Ruler wins vote
Pakistan's military ruler won a vote of confidence from both houses of parliament and the country's four provincial assemblies yesterday in a carefully orchestrated process that empowers him to finish out his five-year term as president. The opposition walked out in protest and denounced the proceedings as a sham. The balloting on President General Pervez Musharraf's future follows a surprise deal with a coalition of hardline Islamic parties that agreed to support his claim to the presidency in return for a promise that he step down as army chief by the end of this year.
Tourists bite the dust
Visiting Australia is fatal to nearly 400 tourists a year. A report by the government's statistics agency shows that 363 tourists died last year, 377 in 2000 and 371 in 1998. It says that deaths were most common in over-55s suffering heart attacks. Men are twice as likely to die as women, and visitors are most at risk between the ages of 25 and 34 and over the age of 55. Younger visitors are liable to suicide as well, with 45 occurring in the past six years, mostly among people younger than 24, in the drab winter months of July and August. Nearly 100 people drowned in the same period, and 283 were killed in traffic accidents and 22 by assault.
Military crackdown a success
Bhutan voiced hope yesterday of an early end to its military crackdown against Indian rebels, whom it said were disorganized after troops destroyed their illegal camps in the kingdom. A Bhutanese army official said that the operations, launched on Dec. 15, had "almost reached the last leg with our troops destroying all the 30 militant camps. Quite a large number of rebels are still inside the jungles of Bhutan, although we are zeroing in on them." The Indian army, which helps train the Bhutanese army, says more than 140 rebels have died along with eight Bhutanese troops and support personnel since the offensive started.
SARS case still unconfirmed
Medical detectives targeted drains and sewers as they scoured a residential block, a drug store and a private home in southern China, searching for where a sickened man's illness -- which may or may not be SARS -- was contracted. The possible infection remained "a suspected case only," the official Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday, and the World Health Organization concurred. The male patient, still hospitalized, was reportedly improving. "A question mark continues to hang over the suspected SARS case in southern China, but more tests are planned in an effort to reach a definite conclusion," the WHO said in a statement.
World's oldest primate found
The oldest ancestor of humankind found so far ate beetles, weighed little more than a box of matches, and lived in China 55 million years ago. Ni Xijun of the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing and two colleagues reported in Nature yesterday that they have unearthed the partial skull and jaws of the most primitive specimen yet of the mammalian line which gave rise to modern primates. The discovery throws fresh light on primate evolution. Although humans -- and their nearest relatives, the chimpanzees and gorillas -- clearly emerged in Africa in the last 7 million years or so, the origins of the primate group have been less certain.