Howard takes poll lead
Australia's conservative government leapt ahead of its Labor opposition in a new poll published yesterday, on the back of visits by the presidents of China and the US. The Newspoll survey showed Prime Minister John Howard's government was likely to score a decisive win in an election. The Australian newspaper, which published the survey, said it was the government's biggest single boost since it was voted into office in 1996. The proportion of voters who would vote first for the coalition government under Australia's transferable vote system jumped to 46 percent, up 7 percent from two weeks ago. At the same time, the proportion who would choose the Labor opposition first had fallen one percent to 36 percent.
Population nears 20 million
Australia's population will hit 20 million on Dec. 4, the government statistics bureau predicted yesterday. "It is a nice round number and there has been some debate about precisely when it will be reached," said Dennis Trewin, chief statistician at the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). "Our official estimate of Dec. 4 takes into account all the information that we have available from births, deaths, overseas arrivals and departures and the 2001 population census," Trewin said in a statement.
Businessman goes missing
One of China's most powerful private businessmen and the chairman of a Shanghai-listed company has gone missing, the firm said yesterday, leaving behind liabilities of 987.86 million yuan (US$119.4 million). It is the latest in a spate of scandals embroiling tycoons in a communist-run country whose economy is increasingly in the hands of private enterprise. Xinjiang Hops had been unable to contact 45-year-old Aikelamu Aishayoufu -- an ethnic Uighur who was named China's 22nd wealthiest man in terms of the capital controlled by a company by last month's Asiamoney poll -- since last Thursday, a company executive said.
Mad cow disease rears head
After earlier assertions that young cows are not infected with mad cow disease, officials said yesterday that a 21-month-old bull has tested positive and, if confirmed, will be the country's ninth known case of infection. The animal was only the second in Japan to be infected with the fatal brain-wasting disease at so young an age. The first, a 23-month-old bull, tested positive on Sept. 29, prompting health minister Chikara Sakaguchi to acknowledge that young cows could be infected, despite earlier views. Agriculture officials later raised the possibility that the cow might be carrying a new strain of the disease.
Sex tycoon forms party
A sex industry tycoon, who calls himself an anti-corruption crusader, urged Thailand's public yesterday to support his newly formed political party. Chuwit Kamolvisit, the owner of several Bangkok massage parlors said to be fronts for prostitution, became a local hero in July when he publicly spoke out against police corruption, alleging he paid millions of dollars in bribes to officers. He said he went public because police failed to prevent his prosecution in two criminal cases, even though he paid 12 million baht (US$300,000) in bribes every month for several years. Chuwit's claims, backed only by circumstantial evidence, triggered a massive shake-up in Bangkok police echelons, with several top-ranking officials transferred to inactive posts.