■ New Zealand
Ties with Israel suspended
New Zealand has suspended its diplomatic ties with Israel following the jailing of two suspected Israeli spies in Auckland yesterday. Prime Minister Helen Clark said approval for a new Israeli ambassador would be delayed, a request for Israeli President Moshe Katsav to visit was being declined and the visa free entry status of Israeli officials had been suspended. National radio earlier reported that the alleged spies, Eli Cara, 50, and Urie Kelman, 30, had each been jailed for six months for taking part in a conspiracy to illegally obtain a New Zealand passport. The judge had reduced the proposed year-long sentence by six months on condition that they each pay US$32,500 to a charity that assists cerebral palsy sufferers.
Polluted cities named
China has named its most polluted cities, with the dusty capital Beijing coming 28th out of 113, and has told them to clean up their act. The northern coal-mining province of Shanxi stood out, with three cities taking the top three slots on the list -- Linfen, Yangquan and Datong, state media said yesterday. "These cities must step up efforts to improve air quality," Wang Jirong (汪紀戎), deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, was quoted as saying by the China Daily. The goal for Beijing is to have 80 percent of "fairly good or excellent air-quality days" a year by 2008, up from the current 60 percent.
■ Hong Kong
Suicide over video games
A nine-year-old boy in eastern China who stole three US dollars from a neighbor to feed his addiction for video games has hung himself in shame, a news report said yesterday. The schoolboy begged his mother to lock him up to stop him from stealing after she scolded him for stealing the money, the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily reported. He had already stolen money from his parents in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, several times to feed his addiction. When the boy's mother returned to his bedroom half an hour after scolding him, she found her son had hung himself, the newspaper said.
■ Hong Kong
Vegetable racket busted
Police said yesterday they had smashed a multi-million dollar vegetable-stall racket when they arrested seven men for allegedly extorting money from rural Hong Kong markets. The men, all believed to be members of an organized crime triad gang, were thought to have been pocketing about 3 million Hong Kong dollars (US$385,000) a month in the scam, a police source said. "This is a problem that has been going on for at least 30 years," said the source. "They had become part of everyday life in the markets." Stall holders and market workers paid protection money to an organization called the Yuen Long Vegetable Union under the guise of labor, weighing and rent.
■ New Zealand
Parolees yearn for cells
Some New Zealand convicts are pleading to return to prison rather than serve out their sentences at home, claiming life on the outside is too tough, officials said yesterday. New Zealand's Corrections Department confirmed 13 inmates on home detention had asked to be locked up in prison after finding they couldn't cope with their family situations. Home detention is an alternative to prison granted to convicted criminals regarded as not posing a danger to their families or communities.
■ Saudi Arabia