Dim outlook for Abe
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition is "highly likely" to lose a July 29 upper house election, a newspaper forecast yesterday after its survey showed Abe's support below the critical 30 percent level. Only 27.9 percent of those responding to the July 14-16 survey by the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun said they backed Abe's Cabinet, against 51.7 percent who disapproved. But 30 percent to 50 percent of voters are still undecided so the election's outcome was still uncertain. The ruling coalition will not automatically be ejected from government if it loses its majority in the upper house, since parliament's lower chamber picks the prime minister.
Wealth statements sought
The anti-corruption commission said it had asked two former prime ministers to submit statements of their wealth as part of a crackdown on political corruption. A notice seeking the statement was sent to Sheikh Hasina, now in jail for alleged extortion, through prison authorities, officials said on yesterday. Another notice was served to her rival Begum Khaleda Zia at her home in Dhaka on Tuesday, they said. Both leaders have been given a week to submit the statements.
National Convention reopens
The National Convention reopened for the last time yesterday to finish drafting a new constitution dismissed by critics as a ploy by the military junta to entrench its rule. The convention, the first step on the country's seven-stage "road map to democracy," would wrap up in about two months, Information Minister Kyaw Hsan said. But the junta, which picked most of the 1,058 delegates, refuses to set a timetable for completing its "road map." Western governments and other critics say it is nothing but a smokescreen to preserve the generals' grip on power.
Thunderstorm kills 15
Fifteen people have been killed in Chongqing in a 16-hour thunderstorm that caused serious flooding and brought air, road and rail traffic to a halt, state media said on Wednesday. Downtown areas of the city received 266.6mm of rain between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon, the largest volume since records began in 1892, Xinhua news agency said, quoting the local meteorological bureau. The storm, which began on Monday, also unleashed more than 40,000 lightning strikes, the China Daily said. Hundreds of flights were delayed at Chongqing airport on Tuesday, stranding over 5,000 passengers. The storm had left five people missing and caused some 22,000 homes to collapse. The area was hit by the worst drought in more than a century last summer.
Porsche man strikes again
Police were left red-faced after a man who abandoned the theft of a US$280,000 Porsche for lack of fuel drove the sportscar out of a police station, local media said. The suspect had first stolen the car on Monday at a luxury showroom in northern Penang State. The car was later found abandoned a short distance away, its fuel tank empty. The New Straits Times said the man kept the keys and turned up with a can of gas at a local police station where the car had been towed. He drove off with the Porsche, ditching it later after he discovered roadblocks had been set up to stop him. Police were hunting for the suspect, the paper said.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Tycoon to donate US$2bn
Sir Tom Hunter, the richest man in Scotland, pledged to give ?1 billion (US$2 billion) to charity on Tuesday. His spokesman said that he will give the money away through the course of the rest of his life to charities in Britain and developing countries through his charitable foundation. "My own personal belief is that with great wealth comes great responsibility," Hunter told the BBC. "Therefore you've got to take care of these things if wealth creation is still going to be seen as a positive force by the rest of the population." He first began selling sports shoes from the back of a van, and founded a chain of sports stores in 1984, which he sold in 1998. That same year, he and his wife established the Hunter Foundation, which has donated millions of pounds to various causes.
Police target of bomb
A homemade bomb killed four policemen and wounded six others in Dagestan yesterday during their morning exercises in a school yard, a police spokesman said. The bomb -- a 76mm artillery shell with a radio-controlled detonator -- exploded in the town of Kizilyurt, about 50km from the provincial capital of Makhachkala, the spokesman said. Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region that is home to many ethnic groups, has been plagued by shootings, bombings and other violence, some spilling over from Chechnya.
