CRCC receptions punished
Eight employees of the country’s largest railway building firm have been punished for spending more than US$137 million on receptions, the state-run Global Times reported yesterday, the latest move in the leadership’s much-publicized anti-corruption drive. The newspaper did not give details of the punishment, but said another 57 employees of the state-owned China Railway Construction Corp (CRCC) have been reprimanded, and one faces prosecution. According to the company’s annual report in March last year, CRCC spent 837 million yuan (US$137 million) on receptions in one year — equivalent to about 10 percent of its profits last year. The report comes amid public anger at official misconduct and a campaign by President Xi Jinping (習近平), who took office earlier this year pledging to tackle corruption at all levels of government.
Territory allows gay marriage
Provincial lawmakers for the Australian Capital Territory, which includes the capital, voted yesterday to allow same-sex marriage, a first for the country, but the federal government says it will try to stop gay weddings from happening. The territory’s parliament passed the law in a 9-8 vote, drawing a standing ovation from the 200-strong crowd in the parliament’s public gallery. Many sang John Paul Young’s 1970s pop hit Love is in the Air, in celebration. Gay couples are expected to rush to Canberra, the national capital and the territory’s only city, to tie the knot before the federal government can overturn the law, either through a court ruling or a federal parliamentary vote.
Election set for Nov. 9
Officials rescheduled the presidential election for Nov. 9 after police prevented the scheduled vote this past weekend due to a conflict with a Supreme Court ruling. While the new schedule may break through a political stalemate and reassure the troubled young democracy, it may not produce a new president before the incumbent’s term ends, creating a constitutional vacuum. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the Nov. 9 vote, a runoff would be held on Nov. 16, according to the schedule Vice Elections Commissioner Ahmed Fayaz announced to reporters on Monday. The constitution requires a president to be elected by Nov. 11, when President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s term ends. The Supreme Court had annulled results of a Sept. 7 election, finding that the voters’ registry had phony names and those of dead people. The revote had been set for Saturday, but police stopped it because the Elections Commission failed to obtain approval for the voting registry from all the candidates.
Fresco restoration cartoonlike
Authorities have “restored” ancient Buddhist frescoes in a temple by painting them over with cartoon-like figures from Taoist myths, reports said yesterday, prompting outrage online. It is the latest example of controversial heritage preservation in the country, where many ancient structures have been destroyed in recent decades, sometimes to be replaced by replicas of the original. The temple in Chaoyang, Liaoning Province, was built more than 270 years ago and the delicate original paintings had survived, albeit crumbling, until the “refurbishment.” The new paintings are bold, simplistic and of completely different subjects, pictures showed. Internet users lashed out at the works on the country’s Weibo microblogging sites, branding the new paintings “even worse than cartoons.”
Suicide bus bomber kills six
A female suicide bomber blew herself up on a city bus in Volgograd on Monday, killing six people and injuring about 30, officials said. The suspected bomber was from the North Caucasus, a region where an Islamic insurgency has been simmering for more than a decade following two separatist wars in Chechnya. A local official said the suspected attacker was married to an Islamic militant. Volgograd lies 650km to the northeast of the North Caucasus. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, but it was the first outside the North Caucasus since Chechen rebel leader Dokka Umarov three months ago called for a resumption of attacks on civilians.
Hurricane hits Acapulco
Ports were closed, school classes were suspended and hundreds of people were evacuated along the southern Pacific coast on Monday as a major hurricane loomed over a region still recovering from record flooding a few weeks ago. Raymond, a Category 3 hurricane, weakened slightly on Monday night as it hovered about 145km offshore. The hurricane was already dumping steady rain on coastal areas including Acapulco, where storms wrecked homes, roads and cars and stranded tourists last month. By early afternoon, parts of the city were covered with water, its port was closed and many roads were washed out.
Bolshoi dancer to stand trial
Dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko, who made his name on stage at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater, was to go on trial yesterday for an acid attack that nearly blinded the Bolshoi Ballet’s artistic director, Sergei Filin. Dmitrichenko, 29, is accused of organizing the assault on Filin earlier this year. He and two alleged accomplices could be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison if they are convicted of intentionally causing grievous bodily harm. Filin was returning home on Jan. 17 when a masked assailant threw acid in his face. At a hearing in March, Dmitrichenko admitted he had wanted Filin to be roughed up, but had been shocked to learn that acid was used.
Runner sets knitting record
A University of Central Missouri graphic design professor has knitted his way into the record books while running the Kansas City Marathon. The Kansas City Star reports that David Babcock finished Saturday’s marathon in 5 hours, 48 minutes and 27 seconds. Knitting experts measured the scarf he created along the route at just more than 3.6m long. The scarf-knitting-while-running-a-marathon record was previously held by Susie Hewer, who runs to raise money for Alzheimer’s disease research. She knitted a 2m scarf at the London Marathon in April last year. Like Hewer, the 41-year-old Babcock hopes that people will donate to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Cartoon gravestone removed
An Iraq war veteran’s towering SpongeBob SquarePants headstone was removed from her final resting place earlier this month because officials at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio, deemed it inappropriate. The headstone of Kimberly Walker, 28, was made in the likeness of her favorite cartoon character and erected on Oct. 10, almost eight months after she was found slain in a Colorado hotel room. Despite getting approval for the headstone’s design — a smiling SpongeBob in an army uniform, with Walker’s name — Walker’s family on Monday said cemetery staff called them the day after it was installed to say it had to come down.