European rights court backs UK on allowing sick baby to die

27 Jun

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday said it concurred with a British decision to withdraw life support for a baby with a rare genetic disease.

Two weeks earlier, the Strasbourg-based ECHR issued an interim ruling that doctors should keep providing treatment for 10-month-old Charlie Gard, who suffers from a rare genetic condition and has brain damage.

That finding ran counter to rulings by British courts that the baby should be allowed to die with dignity despite an appeal by his parents to take him to the United States for treatment.

In its final ruling on Tuesday, the Strasbourg court backed the British judges.

A spokeswoman for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, which has been treating Charlie, acknowledged his parents would find Tuesday’s news upsetting.

“Our thoughts are with Charlie’s parents on receipt of this news that we know will be very distressing for them.

“Today’s decision by the European Court of Human Rights marks the end of what has been a very difficult process and our priority is to provide every possible support to Charlie’s parents as we prepare for the next steps.

“There will be no rush by Great Ormond Street Hospital to change Charlie’s care and any future treatment plans will involve careful planning and discussion,” the spokeswoman said.

The child’s parents want to take him to the United States for experimental treatment for his illness — an extremely rare form of mitochondrial disease which causes progressive muscle weakness.

His family have raised more than £1.2 million ($1.5 million, 1.4 million euros) online for the treatment, through more than 80,000 donations.

Epic struggle of film about Cairo on eve of revolution

26 Jun

Everyone thought Tamer El Said had gone mad in the decade it took him to make his film “In the Last Days of the City”.”My friends would look at me with a mixture of pity and sarcasm when they asked how it was going,” he told AFP. “And then after a whil…

Designer draws from Israel’s many tribes

24 Jun

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Violinist shines new spotlight on Australia nuclear tests

24 Jun

The name Maralinga brings blank stares from most people, the melodic word hardly indicative of what happened in that isolated stretch of Australia — secret nuclear tests by Britain.A leading violinist, Lara St. John, is trying to bring the episode fur…

Kurdish designers bring fight with IS to Paris catwalk

23 Jun

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Google to stop scanning Gmail for ad targeting

23 Jun

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Dog poop for dessert: turd-shaped treats a hit in Thailand

23 Jun

It might turn some stomachs, but a dessert-maker in Thailand has been flooded with orders ever since she started crafting gelatinous sweets into the shape — and colour — of dog poop.”It’s strange, no-one else makes poop shapes. People like it!,” Wila…

Myanmar’s Muslims mark Ramadan out in the cold

23 Jun

Huddled under umbrellas to escape a thundering monsoon downpour, dozens of Muslims stood in line at a Yangon mosque for a small portion of rice and curry to break their Ramadan fast.Many would have normally prayed at Islamic schools that for six decade…

Socks and sandals bring whiff of scandal to Paris catwalk

22 Jun

Sandals with socks are no longer a fashion faux pas worthy of a flogging. In fact, they are positively the way to go if Paris catwalks Thursday are any indication.The dorky look previously confined to superannuated boy scouts and embarrassing uncles ap…

Toothpick crossbow craze has China quivering

22 Jun

Handheld crossbows that can fire out needles and nails are the latest must-have toy in China but anxious parents want them banned before a young child gets blinded or worse.Selling online and in shops for as little as seven yuan ($1), so-called toothpi…

Anti-fur protesters disrupt Kors event in New York

22 Jun

Anti-fur protesters stormed on stage with Michael Kors in New York on Wednesday, briefly disrupting a ticketed event at which the US fashion mogul discussed his career, dressing Melania Trump and shutting stores.”Michael Kors has blood on his hands,” c…

Communist era comes alive for seniors at German care home

22 Jun

The white-haired German woman in the easy chair has vivid memories of hardline communist leader Erich Honecker and even Adolf Hitler, but isn’t always sure who Angela Merkel is.Margit Hikisch, 88, is a resident at the Alexa nursing home in the eastern …

Brits and Thais race to close stolen supercar pipeline

22 Jun

Dozens of supercars including Lamborghinis, Porsches and BMWs have been stolen from the streets of Britain and shipped to Thailand in a complex scam that police from both countries are now rushing to dismantle.

