Blast kills 21 miners
A gas explosion at a coal mine in western China has killed 21 workers, an official said yesterday. The miners were earlier reported trapped by the blast in Changji Prefecture in the Xinjiang region early on Friday. Twelve others escaped the explosion. An official at the Xinjiang region’s work safety bureau said that 21 miners were confirmed dead and another one who had been trapped was injured. The official Xinhua news agency reported that the mine had been ordered to suspend production in June to make safety improvements, citing the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety.
Cave ‘records’ tsunamis
Scientists said on Friday they have discovered a cave on Sumatra that provides a “stunning” record of Indian Ocean tsunamis over thousands of years. They say layers of tsunami-born sediments found in the cave in northwest Sumatra suggest the biggest destructive waves do not occur at set intervals — meaning communities in the area should be prepared at all times for a tsunami. “It’s something that communities need to know,” research team leader Charles Rubin said, adding that the team wanted to “promote [the] safety of coastal communities.” Rubin and other researchers from a Singapore institute were working with scientists from an Indonesian university when they discovered the cave south of Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh Province. Only huge tsunamis and storm surges can get into the cave, which has a raised entrance — and afterward, the sediment is protected inside from erosion by wind or water. Rubin said the scientists dated the layers and believe they show that between 2,800 and 3,300 years ago, four or five tsunamis battered the area.
Anti-graft activist indicted
Chinese prosecutors have formally indicted prominent activist Xu Zhiyong (許志永) four months after he was arrested for organizing protests against official corruption, his lawyer said. Xu founded the New Citizen’s Movement, a loose-knit grassroots organization that aimed to promote government transparency, rule of law and education equality. Police arrested about 20 members of the group in a protracted crackdown this spring, after they unfurled banners in Beijing calling for officials to declare their assets. The charge carries a maximum five-year sentence. The trial will likely be held within the next few weeks, his lawyer said.
Mao birthday statue unveiled
A gold and jade statue of Mao Zedong (毛澤東) worth more than US$16 million was unveiled on Friday, in the latest example of Communist China’s indecision over how to commemorate its founding father’s 120th anniversary. The statue, 80cm tall, but weighing more than 50kg, was put on display in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen, China National Radio (CNR) reported. The city was little more than a fishing village a few decades ago, and its booming prosperity epitomizes China’s transformation since the days of Mao’s command economy. The figure depicts the founder of the People’s Republic of China reclining in a chair, legs crossed. A team of 20 artists took eight months to complete the 100 million yuan (US$16.5 million) statue, which is accented with precious stones and rests on a base of white jade, CNR said.
‘Mass grave’ bodies found
Forensic experts have discovered human remains in a suspected mass grave believed to contain the bodies of Kosovo Albanians killed during the 1998-1999 war, officials said on Friday. The site has been searched over three years, since war crimes prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic announced in May 2010 that his team and an EU mission had uncovered the grave there. At the time, Vukcevic said it was believed that the grave contains the bodies of about 250 Kosovar Albanians and that it could be the largest mass grave found in the country. It is one of the sites where forces under then-president Slobodan Milosevic moved civilian remains from Kosovo at the end of the war and reburied them in the country in a bid to hide war crimes. More than 800 bodies of Kosovar Albanians were exhumed from three mass grave uncovered throughout the country in 2001.
Arsons hit ex-PM’s home
An incendiary device exploded outside the vacation home of former prime minister Costas Simitis on Friday, damaging the front of the building, but causing no injuries. Simitis, now 77, was prime minister from 1996 to 2004. On Monday, he made a rare public appearance in central Athens to endorse an initiative aimed at forming alliances among center-left parties, after support for Pasok was decimated by harsh bailout policies. In a separate incident late Friday, police said a group of about 40 youths attacked a police station, hurling firebombs that burned several cars in an area of central Athens.
Bomb explodes in Belfast
A bomb exploded in Belfast in a different location to the one given in a telephone warning, in what Britain’s Northern Ireland minister called a “reckless attack.” The call to a Belfast newsroom claimed the device had been left at a hotel, forcing the evacuation of the Northern Irish capital’s bustling Cathedral Quarter, packed with pre-Christmas revelers. However, the device went off elsewhere in the district just before 7pm on Friday. There were no reports of any injuries.
‘Jew-burning’ carol outrages
The country faced mounting outrage on Friday after a traditional choir performed a Christmas carol on public television that indirectly glorified the Holocaust and said Jews should be burned in a chimney. The song, shown on the country’s new TVR3 channel on Dec. 6, drew strong condemnation from religious groups and the US embassy in Bucharest. The government has also distanced itself from the controversial broadcast. The century-old carol, performed by a folk group in the northwestern Cluj region, features lyrics that use the pejorative term jidovi for Jews and includes a line that says Jews are good “only in the chimney, only in smoke.”
Mafia boss’ family arrested
Police on Friday issued 30 arrest warrants for suspects linked to Matteo Messina Denaro, the fugitive head of the Sicilian Mafia, including a sister who allegedly ran the criminal business on his behalf. Police said they had arrested some of the suspects in raids in the region around Trapani in western Sicily, which is Messina Denaro’s power base. Those arrested included two justice ministry employees accused of helping a firm linked to Messina Denaro win a contract to install security systems in a Palermo prison where many mafia bosses are held. Three of Messina Denaro’s cousins and a nephew were also targeted.