Rival parties vie for lead
Two traditional rival parties are vying for the lead in the constituent assembly election, according to partial results announced yesterday. The results showed the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) leading with 41 seats, followed by the Nepali Congress with 32. However, a trailing Maoist party, with eight seats, has refused appeals to reverse its decision to boycott the vote counting. Party leaders have demanded that the counting be stopped and an independent probe launched because of alleged irregularities. “We have formally filed our complaint with the Election Commission,” United Communist Party of Nepal Maoists spokesman Agni Sapkota said. The Maoist party says that ballot boxes went missing for hours, were switched or disappeared while being transported to counting centers. Independent election observers, including former US president Jimmy Carter, said the elections were fair, honest and free of any irregularities. Final results from Tuesday’s vote to elect 601 assembly members are not expected until late next week, as ballot boxes were still being transported by helicopters and even on foot by porters to counting centers in the mountainous country.
Cocaine found on beach
Four backpacks stuffed with cocaine worth ￥4.8 billion (US$48 million) were found on a beach — the biggest amount ever discovered in the country, local media reported. The backpacks, containing 80kg of the drug wrapped in waterproof tape, were found by local residents in Yokosuka on Tuesday, the Asahi newspaper reported, citing local police. The find is the biggest by value in Japan, public broadcaster NHK said. Yokosuka, home to a US Navy base, is about 50km south of Tokyo.
Oil pipe blast kills several
Local authorities say an oil pipe explosion in an eastern city has killed six people and severely injured seven others. The district government of Huangdao in the seaside port of Qingdao said an oil pipe near a shopping mall broke yesterday morning and that the rupture caught fire during repairs. It says the incident remains under investigation. Authorities assured the public that the blast was well away from any petrochemical plants of military facilities. The pipeline is owned by China’s largest oil refiner, Sinopec.
Workers die by lightning
Eight construction workers were killed when lightning struck their tent northeast of Johannesburg, police said yesterday. “There were 14 people in a tent when the lighting struck. Eight of them died and six were hospitalized,” Mpumalanga Province police spokesman Leonard Hlathi said. The lightning storm struck the tent in Emalahleni on Wednesday evening and the dead included migrant workers from Mozambique and Lesotho, he added.
Jumbo at wrong airport
A Boeing 747 Dreamlifter made a risky takeoff without incident on Thursday from a small Kansas airport after accidentally landing there the night before. The giant cargo plane, one of just four in the world, was on its way from New York’s Kennedy International Airport to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, when it landed by mistake on Wednesday night at nearby Colonel James Jabara Airport. The pilot was surprised when an air traffic controller told him he had just landed at Jabara, not McConnell. The small general aviation airport, with its 1859m runway, is not designed to handle jumbo jets.
Man lived with corpse
A man who police say lived for several months in a Detroit-area trailer home with a woman’s corpse has been sentenced to probation in the case. Dennis McCauley was arrested in spring last year after a court officer serving an eviction notice at the home in Redford Township stumbled upon the body of 72-year-old Ann Marquis sitting on a sofa. Autopsy results indicate she died of natural causes. McCauley faced a number of charges, including mutilation of a corpse, larceny, uttering and publishing, identity theft and concealing a person’s death. The 64-year-old pleaded no contest last month to uttering and publishing, and mutilation of a corpse. The other charges were dismissed, and McCauley was spared jail time in favor of a punishment consisting of probation and community service.
Business profits tightened
President Nicolas Maduro exercised new emergency powers for the first time on Thursday, signing decrees limiting business profit margins and tightening regulation of imports. He acted as part of a so-called “economic war” against a crisis for which he blames the opposition “bourgeoisie” and imperialism. Under new powers granted to Maduro on Tuesday, the two new laws aim to control prices and profits in the business sector and closely monitor imports and exports, and hard currency that comes in from oil sales, the country’s main source of revenue. Maduro’s government says the business sector has been chalking up profit margins of up to 1,000 percent on imported goods. The center-right opposition has called a rally for today to protest the emergency powers granted to Maduro, the handpicked successor of the late populist president Hugo Chavez. The opposition says the new powers are a tool granted to the government for electoral gain ahead of municipal elections on Dec. 8.
Farmers end blockade
Irate farmers ended a Paris road blockade that left one dead on Thursday with the promise of a ministerial meeting over a disputed subsidy, but with no guarantee of a change in policy. Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll announced high-level talks with grain farmers, who have called for his resignation after grants previously earmarked for them were given to livestock farmers instead. Many of the protesters held up placards calling for Le Foll’s resignation while others read: “We are being mowed down like wheat.” The minister had insisted earlier there was no question of going back on the reallocation of subsidies. Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier had called for the “immediate lifting” of the blockade, which was blamed for a crash that killed a car driver, and organizers of the protests followed suit, ordering farmers to free up the roads.