Thai ex PM murder charge dismissed

Mr Abhisit was Thailand’s leader during the deadly protests in 2010


A Thai court has dismissed murder charges against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva linked to a bloody crackdown on protesters in 2010.

Mr Abhisit was Thailand’s leader when anti-government “red-shirt” protesters blockaded Bangkok for 10 weeks.

In the end the military moved to end the stand-off. Over 90 people, mostly civilians, died during the protests.

Mr Abhisit was charged under the previous government, which has since been ousted in a military coup.

The 2010 protesters supported Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister removed by the military in 2006.

It was under his sister, Yingluck, that proceedings were brought against Mr Abhisit.

However, Ms Yingluck’s government – elected in 2011 – was removed in a military coup in May 2014. Earlier this month coup leader Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha was named prime minister.

The 2010 protests, which took place between early March and mid-May, saw key parts of Bangkok shut down by a “red-shirt” occupation.

There were several clashes and outbreaks of violence, culminating in the military operation to clear the protesters on 19 May.

Prosecutors said Mr Abhisit and his deputy prime minister at the time, Suthep Thaugsuban, were responsible for authorising the use of live fire against protesters. Both men rejected the charges.

The Criminal Court ruled that it could not hear the case because the two men had held public office at the time and were acting under an emergency decree.

It said only the Supreme Court could assess the case. Thailand’s anti-corruption body was examining the case against the two men, which it could send on to the Supreme Court, local reports said.

It was Mr Suthep who spearheaded the protests that led to the most recent military coup. Protesters blockaded government buildings in a six-month campaign to bring down Ms Yingluck’s government.

Dozens of people died and in February the military took power in a move it said was aimed at restoring stability.

Thailand has been embroiled in political turmoil since the removal of Mr Thaksin in 2006.

The telecommunications billionaire enjoyed huge support from mainly poor rural voters who were aided by his policies.

But Mr Thaksin was despised by the urban elite, who viewed him as corrupt. The military backs the urban elite.

Parties allied to Mr Thaksin have been elected in all the elections since the 2006 coup, however, because of his strong rural support base, leaving Thailand locked in a cycle of unrest.

Texas governor vows to fight charges

Rick Perry is the longest-serving governor of the state of Texas


The governor of the US state of Texas, Rick Perry, has vowed to fight an indictment against him for abuse of power, which he dismissed as a farce

It amounts to nothing more than an abuse of power… I cannot and will not allow that to happen, Mr Perry said.

He faces two counts of abuse of power and coercion over a funding veto he imposed last year, seen as a bid to force a local prosecutor to resign.

The possible Republican presidential hopeful has denied any wrong-doing.

A grand jury indicted Governor Perry on Friday after months of investigation into his motivations for cutting funds amounting to $7.5 million (£4.5 million) to a state anti-corruption unit run by District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.

Special prosecutor Michael McCrum said there was evidence Governor Perry had threatened to withhold funding unless Ms Lehmberg, a Democrat, resigned over drink driving charges.

The indictment said Governor Perry intentionally or knowingly misused government property. with intent to harm another” namely, Ms Lehmberg and the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office

But the governor defended his decision on Saturday, saying he had exercised this authority to veto funding for an office whose leadership had lost the public’s confidence by acting inappropriately and unethically

I wholeheartedly and unequivocally stand behind my veto, and I’ll continue to defend this lawful action of my executive authority as governor.

I intend to fight against those who would erode our state’s constitution and laws, purely for political purposes, and I intend to win,” Governor Perry told reporters.

Governor Perry, 63, is the longest-serving governor in the state’s history and Texas’s first indicted governor in nearly a century.

• March 1950: Born in Paint Creek, Texas

• 1972: Graduated from Texas A&M University

• 1972-77: Spent five years in the US Air Force

• 1984: Entered political life when elected to the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat

• 1988: Chairman of the Al Gore campaign in Texas

• 1989: Joined Republican Party

• 1998: Lieutenant Governor of Texas

• 2000: Texas Governor under GW Bush presidency

• 2013: Announces retirement from the governor’s position

• 2014: Indicted by grand jury on charges of abuse of power

Profile: Rick Perry

Prosecutor Michael McCrum called up numerous witnesses to argue his case that the governor had broken the law

The Texans for Public Justice, which filed a complaint in the case, said the grand jury decided Perry’s bullying crossed the line into law breaking

Abuse of office can carry punishments of between five to 99 years in prison, while coercion of a public servant carries sentences ranging from two to 10 years

His recent movements between key Republican battleground states is seen by analysts as laying the groundwork for a possible presidential run in 2016.

