Bus boss hands out bonuses
A bus operator has stunned his employees by handing out A$15 million (US$16 million) in thank you bonuses, with workers saying yesterday they were overwhelmed by his generosity. Ken Grenda, 79, sold his family-run company after 66 years and decided to put a chunk of the profits into the pockets of his employees for their hard work and loyalty. Many of his 1,800 workers thought their banks had made an error when they discovered thousands of dollars in their accounts, the Herald Sun reported. They received an average A$8,500, although some got bonuses as high as A$100,000. Vernon Franklin, a driver at the company, said he was blown away by the gesture. “I was overwhelmed with the generosity of Mr Grenda,” he told Channel Nine. “I think we are losing a great man.”
Wukan begins poll process
Villagers whose rebellion against local officials last year grabbed the headlines initiated a key process yesterday that will see them hold their first-ever open, democratic elections. Residents in Wukan, Guangdong Province, won rare concessions after they faced off with authorities for more than a week in December in a row over land and graft, including pledges to hold free village polls. China allows villagers across the country to vote for a committee to represent them, but Wukan residents said their leaders had never before allowed these polls to go ahead in an open fashion. However, yesterday they were due to openly select an independent election committee that would supervise their first democratic poll next month.
Defense official probed
The government said it is looking into whether a Defense Ministry official broke the law by urging his staff to vote in a mayoral election this month. Ro Manabe, director of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, last month called a meeting of employees about the election in Ginowan, the site of a US military base at the center of a dispute between local residents and the government, lawmaker Seiken Akamine said in parliament on Tuesday. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said yesterday an investigation so far has found no indication that Manabe broke any laws.
Three facing death penalty
Two Germans and a Moroccan are facing the death penalty on charges of smuggling more than 10kg of methamphetamine. A district court near Kuala Lumpur International Airport charged the three men on Jan. 13 with drug trafficking, a customs official who declined to be named said. Airport officials arrested the men arriving from Istanbul on Jan. 1.
Baboons looting trucks
Troops of bag-snatching, truck-looting baboons are causing chaos at a border post between Zimbabwe and Zambia in daily raids for food, NewsDay reported on Tuesday. “Baboons are an issue that must be dealt with here because they destroy travelers’ goods,” Zimbabwe Revenue Authority station manager Tichaona Phiri said. “Sometimes they bite or clap people on their faces if they try to defend their property, and they can snatch ladies’ handbags and even destroy cars as they search for food.” They also tear up sacks of maize on trucks moving through the border. “These baboons can smell maize on trucks and considering their huge numbers, it is very difficult to control them, but the problem is that they behave like human beings and are very good tricksters,” he said.
Birth control pills recalled
Pfizer Inc said on Tuesday it was recalling about 1 million packets of birth control pills in the US because they may not contain enough contraceptive to prevent pregnancy. Pfizer said the birth control pills posed no health threat to women, but it urged consumers affected by the recall to “begin using a non-hormonal form of contraception immediately.” The drugmaker said the issue involved 14 lots of Lo/Ovral-28 tablets and 14 lots of Norgestrel and Ethinyl Estradiol tablets. It said an investigation had found that some blister packs of the oral contraceptive might contain an inexact count of inert or active ingredients in the tablets.
Muslims seek clemency
A US Muslim group has appealed to Iran’s top leader to show clemency for an ex-US military translator with dual citizenship condemned to death on accusations of being a CIA spy. A letter on Tuesday from the Council on American-Islamic Relations asks Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to spare the life of Amir Hekmati. The 28-year-old ex-Marine was born in Arizona and attended high school in Michigan. His Iran-born father is a professor at Mott Community College in Flint and says his son is not a spy. The council’s Michigan director Dawud Walid’s letter says his group hopes Hekmati receives “the same mercy and compassion” that Iran has shown other US citizens “charged with similar offenses.”
Protesters get staying orders
Eleven people who were arrested during the weekend’s turbulent Occupy Oakland protests have been ordered to stay away from the plaza outside Oakland City Hall that serves as the movement’s main staging area. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said two judges granted her office’s request for the stay-away orders during the demonstrators’ arraignments on Tuesday. The four protesters facing felony charges were directed to keep away from both Frank Ogawa Plaza and the Oakland Convention Center, while the seven charged with misdemeanors may not go within 100m of the plaza.
Child rescued from school
Municipal police say a seven-year-old was locked inside a classroom by his teacher as punishment for supposed misbehavior and left alone for six hours until he was rescued by officers at about midnight. The boy was found under the teacher’s desk, covering himself with one of her sweaters for warmth. Police say the boy’s family started looking for him on Monday after he didn’t return home from school on time. One of the boy’s friends said he had been punished by the teacher, so police were eventually called to the school and found the boy. Education officials say the mother has filed a criminal complaint and the case is under investigation.
Volcano forms lava dome
The warning level for a remote Alaskan volcano has been raised after a new lava dome began forming. The dome indicates the mountain could explode and send up an ash cloud that could threaten aircraft. The Alaska Volcano Observatory on Tuesday elevated the alert status for Cleveland Volcano. The observatory says the dome was about 40m in diameter on Monday. Cleveland is a 1,730m peak on an uninhabited island 1,513km southwest of Anchorage.
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,
India has moved additional troops along its northern border as it prepares for an extended conflict with China, after several rounds of talks failed to ease tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. China has already placed about 5,000 soldiers and armored vehicles within its side of the disputed border in the Ladakh region, an Indian government official said, asking not to be identified, citing rules. India is adding a similar number of troops as well as artillery guns along the border to fend off the continuing incursions by the Chinese army, the official said. The standoff began on May 5, when troops clashed
China is poised to enshrine individuals’ rights to privacy and personal data for the first time, a symbolic first step as more of the country of 1.4 billion people becomes digitized — and more vulnerable to leaks and hacks. The legislation is part of China’s first civil code, a sweeping package of laws that is being deliberated during the annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress, which began on Friday after a delay of more than two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent draft, an individual has a right to privacy and to have their personal information protected. Data