Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lai Changxing, dubbed the Bandit King, has been given a life sentence for years of smuggling and corruption that added up to billions of US dollars or Pounds sterling. The Chinese court described the values as “massive”.

Lai smuggled goods worth more than £2 billion into Xiamen, bypassing more than £1 billion in import duty. He paid 64 local officials a total of almost £4 million in bribes, giving him effective control of the city from 1995 to 1999. He fled China after becoming a wanted man in 1999 and went to Canada via Hong Kong; the following year, Premier Zhu Rongji said “If Lai was executed three times over, it would not be too much”.

As head of the Yuanhua Group, Lai smuggled in cars, chemicals, oil, cigarettes, and other goods. He distributed bundles of cash to the poor, owned and played for his local football team, built stadia, owned a bulletproof Mercedes that once belonged to President Jiang Zemin, and attempted to construct a tower that would have been the nation’s tallest building. He attained local popularity for funding construction projects including schools, hundreds of tower blocks, and the local airport.

As well as money, officials were offered alcohol and prostitutes. Many were offered time at Lai’s seven-storey brothel, the Red Mansion, and feasted at a replica of the Forbidden City.

State TV has broadcast footage depicting a banquet table with a tiger skin laid upon it, cars given to officials, a young woman alleged to have been donated as a lover, and a sackful of gold rings. The case’s prominence was such that Liu Liying, boss of the national Central Discipline Inspection Committee, took charge of bringing Lai down.

Subsequent investigations have examined more than 1,000 suspects with police at one stage turning over an entire hotel to the probe, filling rooms with suspects. National newspaper The People’s Daily has suggested it is the most serious economic crime in modern Chinese history. He was the nation’s top car importer and one of the main traders in oil and imported cigarettes.

Hundreds of officials have been convicted and it is estimated hundreds more remain. Fellow life-sentence prisoners from the case include the city’s deputy mayor and its head of customs. The nation’s former vice-minister for security, Li Jizhou, has a suspended death sentence. Other suspects have killed themselves.

The sums involved are unusually large, and the details are extraordinarily serious

Upon his escape from the nation Lai became China’s most-wanted fugitive. Twelve years of negotiations ended with a Chinese promise Lai would be spared the death penalty, and Canada extradited him last year. Numerous lower-ranking members of Lai’s empire have already been given life imprisonment or death sentences. With execution off the table, the court gave Lai the highest sentence possible: in addition to the life term, he received fifteen years for bribery and had all his possessions confiscated.

The court justified the “double sentence” on the grounds “the sums involved are unusually large, and the details are extraordinarily serious”. “The crimes involve massive sums and particularly serious circumstances,” court officials told Xinhua. Lai had denied corruption at his trial, although he accepted exploiting loopholes to avoid import duty.

“I don’t have a good family background,” Lai said previously in a press interview. “I have to do things step by step by myself. That’s how people came to respect me. I never fussed about big money.” Lai was born as one of eight siblings in the midst of famine.





Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tuesday, World Bank released the 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development. In discussing Iceland, it suggests mandatory paid parental leave for mother and father have played an important role in changing norms in the country. Parents have a government mandated nine months leave, three for the mother, three for the father and three to to distribute between the two. Leave is paid at 80% of their wages. The report describes the changes in gender relations in Iceland as “promising” in terms of impact at work and at home.

Iceland’s boys and girls mean scores for the Programme for International Student Assessment mathematics test were nearly identical with boys just edging out girls with both scores around 510. Girls outperformed boys on the literacy test with a mean score of approximately 525 to 480. Iceland’s girls mathematics performance was similar to that of girls from Estonia, Germany and Belgium. Their performance on literacy was similar to Sweden, Poland, Switzerland, Estonia and Belgium.File:MargretSverrisdottir.jpg

Mortality rates in Iceland for 1,000 people aged 15–60 sits at 56, significantly better than the United States at 107, China at 113, India at 213, Iraq at 285, Afghanistan at 479, Malawi at 481 and Zimbabwe at 772. One of the reasons the report cites for Iceland’s relatively low mortality rate is it not located in a conflict country or in an HIV/AIDS affected country.

