Donated cash left in toilet
An anonymous donor has left a wad of cash worth US$131,000 in a public toilet, with instructions it be used to help victims of the March earthquake and tsunami, an official said yesterday. A plastic shopping bag, containing ￥10 million, was found on Sept. 22 in a toilet for disabled people in the city hall of Sakado, a commuter town north of Tokyo, a city official said. The city will give the money to the Japanese Red Cross if the anonymous donor does not reclaim it within three months, city spokeswoman Masumi Sekiguchi said. She said a handwritten note was attached to the cash, reading: “I’m all alone. I have no future, so let the people in Tohoku use it.” Tohoku is the country’s northeast region devastated by the catastrophe that killed 20,000 people.
NATO troops, Afghans killed
Two Afghan policewomen and a civilian were killed by a mine on their way to work yesterday, a day after another five NATO soldiers died in the 10-year war against the Taliban. The policewomen and civilian died when their vehicle was blown up by a remote-controlled mine on their way to work at the civilian airport serving the western city of Herat, officials said.Three foreign soldiers were also killed by an improvised explosive device in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said, along with two others in separate incidents.
Plane carrying 18 crashes
A small aircraft with 18 people on board crashed yesterday on Sumatra island, officials said. The Casa 212, carrying 15 passengers and three crew, left Medan city in North Sumatra at 7:18am bound for the nearby Aceh Province, before losing contact with air traffic control, transport ministry aviation head Herry Bakti said. “The plane crashed sometime between 7:28 and 8:05 this morning around Bohorok Mountain,” Bakti said. A search and rescue team has been dispatched to the site.
Japanese tourist killed
A Japanese tourist has been killed and a motorcycle-taxi driver arrested on suspicion of her murder, a government official said yesterday. Chiharu Shiramatsu, 31, was killed on Wednesday near Kyaukpadaung, close to the ancient temple city of Bagan, after hiring the motorcycle taxi to go sightseeing, according to the authorities. “She was killed by a motorcycle-taxi driver who tried to rape her,” a government official who declined to be identified said. Min Theik, the 39-year-old motorcycle-taxi driver, was arrested at the scene. Violent crime involving foreign tourists is relatively rare in the country.
Fugitive found in prison
A fugitive has been discovered working as a prison warden a decade after he went on the run to escape assault charges, the Beijing News reported yesterday. Wang Zhijia, 37, was accused of attacking his wife with a brick 10 years ago after the pair argued about a domestic issue. Police discovered this week that he was working at a prison in Anhui Province, the newspaper reported. Wang posed as his brother to get a job as an assistant with the police force in Anhui in 2008 and began working at the jail two months ago, it said. He was caught after police checks found that two people were using the same name and identity card number. Wang’s wife has since divorced him and married another man. She still suffers from headaches, amnesia and deafness, the report said.
Protester gets death
A man was sentenced to death on Wednesday for running over a policeman, and 20 doctors were jailed for between five and 15 years for stealing medicine and stockpiling weapons during unrest in the Gulf kingdom earlier this year, state news agency BNA said. Ali al-Tawil was convicted of killing the policeman and of joining illegal gatherings for “terrorist goals.” Another man was handed a life term for his involvement, BNA said. In a separate ruling, 20 physicians were jailed for forcefully occupying a hospital, spreading lies and false news, withholding treatment, inciting hatred of the rulers and calling for their overthrow. The doctors have repeatedly denied the charges, which they say were cooked up by the authorities to punish medical staff for treating people who took part in anti-government demonstrations.
Number of poor grows
The number of people living below the poverty line has grown by about 2 million in the first six months of this year, new figures released by the state statistics service said. The total number of Russians living in poverty has reached 21.1 million at the end of June, up from 18.1 million last year. The share of the population living in poverty also grew to 14.9 percent from last year’s 12.8 percent, according to official figures. The poverty line was defined after the second quarter of this year at 6,505 rubles (US$204) per month per capita, up from 5,625 rubles in the same period last year. Inflation was 4.7 percent since the beginning of the year.
