In brief: Vietnam picks familiar leaders

Hanoi, Vietnam – Vietnam’s grand meeting to pick its top Communist leaders wrapped up today with the reshuffling of many familiar high-ranking party members, as the government clung to its one-party system while boasting of true democracy.

As widely expected, Nguyen Phu Trong, 66, was officially proclaimed the new party boss, along with 14 new members of the all-powerful Politburo, including Trong. As the party’s former chief Marxist theorist, he leaves his position as head of the lawmaking National Assembly.

The new leaders were picked behind closed doors by the Communist elite without any public elections, but Trong nonetheless praised the Congress as a great example of “straightforwardness and true democracy.”

Trong replaces retiring party chief Nong Duc Manh, 70, who departed taking responsibility for many flaws during a tenure that ended with a litany of economic woes.

China overturns life term over tolls

Beijing – A Chinese farmer and gravel dealer who was sentenced to life in prison for evading more than $560,000 in highway cargo tolls by using fake military license plates has now avoided the harsh punishment as well.

After a public outcry about what was deemed harsh treatment of Shi Jianfeng and widespread grumpiness over high tolls in general, state media said today that authorities have overturned Shi’s life sentence.

Shi was sentenced last week for fraud. Fake military license plates on two of his trucks that carried gravel allowed them to avoid tolls more than 2,300 times because military vehicles are exempt.

Prosecutors in the central province of Henan confirmed that the case against Shi had been sent back to police for more investigation.


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