Ex-president’s son promoted
Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) on Monday promoted the son of ousted former president Liu Shaoqi (劉少奇) to the rank of general, state media reported. Liu Yuan (劉源), 59, was named by Hu as a full general and the vice chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army during a ceremony in Beijing, China Central Television reported. Liu Shaoqi was ousted as president during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution, disappeared from public life in 1968 and died in a prison a year later. The elder Liu was once a comrade in arms with revolutionary leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東), but a power struggle between the two led to his fall. He was “rehabilitated” after Mao died in 1976.
Ban to visit PRC, Mongolia
UN chief Ban Ki-moon will depart today for visits to China and Mongolia, his press office said on Monday. In China, where according the Chinese foreign ministry he will arrive tomorrow, Ban will take part in climate change events, including a “Green Light” event focused on energy efficient technologies and the extensive production and use of energy saving lamps. UN deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said that Ban was scheduled to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) and other officials on Friday and Saturday. The talks are also to focus on other global issues, including North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. After his China visit, Ban will visit to Mongolia from Sunday to address the challenges of climate change and adaptation, Okabe said.
Four dead in mudslides
A series of mudslides sparked by torrential rains killed at least four people and left five others missing in the western prefecture of Yamaguchi yesterday, media reports said. A nursing home for the elderly in Hofu city was hit by a landslide, prompting the military to send a rescue unit there, Jiji and Kyodo news agencies said.
Police seize 19,000 guns
Police have confiscated 19,000 guns and 500 tonnes of explosives in a crackdown on illegal firearms ahead of the nation’s 60th anniversary of communist rule, state media said on Monday. More than 5,200 suspects have been arrested in connection with the crackdown that began in March and will continue up to China’s Oct. 1 National Day celebration, Xinhua news agency said. Police also confiscated 1.47 million detonators, 800,000 bullets and 39,000 imitation guns, the report said.
Man ‘chopped up teen’
A man accused of chopping up a 16-year-old girl and flushing her body parts down a toilet claimed he was so dazed by drugs that he had no memory of killing her, a newspaper report said yesterday. Ting Kai-tai, 24, told police he could only remember that he had gripped the girl’s neck for “one or two minutes” as they played “vigorously” in bed, the South China Morning Post said. In a police interview read on Monday at the opening of Ting’s murder trial, Ting admitted taking ecstasy and ketamine the night before meeting the girl. He told police he woke up to find Wong Ka-miu lying dead on the bed. He told police he then dismembered Wong’s body and flushed the pieces down the toilet. He also said he beheaded the teenager and dumped her head into the sea. Ting and Wong met on a Web site specializing in compensated dating, a euphemism for prostitution.
Nun fined for mercy dash
In a country where speeding is a national sport, traffic police are used to hearing the most colorful of excuses from drivers. But the patrol that pulled over a Ford Fiesta on Friday doing 180kph was surprised to find at the wheel a 56-year-old nun who claimed she needed to be at the pope’s side after the pontiff lost his balance in the bathroom and broke his wrist. In the back were two fellow Salesian nuns, aged 65 and 78, who had jumped in the car in Turin when news broke of Pope Benedict’s fall near Aosta, where he is spending his summer holiday. “The police were shocked to find three nuns of a certain age in the Fiesta,” confessed the nun, named only as AM. “But we were afraid of getting there late. I know you shouldn’t go so fast, but the news of his Holiness’s injury had made us truly anxious.” Police suspended the nun’s license and fined her 375 euros (US$533).
Mayor, son parade as Nazis
A city mayor outraged Jewish and pro-democracy groups after he goose-stepped with his son in World War II German uniforms during a weekend fashion show. Wearing Nazi uniform is illegal in the country, which denied participating in the Holocaust until 2004 when it accepted the findings of international commission that Romanian authorities killed up to 380,000 Jews in territories under their control. The Center for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism sent a letter on Monday to the general prosecutor urging an investigation of Radu Mazare, 41, mayor of Black Sea city port Constanta, for breaking the law and instigating a child to follow his example. Mazare said the uniform had no swastikas and was the uniform of a German infantry general and nothing to do with the SS.
