Local Time

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Naked face-eater’s girlfriend blames voodoo

The girlfriend of the man who chewed off most of another man's face believes her boyfriend was either drugged or a voodoo curse was put on him, according to a report.

The bloody spectacle unfolded mid-afternoon on Saturday, when police were alerted by the public as the attack was being carried out near Miami's MacArthur Causeway.

Police ordered a naked Rudy Eugene, 31, to stop the assault, then fatally shot him when he continued to gnaw at the face of his victim, who was also naked.

Television footage and news photos have shown the two men sprawled on the sidewalk side by side, with the victim barely conscious and covered in blood with up to 75 percent of his face ripped off.

The victim, identified as 65-year-old homeless man Ronald Poppo, is fighting for his life in hospital.

Eugene's on-off girlfriend of five years, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the Miami Herald that either Eugene had either been drugged unknowingly or it was something supernatural - that someone put a voodoo curse on him.

iol news pic Rudi Eugene zombie man may 31
Rudy Eugene, 31, is seen in this undated handout photo released by the Miami-Dade Police Department

Eugene was originally from Haiti, where voodoo is chiefly practised. His girlfriend, who is not Haitian, said she believed someone put a curse on him.

“I don’t know how else to explain this,” she said.

According to the report, she said the depictions of Eugene as a face-chewing monster do not make sense to her.

"Something happened out of the ordinary that day. I don't want him to be labelled the Miami Zombie," she told the Miami Herald.

She remembered Eugene as a man of faith who had recently been trying to stop smoking marijuana.

She insisted that he had never used any recreational drugs besides marijuana and was even trying to quit. Eugene would refuse to take over-the-counter medication for headaches and was sweet and well-mannered, she told the Miami Herald.

Eugene's mother, Ruth Charles, also talked to the media to defend her son.

"Everybody says that he was a zombie, but I know he's not a zombie; he's my son," she told CBS.

She also suspected he had been drugged.

“I don't know what they injected in him to turn him into the person who did what he did," she told CBS.

Eugene's girlfriend said when she first saw TV reports of the attack, she had no idea Eugene was behind it.

"I thought to myself, 'Oh my God, that's crazy'," she told the Miami Herald.

But she said she had been trying to call Eugene, who had left her house on the morning of the attack, but could not get in contact with him.

She told the paper that Eugene had called her earlier on Saturday to say his car had broken down, and when she had not heard back from him later in the day, she started feeling uneasy.

But it was not until Monday, when she was contacted by a member of Eugene's family, that she found out that he was behind the grisly attack.

"I'll never be the same," she told the paper.

Police initially said the attack could have been provoked by an overdose of a powerful new form of LSD mixed along with “cocaine psychosis.”

Reports however on Tuesday suggested Eugene was likely under the influence of the synthetic stimulant “bath salts” made with the active agent mephedrone, which produces an often aggressive, chaotic experience for users, coupled with intense hallucinations. IOL, Sapa-AP, AFP


Disabled man loses care cost appeal

Judges at the UK's highest court have dismissed a profoundly disabled man's appeal over his care package.

Lawyers representing 26-year-old KM, who was born without eyes and has a range of serious mental and physical conditions, said the case raised "profound issues" for disabled people dependent on local authority support.

They told the Supreme Court that Cambridgeshire County Council made an "irrational" decision when funding his care.

They said the council's offer of around £85,000 a year was "manifestly insufficient" to meet the man's "assessed eligible needs" - and told seven justices that an independent social worker put the cost of an annual support package at £157,000.

But today the judges unanimously rejected the challenge to the rationality of the local authority's decision in relation to KM, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.

Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, which represented four charities intervening in the case - Sense, The National Autistic Society, The Royal National Institute of Blind People and The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association - said that the landmark judgment clarified social care law.

Although KM lost, the ruling made it clear that local authority resources were not to be taken into account when establishing the needs of disabled people.

Some councils restricted assessments on the grounds of costs and some did not, which in the past resulted in a postcode lottery for social care.

Importantly, the court also made it clear that when social care support was provided by direct payments to the individual it was "crucial" that local authorities provided a reasonable degree of detail so that a judgment could be made whether the indicative sum was too high, too low or about right.

Partner Yogi Amin said: "This is potentially the biggest community care ruling in 15 years.

"Although KM's appeal has not been successful, we are pleased that the Supreme Court has now clarified the law with regard to local authorities taking their resources into account when assessing a disabled person's needs."

Richard Leaman, chief executive of Guide Dogs, said that, while sympathising with KM and his family, they were delighted that the case has removed any ambiguity regarding the point at which a local authority was entitled to take its resources into account.

"We have consistently argued that a person has the right to a full assessment of their needs, regardless of whether a council is subsequently obliged to meet them."

Simon Foster, head of legal services at Sense, said: "We are delighted that the court has made it very clear that a local authority must assess disabled people in the first instance based on their needs, rather than what is available in the local authority's budget.

"We believe in the principle that a person's needs ought to be assessed in full, without regard to financial considerations. We are also pleased to see the court confirm that a local authority must give sufficient detail when providing direct payments so disabled people can see if the amount is enough to meet their needs."

Mark Lever, chief executive of The National Autistic Society, said that the fact that the court recognised that assessment for social care should not be based on a "computer says so" system was an important step forward.

"This sends a clear message to all local authorities that they have a duty of care to be transparent about how they assess and allocate funds to disabled people whether they live in Liverpool or Luton.

"The case highlights the complexity of the current social care system and the need for the Government to stop delaying in their reforms and put an end to the care crisis."


