New York To Get New … Typewriters?

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Some workers in the high-tech environs of New York City say they’ll be accomplishing their daily tasks on new typewriters — replacements for their old ones.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg — a man fond of his iPad and electronic gadgets, and who says he’ll turn his city into a new “Silicon Alley” — has employees of several municipal agencies working not on the latest speediest computers, but a fleet of 1,172 typewriters, the New York Post reported Monday.

Those employees in the New York Police Department, Department of Buildings and Human Resources Administration and 18 other agencies will be getting new electronic typewriters to replace aging ones, the report said.

The city Department of Administrative Services issued a request for bids for new typewriters to replace the geriatric assortment now in use, an agency spokeswoman said.

“The contract is for typewriters, which are primarily used to complete carbon-copy forms that are not computerized,” Julianne Cho said.

New York’s last typewriter contract — put out five years ago at a cost to the city of $320,000 — is set to terminate, the Post said.

“The offices that use them here have to fill out old-style standardized requisitions and purchase orders, etc. — forms that have multiple carbonless-copy pages and which need an actual keystroke to make a copy on all the pages,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Seth Solomonow.

Blood Donor Wins Super Bowl Tickets

LAFAYETTE, Ind., Jan. 31 (UPI) — An Indiana woman who has donated 143 units of either whole blood or platelets since 2003 said she was shocked to win Super Bowl tickets.

The Indiana Blood Center said Carol Sikler, 50, of Lafayette gave blood frequently enough to qualify for the contest, which was open to anyone who donated blood or blood products four or more times in the space of three months, and she has now been announced as the winner of two tickets to Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, The Journal & Courier, Lafayette, reported Monday.

Sikler said she has been giving blood in a bid to “break even” for the blood made available to her husband Chuck during a pair of lengthy hospital stays prior to his death in 2003. She said she recently surpassed her goal and decided to keep donating.

“It’s a way for me to do something for someone that can’t ever thank me or pay me back personally. It’s giving without expectation,” she said.

Sikler said she was shocked to win the contest.

“I’m not the kind of person who wins things,” she said.

Woman Offers Kidney To Get Son A Job

PERUGIA, Italy, Jan. 31 (UPI) — An Italian woman said she is willing to give up a kidney in exchange for a job for her 38-year-old son.

The Perugia woman, whose name was not released, told the daily La Nazione she had “nothing left to lose and nothing to be ashamed of” in offering her kidney in exchange for employment for her son, ANSA reported Tuesday.

The woman said her son speaks multiple languages but has been unemployed since his business went bankrupt in August of last year.

“One kidney is enough for me to live on; therefore, I am willing to give it up to help a 38-year-old smile again,” the woman said.

Boy, 10, Arrested For Pulling Toy Gun

BURBANK, Calif., Jan. 31 (UPI) — Police in California said a 10-year-old boy was arrested after allegedly pulling a toy gun on a woman who believed it to be a real firearm.

Burbank police said the boy, whose name was not released, knocked on the front door of a 67-year-old woman whose grandson beat up one of the boy’s friends at school, the Burbank Leader reported Tuesday.

Lt. John Dilibert said the boy yelled “you suck” at the woman and pointed the toy gun at her before fleeing.

Dilibert said the toy gun appeared to be an Airsoft gun, a realistic-looking toy that shoots pellets, CBS News reported.

“They’re replicas,” Dilibert said. “They look just like the real thing. It shoots soft pellets, like a BB gun.”

The boy was arrested on suspicion of brandishing a weapon and released to his parents. He was given a citation and will have to appear in court, Dilibert said.

Bill Would Make Toto’s Breed, Cairn Terrier, Kansas State Dog

TOPEKA, Kan., Jan. 31 (UPI) — A Kansas state lawmaker is proposing a measure to make the cairn terrier, the breed of Toto from “The Wizard of Oz,” into the official state dog.

Democratic state Rep. Ed Trimmer of Winfield, acting on an idea proposed by Brenda Moore of Augusta, obedience chairwoman with the South Central Kansas Kennel Club, introduced House Bill No. 251 last week to make the cairn terrier the official state dog, The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle reported Tuesday.

“They just thought we needed a state dog,” Trimmer said Thursday. “It is one of those things that when a constituent asks you, you do.”

“I realize we have very critical, critical issues at the state level. But our constituents and their issues are very important to them and that’s why I introduced it for them,” he said.

Moore said cairn terriers are a perfect representation of Kansas because they “have a gusto for life. They are very smart and very loyal, although they can be a little bit of a digger — like all terriers can.”