Officials baffled about threat
Officials had no information about the threat that prompted the US embassy in Riyadh to issue a warning that a terrorist group may be planning to abduct Westerners in the capital, a government adviser said yesterday. “We have had no prior knowledge or warning about the intelligence that the US embassy is basing its warning on,” the adviser said, asking not to be named. The warning, posted on the embassy’s Web site on Wednesday, also advised US citizens living in the kingdom to carry out personal security measures to minimize the risk of abduction. A US diplomatic source said the warning was based on “solid information,” but that the embassy had no plans to reduce the hours it was open or repatriate any staff or family members.
Religion law approved
The upper house of parliament approved a bill to tighten rules on the registration of religious groups yesterday, a move that critics say is a blow to freedom of belief in the former Soviet nation. The bill approved by the Senate requires existing religious organizations to dissolve and register again through a procedure that is virtually guaranteed to exclude smaller groups. Backers of the revised law on religion, including authoritarian President Nursultan Nazarbayev, say the legislation would help combat religious extremism in the mainly Muslim nation.
Polanski picks up award
Roman Polanski returned to the Zurich Film Festival on Tuesday to accept the lifetime achievement award he was unable to pick up two years ago after being arrested for a decades-old sex-crime case. The Polish-French director was detained on arrival at Zurich airport in 2009 and subsequently spent months in prison and later under house arrest, before avoiding extradition to the US on charges of having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.
Mining tax to raise US$5.5bn
President Ollanta Humala has passed three new mining laws containing a tax hike aimed at raising US$5.5 billion over the next five years to be used for social spending. The laws passed on Wednesday fulfill a campaign pledge made by Humala before he assumed office two months ago to ensure that the country’s poor share in its recent economic success. “This will allow the state to have more resources to be used primarily for infrastructure in the poorest areas of the country, in order to bring about social inclusion,” Humala said at an official ceremony. The new legislation creates a new mining tax, modifies the law on mineral royalties and establishes a new legal framework for the industry.
US governors skip meeting
New Mexico is once again the only US state that sent its chief executive to an annual conference of governors from the Mexican and US states along the border. The 30-year-old annual conference began on Wednesday in Ensenada, Mexico, with New Mexico’s Susana Martinez the only one of four US governors there. Three of six Mexican border governors attended the opening ceremony. The poor turnout is fueling questions about whether the conference has lost its way. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer canceled last year’s gathering in Phoenix after Mexico’s border governors boycotted the event because she had just signed a tough law against illegal immigration. The conference ended yesterday.
West, Doritos to be buried
The man credited with creating Doritos will be buried along with some of his beloved snack chips, his family said on Tuesday. Arch West died on Sept. 20 of natural causes at a Dallas hospital. He was 97.
‘Cole’ suspect faces trial
The prime suspect in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole will be tried before a military tribunal in Guantanamo and face a possible death sentence if convicted, defense officials said on Wednesday. The Pentagon announced it had formally referred charges to the military commission against Abd al-Rahim Hussayn Muhammad al-Nashiri of Saudi Arabia, in the first new case to go to trial in Guantanamo since President Barack Obama took office in 2009. The Defense Department’s “Convening Authority referred the charges to a capital military commission, meaning that, if convicted, al-Nashiri could be sentenced to death,” it said. The charges against al-Nashiri allege he was in charge of the planning and preparation for the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen’s port of Aden on Oct. 12, 2000.
Chavez in hospital: report
President Hugo Chavez, who has been fighting cancer, was rushed to a military hospital for emergency care following kidney failure, Miami, Florida’s El Nuevo Herald newspaper reported late on Wednesday. The leftist, staunchly anti-US stalwart Chavez went into the Military Hospital in Caracas on Tuesday morning, the report on the newspaper’s Web site said, citing anonymous sources with knowledge of the case. “He was in fairly serious overall condition,” one of the sources told the Spanish-language daily. Venezuela’s Information Minister Andres Izarra appeared to deny the report in a posting on the micro-blogging Web site Twitter. “Those who should be admitted are the journalists of the Nuevo Herald, except into a madhouse [instead of a hospital],” Izarra tweeted, without providing further details.
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