■ SingaporeMalaysia ties looking good
Singapore's leader-in-waiting is optimistic ties with neighbor Malaysia will improve under new Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, he said in an interview with Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao published yesterday. "Mr Abdullah Badawi's appointment as prime minister gives us confidence, as we have known him for many years," deputy prime minister and finance minister Lee Hsien Loong, was quoted as saying. "We know his character, his approach to problems and his attitude toward Singapore. I do not believe there will be any problem with his appointment."
Hiring system blasted
China's stringent requirements over companies' hiring of foreigners are being criticized by some human-resources experts who urge the government to make it easier to tap badly needed talent, state media said yesterday. Current standards for assessing the skills and capabilities of foreign nationals are outdated and must be revised, the Xinhua news agency quoted experts saying. Even Microsoft boss Bill Gates would not be regarded as "talented" under the current criteria used by the Shanghai city government, said Shen Ronghua, director of the city's public administration and human resources department.
Defense minister visits US
Vietnamese Defense Minister Pham Van Tra left Hanoi early yesterday for a landmark visit to the US, the first by the communist nation's top military officer since the end of the Vietnam War 28 years ago. The conservative general, who will arrive in Washington later yesterday, is scheduled to meet with his counterpart Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for talks on kick-starting military relations between the former foes. Foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung told reporters on Thursday that his visit "will contribute to enhancing mutual understanding between the two armies and peoples and developing US-Vietnam relations."
Call for prisoners' release
A UN human rights envoy has lashed out at Myanmar's military government for jailing old and ailing dissidents, and called for the immediate release of hundreds of other political prisoners. "I told the authorities that it is a shame to keep all these people ... It is outrageous to have people of 75 years [of age] in prison after 10, 15 years,'' Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said on Saturday before leaving the country after a weeklong visit to Myanmar. He called for the immediate and unconditional release of some 1,300 political detainees including 35 people who were arrested after a May 30 clash between pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's supporters and a government-backed mob.
Temples, churches closed
Authorities in China's eastern province of Zhejiang intent on curbing illegal religious activities have closed down hundreds of temples and 10 churches, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said yesterday. The closure of 392 temples and the churches was part of a campaign against "key members of illegal religious groups" waged by Zhejiang's Deqing county, the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in a statement. No comment was immediately available from the authorities who were not working yesterday.
■ United StatesTransgender teens arrested
Just two months after America's first gay and lesbian high school opened in Manhattan, it has been embarrassed by the arrests of five transgender students for posing as female prostitutes and robbing their clients. Police said the five teenagers from Harvey Milk High School, wearing wigs, earrings and make-up, approached men in Manhattan's West Village. Posing as undercover vice cops, they stripped their victims of credit cards and cash. The handcuff-toting teens worked in teams of two or three. Once they had an interested client, they would flash `Special Police' badges, telling them they could escape arrest in exchange for their money, cards and PIN numbers.