Street tensions ease as police shift tactics

The political crisis that has shaken Thailand’s capital for more than a week eased suddenly Tuesday after the prime minister ordered police to stop battling anti-government protesters, a move timed to coincide with celebrations of the king’s birthday later this week.

In a sharp reversal in strategy after two days of escalating street fighting, riot police lowered their shields and walked away from fortified positions around Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s office at Government House.

Demonstrators waving the red, white and blue Thai flag then swarmed across the compound’s lawn, shouting, “Victory belongs to the people!” Yingluck was not there at the time.

The government move was widely seen as offering demonstrators a face-saving way out of a conflict that has left four people dead and more than 256 injured in the past three days. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, however, vowed to keep up the struggle to topple Yingluck and keep her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, from returning to power.

— Associated Press

Bolshoi dancer jailed over acid attack

A star dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet was sentenced to six years in prison Tuesday over an acid attack on the company’s director that exposed vicious backstage bickering and intrigue at the renowned theater.

The judge pronounced soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko guilty of making plans to attack Sergei Filin, who lost most of the sight in one eye and 20 percent in the other in the attack on Jan. 17.

Ex-convict Yuri Zarutsky, who splashed the acid in Filin’s face, was sentenced to 10 years; a driver, Andrei Lipatov, got four years. The three were also ordered to pay about $106,000 in damages to Filin.

Judge Yelena Maximova accepted that Dmitrichenko was unaware of the plan to use acid, but ruled that he had been involved in advance planning for the attack and had given Zarutsky the location of Filin’s home and called him right before the attack.

— Associated Press

New report: No proof Arafat was poisoned

French scientists looking into Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death have ruled out poisoning by radioactive polonium, his widow said Tuesday. The results contradict earlier findings by a Swiss lab and mean it’s still unclear how Arafat died nine years ago.

Scientists from several countries have tried to determine whether polonium played a role in his death in a French military hospital in 2004. Palestinians have long suspected Israel of poisoning him, which Israel denies.

This is the latest in a string of recent expert reports on Arafat’s death: A Swiss lab said Arafat was probably poisoned by polonium. A Russian report given to Palestinian officials was inconclusive about polonium’s role. But both the Swiss and Russian reports attributed his death to toxic substances, not natural causes.

Suha Arafat said she’s “upset by these contradictions by the best European experts on the matter.” A French murder investigation in the case is ongoing.

— Associated Press

Bob Dylan charged in France over comment on Croats: French authorities have filed preliminary charges of “public insult and inciting hate” against Bob Dylan over a 2012 Rolling Stone interview in which he is quoted as saying: “If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.” An attorney for the Croatian group that brought suit against Dylan said it is not seeking monetary damages but “an apology to the Croatian people.”

Hong Kong reports bird flu case: Hong Kong has reported its first case of a form of bird flu that killed 45 people in eastern China, suggesting the H7N9 strain of the virus is spreading farther south in poultry. The 36-year-old Indonesian domestic helper, who remains in critical condition, had traveled to the mainland Chinese city of Shenzhen, less than 30 miles from Hong Kong, and bought and slaughtered a chicken there, officials said..

Vatican, Oxford post ancient manuscripts on Web: The Vatican Library and Oxford University’s Bodleian Library put the first of 1.5 million pages of their precious manuscripts online, bringing their collections to a global audience for the first time. Among the first works posted at are the two-volume Gutenberg Bibles from each of the libraries and an illustrated 11th-century Greek Bible.

— From news services