and misting at outdoor areas, have been carried out.

NEA officers and grassroots volunteers are distributing information leaflets and insect repellents to households, to raise awareness of Zika.

They also stress the need to prevent mosquito breeding, and tell residents to apply repellent as a precaution.

Residents are requested to allow NEA officers to carry out inspections and indoor spraying of their homes.

The five-step Mozzie Wipeout should also be practised.

Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim said: "I thank NEA for its concerted work and urge residents to cooperate fully and to exercise personal vigilance."

Ms Lim added that she would be visiting some residents in the affected cluster on Thursday.

Most people infected with the Zika virus do not develop symptoms, so it may take some time before a reintroduced virus is detected.

Members of the public are advised to seek medical attention if they are unwell, especially with symptoms such as fever and rash.

They should also inform their doctors of the location of their residence and workplace.

For more information on Zika and details on current clusters, head to NEA's website at and

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Swimming: Illness a factor in Joseph Schooling setback at NCAA Championships, Sport News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Swimming: Illness a factor in Joseph Schooling setback at NCAA Championships, Sport News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Swimming: Illness a factor in Joseph Schooling setback at NCAA Championships

A fever derailed Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling's bid for his third straight 100- and 200-yard butterfly crowns at the NCAA Division I Men's Swimming and Diving Championships in Indiana.

The University of Texas (UT) junior was dethroned by former team-mate Caeleb Dressel in the 100-yd fly final yesterday morning (Singapore time), finishing second in 43.75sec.

Schooling, who holds the NCAA record of 1min 37.97sec in the 200-yd fly, then finished last in his heat last night (Singapore time), posting 1min 45.47sec.

The Sunday Times learnt that Schooling had a fever, although the 21-year-old refused to use it as an excuse for his performance.

His compatriot Quah Zheng Wen was in red-hot form last night. The 20-year-old NCAA debutant not only won his 200-yd butterfly heat in 1:40.44, but he was also the second-fastest qualifier for the final.

Schooling's team-mate Jack Conger was top with 1:39.88.

Quah, a University of California, Berkeley freshman, had also featured in the 100-yd fly final, where he clocked 45.06sec to place fifth.

The University of Florida's Dressel won the title in 43.58sec, breaking Schooling's NCAA record of 44.01sec.

Conger was third in 44.35sec.

Dressel, who won golds in the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays at last year's Olympic Games, also clinched the 50-yd freestyle title on Friday.

Said Schooling after the 100-yd fly: "I did my best today. I was definitely looking to go under 44 (seconds), which I did, and finish one-two with Jack.

"There were a couple of things which I could have executed better, but well done to Caeleb for winning the event and breaking the NCAA record." 

Quah also raced in the 100-yd back on Friday night (Singapore time), winning his heat in 46.33sec, but did not advance to the final.

Singapore's National Training Centre head coach Gary Tan is "delighted" with Quah's performance at the March 22-25 NCAA Championships so far.

He said: "He was up against some of the best swimmers from across the globe and he's proved once again that he's got what it takes to be up there with the best.

"He's come a long way, and this is going to make him a better swimmer both physically and mentally."

There was consolation for Schooling after his 100-yd fly race yesterday, as he and team-mates John Shebat, Will Licon and Brett Ringgold won the 200-yd medley relay in 1min 21.54sec, an NCAA record.

"The 200-medley relay was phenomenal. We knew we wanted this record to go down and similar to yesterday's 400-medley relay, we went all out," said Schooling after the third day of the championships.

"Can't be happier for the boys and the team. We are 138.5 points ahead of second-placed California going into the final day, so I think we are doing pretty good."

The Texas Longhorns bagged two relay golds in the 200-yd freestyle and 400-yd medley on Thursday.

Singapore Swimming Association president Lee Kok Choy believes having the duo compete at such a high level "bodes well for the future of swimming here".

"The two boys inspired the nation during the Olympics in Rio, and have again established Singapore on the elite swimming map," he added. "We're delighted for Zheng Wen and how he's started his NCAA career. We wish him and Joseph the very best."

