Manhole covers stolen
A string of recent manhole cover thefts in China's largest city, Shanghai, has caused the deaths of at least two people after they fell through uncovered holes, state press reported yesterday. Nearly a dozen people have been injured since June last year as city officials have called for stiffer penalties against those caught stealing manhole covers, Xinhua news reported on its Web site. Based on the cost of the item stolen, convicted manhole cover thieves are handed about a two-week stint in jail, the report said. Over the past six weeks 1,826 manhole covers had been stolen, resulting in losses of about 460,000 yuan (US$55,000) to the city.
Opposition expels lawmaker
Japan's largest opposition party expelled a lawmaker yesterday for falsely claiming he graduated from a California university as it attempted to prevent the escalating scandal from damaging the party. The uproar over whether Junichiro Koga graduated from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, has dealt a blow to Japan's up-and-coming Democratic Party, which made strong gains in elections last November. Koga, 45, a former professional tennis player, said this week he was resigning from the party after acknowledging his resume claims were false, but the Democrats decided to expel him to take a tough stand.
■ New Zealand
Acclaimed writer dies
Acclaimed New Zealand writer Janet Frame died yesterday in Wellington aged 79 after a brief battle with cancer. Frame, frequently touted as a Nobel Literature Prize prospect and shortlisted last year, was diagnosed on her birthday last August with acute myeloid leukaemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Born in the southern city of Dunedin in 1924, Frame was characterized as shy, eccentric and reclusive. After a tortured early life, during which she was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia and came close to having a lobotomy, Frame was awarded countless honors, winning accolades in New Zealand, Britain and the US.
Old people conned
The number of elderly Japanese who fell victim to scam phone calls from purportedly needy relatives surged in the last two months of last year, taking the total amount defrauded last year to over US$40 million, police said yesterday. There were 2,486 reported cases of the scam, in which a young man calls his elderly prey pretending to be a son or grandson in trouble and saying "It's me" instead of giving a name, in November and December, the National Police Agency said. There were 6,504 cases in all of last year, with losses hitting US$40.7 million, 40 percent of which was snared in the last two months of the year, it said.
Corrupt magistrate caught
An Indian magistrate who allegedly accepted a bribe to issue arrest warrants against India's president and senior legal figures has been trapped in a sting operation by a journalist, a report said yesterday. The journalist videotaped magistrate Meghani Nagar, who practices in Ahmedabad, accepting a bribe of US$851 to issue the arrest warrants, the Times of India newspaper said. Among those cited in the warrants for criminal breach of trust and for cheating and dishonesty are Indian President Abdul Kalam and Chief Justice V.N. Khare, a senior judge and a well-known lawyer.
■ United States
Bush assures Turkey
President George W. Bush gave Turkey assurances that the US does not support an expansion of autonomy for Kurds in neighboring Iraq. Bush had lunch with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, praising his country as an important ally. "The United States' ambition is for a peaceful country, a democratic Iraq that is territorially intact," Bush told Erdogan. The term "territorially intact" refers to the desire of Kurdish Iraqis to expand the autonomy they've had in northern Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War.