Beijing jails scalpers
Beijing has sent an Olympic ticket tout to jail for two years, and fined him 450,000 yuan (US$65,950) for illegally selling more than 500 passes to the Summer Games, in the biggest such case to come to court. The 41-year-old had agreed to arrange tickets for two companies at prices 50 percent to 60 percent higher than their face value, Xinhua agency quoted a district court saying. He then used identities illegally obtained from a friend’s construction company and other sources to spend 230,000 yuan on the online ticketing system set up for the Games. The man was arrested in May, two months after Beijing warned that it was cracking down on scalping and would detain serious offenders for up to four years’ “re-education through labor.”
■ HONG KONG
Wine traders blow money
Wine lovers from across Asia showed their love for a fine vintage is recession-proof when they bid up to almost US$40,000 for each rare bottle, auctioneers said yesterday. One unnamed bidder bought three jeroboams —an oversize wine bottle holding about 3 liters — of La Tache Vintage 1990 red burgundy for a total of US$118,628 at the auction held on Saturday, organizers said. Another paid US$274,718 for a collection of 144 bottles from the same sought-after winemaker Domaine de la Roman-Conti, working out to about US$1,907 per bottle.
Climber touts mini-toilet
A young climber is seeking to popularize a toilet fashioned from a plastic bucket with a lid to promote eco-friendly climbing on Mount Everest. Hundreds of climbers flock to the world’s tallest peak at 8,850m every year, with many simply squatting in the open or hunching behind rocks as the Everest base camp has no proper toilet facilities. Dawa Steven Sherpa, who led an eco-Everest expedition in May to collect trash dumped by previous climbers, said his team used a plastic bucket as well as a gas-impervious bag designed to safely contain and neutralize human waste and keep in odor. Sherpa’s team brought down 65kg of human waste produced by its 18 members, which it handed over to a local environment group at the base camp for management. The US-designed bucket is 27cm tall, weighs 1kg and has an opening that is 20cm in diameter.
Tunnel death toll rises
The death toll in the collapse of a subway tunnel under construction in eastern Zhejiang Province rose to three yesterday, with rescuers still searching for 17 others missing at the flooded site, the state news agency reported. A 75m-wide section of road over the construction site collapsed in the provincial capital city of Hangzhou on Saturday, trapping workers and creating a huge crater into which more than 11 vehicles plunged. Xinhua news agency said authorities were not ruling out the possibility of more collapses along the tunnel’s route.
Aftershock shakes Sichuan
An earthquake of magnitude 4.8 shook Sichuan Province yesterday, the US Geological Survey said. No casualties were immediately reported after the quake rattled Pingwu County of the city of Mianyang, the state seismological bureau said. The bureau said the quake was an aftershock connected to the massive 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Sichuan in May, killing more than 69,000 people and leaving 18,000 missing and presumed dead.
Spies nabbed near border
Authorities detained 10 spies carrying US$500,000 in cash who had entered the country illegally from Pakistan, state television said on Saturday. Modern espionage cameras and maps of sensitive regions in Iran were found when the group was detained in southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province bordering Pakistan, the report said. Television did not give any details on their nationality or say when they were detained. Sistan-Baluchestan is a volatile province known for frequent clashes between security forces and well-armed drug smugglers. Tehran has in the past accused the US and Britain of trying to destabilize the country by supporting ethnic minority rebels operating in sensitive border areas.
Party fails to agree on leader
The opposition Socialists failed to agree on a party platform and new leader during a night of negotiations, party members said yesterday. The meeting of the resolution committee at the party’s congress, which is charged with trying to hammer out a compromise on the party’s platform, “didn’t manage to produce a consensus around Segolene Royal,” said Euro Member of Parliament Benoit Hamon. Royal, who lost the presidential election last year to President Nicolas Sarkozy, was vying to take the helm of the party, promising to renew the left by opening debate on a shift to the center. But she has faced strong resistance, including from Hamon, who has pushed a leftist platform.