Iceland was one of 23 countries that currently have over 30% of its Parliamentarians who are female. Other countries with over 30% representation include Rwanda, Argentina, Cuba, Finland, the Netherlands, and Sweden. In the mid-1990s, there were only 5 countries. The report cites the 1983 creation of the Women’s Alliance, an all women’s political party, as bringing additional attention to women’s issues and deliberately attempting to increase the representation of women in Icelandic politics.

Despite some of the good news highlighted in the report about Icelandic women, there exists a systematic gender difference in earning potential. Icelandic women in both the private and public sector earn approximately 22% less than their male counterparts. Icelandic men have slightly more access to the Internet than Icelandic women by about 2%. Despite this slight disadvantage for Icelandic women, it is much better than some countries where the percentage differences are much greater. These countries include Austria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Azerbaijan, Serbia, Turkey, and Macedonia.



Friday, April 7, 2006Legislators in the Massachusetts General Court, their name for the state legislature, approved legislation on Tuesday, April 4, that would make it the first state in the United States to require all residents to have health insurance and impose penalties for non-compliance. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican who is expected to run for U.S. President in 2008, is expected to sign the bill.

The bill passed the lower house, the Massachusetts House of Representatives by a vote of 155-2, and unanimously by the state senate. The Democratic Party holds supermajorities in both houses of the legislature.

Among the bill’s provisions are these:

  1. Businesses that employ more than 10 people are required to provide health insurance for all staff or face fines of $295 per year per uninsured worker.
  2. Individuals will be required to enroll in a health plan by July 1, 2007, or face tax penalties.
  3. Health insurers will provide partially to fully subsidized coverage for low-income residents.

At least one other state (Hawaii) requires employers to provide employee health insurance, but no other state holds individuals accountable for coverage.



Friday, February 3, 2006

The publishing of a series of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a Copenhagen newspaper sparked a string of harsh and in some places violent reactions in the Middle East, forcing European leaders to try to calm the situation.

This backlash started in late September 2005, when the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a dozen cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad. The images ranged from serious to comical in nature; a particularly controversial cartoon portrays Mohammad with a bomb wrapped in his turban. The Jutland-based newspaper states that the images were meant to inspire some level of public debate over the image of Islam in Europe, and had no direct aim of offending anyone.

However, many Muslims follow the doctrine of aniconism concerning the portrayal of Mohammad. This tenet of Islam states that the Prophet Mohammad should not be depicted in any type of art, regardless of the intent of the piece. This belief, along with the potentially insensitive nature of some of the caricatures, have caused offense to many Muslims in the Arab world.

In the past month, the controversy over these cartoons escalated. The cartoons were re-published last month in Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands (where the latter two nations have large Muslim populations), and have begun to re-circulate throughout the Middle East.

Many Danish companies have been targeted for boycotts. As Wikinews reported last week, Arla Foods, Denmark’s top dairy company, has seen their sales fall to zero in some Middle East nations. Carrefour, a French retail chain, has pulled all Danish products from its shelves in the region. Earlier this week, protests were held throughout the region, including the Gaza Strip in Jerusalem, where Hamas supporters led an assault and protest that surrounded the European Union offices for Israel.

Hamas members, some armed with guns, stormed the EU office (which is primarily staffed by Arabs) and demanded apologies from EU member states, saying they would otherwise face serious consequences. “It will be a suitable reaction, and it won’t be predictable,” said Abu Hafss, a member of the Al Quds Brigade (an affiliate of the group Islamic Jihad), in a press conference outside the EU offices. And the Abu al-Reesh Brigades, a group related to the late Yassir Arafat’s Fatah party, warned that EU member states had 10 hours to apologize for the cartoons or their citizens would be “in danger”.

Jamila Al Shanty, a newly elected Hamas legislator, stated that more rallies will be planned in protest of the cartoons. “We are angry – very, very, very angry,” Al Shanty said today, adding that “No one can say a bad word about our prophet.”

The Iranian newspaper Hamshari daily has stated that on February 8 it will publish anti-semitic cartoons in response to the Danish cartoons, apparently failing to notice that Denmark has only a tiny Jewish population, since most escaped to Sweden during the World War II Holocaust. The newspaper says that the cartoons will lampoon the Holocaust despite denials by the Iranian government that the Holocaust even happened.

Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that first published the cartoons did issue an apology to Arab countries on Monday, shortly after the EU office incident. But with the support of the government of Denmark, the newspaper had earlier defended its actions fiercely, citing the universal right to free press, and its duty to serve democratic traditions by inspiring debate. Indeed, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Prime Minister of Denmark, said “We are talking about an issue with fundamental significance to how democracies work.” In fact, some European pundits have placed more fault on Muslims for refusing to “accept Western standards of free speech and pluralism”. When the cartoons were originally published in 2005 they were intended to highlight and redress the unequal restrictions applied to Islamic content in European newspapers in comparison with content referring to other religions. The cartoons are also self-referential, with one character in the cartoons writing in Arabic on a blackboard “Jyllands-Posten’s journalists are a bunch of reactionary provocateurs”, and another cartoon showing a cartoonist having to work in hiding because one of the cartoons he is drawing includes an image of the Prophet Mohammad. The text around the cartoons stated:

“The modern, secular society is rejected by some Muslims. They demand a special position, insisting on special consideration of their own religious feelings. It is incompatible with contemporary democracy and freedom of speech, where you must be ready to put up with insults, mockery and ridicule. It is certainly not always equally attractive and nice to look at, and it does not mean that religious feelings should be made fun of at any price, but that is less important in this context. […] we are on our way to a slippery slope where no-one can tell how the self-censorship will end. That is why Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten has invited members of the Danish editorial cartoonists union to draw Muhammad as they see him. […]”

However, some world leaders have elected to help defuse what could be a major social crisis in Europe and the Middle East. France’s foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said that freedom of the press should be exercised “in the spirit of tolerance”, sentiments which were echoed by United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan. Ursula Plassnik, foreign minister of Austria, said that the European community must “clearly condemn” acts which insult religion. And Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan, warned Europe that “any insult to the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) is an insult to more than one billion Muslims and an act like this must never be allowed to be repeated.”

Rasmussen, in an interview with Arabic TV Al arabia, said that “…Danish government condemns any expression and any action which offends people’s religious feelings…” and also said that he does not understand why, as the cartoons were originally published in September, the situation has only truly started to deteriorate in the past week.

In Denmark, there are counter-demonstrations by moderate Muslims saying they don’t want the images banned. Munira Mirza commented that many Muslims “want to be able to say: ‘Hey we’re not children, we can handle criticism, we don’t need special protection – we’re equal’. Many don’t want to be treated as a special group, seen as worthy of more protection from criticism than other groups because of their apparent victim status.”

Religious satirist Stewart Lee commented that Jyllands-Posten had “tried to deal with a subject they don’t know enough about, and this is one of the teething problems of the cross-over of cultures in the world. I’m sure the level of offence is far greater than would have been intended.”

The director (Directeur de publication) of “France Soir“, a French national newspaper was fired in response for publishing a cartoon titled: “Yes, we have the right to (joke about) characterise God” (Oui, on a le droit de caricaturer Dieu). The “France-Soir” web site is presently offline. The cartoon is partially visible on a nouvelobs.com website.

Today, Libération, another French national newspaper, is publishing two of the “Mohammad Cartoons”. Other newspapers across France are asking for their rights to freedom of the press to be defended.

Charlie Hebdo, a well-known satirical newspaper, will publish articles to support cartoonists, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

The general reaction in France seems to be that most citizens except religious people (Catholics, Muslims,…) are astounded by the level of anger against the “Mohammad Cartoons”.

On February 9 2006 Queensland Premier Peter Beattie gave The Courier Mail Newspaper his blessings in publishing the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons/depictions of Muhammad stating that he is a firm believer in free speech and ones freedom of expression.On the very same day he got his legal representative to write to the author of this site photoduck.com demanding he censor material relating to him and his Government.

Although many newspapers have not republished the cartoons in order to avoid backlashes, the drawings have appeared on the Internet and are being revealed at a number of Web sites and blogs. On January 30th, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin placed the drawings on her blog, and encouraged others to do the same.



