Baby formula sales curbed
Measures were announced on Friday to curb the amount of baby formula milk powder that mainland Chinese visitors are buying as anger grows at shortages in the city’s stores. Food and Health Secretary Ko Wing-man (高永文) said legislation would be amended to prohibit taking more than 1.8kg of formula past Hong Kong’s borders. The amount is equal to two cans of formula. Mainland Chinese have increasingly looked abroad for baby formula following tainted-formula scandals. In 2008, tainted formula killed six babies and sickened another 300,000 infants in China. Last summer, Yili Industrial Group recalled infant formula because of “unusual” levels of mercury. At about the same time, Hunan Ava Dairy Industry Co said it found a cancer-causing toxin linked to mildewed cattle feed in five batches of baby formula. The law change is aimed at so-called parallel traders who have been flooding into the city to buy up consumer goods for resale back home. Parallel trading is frowned upon by Hong Kongers but is not illegal.
Exiles criticize ‘sham’ trials
The political leader of Tibetan exiles on Friday accused China of holding “sham” trials in which eight Tibetans were convicted of inciting others to set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule. Tibetan government-in-exile Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay said the convictions reported on Thursday by China’s state-run news agency were unfortunate because “repression is the cause” of the self-immolations. About 100 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009, with more than 80 of them dying from their burns, according to overseas Tibetan rights groups. The US chimed in with criticism on Friday. US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called on China’s government to allow Tibetans to express their grievances publicly and peacefully and without fear of retribution. A court in China’s Sichuan Province sentenced a Tibetan man to death with a two-year reprieve and gave his nephew a 10-year prison sentence for encouraging eight people to self-immolate last year, three of whom died, Xinhua News Agency said.
Actor faces homicide charge
An attorney says Indian movie star Salman Khan will be tried for homicide for his alleged involvement in a fatal road accident more than 10 years ago. If convicted he faces up to 10 years in jail. Khan’s lawyer Deepesh Mehta said a magistrate on Thursday accepted an appeal by state government prosecutors that he should be charged with homicide instead of causing death by negligence, which carries a maximum of two years in jail. One man was killed and another three were injured when Khan allegedly rammed his car into a group of homeless people sleeping on a Bombay sidewalk in September 2002.
Zoo stages ‘zebra escape’
Staff at a Tokyo zoo chased a keeper dressed as a zebra on Friday in a drill to simulate one of the park’s animal inhabitants making a break for freedom. The drill saw the zookeeper tackled and mock stun-gunned by his colleagues. Visitors to the Tama Zoological Park were evacuated for the drill, which also supposed that one of the keepers had been severely injured when attempting to catch the escaped animal with a giant net. The premise of the escape was that an earthquake destroyed a stone wall surrounding the animal’s enclosure. Past simulations at the zoo included escapes of lions, gorillas and tigers.
‘Elephant’ expenses probed
A member of the European Parliament is under investigation over suspect expenses claims totalling 1.3 million euros (US$1.8 million), including one item listed as “elephant.” In a request to the European Parliament to waive Hans-Peter Martin’s immunity, the Vienna prosecutors’ office said it suspected the him of embezzling public funds and making money “illicitly for himself or a third party by fraudulent means.” The prosecutor’s request details a series of suspect or unexplained expenses that were claimed either in Austria or via the European Parliament. Among them is a payment of 832,800 euros for “public relations work” that the prosecutor says was made to “businessmen who are friends of Dr Hans-Peter Martin, even though no [equivalent] services were provided.” One claim for 2,200 euros was identified in accounts as being for an “elephant.” Martin says he meant to claim for books about Auschwitz from a publisher called “Ephelant.” The publisher does offer such a book, priced at 22 euros.
Harvard students suspended
About 60 students at Harvard University have been suspended and others disciplined in a mass cheating scandal at the elite college, the administration said on Friday. Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean Michael Smith told staff and students at the university near Boston that “somewhat more than half” of the cases under investigation ended with students being required “to withdraw from the college for a period of time.” When the scandal first became public in August, Harvard said that as many as 125 students were suspected of helping each other in a final exam.
Freed killer recaptured
A convicted murderer who was mistakenly released after a court appearance in Chicago was back in custody yesterday after authorities tracked him down at a house about 100km away. Steven Robbins, 44, was rearrested late on Friday night without incident in the Illinois town of Kankakee, authorities said. The reason Robbins was able to escape in the first place, Illinois officials said, was because they lost paperwork directing them to return him over the state border to Indiana, where he has been serving a 60-year sentence. He was escorted by Cook County sheriff’s deputies to Chicago this week for a court appearance in a separate case involving drug and armed violence charges.After appearing before two Cook County Circuit Court judges, Robbins was taken to a jail on Chicago’s South Side. He was released hours later, instead of being sent back to Indiana to continue his murder sentence.
Hotline aids Spanish police
A call home from an anguished daughter in Spain and images from a soap opera about human trafficking for sexual exploitation led a mother to realize her daughter was in trouble. So she called a sexual abuse hotline set up by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, prompting an international police operation that led authorities to break up a prostitution ring in the Spanish university town of Salamanca last week. Spanish police raided a nightclub in Salamanca and freed the daughter and five other women who were forced to have sex with customers for US$20, authorities said on Friday. Tipped off by a call to the hotline last June, Spanish police raided a brothel in Ibiza and discovered 28 women of different nationalities who were forced to provide sexual services 24 hours a day.