■ SRI LANKA
Full flights cost boss' job
The government is canceling the work permit of Sri Lankan Airlines' British boss after the national carrier refused seats to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his entourage, the government's Board of Investment said yesterday. Rajapaksa went on a private visit to the UK this month to watch his son's graduation from a naval college but couldn't get a place on the flight home because of heavy holiday traffic. The government says the airline "misled" it and had promised seats to Rajapaksa and his 35-member entourage -- which airline sources deny. "We have recommended the cancelation of a work permit issued to [airlines chief] Peter Hill," said Dhammika Perera, chairman of the Board of Investment. Hill said he had not been informed of the decision. Rajapaksa ultimately had to charter a flight with government-owned budget airline Mihin Air to get home.
Shanghai gangster executed
Shanghai's top gangster was executed this week after China's top court gave the order for him to be put to death, the Shanghai Daily reported yesterday. Li Bin (李斌), 41, the self-proclaimed "King of Shanghai's underworld" was executed on Tuesday after the Supreme Court issued the order, the newspaper said. Li was found guilty in October last year of heading a criminal gang that trafficked in drugs, was involved in organized gambling and illegally possessed firearms and other weapons, the paper said. His appeal was rejected by Shanghai's top court earlier this year, the report said. His wife, Yao Yinmei (姚銀妹), and 18 other members of his gang were handed prison terms ranging from life to 15 years.
Couple sentenced to death
Two teachers who sold out pupils as young as 11 years old to men seeking virgins for sex have been sentenced to death for running a child prostitution ring, Chinese press reports said yesterday. The teachers, who were married, worked in southern Guizhou Province and most of the 23 girls forced into sex slavery were students from the schools where they taught, the China Daily said. Six of the girls were aged under 14, the Shanghai Daily said, adding that the victims supposedly being "virgins" was a main selling point. Other press reports said all the girls were aged from 11 to 17.
Alleged bomb plotter nabbed
Police in the southern city of Cotabato said yesterday they had arrested a man believed to be of Middle Eastern descent allegedly plotting a bomb attack. Mohamad Sayed was arrested on Tuesday during a raid of an apartment in the Majad Islamic School, police said. Police say they found an explosive device fashioned from a 60mm mortar attached to a timing device during the raid. The device was later safely detonated.
Port tries to block spill
Rescuers were trying to prevent an oil leak yesterday after a tanker overturned at a port in Surabaya, a port official said. The tanker capsized on Tuesday while being loaded with fuel oil at the port, harbor master Rocky Ahmad Suherman said. "We are discussing with related parties how to right the tanker without spilling the oil," he said. A small amount of oil had seeped from the Karisma Selatan but it appeared to have come from its engine, he said. No one was was hurt in the accident.
Talks with Hamas possible
A Cabinet Minister said yesterday the government would accept "mediation" with the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip in an effort to stop rocket fire from the area. The remark by Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz appeared to be the first indication that the government would consider talking to the militant group; it has refused to have any dealings with Hamas and has virtually sealed off Gaza, allowing in only food and humanitarian aid.
Putin reincarnated: sect
President Vladimir Putin is used to fawning supporters but a sect in a remote village has gone further by naming him a reincarnation of St. Paul. The Resurrecting Russia sect, in the village of Bolshaya Elnya in the southern Volga region, has given a new twist to the sometimes fanatical support for Putin. "The sect is using the name of the president, whom it presents as the reincarnation of St. Paul, to recruit more members and earn money," said Igor Pchelintsev, a spokesman for the local Orthodox diocese.
Millions write to Santa
Text messages, e-mails and social networking are challenging traditional mail but Santa Claus at least is receiving more and more old-fashioned letters, the Universal Postal Union said on Tuesday. Letters to Santa Claus continue to grow at a clip that will top the 6 million notes sent last year. Spokesman Laurent Widmer said it was too soon to estimate a final tally because many letters are sent in the final week before Christmas or even after the holiday. But union members said the number of letters seemed to be increasing.
■ UNITED STATES
Magna Carta auctioned
A 710-year-old copy of the declaration of human rights known as the Magna Carta -- the version that became part of English law -- was auctioned on Tuesday for US$21.3 million, a Sotheby's spokeswoman said. The document, which had been expected to draw bids of US$30 million or higher, was bought by David Rubenstein of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, the spokeswoman said. Sotheby's vice chairman David Redden called the ancient parchment "the most important document in the world, the birth certificate of freedom." It was owned by the Perot Foundation since the early 1980s. It had been on exhibit at the auction house for the past 11 days. Bearing the seal of King Edward I and dated 1297, it is one of 17 known copies of the historic tract that defined human rights as the foundation for liberty and democracy as it is known today. It is one of two that exist outside Britain; the other is in Australia.
■ UNITED STATES
Fire sparks evacuation
A fire broke out near Vice President Dick Cheney's ceremonial office in a building next to the White House yesterday, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate. Cheney was in the White House with US President George W. Bush when the blaze began, and everyone inside the executive office building was evacuated safely, White House officials said. Smoke billowed from a second-floor section of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building building facing the West Wing of the presidential mansion as firefighters arrived on the scene. The fire appeared to be contained to only a few offices. District of Columbia Fire Department spokesman Alan Etter said firefighters saw smoke coming out of telephone or electrical equipment and there was no indication of terrorism.
TARNISHED LEGACY: Woodrow Wilson served as the university’s president before becoming the US’ 28th leader, but his racism was ‘significant and consequential’ Princeton University is removing former US president Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges after trustees concluded that the 28th president’s “racist thinking and policies” made him “an inappropriate namesake.” The Ivy League school’s trustees made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on Saturday. It comes at a time of widespread rethinking of the US’ racial legacy. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, energized by a series of high-profile deaths of black Americans, has resulted in the removal of Confederate monuments, flags and symbols of racism across the US. Deleting Wilson’s name at Princeton
‘FULLY ENCLOSED’: Residents of Anxin County would be confined to their homes and would only be allowed out once a day to buy necessities such as food and medicine China yesterday imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people near the capital to contain a fresh COVID-19 cluster as authorities warned the outbreak was still “severe and complicated.” After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in Hebei Province. Health officials said that Anxin County — about 150km from Beijing — would be “fully enclosed and controlled,” the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year. Only one person from each family would be allowed to go out once a
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
‘CHAPITOS’: An ex-DEA agent said the sons of the former cartel head are engaged in a battle for control, with the health of the man temporarily in charge a factor The fight for control of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s legacy spilled into the open on Thursday after a gun battle between rival Mexican gangs left 16 dead, authorities said. The 16 men, heavily armed and wearing bulletproof vests, died in a six-hour running shootout near the rural town of Tepuche in northwestern Sinaloa province. “A van with seven bodies was located” after an initial clash, while nine bodies were discovered following a second exchange, Sinaloa Minister of Security Cristobal Castaneda told reporters. Castaneda said that Wednesday’s clash near Tepuche, 25km from the capital of Sinaloa, Culiacan, was “part of a struggle