Renowned designer dies
Industrial designer Sori Yanagi, whose kitchen and homeware stood at the vanguard of contemporary design for decades, has died of pneumonia, his office said yesterday. He was 96. Yanagi won worldwide acclaim for his Butterfly Stool exhibited at the XI Triennale of Milan in 1957 and subsequently went on to become a giant in the world of industrial design. Yanagi originally studied oil painting, but was heavily influenced by French architect Le Corbusier and shifted his focus to designing furniture and everyday items, such as tableware and cooking utensils. His style, which he applied to items ranging from light fittings and record players to the holder for the Olympic flame at the 1964 Tokyo Games, was a modern take on the traditional Japanese aesthetic of simplicity.
Photo: AFP/Yanagi Design Office
Microblog registry begins
Shanghai began requiring microblog users to register under their real names yesterday, state media said, the latest local government in the country to implement the rule after a spate of violent protests. Beijing and Guangdong Province have also ordered users of weibos — microblogs similar to Twitter — to register using their real names, as authorities tighten their grip on the Internet. The move comes amid a surge in social unrest that has been concentrated in the wealthy manufacturing heartland of Guangdong. Residents protesting against land seizures and a power plant in the province recently posted photographs and reports of their demonstrations on weibos, defying official efforts to block news of the incidents. With more than half a billion people in the country now online, authorities are concerned about the power of the Internet to influence public opinion in a country that maintains tight controls on its traditional media outlets. Shanghai said the new rules aimed to “foster a healthy Internet culture” and improve management over social networking, Xinhua news agency reported.
Super-fast train tested
The country launched a super-rapid test train over the weekend that is capable of traveling 500kph, state media said yesterday, as the country moves ahead with its railway ambitions despite serious problems on its high-speed network. The train, made by a subsidiary of CSR Corp Ltd, the country’s largest train maker, is designed to resemble an ancient sword, Xin-hua news agency reported. The railway industry has had a tough year, highlighted by a collision between two high-speed trains in July that killed at least 40 people. Construction of new high-speed trains has since been at a near halt. In February, then-minister of railways Liu Zhijun (劉志軍), a key figure behind the boom in the sector, was dismissed over corruption charges that have not yet been tried in court.
Elephant kills farmer
A rampaging wild elephant has trampled a farmer to death on Sumatra Island. Nyak Cut, a paramedic, said three farmers in Geumpang village in Aceh Province were trying to drive away a herd of wild elephants from their fields on Saturday when one of the animals charged, sending the men fleeing. Cut said one of the farmers, 60-year-old Mohammed Amin, was trampled to death after he stumbled and fell. He said villagers have threatened to kill the elephants if authorities fail to protect their farms. Only 3,000 Sumatran elephants are believed to remain in the wild. They are threatened by their shrinking habitat, with jungles being cleared for commercial farming or felled for lumber. The elephants sometimes venture into inhabited areas in search of food.
HIV infection investigated
The government is investigating the case of an Australian who is believed to have been infected with HIV while getting a tattoo in Bali, an official said yesterday. “We received a report about this case from the health ministry yesterday and officials will be visiting tattoo parlors today to verify this claim,” Bali Health Department Director Nyoman Sutedja said. “At this point, we are still investigating. We can’t say for sure if the patient caught the virus from getting a tattoo or sexual contact.” There are currently 4,200 HIV/AIDS cases in Bali, Sutedja said. Australian health authorities on Friday said a patient diagnosed with HIV probably contracted the virus while being tattooed on the island.
Yasukuni shrine scorched
Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni shrine, often seen as a symbol of Japan’s wartime aggression, had its main wooden gate set on fire early yesterday in a suspected arson attack, a shrine official said. A small fire scorched the Gate of Gods, which stands about 13m tall and 28m wide, at about 4am, the official said. The gate, built in 1934 and adorned with huge gold-leaf chrysanthemums on both portals, was not seriously damaged as a shrine security guard quickly put the blaze out, she said. “We believe it was arson because our security footage shows somebody spraying liquid on the gate before the fire started,” she said. Police later found two glass containers that appeared to have contained some kind of fuel oil, local media said. The media also reported that a posting on Twitter, apparently by a South Korean resident of Japan, had threatened a fire at the shrine.
Fight diverts flight
Airport police say they have detained a Finnish man who fought with crew members aboard a flight from the Spanish island of Tenerife to Finland. A spokesperson said the crew overpowered the 57-year-old passenger and diverted the flight to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, where he was taken into custody on Sunday. Spokesperson Martijn Peelan said the man argued with his wife and the fight escalated when the crew intervened. Police are questioning the suspect and several witnesses.
Seven bodies found in Texas
Police found seven bodies in an apartment on Sunday in Texas after what officials described as a Christmas Day murder-suicide. Two handguns were discovered at the apartment in Grapevine, near Dallas, and there were no signs of forced entry. “We believe the shooter is one of those dead in the apartment,” Grapevine Police Lieutenant Todd Dearing said. All seven people were found near a Christmas tree in a living room area of the two-story apartment. “It’s a great tragedy, something our department has not seen before,” Grapevine Police Sergeant Robert Eberling said. “You read about these types of reports, but they always seem to happen somewhere else.” Dearing said that authorities believe it was a family Christmas gathering, with the victims ranging in age from 18 or 20 to their 50s or 60s.
‘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