Ai invites Xi to Berlin show
Dissident artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) said he hopes President Xi Jinping (習近平) makes time to see his exhibition during a visit to Germany this month. “It would be good if the president found the time to go visit the exhibition. He would see how a man of the same age as him and from the same background can become a totally different person,” Ai told the Suddeutsche Zeitung daily in an interview published on Saturday. Xi is due to pass through Berlin at the end of this month as part of a European tour that runs from Saturday to April 1, with the largest-ever exhibition of Ai’s work about to open at Berlin’s Martin-Gropius Bau hall. The artist is unable to attend as his passport was confiscated in 2011 following a nearly three-month detention. “We both belong to what is known as the ‘second red’ generation. Our parents were the generation that founded communism. In fact, his father and my father were good friends,” Ai said. “I would very much like to meet him one time, to discuss privately, so I can understand some of these things that have been puzzling me. We grew up, both of us, during the Cultural Revolution. We are products of that system. Why did I become so different?”
Man held for defiling books
Police on Friday arrested a man for allegedly tearing pages out of books related to Anne Frank at a Tokyo library. More than 300 books related to the Holocaust victim, including The Diary of a Young Girl, have been found vandalized recently at libraries across the capital. Tokyo police said the man, 36, sneaked into a library on Feb. 5 and ripped pages from 23 Frank-related books, including at least one copy of the diary. Some of the ripped pages were found in a plastic bag at an unidentified house in the city. Police said the suspect admitted to ripping the pages out of the books, but that his motive was unclear.
Nuclear sabotage reported
Authorities detected sabotage at the nation’s heavy water reactor facility and neutralized it before any damage was done, Atomic Energy Organization official Asghar Zarean was quoted as saying by the semi-official FARS news agency on Saturday. Zarean, a senior official in charge of nuclear security, said that the nation’s intelligence agencies were instrumental in uncovering the plot, but did not provide further details. “Several cases of industrial sabotage have been neutralized in the past few months before achieving the intended damage, including sabotage at a part of the IR-40 facility at Arak,” he said in a statement issued by the organization.
Several killed in stampede
At least seven people were killed and dozens injured in Abuja after thousands of panicked job-seekers stampeded at a government recruitment drive in Abuja Stadium on Saturday. Survivors told reporters that thousands had gathered to apply for jobs with the Department of Immigration, with one witness saying the stampede broke out as applicants surged toward a central stage and others saying that only one entrance to the 60,000-capacity venue was open. It was unclear how many people were inside at the time of the crush. “The immigration service was having a recruitment exercise at the stadium ... there was a stampede and they brought the victims to the national hospital,” hospital spokesman Tayo Haastrup said. No official casualty list was given, but a journalist on the scene counted seven dead and dozens injured.
Obama skit has 15m hits
President Barack Obama’s appearance on the Between Two Ferns satirical online talk show last week is at 15 million views — almost at Justin Bieber levels. The Web site Funny or Die on Friday said that Obama’s interview with Zach Galfianakis, posted on Tuesday, will likely beat Bieber’s record of 17.8 million views for the show. Funny or Die chief executive Dick Glover called the appearance a key moment for the Internet, much like former president Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats for radio and the Kennedy-Nixon debate for TV. Obama told Ryan Seacrest in an interview on Friday that he figured he had reached his target audience of young people with a healthcare message when his daughter Malia was excited to hear he had taped the appearance with Galfianakis.
David Brenner dies at 78
A spokesman for the family of comedian David Brenner says the Tonight Show favorite has died. He was 78. Brenner died on Saturday afternoon at his home in New York City, said Jeff Abraham, who was Brenner’s publicist. The gangly, toothy Brenner made more than 150 appearances as a guest and substitute host on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, starting in the 1970s. His Tonight exposure turned the former documentary filmmaker into a hot comedian. Brenner was a regular on other TV talk shows and game shows and starred in four HBO comedy specials. He also briefly hosted his own syndicated talk show in 1987. Brenner continued to work steadily doing standup shows.
Magnitude 6.3 quake strikes
A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the northwest of the country near its border with Ecuador on Saturday, the US Geological Survey (USGS) reported. The National Civil Defense Institute said it had not received reports of serious damage or injuries, and authorities did not issue a tsunami alert. The quake struck at 6:51pm. Its epicenter was 45km south-southwest of Piura and it occurred at a depth of 9.8km, the USGS said. Brazilian construction company Odebrecht SA said its US$700 million irrigation project in the area was unaffected. Still, the quake jolted the northern coastal region, with local media reporting that some people ran into the street after the tremor, fearing their homes could cave in. A witness on local radio RPP said the cross on the dome of a local church fell off. The quake was also felt in parts of Ecuador, according to newspaper El Comercio.
Cao’s death ‘disturbing’
The government on Saturday offered condolences to the family of a Chinese activist who died while in detention and urged Beijing to respect human rights. “The United States is deeply disturbed by reports that rights activist Cao Shunli (曹順利) has passed away at a hospital in Beijing. We offer our condolences to her family,” a statement from Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Rights groups said Cao died on Friday after falling critically ill in police detention, where she was at first denied treatment. She had joined a rare protest outside the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in June last year to demand greater participation in the UN’s review of human rights in China, Amnesty International said. Cao was set to travel to Switzerland for a UN Human Rights Council review in September last year, but police detained her at Beijing’s international airport. She became seriously ill and her condition worsened after she was refused medical care, her lawyer said.