New dingo inquiry scheduled
The father of a baby who vanished in the Outback says he is confident that a new inquiry into the tragedy will officially rule that a dingo took his daughter. The disappearance of nine-week-old Azaria Chamberlain in 1980 divided Australians between those who believed a native dog, known as a dingo, killed her and those who believed she was murdered by her mother. A coroner in February will review the finding of the third inquest that failed to determine a cause of death. Michael Chamberlain said yesterday he is confident the new inquiry will blame a dingo.
Hyacinth helps families
Ask a farmer in the country’s deep south about the water hyacinth and he will say it is a curse. The floating plants form broad green blankets that strangle waterways and create a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes. However, for Minati Mondol, a 55-year-old widow in the Agailjhara area of Barisal district near the Bay of Bengal, the hyacinth stands for the hope embodied by Christmas. Mondol is part of a group of artisans who turn the stem of the plant into Christmas figures, stars, streamers and gift cards for buyers in Europe and North America. “My family was so poor we used to boil and eat the roots and flowers of the water hyacinth,” Mondol said. “Now we make stars and angels out of water hyacinth and eat rice three times a day.” Although most of the women have never seen the inside of a church, they have plenty to cheer about during the festive season.
Official denounces religion
A Chinese Communist Party official says growing religious practice among members is threatening its unity and leadership. Zhu Weiqun (朱維群) reinforced the demand that party members not believe in religion or engage in religious practice. He said religious practice is a growing trend, especially in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, and must not be tolerated. Zhu’s stern remarks to the party’s 80 million members appear in the latest edition of its main theoretical journal, Qiushi, and were reported yesterday by Xinhua news agency. The remarks come amid a spike in tensions between Beijing and the Vatican and crackdowns on independent churches, Buddhist monasteries and religious practice among Uighur Muslims in the northwest.
ANC power struggle grows
Firebrand party rebel Julius Malema mocked South African President Jacob Zuma at a provincial conference over the weekend, local media said, in the latest sign of a growing power struggle within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) ahead of its leadership election next year. Malema, currently appealing a five-year suspension from the ANC, led supporters at a conference on Saturday in singing “The shower man is giving us a hard time,” the Sunday Times said. The paper showed a photograph of a beret-clad Malema cupping his hand over his head to imitate a shower. The reference was to Zuma’s admission in a 2006 rape trial — in which he was acquitted — that he did not use a condom during sex with a woman he knew to be HIV-positive, but took a shower afterward in the hope of reducing the risk of infection. Malema was attending an ANC conference in his home province of Limpopo, where he still commands wide support. The ANC last month expelled the 30-year-old leader of its powerful youth wing for five years for dividing the party and bringing it into disrepute.