Sparked by a British request to retrieve the lifted vehicles, detectives in Bangkok have launched a series of raids against dealers in recent weeks.

More than 120 top-of-the-range sports cars have since been seized, including some identified as stolen from Britain.

Thai investigators say they have also uncovered an array of scams and loopholes that dealers and corrupt customs officials exploit to circumvent eye-watering taxes the Southeast Asian kingdom places on supercars — usually around 328 percent.

“More than 1,000 supercars are implicated in the undervaluing scam,” Lieutenant Colonel Korawat Panprapakorn, the officer leading the investigation told AFP. “This practice has been going on for a long time.”

Britain is the most popular source for luxury car imports to Thailand because both countries drive on the left hand side of the road.

While Thailand’s economy has been slumping in recent years, its billionaire class is doing just fine and gleaming supercars remain a common sight on the streets of Bangkok — even if they spend much of their time crawling along the city’s gridlocked streets.

– Name change –

Lamborghinis appear to have been a top choice, making up 32 of the 122 seized vehicles, according to Thailand’s Department for Special Investigations (DSI).

The tax evasion scams ranged from impressively creative to bizarrely simple.

At least two vehicles were allegedly shipped over from the UK in parts and then assembled in Thailand to avoid the triple tax rate.

Eight Lamborghinis were simply declared as being the cheaper Gallardo model when they were in fact the much more expensive Aventador.

Customs officers either did not notice or deliberately turned a blind eye to the easy-to-spot error.

But in the vast majority of cases dealers under-declared the true value of the cars, often by $10,000s, to pay less tax, the DSI said, adding some 30 businesses were now being investigated.

The outright stolen vehicles were whisked abroad through a different scam.

Sources with knowledge of the investigation in Britain say most of the cars were bought on finance and shipped to Thailand.

When the vehicles were at sea, the owners reported them stolen and stopped paying the monthly repayments.

– Grand theft auto –

Britain’s National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service confirmed it was working with Thai police to track the vehicles.

“To date 38 (stolen) UK vehicles, identified by their engine and chassis numbers and valued at over £2.3 million have been imported into Thailand,” the agency told AFP.

“Seven of the thirty-eight vehicles identified were seized by the DSI from a used car dealership in Bangkok.”

Those seven were found during a police raid on STT Auto in Bangkok’s Ekkamai district, a suburb known for its glitzy nightclubs, restaurants and luxury condos.

The dealership’s owner Indharasak Techaterasiri — who goes by the nickname “Boy Unity” and is well-known on the luxury car circuit — told AFP he was baffled that the seven cars were reported stolen.

He said he imports 500-600 luxury vehicles a year from Britain and that his shipping agent always checks the UK’s vehicle registry databases to ensure the cars are not stolen.

None of the seven — two Lamborghinis, two BMW M4s, two Porsche Boxters and a Nissan GTR — came up as stolen, which would make sense if they were only reported after they left port.

“They keep saying on the news that all these cars are stolen, that I am a criminal… it isn’t fair for me,” he told AFP, adding he rejected any allegation of impropriety and was happy to be interviewed by British police.

Thai police have also accused Boy of under-declaring the value of multiple cars, but he said the valuation came from customs so the fault lies with them.

Last week he filed a suit to sue the DSI after they shuttered his showroom, allegedly without a warrant.

After he left court, officers from a separate arm of the Thai police promptly arrested him on fraud charges related to complaints from wealthy customers that their cars may now be illegal.

While some of the stolen British supercars have been located, it is unlikely they will return to the UK any time soon.

Thailand’s justice system is notoriously opaque and slow moving while the DSI say any court case must reach its conclusion before the cars go back.

