Police detain rights activist in crackdown
The police in Beijing have formally arrested a prominent Chinese businessman who turned his energies and wealth to supporting human rights causes, his lawyer said Monday. The arrest of Wang Gongquan marked another step in the Communist Party's drive to deter dissent, supporters said, and notice of the decision came a day before China defends its human rights record at a U.N. hearing. Wang, 51, is a wealthy venture capitalist who made a fortune investing in real estate, high-tech firms and other ventures. He is the latest of about 50 activists detained in this year's crackdown on dissent, according to Human Rights Watch.
Pollution closes schools, airport
School was canceled, traffic was nearly paralyzed and the airport was closed in the northeast Chinese city of Harbin on Monday as record pollution dropped visibility to less than 10 yards. A dark, gray cloud that the local weather bureau described as heavy fog has shrouded Harbin, home to 10 million people, since Thursday, but the smoke thickened Sunday, soon after the government started the coal-powered municipal heating system for the winter.
Officials hope to end transit strike
Representatives of the San Francisco Bay Area's rail transit system and its striking unions returned to the bargaining table Monday, raising hopes among the region's frustrated commuters that a four-day work stoppage that has gridlocked highways and doubled travel times is about to end. Transit officials hoped to have a contract agreement in place by Monday night so trains could begin running on the system's 104 miles of track by today, spokesman Rick Rice said. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 president Antonette Bryant confirmed talks had resumed but declined to comment further.
Assad casts doubt on peace talks
Syrian President Bashar Assad cast doubt Monday on the chances of holding a long-delayed international peace conference to end the country's civil war, saying the factors that would help such talks succeed do not currently exist. The United States and Russia have been trying to convene a conference in Geneva to negotiate a political solution to a conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people and forced 2 million more to flee the country. The U.N. chief has set mid November as a target for the proposed gathering, but both Damascus and the opposition are skeptical, and no final date has been announced.
Roma jailed in alleged abduction
A Roma couple were ordered jailed Monday over the alleged abduction of a child who was found during a police raid on an encampment in central Greece last week. The case has fueled speculation about human trafficking and illegal adoption rackets, and heightened scrutiny of Roma populations across Europe. The couple, identified as Christos Salis, 39, and Eleftheria Dimopoulou, 40, insisted during five hours of testimony that they adopted the child from a Bulgarian woman. Greek police have appealed for Interpol's help in tracing the girl's biological parents. The girl, 5 or 6 years old, has light blond hair, pale skin and green eyes, and bore no resemblance to the other camp residents.