Mine death toll rises to 19
The death toll from a coal mine blast on Saturday in Guizhou has risen to 19 from 18, Xinhua news agency reported, citing local government official. Four miners are still trapped after a coal-gas outburst hit the mine on Saturday morning, Xinhua said, citing unidentified rescuers. Yin Zhihua (尹志華), vice mayor of Liupanshui, which has jurisdiction over the area, said rescuers were expected to reach the trapped workers by yesterday afternoon, Xinhua said. Xinhua said the coal mine is operated by Pannan Coal Exploitation Co and opened in 2006. It supplies Pannan power station, which is part of the government strategy to send electricity from western regions to the eastern areas, it said.
Five die in anti-Shiite blast
A bomb killed at least five people and wounded about 70 near a Shiite procession yesterday, police said, as the sect braced for major sectarian attacks by Sunni militants during a critical event in their religious calendar. Television footage showed the wounded being carried away in Dera Ismail Khan, where a bomb targeting Shiites killed at least seven people, including four children, on Saturday. The bomb, planted in a shop beside a street market, also wounded five security officials, senior police official Malik Mushtaq said.“There is a lack of ambulances and not enough hospital beds,” a doctor said. “People brought many of the injured to the hospital on rickshaws.” Hardline sectarian Sunni groups, which are becoming increasingly dangerous, have threatened more attacks as the Shiite month of Muharram comes to a climax. Security officials say organizations, such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, are stepping up attacks on Shiites, who they regard as non-believers, in a bid to destabilize nuclear-armed, US ally Pakistan and establish a Sunni theocracy.
Record numbers take test
Hundreds of thousands of people packed out schools and universities yesterday to take the national civil service exam, with record numbers registering in search of a stable government job. More than 1.5 million people registered to take the exam, the Beijing Times reported, a record and over 30 times the number sitting the exam a decade ago. This year test-takers are vying for about 20,000 government vacancies, state television said. The rapid expansion in recent years has been boosted by the perception that government jobs offer added stability and status, test-takers said.
Student killed in clashes
A student was killed and eight wounded in clashes between Sunnis and Shiites at Kabul University, a senior police officer said on Saturday. “It seems the clash between some Sunni and Shiite students erupted when Shiite students wanted to perform the Ashura mourning ceremony in a dormitory mosque,” said Mohammad Zaher, head of Kabul’s Criminal Investigation Department. “One person was killed and eight were injured,” he said, adding that the situation was under control and an investigation under way. Ashura is a religious ceremony marking the murder of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, by the armies of the Caliph Yazid in 680. Hussein is equally revered by Sunnis, but hardliners oppose the public mourning of his martyrdom. The ceremony, in which men beat their chests and self-flagellate their backs with sharp blades, has long been a magnet for sectarian attacks.
Woman dies amid storms
A woman was killed by a falling tree in Exeter, police said yesterday, as severe flood warnings were introduced in parts of the country already soaked by rain and battered by strong winds. The unnamed woman was taken to hospital, but died later, after a tree fell on her late on Saturday in Exeter, Devon and Cornwall police said. Two other people were said to have been injured in the incident. Cornwall was the main focus of fears for life and property as rivers threatened to burst their banks and residents reported surges of floodwater coursing through picturesque towns. Severe flood warnings — which the Environment Agency classifies as meaning there is a risk to life — were in place in the Cornish towns of Helston and Perranporth, as well as in the fishing port of Polperro. Alan Crockford, a pub landlord in Polperro, said there had been warnings, but “nobody knew it would get this bad.” He told the BBC: “I was actually in my house and I heard a roar, and just looked outside the window and that was the first bit of water that just ... came down the hill, like a river running straight down the road.”
Shot president returns home
Thousands of Mauritanians lined the road from the airport on Saturday to welcome back President Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz, who went to France for five weeks of medical treatment after being accidentally shot in a friendly fire incident. His return puts an end to speculation over the state of his health, as well as over the future of the country. Analysts had warned that his extended departure could create the instability needed for another coup in the desert nation, which has suffered six since the 1970s.
Stones mark 50th anniversary
The Rolling Stones were to take to the stage late yesterday after a five-year hiatus to celebrate the golden jubilee of one of the most successful and enduring bands in rock and roll history. Now in their mid-60s to early 70s, lead singer Mick Jagger, guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood and drummer Charlie Watts were to perform five concerts — two at the O2 Arena in London yesterday and Thursday and three in the US next month. Joining them at the O2 yesterday were former band members Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor, the first time the two ex-Stones have performed with the group in more than 20 years. In a fresh announcement on Saturday, US R&B singer-songwriter Mary J. Blige and guitar great Jeff Beck were also added to the lineup as special guests. A sellout crowd of about 20,000 people was expected, in spite of widespread complaints from fans at ticket prices that ranged from ￡95 (US$150) to up to ￡950 for a VIP seat.
Police recover artifacts
Officials announced on Saturday they had solved an embarrassing museum robbery in Olympia in February after a police sting operation netted three suspects and recovered dozens of archeological artifacts. Earlier on Saturday, police said they had arrested three Greek men aged between 36 and 50, and were seeking another two suspects. The three were arrested at a hotel in the city of Patras late on Friday after one of them tried to sell a Bronze Age gold ring for 300,000 euros (US$387,000) to an undercover officer posing as a potential buyer. The original asking price had been 1.5 million euros, the police said. Officers were then dispatched to a village near Olympia where they found the remaining artifacts buried inside a sack in a field.
Calderon plays name game
Nothing against the neighbors, really. Outgoing President Felipe Calderon has suggested that the country change its name from the United States of Mexico to plain Mexico. “It is time for us Mexicans to reclaim the beauty and simplicity of our country’s name: Mexico. A name we chant, we sing, that fills us with joy and pride,” Calderon said last week in the waning days of his term. Mexico, which means “Navel of the Moon” in the indigenous Nahuatl language, was called the Mexican Empire after winning independence from Spain in 1821. Yet since 1824, it has been called the United States of Mexico. Calderon said it was time for Mexico to stop imitating other nations. However, his idea has spawned widespread criticism. “A president who really was not able to change the country for the better ... in the end said: ‘OK, if we can’t really change it, let’s change its name,’” historian Lorenzo Meyer told media. At about the turn of the 20th century, then-president Porfirio Diaz lamented: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”
Montreal ‘don’ to testify
The reputed don of Montreal’s mafia, Vito Rizzuto, has been summoned to testify at a corruption inquiry, the state public broadcaster said on Saturday. Rizzuto, 66, returned to the country last month after serving a decade in a US prison for his role in the 1981 murders of three members of New York’s Bonanno crime family. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said he was served on Nov. 19 with a subpoena to appear before the commission headed by Superior Court Justice France Charbonneau. The commission is investigating alleged graft, bid rigging and kickbacks in the awarding of government construction contracts. Witnesses have testified that construction executives colluded with bureaucrats and politicians in a scheme to embezzle public funds. Federal police surveillance videotapes and wiretaps showed executives handing over cash to Rizzuto’s father and mobsters using threats to steer the bidding.
Drug money unearthed
Authorities found more than half a million US dollars buried underground that belong to traffickers who ship drugs from Colombia to Central America, police said on Saturday. The US$550,000 in cash was buried at an illegal camp near the Meta River in the western state of Apure, the anti-drug office said in a statement. The gang uses the country as a stopover spot to ferry drugs from Colombia to Central America, it added. In addition to the money, officers found 1.5kg of cocaine, an assault rifle, five ammunition magazines, two cars and satellite phones. While the country is designated by the UN as free of illicit crops, it is considered to be a major transit point for drugs into the largest consumer markets in the US and Europe.
Cigar rollers in UNESCO bid
The shifts are long and dull at the nation’s cigar factories, so for 150 years, it has been a tradition to have someone read to the cigar rollers as a way to ease the grind — anything from literature to recipes. Now, an idea has emerged to make that custom part of UNESCO’s world cultural heritage. Miguel Barnet, a poet and ethnologist and president of the Cuban Writers’ Federation, said the country hopes UNESCO will honor the custom by declaring it one of the world’s intangible treasures, the newspaper Granma reported on Saturday. The custom started in Havana in 1865 and spread rapidly. Now, about 300 people work as readers.