Arrests made in arson case
Police have detained seven suspects, including a local official and a property developer, in connection with the death of a villager in a land grab case in eastern China, state-backed media reported yesterday. Seizures of land across the country, a major cause of unrest, have been fueled by soaring prices and the government’s urban expansion drive, resulting in often violent clashes between officials and villagers. The 63-year-old villager from Shandong Province was camped out near his farm to protect it from being seized, media reported. He was killed when his tent was set on fire last week. Four arsonists were hired by a property developer and a village official, Legal Daily reported. The seventh person detained was acting as a middleman.
Official reported dead in fall
A top official at the government information department died yesterday after a fall, Chinese Communist Party media reported. Li Wufeng (李伍峰), deputy director of the State Council Information Office “fell to death,” the People’s Daily newspaper reported on its English-language Twitter feed. “Cause is unknown,” it added, without elaborating. Chinese news outlet Caixin also reported the death on its Web site, although the story was later deleted. Li, 56, was appointed to the post in June last year, state media reported at the time, and was previously deputy head of the State Internet Information Office. Little other information on Li, other than basic biographical facts, was immediately available and he did not appear to be a target of any known investigations.
US first lady goes Tibetan
US first lady Michelle Obama has ended her week-long trip to China with a Tibetan theme, having lunch in a Tibetan restaurant and meeting students who presented her with a Tibetan silk scarf and tapping Tibetan prayer wheels. Her staff said the restaurant choice yesterday in Chengdu City in southwest Sichuan Province was in accordance with her interest in the rights of minorities in the nation. Yesterday Obama, her mother and daughters visited pandas at the Chengdu Panda Base. She was to return to the US later yesterday.
‘Insult’ laws to be repealed
Authorities moved on Tuesday to water down its race discrimination laws, saying hurt feelings were inevitable during robust debate and the government would not legislate to protect them. Attorney-General George Brandis said the government planned to repeal a section of the Racial Discrimination Act that makes it illegal to “offend, insult or humiliate another” because of their race. “Laws which are designed to prohibit racial vilification should not be used as a vehicle to attack legitimate freedoms of speech,” he said. Brandis said a new clause would be inserted into the law to ban racial vilification, defined as inciting hatred against racial groups, rather than simply offending them. The change honors an election promise made in the wake of a court case when a conservative newspaper columnist criticized “white Aborigines” who claimed grants and scholarships meant for indigenous Australians. The columnist, Andrew Bolt, was found guilty of racial discrimination when a group of the people targeted in his article took him to court saying they had been offended and insulted. Brandis said it was impossible to discuss difficult issues without occasionally causing offense to those who held a different view.
Boozy bodyguards sent home
Three members of the Secret Service detail that protects President Barack Obama were sent home from Amsterdam for disciplinary reasons, a Secret Service spokesman confirmed on Tuesday. The spokesman, Brian Leary, declined to provide further details. The agents were disciplined after going out for a night of drinking, the Washington Post reported. One of the agents was found drunk and passed out in a hotel hallway a day before the president arrived in Europe, said the Post, which first reported the incident, citing three people familiar with it. None of the agents were supervisors, a Secret Service source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. A report by the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general released in December last year urged tougher management and disciplinary standards and recommended that the service monitor and address excessive alcohol consumption and personal conduct within its workforce.
Rizzo wins chef award
Brazilian chef Helena Rizzo, of the Mani restaurant in Sao Paulo, was on Tuesday named Veuve Clicquot’s World’s Best Female Chef. Rizzo, who last year became the first winner of Veuve Clicquot’s Latin America’s Best Female Chef, is to receive the award at a ceremony in London next month. She takes the award from Italian Nadia Santini, who cooks at the three-Michelin-starred Dal Pecatore in Canneto sull’Oglio, Lombardy. Rizzo apprenticed at Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca, currently rated as the world’s best restaurant. She opened Mani with her husband, chef Daniel Redondo, in 2006. Their speciality is an interpretation of classic Brazilian Maniocas baked and served with a foam tucupi sauce, coconut milk and oil with white truffle.
Guillotine up for auction
A 19th-century guillotine in perfect working order goes up for auction today and is expected to fetch up to 60,000 euros (US$82,000), the auctioneers said. The wood, iron, steel and brass guillotine, synonymous with the 1789 French Revolution, was used to behead people in the second half of the 19th century. It is to be sold in Nantes. It is expected to fetch between 50,000 euros and 60,000 euros auctioneer Francois-Xavier Duflos said. Duflos said the guillotine was used by the army, but he did not elaborate. The guillotine has been in private hands for more than a century and the current owner had it passed down to him from his grandfather, who apparently bought it in the early 20th century. The blade of the guillotine bears the inscription “Armees de la Republique,” a revolutionary force created to defend France from its neighbors after the 1789 French Revolution.
Children freed from pimps
Prosecutors say they have freed two children held by pimps who used their hold over the children to force their mothers into prostitution in the US. The raid announced on Tuesday appears to confirm one of the most chilling allegations about the prostitution trade operated by organized gangs in the center of the country: that some women are forced into sex for hire because they fear their children will be harmed if they attempt escape. The raid occurred last week in the town of Tenancingo. The Attorney General’s Office said the children’s mothers had been forced to prostitute themselves in Texas and New York. An activist familiar with the case said they were girls aged six and nine.