Mr Perry announced that he would retire from the Texas governor’s office instead of seeking a fourth term in July 2013.

England tighten grip over India

Joe Root moved to the brink of a century as England tightened their grip on the final Test against India and moved one step closer to winning the series.

Root’s superb unbeaten 92 helped the hosts recover from 229-5 to reach 385-7 on day two at The Oval, a lead of 237 over the embattled tourists.

Four quick wickets in the afternoon session, including England captain Alastair Cook for 79 and Gary Ballance for 64, gave India a glimmer of hope.

But the prolific Root, who scored 54 off the last 39 balls of his innings, along with Jos Buttler (45) and Chris Jordan (19 not out), punished a tiring and increasingly ragged side in the evening session to guide the hosts to a position of total supremacy.

England will expect to wrap up a third successive victory over the next two days to complete a 3-1 series triumph.

“We’ve put ourselves in a great position, but there’s still a long way to go,” Ballance told BBC Sport. “The pitch is getting better, so we have to have a good morning and then bowl well.

“It was disappointing to lose those wickets in the afternoon, but, earlier in the summer, we might have had a whole team collapse. Joe Root and Jos Buttler fought back well and ended up putting the pressure back on India.

“With three wickets left, a 300 lead is realistic. If we get that, we’d be very happy.”

On another dominant day for the hosts, there was disappointment for Sam Robson as he failed to convert his promising start on Friday evening into an innings of substance when he was bowled by Varun Aaron for 37.

Listen to Geoffrey review the day’s play on the TMS podcast

“I don’t think there’s much chance of it going past tomorrow. It depends what resistance is left in the India batsmen. England should bat on for a while – Joe Root can get a hundred. A lead of 250 would be ample. I hope India do show some fight, for the crowd as much as anything. I’m not convinced about it.”

The Middlesex opener has scored only 165 runs in seven innings in the series at an average of 23 and may struggle to retain his place when England set off for the West Indies for their next Test series in April.

While Ballance goes from strength to strength at number three, question marks also remain over the batting technique of Moeen Ali, who chopped Ravichandran Ashwin on to his stumps for 14.

Since his magnificent final-day hundred almost saved England the second Test against Sri Lanka, Moeen’s highest score in six innings is 39.

Cook may also look back on the day with mixed feelings as another chance to end his 31-innings wait for a hundred went begging.

He played fluently before lunch as he and Ballance drew England level with India’s first-innings 148 for the loss of only one wicket in dry, sunny conditions.

But the interval had a dramatic effect on Cook’s rhythm. After twice being dropped at slip – by Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane – his luck ran out when a firm-footed prod at Aaron found the edge and was caught low by Vijay.

Cook’s dismissal sparked a mini-collapse in which England lost four wickets for 38 runs.

Ballance had looked imperious alongside his skipper, piercing the gaps on both sides of the wicket and reaching 50 for the sixth time in seven Tests with a ramp shot over the slips.

Joe Root is only the third England batsman to score a half-century in every Test of a five-match series, after Wally Hammond against South Africa in 1938-39 and Peter May against South Africa in 1955. John Edrich achieved the feat in a six-match series against Australia in 1970-71.

However, he popped Ashwin into the grateful hands of silly point, two balls later Ian Bell edged Ishant through to wicketkeeper Dhoni, and Moeen withdrew his bat too late and played on to Ashwin.

Crisis was averted by Root and Buttler in a partnership of 80 for the sixth wicket.

Both were judicious at first but upped the ante after tea. Buttler struck nine fours before he fell into a trap set by captain Dhoni and clipped Ishant to short midwicket.