Syrian troops shell Houla, site of massacre

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian troops on Thursday shelled the country's central region of Houla where more than 100 people were massacred last week, activists said. At least one person was killed in the latest violence and scores fled in fear of more government attacks.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees activist groups said government troops unleashed heavy machine guns but also used mortars Thursday in Houla, a collection of poor farming villages in the central Homs province. Both groups said a young man was killed by sniper fire.
Survivors of the Houla massacre have blamed pro-regime gunmen for at least some of carnage that began Friday and left 108 people dead, many of them children and women. The Syrian government denied its troops were behind the killings and blamed "armed terrorists."
Activists from Houla said government forces on Friday first shelled the area after large demonstrations against the regime earlier in the day. That evening, they said, pro-regime fighters known as shabiha stormed the villages, gunning down men in the streets and stabbing women and children in their homes.
The Houla massacre was one of the deadliest incidents since the uprising against President Bashar Assad's regime started in March last year. The U.N. said several weeks ago that more than 9,000 people have been killed in the past 15 months while activists put the number at about 13,000.
The Observatory reported that Houla residents were fleeing Thursday to nearby towns and villages "fearing a new massacre."
In the wake of last week's massacre, the United States, Western and Asian nations expelled Syrian diplomats in protest.
In Istanbul, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday called on Syria to stop its attacks, saying U.N. observers monitoring the cease-fire were not there to watch the killings of innocent people.
Ban was speaking about the nearly 300 U.N. observers who were deployed around Syria to monitor a cease fire that went into effect on April 12, as part of an international peace plan negotiated by international envoy Kofi Annan. Despite the cease fire violence continued almost daily.
Meanwhile, a group of army defectors known as the Free Syrian Army warned the Syrian government on Thursday that if it does not abide by Annan's plan by ceasing fire and pulling out troops from residential areas by Friday noon, the group will defend the people.
"After that, the Free Syrian Army will not abide by the Annan plan ... and will defend the civilians," said Col. Qassim Salaheddine in a statement posted on YouTube. Salaheddine identified himself as the FSA commander in Homs province.
Although the FSA claims that it has so far been abiding by Annan's plan, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said gunmen have violated the cease-fire more than 3,500 times. There have been clashes over the past weeks between troops and army defectors in different areas around Syria.
Also Thursday, Syria's state-run TV said that 500 people who had got involved in recent events in Syria have been released from detention. The report gave no further details.
In Damascus, the Syria International Islamic Bank, or SIIB, criticized the latest sanctions imposed Wednesday by the Obama administration as "irrational and unjustified."
The Treasury Department said Wednesday that SIIB has been acting as a front for other Syrian financial institutions seeking to circumvent sanctions. The new penalties will prohibit the bank from engaging in financial transactions in the U.S. and will freeze any assets under U.S. jurisdiction.
SIIB said it would undertake all necessary measures toward the U.S. decision, saying it has no assets or accounts in the United States. It added that the bank, like other Syrian banks, halted all banking operations with the dollar since U.S. sanctions were first imposed on Syria.
With the Obama administration unwilling at this point to pursue military options in Syria, the U.S. has relied heavily on economic sanctions as a means for pressing Assad to leave power. The United States will host other nations in Washington next week to look at ways to tighten international sanctions further.
World powers share a belief that Syria could descend into civil war and plan to map out possible ways to avoid such a disaster for the region, a deputy for Annan said Wednesday. Jean-Marie Guehenno told reporters after privately briefing the U.N. Security Council, the world body's most powerful unit, that diplomats are deeply troubled by Syria's cycle of violence.
Earlier Wednesday, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani warned the West about military intervention in Syria along the lines of NATO's campaign that helped ouster Moammar Gadhafi after the alliance backed the rebel movement in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.
"Creating another Benghazi in Syria will impact Palestine and the ashes of this fire will cover the Zionist regime, definitely," he said using the phrase commonly used by Iranian officials to refer to Israel.

Associated Press writer Albert Aji contributed to this report from Damascus,

Israel hands over remains of Palestinian militants

JERUSALEM: Israel on Thursday handed over the remains of 91 Palestinian militants, including suicide bombers, to the West Bank government in an effort to induce President Mahmoud Abbas to renew peace talks.

All 91 were killed over the past decades while carrying out suicide bombings or other attacks on Israeli targets, Palestinian officials said. At least one of the attacks dated back to the 1970s.

The bodies had been buried in coffins in Israel and were dug up for the transfer. The Palestinian official in charge of Thursday's transfer, Salem Khileh, said Israeli officials handed over the remains to Palestinian liaisons in the Jordan Valley.

Eighty bodies were then transported to Ramallah, and 11 to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Near the crossing from Israel to Gaza, families held framed pictures of their dead sons as they awaited the bodies. Ahmad Kahlout's 21-year-old son Yehiya was killed 17 years ago after he raided an Israeli settlement.

"I am happy they are sending back his body so I can go and pray on his grave before I die," said Kahlout, 78. "Until my dying day I will be proud of him, but also sad for the years I wasn't able to visit his grave."

Palestinian government ceremonies honoring the dead militants were to be held in the West Bank and Gaza later Thursday.

"We hope that this humanitarian gesture will serve both as a confidence-building measure and help get the peace process back on track," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said.

"Israel is ready for the immediate resumption of peace talks without any preconditions whatsoever," Regev added.

Abbas has given no sign that the gesture would persuade him to return to talks.

On Wednesday, he reiterated that the Palestinians would not return to negotiations unless Israel freezes all settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Palestinians see those areas, captured by Israel in 1967, as the core of a future state that would also include Gaza.

Israel rejects that demand. Israeli-Palestinian talks stalled more than three years ago and have failed to take off again despite U.S. mediation, primarily because of the dispute over settlement construction.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Tony Blair To Appear Before Leveson Inquiry


Former British prime minister Tony Blair, who leads a panel discussion on aid to Africa, speaks during a press conference on the sidelines of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in the southeastern port city of Busan