Opposition enforces strike
Police say opposition activists have set off homemade bombs and smashed several vehicles in Dhaka as they enforce a general strike demanding that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina resign elections. Many stores and schools were closed yesterday and few vehicles were on the roads. Police official Monirul Islam said no one has been injured and more than 10,000 security forces have been deployed. An alliance of 18 opposition parties called a nationwide dawn-to-dusk shutdown. The opposition wants Hasina to hand over power to a non-partisan caretaker administration before elections due early next year. The government says the demand is unconstitutional. The opposition says polls under Hasina’s government would not be free or fair.
UN urges Fukushima aid
A UN expert who investigated the aftermath of the Fukushhima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011 said the government and the plant’s operator should do more to help those affected by the catastrophe. A report by UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur Anand Grover posted on the council’s Web site says the government’s takeover of Tokyo Electric Power Co allowed the utility to evade full responsibility for the nuclear disaster, the worst since Chernobyl in the Ukraine. The report points to problems with the handling of the crisis, including a difficult process for seeking compensation for radiation exposure, a lack of openness about health risks from radiation and inadequate protection for nuclear plant workers. It urges the government to improve its emergency preparedness and its handling of compensation claims.
Bus falls off bridge, 11 dead
State media yesterday reported that a bus traveling from Yangon to Mandalay skidded off a bridge on Saturday, leaving 11 dead and 16 injured, including a US citizen. Newspapers said the accident occurred when a tire on the bus blew, causing the vehicle to skid and plunge off the bridge into a stream below. They said the bus was carrying 27 people. The highway is notorious for accidents, mainly due to speeding and careless driving around its many sharp curves.
Vietnamese art sets record
A painting that was initially valued at just US$7 sold for HK$3.03 million (US$390,000), setting a record for a Vietnamese artist’s work at Christie’s International on Friday. When the British seller of the 1932 work by Nguyen Phan Chanh, titled La Marchand de Riz (The Rice Seller) took it to Christie’s in London, it was mistakenly identified by a trainee as an unsigned Chinese work. After it was forwarded to experts in Asia, they recognized the painting by the artist’s signature on the back of the canvas and valued it at between HK$800,000 and HK$1 million. “The provenance is impeccable,” Jean-Francois Hubert, Christie’s senior consultant for Vietnamese art, said in the saleroom. “It’s in its original frame by Parisian framer Gardin and it was exhibited in 1934 in Napoli.” Pascal de Sarthe, a dealer based in the territory, purchased the painting at the auction, Hubert said. The previous highest price for a Vietnamese artist at auction was set in April last year when Le Pho’s work sold for HK $2.9 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong. The total proceeds for the Christie’s Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art sale was HK$414.95 million, according to the auction house’s Web site.
Gender equality slammed
Roman Polanski says the birth control pill has had a “masculinizing” effect on women. The director said the pill has “changed the place of women in our times,” while talking to reporters on Saturday at the Cannes Film Festival. He was there to premiere his film Venus in Fur, adapted from the David Ives play. The film stars Polanski’s wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, and Mathieu Amalric as an actress and theater director rehearsing an adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novella, Venus in Furs. The film plays with gender roles, and features Seigner as a strong, feminine actress who comes to dominate her director. Polanski said the leveling of the sexes is “idiotic” and lamented that “offering flowers to a lady” has become “indecent.” The 79-year-old Polanski was famously convicted of having sex with a minor in a 1977 case. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy, but pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse. Polanski fled the US after a Los Angeles judge threatened further sanctions.
Fake Chinese aspirin seized
Customs officers have seized 1.2 million doses of counterfeit aspirin from China, the biggest haul of fake medicines ever in the country and in the EU, the economy ministry announced on Saturday. The goods, seized on May 17 in the northwestern port of Le Havre, were hidden in a cargo of tea that arrived from China, the ministry said in a statement. The powder was mostly glucose and contained no active ingredients. The fake aspirin was to have been sent to a Spanish company based in the Balearic Islands for distribution in the Iberian Peninsula, the south of the country and French-speaking Africa, the ministry said.
Anti-mafia priest beatified
A priest who stirred consciences with his anti-Mafia preaching and was gunned down by mobsters has been honored by the Vatican as a martyr. The Reverend Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi was beatified in a ceremony on Saturday in Palermo, the Sicilian capital, where he worked in a mobster-infested, poor neighborhood. He was slain in 1993, a few months after Pope John Paul II visited Sicily and urged priests to rally the faithful against organized crime. Puglisi encouraged young people, often jobless and easily recruited by Cosa Nostra, to turn their backs on the mob. Beatification is the last formal step in the Catholic Church’s process before possible sainthood.
‘Missing Picture’ wins
A French-Cambodian film, The Missing Picture, which explores the bloody history of former Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot’s dictatorship in late 1970s Cambodia, has won the “Un Certain Regard” prize at the Cannes Film Festival. To rousing applause, director Rithy Panh collected the award at a ceremony on Saturday night, expressing his gratitude to be able “to have the freedom to do the films I want to do.” The “Un Certain Regard” accolade, presented one day before the Palme d’Or, is often seen to reward up-and-coming filmmakers and works that transmit original messages and aesthetics. Panh’s film, based on his memoir The Elimination, documents his own family’s experience under the Khmer Rouge, which resulted in the death of his parents and sisters.