Bush's spirit cursed
US President George W. Bush has been trapped in a clay pot and tossed into a river in northern Thailand -- or at least his spirit has after being cursed by hundreds of farmers protesting US agriculture policy. A photograph of the US leader was sealed inside a pot amid black magic mantra chants, then tossed into the Ping River on Friday by demonstrators after they rallied at the US consulate in Chiang Mai, a farm group leader said. "This is a traditional northern Thai ceremony aimed at keeping his spirit down on the riverbed so he could not come and exploit our natural resources or suppress our [farming] brothers with his superior influence," Weerasak Wan-ubol, an executive of the Northern Farmers Alliance, said yesterday.
Anti-Jew remarks panned
Australia kept up pressure on Malaysia yesterday over comments about Jews by outspoken Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that drew loud protests from Western governments and Israel. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, in Bangkok for an Asia-Pacific summit, said he had protested to Malaysia's acting foreign minister during a bilateral meeting yesterday. "We saw the remark made by Dr. Mahathir in his speech as anti-Semitic," Downer told reporters. Mahathir provoked an outcry when he asserted that a Jewish lobby controlled Western powers. "The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy," Mahathir told an Islamic summit in Malaysia on Thursday.
Man pulls train with teeth
A Malaysian claimed a world record yesterday by pulling six railway passenger coaches along a track with his teeth. Organizers of the event in Kuala Lumpur will apply for V. Rathakrishnan's feat to be entered in the Guinness Book of World Records, the national news agency Bernama reported. Rathakrishnan, 37, pulled the coaches, weighing 260.8 tonnes, for a distance of 4.2m. The book currently lists Belgium's Walter Arfeuille as the record holder for "greatest weight pulled with teeth." He pulled eight railway passenger coaches weighing 223.8 tonnes for a distance of 3.2m in Belgium in 1996.
Hun Sen opponent killed
A senior political editor for a radio station owned by a key opposition party was shot dead yesterday, two days after Cambodia's prime minister accused the broadcaster of insulting his party. Chou Chetharith, 37, a deputy editor of the royalist FUNCINPEC party's Ta Prum radio, was shot in the jaw in broad daylight in Phnom Penh by a gunman riding pillion on a motorcycle, police and party officials said. "He was killed immediately," Ta Prum radio chief Narithyath Ninda said.
10 rape suspects arrested
Police on Friday rounded up 10 people in connection with a Swiss diplomat's rape earlier this week in the Indian capital, a police spokesman said. "Their movements at the time of the incident are being verified and fingerprints are being matched with those lifted from the cigarette lighter and the victim's car," Deputy Police Commissioner Vivek Gogia said. The lighter was found in the car of the 36-year-old woman, who worked in the consular section of the Swiss embassy, following her abduction and rape inside her car on Tuesday.
Plane crashes into suburb
At least four people were killed yesterday when a light aircraft crashed into a crowded Harare suburb, a police spokesman said. Three people on board the plane as well as one bystander in the low-income township of Kuwadzana, on the western outskirts of the capital, were killed, police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said. Two other residents were seriously injured.
Right wing gains support
Polling gets underway in Switzerland's general election today, with pre-election polls predicting that the right-wing Swiss People's Party will become the nation's biggest political party for the first time, despite an outcry sparked by its racial rhetoric. Some 4.7 million voters will elect a new parliament for a four-year term, with final results expected tomorrow. A Swiss television opinion poll indicated that the Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC) would seize about 25.3 percent of the vote, 2.8 percentage points up on the last election in 1999.
Gorbachev blasts Germans
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev says Germans "whine too much" and that they should be thankful they live in one of the richest nations on Earth, according to an interview with Der Spiegel news magazine. In the interview, due to hit newsstands tomorrow, the man whose tenure as Kremlin leader saw the collapse of the Soviet Union says Germans should be thankful they have been spared the deprivations his countrymen have faced, and continue to face. "You all whine too much," he was quoted as saying of the Germans both in former East Germany and in the west. "I greatly regret that there was no powerful and rich West Russia around to help us pick up the pieces after the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union," he said.
