Protesters block roads
Anti-government protesters yesterday blocked roads with burning tires in parts of the center and south of the country, halting traffic and paralyzing work following a call for a national strike. In the port city of Basra and in cities like Nasiriyah, Amara and Kut, protesters set tires ablaze to close off roads, keeping employees from reaching their work places. Schools, universities and other institutions closed for the day. In parts of Baghdad, particularly the sprawling Sadr City neighborhood, protesters sat in the middle of the streets to prevent employees from getting to their workplaces. They also blocked roads with motorcycles and tuk-tuks, snarling traffic. “There will be no offices open until the last corrupt person is removed,” one protester said, declining to be identified for security reasons.
New plague case reported
Inner Mongolia yesterday reported a fresh, confirmed case of bubonic plague, despite an earlier declaration by health officials that the risk of an outbreak was minimal. A 55-year-old man was diagnosed with the disease after he ate wild rabbit meat on Nov. 5. His case follows two that were confirmed earlier this month in Beijing in patients from Inner Mongolia. The Inner Mongolia health commission said it found no evidence so far to link the latest case to those in Beijing. The patient was isolated and treated at a hospital in Ulanqab, while 28 people who had close contact with him were under observation, it said.
Gas explosion kills seven
At least seven people were killed and 25 injured after a gas pipeline exploded at Patharghata area in Chittagong yesterday, police said. The explosion collapsed portions of a boundary wall of a nearby building, local police chief Mohammed Mohsin said. At least 25 people were hospitalized. It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion.
Ruling coalition loses vote
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition on Saturday lost its fourth electoral contest since coming to power in May last year. The opposition secured a majority of over 15,000 votes to wrest the Tanjung Piai parliamentary seat in Johor State. The coalition had already been grappling with plummeting public approval over its management of the country. Discontent within the coalition over Mahathir’s reticence on when he would hand over power to rival-turned-ally Anwar Ibrahim surfaced even before the results were officially announced. “This is a referendum on the PH led by Tun Dr M,” Syed Husin Ali, a former senior leader with Anwar’s People’s Justice Party, said on Twitter, referring to Mahathir by his honorific. “The decision is clear. The people are disappointed and want to teach PH and especially Tun Dr M.”
ICC probe rejected
The government rejected the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to allow prosecutors to open an investigation into crimes committed against the Rohingya Muslim minority. Government spokesman Zaw Htay said at a Friday night news conference that the government stood by its position that the Netherlands-based court has no jurisdiction over its actions. The government has already set up its own independent commission of inquiry, which was making progress in its investigations, while the military had established a court of inquiry, he said.
Johnson met ex-KGB agent
Prime Minister Boris Johnson met an ex-KGB agent during a highly controversial trip in April last year to attend a party two days after attending a high-level NATO summit that focused on Russia, the Observer reported yesterday. Johnson, who was foreign secretary at the time, met Russian billionaire businessman Alexander Lebedev, whose family owns the Independent and Evening Standard newspapers, following a summit in Brussels in the wake of the poisoning of ex-Russian agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. Johnson, in what appears to be a highly unusual break with protocol, apparently left behind his personal security detail and flew to a lavish party at a palazzo near Perugia hosted by Lebedev’s son, Evgeny. While the meeting with Evgeny Lebedev was confirmed to the Guardian in September, Alexander Lebedev denied meeting Johnson. However a spokesman has now acknowledged that the meeting did take place, but insisted there was nothing was out of the ordinary.
Voters go to the polls
The nation went to the polls yesterday in parliamentary elections that are being closely watched by the West to see how much leeway President Alexander Lukashenko will allow opposition candidates while keeping his grip on power. In the 2016 elections, he allowed two opposition candidates to win seats in the 110-member parliament for the first time in two decades, although both were barred from standing this time. About 300 opposition candidates are contesting the election, although others were not allowed to register.
Edwards wins in Louisiana
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has stunned Republicans again, narrowly winning a second term on Saturday as the Deep South’s only Democratic governor and handing President Donald Trump another gubernatorial loss this year. He defeated Republican businessman Eddie Rispone, getting about 51 percent of the vote. Trump had made the runoff election between Edwards and Rispone a test of his own popularity and political prowess.
Activists block private jets
Dozens of climate activists on Saturday blocked access to the private jet terminal at Geneva Airport, demanding a halt to the “absurd” mode of luxury transportation. About 100 people took part, organized by pressure group Extinction Rebellion, large groups sitting in front of three entrances to block access to the building for several hours. As musicians played, protesters wearing armbands with the Extinction Rebellion logo sang songs and danced around with white, cloud-shaped placards and banners with slogans like “Be part of the solution, not pollution.” A large number of police monitored the unauthorized protest, but kept their distance.
Child brings heroin to class
A Massachusetts man has pleaded not guilty to drug charges after his five-year-old son brought heroin to school and told his teacher that when he tastes the powder he becomes Spider-Man. Benny Garcia, 29, was arraigned on Friday in Holyoke District Court on charges of drug possession and reckless endangerment of a child. Prosecutors say Garcia’s son on Thursday brought a plastic bag decorated with Spider-Man to kindergarten and put it in his mouth. Police searching Garcia’s home say they found more than 200 bags of heroin and cocaine.
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
A Malaysian student whose cellphone was stolen while he was sleeping has tracked down the culprit: a monkey who took photo and video selfies with the device before abandoning it. Zackrydz Rodzi, 20, on Wednesday said that his mobile phone was missing from his bedroom when he woke up on Saturday. He found the phone’s casing under his bed, but there was no sign of robbery in his house in Johor state. JUNGLE When his father saw a monkey the next day, he searched in the jungle behind his house. Using his brother’s cellphone to call his own device, he found it covered
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