Saturday, October 11, 2008

Somali Pirates Threaten to Blow Up Hijacked Ship if No Ransom Is Paid

Somali Pirates Threaten to Blow Up Hijacked Ship if No Ransom Is Paid

Saturday, October 11, 2008

U.S. Navy destroyer USS Howard, left, and the Russian missile frigate Neustrashimy responded to the Somalia coast in response to a pirate hijacking.

U.S. Navy destroyer USS Howard, left, and the Russian missile frigate Neustrashimy responded to the Somalia coast in response to a pirate hijacking.

NAIROBI, Kenya — With U.S. warships lurking nearby, the pirates who hijacked an arms-laden Ukrainian tanker off Somalia threatened to destroy the vessel unless a ransom is paid, a spokesman for the bandits said.

Besides the U.S. ships, a Russian frigate was heading toward the scene, raising the stakes for a possible commando-style raid on the ship. Pirates have seized more than two dozen ships this year off the Horn of Africa, but the hijacking of the Faina has drawn the most international concern because of its dangerous cargo.

The vessel is carrying 33 tanks and other heavy weapons.

Also on Friday, armed pirates in speedboats hijacked a Greek chemical tanker with 20 crew members in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia, a piracy watchdog official said.

The threat by the pirates on the Faina was unusual. Pirates operating off Somalia rarely harm their hostages, instead holding out for a ransom that often exceeds $1 million. But international pressure was mounting regarding the Faina hijacking, with NATO forces planning to deploy.

"We held a consultative meeting for more than three hours today and decided to blow up the ship and its cargo — us included — if the ship owners did not meet our ransom demand," Sugule Ali said in an interview by satellite telephone on board the ship.

He gave the ship owners until Monday night to pay. Ali had said Thursday he was willing to negotiate the ransom demand of $20 million, after nearly two weeks of insisting they would never lower the price.

"Either we achieve our goal and get the ransom or perish along with the ship, its crew and cargo," Ali said.

There are 20 Ukrainian, Latvian and Russian crew members on board. The ship's Russian captain died of a heart condition soon after the hijacking nearly two weeks ago, officials in Moscow say.

The U.S. Navy, which has six warships surrounding the Faina off the central coast of Somalia, had no comment on the pirates' threat Friday, said Lt. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain and helps monitor Somalia's coast.

Momentum has been growing for coordinated international action against the pirate menace.

NATO ministers agreed Thursday that they would have seven ships in the area within two weeks. In addition to the six U.S. warships near the Faina, helicopters buzz overhead daily.

Russia also announced it would cooperate with the West in the fight, and several European countries have said they would launch an anti-piracy patrol.

The U.N. Security Council this week called on countries to send naval ships and military aircraft, and U.S. warships are being diverted from counterterrorism duties to respond to the sea bandits.

Somalia's government has given foreign powers the freedom to use force against the pirates.

Ali said several fighter jets and a drone were hovering over the ship.

"It appears that they are readying for an operation," he said. "Helicopters, fighter jets and an unmanned drone are constantly flying over us all day long ... It is around-the-clock surveillance."

Ukrainian Defense Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov said earlier that Ukraine does not want foreign countries to use power to take the ship. Most of the 20 remaining crew member aboard the Faina are Ukrainian.

"We are against a forceful scenario, we believe there need to be negotiations," he said. "What is most important is people."

Somalia has been impoverished by decades of conflict, and piracy by Somali gangs has emerged as a lucrative racket that brings in millions of dollars in ransoms.

A nation of around 8 million people, Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991. A quarter of Somali children die before age 5 and nearly every public institution has collapsed. In the capital, Mogadishu, thousands of civilians have died over the past 18 months in a ferocious, Iraq-style insurgency.

The Greek ship, which was flying a Panama flag, was traveling from Southeast Asia to Europe when it was seized, said Noel Choong, heads of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur. No further details were immediately available, he said.

This pushes the number of attacks this year in the African waters to 69. A total 27 ships were hijacked and 11 remain in the hands of the pirates along with more than 200 crew members, he said.