■ United States
Sword fight sparks dispute
A man accused of wielding a deadly weapon during a family squabble over a burial plot was acquitted after seven witnesses were unable to agree on whether it was a samurai sword, a ninja sword, a machete, a knife, a long piece of metal or a stick. Some said the blade was silver, while others testified it was black. The defendant testified he had no weapon at all and none was introduced as evidence. A jury took just over an hour on Thursday to acquit Thiet Pham, 37, of charges that included attempted aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. The incident took place last January outside Pham's mobile home. Two carloads of relatives had gone there to argue with his wife about an uncle's burial plot. Two witnesses testified Pham swung at a relative with a sword that they grabbed by the blade before the blow landed. But defense attorney Bob Pell mimicked an overhead sword motion and said: "If a person with a samurai sword took that kind of swing, there'd be body parts everywhere."
Debtor cuts off genitals
A Tanzanian man cut off his genitals in an attempt to win sympathy from creditors after squandering their money on prostitutes and alcohol, a newspaper reported yesterday. The 24-year-old reached the decision after realizing he could not pay back money lent to him by friends and relatives to invest in a business venture. The Guardian newspaper said the man's condition was improving after he received treatment at his local hospital in the east African country's northern Manyara region.
Judge caught masturbating
A French judge was placed under official investigation for "sexual exposure" in a courtroom, prosecutors said on Friday, after a newspaper reported the judge masturbated while a lawyer pleaded her case. The 39-year old judge masturbated for several minutes on Wednesday while listening to a female lawyer addressing the court in a case dealing with a dispute between neighbors, regional paper La Charente Libre said. One of the paper's reporters saw the judge "making unambiguous gestures after discretely lifting his judicial robe and opening his trousers," it said. The judge was temporarily suspended and will be examined by a psychiatrist, a prosecutor in the town of Angouleme said.
■ United Kingdom
Police diverted by magician
Ten British police officers face disciplinary action after they visited American showman David Blaine's starvation stunt while they were supposed to be on patrol, police said on Friday. The officers abandoned street duties in a deprived part of London to see the New Yorker, who is near the end of 44 days confined in a plastic box by the River Thames. Scotland Yard said it had launched an internal inquiry after newspapers published pictures of the police in uniform on their way to see Blaine.
■ Saudi Arabia
Legislative elections planned
The first legislative elections to be held in Saudi Arabia will take place in three years, a leading newspaper reported yesterday. The Saudi-owned daily Al-Hayat quoted Saudi sources as saying elections would be held to fill one-third of the 120 seats in the Majlis ash-Shura, or Consultative Council, which until now has been an all-appointed body offering advice to the government. The daily, published in London, also said half the members of regional councils would be elected in the kingdom within two years. The news came after the Saudi Press Agency, quoting the cabinet, announced on Oct. 13 that the first ever polls in the kingdom would take place in 2004 to elect half the members of municipal councils.
■ United States
Both houses of Congress on Friday overwhelmingly approved US$85 billion for military deployment and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, meeting most of President George W. Bush's US$87 billion request. The Senate's 87-12 vote followed a 303-125 approval in the House of Representatives, where 74 Democrats crossed party lines to vote for the bill. The two bills now go to a House-Senate reconciliation committee to hammer out a single version. The Senate watered down Bush's request with an amendment Thursday night requiring Baghdad to pay back half of the US$20.3 billion earmarked for Iraqi reconstruction. The Senate trimmed another US$1.9 billion with an amendment cutting expenses it deemed unnecessary, including creation of a postal code system for Iraq.
Mother fined for hitting child
A mother who slapped her small daughter at a bus stop in the western German city of Cologne will have to pay a 75 euro (US$87) fine, a local court ruled on Friday. The 22 year-old mother admitted to having temporarily lost control of herself when she hit the child, fearing she would run out into the street. Witnesses said the slap had been particularly violent. The court ruled that the mother's action was extremely inappropriate on the part of a parent.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread
RISKY BUSINESS: The Chinese firm has stockpiled 500,000 pieces of 5G equipment not covered by US sanctions, but fears a wider ban could be announced in the UK Huawei Technologies Co believes it can supply 5G hardware unaffected by US sanctions to the UK for the next five years, sidestepping the expected conclusion of British emergency review on Tuesday. The company has stockpiled 500,000 pieces of kit, but fears a wider ban on its equipment is to be unveiled to placate rebel British Conservative Party lawmakers, who say that the Chinese supplier represents a national security risk. The British government on Friday said that it was “very likely” that British Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden would make a statement to parliament on Tuesday