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London attacks: What we know so far about the victims, Europe News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

London attacks: What we know so far about the victims, Europe News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

London attacks: What we know so far about the victims

LONDON (AFP) - Four people were killed in the terror attack outside Britain's parliament on Wednesday, March 22: a woman picking up her children from school, a man from Utah, the United States, a 75-year-old man, and an unarmed police officer.

Westminster Bridge, where the attacker mowed down pedestrians before stabbing the police officer, is a busy tourist spot with its views of parliament's Big Ben clock tower.

Here's what we know so far about the victims:


Keith Palmer, a 48-year-old member of the parliamentary protection force, was fatally stabbed as he stood guard at the Westminster vehicle gates.  

Prime Minister Theresa May said the husband and father, who had been a police officer for 15 years, was "every inch a hero".  

He previously served in the British army alongside James Cleverly, now a Conservative MP, whose voice shook with emotion in parliament as he called for Palmer to receive a posthumous honour.  

As a tribute, London's Charlton Athletic football club placed a scarf on the stadium seat he held a season ticket.  

A US tourist shared a photo of herself with Palmer taken less than an hour before his death, so that his family could see him smiling in what may be the last picture of him alive.  

Thousands of people also donated money to Palmer's family via a crowdfunding page set up by the police union. The fund had collected nearly £600,000 (S$839220) by Friday evening.



Colleagues of Aysha Frade, a mother who was run down and killed as she was on her way to pick up her children, said she was "loved" and would be "deeply missed".

A Spanish diplomatic source confirmed that Frade was a 43-year-old British national whose mother was Spanish. Media reports said her daughters are seven and nine years old.

Rachel Borland, principal of DLD College London where Frade worked in the administration team, said she was "highly regarded and loved by our students and by her colleagues".



Kurt Cochran from Utah in the United States has been named as the third victim. US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to pay tribute to "a great American", adding that his "prayers and condolences are with the family and friends".

Clint Payne, Cochran's brother-in-law, said Cochran and his wife Melissa were in London to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. "Our family is heartbroken," he said.

Melissa Cochran is reportedly in hospital, where she is recovering from a broken leg and rib, and a cut on her head.



Leslie Rhodes, 75, a retired window cleaner from south London, died of his wounds late Thursday when life support was withdrawn.  

Friend and neighbour Michael Carney, who knew Rhodes for around 40 years, kept a bedside vigil in hospital.  

"What harm did he ever do to anyone? He was the nicest man you ever met," Carney said.  "My wife and my two girls went up there and were with him until he died, playing him music. He liked Queen." 



  • Police said 31 of at least 50 people wounded were treated in hospital. Two people remained in "critical condition" Friday, while another has life-threatening injuries.
  •  May said that Britons, French, South Koreans, Greeks, Romanians, and individuals from China, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland and the US were among the wounded.
  • Three French pupils on a school trip to London, all aged 15 or 16, are among those hurt. Two of them suffer broken bones but are not reported to be in life-threatening condition. The teenagers are from a high school in Concarneau, in the western Brittany region. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault arrived in London on Thursday to visit them.
  • Five South Korean tourists - four women and a man in their 50s and 60s - were wounded after being knocked to the ground by people fleeing as the assailant mowed down pedestrians.
  • Among those admitted to hospital are 12 Britons, two Greeks, two Romanians, one German, one Polish, one Irish citizen, one Chinese national, one Italian and one American.
  • A woman with serious injuries rescued from the River Thames near Westminster Bridge after the attack, as well as her fiance, are believed to be the two Romanians. Local media in the eastern European country have named them as Andreea Cristea, a 29 year-old architect, and Andrei Burnez. Authorities did not confirm the reports.
  • The injured also include three police officers who were returning from an event recognising their bravery, two of whom remain in serious condition.
  • Among the injured British nationals are four students from Edge Hill University in Ormskirk who were on an educational visit to the parliament. Student Travis Frain, 19, was thrown over the bonnet of the car, his mother said. "He loves politics, that is his ideal trip, going to Parliament. He was probably buzzing with excitement," said Angela Frain. The teenager's injuries include a fractured leg and arm.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Boy, 9, 'poisons' female classmate with liquid hand soap, causing girl to be hospitalised, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Boy, 9, 'poisons' female classmate with liquid hand soap, causing girl to be hospitalised, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Boy, 9, 'poisons' female classmate with liquid hand soap, causing girl to be hospitalised

SINGAPORE - A Primary 3 girl has landed in hospital after falling victim to a prank by a male classmate who secretly added liquid hand soap to her water bottle.

