Shouting "referendum now," caravans of opposition supporters drove through the streets of Caracas early yesterday as they opened a renewed drive to push for a recall vote on President Hugo Chavez's rule. \nFireworks burst over the city with thunderous booms sending bright red, white and green flashes across the dark sky shortly after midnight. \nThe caravans of Chavez opponents, blowing whistles, waving Venezuelan flags and banging pots and pans, were met by tens of thousands who jammed a central highway to show their support for the possible plebiscite. \nOthers gathered in neighborhood plazas or roamed the streets -- walking, biking or skateboarding -- to protest Chavez's continued rule. The smell of spent fireworks filled the air. \n"His time has come. I know the referendum won't happen soon, but when it does I'm sure it will mean the end of Chavez's government," said Henrique Diaz, 47, an unemployed accountant who brought his two teenage sons to the highway demonstration. \nThe opposition, which failed to drive Chavez out of power in a two-month strike earlier this year, called the rallies to mark the midpoint of Chavez's six-year term -- the day when opponents can officially demand a vote on his rule. \nOpposition leaders planned to turn in 2.7 million signatures demanding the referendum while sympathizers staged another street march later yesterday. \nThe government organized its own rally in the capital Tuesday to commemorate Chavez's re-election three years ago. \nSoldiers held a bargain food market, doctors offered free checkups and folk music boomed from loudspeakers in the central Avenida Bolivar. People crowded around booths promoting government social programs like "Inside the Barrio," which uses Cuban doctors to attend the inhabitants of city slums. \n"This is a government that ends its third year battling for and with the people," said Chavez, speaking to a crowd Tuesday evening in Argentina, where he was for an official visit. His speech was broadcast on national television in Venezuela. \nThe Supreme Court is slated to appoint an elections authority by Aug. 24 -- then signatures must be verified, voter rolls updated and hundreds of regional election officials chosen. \nAfter a failed coup in April last year and an unsuccessful two-month general strike earlier this year, frustrated Chavez foes are pinning their hopes on the referendum. Otherwise, the next scheduled presidential election is in 2006. \nThe Organization of American States has endorsed the vote as peaceful solution to a political crisis that has dangerously divided the world's No. 5 oil exporter. \nCritics accuse Chavez, who was elected in 1998 and re-elected in 2000, of failing to deliver on his promises to bring in economic prosperity and put an end to rampant corruption. \nChavez claims the opposition is controlled by a powerful "oligarchy," which has hurt his efforts to empower the nation's poor majority. He often cites the strike, which cost an estimated US$7.5 billion, as an example.
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
A Malaysian student whose cellphone was stolen while he was sleeping has tracked down the culprit: a monkey who took photo and video selfies with the device before abandoning it. Zackrydz Rodzi, 20, on Wednesday said that his mobile phone was missing from his bedroom when he woke up on Saturday. He found the phone’s casing under his bed, but there was no sign of robbery in his house in Johor state. JUNGLE When his father saw a monkey the next day, he searched in the jungle behind his house. Using his brother’s cellphone to call his own device, he found it covered
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after