One-child fine sparks suicide
A farmer with five children drank a fatal dose of pesticide at a local Chinese Communist Party leader’s house after officials seized his family’s annual food supply for violating the one-child policy, reports said yesterday. Ai Guangdong, 45, had more than 3.5 tonnes of corn — the family’s entire source of income until next year’s harvest — confiscated last week by five officials in Liang’erzhuang, Hebei Province, the People’s Daily Online said. Ai and his wife Xie Yufeng had four daughters and a son, their youngest, and their farm makes them only about 5,000 yuan (US$800) a year, according to the reports. Officials had been taking money from them ever since their second daughter was born, Xie said, and demanded 60,000 yuan after the birth of the third child, the People’s Daily Online report said.
Train accident kills 10
At least 10 people died yesterday when a commuter train collided with a truck hauling fuel in the capital, sending a fireball of orange flames and black smoke shooting skyward. The accident in southern Jakarta killed the train engineer and at least nine others, Jakarta police spokesman Colonel Rikwanto said. About 20 were injured.
Isles lack aid: report
The UN is investigating reports that aid has yet to reach remote parts of the the country a month after a devastating typhoon, Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said yesterday. She had expected that aid had been delivered by helicopter to survivors in even the most remote outlying islands following the Nov. 8 disaster. “Although we’ve got significant aid now coming in to the major centers, we still have a little bit of a worry that in a couple of the smaller islands that there may be needs there that we haven’t managed to meet yet,” she said.
Secrecy act hurts Abe
Support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe slid in opinion polls after his ruling coalition steamrolled through parliament a tough secrecy act that critics fear could muzzle media and allow officials to hide misdeeds. Shrinking support could push Abe to softpedal his security policies until next year’s budget is enacted and a sales tax hike from April is safely navigated, some analysts said. Support for Abe’s government fell 13.9 points to 54.6 percent in a poll by broadcaster JNN, the lowest since he took office, although backing for the main opposition Democratic Party rose just 0.9 point to 6.8 percent and was dwarfed by the 30.3 percent who backed Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.
The country’s lower court yesterday acquitted 70 opposition activists, including nine former members of parliament, of charges of storming the parliament building in the Gulf state two years ago. “All the defendants were found not guilty” of charges of storming a public building, assaulting police, resisting orders and damaging public property, in the ruling by judge Hisham Abdullah. Hundreds of opposition activists entered the seaside building in Kuwait City after a noisy Nov. 16, 2011, protest to demand the removal of then-prime minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, over corruption allegations. Nasser resigned two weeks later.
Mayor wins party vote
Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi won a resounding victory on Sunday in the race to lead the center-left Democratic Party, part of the coalition government. The 38-year-old Renzi, who just a year ago was a virtual political unknown, trounced rivals Gianni Cuperlo, a party apparatchik, and Giuseppe “Pippo” Civati with about 68 percent of the vote. He was given an ovation from supporters in Florence, where he welcomed the strong turn-out of about 2.5 million voters, saying Italians “have shown that they are worth more than their leadership class.” His election marks a transformation for the Democratic Party given his youth and the fact that he did not rise through the ranks of what was once Europe’s largest communist party.
Protesters’ trial begins
Three activists at the forefront of the 2011 uprising went on trial on Sunday over an unlicensed and violent demonstration. After an opening session that lasted almost four hours, the court said it would deliver its verdict on Dec. 22 in a case that has widened opposition to the government beyond the Islamist supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel are the first secular activists to go on trial amid a massive months-long crackdown on Islamists. All three defendants were leading dissidents under former president Hosni Mubarak and supported the military’s overthrow of Morsi.
FARC sets ceasefire
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels on Sunday declared a 30-day unilateral ceasefire and urged the government to do the same, in a surprise move after a deadly bombing blamed on the guerrillas. The announcement, effective on Dec. 15, came in a statement issued in Havana, Cuba, where the FARC and the Bogota government are in talks to end their bloody decades-long conflict.
TV anchor given new post
President Vladimir Putin has appointed a controversial news anchor known for his ultraconservative views to head a newly restructured state news agency. A decree published yesterday on the Kremlin’s Web site announced the appointment of Dmitry Kiselyov to be head of Russia Today, which will replace RIA Novosti in a major structural overhaul of the company. The TV anchor has been known for his controversial and conservative views. In one August episode of his show, he said he believed that the organs of homosexuals were not fit for transplants, and should be burned.
Judge’s decision appealed
Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and Google are blasting a federal judge’s decision in a defamation lawsuit by a former Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader convicted of having sex with her former high school student. The Internet giants recently filed briefs in the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio. The briefs are part of a lawsuit involving ex-Bengals cheerleader Sarah Jones against an Arizona-based Web site thedirty.com. A jury found in July that posts on the site about Jones were substantially false and awarded her US$338,000. The companies say that if upheld, the judge’s ruling in favor of the former cheerleader has the potential to “significantly chill online speech” and undermine a 1996 federal law that provides broad immunity to Web sites.