TIME China

China Accuses 11 Officials of Negligence Over Tianjin Warehouse Blasts

Top transport and port officials are reportedly among those being investigated

Chinese state prosecutors have accused 11 officials and port executives of “dereliction of duty” and “abuse of power” over the huge explosions two weeks ago in the world’s 10th largest port, Tianjin, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The officials under investigation are said to include the head of Tianjin’s municipal transportation commission, We Dai, and the president of Tianjin Port Holdings, Zheng Qingyue.

The blasts, which killed 139 people and injured hundreds more, took place at a warehouse owned by Ruihai International Logistics. Xinhua has also reported that 12 people from the firm — including its chairman, vice chairman and three general managers — have been detained on suspicion of illegally storing dangerous chemicals.

Chinese authorities say the warehouse was used to store about 40 different hazardous chemicals, including 700 tons of highly toxic sodium cyanide, before the deadly explosions on Aug. 12, which devastated a large part of the port area.

TIME China

Thousands of Dead Fish Wash Up on Tianjin’s Shores, a Week After the Blasts

But Chinese officials say they found no toxic levels of cyanide in the water

Thousands of dead fish have washed up on the shores of the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, eight days after a series of deadly explosions at a warehouse killed at least 114 people, injured hundreds more, and left 69 people, mainly firefighters, still missing.

Photos shared on social media have racked up thousands of views since Thursday and show large numbers of dead fish gathered on the banks of the Haihe River, about 4 miles from the blast site, reports the state-run newspaper China Daily.

The huge die-off of fish has led residents to worry that toxic chemicals from the blast could have contaminated the waters around the city — the world’s 10th largest port.

Chinese authorities have confirmed that the warehouse at the center of the blast stored about 40 different hazardous chemicals — among them were 700 tons of highly toxic sodium cyanide, the New York Times reports.

But local environmental officials said they found no toxic levels of cyanide in the water where the dead fish appeared, although they were still investigating the precise cause of the mass deaths.

Den Xiaowen, director of the Tianjin Environmental Monitoring Center, said it was not unusual to see large quantities of dead fish in summer.

“When the temperature rises, oxygen will evaporate and fish may die of hypoxia,” he said at a press conference Thursday.

Authorities announced Thursday that eight out of 42 water-quality monitoring sites set up around the blast zone detected excessive levels of cyanide, with one site exceeding 356 times the normal level. Cleanup teams have set up quarantined zones to block the cyanide-tainted water and were still working to decontaminate the area, reports the state-linked Global Times.

TIME Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan Sports Star’s Body Exhumed in Murder Probe Involving Ex-President’s Son

SRI LANKA-CRIME-RUGBY
LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI—AFP/Getty Images Anti-Rajapakse activists carried placards denouncing the former leader and his administration as the remains of Sri Lankan rugby player Wasim Thajudeen leave the burial ground of the Dehiwela mosque in Colombo on August 10, 2015, after the body was exhumed to be sent to the Judicial Medical Officer.

Though the death of Wasim Thajudeen was initially ruled an accident, suspicions of foul play have resurfaced

Correction appended: August 11, 2015.

The body of a rugby player who represented Sri Lanka was exhumed by authorities in the capital, Colombo, on Monday in order to check for signs of torture, as part of an investigation into his death three years ago, the BBC reports.

Wasim Thajudeen was found dead inside a burning car in Colombo in May 2012. The case was initially ruled an accident, the BBC says, but reopened this year over allegations that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s youngest son Yoshitha — with whom Thajudeen was reportedly in a dispute over a mutual love interest — had him killed.

Thajudeen’s body was unearthed from a Muslim burial ground on the outskirts of Colombo in the presence of a judge as protesters gathered outside to shout anti-Rajapaksa slogans.

New evidence shows that the car used in the abduction belonged to the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, but was being used at the time by a charity of then First Lady Shiranti Rajapaksa, the BBC says.

Police cited medical examination reports that said Thajudeen’s body bore torture marks along with broken bones and teeth.

