Tainted products identified
Authorities have discovered the toxic chemical melamine in 20 more products from China and Malaysia, taking its total to 33, authorities said. Three Chinese products and 17 kinds of biscuits from Malaysia were found to contain melamine. The affected items include popular products such as Lotte Koala biscuits and Julie’s crackers, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore said in a statement on its Web site yesterday. It was the first time the country had found melamine in non-Chinese products, the Straits Times said. In China, four children have died after drinking formula tainted with melamine, which is used in plastics. Authorities in China said 53,000 children fell ill from the tainted formula.
■ HONG KONG
Hospitals offer halal food
Halal meals, prepared according to strict Islamic guidelines, are being served to Muslims in some public hospitals for the first time, a media report said yesterday. “Noting their [the Muslims] difference in dietary culture, we decided to introduce a halal meal set,” Vivian Wong, coordinator for the Hospital Authority in New Territories West, was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post. The initiative was launched at four hospitals and could be added at other hospitals. The recipes, cooking process and kitchen were approved and certified by a governing body of local Islamic affairs. Halal food is cooked using separate utensils to ensure it is not contaminated by forbidden ingredients, while the meat used comes from animals slaughtered according to religious rules. Unison Hong Kong, an advocacy group for minority rights, welcomed the policy. “They should add menus and food whose appearance are user-friendly for the minorities,” campaign director Fermi Wong said.
Legendary general dies
One of the first Communist generals and a veteran of the Long March has died at the age of 102, state media said yesterday. General Xiao Ke (蕭克), a former vice defense minister, died in Beijing on Friday, Xinhua news agency said. Xiao, also a writer, was “an excellent member of the Communist Party of China, a time-tested, faithful Communist fighter and a proletarian revolutionary and militarist”, Xinhua quoted an official press release as saying. Xiao was a hero of the 1934 to 1935 Long March, the tactical retreat of the Communist Party forces from Nationalist troops, which led to the rise of Mao Zedong (毛澤東) and the birth of Communist China in 1949. In 1955, Xiao became a general when the People’s Republic of China introduced military rankings for the first time. Only one other general from that time is still alive. Criticized for opposing Mao’s chaotic 1966 to 1976 Cultural Revolution, he later became a deputy defense minister and head of the Military Academy.
Authorities burn milk powder
Authorities have burnt 32,200 tonnes of melamine-tainted dairy products in a bid to end a health scandal in which tens of thousands of infants fell ill from kidney stones. State television showed boxes and packets of milk powder and baby formula being shoveled into giant furnaces in Shijiazhuang in Hebei Province, where the scandal broke last month. The goods were being burnt in four cement factories and two iron and steel factories.
Officials kill 11,500 dogs
Officials in a rural county of Yunnan Province ordered the culling of more than 11,000 dogs after rabies killed six people, state media said. Of the more than 90,000 dogs in Yunnan’s Mi-le county, some 84,000 had been vaccinated against rabies and another 11,500 unprotected dogs were culled, the Beijing News quoted local media as saying. The county government threatened to fine people who failed to hand over their dogs but some locals protested that the policy of culling all unprotected dogs was heavy handed, arguing that people in remote areas relied on guard dogs, the newspaper said. Local government officials said the culling was essential to prevent the spread of the rabies virus, it said.
French sell cultural artifact
Cultural officials are voicing anger over the planned sale of two national treasures in a high-profile auction of art amassed by late fashion king Yves Saint Laurent, state media said yesterday. The relics, animal sculptures that decorated the Old Summer Palace in Beijing for hundreds of years, are expected to sell for up to US$12 million each in the Paris auction, the China Daily reported. The rabbit and mouse head sculptures were stolen when French and British forces destroyed the famous complex of palaces and gardens in 1860, and Chinese cultural officials’ repeated requests for their return have been rejected.
Thai Air steward arrested
Police have arrested and indicted a Thai Airways International cabin crew for violation of Japan’s drug control law, the Jiji Press agency reported on Friday. Police said Kirdtas Manus, 40, allegedly possessed marijuana when he flew in from Bangkok to Narita Airport on Aug. 28. He allegedly had 620g of marijuana worth about ¥2.5 million (US$25,700) in his uniform pockets. The airline has dismissed Manus in a disciplinary punishment on Aug. 31, Jiji said.
Priest firebomber jailed
A court on Friday sent to prison an Orthodox priest who firebombed the car of a man he suspected of being his wife’s lover. The priest, married with two children, was given a sentence of four years and eight months by a court in the northern town of Veria. He was accused of possessing and using explosives, causing damage and attempted bodily harm against his neighbor, the shopkeeper in the village of Peristera, near Salonika. The shopkeeper, also a married man, had filed a complaint in June 2006 against the priest after a six-month campaign during which he had been harassed, threatened and had the brakes of his car sabotaged. Eventually the priest firebombed the vehicle.