The victim had a fever and bouts of vomiting after drinking from the bottle, reported Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao on Friday (March 24).

A police report has been made and that investigations are ongoing, the police told The Straits Times on Friday. 

The male classmate, nine, had wanted to help a female friend take revenge on the victim. On Wednesday, the boy returned to their classroom during recess time to carry out the act, after he heard about how the victim had a falling out with his friend.

All are Primary 3 pupils at a school in Jurong.

About 20 minutes after she drank from the bottle, the victim had a fever and vomited twice in school. The school then told the girl's 36-year-old father to bring her home.

The girl's father told Lianhe Wanbao that their maid was washing the girl's water bottle when she noticed soap bubbles. There was also a strong smell of Dettol.

She informed the girl's father, who later went back to the school to question the teachers, before taking the girl to the hospital.

The girl's father said the hospital had informed the police about the case.

While doctors have told him that his daughter would not be in any danger in the long term, he remains worried about her condition, as she has still been vomiting.

On Thursday night, the girl told Lianhe Wanbao on her hospital bed that she had seen the boy laughing after she drank from the bottle. The boy had also told her earlier that he wanted to "poison" her, but she did not take him seriously.

Later that night, the boy visited the girl at the hospital, accompanied by his 27-year-old mother and a teacher.

The boy stood by the girl's bedside crying, as he told her: "Sorry."

His mother said that her son did not have many friends in school. He decided to poison the girl, at his friend's instruction, as he was worried he would lose their friendship.

She also apologised to the girl's family at the hospital.

The school's principal and a few teachers had also visited the girl and they are offering assistance to the girl's family, according to Lianhe Wanbao.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

London attacks: Police identify Westminster attacker as British-born Khalid Masood, 52; victim count rises to 4, Europe News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

London attacks: Police identify Westminster attacker as British-born Khalid Masood, 52; victim count rises to 4, Europe News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

London attacks: Police identify Westminster attacker as British-born Khalid Masood, 52; victim count rises to 4

LONDON (REUTERS) - The attacker who ploughed a car through a throng of pedestrians and then stabbed a policeman outside Britain's parliament was named on Thursday (March 23) as Khalid Masood, a British-born man who was once investigated by MI5 intelligence officers over concerns about violent extremism.

The death toll from Wednesday's attack on the heart of Britain's democracy grew to five as police said one of the injured, a 75-year-man, had died in hospital after his life support was withdrawn.

That number included Masood, 52, who was shot dead by police.

The attack was the deadliest in Britain since 2005, when 52 people were killed by Islamist suicide bombers on London's public transport system.

It followed a series of Islamist militant operations that have killed some 280 people in France, Belgium and Germany in just over two years, and marked the third occasion a lone attacker has used a vehicle as a weapon.

Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility in a statement issued by its Amaq news agency, but did not name Masood and gave no details. It was not clear whether the attacker was directly connected to the militant group.

Police said Masood was born in the county of Kent in south-east England and was most recently living in the West Midlands region of central England. "Masood was not the subject of any current investigations and there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack," the Metropolitan Police said in a statement. "However, he was known to police and has a range of previous convictions for assaults, including GBH (grievous bodily harm), possession of offensive weapons and public order offences."

Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament the attacker had once been investigated by the MI5 intelligence agency over concerns about violent extremism, but had been a peripheral figure.

A US government source said Masood had associates with an interest in joining jihadist groups abroad, but there was no evidence he had done so himself. "The people he was hanging out with did include people suspected of having an interest in travelling to join jihadi groups overseas but the attacker himself never did so," the source said.

Police said Masood had never been convicted of a terrorist offence. His first conviction was in 1983 for criminal damage and his last one in December 2003 for possession of a knife.


During five minutes of mayhem in the heart of London on Wednesday, Masood sped across Westminster Bridge in a car, mowing down pedestrians. He then ran through the gates of the nearby parliamentary precinct and fatally stabbed an unarmed policeman, Keith Palmer, before being shot dead.

"He will be deeply missed. We love him so much," Palmer's family said in a statement. The 48-year-old was married with a five-year-old daughter.