“The body had been wrapped in a plastic bag so it is well preserved, and we hope to be able to finish our work very soon,” chief judicial medical officer Ajith Thennakoon said.

The Rajapaksa family strongly refutes the allegations and says the investigation is a politically motivated attempted to smear the former President in the run-up to next week’s parliamentary elections.

The former President is seeking a political comeback as the small island nation’s Prime Minister after being ousted in this year’s presidential election following almost a decade in power, but continues to be under scrutiny for alleged corruption during his two terms at the country’s helm.

“We totally deny this. Even without doing a proper investigation they are pointing the fingers at the Rajapaksas,” his eldest son Namal told the BBC. “They began this investigation just ahead of the election so we all know it’s politically motivated to target us.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the suspected role of a car belonging to the Sri Lankan Red Cross Society. New evidence suggests it was used to abduct Wasim Thajudeen.

TIME India

Probe Ordered After Unmarried Couples Dragged Out of Mumbai Hotel Rooms

Many Indians see the raids as unwarranted interference in private lives

The police commissioner of India’s western metropolis Mumbai has ordered an internal investigation into raids by officers last week at several suburban hotels, where unmarried couples were allegedly pulled out of hotel rooms and humiliated.

Commissioner Rakesh Maria ordered the probe after a strong social-media backlash against what many deemed unjustified interference into citizens’ privacy, the Hindu newspaper reports.

Police raided multiple hotels in Mumbai’s suburbs last Thursday, saying they had received reports from locals of widespread prostitution in the area. More than 40 couples were dragged out of their rooms and accused of “public indecency.”

Many couples, particularly those who were students, were humiliated and made to call their parents before being released five hours later after paying a fine of 1,200 rupees (about $19). One woman, who was with her fiancé, alleged that she was slapped by a female constable when she protested.

“I am not a prostitute,” the 21-year-old woman told local newspaper Mid-Day, adding that she had booked a room under her own name to get some privacy with the man she is set to marry next month. “If you want to take legal action, fine the hotels or lodges if any of them allow immoral activities like prostitution to go on in their premises,” she said. “Making love to the person of my choice in a private room doesn’t amount to indecent behavior in public.”

Diktats by Indian authorities against acts or behavior perceived as being against the country’s cultural values are fairly common, as are (sometimes violent) protests against observances like Valentine’s Day, which has become an annual fixture in Mumbai and other cities. Bars and nightclubs promoting “Western culture” are frequently raided, and movies often don’t make it past India’s increasingly stringent censor board.

The most recent instance of moral policing was the blocking of more than 800 porn websites by the Indian government — a ban that was later revised and significantly toned down following widespread outrage.

TIME Walmart

Walmart, Amazon Settle With NY Over Banned Toy Guns

U.S. Customs And Border Patrol Hold News Conference On Dangerous Toys
Joe Raedle—Getty Images Toy guns deemed too realistic.

5 companies will pay $300,000 to settle a NY state probe

Some of the world’s top retailers have agreed to pay more than $300,000 to settle an investigation by New York State regulators into alleged sales of banned toy guns.

Walmart and Amazon headline the group of retailers that agreed to settle the probe in an agreement to be announced on Monday by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, according to Bloomberg. Those companies — along with Sears Holdings’ Kmart and Sears store brands, as well as California-based company ACTA — had been under investigation after allegedly selling toy guns that were prohibited under state law for being too realistic to New York residents who bought the products online.

Schneiderman’s office sent the five retailers cease and desist letters in December after the state’s investigation turned up evidence of online sales of banned toy guns online and, in one case, in a suburban Rochester Kmart store. In New York, it is illegal to sell toy guns that look too realistic, including those in colors such as black, blue, silver, or aluminum, unless they also have one-inch-wide orange stripes on both sides and on front of the toy’s barrel.

According to Bloomberg, the retailers sold more than 6,400 banned toy guns in New York between 2012 and December. Walmart will pay the bulk of the fine — $225,000 — because the recent probe found that the company violated the terms of an earlier agreement with the state, in 2003, when the company was found to be selling prohibited toy guns.

