Japanese activist sentenced
A Japanese man who was arrested while helping would-be North Korean refugees escape via China was sentenced yesterday to eight months in prison on migrant-smuggling charges, the Japanese Embassy said. Takayuki Noguchi, who was arrested Dec. 10 with two North Koreans near China's southern border with Vietnam, was one of several foreign activists who were detained by China while helping fleeing North Koreans. It wasn't clear whether the six months that he already has spent in detention would be counted toward his sentence. China has given no information about the fate of the North Koreans and of an interpreter detained with Noguchi. Japan has asked China to release Noguchi and not to send back the North Korean refugees.
Buddhist work reprinted
China has launched a five-year project to reprint a 266-year-old Buddhist encyclopaedia, state media said yesterday. Known as the Dazangjing in Chinese, the royal edition of the Buddhist canon was first compiled and printed on the orders of the first emperor of the Song dynasty (960-1279). The current edition was com-pleted in 1738, carved onto 130,000 wood plates and containing nearly 2,000 different books. The encyclopaedia includes discourses with the Buddha, regulations of monastic life and commentaries on the sutras by renowned Buddh-ist scholars.
New SMS world record
A business student with nimble thumbs broke the Guinness Book of World Records time for the fastest SMS (short message service) typed on a mobile phone, news reports said yesterday. Kimberly Yeo, 23, clocked 43.24 seconds for typing 26 words on Sunday. The current record is 67 seconds for the same 26 words held since last September by James Trusler of Britain, The Straits Times said. More than 500 people gathered to take part in the "SMS Shootout."
■ New Zealand
Polynesians outdance all
Bollywood became Polywood in New Zealand over the weekend when an Indian dance competition was won by a team made up almost entirely of Polynesians. The Tangaroa College team of Maori, Samoan, Tongan and Nigerian students took the mainly Indian audience by surprise at the competition in Auckland on Saturday as they danced in classical Indian style to music from a Sharuk Khan movie. "None compared to these Poly-nesians. They outclassed everyone -- they were better than the Indian kids -- it was perfect," said Bob Kumar, one of about 3,000 people in the audience. The Tangaroa team coach, Famida Adam, said she picked the team from her tenth-grade English class.
Five Taliban fighters killed
US forces captured two anti-coalition fighters in southern Afghanistan, a spokesman said yesterday, while an Afghan governor reported five Taliban killed in a fierce gunfight between insurgents and US forces at a mosque in his province. The governor of southern Zabul province, Khial Mohammed, said that US troops battled Taliban insurgents holed up in a mosque in the town of Poti on Sunday, killing five and capturing at least four of them. Mohammed said the insurgents opened fire from within the mosque, and no US soldiers were reported injured.
Setback for conservatives
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party lost control of its Milan power base in local elections on Sunday, in another setback for the conservatives following their defeat in European parliamentary polls. The left-wing challenger, Filippo Penati beat out Milan Governor Ombretta Colli, garnering 54.2 percent of the vote to her 45.8, RAI television reported. The projection was based on 80 percent of total votes cast. If the Milan results in the second round of local and provincial elections are confirmed, it would be a personal defeat for Berlu-sconi, who owns the foot-ball team AC Milan and whose company Fininvest is based in the city.
■ Saudi Arabia
One of the kingdom's most wanted men surrendered yesterday, relatives said, the second Islamic militant to take advantage of an official amnesty offer for al-Qaeda supporters. Ex-army soldier Othman Hadi al-Maqbul al-Aamri, 37, gave himself up at his home village of Beni Amr after two years on the run, the family said. His name figures at number 19 on the Interior Ministry's most wanted list. Al-Qaeda extremists were offered the amnesty if they turned themselves in within a month and warned that those who did not would face a harsh crackdown. The amnesty guarantees personal safety and the dropping of all charges for those who repent. It reserves the right of indivi-duals harmed by terror acts to either seek redress through the courts or waive any claims.