Detroit official hopeful of union giveback

DETROIT, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Detroit and the largest municipal union are close to agreement on concessions to ease the city’s budget problems, the city council president said Tuesday.

Charles Pugh said the concessions will be big enough to avoid a state-appointed emergency manager, The Detroit Free Press reported.

“They said they feel it’s going well and they expect it to wrap up in the next two days,” Pugh said. “I’ll call them this evening to see what movement they have made. I think they have made movement in healthcare, which is a big chunk.”

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has said the city must wrest $105 million in concessions from its unions, the Detroit Free Press reported. If not, an emergency manager would take over city operations.

In addition, a recent report said the city has a cash-flow problem that could leave it without money for operating expenses by April 1, the News said.

This week, the council discussed possible cuts, including raising bus fares from $1.50 to $2, closing recreational centers and ending subsidies to cultural institutions like the famed Detroit Institute of Arts.

Mayor David Bing has proposed eliminating 1,000 city jobs and said another 1,300 employees could be laid off unless unions agreed to concessions.

Fake colleges a problem in Sweden

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Jan. 31 (UPI) — An influx of fake colleges has been reported in Sweden after the introduction of tuition fees, officials say.

Fake universities are a fairly recent phenomenon in Sweden, despite issues with them in other countries such as Britain and the United States.

Up until recently, Sweden’s colleges and universities were among the few in the world that did not charge tuition or fees. Every student, Swedish or foreign, had been funded by taxpayers. However, with last year’s introduction of college tuitions, as well as a British crackdown on “fake universities,” Sweden has suddenly seen an flood of these dubious colleges, reports said.

The universities mostly have English sounding names, Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan reports. The National Agency for Higher Education has checked the addresses of such universities, claiming to offer courses in business administration or hospitality management, only to find disconnected phone numbers and addresses pointing to post office boxes, no campuses to be found.

Lennart Stahle, spokesman for the agency, says the colleges are difficult to crack down on because they are not offering Swedish qualification, The Local reports.

“At the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education we can’t have an opinion when it comes to this and they can establish themselves here as long as they follow Swedish tax laws,” he said. “It is like any sort of business venture.”

Child abuse claims made in custody fight

TACOMA, Wash., Jan. 31 (UPI) — The family of a man whose wife disappeared from their Utah home in 2009 charges the couple’s sons are being abused by their maternal grandparents.

The “4thekidzz” Web site created by Josh Powell’s brother also accuses police in West Valley, Utah, of mishandling the investigation into Susan Powell’s disappearance, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The site was launched this week, days before a court hearing on custody of the two Powell boys.

When he reported his wife, Susan, missing, Josh Powell told police he had taken his sons, now 5 and 7, on a mid-winter camping trip and found her gone when he returned. Police are investigating the case as a homicide.

Josh Powell later moved back to his father’s home in Puyallup, Wash. His sons were removed from the home after his father, Steve Powell, was charged with secretly photographing women and girls.

“Recently, my nephews have been subjected to multiple instances of severe endangerment and physical abuse by the Coxes,” Alina Powell, one of Josh Powell’s sisters, said in a statement. “Child Protective Services has condoned the Coxes’ abuse and endangerment of my nephews, and certain members of CPS are trying their best to smooth it over and cover it up.”

Another sister, Jennifer Graves, has broken with her family.

A lawyer for the grandparents, Chuck and Judy Cox, says they are providing a “safe and loving home.” A hearing on custody is scheduled Wednesday.

7 execs detained in China waste discharges

NANNING, China, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Chinese officials say a chemical spill into a tributary of the Pearl River system that threatened downstream water supplies is nearly contained.

Seven chemical plant executives in China were detained in a probe over the industrial waste discharges containing high levels of cadmium, Chinese officials said Monday. Feng Zhennian, a regional environmental protection department official, said the executives work for plants in the Guangxi Zhuang region, including Jinchengjiang Hongquan Lithopone Material Co. Ltd. in Hechi, Xinhua reported.

Cadmium pollutants, first detected in Longjiang River near the Lalang reservoir on Jan 15, were found to be 80 times higher than the official limit of 0.005 milligrams per liter. Neutralizers made from dissolved aluminum chloride were used to dissolve the contaminants at six locations along the river.

Feng said the cadmium concentration at Lalang reservoir has returned to normal and officials were working to protect drinking water supplies for the 1.5 million residents of the city of Liujiang as the pollution moves downstream.