“The work is difficult but we will fully investigate this,” DSI deputy Korawat said. “It will take time.”

Migrants chic hits Paris catwalk

21 Jun

Balenciaga brought the refugee look to Paris men’s catwalks Wednesday with a collection which seemed to evoke Europe’s migrant crisis and the dreams of thousands seeking a new life there.Designer Demna Gvasalia — a child refugee himself who fled to Ge…

Looking back: The Hong Kongers who left

21 Jun

In the years leading up to the return of Hong Kong to China by Britain in 1997, thousands of residents fearful of the future under Beijing jumped ship to start a new life abroad. As the semi-autonomous city prepares to mark 20 years since the handover …

Paris men’s fashion week pumped with punk attitude

20 Jun

Paris men’s fashion week kicks off Wednesday with its reigning enfant terrible Demna Gvasalia again cocking a snook at convention by staging a “no show”.The brains behind the ultra hip Vetements label — whose voluminous hoodies and re-cut Levi jeans s…

Stamp fever in Hong Kong for handover tribute

20 Jun

Enthusiasts in Hong Kong snapped up stamps issued to mark 20 years since the city was handed back to China by Britain Tuesday with a design paying tribute to the Chinese military.The first stamp, released ahead of the July 1 anniversary, depicts marchi…

NY charges three over $400K Damien Hirst forgery ring

19 Jun

New York prosecutors unveiled charges Monday against three men accused of manufacturing and selling $400,000 in fake Damien Hirst prints to dozens of art buyers around the world.Vincent Lopreto, 52, appeared in court on Monday, 15 days after being rele…

US regulators sue to block merger of fantasy sports sites

19 Jun

US regulators announced Monday legal action to block the merger of fantasy sports websites DraftKings and FanDuel, which allow fans to create teams for virtual matchups in cyberspace.The Federal Trade Commission said the merger would allow a single ope…

Donkeys at dawn: a rubbish job in the Algiers Kasbah

19 Jun

It’s a rubbish job, but someone has to do it. Or some animal: in the alleyways of Algiers’ famed Kasbah, donkeys shift tonnes of trash every day.Some streets in the Kasbah are so narrow that single file is necessary. Others are wider but are steep and …

Free mapping: plotting development in Africa

18 Jun

In Benin’s economic capital of Cotonou, as in many other African cities, finding a house, office or restaurant is often like a treasure hunt. Luck, if not a miracle, is required as easy clues such as street names, even where they exist, are usually not…

Dutch firm aims to deliver first flying car in 2018

18 Jun

From “The Jetsons” to “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, flying cars have long captured the imagination.While several futuristic projects are under way in different countries, a Dutch design may be the first one sold and soaring into the skies.After years of t…

Why women top the catwalk cash charts

18 Jun

It is a rare exception to the rule: the gender salary gap in the fashion industry means female models are paid more than their male counterparts for the same job.None of the dozens of buffed and toned men parading at the latest Milan menswear shows sin…

US billionaire brings Dutch painters to China’s masses

17 Jun

Standing in a dimly-lit gallery space in China’s National Museum, the owner of the world’s only privately-held Vermeer gazed at the small oil painting for a long moment, before showing it to the assembled press.Since American billionaire Tom Kaplan pur…

Gated compounds keep the rich away from Cairo’s chaos

17 Jun

Guards check drivers’ papers to keep out uninvited guests from gated compounds where Egypt’s rich can escape the chaos of Cairo’s streets in a country with a widening wealth gap.Built in the deserts around Cairo, some compounds offer amenities such as …

Chinese gays hear wedding bells as Taiwan move fuels hope

17 Jun

Chatting excitedly as they try on their Chinese imperial-themed wedding outfits, Ren Weilian and Zhu Tiantian are as nervous as any couple as they prepare to exchange vows in their lesbian marriage.China does not recognise same-sex unions but that’s no…

