Report reveals large-scale torture in China's 'Black Jails'

By Tamara Gil,

Beijing : The use of hotels and factories as clandestine prisons where thousands of people -- mostly women -- are tortured to prevent their complaints against the government from coming to light has rapidly increased in China, an organisation Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said Tuesday.

In a report entitled, "We'll Beat You to Death With Impunity," the NGO highlights thousands of cases of Chinese citizens who have suffered human rights abuses in the last five years while confined in "black jails" in Beijing and 11 of the country's provinces.


China has nearly 60,000 centenarians

Beijing : A total of 58,789 centenarians are living in China, and the oldest is 128 years old, the Gerontological Society of China revealed Tuesday.

Three-quarters of the long-living people are women, and most of them are living in the countryside, Xinhua reported citing the society.

Provinces with the most centenarians are south China's Hainan and Guangxi and central China's Anhui, where the environment is good and the economy is "moderately developed".


Australian jihadi warns PM Abbott

Sydney : A teenager who ran away from his home in Australia in June has threatened Prime Minister Tony Abbott in a Islamic State (IS) video posted on internet.

Adullah Elmir appeared in the video, posted Monday, under the pseudonym Abu Khaled from Australia, Sydney Morning Herald reported.

He was seen wearing military gear and holding a rifle, and was accompanied by fellow jihadis.


New Zealand to focus on counter-terrorism intelligence

Wellington : New Zealand will focus on enhancing foreign trade and strengthening counter-terrorism intelligence, the National Party government Tuesday asserted as it began a third three-year term in office.

Governor-General Jerry Mateparae read out the centre-right government's legislative intentions in a published speech at the state opening of parliament here, Xinhua reported.


Myanmar pledges free, fair elections in 2015

Yangon : Myanmar's Union Election Commission (UEC) Tuesday pledged free and fair general elections in 2015, calling upon political parties, civil society organisations and international aid groups to cooperate for the upcoming event.

However, UEC chairman U Tin Aye asked civil society organisations to be free from political bias when they observe the upcoming elections initially set for the last week of October or the first week of November 2015, Xinhua reported.


Fiji PM convenes first cabinet meet

Suva : Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama convened the first meeting of his cabinet in Suva Tuesday, media reported.

After the meeting, Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum announced that he would deliver the 2015 budget Nov 21, FijiLive reported.

"The first cabinet meeting went well," the prime minister said.

"The finance ministry is working towards Nov 21 when the budget will be delivered," the finance minister said.


Lufthansa pilots' strike causes 1,500 flight cancellations

Berlin : German airline Lufthansa cancelled over 1,500 flights Monday after its pilots union announced to extend the 35-hour strike to include long-haul fleets.

The two sides -- union Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) and Lufthansa airline -- are in a dispute over pilots' retirement benefits. VC is asking Lufthansa to retain a scheme that allows pilots to retire early at age 55 while receiving 60 percent of their salaries. Lufthansa planned to raise the early retirement age to 60 as a cost-saving measure.


Georgian ex-PM sentenced to three years in jail for power abuse

Tbilisi : A Georgian court Monday sentenced former prime minister Vano Merabishvili to three years in prison for abuse of power in connection with a murder case.

Also charged with fraud in the murder case of a businessman in 2006, when he was interior minister, Merabishvili was banned from taking a high post for two years, Xinhua reported.

The former prime minister, not in court when the guilty verdict was announced, is serving a four-and-a-half-year sentence in prison handed down in separate trials connected to the crackdown on protesters in May 2011.


Burqa segregation in Australian Parliament reversed

Canberra : A move to force Muslim women who cover their faces to sit in a separate enclosed public gallery at Australia's Parliament House has been reversed, media reported Monday.

Earlier this month, Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and Senate President Stephen Parry approved new rules applying to anyone wearing "facial coverings", ABC News reported.

But the move caused an outcry and an intervention from Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is believed to have told Bishop that "common sense should prevail".


Sri Lanka to hold presidential poll in January

Colombo : The Sri Lankan government Monday confirmed that the presidential elections will take place in January next year but the date is yet to be decided.

"The presidential election will be held in January. The date cannot be said right now. I know the date but since it is yet to be confirmed I cannot say that right now," Media Minister and Cabinet spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said.

Rambukwella said the public must put aside differences over race and religion during the election and ensure that national interests are given priority, Xinhua reported.