Former CCP official jailed
A former county-level Chinese Communist Party official has been jailed for life for misusing social security funds and taking bribes, a Hong Kong newspaper reported yesterday. On Thursday, a court in Hubei Province passed sentence on Yang Zhengfa, former deputy party chief of Gongan County, the Ming Pao daily said. He had been convicted of misusing 25 million yuan (US$3.2 million) in social security funds for stock purchases, diverting 3.9 million yuan from other public funds and taking bribes, the report said.
Court sentences butcher
A court in the northeast has sentenced to death a local butcher convicted of murdering 12 of his customers and wounding five others, state press reported Sunday. Shi Yuejun (石悅軍) was sentenced to death by an intermediate court in Tonghua, Jilin Province on Saturday, the Legal Daily reported. Shi committed the murders from Sept. 24 to Sept. 29 in a series of knifings that occurred in or around Liunan Township, the paper said.
Mars mission planned
Space scientists plan to send an unmanned mission to Mars by 2013 to look for evidence of life, a news report said yesterday. The six-to-eight-month mission, likely to be launched in the next seven years, would cost 3 billion rupees (US$67 million), the Hindustan Times reported. "Mars is emerging on our horizon. The geo-stationary launch vehicle can take a payload to Mars and our Deep Space Network can track it all the way," G. Madhavan Nair, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, told the newspaper.
Mine blasts kill 53
Explosions in two coal mines have left at least 53 workers dead and six missing, the official Xinhua news agency said yesterday. The first occurred on Saturday in the Yuanhua Coal Mine in Jixi in Heilongjiang Province. By yesterday, the remains of 21 miners had been found, while six miners were still missing, Xinhua said. In Yunnan, the death toll from a gas explosion in a shaft in Fuyuan County rose overnight from 20 to at least 32 miners.
Churches pray for rain
Churches held a national day of prayer for rain yesterday, as the worst drought in living memory tightened its grip on the parched land. Christian leaders throughout the country led the special prayers in solidarity with farmers whose crops and livestock have been devastated by the "big dry."
Passenger ferry capsizes
Maritime officials were investigating yesterday after a small wooden passenger ferry, MV Leonida II, which left the port of Surigao City on the northern tip of Mindanao island on Saturday and was en route to a nearby island, capsized. The Office of Civil Defense said 14 passengers drowned, while 58 others were rescued. It was not clear why the boat capsized.
Raid on banned sect
Religious affairs officers in the central state of Selangor detained 100 people in a raid on a meeting of a group trying to revive a banned Islamic sect. The officials made the raid on Saturday in Shah Alam, near Kuala Lumpur. Rahman said the group was seeking to spread the teachings of the Al-Arqam sect, outlawed in 1994 for allegedly promoting deviant Islamic beliefs.
■ United Kingdom
Protestant militant charged
A Protestant militant was charged with attempted murder on Saturday, a day after being arrested in an attack on Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, leaders of the main Roman Catholic party Sinn Fein, as they and other legislators worked toward a power-sharing agreement to restore local rule to Northern Ireland. The militant, Michael Stone, who was released from prison six years ago after serving time for some of the most high-profile sectarian killings at the height of Northern Ireland's conflict, attacked the main entrance to the provincial Assembly, carrying an imitation gun and a bag of homemade pipe bombs.
■ United States
Missing woman found
A woman's body was found wedged upside-down behind a bookcase in the New Port Richey, Florida, home she shared with relatives who had spent nearly two weeks looking for her. A spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said Mariesa Weber's death was not suspicious. On Nov. 9, Weber's sister went into her bedroom and looked behind a bookcase, where she saw the woman. Both Weber and her sister had previously adjusted the television plug by standing on a bureau next to the shelf and leaning over the top. Her family believes Weber may have fallen headfirst.
Military center retaken
Government armed forces retook control of the eastern military center of Abeche yesterday after rebels who took the town a day earlier fled, Defense Minister Bichara Issa Djadallah said. "Abeche has been taken in its totality ... The rebels fled at 4am this morning," Djadallah said in the capital N'Djamena. Rebels of the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development (UFDD) overran Abeche, 160km from the border with Sudan, in an attack early on Saturday, when government forces said they withdrew from the town to avoid civilian casualties. Abeche is the center of a massive aid effort to help some 200,000 Sudanese who have fled to camps in eastern Chad to escape violence at home in Darfur.
Shiites prosper at polls
The Shiite opposition, which had boycotted the 2002 legislatives, grabbed over 40 percent of the parliament seats in Saturday's polls, amid a high turnout, an official said yesterday. Sixteen out of 17 candidates fielded by the Islamic National Accord Association (INAA) -- the main formation of the Shiite majority -- won, with turnout estimated at 72 percent, he said, requesting anonymity. The result, which was expected to be confirmed by the kingdom's justice minister later yesterday, would give the INAA control over 40 percent of the 40-member parliament. The 17th INAA candidate will go into the second round scheduled for Saturday for not receiving enough votes.
French ambassador leaves
France's ambassador left the country on Saturday after the government severed ties with Paris in a major row over events that sparked the 1994 genocide. The ambassador left Kigali for Brussels after being accompanied to the airport by Western diplomats posted to the capital. Other French diplomats also prepared to quit the country, facing an expulsion order that gives them until today to leave.