NY exhibition asks what creation of world sounded like

17 Jun

When the universe was born, what did it sound like?The question underlies an inventive and challenging new exhibition in New York that explores the fundamentals of sound and how they relate to the quest to understand the self and the cosmos.The Rubin M…

Facebook gives bots ability to negotiate, compromise

14 Jun

Facebook’s artificial intelligence researchers announced Wednesday they had broken new ground by giving automated programs or “bots” the ability to negotiate, and make compromises.The new technology pushes forward the ability to create bots “that can r…

Denmark’s Little Mermaid vandalised yet again

14 Jun

The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, the city’s most famous monument, was on Wednesday vandalised for the second time in just over two weeks, police said. The bronze statue had been doused in red on May 30 by activists outraged over whaling. And on…

Driven to distraction: Pyongyang’s ‘traffic ladies’

14 Jun

Snapping their heads from side to side, marching into the roads in close-fitting blue uniforms and black heels, the “traffic ladies” who marshal vehicles at the intersections of Pyongyang are an emblematic image of the North Korean capital.Officially k…

Mumbai’s adored Padmini taxis near the end of the road

14 Jun

They were named after a legendary Indian queen and were synonymous with Mumbai for half a century but the last Premier Padmini taxis will soon embark on their final journey — to the scrapyard.The compact black-and-yellow cabs, based on an Italian Fiat…

In Africa’s fashion capital, Lagos, ‘trad is swag’

14 Jun

Leggy dancers in tight shorts, bottles of Moet champagne and flashy cars feature in Nigerian pop icon Wizkid’s bling-bling music videos.But the singer himself has now swapped the Versace T-shirts and low-slung jeans that show his underwear for traditio…

Apple sees autonomous cars as ‘core’ technology

13 Jun

Apple views autonomous driving systems as a “core technology” for the future, chief executive Tim Cook said in an interview aired Tuesday.Cook told Bloomberg television that Apple wants to move into the automotive sector because “there is a major disru…

Bringing ancient tapestries back to life in Belgium

13 Jun

The painstaking job of restoring some of the world’s finest ancient tapestries, stitch by stitch, is not for the highly strung or restless.Returning to its former glory the kind of creation that adorns a cathedral wall or is displayed at a world-renown…

Ride-hailing firm Grab mulls Jakarta chopper service

12 Jun

Indonesian executives weary of Jakarta’s notorious traffic jams may in future be able to order a helicopter ride with their smartphones through a new service being considered by ride-hailing firm Grab.The Southeast Asian company conducted a trial run o…

Brazilian social elite mourns crisis — and no champagne

12 Jun

From the exclusive members’ room overlooking Rio’s stunning horse racing track and the sheer cliffs of the Corcovado, Brazil’s crisis seems remote. But even high society suffers — in its own way.”We used to drink champagne,” says Teresa Aczel Quattron…

Flower power: gardening as therapy in Poland

12 Jun

An elderly woman leans over to smell a lush flowerbed of lavender in sprawling gardens surrounding an imposing early 20th-century palace in a pastoral corner of eastern Poland.Slowly a smile lights up her face, erasing her previous stony expression — …

S.Africa’s pre-teen queen with ‘rainmaking’ powers

11 Jun

She is a 12-year-old schoolgirl who aspires to become a doctor.But Masalanabo Modjadji is no ordinary pre-teen — she is South Africa’s only female traditional ruler, with claims of mystical rainmaking powers.Queen Modjadji is the hereditary ruler of t…

Blind Malaysian Muslims study Quran using Braille

8 Jun

A small community of blind students in Malaysia is attempting to learn the entire Quran, a formidable task that requires them to read each page of the holy text up to 40 times.It may be the fasting month of Ramadan but the group of eight students in th…

Railway to ruin: Hanoi train factory fades from glory

8 Jun

Built by the French to fix trains for their fast-developing Vietnamese colony, the Gia Lam factory later churned out weapons to fuel the country’s independence fight, and then survived the onslaught of American bombers during the war.But the storied Ha…