More than 200 surveillance workers are monitoring water quality at 20 testing stations set up along a 124 mile stretch of the river, Feng said.

Man says sisters sexually assaulted him

HUDSON, Wis., Jan. 31 (UPI) — A young Wisconsin man says two sisters assaulted him sexually and physically and forced him to drink urine.

Valerie Bartkey, 24, and Amanda Johnson, 17, of Somerset, Wis., have been charged with sexual assault by force and two misdemeanors, battery and damaging property, the Eau Claire (Wis.) Leader-Telegraph reported. They face up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.

The 18-year-old man told police the assault took place Oct. 1 in a home in Somerset, court records said. He said the sisters first hit him and then took his shoes, soaking both with water.

Later, he said, they gave him a cup of something they claimed to be lemonade. When he drank it, he found that it was urine.

They then allegedly forced him to remove his clothes. He told police Bartkey used pliers to attack his penis while her sister stood over him with a belt.

He said Johnson called him on Oct. 27 and said she and her sister would tell police he had smoked marijuana on Oct. 1 if he said anything about the attack. He said the sisters were smoking marijuana but he did not.

A court appearance is scheduled April 12.

U.S. terror ‘hot spots’ studied

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Jan. 31 (UPI) — Five urban counties lead in a study of U.S. ‘terror hot spots’ but rural areas are not exempt from terror attacks, a study has found.

Nearly a third of all terrorist attacks from 1970 to 2008 occurred in just five metropolitan U.S. counties — New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Washington — but events continue to occur in rural areas also, researchers at the University of Maryland said.

The researchers defined a “hot spot” as a county experiencing a greater than average number of terrorist attacks, more than six across the entire time period of the study, 1970 to 2008.

Smaller, more rural counties such as Maricopa County, Ariz., which includes Phoenix, have seen an increase in incidents of domestic terrorism in recent years, they said.

“The main attacks driving Maricopa into recent hot spot status are the actions of radical environmental groups, especially the Coalition to Save the Preserves,” said Gary LaFree, director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism based at the University of Maryland.

“So, despite the clustering of attacks in certain regions, it is also clear that hot spots are dispersed throughout the country and include places as geographically diverse as counties in Arizona, Massachusetts, Nebraska and Texas,” LaFree said in a UM release Tuesday..

The researchers said their study also found time trends in terrorist attacks.

“The 1970s were dominated by extreme left-wing terrorist attacks,” study co-author Bianca Bersani at the University of Massachusetts-Boston said. “Far left-wing terrorism in the U.S. is almost entirely limited to the 1970s with few events in the 1980s and virtually no events after that.”

Ethno-national/separatist terrorism was concentrated in the 1970s and 1980s, religiously motivated attacks occurred predominantly in the 1980s, extreme right-wing terrorism was concentrated in the 1990s and single issue attacks were dispersed across the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, the study found.

Two sue for alleged rendition to Libya

LONDON, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Two men have filed suit in Britain against a senior MI6 intelligence officer who allegedly turned them over to Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, officials say.

Attorneys for Sami al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhadj served papers Friday in the civil suit against Sir Mark Allen. The two men say they were handed over to Gadhafi’s regime in 2004 and subsequently tortured.

Al-Saadi and Belhadj allege they were illegally detained and flown to Libya, along with their wives and children. Belhadj says his wife was mistreated, the BBC reports.

Papers found in Tripoli during the Libyan uprising bore Allen’s name on them and discussed the transport of the two men to Libya, the suit contends. In a letter dated March 2004, Allen allegedly told Libyan spy chief Moussa Koussa:

“I congratulate you on the safe arrival of Abu Abd Allah Sadiq [Belhadj]. This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years.”

Allen has declined to speak to the BBC.

Gov. Walker recall petition signers names not released

MADISON, Wis., Jan. 31 (UPI) — Wisconsin officials say they’re delaying posting on a Web site recall petitions against Gov. Scott Walker because of privacy concerns among petition signers.

Reid Magney, a spokesman for the state Government Accountability Board, said the board had decided against posting the petitions on its Web site Monday, as planned, after hearing concerns about a stalking victim who signed and others who did not want their names released, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

More than 1 million people signed petitions to recall Walker, almost twice as many as the 540,208 valid signatures needed, recall organizers said. The board is to determine by March 19 whether enough signatures were filed to force a recall election.

