25 Prisoners Die In Fire Incidence In Brazil

Some 25 inmates in a Brazil prison burned to death overnight after prisoners set fire to mattresses in the jail during a clash between rival gangs.

The fire broke out during a dawn riot at the prison in Ponte Nova, some 180km southeast of the city of Belo Horizonte.

"We can confirm the death of 25 prisoners,'' a spokesman for the Minas Gerais state said.

A group of prisoners escaped from one part of the prison and entered another wing of the jail where they surrounded a rival gang, setting the mattresses in cell number eight on fire, he said.

Police used water cannon and tear gas to end the riot, and officials said none of the inmates had escaped the prison during the blaze.

Security has been stepped up inside and outside the jail which houses around 175 inmates, even though its capacity is only 87.

Prison officials said the fire had completely destroyed the top floor of the building, and the prison would now be evacuated with the remaining 148 detainees, including eight women, sent to other state penitentiaries.

Observers blamed severe overcrowding for the events.

"It's a complicated situation. We are short of some 100,000 places in the country's prisons,'' Jose Carlos Brasileiro, from the Rio de Janeiro human rights office, told AFP.

"In the Miracema women's prison for example, there are eight prisoners to a cell that measures some 1.5m by 2m. The women don't even have mattresses and there are rats and cockroaches.''

"Over-crowding and boredom are behind the violence and mutinies in the prisons.''

The fire in Ponte Nova came three days after the Brazilian government launched a national program against violence.

More than 40,000 people are murdered every year across the country, and the country's Catholic church has estimated that there is a prison riot every 36 hours.

The new national security program, which mainly targets young people from poor areas, envisages building some 160 new prisons within the next four years.

Sphere: Related Content

Lindsay Lohan: "My Life Has Become Completely Unmanageable"

US actor Lindsay Lohan has admitted she is addicted to alcohol and drugs after today being sentenced to 24 hours in prison for drink-driving.

Lohan will also serve 10 days of community service and complete a drug treatment program under the deal reached overnight at the Beverly Hills Superior Court.

"She's getting what everyone else would get," Los Angeles deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers said after an hour-long hearing.

Lohan was charged with seven misdemeanour counts following her twin drink-driving arrests.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office said Lohan faced two counts each of driving under the influence, driving with excessive alcohol and being under the influence of cocaine.

The 21-year-old star of Herbie Fully Loaded and Georgia Rule also faced one count of reckless driving.

But Lohan, who has been enrolled in an intensive program at a Utah rehabilitation centre since her second arrest in July, was spared felony drug possession charges which could have led to a substantial prison sentence.

The district attorney's office said that while Lohan had been found in possession of cocaine at both of her arrests in May and July, the amounts involved were below the 0.05 grams required for felony charges.

Lohan released a statement today admitting she was "addicted to alcohol and drugs", Entertainment Tonight reported

"It is clear to me that my life has become completely unmanageable because I am addicted to alcohol and drugs. Recently, I relapsed and did things for which I am ashamed. I broke the law, and today I took responsibility by pleading guilty to the charges in my case.

"No matter what I said when I was under the influence on the day I was arrested, I am not blaming anyone else for my conduct other than myself. I thank God I did not injure others. I easily could have.

"I very much want to be healthy and gain control of my life and career and have asked for medical help in doing so. I am taking these steps to improve my life. Luckily, I am not alone in my daily struggle and I know that people like me have succeeded. Maybe with time it will become easier. I hope so."

Lohan was first arrested on May 26 after smashing her Mercedes into a curb in Beverly Hills before being accused of driving under the influence.

Within days, Lohan had enrolled in a detox program at the Promises rehabilitation centre in Malibu.

It was her second stint in rehab of 2007; she was admitted for treatment in January after reportedly being discovered passed out in a hotel corridor following the Golden Globes awards.

However, within days of leaving rehab, Lohan was arrested for drink-driving again when she was stopped in Santa Monica on July 24.

Lohan was alleged to have chased the mother of her personal assistant, who called police to report the incident.

Sphere: Related Content

Chemical Ali Threw Shiites From Helicopter

A WITNESS overnight accused "Chemical Ali", Saddam Hussein's most notorious hatchet man, of killing her sons by throwing them out of a helicopter during the crushing of an Iraqi Shiite rebellion.