Two arrested in robbery after asking police for directions

Two arrested in robbery after asking police for directions

The Courier-Journal • October 10, 2008

Less than two hours after they allegedly robbed a Circle K gas station, two men were arrested in the case — when they asked a Louisville Metro Police officer for directions.

Lavarr A. Milton, 21, and Guy O. Walker, 18, have been charged with robbing the Jeffersontown-area gas station and three others in the Louisville area, according to police.

Milton and Walker are accused of robbing the Circle K in the 9600 block of Taylorsville Road about 1 a.m. today, said Jeffersontown police Detective Bill Green.

About 2:45 a.m., the two were in the 7300 block of Egypt Lane in Okolona when they asked a Louisville Metro Police officer for directions to Blue Lick Road, said police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley.

“The officer noticed some evidence in the vehicle that led him to believe that a robbery had occurred” and he arrested Milton and Walker, Smiley said.

Smiley said Milton and Walker were wanted in connection with robberies that occurred at a Speedy Mart, 1711 W. Broadway, on July 8 and July 16, and another at Boone’s Chevron, 521 N. 22nd St., on Aug. 8.

Milton and Walker are being held at Metro Corrections.

Green said Jeffersontown police are working with Louisville Metro Police in the investigation.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Woman kept prisoner at home by her own husband for 50 years

Woman kept prisoner at home by her own husband for 50 years
A woman in Italy was kept a prisoner in her own home by her husband for 50 years, police have revealed.

By Lucy Cockcroft
Last Updated: 4:16PM BST 09 Oct 2008

The wife was only allowed out of the house when accompanied by him, and was not allowed to speak with anyone else.

She raised the alarm when she was admitted to a hospital at Trento, a few miles from her home in the nearby Val di Non in northern Italy, for heart trouble.

She told doctors that her jealous husband had kept her a prisoner in their home virtually since the day they married in 1958.

The couple, who were not identified, are both in their seventies and are believed to have two grown-up children.

He locked her inside the house when he went out, and would not even let her watch the television.

A police spokesman said: "Once the hospital informed us of the woman's story we acted immediately and informed the local prosecutor.

"It appears that the woman was kept a virtual prisoner in her own home for 50 years. She was only allowed out when her husband was with her and if he went out on his own he would lock all the doors and windows.

"At 5pm when he came back he would lock the place down, She was not even allowed to see her children and they were not allowed to visit.

"The TV was also forbidden and there were also times when he would beat her.

"It's a very sad story and the woman's life has been made a misery by her husband – if it wasn't for the fact she was admitted to hospital and bravely decided to speak out her ordeal would have continued."

Trento prosecutor Fabio Biasi requested an order for the man to be removed from his house and taken to secure accommodation while the investigation continued.




By JEANE MacINTOSH Post Correspondent

PAWNS IN 'FRAUD': Freddie Johnson, yesterday in Cleveland, and Lateala Goins told of filling out voter registrations multiple times in the ACORN scandal revealed by The Post yesterday.
PAWNS IN 'FRAUD': Freddie Johnson, yesterday in Cleveland, and Lateala Goins told of filling out voter registrations multiple times in the ACORN scandal revealed by The Post yesterday.

Last updated: 9:10 am
October 10, 2008
Posted: 4:00 am
October 10, 2008

CLEVELAND - A man at the center of a voter-registration scandal told The Post yesterday he was given cash and cigarettes by aggressive ACORN activists in exchange for registering an astonishing 72 times, in apparent violation of Ohio laws.

"Sometimes, they come up and bribe me with a cigarette, or they'll give me a dollar to sign up," said Freddie Johnson, 19, who filled out 72 separate voter-registration cards over an 18-month period at the behest of the left-leaning Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

"The ACORN people are everywhere, looking to sign people up. I tell them I am already registered. The girl said, 'You are?' I say, 'Yup,' and then they say, 'Can you just sign up again?' " he said.

Johnson used the same information on all of his registration cards, and officials say they usually catch and toss out duplicate registrations. But the practice sparks fear that some multiple registrants could provide different information and vote more than once by absentee ballot.