Copies of recall petitions against four Republican state senators have been posted on the board’s Web site, and recall petitions against Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch are being electronically scanned by the board, which plans to give them to her campaign this week.

The board has treated recall petitions as public records in the past and has done the same with nominating petitions candidates must submit. Making the petitions publicly available is meant to ensure the public can verify enough proper signatures have been gathered.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin told the board if it makes names of petition signers public, it should conceal the names of domestic abuse victims who want their identities kept confidential.

But Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said the petitions should be public and signing a petition was a public act like signing a nominating petition for a candidate, not a private act like voting.

For someone with safety concerns, such as a domestic violence victim, he said the board could set up a process by which people could have their names or addresses concealed without keeping all the names private.

Kennedy house to become study center

HYANNIS PORT, Mass., Jan. 31 (UPI) — The Hyannis Port, Mass., home where President John F. Kennedy and his brothers spent childhood summers is to become a study center.

The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate announced Monday that the Kennedy family is giving the institute ownership of the famed 21-room house at the center of the family compound. The house is currently owned by Vicki Kennedy, widow of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

The institute said the late senator promised his mother, Rose, that the house would eventually be put to “charitable use.”

“This house was my family’s epicenter, where my grandparents, father, uncles and aunts would retreat to connect with one another through heated political debates in the dining room and rousing games on the front lawn,” Ted Kennedy Jr., the senator’s oldest son, said in a statement.

“Over the generations, we have returned to Hyannis Port in times of both happiness and pain,” he said. “We have come to celebrate baptisms and marriages, await election results, and grieve the passing of our relatives.”

Joseph Kennedy, the family patriarch, bought the house in 1928. Family members now own homes on adjacent properties.

It is expected that the main house will be used to host educational seminars and forums organized by the EMK Institute, as well as programs on behalf of other institutions, the institute said.

Algeria ‘foils al-Qaida attack on ships’

ALGIERS, Algeria, Jan. 31 (UPI) — U.S. officials say Algerian intelligence foiled an al-Qaida plot to mount suicide attacks against U.S. and European ships in the Mediterranean at a time when the jihadists are driving to expand operations in North Africa.

The Algerian intelligence service, Direction de la Securite Interieure — DSI — caught the plot in its early stages and arrested three suspected members of al-Qaida’s North African affiliate, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

The Algerian daily newspaper Echorouk broke the story a week ago. U.S. officials said they knew of the plot but the Algerians made the arrests.

Echorouk reported that the men had purchased a boat that they reportedly planned to pack with explosives and ram into a ship in the western Mediterranean. The plot, as outlined by the newspaper, bore a striking resemblance to tactics used by al-Qaida’s Yemeni branch when it badly damaged the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole in Aden harbor Oct. 12, 2000, by ramming it with a small boat packed with explosives.

That attack killed 17 U.S. sailors and wounded dozens more.

An earlier attack using similar tactics against another U.S. destroyer, USS The Sullivans, failed when the attacking boat foundered.

Al-Qaida struck again with a seaborne suicide attack against the 157,000-ton French tanker Limburg off Yemen’s coast as it sailed from the Persian Gulf to Malaysia Oct. 6, 2002. The vessel was holed and one crewman killed but it continued its voyage.

In May 2002, Moroccan authorities arrested three Saudi members of al-Qaida who were convicted of planning seaborne suicide attacks on U.S. and British warships in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Moroccan police said in April 2007 they were hunting a jihadist group supposedly planning similar attacks on ships, although no such strikes took place.

In the Algerian crackdown, it wasn’t clear whether the Americans endorsed Algiers’ decision to round up the trio of suspects, rather than wait to see how the plot developed and possibly track down other militants. However, relations between the Americans and Algeria’s security establishment have been strained for some time.

Algeria, the regional military heavyweight, considers itself the leading player in the counterinsurgency campaign against AQIM, which is based in Algeria and is the backbone of the jihadist movement in North Africa.

Until September 2001, Washington and Algiers, which had fought a vicious war against Islamist militants, were greatly at odds, particularly over the Algerians’ ferocious tactics to crush the insurgents. These included battle-hardened Arab veterans of the 1979-89 war in Afghanistan against the Soviet army, from which al-Qaida emerged.

After the Americans also found themselves fighting jihadists, led by al-Qaida, they sought a rapprochement with Algiers. The Algerians remain deeply suspicious of the United States.

The current rift centers on the refusal of Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, the Algerian military’s chief of staff, to allow the United States to deploy U.S. Air Force and CIA surveillance drones in Algerian air space.

