Infection rate falls
China yesterday announced two SARS fatalities and three new cases -- the lowest daily number of infections reported so far. Beijing accounted for all the new cases and one death, the Health Ministry said. The other fatality occurred in the northern province of Hebei. The new figures bring the total number of deaths from SARS to 327 and the number of infections to 5,325, the ministry said.
Two stabbed during flight
Two Qantas flight attendants were stabbed on board a domestic flight to the southern island of Tasmania, Sky News reported yesterday. The plane departed Melbourne for a flight to the Tasmanian city of Launceston when a fight broke out and two flight attendants were stabbed by a passenger, Sky News reported, adding that two passengers also were injured. The plane turned around and landed at Melbourne in southeastern Australia where police and emergency services rushed to the scene. A Qantas spokeswoman said that the national carrier could not make any statement until it had more information.
Soldiers kill 15 guerrillas
Indian army soldiers killed 15 suspected Islamic guerrillas in a fierce gunfight in India's northern Jammu-Kashmir state, a news agency said yesterday. The gun battle was continuing in a forest near Lachchipora, a village in Anantnag district, 55km south of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu-Kashmir, according to the independent news agency, Press Trust of India said. Police said they began a search of Lachchipora after receiving a tip that guerrillas were hiding in the village. No other details were immediately available, and the army's claim could not be independently verified. Yesterday's gun battle came despite recent peace overtures by India and Pakistan which have raised hopes that violence could abate in Kashmir.
Security meet starts today
Asia's biggest gathering of defense ministers and armed forces chiefs will focus on terrorism and the North Korean nuclear crisis this weekend, while host Singapore assured no threats to security or health from SARS. The second annual Asia Security Conference marks the region's first major gathering tackling the issue since the end of the war on Iraq. It also encompasses the largest contingent of high-level officials to gather in the city-state since the outbreak of SARS. The event organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies kicks off late today with a speech from Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding father.
Elephants to battle loggers
Forest rangers are trying to protect timber with tusks. They've trained a band of elephants to charge at illegal loggers responsible for much of the country's rampant deforestation, a newspaper said yesterday. The 28 elephants recruited by the Nature Conservation Agency of North Bengkulu on the island of Sumatra have been trained to charge when they hear the sound of the loggers' chain saws, the Jakarta Post reported. "Most of the time, illegal loggers run away when they see an elephant coming straight at them," the paper said, paraphrasing comments by agency head Agus Priambidu. The paper said the trial program started last year and has yielded good results, with illegal logging activities declining.
Tax cut is now law
US President George W. Bush signed the third-biggest tax cut in history on Wednesday and said it would provide relief to millions of taxpayers within weeks, but that job growth would come more gradually. Bush initially ridiculed the tax bill's US$350 billion size as "little bitty" after Congress cut his proposal in half. But in signing it into law, Bush embraced the smaller package as a "bold" compromise, which aides hoped would boost the economy and his re-election chances. Unemployment stands at 6 percent and Democrats say the economy has shed more than 2.7 million private-sector jobs since Bush took office.