■ Pakistan Afghan militant seized \n \nSecurity forces have arrested an Afghan militant leader who allegedly masterminded the month-long kidnap ordeal of three UN workers, officials said yesterday. Syed Mohammad Akbar Agha, head of Jaishul Muslimeen (Army of Muslims) was "arrested from a flat in central Karachi early last week," a senior security official said, adding that Agha "put up no resistance when the security forces raided his flat." The official said efforts were under way to arrest some of Agha's accomplices. Agha has told interrogators he slipped across the border into southwestern Pakistan from where he managed to reach Karachi to escape a manhunt in Afghanistan. \n \n■ China \nSun's impostor jailed \n \nA Chinese man who swindled some US$66,000 out of four people by claiming he was revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen (孫中山), who died in 1925, was jailed for 11 years Saturday. Zhu Yongcheng, 62, was also fined 50,000 yuan (US$603). "I thought it was a good idea to take advantage of my resemblance to Sun Yat-sen to con money out of other people," Zhu told the court. Zhu told four people that he was Sun -- who would now be 138 years old -- and needed to borrow money to unfreeze his late wife's assets, which he said had been locked in foreign banks during China's revolution in the early 20th century. He had also promised to repay his creditors up to three times the amount he borrowed. In order to convince his victims, Zhu memorized Sun's biographies and had a seal made with the name "Sun Yat-sen" on it. \n \n■ Hong Kong \nFloating drug lab raided \n \nPolice said yesterday they had seized cocaine worth over US$2 million from a floating factory on a fish farming raft. Four hundred liters of liquid cocaine were found on board the raft off the coast of the rural New Territories. The liquid was capable of producing 20kg of the drug in its powder form, police said. It is believed to have been smuggled into Hong Kong mixed with coffee powder from South America. Police were tipped off after they arrested a 72-year-old man for smuggling more than 10kg of cocaine through Hong Kong airport last Sunday. \n \n■ Papua New Guinea \nVolcano strands thousands \n \nSeveral thousand people remain stranded without adequate food, water or shelter on Manam in Papua New Guinea following repeated volcanic eruptions, authorities said Friday. Five people have died after drinking ash-contaminated water and about 7,900 who have been evacuated are struggling to survive in malaria-infested emergency care centers with few facilities. Officials said yesterday that it could take another four days to rescue the remaining 2,000 to 3,000 islanders. \n \n■ Nepal \nOfficial's home bombed \n \nA small bomb was thrown at a Nepalese bureaucrat's home yesterday, the third blast in Kathmandu in two days, but no one was hurt, police said. The pre-dawn blast at the home of Chief Secretary Bimal Prasad Koirala in a residential area made a small crater and broke windows. Koirala was not in the house at the time. Koirala's guard said the bomb was thrown by a passing motorcyclist. Nobody claimed responsibility and police are investigating whether Maoists rebels were involved. \n■ Lithuania Vodka pipeline uncovered \n \nLithuanian border guards have discovered a pipeline stretching several kilome-ters between Belarus and Lithuania that was to serve as a conduit for illicit vodka, local media reported on Friday. Vodka in Belarus is substantially cheaper than in Lithuania, and the 3km construction of pipe and rubber hose was not the first attempt to spirit vodka across the border by means of a pipeline. Authorities said the latest discovery was only days away from going into service. \n \n■ France \nNeo-Nazi man sentenced \n \nA young neo-Nazi who took a shot at President Jacques Chirac during France's Bastille Day parade two years ago was sentenced on Friday to 10 years in prison. Maxime Brunerie, 27, who was convicted of attempted murder, had pulled a rifle from a guitar case at the annual military parade and fired a shot as Chirac rode by in an open-topped car. The president was not hurt. The prosecutor said in his closing statement that Brunerie, a part-time accountancy student and member of several small, far-right groups, could not be considered wholly responsible for his actions but was certainly not deranged. \n \n■ United Kingdom \nBuddhists finish journey \n \nA group of four Buddhists completed a journey of 608km on a traditional Buddhist march on Friday, from southeast London to southern Scotland in protest against the war and deaths in Iraq. Following the Buddhist "three-step one-bow" procedure, they stopped every three steps on their way and bowed on the ground and prayed. They arrived at their destination, Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan temple in Eskdalemuir, at 10:30am on Friday. A Buddhist monk, Master Tri Nh and three nuns, French Vietnamese Anne Do, Vietnamese Thoi-Thi Ho and Chinese-Vietnamese Mui Tu Truong, started their march on Sept. 26 from Linh Son Buddhist temple in southeast London. \n \n■ Kenya \nStolen land redistributed \n \nKenya has started to repossess millions of hectares of land illegally seized by the former president Daniel arap Moi and his cronies during his 24-year rule, the government said Friday. Moi had returned two beach plots