Shandong leader fired
The second most-powerful figure in Shandong Province has been fired for serious misconduct, state media announced yesterday, amid a crackdown on corruption. The deputy party secretary of Shandong was dismissed because he committed a "serious discipline violation," the Xinhua news agency and state television said. They didn't give any details, but such language usually is used to describe embezzlement, extortion or other graft.
HK fishermen arrested
Thirty fishermen from Hong Kong have been arrested poaching off a protected marine reserve, the navy said yesterday. The men were aboard the vessel Hoi Wan, intercepted on Thursday by security forces off Palawan island. Officials will later determine whether the men will be fined, jailed or repatriated immediately. The ill-equipped coast guard and navy has struggled to protect the vast coast area. In October maritime forces arrested 24 Chinese illegally fishing and in March, 17 Chinese poachers were deported after spending one year in jail.
One-tier tax debated
Lawmakers yesterday considered a draft law that would impose a 25 percent income tax on both domestic and foreign firms to end the preferential rate for overseas firms, state media said. The tax bill was unveiled to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress -- the top legislature -- at the start of a week-long session due to end on Friday, Xinhua news agency said. Domestic companies are currently taxed at a rate of 24 percent on average. Foreign firms only pay about 14 percent, which local firms have complained about in the face of hard competition.
Police find weapons cache
Police in the north of the country found a weapons cache on Saturday that allegedly belonged to the Basque separatist group ETA, officials said. Police said they found 50kg of chemical substances to make explosives; detonators; clothes and a tent. The items were recovered from an underground cache in a wooded area near the Basque town of Amorebieta. Investigators said it had only been built two or three days ago. Another arms cache was found by police in Itxaso, but this one seemed to have been abandoned four years ago, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
■ Burkina Faso
Prisoners flee jail en masse
About 600 prisoners are on the run after escaping during fighting between soldiers and policemen earlier this week, officials said. The head of the main prison in the capital, Ouagadougou, said the prisoners escaped on Wednesday when soldiers battling with police attacked the gates of the prison. The Ouagadougou prison holds about 1,200 prisoners in all and a spokesman said none of those who escaped were dangerous criminals, who are kept in more secure cells. He said most of the escapees had been convicted of small-time thievery or forgery. The firefights between soldiers and police were sparked by a police killing of a soldier on Tuesday.
■ United Kingdom
Domestic flights resume
Tens of thousands of passengers headed home for their Christmas holidays on Saturday after three days of chaos at airports caused by fog. By mid-afternoon the fog had largely lifted. British Airways (BA), which has suffered the bulk of the cancellations, resumed all domestic flights from London's Heathrow airport at midday. BA said it hoped to run 95 percent of services on Saturday and a full service yesterday.
Court confirms vote result
The nation's top court officially declared President Marc Ravalomanana to be the legitimate winner of this month's elections and rejected complaints from his rivals that the ballot was flawed. On Saturday the Constitutional High Court said that Ravalomanana won 54.8 percent of the vote, with his closest rival, Lahiniriko Jean, getting just 11.7 percent. Nine senior judges, led by court president Jean-Michel Rajaonarivony, told journalists that they had rejected requests from nine candidates for a rerun of the elections and for the disqualification of the president for breaching the electoral code. Jean had accused the president of campaigning outside the official dates and closing schools without proper authorization to increase the numbers at his rallies.
Prince not poisoned
Preliminary forensic tests conducted on the body of 14th century Prince Sancho de Castilla say the seven-year-old died of natural causes and not poisoning, a newspaper reported on Saturday. For centuries, historians suspected his uncle Enrique killed Sancho to inherit the throne of Castilla. However, recent tests by the Universities of Granada and Alcala de Henares and Barcelona's Clinico Hospital found no traces of cyanide or arsenic, El Pais reported. Instead, the preliminary tests indicated that the young prince may have died of a lung infection after chronic exposure to smoke, likely to have come from a fireplace.
■ United States
Arnold breaks a leg
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger broke his leg while skiing with his family, a spokesman said. Schwarzenegger was taken to a hospital for X-rays and was discharged with a fracture to his right femur following the accident on Saturday morning, said Adam Mendelsohn, the governor's deputy chief of staff for communications. He will have surgery to repair the bone when he returns to Los Angeles, Mendelsohn said. The governor remained at his Sun Valley, Idaho, home on Saturday night and still planned to spend Christmas there. No one else was involved in the accident, Mendelsohn said.
■ United States
New York DJ killed
A popular hip-hop disc jockey died on Saturday after being shot at least 13 times earlier this month, police said. Carl Blaze, born Carlos Rivera, was shot outside an apartment building near Manhattan's Inwood section on Dec. 7, and his US$20,000 diamond chain stolen, police said. He was taken to Harlem Hospital Center, where he died on Saturday. Blaze, 30, was a DJ for hip-hop and R&B radio station Power 105.1 FM for about three years. He had gained a large fan base by spinning records at clubs and on the air on Friday and Saturday nights. Power 105.1 FM held a tribute for Blaze on Saturday night.
■ United States
Tumbleweeds take over town
The blizzard that dumped up to 1.2m of snow in Colorado's mountains brought a different force of nature to Front Range town: tumbleweeds that piled up to 6m high. "I couldn't see out the kitchen window, and it's on the second story," said Lisa Jackson, a local resident who lives near the Pueblo West golf course. She and her husband were still trying to dig out from the tightly packed weeds on Friday. Neighbor Michelle Peulen drove through the tumbleweed storm on Wednesday. "It was like being in a weird video game, dodging the tumbleweeds," she said.
■ United States
Trump sues over flag citation
Donald Trump is suing the local administration in Palm Beach, Florida, for US$10 million after being cited for flying an oversized US flag over his Mar-a-Lago Club. Attorneys for the club filed a complaint on Thursday, saying that flying the flag is a constitutionally protected expression of free speech -- and that the large flag is a proper match for the size of the real-estate mogul's patriotism. Town officials said Trump violated zoning codes when the lavish club hoisted a 4.5m-by-7.5m flag atop a 24m pole on Oct. 3. The citation was for having a flagpole taller than 12.6m, for not obtaining a building permit and for not getting permission from the landmarks board.
■ United States
Legislator admits Castro threat
A Florida congresswoman acknowledged calling for Cuban President Fidel Castro's assassination after earlier claiming a video clip of her making the comments was fake. Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said on Saturday she has not seen the unedited footage of her interview, which appears in a 28-second clip on the Internet by the makers of a new British documentary, 638 Ways to Kill Castro. In it, she says: "I welcome the opportunity of having anyone assassinate Fidel Castro and any leader who is oppressing the people." Earlier this month, the Havana-born lawmaker said filmmakers spliced clips together to make the sound bite.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
SURGE CONTINUES: India recorded its steepest spike of more than 57,000 new virus cases in 24 hours, as Vietnam went from no virus deaths to reporting three South Korean prosecutors yesterday arrested the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect as part of an investigation into allegations that the church hampered the government’s COVID-19 response after thousands of worshipers were infected in February and March. Prosecutors in the central city of Suwon have been questioning 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, over charges that the church hid some members and underreported gatherings to avoid broader quarantines. The Suwon District Court granted prosecutors’ request to arrest Lee over concerns that he could temper with evidence. Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying they are