Australia has bought back more than 50,000 sheep stranded at sea since Saudi Arabia rejected them on health grounds more than a month ago and will bring them home if last-ditch talks to unload them fail. \nAgriculture Minister Warren Truss said on Tuesday Australia had agreed to pay the Saudi owner US$3.1 million for the sheep. \n"The ship is taking on new supplies of food and water in the next day or two and, once that process is complete, if we haven't got a satisfactory outcome to the commercial negotiations, we will look very seriously at bringing the ship home," Truss said. \nAnimal rights groups have called for the immediate slaughter of the sheep and a ban on Australia's A$1-billion-a-year (US$0.68 billion) live trade, but Truss said that killing the sheep at sea was not an option. \nHe said that the sheep were bought back after the British Army had said it wanted to distribute them throughout southern Iraq. \n"Subsequently the British reconsidered their position and their concerns about the use of their resources for purposes other than security led them to the view that they were reluctant to continue with that arrangement," Truss said. \nBut he added that Australian officials were continuing negotiations with the British Army in Iraq and had a team of experienced stockmen ready to assist with any unloading arrangements that might be reached. \nTruss said negotiations were also still continuing with other countries to offload the sheep, and discussions had taken place and offers been received from buyers in Africa, the Gulf, Europe and South America. \nTruss said Afghanistan had accepted the sheep, but the animals were denied access to pass through Iran. He said Egypt had indicated it was unlikely to let the ship go through the Suez Canal, ruling out countries in Europe and North Africa. \nSaudi Arabia refused to accept the sheep on Aug. 28 because of what it said was an unacceptably high incidence of scabby mouth.
‘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
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big