Laila Kathum, testifying in the trial of 15 Saddam aides accused of crimes against humanity over the repression of the 1991 rebellion in southern Iraq, vented her fury against Ali Hassan al-Majid, widely known as "Chemical Ali".

Speaking from behind a curtain, Ms Kathum accused Saddam's army of arresting her relatives and said Majid himself had killed her two sons.

"The army detained my two sons, my brother and my niece on March 3, 1991," she told the court on the third day of the trial.

"Nine days later, my brother and niece were released and they told me that Ali Hasan al-Majid had executed my two sons."

"My niece Maitham told me that my two sons were executed by Ali Hassan al-Majid by tying their legs with a heavy brick and throwing them out of a helicopter into the Gulf."

Iraqi prosecutors allege the 15 accused oversaw the killing of up to 100,000 Shiites as Saddam's troops turned on them after their defeat at the hands of the US-led coalition forces in Kuwait in the first Gulf War.

The troops massacred people around the holy Shiite cities of Najaf and Karbala and in the Hilla and Basra regions.

Many Shiites who participated in the uprising say they had expected US forces to back them, but former US president George Bush instead ordered a halt at the Iraqi border, leaving the rebels at the mercy of Saddam's forces.

Another witness who also spoke behind the curtain and did not give his name told the court how he and his friend from Basra were tortured in prison.

He said the guards used to "count to 10 as they led us to baths".

"Anyone who missed the count and did not finish the bath used to be beaten."

He said the guards also used to "bet on who could punch us hard".

Witness Tahir Malhi Humadi said his son and daughter were killed when the army bombed his town near Basra.

"On March 19, 1991, the Republican Guards attacked and bombed my town and my son Walhan and daughter Majida were killed in the bombing," he said before chief judge Mohammed al-Khalifah al-Oreibi adjourned the trial to September 24.

Majid, Saddam's cousin and former defence minister, is the most high profile defendant in the trial.

He and two co-accused - Sultan Hashim al-Tai, also a former defence minister, and Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, ex-armed forces deputy chief of operations - have already been sentenced to death at a previous trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.

An appeals court is reviewing the death sentences imposed on them for their role in the brutal massacres of Kurds during the so-called Anfal campaign of 1988, and is expected to give its decision soon.

If the panel upholds the sentence, the three will have to be executed within 30 days under Iraqi law. In that case, all charges against them in connection with the Shiite uprising would be dropped.

Officials say around 90 victims and witnesses are expected to testify against the defendants.

Since the March 2003 US-led invasion, experts have exhumed dozens of mass graves of victims killed in the uprising, and their reports are expected to be the key evidence during the trial.

Overnight, the Basra city council handed relatives the remains of 28 victims of the uprising who were killed and buried in a mass grave discovered recently.

"The remains were of 26 young men, a child who was less than two years old and a woman of 30," said Saleh al-Batat, a member of the council.

Shiites, a minority in the Muslim world, comprise 60 per cent of Iraq's population and were ruled for decades by Saddam's Sunni-led regime.

Sphere: Related Content

Sex-Mad Koala Loaned To Australian Zoo

A sex-mad koala recruited from Scotland to teach his counterpart in an Austrian zoo about the birds and the bees is finding himself very much in demand.

When romantic music, erotic movies and aphrodisiac food failed to entice their male koala, Bilyarra, to mate with female Mirali, staff at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo sought the help of Edinburgh Zoo's resident stud, Chumbee.

The five-year-old male koala and his super-active libido arrived on loan in the Austrian capital in March and zoo managers are confident they will soon be hearing the patter of tiny koala paws after Bilyarra started to get in on the action.

"Chumbee hasn't stopped since he got here," said Schoenbrunn Zoo manager Helmut Pechlaner.

"It has been almost non-stop sex in the koala enclosure ever since, and now even our own male is joining in."

Zoo vet Hanna Vielgrader said Chumbee could not restrain himself.

"The only break is to eat or sleep, other than that there's no stopping them," she said.

Several other zoos have been in touch in the hope Chumbee might be able to invigorate their koala colonies.

Sphere: Related Content