The dismissal of Chris Woakes for a duck merely sounded the starting gun for a late acceleration as Root and Jordan added 67 off 62 balls in a raucous finale.

Root showed particular disdain for all-rounder Stuart Binny. His timing impeccable, the Yorkshire batsman twice cut through third man for four and when Binny corrected to a fuller length Root drove him down the ground.

Another day to forget for India was summed up when Jordan edged between second slip and gully for his second boundary to leave Dhoni shaking his head in dismay

Skateboard legend dies

Click through to see people who passed away in 2014.


(Eskort) — Former Z-Boys skater Jay Adams died Thursday after a heart attack while vacationing in Mexico with his wife. He was 53.

Adams was enjoying an endless summer surf vacation, and was set to return to the United States in a couple of days, said Susan Ferris, manager and friend to the Skateboarding Hall of Fame legend. Adams had never experienced any heart issues. Despite previous legal hardships related to substance abuse, Ferris emphasized that Adams was completely sober and had been for a while. “We are honestly shocked

Fellow Z-Boys member and director of Dogtown and Z Boys Stacy Peralta took to Instagram to mourn Adams, who was commonly known as The Original Seed. I just received the terribly sad news that Jay Adams passed away last night due to a massive heart attack, send your love, the post read, alongside a picture of a young Adams.

Z-Boys, shorthand for the Zephyr Competition Team, is a group of skateboarders in Southern California who became widely recognized for their skate tricks in the 70s. In 2005, Lords of Dogtown, a film based on the original skate crew, was released in theaters. Lone Survivor star Emile Hirsch played Adams in the movie.

This is a great loss to skateboarding, Ferris said, a true legend died.

Adams is survived by his wife, as well as children from a previous relationship

Spruce Goose’s bizarre story

More than 66 years after it first flew, Howard Hughes’ gigantic, wooden H-4 Hercules nicknamed the Spruce Goose still has the widest wingspan of any airplane. It’s housed at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, in McMinnville, Oregon.


(escort bursa) — Bob Lyon remembers the day he met Howard Hughes. He also recalls when Hughes nearly crashed a plane into his boyhood home. Nearly 40 years after Hughes died, Lyon’s life still crosses paths with the eccentric billionaire.

Lyon has found himself in the center of a dispute over Hughes’ gigantic, bizarre wooden seaplane nicknamed the Spruce Goose.

This thing is arguably the world’s most famous airplane and — at five stories tall with a wingspan longer than a football field — one of the biggest on the planet.

Related: Stalking the world’s biggest planes

The Spruce Goose’s home is a respected aviation museum, which is part of an investigation by the state of Oregon.

Here’s the story: In 1992, Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, struck a half-million-dollar deal with Aero Club of Southern California to buy the legendary plane.

Lyon — who represents Aero Club — is now negotiating the plane’s final payment, which he estimates at about $50,000.

For Lyon, this is way more than everyday business. “This plane was a part of my life,” said Lyon, 77. “I saw it being built. I saw it being put together.”

Unfortunately, negotiations have hit a snag. More on that in a minute. First, you gotta know about the amazing story surrounding the plane and the man who flew it.

Its official name was the H-4. Hughes called it the Hercules. Designed to carry more than 700 troops, the Spruce Goose flew only once. In 1947 in Long Beach harbor, it grabbed about 70 feet of air for about a mile. Hughes — who piloted the test flight — said it needed more development. He never let it fly again.

Was the flight a failure, as some newspapers suggested? Depends on who you ask. Hughes did prove the thing could fly. But it was never officially certified. Lawmakers hauled Hughes before a congressional committee to justify the plane’s taxpayer price tag of $22 million. Hughes pointed out that he had spent an additional $18 million of his own funds to develop the plane.

Fearless rogue pilot

When Lyon met Hughes, it wasn’t the OCD-plagued, naked, bearded recluse portrayed near the end of Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator.” This was before that.

This was a younger Hughes — the seemingly fearless, rogue pilot and entrepreneur who was hell-bent on success for his aircraft manufacturing company.