The Intelligence Online web site quoted a French general that the U.S.-Algeria friction was “a big black hole.” The bottom line is that the Algerians don’t want U.S. or other Western forces on their soil.

The Algerians set up a joint intelligence center at their air base at Tamanrasset, deep in the Sahara Desert, in 2010 with neighboring Mauritania, Niger and Mali.

The Americans have been using a Moroccan air force base in the Sahara to conduct counter-terrorism surveillance operations using drones.

The U.S. Africa Command is running a dozen counterinsurgency training missions, mostly involving Special Forces units, in several North African countries.

The French, who once ruled North Africa, are conducting similar operations. But they’ve also deployed combat forces that have carried out raids, primarily with forces from Mali, on jihadist bases in the region over the last two years. AQIM currently holds several French hostages.

Meantime, the fallout from the 2011 war in Libya continues to plague the region.

Islamist fighters and rogue mercenaries, including many North Africans hired by Moammar Gadhafi to defend his ill-fated regime, along with large amounts of plundered weapons, are worsening the security situation in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and further south in Mali, Niger and Mauritania.

“AQIM is solidly entrenched across the region and has now entered the arena of interstate politics,” Oxford Analytica reported in a Jan. 25 analysis.

Two to be tried for sex trafficking in Russia

AMURSK, Russia, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Two residents of Amursk, Russia, suspected of selling young women into sexual slavery, will stand trial, officials say.

Investigators tell ITAR-Tass the suspects recruited and sold 51 young women into slavery abroad. Initially, they were promised jobs as dancers and waitresses, comfortable accomodations and high salaries. They were taken to nightclubs in Israel, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, South Korea and China. Once abroad, their passports were taken from them and they were forced into prostitution, investigators said.

Suspects were paid about $1,000 for every girl they smuggled abroad.

Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District Police, in collaboration with Greek law-enforcement agencies, freed victims in Athens. In a special operation, 10 strip clubs were shut down, more than 180 people arraigned and 19 members of criminal organizations arrested.

Mexico drought worsened by cold

MEXICO CITY, Jan. 31 (UPI) — What officials call the most severe drought Mexico has ever faced has been worsened by a spate of cold weather.

This week, the government authorized $2.63 billion in aid for 19 of Mexico’s 31 states. With agriculture devastated in nearly half of the country, the money will go to potable water, food and temporary jobs for citizens displaced by the drought.

Freezing temperatures worsened the already rising prices of produce such as corn and beans, and may lead to inflation.

The New York Times reported Tuesday certain areas in need of aid are difficult to reach, delaying the flow of food and water to people in those regions.

The most severely affected are indigenous communities, particularly tribal areas of the Tarahumara community in the Sierra Madre, among Mexico’s poorest citizens.

Authorities say they expect the situation to worsen; however, they do not expect it to have an impact on export prices.

Report: Air Force punished whistleblowers

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) — The U.S. Air Force punished whistleblowers who revealed the improper disposal of human remains, a report released Tuesday said.

The disposal involved body parts handled by the Air Force Mortuary Service at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. It was revealed last year that some of the parts were dumped in a landfill by a contractor after cremation.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, in a statement released by the Air Force, said the Office of Special Counsel has found retaliation against employees who revealed what had happened.

“Reprisals against employees are unethical and illegal and counter to Air Force core values,” Donley said. “We take violations of the law seriously and have appointed a two-star general to review the report and take appropriate action.”

Body parts are now scattered at sea after cremation if families request that the Air Force dispose of them.

Viral video raises money for rickets

WUHAN, China, Jan. 31 (UPI) — A video of a man dancing in front of various Chinese universities in an effort to raise awareness about rickets has become a viral sensation, officials say.

The video depicts Xiao Jian dancing clumsily in a white coat in front of the campuses of over 300 universities throughout 11 cities. The end of the video features pictures of children afflicted with rickets, along with information about the disease.

The disease is often found in children due to a vitamin D deficiency. It causes softening of the bones and can lead to fractures and deformities. Those suffering fro the disease tend to require expensive treatment.

Xinhua reports since the video has made its way around social media channels, donations have poured into the Porcelain Children Rare Disease Center, an organization Xiao included in the video that focuses on rickets treatment.

“Last November, I saw a father and his daughter begging for money on the street, both of whom were suffering from rickets,” Xiao told Xinhua. “Since young people, especially college students, tend to focus on new things on the Internet, I decide to dance at the gates of universities to draw their attention to those who are suffering form the disease.”

