Shandong leader fired
The second most-powerful figure in Shandong Province has been fired for serious misconduct, state media announced yesterday, amid a crackdown on corruption. The deputy party secretary of Shandong was dismissed because he committed a "serious discipline violation," the Xinhua news agency and state television said. They didn't give any details, but such language usually is used to describe embezzlement, extortion or other graft.
HK fishermen arrested
Thirty fishermen from Hong Kong have been arrested poaching off a protected marine reserve, the navy said yesterday. The men were aboard the vessel Hoi Wan, intercepted on Thursday by security forces off Palawan island. Officials will later determine whether the men will be fined, jailed or repatriated immediately. The ill-equipped coast guard and navy has struggled to protect the vast coast area. In October maritime forces arrested 24 Chinese illegally fishing and in March, 17 Chinese poachers were deported after spending one year in jail.
One-tier tax debated
Lawmakers yesterday considered a draft law that would impose a 25 percent income tax on both domestic and foreign firms to end the preferential rate for overseas firms, state media said. The tax bill was unveiled to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress -- the top legislature -- at the start of a week-long session due to end on Friday, Xinhua news agency said. Domestic companies are currently taxed at a rate of 24 percent on average. Foreign firms only pay about 14 percent, which local firms have complained about in the face of hard competition.
Police find weapons cache
Police in the north of the country found a weapons cache on Saturday that allegedly belonged to the Basque separatist group ETA, officials said. Police said they found 50kg of chemical substances to make explosives; detonators; clothes and a tent. The items were recovered from an underground cache in a wooded area near the Basque town of Amorebieta. Investigators said it had only been built two or three days ago. Another arms cache was found by police in Itxaso, but this one seemed to have been abandoned four years ago, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
■ Burkina Faso
Prisoners flee jail en masse
About 600 prisoners are on the run after escaping during fighting between soldiers and policemen earlier this week, officials said. The head of the main prison in the capital, Ouagadougou, said the prisoners escaped on Wednesday when soldiers battling with police attacked the gates of the prison. The Ouagadougou prison holds about 1,200 prisoners in all and a spokesman said none of those who escaped were dangerous criminals, who are kept in more secure cells. He said most of the escapees had been convicted of small-time thievery or forgery. The firefights between soldiers and police were sparked by a police killing of a soldier on Tuesday.
■ United Kingdom
Domestic flights resume
Tens of thousands of passengers headed home for their Christmas holidays on Saturday after three days of chaos at airports caused by fog. By mid-afternoon the fog had largely lifted. British Airways (BA), which has suffered the bulk of the cancellations, resumed all domestic flights from London's Heathrow airport at midday. BA said it hoped to run 95 percent of services on Saturday and a full service yesterday.
Court confirms vote result
The nation's top court officially declared President Marc Ravalomanana to be the legitimate winner of this month's elections and rejected complaints from his rivals that the ballot was flawed. On Saturday the Constitutional High Court said that Ravalomanana won 54.8 percent of the vote, with his closest rival, Lahiniriko Jean, getting just 11.7 percent. Nine senior judges, led by court president Jean-Michel Rajaonarivony, told journalists that they had rejected requests from nine candidates for a rerun of the elections and for the disqualification of the president for breaching the electoral code. Jean had accused the president of campaigning outside the official dates and closing schools without proper authorization to increase the numbers at his rallies.
Prince not poisoned
Preliminary forensic tests conducted on the body of 14th century Prince Sancho de Castilla say the seven-year-old died of natural causes and not poisoning, a newspaper reported on Saturday. For centuries, historians suspected his uncle Enrique killed Sancho to inherit the throne of Castilla. However, recent tests by the Universities of Granada and Alcala de Henares and Barcelona's Clinico Hospital found no traces of cyanide or arsenic, El Pais reported. Instead, the preliminary tests indicated that the young prince may have died of a lung infection after chronic exposure to smoke, likely to have come from a fireplace.
■ United States
Arnold breaks a leg
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger broke his leg while skiing with his family, a spokesman said. Schwarzenegger was taken to a hospital for X-rays and was discharged with a fracture to his right femur following the accident on Saturday morning, said Adam Mendelsohn, the governor's deputy chief of staff for communications. He will have surgery to repair the bone when he returns to Los Angeles, Mendelsohn said. The governor remained at his Sun Valley, Idaho, home on Saturday night and still planned to spend Christmas there. No one else was involved in the accident, Mendelsohn said.