TIME remembrance

The World Marks the First Anniversary of the MH17 Aviation Disaster

One year on, investigations into the tragedy are still ongoing

Friday marks one year since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

The Boeing 777 was on route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam when it crashed in pro-Russian rebel-held territory on July 17, 2014.

The Dutch Safety Board is due to release the final report into the cause of the crash in October, reports the BBC. It is widely believed by Kiev and Western nations that Russian-backed rebels shot down the plane. Moscow denies this and instead blames the Ukrainian military.

A criminal probe launched by a joint investigation team consisting of detectives from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine is also ongoing.

A public memorial service was held in Australia’s capital, Canberra, on Friday and a permanent memorial plaque was unveiled to commemorate the 38 Australians who died.

“In the worst of times you have displayed the strength of giants and the grace of angels and I am humbled by you,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the crowd, which included family members of those who perished. “We owe it to the dead to bring the guilty to justice.”

Memorial events are also being held in Ukraine as well as the Netherlands, from where 193 of the victims hailed.

In Kuala Lumpur, a service was held on July 11, a week before the anniversary as it would otherwise clash with the Eid al-Fitr festival, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“The end goal is clear — to bring the perpetrators to justice, and ensure they pay for this unforgivable crime,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement on the eve of the anniversary.

Malaysia is leading calls from several countries for a U.N. tribunal to prosecute those responsible for downing the flight. On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected establishing an international tribunal, saying it would be counterproductive.

Meanwhile, a new video obtained by News Corp. Australia purports to show the rebels filming themselves ransacking the luggage of passengers from MH17.

In the footage, men appear to believe they have come across the wreck of a Ukrainian fighter jet but minutes later realize the aircraft is a commercial liner.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the video was “sickening to watch.”

Warning: The video contains graphic content that some viewers may find distressing

TIME Aviation

How Did a Man Survive 11 Freezing Hours in a Plane’s Wheel Well Without Oxygen?

A airplane flies on June 19, 2015 past the offices of notonthehighstreet.com, an online retailer in Richmond, London where the body of a dead man was found on the roof on June 18.
JUSTIN TALLIS—AFP/Getty Images An airplane flying on June 19, 2015, past the offices of notonthehighstreet.com, an online retailer in Richmond, London, where the body of a dead man was found on the roof on June 18

The incident has raised concerns over airport security

A stowaway who was found Friday in the wheel well of a British Airways flight that had just arrived at London Heathrow from Johannesburg remains fighting for his life after his 11-hour ordeal.

On Tuesday, police were still waiting to speak to the 24-year-old, who has not been named and remains hospitalized in critical condition, to determine whether he is connected to the body of a man found on a roof of an office building in southwest London, the Guardian reports.

A postmortem on the body of the second man will be carried out Tuesday but investigators believe he fell from the undercarriage of a flight that was preparing to land.

Unlike the risky sea crossings currently occurring in the Mediterranean, stowaways on airplanes aren’t common, and most of those who attempt such journeys perish from hyperthermia and frostbite.

“When they hide up in the wheel well, either they are crushed by the wheel or [succumb to the] high altitude and the extreme temperatures,” Michael Daniel, an international aviation-safety consultant, tells TIME. “The lack of oxygen will kill.”

In April 2014, a 16-year-old boy made headlines after he survived five hours in the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines flight from California to Hawaii, somehow enduring altitudes of 38,000 ft. and subzero temperatures.

Aviation experts were astounded as to how the teen was able stand up and walk away from the plane. “That is very, very rare,” says Daniel. “Most of the time people die and they literally fall out of the wheel well when the aircraft pilot lowers the landing gear.”

During takeoff, a person clinging to the undercarriage of the aircraft risks being hit by spinning debris from the tires as they rotate at about 180 knots (207 m.p.h.).

Once in the air, they must endure temperatures as low as –76°F (–60°C) and the lack of oxygen at that altitude can take immediate effect, sending the body into a comatose state.

