Briefly: Asia

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Fire probe finds bogus deals, cut corners

SHANGHAI | Investigators probing a fire that ravaged a downtown Shanghai high-rise apartment, killing at least 53 people, say an energy-saving project that used illegal contracts, unsafe materials and unqualified workers is mainly to blame.

The blaze Monday gutted the 28-story building, left 70 injured and dozens unaccounted for, and prompted a belated crackdown on illegal construction work and lax fire precautions. It also is raising alarm over widespread use of flammable insulation used to retrofit buildings to meet new energy standards.

NEW ZEALAND

Report: Skippers blamed in whale protest sinking

WELLINGTON | Investigators looking into a collision between a Japanese whaler and a high-tech protest boat on the high seas off Antarctica earlier this year said Thursday the captains of both vessels were to blame.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society had accused the Japanese ship of deliberately ramming its futuristic, rocket-shaped boat, the Ady Gil, on Jan. 6, slicing the bow off the speedboat and eventually causing it to sink. The whalers denied it, saying the Ady Gil’s captain deliberately put his vessel in their ship’s path.

The government safety agency Maritime New Zealand said in a report released Thursday that the captains of both the Ady Gil and the whaler, the Shonan Maru No. 2, “were responsible for either contributing to, or failing to respond to the ‘close quarters’ situation that led to the collision.”

AUSTRALIA

Man wanted in wife’s death to be deported

ADELAIDE | Australian officials said Thursday they would deport an American convicted in the death of his wife on a scuba-diving honeymoon after U.S. officials pledged not to seek the death penalty if he is convicted again at home.

Gabe Watson was released from prison last week after serving an 18-month sentence for the manslaughter of his wife, Tina, in 2003 during a trip in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

He was being held in immigration custody until Australia - a staunch opponent of the death penalty - received assurances that he would not face capital charges in his home state of Alabama.

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