Gillard shuffles Cabinet
Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday reshuffled her Cabinet to bring in “fresh blood” after a bruising year in which her government has languished in opinion polls. In a ministerial shake-up, Gillard kept key players and potential leadership challengers Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defense Minister Stephen Smith in their current roles. However, she promoted two men credited with helping her remove Rudd in a Labor Party coup in the middle of last year, naming Bill Shorten to Cabinet as minister for employment and workplace relations and making Mark Arbib assistant treasurer. Gillard denied she was rewarding her supporters.
Acquit Ibrahim: defense
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s defense lawyers urged the High Court yesterday to acquit him on sodomy charges, saying that the man who accused him is a liar. Anwar’s defense was presenting its closing arguments in a trial that could lead to a 20-year prison sentence if Anwar is convicted of sodomizing a 26-year-old male former aide. Opposition supporters believe the government orchestrated the case to destroy its main political foe ahead of national elections widely expected next year. Prime Minister Najib Razak has denied any conspiracy.
Zardari recovering in Dubai
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that President Asif Ali Zardari may need two weeks to rest in Dubai following medical treatment there before he returns home. There has been much speculation over the political future of the 56-year-old Zardari since he flew to Dubai last week for treatment related to a heart condition. Gilani said in an interview with the BBC broadcast late on Sunday that Zardari was “improving,” but that he would likely need about two weeks of rest. Zardari’s aides said last week he was expected to return home “within days.” The president has been asked to appear before the Supreme Court in its investigation into a secret memo seeking Washington’s help reining in the Pakistani military.
Suspects, guard flee jails
Authorities are searching for three Chinese drug trafficking suspects who escaped from a Manila jail together with a guard. Video from a surveillance camera showed the guard unlocking the gate and leading the suspects out of Paranaque City Jail on Saturday. Bureau of Jail Management Director Rosendo Dial said yesterday that the guard and the suspects were armed and dangerous. He said police, the immigration bureau and the coast guard were working to capture them. In a separate jail escape in southern Cagayan de Oro City, police said six detainees facing robbery and kidnapping charges brandished guns, overpowered guards and locked them up in a cell. They fled in waiting cars on Sunday. A reward has been announced for their capture.
Interview breaks record
Australian Broadcasting Corp radio host Richard Glover was yesterday taking a well-earned break after completing a world record-breaking 24-hour interview, the network said. Glover sat down with Australian author Peter FitzSimons intent on smashing the previous Guinness World Record of 12 hours and 30 seconds held by Spain’s Pedro Ruiz, set in Madrid in 2009. In the end, they doubled it, with observers from Guinness World Records on hand.
PM to visit South Pole
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg will join dozens of adventurers at the South Pole this week to mark the 100th anniversary of countryman Roald Amundsen’s groundbreaking expedition to the frozen continent. The pole will be a relative hive of activity for tomorrow’s anniversary. Stoltenberg will travel by plane to the region, making him only the second head of government to visit the South Pole after former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark made the trip in 2007. Stoltenberg is scheduled to welcome Norwegian adventurers attempting to reach the pole on the anniversary, some of whom are retracing the route taken by the heroic explorer. To pay homage to the heroism of English naval officer Robert Scott, whom Amundsen beat to the pole in a dramatic race and who tragically lost his life on his return, British visitors are also expected to visit Antarctica around the same time. Just beaten to the finish line, Scott and his men died after being caught in a blizzard on their way back.
‘Macho culture’ protest held
Thousands of women rallied on Sunday, demanding greater rights and an end to discrimination and blaming the country’s “macho culture” for its current crisis. “The government has changed, but not the country,” said Cristina Comencini, one of the leaders of the movement. “If not now, when? ... Women will not go away. They are still saying that we want to work, have children and be at the center of the [country’s] growth plan. We tell the government that the well-being of women is not an expense, but an investment.” The rally was held at the Piazza del Popolo, a square in central Rome. Organizers said 20,000 people came to the rallies in the capital and in other cities.
Police seize Mafia assets
Police yesterday seized 100 million euros (US$134 million) in Mafia assets including bank accounts, land and a night club as part of a vast operation against the Naples crime syndicate, the Camorra. Police seized numerous small businesses — many in the construction industry — as well as land, cars, the Beach Cafe disco near Rimini and up to 10 bank accounts per suspect in a raid sweeping from Naples to northern parts of the country. The operation followed the arrest last week of 57 people associated with the powerful Casalesi clan in the north of Naples, on various charges including Camorra membership, as well as extortion, election fraud and money laundering. The Casalesi clan is one of the bloodiest and most powerful of the Camorra and was at the center of the book Gomorrah by investigative journalist Roberto Saviano, which was made into an award-winning film.
Plan to split up Para rejected
Voters in the Amazonian state of Para on Sunday rejected a proposal to split the nation’s second biggest state in three, authorities announced. With 4.37 million votes — 90 percent of the total — counted in the landmark referendum, more than 67 percent rejected creation of a new state of Carajas and nearly 67 percent opposed establishment of a new state of Tapajos, they said. Under the breakup plan, a truncated Para with Belem as its capital would have been left with 17 percent of the territory, but 64 percent of the population. Tapajos, home to large protected indigenous and forest areas, would have ended up with nearly 59 percent the territory and only 15 percent of the population. Carajas would have been awarded 24 percent of the territory and 21 percent of the population.
‘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