■ ChinaMan pays for lucky number
A Beijing man has paid 1.8 million yuan (US$215,000) for the ultimate in lucky cellphone numbers -- 133-3333-3333. The phone number was sold this week at an auction in the Chinese capital, newspapers said yesterday. Nine other "highly auspicious" phone numbers also were sold. Chinese tradition considers 3 a lucky number and groups of 3's even luckier. Though the number 8 is luckiest, all Chinese cell phone numbers begin with ``13,'' making it impossible to make a number with all 8's. The reports by the Beijing Times and Beijing Morning Post didn't identify the buyer.
Political leader bankrupt
Singapore's opposition leader lost a bid to defend himself from bankruptcy when a court dismissed his appeal to reassess libel damages he has been ordered to pay to two former prime ministers. Ruling against the application, the court said Chee Soon Juan, leader of the tiny Singapore Democratic Party, had failed to provide valid reasons justifying his absence from court, the Straits Times said yesterday. The failure of the appeal means Chee is likely to be bankrupted. He would be unable to contest the next general election, likely in 2007, if he cannot pay US$500,000 in damages sought by former prime ministers Goh Chok Tong and Lee Kuan Yew.
Boy hangs himself
An 11-year-old Thai boy allegedly hanged himself in a huff after his mother refused to give him 10 baht (US$0.25), media reports said yesterday. The incident occurred in Bangkok at 9pm on Thursday, hours after Chaiyawut Kamnuan had been refused 10 baht by his mother Kularb. "I didn't give him the money because he'd got 20 baht (US$0.50) from me just a few hours earlier," Kularb told The Nation newspaper. Kularb reportedly stormed to his room and locked the door after being refused the money. When his mother and father broke down the door hours later they found him hanging by a cloth belt from a window bar.
New plans against terror
Singapore will deploy security guards and install closed-circuit TV cameras in all of this city-state's schools to deter terror attacks. The measures are expected to cost the government US$9 million to US$12 million, the Straits Times reported. Addressing students at a forum on Friday, Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said it was necessary to beef up security even though there was no immediate threat, the paper reported. The measures are expected to be implemented in all of Singapore's 351 schools in six to eight months, the paper said.
Militants extend deadline
Militants claiming to hold three UN hostages in Afghanistan said they have extended a deadline until late yesterday to decide the fate of the trio, who they have threatened to kill if the UN doesn't pull out of the country. The world body and the Afghan government had until last night to open "formal" talks with Jaish-al Muslimeen, Ishaq Manzoor, who claims to be a spokesman for the shadowy Taliban splinter group, said on Friday. The militant group had said it would decide on Friday whether to kill the hostages or allow more time for negotiations. But "some respected people intervened and convinced our leaders to give time to the Afghan government and UN" to contact the group, Manzoor said.
■ United StatesAmericans eye move to NZ
Enquiries from Americans wanting to move to remote New Zealand have skyrocketed since US President George W. Bush was reelected. The New Zealand Immigration Service Web site had 10,300 hits from the US the day after the election, compared to the daily norm of 2,500. Thousands of North Americans have migrated to New Zealand in recent years but the number now looks set to soar. Phones at the Immigration Service offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland have been ringing constantly since the vote outcome, marketing manager Don Badman said. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Americans were also looking to Australia and Canada.