Selasa, 29 Oktober 2013

The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

New clashes on final day of Bangladesh strike


DHAKA: Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at opposition protesters Tuesday, the third day of a general strike in Bangladesh, as tensions rose before a court ruling on a 2009 mutiny.

Police said a supporter of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was hacked to death in the western town of Magura, and scores including a city mayor were injured just outside the capital Dhaka.

A senior police officer was also seriously injured by a small bomb in the capital's Hazaribagh area, during a series of clashes nationwide.

"Hit by seven splinters, the officer was rushed to hospital. He is seriously injured but now out of danger," Maruf Hossain, deputy commissioner of Dhaka police, told AFP.

At least 17 people have been killed since Friday when the opposition began a push to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to quit.

After a series of mass rallies at the weekend, the BNP and its Islamist allies enforced a three-day general strike which ends later Tuesday.

But this is unlikely to ease tensions.

A court in Dhaka is due to give its verdict Wednesday on 823 soldiers accused of taking part in a mass mutiny in 2009 soon after Hasina came to power.

BNP leader Khaleda Zia, who has twice served as premier, has long been seen as close to the military. Her husband was a former army chief who became president in 1977 in the aftermath of a coup.

Zia, who has a notoriously toxic relationship with Hasina, has branded the current government "illegal" and says that under the law a neutral caretaker government must be set up three months before national elections, due in January.

Hasina has scrapped the caretaker system and instead proposed an all-party interim government led by herself to oversee the polls.

On Saturday Hasina invited Zia to hold talks and urged her to postpone the strike, during a 40-minute phone conversation believed to be the first time in at least a decade that they have spoken.

But leaked audiotape of the conversation showed they spent most of the time quarrelling over their past records.

"You killed people by carrying out the August 21 grenade attack," Hasina said during the call, referring to blasts at her rally in 2004 which killed at least 20 people and injured Hasina, then the opposition leader.

"We did not do the killing. The longer you live is better for us. The more indecent language you use, the better for us," said Zia.

Hasina also accused Zia of celebrating a fake birthday on August 15, which is also the anniversary of the assassination of Hasina's father who was the country's founding leader, along with almost her entire family.

Zia shouted back: "Can't anybody be born on that day?"

Bangladesh has been ruled alternately by Hasina and Zia since 1991, apart from when a military-backed government ran the country between 2007 and 2008.

Since independence in 1971 the country has seen at least 19 coups although the power of the military has diminished in recent years.

While no senior officers were implicated in the 2009 mutiny, the uprising fuelled the sense that many people serving in the military were opposed to Hasina.

Fifty-seven top army officers were killed in the event.

Lead prosecutor Baharul Islam told AFP that his legal team expects judges to hand down the death penalty on Wednesday against most of the accused, who include a former BNP lawmaker.

While the nation has a long history of political violence, this year has been the deadliest since the former East Pakistan broke away from Islamabad and gained independence.

At least 150 people have been killed since January after a controversial court began handing down death sentences on Islamist leaders allied to ex-premier Zia. -AFP

Beijing, Shanghai divorces soar over property tax


BEIJING: Divorce rates in China's two wealthiest cities, Beijing and Shanghai, have soared after the announcement of a property tax that includes a loophole for couples who split up, figures show.

Nearly 40,000 couples divorced in the Chinese capital in the first nine months of this year, jumping 41 percent on the same period in 2012, according to figures released by Beijing's civil affairs officials this month.

Similarly, divorces in Shanghai - where concerns over the tax were high - leaped almost 40 percent over the same period, data from authorities in the commercial hub showed.

But figures from the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, where the tax has yet to be imposed, had divorces there rising by just over seven percent.

In March China announced a nationwide capital gains tax of 20 percent on the profits owners make from selling residential property.

But the terms allow couples with two properties who divorce and put each house into one person's name to then sell them tax-free under certain conditions - after which they can remarry.

The capital's divorce growth rate was "far higher" than in the previous four years, the state-run Beijing Youth Daily reported Tuesday.

"Some of these people divorced in order to avoid the capital gains tax," Zhang Dawei, director of research at real estate agency Centaline China in Beijing, told AFP. "They will quickly remarry."

Getting separated on paper is currently the "only feasible" way to escape the tax, he added.

With property prices skyrocketing in recent years, the capital gains tax can amount to tens of thousands of dollars in China's first-tier cities if fully implemented.

Homeowners were previously taxed at just one or two percent of the sale price.An exemption from the tax is available for vendors who are selling their only home and have owned it for more than five years.

More than 44,000 couples separated in the January-September period this year in Shanghai, up nearly 40 percent year-on-year, official data showed.

A Shanghai marriage registration office - where divorce applications are also processed in China - has put out a sign saying: "There are risks in the property market, think twice before you get divorced," the Beijing Youth Daily said.

Shanghai divorce lawyer Zhong Tao told AFP that the effect of the capital gains tax on his business had peaked in the early part of the year, as it had been widely publicised at the time but Shanghai had yet to fully implement it.

"In fact the divorce rate is rising every year and caused by multiple factors, including related policies like the 20 percent capital gains tax, but this is just an episode," he said.

Other financial considerations that can also play a part in divorces include qualifying to take out a lower-rate first-time-buyer mortgage or, in other cases, buy a second apartment.

Zhang said: "The divorce rate has been high over the past few years due to the home purchase restrictions and the capital gains tax in all cities where these policies apply."

But policymakers were unlikely to be able to close the loophole, he added.

"This is a grey area. The government cannot do anything if a couple insist on getting divorced," he said.

Property prices are a sensitive issue in China and authorities have sought for the past three years to control their rise.

As well as the capital gains tax, other measures have included restrictions on purchases of second and third homes, higher minimum down-payments and taxes on multiple and non-locally owned homes in some cities. -AFP

Japan imperial couple meet man-sized bear


TOKYO: He is instantly recognised all over Japan, generates millions of dollars of merchandising sales, and has 300,000 Twitter followers. Now Kumamon, an oversized cartoon bear, has a new fan: the empress.

Michiko and her husband Emperor Akihito got what was almost certainly their first taste of the adult-sized mascot when they met him on a visit to his home city of Kumamoto in southern Japan.

Kumamon - whose name blends his birthplace with the local dialect word for "person" - performed a dance for the imperial couple, reproducing the steps he performs in a video that has already garnered nearly two million viewings on YouTube.

"Thank you, Kumamon-san," said the 79-year-old empress.

The ruddy-cheeked bear is the most popular of Japan's ubiquitous "yuru-kyara" ("laid back character"), mascots that are pressed into service to represent everything from regions to companies or even prisons, in a country where cute is king.

Since his birth in 2011, Kumamon has become the official marketing manager for the local government, charged with boosting sales of regional produce and attracting tourists.

His monthly schedule, posted on his official website, indicates he is a character in demand, showing up at promotion and charity events throughout the nation and even travelling abroad.

In September, Asahikawa Prison in Japan's far north unveiled "Katakkuri-chan", a nearly two-metre (6 foot 6 inch) humanoid with a huge square face and an enormous purple flower for hair, aimed at softening the image of the jail.

However, "Fukuppy", the winged egg introduced by a refrigerator-maker, drew a collective titter from English-speaking Internet users earlier this month, who pointed out its name sounded like a description of the hapless handling of the disaster at Fukushima nuclear plant. -AFP


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