Contents

  • 1 Wikinews News Brief [Date]
    • 1.1 Introduction
  • 2 Events of worldwide notability, military action, disasters etc.
    • 2.1 Violence takes place in Chad capital N’djamena as military and rebels clash
    • 2.2 High level al-Qaeda leader reported dead
    • 2.3 International manhunt for alleged kidney harvester
  • 3 Non-disastrous local events with notable impact and dead celebrities
    • 3.1 Envelopes containing white powder sent to Church of Scientology locations in southern California, USA
    • 3.2 Vermont town to vote on charging US President, Vice President of war crimes
  • 4 Business, commerce and academia
    • 4.1 Microsoft bids $44 billion for Yahoo!
  • 5 Arts and culture
  • 6 Frivolities and trivia
    • 6.1 Brechin thrown out of Scottish Cup after dispute
    • 6.2 Footer

[edit]



Friday, November 3, 2006

On November 13, Torontonians will be heading to the polls to vote for their ward’s councillor and for mayor. Among Toronto’s ridings is Don Valley West (Ward 25). Three candidates responded to Wikinews’ requests for an interview. This ward’s candidates include John Blair, Robertson Boyle, Tony Dickins, Cliff Jenkins (incumbent), and Peter Kapsalis.

For more information on the election, read Toronto municipal election, 2006.



Friday, March 28, 2008

There were 8 games played in the National Hockey League on March 27, 2008.



Monday, June 5, 2006

Bush administration officials say Iran should be given time to consider a package of incentives aimed at halting the country’s nuclear enrichment and reprocessing activities.

Tehran will need some time to mull over the offer, and the first response may not be the last word, says White House spokesman Tony Snow.

“I would caution against leaping to conclusions, until the leadership in Iran has actually had an opportunity to look over the packages of incentives and disincentives offered by the EU-3 with the support of the United States,” he said.

The plan was drafted by the three European nations that have been negotiating the nuclear issue with Iran – Britain, France and Germany – with the backing of the United States, Russia and China. Details of the package have not been formally released.

During a session with reporters, Snow downplayed comments made over the weekend by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran’s supreme leader said the flow of Iranian oil would be disrupted if the United States makes – what he called – a wrong move.

The White House spokesman predicted there would be a number of statements coming out of Iran before Tehran gives its final answer. He said, at the moment, the White House is neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but hopeful.

“It is easy to make comments into a vacuum, and my sense is that, again, the Iranians are going to realize this is a serious offer, and it is an offer that offers great promise for them,” Snow said.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana is to formally present the package to the Iranian government in Tehran, perhaps as early as Tuesday.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Iran to give careful consideration to the plan, but indicated Tehran would not have an indefinite amount of time to respond.

Iranian officials have indicated they plan to study the document. But, they stress, have no plans to suspend uranium enrichment, which is a key condition that has been attached to the deal.

Tehran says uranium will be processed for use in power plants. But the United States and Europe say they are concerned Iran’s civilian nuclear power program is really a cover for the development of nuclear weapons.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

File:Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi in Dimashq.jpg

The Libyan government has cut off Internet access in the country. The General Posts and Telecommunications Company, Libya’s main provider of Internet access, has ceased to function. It was shut down following citizen protests against the country’s leader, Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, who has been in power since 1969.

The government of Egypt took a similar measure last month, when it cut off Internet trying to quell public protests against the regime. Despite the government’s efforts, Egyptians who took to the streets for two weeks were able to oust the nation’s president, Hosni Mubarak, after 30 years in office.

Limited access to the Internet makes it difficult to get information from the country. Libya is a country with a smaller population than Egypt, and has fewer service providers, which has apparently made the task of disconnecting everything a little easier.

In Egypt, the military refused to attack people protesting. The situation is different in Libya, where the armed forces attacked hundreds of demonstrators in the square of the city of Benghazi, causing many deaths.

The increasing violence in Libya has prompted the 27 European Union ministers to issue a statement protesting Libyan governmental violence toward protesters, saying it “condemns the ongoing repression against demonstrators in Libya and deplores the violence and death of civilians.” Two Libyan pilots have defected to Malta and asked for asylum, saying that they were ordered to fire on protesters, according to Maltese officials.

The violence has spread to Tripoli. Witnesses have reported that a “massacre” occurred today in suburbs of the Libyan capital with the indiscriminate shooting of women and children. According to Human Rights Watch, hundreds have died over the last four days.

The escalating violence is causing turbulence in the world energy markets. The International Monetary Fund says that energy exports accounts for approximately 95% of Libya’s export earning.



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