22 arrested over oil theft
The military has arrested 22 Filipinos on suspicion of stealing thousands of tonnes of crude oil, officials said. The men were arrested on their vessel as it left a channel late on Friday and headed toward open water off the coast of southern Nigeria, regional army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Rabe Abubaker said on Saturday. The ship was carrying up to 12,000 tonnes of crude oil believed to have been stolen from a sabotaged pipeline further inland and transported to the vessel on barges, he said. Twelve military boats were deployed to escort the vessel and its crew back to the port of Warri. Abubaker said investigations into the incident were under way.
■ SOUTH AFRICA
Policeman leaves eight hurt
Eight people were injured on Saturday night outside Durban after a policeman shot out the tire of a car in an attempt to clear a path for a politician’s motorcade. The Sapa news agency said the incident occurred when a Mazda did not immediately move to a passing lane when a convoy carrying Meshack Radebe, the social welfare minister of the state of KwaZulu-Natal, came up behind it near the town of Pietermaritzburg. After the tire was shot out, the Mazda’s driver lost control. The car veered into oncoming traffic and collided with at least one other vehicle. Eight people were injured, four of them critically. The officer has been charged with attempted murder.
US helicopter crashes
A US OH-58 Kiowa helicopter crashed on Saturday in the city of Mosul, but it is not yet clear if anyone was killed or injured, the US military said. “There was a helicopter that went down on the east side of Mosul. The crash appeared to be non-combat related,” a US military spokesman said, adding that troops were investigating the incident. The US military also announced that a Marine was killed by a roadside bomb on Friday in Anbar Province.
■ UNITED STATES
Shootout in Waldorf
Gunfire erupted in the famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel during a brazen robbery attempt on Saturday at a lobby jewelry store, wounding a security guard and sending guests diving for cover. The 54-year-old guard was shot in the chest but was expected to survive. A suspect was arrested on charges including attempted murder and assault. The mayhem began when the black-garbed suspect, identified as Rafael Rabinovich-Ardans, 20, pulled out a gun in the jewelry store and used the weapon to smash two display cases full of expensive rings and necklaces, said a police official. The guard, a retired New York Police Department detective, confronted the man. About three gunshots rang out as the two wrestled and fell to the floor, though it wasn’t clear who fired.
■ UNITED STATES
Engineer booked for murder
A 47-year-old Californian engineer arrested on suspicion of fatally shooting three of his coworkers had been laid off hours earlier and returned to the office to ask for a meeting with the victims, police said. Jing Huawu was arrested Saturday, a day after the shootings at an office complex in Santa Clara, which is west of San Jose. A manhunt ended at an intersection in his home city of Mountain View, and he would be booked into jail on three counts of murder, Santa Clara Police lieutenant Mike Sellers said.
■ UNITED STATES
Dozens mourn hate victim
Dozens of mourners gathered at a Long Island church to pay respects to an Ecuadorian immigrant killed in what authorities are calling a hate crime. A viewing was held for Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue on Saturday evening, with a memorial service to follow. His body is to be flown to Ecuador for burial, Newsday reported. The 37-year-old was stabbed to death in Patchogue on Nov. 8. Prosecutors said seven teenagers attacked him because he was Hispanic. A grand jury has indicted the seven, but the charges were sealed until a New York state Supreme Court arraignment. The teens pleaded not guilty in local district court to a preliminary charge of gang assault.
■ UNITED STATES
Smoking ban repealed
After a month of fresh air, smoking is once again allowed inside Atlantic City’s 11 casinos. The City Council had passed a total smoking ban in April, but then the financial meltdown rocked the economy and led to steep declines at the casinos. The council changed its mind at the last moment and agreed to repeal the smoking ban for at least a year, but couldn’t legally stop the no-smoking rules from taking effect on Oct. 15. The ban expired a minute after midnight yesterday and gamblers can now light up again. Many gamblers and casino operators are pleased.
Officials aid journalist
Officials have been working with Pakistani authorities to seek the release of a Canadian woman who was kidnapped in Pakistan earlier this week, the Foreign Affairs department said on Friday. Lisa Monette, a spokeswoman for the department, confirmed that a local woman has been abducted and said her agency is in discussions with Pakistani authorities, but refused further comment and to identify the woman, citing her own safety. The Globe & Mail and the Vancouver Sun have reported that Beverly Giesbrecht, 52, from Vancouver, British Columbia, was on a freelance reporting assignment when she was kidnapped in northern Pakistan on Tuesday.
‘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