About 40 people were injured, of whom some were in critical condition. May visited some of them, her spokesman said.

Police arrested eight people at six locations in London and Birmingham in the investigation into the attack, which May said was inspired by a warped Islamist ideology. All were suspected of preparing terrorist acts, police later confirmed.

The Enterprise rental car company said the vehicle used had been rented from its Spring Hill branch in Birmingham, which is in the West Midlands.

The bloodshed took place on the first anniversary of attacks that killed 32 people in Brussels. A minute's silence was held in parliament and outside police headquarters on Thursday morning.

As dusk fell, hundreds gathered in London's Trafalgar Square in a vigil to remember the victims. With traffic diverted away, volunteers handed out candles in an eerie silence.

Helen Pallot, 26, from just outside London, was holding a bunch of flowers she planned to lay nearby. "I have got a lot of friends and family that work five minutes away from there, so it just makes you think," she said."It made me angry and sad and I wanted to come here and show that we can still all be here together."

Speaking at the United Nations in New York, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson urged Internet providers and social media networks to do more to curb extremist propaganda. "They've got to look at the stuff that's going up on their sites, they've got to take steps to invigilate it, to take it down where they can," he said.


 The casualties included 12 Britons, three French children, two Romanians, four South Koreans, one German, one Pole, one Chinese, one American and two Greeks, May said.

Queen Elizabeth released a message saying: "My thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathy are with all those who have been affected by yesterday's awful violence."

US tourist Kurt Cochran was named as one of the dead in a Facebook post by family member Shantell Payne. "With a heavy heart I must pass the sad news of our beautiful brother, father, husband, son and friend Kurt Cochran, he could not overcome the injuries he received in the London terror attacks," Payne wrote.

Her post said Cochran's wife, Melissa Payne Cochran, was in hospital with a broken leg and rib and a cut on her head.

The couple were in Europe to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.

US President Donald Trump paid tribute to Cochran in a tweet, calling him "a great American".

Many have been shocked that the attacker was able to cause such mayhem in the heart of the capital equipped with nothing more than a hired car and a knife. "This kind of attack, this lone-wolf attack, using things from daily life, a vehicle, a knife, are much more difficult to forestall," Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC.

Three French high-school students on a school trip to London were among the injured. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault met some of their fellow students near the hospital where they were being treated. Their lives were not in danger.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What to know about US, British cabin ban on larger electronic devices, United States News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

What to know about US, British cabin ban on larger electronic devices, United States News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

What to know about US, British cabin ban on larger electronic devices

WASHINGTON/LONDON - The United States and Britain on Tuesday (March 21) banned electronic gadgets bigger than handphones from the passenger compartment of flights from airports in several Middle Eastern and North African nations.

Travellers can still bring gadgets such as laptops, tablets and game consoles, but these must be packed in the checked in baggage.

Canada and France are considering whether to impose similar measures, but Germany, Australia and New Zealand have said they are not considering a ban.

Here's what we know so far:


What is banned by the US and Britain?

The US is banning all electronic devices larger than an average-sized mobile phone. Britain bans devices that are larger than a normal-sized mobile phone. It has specified that the ban would apply to devices bigger than 16 cm in length, 9.3 cm in width and 1.5 cm thick.

Which airports are affected?

The US ban applies to flights from 10 airports in eight countries.

1. Mohammed V International, Casablanca, Morocco

2. Ataturk Airport, Istanbul, Turkey

3. Cairo International Airport, Egypt

4. Queen Alia International, Amman, Jordan

5. King Abdulaziz International, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

6. King Khalid International, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

7. Kuwait International Airport

8. Hamad International, Doha, Qatar

9. Abu Dhabi International, United Arab Emirates

10. Dubai International, United Arab Emirates

The British ban affects all the airports in six countries - Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey.

Which airlines are affected?

Since US airlines do not have direct flights from the airports affected, its ban affects nine non-US airlines: Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.

The British ban affects six British airlines, including charters - British Airways, EasyJet,, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson. It also impacts eight foreign carriers, including Egyptair, Royal Jordanian, Tunis Air and Turkish Airlines.

When will the ban start and end?