Derailment releases gas
A freight train derailment released a cloud of toxic gas on Tuesday that poisoned at least 20 people, authorities said. Hundreds of people were evacuated and others fled their homes on their own after the derailment sparked a blaze in a cargo of yellow phosphorous, creating a cloud of gas that affected 14 villages. The train, en route from Kazakhstan to Poland, derailed near Lviv, which is not far from the Polish border, and 15 of its 58 cars overturned, officials said. Six of them caught fire and the poison cloud spread over a 90km2 area. Residents were advised to stay inside, not to use water from wells, eat vegetables from their gardens or drink the milk from their cows.
Justice minister under fire
Justice Minister Rachida Dati defended a draft law that toughens sentencing for repeat offenders, including minors, on Tuesday -- the same day one of her brothers appeared in court for a third drug offense. Dati has been under fire for her firm stance on criminal punishment. Several top aides have quit and news of her brother's heroin case has tarnished her image. Prime Minister Francois Fillon denounced what he called a "campaign" against Dati. On Tuesday, Dati endured hisses from opposition lawmakers as she presented the draft law to the National Assembly. The law would establish minimum sentences for repeat offenders.
Take off that tie
The health ministry has urged employers to let their staff dress casually at work in the summer so that air conditioners can be turned down. "Allowing a more sensible use of air conditioning that yields electricity savings and protects the environment." It called on all public and private offices to let employees go without ties during heat waves like the one that has brought Africa-like temperatures to many parts of Italy this week.
■ UNITED STATES
Foster parents lose case
A couple trying to block the court-ordered reunion of their former foster daughter with her Chinese parents are ending a seven-year legal fight for custody of the girl, their lawyer said on Tuesday. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in January that eight-year-old Anna Mae He must be reunited with her parents who put her in what was supposed to be temporary foster care when she an infant. Under the Supreme Court's orders, Anna Mae began a series of visits with her parents in March and is expected to join them full-time by the end of the month.
■ UNITED STATES
Dozens rescue heavy man
A 227kg man injured while tubing down a shallow stretch of the St Croix River was pulled to safety on Tuesday by dozens of rescue workers who spent hours carrying him to a navigable part of the waterway. Martin Rike, 39, of Pine City, Minnesota, was treated for chest pain at a hospital on Tuesday morning and discharged that afternoon, his mother said. Rike and three friends were floating down the river on the Minnesota border in inner tubes on Monday afternoon when Rike's hit a rock and deflated, said Chief Deputy Steve Ovick of the Pine County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota.
■ UNITED STATES
Drug kingpin captured
Authorities have captured a suspected leader of Mexico's powerful Gulf drug cartel and one of the country's most wanted men, Carlos "El Puma" Landin, while he was shopping in Texas, the Drug Enforcement Administration said on Tuesday. Landin, a former Mexican police officer who is wanted on drug-smuggling charges in Mexico and the US, crossed into McAllen, Texas, on Saturday, where DEA officers unexpectedly found him shopping for groceries. "Landin was responsible for collecting taxes on drugs smuggled through [the Mexican border city of] Reynosa. He was number two in the Reynosa plaza," said DEA spokesman Will Glaspy.
■ UNITED STATES
Copyright scheme uncovered
Four prisoners were indicted on Tuesday on allegations that they copyrighted their names, then demanded millions of dollars from prison officials for using the names without authorization. The indictment alleges that inmates Russell Dean Landers, Clayton Heath Albers, Carl Ervin Batts and Barry Dean Bischof sent demand notices for payment to the warden of the El Reno, Oklahoma, federal prison and filed liens against his property. They then hired someone to seize his vehicles, freeze his bank accounts and change the locks on his house. Then, believing the warden's property had been seized, the inmates said they would not return his property unless they were released from prison.
Dolphin killing captured
A crew of fishermen was captured on video killing 83 dolphins and joking about their illegal haul, the Ibama environmental protection agency said on Tuesday. The video obtained by an Ibama researcher and broadcast by Globo TV showed the fishermen netting the dolphins, which suffocated because they could not surface to breathe. The dead dolphins were then hauled from the sea and piled on the boat's deck. International dolphin advocates who saw the video said they were appalled and Ibama announced it will try to impose fishing restrictions where dolphins are common.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big