Lyon was then 10 years old. Hughes seemed like a likable person when they met at the office of Lyon’s father — who was Hughes’ patent lawyer. “I’d never seen a tall, lanky, guy with a Texas accent before,” he remembers. “I grew up in Southern California.”

In July 1946, the young Lyon had a more memorable brush with the man when Hughes crashed a prototype reconnaissance plane a block away from his parents’ Beverly Hills home.

The boy arrived at the crash scene to see a fire, a huge column of black smoke and what was left of three damaged houses. No one was killed, but Lyon saw an ambulance driver help transport a seriously injured victim. “That turned out to be Howard Hughes,” he said.

Soon, other neighborhood kids descended on the scene and started grabbing small pieces of wreckage and running off with them as souvenirs. Lyon remembers police canvassing the neighborhood looking for the missing debris.

“My brother and I were upstairs and my mother went to the front door and there were two officers from the Beverly Hills police department asking, ‘Do you have any young children in this house?’ She yelled upstairs to us, saying, ‘Do you have some pieces of that airplane?’ We said, ‘No!’ And she said, ‘Yes, I think you do! Bring them down here! The police are here and they want them.’ So we pulled this piece of metal out from underneath my brother’s bed and took it downstairs,” Lyon recalled with a chuckle. “We thought that was highly unfair.”

That same year Lyon watched trucks roll the Spruce Goose down local streets from the plane’s construction site on Los Angeles’ west side to Long Beach. They “cut telephone and power lines to get this huge thing down the road.”

Hughes died in 1976 at age 70, and by the early 1980s the Spruce Goose was forced to move out of its giant Long Beach hangar. The plane’s owners — including Hughes’ Summa Corp. and the U.S. government — gave the plane to the Aero Club. The transfer forestalled tax expenses and the prospect of cutting the plane into pieces for display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

“The Aero Club’s mission in this whole thing was to save the Spruce Goose,” said Lyon.

The club leased the plane to a company as a tourist attraction. Spruce Goose was moved a short distance away to a spectacular seaside dome next to the moored luxury liner Queen Mary. Around that time, during a celebration dinner, Lyon arrived late to what was supposed to be an escorted tour of the plane. He took the liberty of exploring it alone. Lyon, who also has an engineering degree and a pilot’s license, said it was like being a “kid in a candy store.”

He wandered inside one of the aircraft’s gigantic wings, amazed at the plane’s engineering. He climbed up a set of stairs into the cockpit, daring to sit in the pilot seat where Hughes flew the plane in 1947. “I noted that there were controls for the pilot, but none for the co-pilot,” Lyon said with a chuckle. “Yeah, Howard was gonna fly it. He didn’t need any help.”

Eventually the Spruce Goose had to leave the dome. That’s when Aero Club struck a bargain with Evergreen and the behemoth was floated up the West Coast on barges in a spectacular 138-day moving operation to Oregon.

Now, Lyon is piloting Aero Club’s negotiations for the plane’s final payment. The dispute, said Lyon, basically comes down to a payment formula and the interpretation of three words: justifiable operating expense.

“It’s a problem of contract interpretation,” Lyon said.

News media reports have overstated the negotiations’ worst-case scenario, he explained. “We’re not interested in repossessing it. It would be a nightmare.”

For its part, the museum agrees with Lyon. “… both sides expect a prompt resolution of that payment,” the museum said in a statement. Although the museum declined CNN’s requests for an interview, the museum’s statement said the facility remains open, is financially viable and has no plans to close.

Bottom line: museum-goers — which number around 150,000 a year — have nothing to fear, Lyon said. “The Spruce Goose is going to stay where it is.”

“The museum is no danger of losing the Spruce Goose,” echoed Evergreen spokeswoman Melissa Grace in a statement. “It will stay at its home at the museum for visitors to enjoy for years to come.”

But the museum faces another financial issue.

For months the Evergreen museum, and a related organization called the Captain Michael Smith Educational Institute, have been part of an investigation by Oregon’s Justice Department. Agency spokesman Michael Kron said the investigation was sparked by “people who were concerned about financial transactions by Evergreen.”

The museum owner holds companies that are for-profit and some that are nonprofit. There have been allegations of improper transfer of funds between the two types of companies. The museum said it is independent, self-sufficient and nonprofit.