The US has given the affected airlines 96 hours, beginning at 3.00am on Tuesday (3pm on Tuesday, March 21, Singapore time), to inform travellers of the ban. Officials were not able to say when the order would end.

The British ban applies immediately from Tuesday and also has no end date.

Why impose the ban?

Officials in both the US and Britain would not give any details on what exactly prompted the bans.

The US Department of Homeland Security said, however, that extremists are seeking "innovative methods" to attack jets. It cited an incident in Somalia in February last year in which the Shabaab insurgent group said it had managed to place a bomb in a plane leaving Mogadishu for Djibouti. The device exploded shortly after takeoff, ripping a hole in the plane's side, but killed only the suspected bomber before the aircraft landed safely.

American authorities also cited the downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt in 2015, as well as attacks at airports in Brussels and Istanbul.

CNN quoted a US official as saying the ban was believed to be related to a threat posed by the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

In London, a government source only said Britain was "privy to the same intelligence" as the US. British Transport Minister Chris Grayling said: "We face a constantly evolving threat from terrorism and must respond accordingly."

What do security experts say?

Security experts are divided on the effectiveness of such a ban on electronic devices.

Mr Matthew Finn, managing director at Augmentiq, said placing such devices in the hold rather than in the cabin made little sense. That is because improvised explosive devices (IED) could be triggered via a variety of mechanisms, including a small mobile phone that would still be in the cabin. "I imagine there must be some reliable intelligence that gives credibility to the threat; I just can't see how this particular measure will make anything or anyone safer as a result," he said.

Mr Bruce Schneier, security technologist and lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, disagreed. "Forcing it in the plane's hold would make it much harder to detonate, since the terrorist has to design an automatic mechanism rather than doing it manually," he said.

Some experts also questioned the scope of the ban. "A partial ban targeting only few airlines in some countries will not protect passengers from a terrorist threat," said Mr Ruben Morales, head of corporate safety at Hong Kong Airlines.

"Nowadays airlines are highly connected through alliances and codeshare agreements... Nothing prevents passengers from bringing their electronic devices onboard non-direct flights to the US from countries outside of the ban," he added.

SOURCES: AFP, Reuters, Washington Post

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Man shot dead at Paris Orly airport after seizing soldier's gun, Europe News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Man shot dead at Paris Orly airport after seizing soldier's gun, Europe News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Man shot dead at Paris Orly airport after seizing soldier's gun

PARIS • Security forces shot dead a man who seized a soldier's gun at Paris Orly airport in France yesterday, less than two hours after the same man shot and wounded a police officer during a routine check, the Interior Ministry said.

The incident triggered a major security scare that shut down the airport and left thousands of travellers stranded. It took place at around 8.30am local time (3.30pm Singapore time) in the Orly-Sud terminal at the smaller of Paris' two international airports, located south of the capital.

The man, identified as Ziyed Ben Belgacem in media reports, tried to snatch a gun from a female soldier "in an extremely violent attack" on her before he was shot dead, a French army spokesman said.

Mr Benoit Brulon, a spokesman for France's anti-terror patrol force, said of the female soldier: "She's doing fine."

Mr Brulon, speaking on BFMTV, said that the female soldier fell to the ground as she struggled with her attacker. "It was then that her comrades opened fire to protect her and people around," he said.

Separately, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henri Brandet said it was "possible", but had yet to be established, that the incident could be called a terrorist attack.

"There's possibly a terrorist motive, but that's something the justice system will have to ascertain, and it will do so in due time," Mr Brandet told reporters.

Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said that the slain man had been linked to an earlier attack on police during a routine traffic inspection in the northern suburb of Garges-les-Gonesse at around 7am, in which an officer was slightly wounded in the head.

He then continued south to steal another car in the suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine about 10km from Orly airport. In Vitry, he also "burst into a bar and threatened those present", Mr Le Roux said.

The Journal du Dimanche said that the suspect, a 39-year-old French citizen, was known for robbery and drug trafficking. His home was searched in 2015, the paper reported. A police source described him as a radicalised Muslim.

The anti-terrorism prosecutor has opened an investigation.

BFMTV, without giving a source, said the attacker had texted his father, saying: "I've screwed up. I've shot a policeman."

Police also searched his house in Garges-les-Gonesse, in the multiethnic Seine-Saint-Denis area.

