Fire in Tokyo kills two
Two women were killed yesterday in a fire that burned down an 80-year-old dormitory for foreign residents in Tokyo, police said. “Two women who appear to be in their 70s and 40s died,” a police spokesman said, adding they were yet to be identified. Several other people were injured, he added. News reports said the fire was set off early in the morning by a resident’s cigarette. Police declined comment. The three-story dormitory was built in 1927 for students from Taiwan, which was then under Japanese colonial rule. Some 40 Taiwanese, Chinese and Japanese of various ages now live there, the reports said.
Eight die in fungus feud
A feud between two southwest townships over access to valuable wild fungus erupted into a gun battle that left eight people dead and 44 wounded, Xinhua news agency said yesterday, citing the local government. The violence occurred in the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of mountainous Sichuan Province last Friday. “A county government official said around 200 residents from Danba and Sumdo townships clashed in a dispute over access to wild fungus and firewood,” Xinhua news agency said. Some of those involved drew rifles and the gun battle lasted around 10 minutes, the official said.
Most widely read blogger
Actress-turned-director Xu Jinglei (徐靜蕾) became the world’s most widely read blogger this month when her blog logged 100 million page views within about 600 days, the Beijing News said yesterday. And Xu, who has a reputation for a high intellect and integrity, has done it without writing about sex or providing a catalogue of kiss-and-tell stories — but focusing on her work and day-to-day life. The 100 millionth hit occurred on July 12, according to www.sina.com.cn, a popular Web site which provides blog services to many entertainers, including Xu who started hers in October 2005 and published a book of her blogged articles in March last year.
■ NEW ZEALAND
Firefighter counts his luck
A firefighter is counting his luck after a red-hot steel rod was fired into his helmet from an exploding vehicle, local media reported yesterday. The steel rod was traveling at such speed it punched a hole through a steel door before hitting 41-year-old Gary Wright’s Kevlar fire helmet, the New Zealand Herald said. Wright was getting ready to fight a blaze earlier this month that had engulfed a garage full of vehicles in a suburb of Auckland when the steel rod fired out of an exploding van 19m away. “I had only just put my BA [breathing apparatus] set on and put my helmet back on,” he said.
Protest organizer arrested
Beijing has arrested at least one activist for organizing protests in a southeastern port city last month in which thousands of residents opposed construction of a chemical plant, two friends said yesterday. Liaising via cellphone text massages and the Internet, the protesters marched through downtown areas of Xiamen on June 1 and 2 to demand the government scrap plans to build the Taiwan-funded plant to make paraxylene, a compound used in polyester and fabrics. Citing critics including government experts and advisers, they said the factory, next to a residential area, was a “timebomb” for public health and a grave threat to the environment.
Murderer gets 20 years
A judge handed a 20-year sentence on Wednesday to one of the men behind last year’s murder of an epileptic toddler, who was snatched from his highchair at home and then killed with a shovel. The murder of 18-month-old Tommaso Onofri horrified people who had waged a month-long campaign for the toddler’s release — complete with appeals from the pope — without knowing the boy was already dead. Tommaso’s kidnappers, who planned to demand a ransom, hit him in the face with a shovel to stop him crying shortly after the abduction, the force of the blow killing the toddler.
Argentine officer to be tried
A former Argentine naval officer accused of murdering thousands during the country’s “Dirty War” will stay in Spain to be tried, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday, instead of being extradited to Argentina. Ricardo Cavallo has been held in a Spanish prison since 2003, when he was extradited from Mexico and charged by authorities in Spain with genocide and terrorism. Spanish prosecutors requested multiple life sentences in prison for Cavallo for the death and torture of Spanish citizens during Argentina’s 1976-1983 military dictatorship. When Cavallo was handed over to Spain, it was the first time a country had extradited a suspect to another to stand trial for alleged rights abuses committed in a third.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Extra cash didn’t cut crime
Billions of extra pounds spent on the police since Labour came to power has made no clear impact on crime, a powerful group of members of parliament (MPs) said yesterday before the release of annual crime figures. In a critical report, the Home Affairs Select Committee said it was “puzzling” that falls in crime since 1997 took place before the government significantly boosted police budgets. The MPs said they would have expected the extra investment in the police service to have had a measurable impact.
