■ Philippines \n'John Wayne' up for election \nA hugely popular film actor known as the John Wayne of the Philippines dealt President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo a formidable challenge yesterday by confirming his starring role in next May's election. Other candidates from the fragmented opposition and several independents have vowed to run, but Fernando Poe Jr appears to be the one to beat after scoring a slim lead over newsreader-turned-senator Noli de Castro at the top of a recent opinion poll. Poe, a high school dropout with no political experience and close friend of ousted president and former movie star Joseph Estrada, said he accepted his nomination to be the standard bearer for one opposition coalition. \n■ India \nRebels' families released \nBhutan will hand over to India wives and children of Indian rebels caught in the Himalayan kingdom during a week-old military offensive, officials said yesterday. The Buddhist kingdom, wedged between India and China, last week launched its biggest offensive to push out an estimated 3,000 militants, who are fighting against New Delhi's rule across the border in India's northeast. "Bhutanese officials have informed us they would hand over wives and children of militants who are now in their custody," a senior Indian intelligence official said. \n■ China \nAlleged rape draws crowd \nEight men were arrested over the weekend for allegedly gang raping a woman in front of 200 revellers at a disco in Zhuhai, about 50km west of Hong Kong. The men were seized after police intercepted two taxis driving away from the Rolling Stone Disco following a complaint from the woman. A Zhuhai police spokesman confirmed the attack had occurred and eight suspects were in custody, a media report said. One witness said the woman was attacked in the main area of the disco. She was pinned to a sofa, stripped naked by four of the attackers and repeatedly raped in front of about 200 people, The Standard reported on Monday. \n■ Laos \nPupils flunk urine tests \nThe government of Laos expressed its alarm yesterday over the results of its first widespread urine testing at primary and secondary schools, in which about 8.6 per cent of the students tested positive for methamphetamine. "It's very alarming that drugs are entering the schools," Dr. Thienthien Polsena, director of the government's Anti-Narcotics Committee, was quoted as saying in a broadcast by Radio Vientiane. The government-run radio said urine tests on 1,644 students from five primary and secondary schools in the central province of Savannakhet found 141 students had methamphetamine in their systems. Students whose urine tests were positive would be sent to reeducation centers, he said. \n■ Australia \nStudents sobering up \nBeer-swilling nights are becoming a thing of the past for Australian university students as they drink less and save money to pay off their growing personal debt and student fees, bar owners say. Even celebrations to mark the end of exams aren't as wild as they used to be, said Peter Linden, a bar manager at Melbourne University. "Having a Uni bar is no longer a license to print money," Linden said in the Sydney Morning Herald. "You don't see the kind of student that you did 10 to 15 years ago. They are more focused on degrees than they are having fun," he said. \n■ South Africa \nAIDS activist murdered \nAn AIDS activist in South Africa was gang raped and then beaten to death after telling her attackers she was infected with the HIV virus, it has emerged. Police said on Sunday that two men had been arrested on charges of participating in the rape and murder of Lorna Mlosana, 21, in the township of Khayelitsha outside Cape Town. "After they finished, the lady told them she was HIV positive, and then they took her outside and killed her," said Inspector Lunga Ntsinde. Police are seeking at least one other suspect but a witness said up to five men took turns attacking Mlosana after they had followed her into a toilet near a tavern. \n■ Israel \nElite commandos say no \nAbout a dozen reservists from the Israeli army's top commando unit declared on Sunday that they would no longer serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli media reported, reflecting growing unease with Israel's hard-fisted policy in the Palestinian areas. Thirteen reservists, including three officers, from Sayeret Matkal signed a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, declaring, "We cannot continue to stand silent," charging that Israeli military activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are depriving "millions of Palestinians of human rights" and endangering "the fate of Israel as a democratic, Zionist and Jewish country." Sayeret Matkal is the top commando unit in the Israeli military and its most prestigious. \n■ Belgium \nAntibubbles created in beer \nBelgian scientists have put a different kind of fizz into physics. They have studied that fleeting mystery of the foaming tankard -- the antibubble. Antibubbles move down the glass instead of up. Stephane Dorbolo and colleagues at the University of Liege and the College de France reported online yesterday in the New Journal of Physics that they found out how to create antibubbles in a variety of liquids, including water dosed with washing-up liquid. They repeated the phenomenon in a glass of Belgian beer, thus confirming, according to the Institute of Physics in London, "what British real ale drinkers have claimed for a long time: that Belgian beer is a lot like dishwater." \n■ United States \nStewart curses legal woes \nStyle icon Martha Stewart has bemoaned her legal troubles and upcoming trial for an insider trading scandal in a rare television interview. "It's the saddest holiday ever. It's an unwelcome time for me, very unwelcome," Stewart told CNN television. Stewart could face as much as 30 years in prison if convicted of charges against her of securities fraud, obstruction of justice, making false statements and lying to the FBI. The criminal trial gets underway on Jan. 12. \n■ United States \nObese bears like junk food \nBears need lots of fat to survive winter hibernation. But enough is enough, say US scientists who blame a ballooning black bear pudginess on their love of and access to human junk food. A study by the Wildlife Conservation Society found that 59 black bears followed in the Lake Tahoe region of the western state of Nevada weighed nearly a third more than bears living in wild areas -- and were a third less active. The scientists blamed the obesity trend on the availability of discarded hamburgers, chicken, French fries and other junk food in dumpsters behind fast food restaurants, shopping centers and suburban homes.
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable