In brief: Fire pilot’s plane crashes while dousing wildfire
Sydney – A pilot trying to fight one of several raging Australian wildfires died when his plane crashed, in the second fatality resulting from the fires that have ripped through the nation’s most populous state over the past week.
The 43-year-old man was the only person on board and was trying to drop water onto a blaze in extremely rugged terrain near Ulladulla, south of Sydney, when his plane went down Thursday.
More than 100 wildfires have destroyed more than 200 homes in New South Wales state this month, and a resident died of a heart attack while trying to defend his home last week. Sixty-one fires were burning Thursday, with 23 out of control, though cooler weather had decreased the fire threat.
Pirates kidnap 2 Americans from ship off Nigeria coast
Washington – Two Americans were taken hostage by pirates who attacked their ship off the coast of Nigeria, a U.S. official said Thursday.
The captain and chief engineer of the C-Retriever, a U.S.-flagged oil supply ship, were kidnapped in the attack Wednesday in the Gulf of Guinea, according to news reports.The ship is owned by Edison Chouest Offshore, a maritime company based in Cut Off, La.
The identities of the hostages weren’t immediately known.
The kidnapping highlighted the growing problem of piracy off West Africa, which has supplanted the coast of Somalia as one of the most dangerous sea lanes in the world. The vast Gulf of Guinea borders 11 West African nations, many of them oil producers.
Unlike those off East Africa, pirates off West Africa generally don’t aim to take hostages for ransom, experts say. West African pirate gangs typically focus on stealing cargo and siphoning fuel from oil vessels to sell on the region’s large black market, according to the International Crisis Group, a research organization that tracks the issue.
Former Chinese politician’s appeal rejected in court
Jinan, China – A court today dismissed ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai’s appeal against his conviction and life sentence for corruption and abuse of power in one of the country’s most politically charged trials in decades.
The ruling by the Shandong Provincial Higher People’s Court came as no surprise, with many political analysts saying such an outcome was predetermined by Communist Party leaders keen to put Bo away long enough to prevent him from making a comeback.
Bo was found guilty of embezzlement, bribery and abuse of power by a lower court in the same province late last month and sentenced to life in prison.
Portuguese police ordered to reopen missing girl’s case
Lisbon, Portugal – Portuguese prosecutors on Thursday ordered police to reopen their investigation of the 2007 disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the 3-year-old British girl who went missing from a resort in the Algarve, local and British media reported.
British investigators reopened their official probe of the child’s disappearance in July. After distributing computer-generated images of two men wanted for questioning, they received more than 2,400 phone calls and emails with tips and fresh leads.
Portuguese authorities had declined to reopen their investigation, which was closed in 2008 without any charges being brought.
University gets heat for honoring Kim on economics
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – A Malaysian university faced public criticism for awarding an honorary doctorate in economics to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whose country is among the poorest in the world.
The privately run HELP University said a “simple ceremony” to mark the conferment was held in early October at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The North Korean ambassador to Malaysia accepted the honor on Kim’s behalf.
The event initially received little attention in this Southeast Asian nation but was reported briefly by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency. It attracted criticism on social networks in Malaysia this week after the U.S.-based Foreign Policy magazine posted a blog article that expressed surprise about the decision.
The university’s president, Paul Chan, said in a statement released this week that the decision was about “building a bridge to reach the people” by using “a soft constructive approach” to engage with North Korea.