Lost letter reunites couple
A British man and his Spanish former sweetheart were finally married 16 years after drifting apart, reunited by a love letter lost behind a fireplace for more than a decade, the Herald Express said on Monday. Steve Smith and Carmen Ruiz-Perez, both 42, fell in love 17 years ago when she was a foreign exchange student in Brixham, England, but their relationship ended after she moved to France to run a shop in Paris. A few years later, in a bid to rekindle their love, Smith sent a letter to her mother’s home in Spain. It was placed on the mantelpiece, but slipped down behind the fireplace and was lost for more than a decade. The missing missive was only found when builders removed the fireplace during renovation work. When they were reunited, it was as if time had stood still, said Smith, a factory supervisor. “When we met again it was like a film. We ran across the airport into each other’s arms. We met up and fell in love all over again. Within 30 seconds of setting eyes on each other we were kissing,” he said. The couple were married on Friday.
Gang matriarch indicted
The matriarch of Melbourne’s most notorious gangster family has been charged with murder over a daylight hit on her brother-in-law last month, police said on Monday. Victoria state police charged Judy Moran, 64, with murdering Desmond “Tuppence” Moran, a former underworld enforcer who was gunned down in a suburban cafe. Police added they had also charged Suzanne Kane, girlfriend of “Tuppence’s” alleged killer, Geoffrey “Nuts” Amour, with murder. Both women had previously been charged as accessories in the killing.
Royal Ballet catches H1N1
Five members of Britain’s Royal Ballet came down with the swine flu virus during their recently finished visit to Havana, but all have recovered, a spokeswoman for the dance company said on Monday. Tests confirmed the dancers had A(H1N1). Afterward, they were isolated and given flu medicine that the troupe had brought along on its first trip to Havana, spokeswoman Elizabeth Bell said. The outbreak forced some personnel shuffling among the 96 dancers, but performances went ahead as scheduled.
Canadian faces sex charges
A Canadian citizen is facing charges in New Jersey that he helped arrange trips to Thailand for adults who paid to have sex with children. John Wrenshall has been extradited from London, where he was arrested in December. The 62-year-old Wrenshall faces three charges related to sex tourism and more than a dozen child pornography counts. The sex tourism charges carry a maximum sentence of 15 years each. The child pornography counts range from 10 years to 15 years.
Robbers trigger zoo panic
An armed gang of 15 robbers triggered panic at a crowded zoo on the weekend, leading to a gunfight with police that left one of the criminals dead, media reported on Monday. The gang entered the zoo in Sao Paulo on Sunday, pretending to be ordinary visitors and paying the entrance fee. They then converged on a secure zone and stole 100,000 reais (US$50,000) after bundling up the personnel. As they ran out, one of the robbers fired a shot, sending many of the 18,000 people visiting the zoo running for safety and alerting police. Most of the gang escaped using waiting cars and motorbikes, but they left their trigger-happy colleague behind. He jumped on a bus with 50 passengers but was stopped by police. He was killed in an exchange of gunfire that destroyed the vehicle.
Huge reward offered
The Department of State offered up to US$50 million on Monday for information leading to the arrests of 10 top Mexican drug suspects accused of key roles in a violent organization estimated to have imported more than US$1 billion in drugs. Attorney Benton Campbell said the reward money and new federal charges were among efforts to dismantle a powerful drug trafficking organization known as The Company, whose members came from an elite security force called Los Zetas. The only name on an indictment unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn was Miguel Trevino-Morales, a fugitive charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise, international cocaine distribution and firearms violations. The indictment also sought the forfeiture of US$1 billion in drug proceeds.
Rights group wants probe
The government should launch a probe into controversial interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a leading rights group said on Monday. The letter from Human Rights Watch calling for an investigation was sent to Attorney General Eric Holder after Newsweek magazine reported that he was mulling the appointment of a criminal prosecutor to investigate abuses. The rights group said a full investigation of the actions under former president George W. Bush’s administration “would send the strongest possible signal” that Washington is committed to ending such practices.
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500