■ United States
New York DJ killed
A popular hip-hop disc jockey died on Saturday after being shot at least 13 times earlier this month, police said. Carl Blaze, born Carlos Rivera, was shot outside an apartment building near Manhattan's Inwood section on Dec. 7, and his US$20,000 diamond chain stolen, police said. He was taken to Harlem Hospital Center, where he died on Saturday. Blaze, 30, was a DJ for hip-hop and R&B radio station Power 105.1 FM for about three years. He had gained a large fan base by spinning records at clubs and on the air on Friday and Saturday nights. Power 105.1 FM held a tribute for Blaze on Saturday night.
■ United States
Tumbleweeds take over town
The blizzard that dumped up to 1.2m of snow in Colorado's mountains brought a different force of nature to Front Range town: tumbleweeds that piled up to 6m high. "I couldn't see out the kitchen window, and it's on the second story," said Lisa Jackson, a local resident who lives near the Pueblo West golf course. She and her husband were still trying to dig out from the tightly packed weeds on Friday. Neighbor Michelle Peulen drove through the tumbleweed storm on Wednesday. "It was like being in a weird video game, dodging the tumbleweeds," she said.
■ United States
Trump sues over flag citation
Donald Trump is suing the local administration in Palm Beach, Florida, for US$10 million after being cited for flying an oversized US flag over his Mar-a-Lago Club. Attorneys for the club filed a complaint on Thursday, saying that flying the flag is a constitutionally protected expression of free speech -- and that the large flag is a proper match for the size of the real-estate mogul's patriotism. Town officials said Trump violated zoning codes when the lavish club hoisted a 4.5m-by-7.5m flag atop a 24m pole on Oct. 3. The citation was for having a flagpole taller than 12.6m, for not obtaining a building permit and for not getting permission from the landmarks board.
■ United States
Legislator admits Castro threat
A Florida congresswoman acknowledged calling for Cuban President Fidel Castro's assassination after earlier claiming a video clip of her making the comments was fake. Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said on Saturday she has not seen the unedited footage of her interview, which appears in a 28-second clip on the Internet by the makers of a new British documentary, 638 Ways to Kill Castro. In it, she says: "I welcome the opportunity of having anyone assassinate Fidel Castro and any leader who is oppressing the people." Earlier this month, the Havana-born lawmaker said filmmakers spliced clips together to make the sound bite.
Australian scientists have raised questions over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in establishing herd immunity, calling for a pause on its widespread rollout as the country recorded one new case of the virus yesterday. Opposition to the vaccine casts a cloud over Australia’s immunization plans, with 53 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab already on hand. “The question is really whether it is able to provide herd immunity. We are playing a long game here. We don’t know how long that will take,” Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology president Stephen Turner said. Turner added
A racing pigeon has survived an extraordinary 13,000km Pacific Ocean crossing from the US to find a new home in Australia. Now authorities consider the bird a quarantine risk and plan to kill it. Kevin Celli-Bird yesterday said he discovered that the exhausted bird that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 last year had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on Oct. 29. Experts suspect the pigeon that Celli-Bird has named Joe — after US president-elect Joe Biden — hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific. Joe’s feat has attracted the attention
China has possibly committed “genocide” in its treatment of Uighurs and other minority Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China said in a report on Thursday. The bipartisan commission said that new evidence had last year emerged that “crimes against humanity — and possibly genocide — are occurring” in Xinjiang. It also accused China of harassing Uighurs in the US. China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills, which others have called concentration camps. The UN says that
The Polish Supreme Court on Friday quashed a lower court’s green light for the extradition of a businessman to China for alleged fraud, a charge he has denied, saying that he is being targeted for supporting Falun Gong. Polish authorities took Chinese-born Swedish citizen Li Zhihui, now 53, into custody in 2019 on an international warrant issued by China for alleged non-payment in a business deal, Krzysztof Kitajgrodzki, his Polish lawyer, told reporters. Following the Supreme Court ruling, the case would return to a lower appellate court for review. Kitajgrodzki told reporters that it was still not a given that his client