Al-Qaeda members killed
The head of a tribal council in Anbar Province said yesterday that tribesmen had killed 55 al-Qaeda fighters in a battle on Saturday, but the US military could not confirm the figures. The death toll, if confirmed, would mark an unusually fierce clash with insurgents in a province where US forces regularly battle foreign fighters they say are linked to al-Qaeda and other Sunni insurgents. The US military said in a statement it had launched air strikes and fired artillery to help a tribe in the town of Sofia after an attack by al-Qaeda.
Santa smugglers arrested
Police on Saturday arrested two men molding figurines of Santa Claus out of cocaine for smuggling to the US and Europe in time for the holiday season. The market-savvy artisans also cast festive cups, place mats and other Christmas decorations from the same gelatinous mix, which when dried, looks like plastic, the nation's intelligence police service, DAS, said in a statement. The lab was found in Tolima Province 130km from Bogota. Officials said that this year would be a banner year for cocaine seizures, after 776 tonnes last year, according to the country's drug czar.
Housing rights asserted
The head of Mexico City's Human Rights Commission said on Saturday that government-supported apartments measuring as little as 35m2 violate human rights. Such tiny apartments -- about one-seventh the size of an average US home -- are too small to allow a family to live decently and foment domestic violence, said Emilio Alvarez, president of the government-funded commission. "The design of public policies based on these standards violates people's most fundamental rights to housing," said Alvarez, who criticized apartments measuring up to 45m2. He said that packing families into such apartments contributed to domestic violence, especially in poorer neighborhoods.
Oaxaca violence flares again
Protesters shot fireworks at riot police and burned down government buildings in the colonial city of Oaxaca on Saturday, days before president-elect Felipe Calderon was to take office. At least nine of the demonstrators, who are demanding the resignation of Governor Ulises Ruiz, were injured in skirmishes with police wearing body armor and lobbing tear gas, a government news agency said. Other protesters threw gasoline bombs into at least four government buildings, including a museum and court, starting blazes that spread to nearby shops. Oaxaca has been in chaos for the last six months because of protests by striking teachers.
■ Saudi Arabia
Cheney talks to king
US Vice President Dick Cheney held talks with King Abdullah on Saturday during a brief visit to the kingdom in a new diplomatic thrust by Washington. The Saudi official SPA news agency said the discussions covered "the whole range of events and developments on the regional and international scenes." The talks focused chiefly on "the Palestinian issue and the situation in Iraq," in addition to ways of boosting cooperation between the US and the kingdom, it said. The meeting was attended by Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz and other top Saudi leaders, but no further details of the talks were immediately available.
‘SPIKES’: Rudy Giuliani at a hearing asked about voting data in Pennsylvania, with a witness saying that 570,000 votes they selected were for Biden and 3,200 for Trump US president-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday said that Americans “won’t stand” for attempts to derail the US election outcome, as US President Donald Trump called for results to be overturned. Biden said in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, that Americans “have full and fair and free elections, and then we honor the results.” “The people of this nation and the laws of the land won’t stand for anything else,” he said. However, Trump is challenging the results, with lawsuits under way in several states. “We have to turn the election over,” he told a hearing in Pennsylvania. “This election was rigged.” “All we need is
‘POLICE EVERYWHERE’: A law that would criminalize the publication of images of police officers was passed by the National Assembly and awaits Senate approval Violent clashes erupted in Paris on Saturday as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against new security legislation, with tensions intensified by the police beating and racial abuse of a black man that shocked France. Several fires were started in Paris, sending acrid smoke into the air, as protesters vented their anger against the security law, which would restrict the publication of police officers’ faces. About 46,000 people marched in Paris and 133,000 in total nationwide, the French Ministry of the Interior said. Protest organizers said about 500,000 joined nationwide, including 200,000 in the capital. French President Emmanuel Macron late
A CAUTIONARY TALE: Bookseller Lam Wing-kee speaks of the danger that his adopted home Taiwan now faces and the ordeal of his detention in China Lam Wing-kee (林榮基) leaned forward in his chair, answering quickly and sharply to issue a warning to the people of his new home, Taiwan. “Be ready now,” Lam said. “We should be more alert as citizens, we should get ready,” the 64-year-old Hong Konger said. “If they can take Hong Kong back, the next place, I feel, is Taiwan.” Late in Taipei at Causeway Bay Books Mark II, on the 10th floor of a nondescript building, Lam, a wiry, gray-haired bookseller, was sitting at his desk with a bemused gaze behind thin oval glasses. The desk was neat, but crowded with books and a
Not enough beds and not enough doctors: a skyrocketing COVID-19 caseload is pushing hospitals in the Balkans to the cusp of collapse, in chaotic scenes reminding some medics of the region’s 1990s wars. After nearly a year of keeping outbreaks more or less under control, the nightmare scenario that the Balkans feared from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is now starting to unfold. In hard-hit Bosnia-Herzegovina, one doctor described the distress of having to juggle the care of multiple patients whose lives were hanging by a thread. “The situation reminds me of the war, and I’m afraid it could get even worse