Bus boss hands out bonuses
A bus operator has stunned his employees by handing out A$15 million (US$16 million) in thank you bonuses, with workers saying yesterday they were overwhelmed by his generosity. Ken Grenda, 79, sold his family-run company after 66 years and decided to put a chunk of the profits into the pockets of his employees for their hard work and loyalty. Many of his 1,800 workers thought their banks had made an error when they discovered thousands of dollars in their accounts, the Herald Sun reported. They received an average A$8,500, although some got bonuses as high as A$100,000. Vernon Franklin, a driver at the company, said he was blown away by the gesture. “I was overwhelmed with the generosity of Mr Grenda,” he told Channel Nine. “I think we are losing a great man.”
Wukan begins poll process
Villagers whose rebellion against local officials last year grabbed the headlines initiated a key process yesterday that will see them hold their first-ever open, democratic elections. Residents in Wukan, Guangdong Province, won rare concessions after they faced off with authorities for more than a week in December in a row over land and graft, including pledges to hold free village polls. China allows villagers across the country to vote for a committee to represent them, but Wukan residents said their leaders had never before allowed these polls to go ahead in an open fashion. However, yesterday they were due to openly select an independent election committee that would supervise their first democratic poll next month.
Defense official probed
The government said it is looking into whether a Defense Ministry official broke the law by urging his staff to vote in a mayoral election this month. Ro Manabe, director of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, last month called a meeting of employees about the election in Ginowan, the site of a US military base at the center of a dispute between local residents and the government, lawmaker Seiken Akamine said in parliament on Tuesday. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said yesterday an investigation so far has found no indication that Manabe broke any laws.
Three facing death penalty
Two Germans and a Moroccan are facing the death penalty on charges of smuggling more than 10kg of methamphetamine. A district court near Kuala Lumpur International Airport charged the three men on Jan. 13 with drug trafficking, a customs official who declined to be named said. Airport officials arrested the men arriving from Istanbul on Jan. 1.
Baboons looting trucks
Troops of bag-snatching, truck-looting baboons are causing chaos at a border post between Zimbabwe and Zambia in daily raids for food, NewsDay reported on Tuesday. “Baboons are an issue that must be dealt with here because they destroy travelers’ goods,” Zimbabwe Revenue Authority station manager Tichaona Phiri said. “Sometimes they bite or clap people on their faces if they try to defend their property, and they can snatch ladies’ handbags and even destroy cars as they search for food.” They also tear up sacks of maize on trucks moving through the border. “These baboons can smell maize on trucks and considering their huge numbers, it is very difficult to control them, but the problem is that they behave like human beings and are very good tricksters,” he said.
Birth control pills recalled
Pfizer Inc said on Tuesday it was recalling about 1 million packets of birth control pills in the US because they may not contain enough contraceptive to prevent pregnancy. Pfizer said the birth control pills posed no health threat to women, but it urged consumers affected by the recall to “begin using a non-hormonal form of contraception immediately.” The drugmaker said the issue involved 14 lots of Lo/Ovral-28 tablets and 14 lots of Norgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol tablets. It said an investigation had found that some blister packs of the oral contraceptive might contain an inexact count of inert or active ingredients in the tablets.
Muslims seek clemency
A US Muslim group has appealed to Iran’s top leader to show clemency for an ex-US military translator with dual citizenship condemned to death on accusations of being a CIA spy. A letter on Tuesday from the Council on American-Islamic Relations asks Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to spare the life of Amir Hekmati. The 28-year-old ex-Marine was born in Arizona and attended high school in Michigan. His Iran-born father is a professor at Mott Community College in Flint and says his son is not a spy. The council’s Michigan director Dawud Walid’s letter says his group hopes Hekmati receives “the same mercy and compassion” that Iran has shown other US citizens “charged with similar offenses.”
Protesters get staying orders
Eleven people who were arrested during the weekend’s turbulent Occupy Oakland protests have been ordered to stay away from the plaza outside Oakland City Hall that serves as the movement’s main staging area. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said two judges granted her office’s request for the stay-away orders during the demonstrators’ arraignments on Tuesday. The four protesters facing felony charges were directed to keep away from both Frank Ogawa Plaza and the Oakland Convention Center, while the seven charged with misdemeanors may not go within 100m of the plaza.
Child rescued from school
Municipal police say a seven-year-old was locked inside a classroom by his teacher as punishment for supposed misbehavior and left alone for six hours until he was rescued by officers at about midnight. The boy was found under the teacher’s desk, covering himself with one of her sweaters for warmth. Police say the boy’s family started looking for him on Monday after he didn’t return home from school on time. One of the boy’s friends said he had been punished by the teacher, so police were eventually called to the school and found the boy. Education officials say the mother has filed a criminal complaint and the case is under investigation.
Volcano forms lava dome
The warning level for a remote Alaskan volcano has been raised after a new lava dome began forming. The dome indicates the mountain could explode and send up an ash cloud that could threaten aircraft. The Alaska Volcano Observatory on Tuesday elevated the alert status for Cleveland Volcano. The observatory says the dome was about 40m in diameter on Monday. Cleveland is a 1,730m peak on an uninhabited island 1,513km southwest of Anchorage.
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,