Fake monks jailed for attacks
A court has sentenced 21 fake monks to up to 11 years in jail for attacking police officers and toll booth operators in separate incidents last year, state media said yesterday. The men, who had been pretending to be monks in Inner Mongolia and earned money by selling beads and fake medicines, assaulted police after several so-called were detained last July, Xinhua news agency said. In another incident in August, a group of fake monks armed with steel pipes attacked toll booth operators in Baotou city after they demanded the men pay a road levy, the report said. The court in Baotou sentenced the men to between three and 11 years in jail, it said.
Earthquake hits Sumatra
A moderate magnitude 5.5 undersea earthquake hit off Sumatra island on Saturday, geologists said, but there were no tsunami warnings. The quake struck at a relatively shallow depth of 24km around 285km west of Sibolga in Sumatra at 11:26pm, according to the US Geological Survey. The -Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there were no warnings or advisories following the quake.
Cabinet shuffle well-received
Prime Minister Naoto Kan enjoyed a boost in opinion polls published yesterday after reshuffling his Cabinet, but voters still did not expect him to be able to push through promised reforms. Kan added new faces to his Cabinet on Friday in a bid to appease opposition parties and help his bid to mend the country’s tattered finances and boost free trade to spur growth. The reshuffled Cabinet received a support rating of 34 percent, up from 25 percent last month, in an opinion poll for the Yomiuri Shimbun carried out on Friday and Saturday among 1,736 eligible voters. Seventy percent of respondents, however, said they doubted the new Cabinet would be able to fulfill its policy promises.
Ties with Japan anger North
North Korea yesterday expressed its anger over efforts by Seoul and Japan to seek closer military ties, repeating calls for Seoul to resume talks with Pyongyang first to defuse regional tensions. The fury came after Seoul expressed doubts about the sincerity of Pyongyang’s repeated peace overtures, and instead sought closer military ties with Japan and longtime ally the US against threats from the North. Regional tensions have also soared after the North in November shelled an island near its disputed maritime border with the South, killing four, including two civilians. On Sunday, Rodong Sinmun, mouthpiece of the North’s Communist Party, labeled talks held on Monday last week between Seoul and Tokyo’s defense chiefs a “new military conspiracy” that hampered regional security by damaging inter-Korea ties. “Japan has worked hard with bloodshot eyes to secure a legitimate pretext for its military overseas expansion,” the newspaper said in an editorial carried by state media.
Somali pirates seize cargo
Somali pirates have seized a South Korean chemical cargo in the Arabian Sea, two months after an oil supertanker belonging to the same firm was freed after seven months in captivity, the government and local media said. A Foreign Ministry statement issued late on Saturday said the Cabinet had met to discuss how to deal with the hijacking of the 11,500 tonne Samho Jewelry, seized while sailing to Sri Lanka from the United Arab Emirates.
Giffords off ventilator
The US lawmaker shot in the head in Tuscon, Arizona, was removed from a ventilator on Saturday and is breathing on her own through a tube inserted into her windpipe, the University Medical Center said. Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who survived despite being shot through the head from point-blank range on Jan. 8, remains in critical condition. “A surgical procedure [tracheotomy] was performed this morning on the congresswoman to replace the breathing tube that ran down her throat with a tracheotomy tube in her windpipe, protecting her airway and freeing her from the ventilator,” the hospital said in a statement posted on its Web site. “Her recovery continues as planned.”
Shooting victim arrested
A man who was shot in the knee during the Jan. 8 Tuscon, Arizona, shooting rampage was arrested on Saturday after threatening a local conservative leader during an emotional town hall event, ABC News reported. During taping for a Sunday special on the shooting, witnesses told ABC affiliate KGUN9 News that James Eric Fuller grew agitated when Tucson “Tea Party” founder Trent Humphries suggested that any conversation about gun control should be put off until after the funerals for all the victims. Fuller took a photograph of Humphries with a cellphone and said “You’re dead,” according to two witnesses of the event entitled “After the Tragedy: An American Conversation Continued.” Shortly after the event ended, law enforcement officials approached Fuller and escorted him from the room. As he was being led off, he shouted “You’re all whores!” according to several witnesses interviewed by the ABC affiliate. The Pima County Sheriff’s office told KGUN9 News that authorities charged Fuller with one count of threats and intimidation and intended to charge him with at least one count of disorderly conduct as well. ABC was scheduled to broadcast the event yesterday during its This Week talk show program.
Planes could be shot down
President Hugo Chavez says he is considering letting the military shoot down planes loaded with illegal drugs if they ignore orders to land. Chavez says he doesn’t necessarily like the idea, but lawmakers should debate it. The nation is a major hub for traffickers smuggling Colombian cocaine to the US and Europe. The president told lawmakers on Saturday that drug smugglers often ignore air force orders to land, with some openly mocking such commands over the radio. US and Colombian officials have accused Chavez’s government of lax anti-drug efforts. Chavez says his government is doing everything possible to stem the flow of drugs through the country.
Extradition request denied
A judge has denied Colombia’s request to extradite a Communist Party member linked to leftist rebels. Supreme Court Justice Sergio Munoz’s ruling is preliminary. The matter will ultimately be decided by the court’s criminal division. Munoz ruled on Saturday that the Colombian government did not conclusively prove its case tying Manuel Olate to the guerrillas. Colombia argued that Olate traveled to that country several times and allegedly met with leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Defense lawyer Alex Caroca said Olate’s relationship with the FARC was one of solidarity, and he was not a member. Olate has been under house arrest since late last year while his case is pending.
‘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