Acid leak kills at least three
A sulphuric acid leak at a warehouse in the northeast has killed at least three people. Xinhua news agency said yesterday that the leak spread into areas surrounding Fangshen village in Liao-ning Province, preventing rescuers from approaching the area. It was not exactly clear when the leak occurred, and Xinhua said authorities were still trying to verify the number of dead. Xinhua said the 2,000m3 of sulphuric acid leaked from a storehouse used by a family business. It did not give a cause for the accident, and local government officials reached by phone said they had no information.
The government said it is looking into reports that three Laotian-Americans have gone missing in southern Laos. According to relatives, the Minnesota residents went missing in early January in Savannakhet Province on their way to a funeral. The State Department said the embassy in Vientiane had contacted the Laotian government for further information. Three bodies were recently found in a burned van in the province, and Khammanh Kongdaravong, the wife of one of the missing men, said relatives in Laos have identified her husband, Souli, as one of the dead. The circumstances in which the van caught fire are unclear.
Gay pride celebrates past
Up to 300,000 spectators were yesterday expected to brave the rain to watch the annual Mardi Gras gay pride parade, with an emphasis on the political as the nation prepares for elections. The event, which bills itself as the world’s biggest night parade, is celebrating the theme “Generations of Love,” focused on its origins in 1978 as a gay rights protest march that ended with violence and arrests. Some of the original activists, known as the “78ers,” will take pride of place at the beginning of the parade, behind the traditional “Dykes on Bikes” motorcade which officially starts the colorful, often irreverent march. About 10,000 revellers on 115 individual floats will make the journey down Oxford Street, hub of Sydney’s gay and lesbian nightlife, in a vibrant show featuring drag queens, political parodies and plenty of sparkle.
War crimes film debuts
A documentary purporting to show the execution of civilians and other war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan army had its first public screening on Friday, but was swiftly rejected by the Sri Lankan government as part of an “orchestrated campaign” against it. The documentary No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka is the third by British journalist and director Callum Macrae about the final stages of the nearly 30-year civil war. “We see it as a film of record, but also a call to action,” Macrae told a news briefing. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed in 2009 in the final months the war, a UN panel has said, as government troops advanced on the northern tip of the island controlled by Tamil rebels fighting for an independent homeland. The film depicts scenes from the territory held by the Tamil Tiger rebels just before their defeat in May 2009. In the so-called “No Fire Zone” declared by the army, rights groups say soldiers killed thousands of Tamil civilians by heavy shelling and massacres yet perpetrators have gone unpunished. Sri Lanka’s government last week formally protested against the film’s screening on UN premises on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council.
Argentina told to clarify offer
A US appeals court in New York has told Argentina to spell out its offer to settle a suit by holders of defaulted bonds that Buenos Aires brands “vultures,” court documents showed on Friday. However, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez insisted that while the country was willing to repay its debts, it would not grant the funds better terms than those agreed upon in past restructurings. Argentina’s lawyer suggested in a hearing on Wednesday that the government was willing to repay the debt via an unstated formula different from what the bondholders were demanding. The court therefore ordered Argentina to submit in writing the “precise terms of any alternative payment formula and schedule to which [the country] is prepared to commit” by March 29. Argentina defaulted on some US$100 billion in debt in 2001, and has since restructured its debt twice, covering around 75 percent of the nominal value of the bonds.
Detroit faces takover
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder prepared for a state takeover of Detroit, an epitome of urban decay, by declaring the Motor City in a state of financial emergency on Friday. “Detroit can’t wait,” Snyder said at a televised town hall meeting. “We need to solve real issues here today because citizens are not getting the services they need and we have a financial crisis.” The move by a white, Republican governor to take control of a predominantly black and Democratic city has drawn intense criticism and charges of racism. Detroit needs a partner, not an “overseer,” Reverend Wendell Anthony, who heads the Detroit chapter of civil rights group NAACP, said this week. Several city council members have vowed to block the move, but supporters of the takeover say it is the only way to tackle Detroit’s seemingly intractable problems.
Dog’s death unexplained
The owner of a fluffy white contestant in New York’s prestigious Westminster Dog Show is claiming foul play in the poisoning death of her beloved pooch. The three-year-old Samoyed named Cruz died from possible rat poison four days after competing in his first Westminster show, the notoriously competitive canine beauty contest held each February in Manhattan. “We full-heartedly believe that he was intentionally poisoned,” handler Robert Chaffin said on ABC television on Friday. Owner Lynette Blue, a veteran of dog contests, told ABC that animal rights activists — who say the Westminster show encourages cruel beauty treatments for the animals — may have slipped him poison. Either that, or someone within the competition. “It’s always possible — he was a top-winning dog, so it’s always possible, those things have happened — that other people in the dog show world try to knock out top competition ... You just don’t know,” Blue told ABC.
Fat cat seeks home
At 16kg, Biscuit the cat is about the right weight for a four-year-old — human, that is. A US animal shelter is trying to find him a new home. Biscuit’s first owner was a disabled woman who fed him lots of treats. Now he is roughly three times the weight of a healthy adult cat and is restricted to about a cup of diet food per day. His owner brought him in about a year ago because she could no longer care for him, Teresa Gilley, the shelter’s lead animal control officer, told the St Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. “She didn’t mean the cat any harm,” Gilley said. “I just think she didn’t know any better.”