■ Australia \nOutback murder trial to start \nAn Australian mechanic was ordered yesterday to stand trial over the outback murder three years ago of British backpacker Peter Falconio. Following a five-week committal hearing, Magistrate Alasdair McGregor told a Darwin courthouse that there was enough evidence to commit Bradley John Murdoch to trial for murdering Falconio and abducting and assaulting his girlfriend, Joanne Lees. Falconio disappeared on lonely stretch of highway north of the central Australian town of Alice Springs in July 2001 and his body has never been found. Prosecutors allege Murdoch flagged down the couple's van before shooting Falconio and abducting Lees, who escaped and hid in the bush. \n■ Nepal \nMaoists issue death list \nMaoist insurgents have issued a "death sentence" to nine local journalists working in western Nepal, newspaper reports said yesterday. The Maoist death order followed the killing last week of Dekendra Raj Thapa, a journalist associated with state-owned Radio Nepal. Among the journalists in the Maoist hit list are two journalists associated with the country's biggest publishing house, Kantipur Publications. The Maoists said it was the verdict of their people's court to eliminate the local journalists, the largest Nepali language daily Kantiupur reported. \n■ New Zealand \nStorm paralyzes Wellington \nA mail delivery woman in rural Wairarapa, north east of Wellington, has gone missing in the violent storm lashing central New Zealand that has cut all air and sea links, Radio New Zealand news reported yesterday. New Zealand Post has since canceled mail deliveries because conditions were too dangerous for workers. The storm, with winds gusting up to 198km an hour, has all but paralyzed New Zealand's capital Wellington. High winds and heavy rain have halted ferries to the South Island, closed the airport, and severed road and rail links both within the Wellington area and to the rest of the North Island. \n■ Myanmar \nRelease Suu Kyi: Annan \nUN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for the immediate release of Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and urged the government to open "a substantive dialogue" with opposition parties and ethnic minorities to demonstrate its commitment to restore democracy. He warned on Tuesday that Myanmar's efforts to draft a new constitution will lack international credibility until the government considers opposition views. On July 9, Myanmar adjourned a constitution-drafting convention after nearly two months of closed-door discussions. It is unclear when it will resume. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party boycotted the convention because the government refuses to release her from house arrest. \n■ China \nBeijing targets phone sex \nChina's communist leaders, in a fresh move to eradicate pornography, have targeted the telephone sex industry, ordering severe punishment for anyone offering the service, the official People's Daily said yesterday. The call came within days of the start of a nationwide project to crack down on Internet pornography. "With the rapid development of the paid-call service market in China, some lawbreakers make use of this form to spread obscene information and even conduct prostitution," Minister of the Information Industry Wang Xudong was quoted as saying. \n■ United States \nFBI inquiries questioned \nSeveral Democratic lawmakers called for a Justice Department investigation on Tuesday into the FBI's questioning of would-be demonstrators about possible violence at the political conventions, saying the questioning may have violated the First Amendment. In a letter to the department's inspector general seeking an investigation, the lawmakers said the FBI inquiries appeared to represent "systematic political harassment and intimidation of legitimate anti-war protesters." Officials at the Justice Department and the FBI said they had not seen the letter and could not comment on its specific points but defended the recent efforts by the bureau to question demonstrators around the country, saying the inquiries have been aimed solely at detecting and preventing violence at the Republican convention in New York and other major political events. \n■ Canada \nBig sleep for `The Big Guy' \nMontreal underworld boss Frank Cotroni, aka "The Big Guy" who was accused of links with leading New York mobsters, has died at the age of 72, reports said Tuesday. Cotroni, whose late brother Vincent was regarded as the head of the Montreal mafia, died of brain cancer, French language television stations here reported. The Cotroni family was tabbed in a 1976 report by a provincial commission on organized crime as a Canadian wing of the New York Bonanno mob which conducted a reign of fear in the 1960s. Frank Cotroni spent several years in prison. He was last released in 2002 after serving part of a seven-year sentence for conspiring to import 180kg of cocaine into Canada. He had originally been freed conditionally in 2001, but was rearrested after police spotted him at a Montreal restaurant with suspected underworld figures with whom he had promised not to associate. \n■ United States \nCostco's new line \nA US discount warehouse chain known for piling 'em high, and selling 'em cheap, is offering cut-price coffins along with the buckets of ketchup and two-gallon tubs of ice-cream under a new pilot program. Costco Wholesale Corp. began selling the US$800 caskets in two of its Chicago stores this week and has already taken some orders, spokesman Bob Nelson said. The Universal Casket Company caskets come in six models in a variety of colors and 18-gauge steel. Consumers place an order electronically and their coffin is delivered to their home within 48 hours. The chain is watching the experiment closely and could put caskets on the shopping list of all its warehouses stores if it's a success. "This is not something we have a lot of experience with," said Nelson, "but we felt it was an area where we could offer a value." \n■ United States \nShark victim found \nThe Coast Guard has recovered the headless body of a diver who was killed by a shark off the coast of Mendocino County in California. Randy Fry, 50, was attacked on Sunday afternoon in shallow water near Westport while diving for abalone with a companion. His body was recovered on Monday, while his companion escaped injury. A friend of Fry's estimated that the shark was between 5m and 5.4m long. "It was over in five seconds," said Red Bartley, who witnessed the attack. It was the state's first shark fatality since last August.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies