Elton John sings for Ai
Pop icon Elton John publicly dedicated his only concert in Beijing to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未), sending a murmur of shock through an audience accustomed to tight censorship of entertainment. Minutes into his show on Sunday night, John told the audience that the performance was dedicated “to the spirit and talent of Ai Weiwei,” several audience members said. Ai and John had met each other briefly before the concert. “I super like him,” Ai said on his Twitter page, which is banned in the country, but has 180,000 followers. Local reports on the show left out the dedication.
Engineer ‘killed’ by prestige
The government gave hero’s praise yesterday to a senior engineer on its Liaoning aircraft carrier program who died of a heart attack after witnessing the first landing of a plane on the ship, underscoring the project’s huge national prestige. State broadcaster CCTV ran news of Luo Yuan’s (羅援) death as its first item on the noon broadcast, an unusual honor for a scientist who was previously unknown outside of the carrier program. Luo, 51, oversaw the development of the J-15 fighter-bomber planes for the ship. Academics assigned to signature government projects like the carrier are often under enormous pressure and stress is considered among the biggest killers of the country’s intellectuals.
Parking spot sold for fortune
An individual car parking space has sold for HK$1.3 million (US$166,600), reports said yesterday, as investors seek new ways of making money amid sky-high property prices. Buyers have turned to parking lots to make quick gains after the government imposed a series of measures last month to try to cool the overheated housing market. Tycoon Li Ka-shing’s (李嘉誠) flagship Cheung Kong Holdings made HK$600 million over the weekend by selling 514 parking slots, the South China Morning Post and the Standard newspapers said. Some slots, priced between HK$980,000 and HK$1.3 million, were resold for profits of up to HK$300,000 each, the reports said.
UN slams Fukushima checks
A UN rights investigator has said the country has not fully served the health needs of residents and workers affected by the nuclear crisis caused by the meltdown last year at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Anand Grover, UN special rapporteur on the right to health, yesterday said the government has over-emphasized optimistic views of radiation risks and conducted limited health checks after last year’s meltdown. After conducting an 11-day survey in Fukushima and other areas, Grover found that residents complained about lack of access to their health check results and that many plant workers on short-term contracts have no access to permanent health checks.
Toxic syrup kills at least 13
At least 13 people have died after drinking a toxic cough syrup in Lahore, forcing authorities to close pharmacies and a medicine factory, officials said yesterday. The deaths occurred in the Shahdra Town neighborhood between Friday and Sunday, with the victims mostly drug addicts who took the syrup to get high, local police station chief Atif Zulfiqar said. The scandal comes after about 100 patients died in January in Lahore after taking faulty locally made medicine. Punjab Province health adviser Khawaja Salman Rafiq said the syrup would be confiscated from all pharmacies.
Party set for second vote
Center-left Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani is set for a run-off vote against young pretender Matteo Renzi, after millions of supporters chose their nominee for next year’s general election. With 40 percent of the votes counted from Sunday’s balloting, Bersani was in front with 44.3 percent support, followed by Florence Mayor Renzi with 36.3 percent, the organizing committee said. More than 4 million supporters took part in the vote, which will now head for a second round run-off on Sunday. A general election is expected in April with the winner of the center-left nomination one of the favorites to replace Mario Monti as the nation’s next prime minister.
Likud party extends primary
The ruling Likud party extended its primary to choose candidates for national elections scheduled for Jan. 22 into a second day after breakdowns yesterday in the computerized balloting system. About 123,000 party members are eligible to vote, according to Likud spokeswoman Noga Rappaport. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is concerned that more extremist elements of the party may be strengthened by the vote, the Haaretz daily reported, citing unidentified associates of the Likud leader.
Wales, Cornwall flooded
More than 800 homes in England and Wales have been flooded as heavy rain and strong winds battered the country and environmental officials warned of more downpours to come. Two people have died since heavy rain began on Wednesday last week.
In a Twitter message, Prime Minister David Cameron described the scenes of flooding in Cornwall as “shocking,” and promised the government “will help ensure everything is being done to help.” Parts of the Cornish village of Millbrook were reportedly under 1.5m of water and 40 homes were evacuated after torrents of muddy water swept through the village on Saturday, a BBC reporter said.
Utility worker behind blast
A natural gas explosion that injured 18 people and damaged 42 buildings in the entertainment district of Springfield, Massachusetts, was blamed on Sunday on a utility worker, who accidentally punctured a high-pressure pipeline while looking for a leak. State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan said the blast in one of the largest cities in the New England states was caused by “human error.” He did not name the Columbia Gas Co worker who pierced the pipe while responding to reports of a gas leak. The worker damaged the underground pipe while using a metal probe to locate the source of the leak, Coan said. A flood of gas then built up in a building that housed a strip club and some kind of spark touched off the blast, officials said.
Street named after Romero
A Roman Catholic archbishop assassinated in 1980 for speaking out against brutal government repression got a special honor on Sunday, with the dedication of a key new avenue in his name. Monsenor Oscar Arnulfo Romero Street, a new boulevard in the west of the capital city, connects the city with Santa Tecla. “Today we once again pay public tribute to the man who died so that thousands and millions could live,” President Mauricio Funes said in a ceremony inaugurating the new street.