No good options for Syria, Turkey says

ANKARA, Turkey, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Syria appears headed down a path of no return and could face foreign intervention, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said.

Arab monitors left Syria last weekend, citing ongoing violence in the country. The mission was in place to ensure Syria was upholding commitments to pull its military forces from the streets, though there’s no sign of the violence abating.

Members of the U.N. Security Council are trying to overcome a veto threat from Syrian ally Russia in an effort to censure Syrian President Bashar Assad for the bloodshed.

An “official source” in the Syrian Foreign Ministry was quoted by the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency as saying Western statements criticizing Damascus “are parallel to the hard strikes that the armed terrorist groups (carried out).”

Gul said that it was unfortunate that Syria was now on a “path of no return.”

“There is no (good) end for this. The end is certain,” he was quoted by Turkish daily newspaper Today’s Zaman as saying. “The question is how painful it will be.”

Gul said “authoritarian rulers” in the Middle East can either reform or face intervention.

“If they do not do that and do not bring order to their lands, foreign intervention will be inevitable,” he said.

Man jailed for swinging light sabers

PORTLAND, Ore., Jan. 31 (UPI) — An Oregon man is sentenced to 45 days in jail for trying to hit customers with toy light sabers at a Portland toy store, police said.

David Allen Canterbury, who was serving probation for a previous heroin-possession conviction, was also sentenced Monday to two years of probation and a mental-health evaluation, The (Portland) Oregonian reported.

On Dec. 14, Canterbury swung two Star Wars light saber toys, one in each hand, at three customers inside a Toys R Us store on Hayden Island around 9:50 p.m. After carrying the toys outside, he began to swing them at police. Officers attempted to subdue him using a long-range Taser, but Canterbury used the light sabers to bat the wires away. Police wrestled him to the ground and arrested him.

Canterbury pleaded no contest to charges of fourth-degree assault and resisting arrest. He apologized to his victims, the newspaper said.

Thai inquiry launched into attack

NONG CHIK, Thailand, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Theera Mintrasak, governor of the Pattani province of Thailand, said Tuesday he would initiate a formal inquiry into an attack on a military base.

The shooting took place in the Nong Chik district on Sunday night. Lt Gen Udomchai Thammasarorat held a news conference Tuesday to give details of the incident.

Thammasarorat said M79 grenades were fired at the operational base of Ranger Company 4302 early Sunday evening. Assailants quickly fled. The base radioed for assistance and ranger units were dispatched to find the attackers. Rangers stopped a pickup truck for a search when some of the men on-board got out and opened fire on the rangers. The ensuing firefight killed four people and wounded five. Thammasarorat would not comment on how many of the casualties were military personnel.

Bangkok Post reports the families of those killed have been compensated by the provincial government with 100,000 baht (about $3,233). The wounded were given an undisclosed compensation.

The inquiry is expected to take 30 days, and will be followed by legal action against anyone found to be responsible for starting the clashes. Minstrasak said the inquiry committee would find out exactly what happened so as to ensure justice.

Plazas Vega sentence upheld in Colombia

BOGOTA, Jan. 31 (UPI) — A Colombian court upheld an appeal of former Col. Luis Alfonso Plazas Vega’s sentence for his role in the disappearance of 11 people in a 1985 military siege.

The Superior Tribunal of Bogota upheld the 30-year sentence, handed down in 2010, for Plazas Vega’s role in the forced disappearance of the 11 people after the military reclaimed the Palace of Justice from M-19 guerrillas, Colombia Reports said Tuesday.

Plazas Vega had appealed, saying he was not involved in the disappearance of Carlos Horacio Uran, an assistant judge to the Council of State, as well as cafeteria workers, two visitors and guerrilla Irma Franco Pineda. They had survived the siege but were not seen again, and it is believed the military tortured and killed them.

The tribunal also ordered the Colombian government to investigate former President Velisario Betancurt for his alleged role in the offensive.

Plazas Vega is the only person to have been convicted in connection with the siege. Last month, retired Colombian army Gen. Ivan Ramirez Quintero and two fellow soldiers were acquitted.

M-19 guerrillas took over the Palace of Justice, the seat of Colombia’s Supreme Court, Nov. 6, 1985. Judges, staff, and members of the public were taken hostage.

More than 100 people — including 11 of the 25 country’s Supreme Court magistrates, 48 Colombian soldiers and all 35 guerrillas who took part in the occupation of the building — were killed in the occupation and army siege.