Funeral rocked by bomb
An explosion ripped through a crowd of mourners at a cemetery in the violence-plagued south on Wednesday, wounding at least 10 people, including four police officers, officials said. The funeral was being held for a Russian woman fatally shot along with her two grown children Monday in Ingushetia, a mostly Muslim republic, in what authorities said may have been an ethnically motivated attack. The funeral at the cemetery in the settlement of Ordzhonikidze was halted and the site was cordoned off by police after the explosion, believed to have been caused by a homemade bomb, the district police said.
Voting gets under way
Voting for a new leader started in this breakaway region yesterday in an election intended to stress the Armenian-populated region’s self-proclaimed independence from Azerbaijan. The head of the region’s election commission, Sergey Nasibyan, hailed the election campaign as democratic and said local and foreign observers were monitoring the polls, Armenian television reported. Azerbaijan, which lost control of Nagorno-Karabakh after a war in the early 1990s, has already denounced the election as illegal under international law. At least 25 percent of the enclave’s 91,000 voters have to take part for the 8am to 8pm election to be considered valid by Karabakh authorities.
■ UNITED STATES
Mystery object stumps NASA
A hunk of metal that crashed through the roof of a Bayonne, New Jersey, home had NASA, Federal Aviation Administration and even US defense officials curious until the mystery was solved on Wednesday. A man was watching TV on Tuesday when he heard a crash. In the next room he found a hunk of gray metal, 9cm by 13cm. "It doesn't look very `spacey,'" said Henry Kline, a spokesman for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. Finally, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters said on Wednesday that a colleague had solved the mystery: The chunk was part of a commercial woodchipper. Peters said the grinder piece can apparently launch into the air if something goes wrong.
Ruling sparks security fears
A recent provincial court ruling has poked a potentially massive hole in the country's border security by forcing guards to obtain warrants to search vehicles at checkpoints, officials said on Wednesday. "This ruling could be a concern," said Chris Williams, a spokesman for Canada Border Services Agency, after the agency reviewed the little-noticed decision. "It could affect our commitment to keep illegal drugs, firearms and contraband out of Canada, affecting the way we conduct searches," he explained. The government is appealing the decision, he added.
■ UNITED STATES
Elder Bush's gun returned
Former US president George H.W. Bush presented the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia with his World War II service revolver, returned to him 60 years after he gave it to a lieutenant on the submarine that rescued him after his plane was shot down. The son of the late Lieutenant-General Albert Brostrom on Wednesday returned the .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and its leather shoulder holster to Bush, who presented it to the Constitution Center for permanent display in the museum. Brostrom was the sonar man on the USS Finback, the sub that rescued Bush on Sept. 2, 1944, after his plane was shot down by the Japanese in the Pacific. Brostrom took Bush to the infirmary, and later shared his bunk with the future president. As he left the sub, Bush gave Brostrom his revolver in gratitude.
■ UNITED STATES
Firefighters at wrong house
Firefighters in Braintree, Massachusetts, drove to a vacant house on Tuesday, cut holes in the roof and walls, and broke windows to test their tools and their proficiency -- only to discover it was the wrong house. They were supposed to be two blocks away at a house slated for demolition. The owners of the damaged home now want the town to pay for the mistake.
■ UNITED STATES
Spiders save arachnophobe
A woman who hates spiders is crediting them with helping save her from a house fire. Danielle Vigue, 18, says she awoke early on Tuesday to find spiders in her room, and started killing them. When more showed up, she went across the hall and got into bed with her 15-year-old sister, Lauren. "I hate spiders, they freak me out," Danielle Vigue told the Saginaw News. A fire was apparently smoldering in the attic of the home in Hemlock, Michigan. A few hours later, Vigue's mother and eight-year-old sister smelled smoke, and flames greeted the family when they opened the door to the room Danielle had earlier left. "I will never kill another spider again," Vigue told WNEM-TV.
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
PLAYING THE VICTIM? A Chinese spokesman sent a statement to Australian media saying that Beijing had ‘irrefutable’ evidence of Canberra’s widescale espionage Australia yesterday unveiled the “largest-ever” boost in cybersecurity spending, days after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke out about a wave of state-sponsored attacks suspected to have been carried out by China. Morrison and government officials said the country would spend an additional A$1.35 billion (US$928 million) on cybersecurity, about a 10 percent hike, taking the budget for the next decade to A$15 billion. The largest chunk of the new money would help create 500 jobs within the Australian Signals Directorate, the government’s communications intelligence agency. Morrison on June 19 said that a “state-based actor” was targeting a host of