Newspaper’s HQ causes stir
Unamused censors have been at work to stop people sniggering over the new Beijing headquarters of the People’s Daily newspaper, which bear an unfortunate resemblance to a giant penis. Photos of the imposing tower, which is still under construction, had Internet users tittering away, especially given one of Beijing’s other landmarks, the China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters, is nicknamed “The Big Underpants.” Some comments about the new home for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) paper managed to sneak through. “Of course the national mouthpiece should be imposing,” said one user of microblogging site Sina Weibo. “It seems the People’s Daily is going to rise up, there’s hope for the Chinese dream,” said another, referring to a political slogan that has been used in recent months to encourage national pride and rejuvenation. However, a search on Sina Weibo for “People’s Daily” and “building” resulted in the message usually shown when keywords have been blocked: “In accordance with relevant laws, regulations and policies, search results cannot be displayed.”
Children returned to Vietnam
Authorities have returned 10 Vietnamese children who were kidnapped and trafficked into China, state media said yesterday. The children were returned on Friday after being discovered by Chinese authorities in 2011, Xinhua news agency said on its Web site. Local authorities have arrested 43 suspects for trafficking the children, who were all boys, China Radio National reported. Ten of the suspects are Vietnamese, it said. Pictures posted by Xinhua showed the children wearing orange pajamas, playing with plastic toys and being cradled by blue-uniformed policewomen. Trafficking of women and children remains a serious problem, with many sociologists blaming preference for male children and the one-child policy for fueling the crime.
Sex video official charged
Prosecutors have filed corruption charges against a former city official at the center of a sex tape scandal in which developers allegedly hired women to sleep with officials, then extorted money or favors from them. Xinhua news agency reported on Friday that prosecutors have indicted Lei Zhengfu (雷政富), formerly Communist Party chief of a district in Chongqing, for accepting bribes. The report did not provide details of the charges. Lei’s was the first, high-profile case to break in November last year when online video clips of him, in the throes of passion, went viral. Coming as China’s new leadership has vowed to crack down on official corruption, the images became targets of derision and disgust over government malfeasance.
‘Distracted’ pilot suspended
Air India said yesterday it had suspended a pilot and two female flight attendants after a passenger jet’s autopilot system was accidentally switched off “due to distraction.” The event occurred on an Air India flight from Bangkok and follows a series of other safety-related incidents involving the airline. Air India denied media reports the pilot and co-pilot had taken a 40-minute break to snooze in business class seats and left two attendants to operate the plane in their absence. However, it did say the pilot and two air hostesses had been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation and that the two airline attendants had overstayed the allowed length of time in the cockpit.
Envoy recalled after brawl
Ecuador has recalled its ambassador, Rodrigo Riofrio, after diplomatic relations between the two countries soured over a supermarket brawl in Lima involving the envoy and female shoppers. The decision came shortly after the country announced it would bring home its ambassador to Ecuador. Ecuador earlier said that Riofrio acted in self-defense and rejected the country’s request to recall him. Riofrio allegedly hit two Peruvian women and insulted them with racist terms after an argument in a checkout line on April 21. In the supermarket’s security videotape, shown on TV, he is seen swatting a woman with a magazine after she hit him. Several women are then seen slapping him and pulling his hair.
Met returning sculptures
New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art said on Friday it was returning two 10th century Khmer sculptures to Cambodia that the country said had been looted from a jungle temple. The institution announced that the two Koh Ker stone statues, Kneeling Attendants, would be sent back after 20 years on display in the Met’s Asian Wing. They were donated in the late 1980s and 1990s and were considered legal. However, “the Met recently came into possession of new documentary research that was not available to the Museum when the objects were acquired,” it said in a statement.
Maduro alleges Uribe plot
President Nicolas Maduro on Friday said former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe was plotting to kill him, adding to a deluge of accusations by the former bus driver in recent months. “Uribe is behind a plot to kill me,” Maduro said in a televised speech. He did not provide details. The president, who was elected last month by a narrow margin, earlier this year accused the US of seeking to kill opposition leader Henrique Capriles to stir chaos and spark a coup. He later said he himself was the target of an assassination plot by mercenaries from El Salvador who had entered the country.
Navajo ‘Star Wars’ auditions
Members of the Navajo tribe in the southwest are hoping the force will be with them as they dub Star Wars into their native Dine language. Two days of auditions began on Friday at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, for Navajo wishing to lend their voices to Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Han Solo, C-3PO, Obi Wan Kenobi and Grand Moff Tarkin. Star Wars has been dubbed into nearly 40 languages, and now stands to become the first major Hollywood movie to be translated into a Native American tongue. Museum director Manuelito Wheeler said the Navajo project is aimed at promoting the use of Dine, which is spoken by only half of the 300,000 Navajo.
TED set for TV
The prestigious TED gathering, known for perspective-shifting presentations by the brilliant and famous, is tailoring “ideas worth spreading” for a TV audience on a show set to air on PBS stations nationally on Tuesday and Thursday. The program is hosted by Grammy-winning musician John Legend and features presentations by Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist Bill Gates, as well as by social activist Ken Robinson, the most-watched speaker at Ted.com. Online videos of TED conferences passed the 1 billion view milestone late last year.