Israeli man kidnapped
Unknown kidnappers have seized an Israeli businessman and are demanding US$300,000 for his release, a security official said on Friday. National Security Coordinator Sam Amoo told journalists the kidnappers contacted the businessman’s relatives in Israel and demanded their ransom money. Amoo said the man was abducted last Sunday and that a task force made up of the different security agencies has been working to free him ever since. He did not identify the man or say where or in what circumstances he was seized.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Two-third pint introduced
Drinkers could soon be nipping down to their local for a swift two-thirds of a pint under proposed changes to the law on weights and measures. Easing the restrictions on glass sizes for draft beer and cider is designed to appeal to people who can’t face a pint, but think a half is too small. At present, pubs can only serve pints, half pints and a third of a pint, a measure rarely seen in pubs but popular at beer festivals where drinkers try lots of different ales. A British Beer and Pub Association spokesman said the proposal was a good idea that would appeal to women who may not want a full pint and also to people drinking strong beers or specialty ales.
■ CZECH REPUBLIC
Six jailed for child torture
A court on Friday sentenced six people to prison for torturing two boys whose ordeal came to light when a neighbor accidentally tuned in to a camera trained on a naked, tied-up child. Klara Mauerova, 31, was sentenced to nine years for the abuse of her two sons. Her sister, accused of inciting the torture, was sentenced to 10 years and four others were sentenced to up to seven years in prison. The case came to light in the southeastern town of Kurim in May last year. The tormentors, four of whom had worked with children, beat the brothers, locked them up in cages, cut them and burned them with cigarettes.
Joy as town wins lottery
Inhabitants of a deprived Sicilian suburb sang and danced through the night outside a cafe where the winning ticket for a 100 million euro (US$128 million) lottery was bought. Hundreds of residents in the working-class suburb gathered outside the cafe as the local mayor urged the winner to spread some of the record 100,756,197 euro prize money to the community. “I am delighted for Catania and I hope this is a good sign for the town,” said Mayor Raffaele Stancanelli. “I also hope the ticket was bought by many people … and whoever won will feel a moral obligation to do something for the local community,” he said.
■ UNITED STATES
Wolf protection may end
In a move that sparked sharp criticism from environmental groups, the US Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday announced that it once again is proposing a plan that could end federal protections for gray wolves in Montana and Idaho while leaving them in place in Wyoming. The federal agency’s push comes after US District Judge Donald Molloy of Montana last week signed an order reinstating federal protections for the wolves in all three states. Ruling in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of environmental groups, the judge this summer barred the Fish and Wildlife Service from turning wolf management over to the states because Wyoming has proposed that wolves be classified as predators that could be shot on sight.
Chavez scoffs at Palin
President Hugo Chavez called vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin a “poor thing” who didn’t know what she was saying when she called him a dictator. Friday’s verbal attack was the latest creative insult from Chavez — but was not unprovoked. In an interview with the US Spanish-language network Univision aired on Tuesday, Palin remarked that “through negotiations or sanctions, if necessary, we can pressure dictators like Hugo Chavez to make it clear that they cannot mess with the United States whenever they feel like it.” Speaking at an event to inaugurate a thermoelectric plant, Chavez said he had heard of Palin’s remarks. “The poor thing, you have to feel sorry for her,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. Palin, he said, is “a beauty queen that they’ve put in the role of a figurine.” Chavez said one must do as Christ did: “Forgive her, for she knows not what she says.”
Lightning kills 52 cows
Lightning struck only once — but 52 cows are dead at an Uruguayan ranch. The newspaper El Pais reports that the cows had pressed against a wire fence during a storm when the lightning bolt struck in the northern state of San Jose. A photograph released by the San Jose Police Department shows the black and brown cows lying dead in a long row. Veterinarians said that cows often crowd around fences to seek protection during storms.
■ UNITED STATES
Prison firm indicted
A private prison company based in Florida has been indicted in the death of a Texas prisoner just days before his release. The indictment released on Thursday alleges the GEO Group let other inmates fatally beat Gregorio de la Rosa Jr with padlocks stuffed into socks. He died four days before his scheduled release from a facility in southern Texas. A jury ordered the company to pay de la Rosa’s family US$47.5 million in a 2006 civil judgment. He died in 2001.
Human heads found
Two human heads have been found with threatening messages in central Mexico, police reported Friday, as a one-year-old girl was seriously wounded and two adults killed in a shooting on the northern border. A Mexico state police official in Cuautitlan, just outside the capital, said one head turned up in a box left in the parking lot of the station. State prosecutors in Michoacan said another head was discovered on Friday in an ice chest in the port city of Lazaro Cardenas. They also reported that two adults were killed Friday when assailants riddled their pickup truck with bullets on a Tijuana street. A one-year-old girl riding with them was hit by multiple rounds from an assault rifle and was hospitalized in critical condition.
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
‘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
Australia is notorious for its venomous spiders, snakes and sea creatures, but researchers have now identified “scorpion-like” toxins secreted by a tree that can cause excruciating pain for weeks. Split-second contact with the dendrocnide tree, a rainforest nettle known by its Aboriginal name gympie-gympie, delivers a sting far more potent than similar plants found in the US or Europe. A team of Australian scientists said that they now better understand why the gympie-gympie’s sting haunts those unlucky enough to brush up against its leaves. Victims report an initial sting that “feels like fire at first, then subsides over hours to a pain reminiscent