Kron describes the probe as a “charitable activities investigation into the charity that runs the museum.”

Recently, a broker listed two of the museum’s plane exhibits — a 1945 Grumman Avenger for $250,000 and a 1928 Ford Tri-Motor — for $1.75 million.

It’s unknown if the museum’s decision to sell the planes is linked to its financial issues. “The vast majority” of the museum’s aircraft exhibits, it said, “are unaffected by issues” linked to the investigation. Evergreen said most of the planes on display at the museum are on loan from some of the best aviation museums in the world, including the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum and the National Naval Aviation Museum.

The museum says it’s “in no danger of losing its displays from these and other sources” and it has “cooperated with the Department of Justice in its review and that we are confident the Department of Justice would acknowledge our cooperation and the good work we have put into addressing concerns it has raised.”

Kron said a final investigation report is expected to be made public soon.

Meanwhile, Lyon is nearing the finish line as a custodian of this aviation icon. During the two decades since the Spruce Goose deal was struck, he’s never traveled to Oregon to see the plane.

But, he said, who knows? When it’s all said and done, he may fly up for a visit.

Everton complete £28m Lukaku signing

Lukaku scores for Belgium at World Cup

30 July 2014 Last updated at 21:28

Everton have signed Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku for a club record £28m.

The 21-year-old Belgian World Cup forward, who scored 16 goals on loan at Everton last season, has signed a five-year contract at Goodison Park.

Everton boss Roberto Martinez said: “This signing is not just important for this season. It is a significant day in the history of this football club.”

Lukaku joined Chelsea from Anderlecht for £18m in August 2011 but played only 15 games for the club.

After signing his contract at Goodison, Lukaku said: “I’m 21, I need to be playing in a good team. I needed to be in a place that felt right.

“I decided very quickly I wanted to come back. This is the place I belong.”

Everton

31

15

West Brom

35

17

Chelsea

10

0

Anderlecht

72

33

Lukaku’s transfer breaks the previous record of £15m for Marouane Fellaini when he joined Everton from Standard Liege in 2008 .

It was originally thought Everton would pay £23.7m for Lukaku before the club revealed the £28m fee. Chelsea believe the transfer puts them in a strong position to comply with Uefa’s Financial Fair Play rules .

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who has now brought in £68m after the sale of Lukaku and defender David Luiz, said: “He wanted to play for Chelsea but wanted to be the first-choice striker. That’s very difficult to promise.

“Everton made an important offer and financial fair play is something that is always behind the thoughts of the board. This leaves Chelsea in a great position.”

Martinez said: “We know that Romelu is still a young man and the potential that he has is quite unique, and we are desperate to see him enjoying his football and to watch him grow as footballer in the years to come.”

Lukaku rose to prominence as a 16-year-old with Anderlecht in the 2009-10 season when he scored 15 goals to help clinch the Belgium league title.

He scored 16 the next season and 2011-12 made the move to Chelsea, where he played a bit-part role under Andre Villas-Boas and then Roberto Di Matteo.

Lukaku joined West Brom on loan for the 2012-13 season, scoring 17 goals in 38 games as the Baggies recorded their highest ever Premier League finish of eighth.

Then last season, he was top scorer at Everton as they finished fifth in the Premier League and qualified for Europe for the first time in five years.

Lukaku’s exploits at Goodison also helped secure a place in Marc Wilmots’s Belgium squad for the 2014 World Cup.

He made four appearances in Brazil, scoring one goal, as Belgium reached the quarter-finals, losing 1-0 to Argentina.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had already signed two strikers and let two go this summer.

Diego Costa, 25, moved for £32m from Atletico Madrid and club legend Didier Drogba, 36, rejoined the Blues on a free transfer. Samuel Eto’o was released and Demba Ba was sold to Besiktas for £4.7m.

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Transgender women hit DMV roadblock

Kristen Skinner removed all facial makeup for her driver\’s license photo.


(CNN) — With its long lines and seemingly endless paperwork, a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles can rarely be classified as fun. But it could be worse.