A witness to the events at the airport told BFMTV that he saw the man in possession of the soldier's rifle and threatening her. "The soldiers were trying to reason with him," he said, adding that as he fled the scene he heard two shots.

Mr Franck Lecam, a traveller bound for Tel Aviv, said that he heard "three or four shots" nearby as he was queuing to check in.

"There are policemen, emergency workers and soldiers everywhere," he said, after being forced to evacuate the terminal with around 3,000 others.

Air traffic to Orly was suspended and all incoming flights rerouted to Charles de Gaulle airport, in the north of Paris.

Several planes that were preparing for take-off or had just landed in Orly were grounded on the tarmac while the security operation unfolded. Passengers in the nearby Orly-Ouest terminal were confined in the building.

Elite police teams intervened quickly to secure the airport and search it for possible explosives, but none were found.

By early afternoon, Orly-Ouest had reopened and flights had started to resume. Orly-Sud had reopened to incoming flights, but outgoing flights were still suspended.

The incidents come five weeks before France holds presidential elections, and on the second day of an official visit to Paris by Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate.


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Park Geun Hye: Once South Korea's princess and de facto first lady, now dethroned in disgrace, East Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Park Geun Hye: Once South Korea's princess and de facto first lady, now dethroned in disgrace, East Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Park Geun Hye: Once South Korea's princess and de facto first lady, now dethroned in disgrace

SEOUL (AFP) - The corridors of power have been home to South Korea's Park Geun Hye as a child, de facto first lady, and president.

She leaves them in disgrace, crippled by a corruption scandal that made her the country's first head of state to be removed by impeachment.

Now 65, Park grew up in the spotlight at the Blue House, the presidential complex just north of one of Seoul's royal palaces, enjoying a pampered life as the eldest child of military dictator Park Chung Hee.

Despite rights abuses, her father oversaw the country's rapid economic development during his 1961-1979 rule, with the first family treated as royalty by some supporters and Park dubbed the young "princess" - a nickname that endured for decades.

The assassinations of both her parents five years apart in the 1970s only further fanned sympathy for her.

Park's mother - widely praised as a dutiful wife and caring mother in the still traditionalist society of the day - was murdered by a Korean-Japanese believed to have been acting on Pyongyang's orders.

A student in France at the time, Park returned home to assume the role of first lady until her father was killed by his own security chief in 1979.

She subsequently kept a low profile for nearly two decades, until she made a successful 1998 bid to become a lawmaker as the South reeled from the fallout of the Asian financial crisis.

She became an instant political star among older conservative Koreans who fondly remembered her mother and revered her father for helping pull a war-ravaged nation out of poverty.

Adept at taking advantage of the nostalgia for them and the sympathy for her, she frequently peppered her campaign speeches with the phrase "After I tragically lost my parents to assassins' bullets." .

Park rose quickly up the political ladder, earning the nickname "the queen of elections" due to older conservative voters' unwavering loyalty.

The fact that Park never married and was estranged from her two siblings was part of her appeal, in a country where leaders had often been embroiled in major corruption scandals involving relatives.

"I'm married to the Republic of Korea. I have no children. South Koreans are my family," Park once said, citing her role model as Elizabeth I of England - known as the 'Virgin Queen'.

Eventually Park became the South's first female president in 2012, winning the highest vote share of any candidate in the democratic era.

But it was the family of a shady religious figure she chose as a mentor who ultimately sowed the seeds of her downfall.

Her relationship with Choi Tae Min, the seven-times-married founder of a cult-like group 40 years her senior, began in the 1970s when he sent her letters claiming that he had seen her dead mother in his dreams.

His influence grew until a US diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks noted widespread rumours that he had "complete control over Park's body and soul".

He died in 1994, and his daughter Choi Soon Sil - already a friend who handled Park's daily life including her wardrobe choices - inherited his role.

Park is accused of colluding with her for years to squeeze tens of millions of dollars from South Korean businesses, including many of the country's biggest companies, in exchange for governmental favours.

Choi is on trial for coercion and abuse of power, while Lee Jae Yong, the de facto leader of the world's biggest smartphone maker Samsung, has been indicted for bribery, corruption and other offences.