However, it’s actually the low temperatures that slow the body’s vital functions and so allows them to survive without oxygen. “It’s ironic that it’s the coldness that actually would help the person survive such an event,” Daniel says, adding that the tiny amount of heat generated from hydraulic pumps or the landing-gear mechanisms could also help stowaways survive. “That might lower the temperature enough to where they literally don’t freeze solid.”

But while aviation and health experts marvel at simply surviving the grueling 8,000-mile (13,000 km) journey, more serious questions are being asked regarding airport security.

According to the Guardian, checks are being ramped up at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo airport, where the flight originated, as officials investigate how the man was able to board the plane.

To get anywhere near a plane on the tarmac, a person would have had to deceive several layers of airport-security system, including CCTV and wire fences, as well as to go unnoticed during preflight checks by the first officer and avoid detection from the ground staff.

Adds Daniel: “If a stowaway can get to the aircraft, so can terrorists and that’s very scary obviously.”

TIME Media

Brian Williams Will Stay On at NBC News, but Won’t Get His Old Job Back

He will probably assume a new role at MSNBC

Controversial veteran journalist Brian Williams will stay on at NBC News, the network is set to announce four months after it suspended him, but will not return to his position as anchor of its prime-time Nightly News program.

The 56-year-old newsman will mostly likely join cable news network MSNBC in a role focused initially on breaking news, a person familiar with the discussions told the New York Times.

Williams’ stand-in at Nightly News, Lester Holt, will take over the anchor position on a permanent basis, people privy to the matter told the Times on condition of anonymity.

Williams was suspended for six months in February after it was revealed that he had significantly embellished an account of his experiences during the Iraq War, specifically an instance in which he said the military helicopter he was traveling in came under fire from hostile forces. The former No. 1 anchor, one of America’s most trusted television voices who consistently attracted an audience of over 10 million, acknowledged his misrepresentation of facts during his Feb. 4 broadcast and tendered an apology to viewers.

NBC reportedly found 10 to 12 other instances of Williams’ exaggeration of his reporting during a subsequent investigation, people familiar with the matter said.

[NYT]

TIME Soccer

FIFA’s Sepp Blatter Is Under Investigation for Corruption, Reports Say

The 79-year-old resigned from his position on Tuesday, but will continue his duties until a successor is found

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is himself in the crosshairs of the corruption investigation that saw several of the organization’s top brass indicted over the past week, with U.S. officials reportedly saying that he was a target of their probe into world soccer’s governing body.

The New York Times says that it was told by officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, that investigators hoped to work their way up to Blatter with the cooperation of the FIFA officials already taken into custody.

Blatter suddenly resigned from his position at the helm of the global soccer federation on Tuesday, a position he had boasted made him “president of everybody” after winning a fifth consecutive term last Friday.

It was a dramatic about-face from his originally defiant attitude towards the investigation.”Why would I step down?” he had angrily responded to a reporter’s inquiry following his election. “That would mean I recognize that I did wrong.”

On Tuesday, Blatter painted his resignation as part of a much-needed “profound restructuring” of FIFA. The 79-year-old will continue his duties until a new president is elected in late 2015 or early 2016.

TIME Guns

A 3-Year-Old Boy Shot and Killed a 1-Year-Old in an Ohio Home

Authorities investigate the scene after a shooting involving two children Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Cleveland.
Patrick Cooley/Northeast Ohio Media Group/AP Authorities investigate the scene after a shooting involving two children Sunday, April 12, 2015, in Cleveland.

The firearm had been left unattended

A three-year-old boy in Cleveland, Ohio shot and killed a one-year-old boy after picking up a handgun that had been left unattended inside a home on Sunday.

The infant was rushed to hospital with a gunshot wound to the head but was later pronounced dead, reports the Associated Press.

Investigators were trying to determine where the gun came from, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams told reporters.

Though full details behind the shooting have not been released, Williams said there was at least one adult home when the incident happened.

“It’s a sad day for Cleveland,” said Williams. “This fascination that we have with handguns, not just in this city but in this country, has to stop. This is a senseless loss of life.”

[Associated Press]

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