Two West Virginia transgender women claim their recent DMV visits were especially harrowing as they attempted to update their names and change their driver’s license photos.

In separate incidents, both recount officials telling them their appearance looked too feminine for a driver’s license issued to a male and that they would have to dress down for their photos.

Now they’ve enlisted The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund to get their stories heard.

“(A manager) told me it was a DMV policy that people listed as male could not wear makeup,” said Kristen Skinner. “The manager referred to me as ‘it’ and told me to take off my makeup, wig and fake eyelashes.”

Skinner, whose hair and eyelashes were her own and not fake, eventually took the license photo after removing all facial makeup.

The 45-year-old IT professional called the experience at the Charles Town office in Jefferson County on January 7 “humiliating.”

“The way I was treated was unprofessional,” Skinner said. “Isn’t the point of a photo identification to identify how you look every day?”

Trudy Kitzmiller said she had a similar experience many months later in neighboring Berkeley County. According to her, after showing all the legal paperwork to change her name on her driver’s license, DMV workers in Martinsburg demanded she remove all makeup, jewelry and long hair.

The 52-year-old says she was also called “it.”

“It doesn’t matter whether my license says M or F. I’m still a transgendered woman, and they shouldn’t tell me how to dress or appear,” Kitzmiller said.

Teenager in South Carolina confronts similar situation

“I don’t know many transgender women in this state, but it (should have) never happened that way. I am a human being and should be treated as a human being.”

Kitzmiller refused to change her physical appearance and left the DMV on May 10 without a new driver’s license.

In an interview with CNN, Steve Dale, acting commissioner of West Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles, renounced any remarks that made individuals feel uncomfortable.

“I do not condone or approve any conduct which embarrassed an applicant or would single an applicant out,” he said, adding the department is investigating the women’s claims of verbal humiliation.

However, Dale emphasized he believes proper protocol was followed.

Under West Virginia law, Dale said, a photo that deviates from gender listed on the license falls under an “attempt to conceal or alter your identity or appearance.”

“It would be the same as if you wanted to take a driver’s license picture with a scarf over your face or if you we were wearing some type of garb that conceals your identity,” he said. “And the decision is a subjective one that is handed down by the customer service representative, and then is subject to appeal by the manager and then it could come all the way up to me, the commissioner.”

Dale recommends each woman receive a court-ordered statement that indicates they have transitioned genders.

Then, and only then, can their photo appearance “match” their listed driver’s license gender. Kitzmiller and Skinner are listed as men on their licences.

“Normally, if a customer comes in with the court order designating a gender change, it is handled discreetly at the local office and the information is changed,” Dale said. “The customer leaves the office with what the circuit court judge has directed and the issue does not reach my desk.”

However, according to both women and the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, a court-ordered gender change may not be that easy.

In most cases, the court requires medical action to issue the order, which some transgender people are uncomfortable with or simply cannot afford. Skinner said cost is an issue for her.

Michael Silverman, the executive director of the Transgender Fund, elaborated on the cost issue.

“To get your gender changed under the West Virginia license, one must perform a certain surgery. And for many people, this is not possible,” he said. “And whether that’s because of discriminatory insurance that does not recognize this or through other means should not matter.”

Silverman disagreed with the DMV’s characterization that makeup, long hair and even eyelashes can equate to attempting to conceal an identity.

“Trudy and Kristen have struggled to become who they are, and they are finally open and honest now in presenting the women they truly are,” he said.

“This is how their friends, family, co-workers and community know them, and the DMV cannot tell them they have to hide their true identities as transgender women.”

Dale told CNN that he believes many other states have similar policies and that the West Virginia DMV has no plans to change its protocol.

However, he stressed that if their internal review finds any customer service representative or manager treated the women with disrespect, his office would issue a swift apology.

“We want all our applicants to be treated with respect no matter their gender choices, race or creed.”

Regardless of the outcome of the review, Kitzmiller says she is struggling to find steady work without a valid ID card.

She has worked as a heavy-machine operator.

“Employers will not hire me because my union card and everything else shows me as Trudy,” she said. “My union brothers and sisters treated me great. I was so surprised to see how I was treated by government employees.”