Park apologised several times in tearful televised addresses, painting herself as a lonely, isolated leader whose main offence was to place too much trust in a friend.

"South Koreans, since I took office, I have lived a lonely life," she said. Choi "stayed with me during my most difficult times," she added. "It is a fact that I let my guard down."

But the scandal was too much even for many of her supporters, prompting millions to take to the streets calling for her ouster and sending her once-bulletproof approval ratings to record lows.

Many in her own party turned against her to vote for her impeachment in parliament, leaving it to the constitutional court to have the final say.

The scandal has exposed allegedly corrupt ties between politics and business, as in Park's father's time, and his divisive legacy has always dogged her political career, with critics accusing her of inheriting his authoritarian streak.

State probes have portrayed Park as a solitary, aloof figure who preferred staying at her residence to meeting advisors at the office, overly focused on her appearance and showing little tolerance for criticism.

One official who was her chief of staff for two years told a parliamentary hearing he had often gone entire weeks without seeing her at all - an experience echoed by many other senior personnel.

Park was also accused of negligence over the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014 - when more than 300 people, mostly schoolchildren, drowned in the South's worst disaster for decades.

Separately, Park is accused of ordering officials to crack down on and punish thousands of artists who voiced criticism of her.

"Instead of the father's intelligence, insight and determination to build economy, she only inherited the worst part of him - obsession with power... and intolerance for critics," Chun Yu Ok, a former ally and senior lawmaker in Park's party, wrote in a recent memoir.

"Her downfall is a reminder for all South Koreans that now is time to finally say goodbye to our past."

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Fatal BKE accident: Motorcycles topple, riders hurled 'as van crashes into them', Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Fatal BKE accident: Motorcycles topple, riders hurled 'as van crashes into them', Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Fatal BKE accident: Motorcycles topple, riders hurled 'as van crashes into them'

As storm clouds loomed, the motorcyclists on the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) decided to take cover.

Some stopped on the road shoulder under a flyover to put on their raincoats. Without warning, a van drove into them, said one of the victims, Mr Chin Poh Fatt.

The stationary motorcycles toppled and some of the riders were hurled onto the road. Mr Chin, a Malaysian who works in construction, felt the impact from behind. The van had crashed into a motorcycle which fell on his, pinning him down.

"I was afraid. There was a loud noise when the van hit a motorcycle, which later fell on my leg," the 54-year-old recounted to The Sunday Times in Mandarin.

Mr Chin, whose limbs and back were hurt, survived the accident yesterday afternoon, along with five others who were hurt as well.

But two did not make it. The men, aged 34 and 50, died, said the police.

The 25-year-old van driver, a Singaporean, has been arrested for a rash act causing death. "His driving licence will be suspended with immediate effect. Investigations are ongoing," said the police in a statement yesterday evening.

The incident took place at 3.50pm on the BKE towards Woodlands after the Seletar Expressway exit.

A 1½-minute long clip, which was widely circulated, showed six men lying on the road. One had been flung over the railing along the road and was on the grass patch. Two others were lying on the road, motionless and bleeding.

A silver van with a smashed front and a white motorcycle under it could also be seen in the video.

The van driver appeared unhurt.

Some of the motorcycles had toppled over and looked damaged, with motorcycle parts, such as the seats, strewn along the road.

The police urged the public not to circulate images of the deceased, out of respect for their families.

When The Sunday Times visited the scene at about 6.30pm, the area had been cordoned off by the police. Traffic police investigators were on site.

Relatives of the casualties milled about the site, while other motorcyclists involved spoke to the police.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force said the two men were pronounced dead at the scene.

The six casualties were taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

There, Mr Chin underwent an X-ray at the emergency room before being wheeled away. He could walk though his limbs hurt, he told The Sunday Times, still clutching his motorcycle helmet.

The incident resulted in the left most lane of the expressway being closed to the public, and caused a traffic jam that cleared five hours later at almost 9pm.

Animal researcher Sabrina Jabbar, 27, was on her way to Malaysia via Woodlands Checkpoint when she was caught in the jam.

She left Golden Mile at 5.30pm and reached the accident site at 6.50pm, where two blue tents shielding the bodies were still standing. It was a "terrifying" scene, she said.


Motorcycle being removed from the accident site

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