he held in Mombasa and signalled a willingness to return other properties in what was billed as an ambitious bid to redress the corruption of his regime and that of predecessor, Jomo Kenyatta. At least 60 others reportedly returned title deeds for land acquired irregularly. An official report published yesterday depicted a vast, kleptocratic looting of land for political patronage which damaged the economy and stoked ethnic tension in the east African state. \n \n■ Italy \nRomeo's wall to be replaced \n \nThe city fathers of Verona are determined to rid their town of "wall, that vile wall which did these lovers sunder" and replace lime and rough-cast with a smooth panel resistant to modern tourists. The reason is that Romeos come from all over the world to affix billets doux on the wall beneath what they believe to be Juliet's balcony in the greatest love story of all time. But the fixative owes more to William Wrigley than William Shakespeare, and Juliet's wall is deeply encrusted with chewing gum. "The damage is evident and intolerable, and we have had to step in," said Francesca Tamellini, the town official in charge of tourism. \n■ China's market Retail sales rise 13% \n \nChina's retail sales this year are expected to rise 13 percent over last year and are seen to climb more than 10 percent next year, the Ministry of Commerce said. After adjusting for inflation, sales would be up 9.8 percent, 0.6 percentage points faster than last year, Xinhua news agency quoted Huang Huai, assistant to the commerce minister, as saying. China's combined retail sales this year have so far exceeded five trillion yuan (US$604 billion dollars), the report said. Retail sales in October rose 14.2 percent year-on-year to 498.3 billion yuan (US$60 billion dollars), compared to a 14 percent rise in September, the National Bureau of Statistics said last month. Strong consumer spending, especially in cars, housing and telecommunications products, have supported a steady growth, Huang said. \n \n■ US-China trade \nFurniture penalties upheld \n \nThe US government has upheld a determination that US furniture makers are being hurt by imports of Chinese bedroom furniture, clearing the way for the continuation of penalty tariffs on about US$1.2 billion in Chinese imports. The US International Trade Commission voted 6-0 to affirm an early finding that the US industry was being injured because of the imports. Last month, the Commerce Department ruled that the bedroom furniture was being sold in the US at unfairly low prices, a practice known as dumping. About two-thirds of the US$1.2 billion in shipments will be subjected to tariffs of 8.64 percent while another the size of the penalty tariffs, scaling back the tariffs from the preliminary levels. \n \n■ Breweries \nBeer merger vote set \n \nAdolph Coors Co. and Molson Inc. said Friday they have scheduled a Jan. 19 meeting for shareholders to vote on their plan to merge. Montreal-based Molson said its optionholders will vote on the conversion of their options to Molson-Coors options the day before. If the merger is approved, the Canadian brewer will submit the proposal to the Quebec Superior Court for final approval. The companies said they hoped to finalize the merger by Jan. 28. The combined Molson Coors Brewing Co. would have sales of about US$6 billion and brands that include Coors Original, Coors Light, Keystone, Molson Canadian and Carling. The two companies have agreed to pay a special dividend of US$316 million to Molson's shareholders. Based in suburban Golden, Coors is the third biggest US brewer behind behind Anheuser-Busch and SABMiller. \n \n■ Copyright \nSwapping case to be heard \n \nThe US Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear a case to determine whether music-swapping services can be held liable for copyright infringement if their networks are used for illegal digital copies. The highest US court said it would hear the appeal from the music and entertainment industries, which up to now have been thwarted in their efforts to shut down so-called Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networks such as Grokster, StreamCast and Kazaa. A ruling is expected next year. Two federal courts have already ruled that the P2P networks are not liable for copyright violations by users, citing a precedent from the 1984 "Betamax" case that cleared the way for videocassette recorders to be used without makers being responsible for copyright violations.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
SHOW OF SOLIDARITY: The publisher’s ‘Apple Daily’ newspaper has had to raise the number of copies printed from 70,000 to 550,000 to meet a huge surge in demand They have occupied Hong Kong’s central business district, marched by the hundreds of thousands through the territory’s streets and endured tear gas and pepper spray in pitched battles with riot police. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters are now wielding a new protest weapon: their stock-market trading accounts. To show support for Jimmy Lai (黎智英), the publisher and outspoken government critic who was on Monday arrested under the territory’s new national security legislation, Hong Kongers have been piling into shares of his media company Next Digital. The result: a more than 1,100 percent surge in two days that propelled the stock to a seven-year