Fri, Nov 21, 2003 - Page 7 News List

World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ Hong Kong
Schoolchildren hit by virus

In a city braced nervously for a possible return of SARS this winter, more than 400 schoolchildren were treated yesterday for a mass outbreak of viral gastroenteritis. An emergency hotline was set up by the Department of Health as children at four schools spread out across the territory have been hit by the virus which causes severe vomiting, diarrhoea and fever. The outbreak signals that Hong Kong has entered the flu season when experts say there is the highest risk of a return of SARS.

■ Australia

Families and pets downsize

Houses built in Australia have doubled in size in the past 50 years but the family pet is just a quarter of what it was. Yes, the global fad for dinky dogs has hit the continent-sized country. The fun-size maltese terrier has taken over from the family-size labrador retriever as the companion of choice. The downsizing has been tracked by the New South Wales state government, which requires that dogs and cats be registered and microchipped. The miniaturization is not all that surprising. A plunging birth rate means the family has been miniaturized too.

■ Australia

Music swapping first

Three students in Sydney have been convicted of swapping music files over the Internet, in the first case of its kind in the world. The students, Charles Kok Hau Ng, 20, Peter Tran, 19, and Tommy Le, 21, pleaded guilty to 68 copyright infringement charges. Ng and Tran were both given 18-month suspended sentences, while Ng and Le were also given 200 hours of community service. The trio set up the MP3/WMA Land Web site which had an archive of 390 CDs and 1,800 tracks to download. Ng's lawyer, Chris Levingston, said the trio had made no financial gain and that the music industry had made no loss, although Australian police said the site could have cost the industry £24 million.

■ Hong Kong

Croc still on the loose

A crocodile that has eluded capture for nearly three weeks foiled an Australian expert yet again when it didn't bite on a special trap baited with mice, chicken heads and fatty pork. Croc farmer John Lever set the trap late Wednesday but the beast stayed away. Lever then hunted into the early hours of yesterday and reportedly spotted the croc again several times but was unable to bag his 1.2m prey. Even though the croc avoided the new trap -- equipped with sensitive doors that can close quickly -- officials will make a second similar one, said Viola Kwan, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. "Now it's a personal challenge," the South China Morning Post quoted Lever as saying.

■ China

S Korea wants POW

South Korea has asked China to release a man who says he is a South Korean taken captive by the North during the Korean War and who escaped to Chinese territory where he was arrested while trying to return home, an official said yesterday. "Apparently he is war prisoner, so we have requested that the Chinese authorities send him to South Korea," said an official at the South Korean embassy in Beijing who spoke on condition of anonymity. "We are still negotiating." The man, Jun Yong-il, was arrested on Monday at Hangzhou Airport in eastern China while trying to board a plane to South Korea using a forged South Korean passport.

■ Canada
SARS screening eased

Canada is easing SARS screening at its international airports, including a halt in the use of thermal scanners to detect people with fever, Health Minister Anne McLellan announced Wednesday. The change comes more than five months after the last new case of severe acute respiratory syndrome was detected in Canada, where the disease killed 44 people and sickened more than 200 others in the Toronto area earlier this year. McLellan said the fever-detecting scanners could be quickly reinstalled if needed, but acknowledged the machines have limited effectiveness.

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