Sociologist jailed for leaks
A court jailed a sociologist for 20 years for leaking state secrets, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said yesterday. Lu Jianhua (陸建華), 46, a sociologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was convicted by the No. 2 Intermediate People's Court on Monday, the Hong Kong-based watchdog group said in a statement. Lu did not hire a lawyer. Lu's case appeared to be linked to the imprisonment of Ching Cheong (程翔), a Hong Kong-based reporter for the Straits Times in Singapore, who was jailed for five years for allegedly spying for Taiwan.
Helmand governor sacked
The government has fired the governor of its biggest drug-producing province, while clashes and a suicide bombing killed six militants and wounded six US-led coalition troops, officials said on Monday. Mohammad Daud was replaced by Asadullah Wafa over the weekend as governor of Helmand Province. Helmand accounts for 42 percent of the country's poppy crop, according to UN estimates -- and is also a center of Taliban resistance. A Western official in Kabul said Daud, who had been governor for about a year, was a "high-integrity guy" and said media reports claiming the US wanted him replaced were false. The official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject, said he didn't know why Daud was removed.
Luxury hospital filling up
The first ``five-star'' hospital -- with golf course and karaoke bars -- is already half booked ahead of its opening on Monday, even though its cheapest room costs more than US$5,000 a month, the Shanghai Daily reported. Shanghai's Xiyue Postnatal Hospital is meant for new mothers, the paper said. The hospital offers luxury rooms for mothers and children, as well as a swimming pool, golf course, tennis courts and even karaoke bars for visitors, the paper said. While the hospital's cheapest room is priced at just 40,000 yuan (US$5,115) a month, a luxury, two-story suite that has separate bedrooms for mother, child and baby sitter -- along with a karaoke bar -- costs nearly 10,000 yuan a day, the paper said. The average monthly salary in Shanghai is 2,860 yuan, according to official statistics.
■ Sri Lanka
Floods have displaced at least 40,000 people as the country prepares to commemorate the second anniversary of the Asian tsunami disaster, National Disaster Management Center director N.D. Hettiarachchi said yesterday. The districts of Hambantota and Ampara, two of the worst hit by the December 2004 tsunami, were under water, he said. "The flood waters are receding, but the victims will have to be looked after for a few more days," he said. He said the flooding in the south and east was compounded by the overflowing of several irrigation tanks.
Thieves steal creche figures
Thieves stole the figurines from an antique Christmas creche in a church in the middle of Naples late on Sunday night, an employee of San Nicola alla Carita said on Monday. "They left nothing," making off with some 300 19th-century figurines, he said. The haul was easily worth 1 million euros (US$1.3 million), the ANSA news agency said.
Man stabbed over pay hike
A woman apparently incensed over a 91 percent pay hike lawmakers granted themselves last week stabbed a prominent member of congress in the back on Monday, police said. Rita de Cassia Sampaio de Souza, 45, told police her anger over the pay hike drove her to stab Representative Antonio Carlos Magalhaes Neto -- the scion of a powerful political family -- as he left his office in the northeastern city of Salvador da Bahia. Magalhaes, 27, was reportedly in good condition and his life was not at risk. State police inspector Wilson Ramos said the pay raise was one of things Souza mentioned in her rambling statement after she was arrested.
■ United States
Joseph Barbera dies at 95
Joseph Barbera, a co-founder of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon company that created memorable characters like the Flintstones and Scooby-Doo, died on Monday at age 95, Warner Bros film studio said in a statement. Barbera founded Hanna-Barbera with William Hanna nearly 50 years ago and it grew to become one of Hollywood's best known brand names in the field of animation. He died at his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Studio City with his wife, Sheila, by his side, Warner Bros said. No further details were disclosed.
■ United States
Pot biggest cash crop
Marijuana is now the biggest cash crop grown in the country, exceeding traditional harvests such as wheat, corn and soy beans, a new report says. The study shows that 10,000 tonnes of marijuana worth US$35.8 billion is grown each year; the street value of which is even higher. This dwarfs the US$23 billion worth of corn grown, US$17.6 billion worth of soybeans and US$12.2 billion worth of hay. Marijuana is the biggest cash crop in 12 states, with the value of pot grown outstripping peanuts in Georgia and tobacco in North and South Carolina.
■ United States
Man gets degree at 100
When Marvin "Hub" Northen left Baylor University in 1929, he was one chemistry credit shy of graduating. This fall, the 100-year-old was finally granted his degree. Northen, who lives in a nursing home in Shreveport, Louisiana, did not attend Saturday's commencement at Baylor. But he was listed among the December list of graduates. He had a surprise graduation ceremony at his Shreveport church on Nov. 28 when he was presented with a Baylor diploma, a cap and gown and his official transcript. "I didn't expect any of it. Of course, I appreciated it. It wore me out all day long," Northen said.
■ United States
Baby dies from infection
A baby died after being infected by a virulent bacterium during an outbreak that prompted officials at an East Los Angeles hospital to stop accepting patients to its neonatal intensive care unit. The infant was among five patients at White Memorial Medical Center who were infected by Pseudomonas aeruginosa -- a common but potentially deadly bacterium for those with weak immune systems. An autopsy was under way, although hospital officials said it was likely the baby died on Monday because of the infection. The infant was the second to die since the bacterium was detected Nov. 30. No autopsy was conducted on the first baby, although the infection was believed to be the cause of death.
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
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong (FCC) yesterday said that reporters in the territory were experiencing “highly unusual” visas problems, and called on the US and China to stop using the media as a political weapon. Journalists have been caught up in US-China tensions, with both sides placing limits or expelling reporters from their territories in the past few months. Now the spat is filtering into Hong Kong, a regional press hub nominally in charge of its own immigration policies. The FCC said in a statement that multiple media firms had reported delays getting visas in recent months. “The delays have affected journalists