■ United Kingdom
Phones affect sperm
Men who carry mobile phones in their trouser pockets may be at risk of damaging their sperm count, according to research by Hungarian scientists. Full details of the study will be presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Berlin today. Early reports have attracted skepticism from other scientists who pointed to the contradictory results of other work on the subject. Researchers from the University of Szeged in Hungary said they found that not only did using the phone affect a man's sperm count and the motility of the sperm, but simply having it switched on in a pocket was enough to do damage.
■ United Kingdom
Menopause formula found
Experts in Scotland have developed a formula to predict when a woman's biological clock will stop ticking.The pioneering method allows doctors to calculate when the meno-pause is likely to begin by counting the number of eggs in a woman's ovaries and charting their decline. With a simple ultrasound scan, doctors will be able to use math and computer analysis to work out when the ovaries will stop producing eggs.
■ Saudi Arabia
Talk show leads to divorce
A Saudi man has divorced his wife for participating in a TV program by telephone after he had warned her against phoning in to talk shows, a newspaper reported on Sunday. Khadija Fares, 31, told Al-Watan that her husband of 12 years annulled their marriage after she expressed her point of view on "marital problems" in a TV program. Afterwards her husband ignored her for two days before conveying his decision to divorce her through her family, the daily said.
■ European Union
President finally chosen
Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, the Portuguese prime minister, was confirmed Sunday night as the next president of the European commission, ending a bitter row between Britain and its French and German partners which underscored the tension in the EU about the way ahead for an enlarged union. Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, holder of the union's rotating presidency, said the Portuguese conservative had been "overwhelmingly" approved by EU leaders to replace Romano Prodi. Durao Barroso, 48, is little known outside his own country. He proved acceptable because no one objected to him rather than for any special talent or vision of how to run the union's demoralized executive and manage its often troubled relations with the member states.
Former president elected
Former president Valdas Adamkus won a second term Sunday, beating former prime minister Kazimira Prunskiene in a runoff less than two months after her ally was ousted from office for divulging state secrets. With all of the country's 2,038 polling stations counted, the Central Election Commission said that Adamkus had 52.2 percent of the ballots cast, compared with 47.8 percent for Prunskiene. Champagne corks popped after midnight in the fancy downtown Forum Palace restaurant, where Adamkus and hundreds of his supporters celebrated his victory. "I will start negotiating with candidates on Monday and shaping up my team," Adamkus said.
■ United Kingdom
Bug gaining resistance
Scientists have discovered MRSA "superbug" bacteria which are increasingly resistant to the "last resort" antibiotic in the war against superbugs. A study in eight countries found MRSA bacteria that was becoming more resistant to vancomycin. The news has worried scientists as vancomycin has been the last antibiotic which could be relied on to kill the MRSA superbug. The researchers said they feared that resistance would become more common as more of the antibiotic was used to treat growing numbers of MRSA cases.
■ United States
Moore scores at box office
Michael Moore's anti-Bush movie Fahrenheit 9/11 became the highest-grossing documentary of all time on its first weekend in release, taking in US$21.8 million as it packed theaters across the country this weekend. The movie, mocking US President George W. Bush and criticizing his decision to go to war in Iraq, was No. 1 at the box office, beating out the popular comedies White Chicks and DodgeBall, which were playing on almost triple the number of screens. Theater owners in large cities and smaller towns reported sellout crowds over the weekend, with numerous theaters declaring house records.
■ United States
Lion attacks woman
A woman was attacked by a mountain lion while hiking in central California, but was rescued when her friends stabbed the animal with a knife and threw rocks at it, officials said. Shannon Parker, 27, lost her right eye, was injured in her other eye and suffered deep lacerations to her right thigh during Saturday's attack, said Steve Martarano, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game. Authorities said Parker was hiking with three male friends about 30km north of Kernville when the 31.5kg female lion attacked.
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,
Former US vice president Joe Biden on Friday said he “should not have been so cavalier” after he told a radio host that African Americans who back US President Donald Trump “ain’t black.” In a call with the US Black Chamber of Commerce that was added to his public schedule, Biden said he would never “take the African American community for granted.” “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” Biden said. “No one should have to vote for any party based on their race or religion or background.” Biden faced criticism after his comments earlier on Friday on The Breakfast Club, a