ACORN is under investigation in Ohio and at least eight other states - including Missouri, where the FBI said it's planning to look into potential voter fraud - for over-the-top efforts to get as many names as possible on the voter rolls regardless of whether a person is registered or eligible.

It's even under investigation in Bridgeport, Conn., for allegedly registering a 7-year-old girl to vote, according to the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

Meanwhile, a federal judge yesterday ordered Ohio's Secretary of State to verify the identity of newly registered voters by matching them with other government documents. The order was in response to a Republican lawsuit unrelated to the ACORN probe in Cuyahoga County, in which at least three people, including Johnson, have been subpoenaed.

Bribing citizens with gifts, property or anything of value is a fourth-degree felony in Ohio, punishable by up to 18 months in prison. And it's a fifth-degree felony - punishable by 12 months in jail - for a person to pay "compensation on a fee-per-registration" system when signing up someone to vote.

Johnson, who works at a cellphone kiosk in downtown Cleveland, said he was a sitting duck for the signature hunters, but was always happy to help them out in exchange for a smoke or a little scratch. He'd collected 10 to 20 cigarettes and anywhere from $10 to $15, he said.

The Cleveland voting probe, first reported by The Post yesterday, also focused on Lateala Goins, who said she put her name on multiple voter registrations. She guessed ACORN canvassers then put fake addresses on them. "You can tell them you're registered as many times as you want - they do not care," she said.

ACORN spokesman Kris Harsh said the group does not tolerate its workers paying people to sign the voter-registration cards.

ACORN's political wing has endorsed Barack Obama for president, but Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign in Ohio, said ACORN has no role in its get-out-the-vote drive.

During the primary season, however, the Obama camp paid another group, Citizen Service Inc., $832,598 for various political services, according to Federal Elections Commission filings. That group and ACORN share the same board of directors.

In Wisconsin yesterday, John McCain blasted ACORN.

"No one should be corrupting the most precious right we have, that is the right to vote," he said.

It's a right Johnson will exercise. "Yeah, I've registered enough - I might as well vote."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Man picks up 'dead' fox, wrecks after it revives

Tommy Fox was driving home from his job in Dover Wednesday at about 11 p.m. when a beautiful red fox dashed in front of his SUV.

A GMC Jimmy that wrecked when the owner tried to fend off a fox inside his vehicle. (Dale Grandstaff/Contributed)

After he ran over the fox, he stopped his GMC Jimmy to get the fox to cut off its tail for a souvenir, and he put it in the back seat, said Dale Grandstaff, a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency wildlife officer.

"The tails are real bushy and pretty and thick this time of year," Grandstaff said.

Things took an odd turn when Fox heard a noise coming from his back seat and realized the fox was alive — and not happy.

The driver desperately searched for something to hold the fox back and prevent him from climbing into the front seat and biting him, he told Grandstaff.

As he looked in the back seat to get a blanket to block the fox, he took his attention from the road.

The SUV crossed the center line and wrecked in a ditch, flipping once and landing upside down in the 3900 block of Lylewood Road, Grandstaff said.

Fox suffered minor injuries and bruises and was treated at the scene by Montgomery County Emergency Medical Service.

The fox was found dead in the SUV. Grandstaff said it was not clear whether the fox died of injuries caused by being hit by the SUV or if it died in the wreck. It was also not known if Tommy Fox got to keep the tail.

Fox could not be located for comment, and the complete Tennessee Highway Patrol report was not available Thursday. His vehicle is registered in Beaumont, Miss., said Laura McPherson, Tennessee Highway Patrol spokeswoman.

The wreck was handled by Trooper Vincent Turocy.
Never cage a fox

Grandstaff said foxes can be found in many places in Montgomery County.

"They're around — they're just really shy and reclusive animals," Grandstaff said. "They do get run over this time of year."

Grandstaff said there was nothing wrong with Tommy Fox taking the animal after striking it.But foxes don't like to be caged, especially when they are alive, he said.

"They are a wild animal — they don't want to be picked up or touched. They just want to be left alone," Grandstaff said.

Florida Toddler Rescued After Dangling From Carnival Ride

The 'Crazy Bus' ride

Florida carnival-goers made a daring rescue of a toddler Saturday night after it had been dangling from a ride after an apparent malfunction, reported.

The mother, Sherri Pinkerton, desperately clung to her daughter while suspended about 35 feet in the air on the “Crazy Bus” ride while horrified onlookers watched. When she lost her grip on the child, people standing below the ride were able to catch the toddler, reported. Later, firefighters rescued the Pinkerton with a ladder.

Neither the mother nor her child was significantly injured in the incident.

"I watched it for ten minutes," Marc Chrisley, who thought the woman was going to lose her grip, told "She looked like she was fixing to give out any second."

Witnesses said the Pinkerton and the toddler were getting off the ride when it unexpectedly lifted back into the air, reported.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Judge lets heroin addict burglar with 145 offences walk free from court with 'one last big chance

Judge lets heroin addict burglar with 145 offences walk free from court with 'one last big chance'

By Luke Salkeld
Last updated at 2:14 AM on 04th October 2008

Dean Weaver

Dean Weaver was a prolific offender and heroin addict (file picture)

A burglar addicted to drugs who committed 145 crimes walked free from court yesterday after a judge ruled he deserved another chance.

Dean Weaver, 24, has stolen from homes, cars and businesses in a one-man crimewave to feed his heroin habit.

Judge Martin Picton said Weaver had caused his victims 'a lot of harm' and his crimes deserved 'years' in prison.

But he deferred sentence for three months, telling Weaver that if he stayed
out of trouble he would not go to jail at all. The maximum sentence for burglary is 14 years.

Earlier this year the same judge caused controversy when he lifted a curfew on a 24-year-old who had drunkenly assaulted a policeman so he could fly to Portugal for a golfing holiday.

Yesterday Weaver appeared delighted when he left court after admitting three specimen charges of stealing from a house, a pharmacy and a car.

A further 142 offences were taken into consideration.

Prosecutor Mary Harley said these offences consisted of 126 thefts from cars, five commercial burglaries, seven house burglaries and four counts of taking a vehicle without consent.

The court heard that one of his victims has been left 'vulnerable and frightened' after Weaver stole an £800 television and a handbag from her house while she slept.

The 50-year-old victim, named only as Angela for fear of reprisals, said she was ' disgusted' at the judge's leniency.

The grandmother- of-three from Gloucester said: 'Knowing that someone else has been in your house is horrific. I can't believe he's got away with it. It's beyond belief. He's offended before. I feel so angry.'

Judge Picton's decision is bound to fuel widespread concerns over the lenient treatment of persistent offenders.

Courts are under pressure to avoid jailing criminals because of prison overcrowding.

Earlier this year an official advisory panel said unpaid work or a curfew would be a better punishment than prison.
Time for a change: Dean Weaver was given his last chance at Gloucester Crown Court

Time for a change: Dean Weaver was given his last chance at Gloucester Crown Court

Last night Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, Conservative MP for the Cotswolds, also criticised Judge Picton's decision.

'This man has caused a huge amount of grief and trouble to an awful lot of people,' he said. 'Somebody who has behaved that badly should be locked up.

'I don't see why his drug rehabilitation cannot go on in jail.

'Sometimes the poor victims need to be given more priority than the offender.'

At Gloucester Crown Court, Judge Picton heard from police and probation officers and then told Weaver he had three months to make progress with his rehabilitation programme and avoid committing more crimes.

He admitted: 'I am taking a big chance on you because these are serious offences which caused a lot of harm.

'But you have had a massive problem with drugs and if you can do something about that, we will all benefit.'

'You could not complain if I locked you up for years for this offending. It is what it is worth.

'But I am going to give you the chance to continue with what is really major progress that started in June.

'If you can stay out of trouble and off drugs for the next three months, I shall find a way to avoid giving you the sentence that these offences are worth.'

He told the court: 'He has had long-term problems and if he keeps taking drugs, he is a oneman crimewave.'

In response, Weaver told the judge: 'This is the first chance I have been given and I have grasped it.'