■ Singapore \nWake gamblers raided \nFuneral wakes have become occasions for illegal gambling in Singapore, prompting a series of raids by police, officials said yesterday. With wakes often held in tents set up on housing block decks, the gambling operators rent out space from the bereaved family in a separate tent behind the coffin, and they often harass the mourners into allowing them to do so. "Police do not normally act against family members and friends of the deceased for playing card games," a spokesman told The Straits Times. But police have raided several wakes following information received from the public. \n■ China \nSARS vaccine passes trials \nChinese researchers have developed a SARS vaccine that has passed the first stage of human trials, state media reported yesterday, raising hopes for prevention of a virus that killed some 800 people since it emerged in 2002. Antibodies against SARS developed in 24 of 36 volunteers in the trial, the official Xinhua news agency said, though several more clinical trials were required before the vaccine would be ready for commercial use. "We have finished our first-phase clinical test in line with international vaccine-testing requirements," the China Daily quoted the director of the research team, Yin Weidong, as saying. \n■ Indonesia \nMudslide buries homes \nWhile the death toll from severe flooding in the Indonesian province of East Java continued to rise, claiming the lives of at least 15 people, a massive mudslide buried almost 1,000 homes, local media reported yesterday. Dozens of villagers were reported missing in a landslide that hit Tambakrejo village, almost 40km south of Blitar regency -- the area hit hardest by flooding the last few days that caused 13 casualties, including a baby. "We do not know yet whether there are fatalities in the landslide, but dozens of people have been reportedly missing," a rescue worker, Agung Mahendra, was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Post. \n■ China \nLandslide blamed on mining \nSurvivors of a mountain landslide in southwestern China which killed at least 32 people in their sleep have blamed coal mining for making the ground unstable, state media said yesterday. A mass of earth and rock measuring 500m long, 200m wide and 3m high destroyed 25 houses early on Friday in the village in Guizhou province, the China Daily said. State TV said 12 missing villagers were presumed dead. "The heaviest stones hitting the houses weighed more than 100 tonnes, so people buried under them had no chance of surviving," the Beijing News quoted a local police official as saying. \n■ Australia \nOpera-fed sheep set record \nPampered Australian sheep which listen to Italian opera have set a new price record for the world's finest wool, their owners said yesterday. A 91kg bale of fine wool was sold to Italian designer Loro Piana for A$227,500 (US$177,700), to be turned into 50 designer suits that will retail for about A$15,000. Woolgrower Barry Walker said the bale was the finest wool ever produced. Walker is one of five farmers in the Highlander Partnership, who contribute their best sheep to the fine wool project based in New South Wales. The special flock is kept mostly indoors in small groups to protect them from temperature extremes. They listen to music, including Italian opera and recordings of Italian singer Andrea Bocelli. \n■ Mexico \nPublic servants arrested \nAs part of an investigation into drug-related killings last month in the resort city of Cancun, Mexican authorities on Sunday arrested 17 public servants suspected to have links to the grisly slayings. "During the early hours of today, the now-arrested [public servants] were transferred to a property in the Federal District, where they will be held as a precaution," the Federal attorney general's office said in a statement. Late last month, eight people were murdered execution-style in and around the Caribbean beach town. Police officials said at the time they believed the killings were the work of drug gangsters. \n■ United Kingdom \nTigers top popularity poll \nViewers of the Animal Planet cable and satellite channel have voted the tiger the world's favorite animal, narrowly beating the dog, according to a poll pub-lished yesterday on its Web site, animalplanet.co.uk. More than 50,000 viewers from 73 countries voted in the poll, tigers receiving 10,904 votes, just 17 votes more than dogs. Animal behaviorist Candy d'Sa, who worked with Animal Planet on the list, said: "We can relate to the tiger, as it is fierce and commanding on the outside, but noble and discerning on the inside. In contrast, the dog is a loyal and respectful creature and brings out the lighter, more communicative side of human nature," she said. The tiger received 21 percent of the vote, the dog 20, the dolphin 13, the horse 10, the lion 9, the snake 8, followed by the elephant, chimp, orang-utan and the whale. \n■ United Kingdom \nHigh-tech gamblers win \nThree gamblers who used a laser device to win over ?1.3 million (US$2.4 million) at the Ritz casino in London will not face prosecution, as they did nothing illegal, police said on Sunday -- and will keep their winnings. A Hungarian woman and two Serbian men allegedly used a laser scanner inside a mobile phone that was linked to a micro-computer, The Sunday Times reported. The scanner measured the speed of the ball as it was released by the croupier, identified where it fell and measured the declining orbit of the wheel. The data was beamed to the micro-computer, which calculated on which section of numbers the ball would land. This information was then flashed onto the screen of the mobile just before the wheel made its third spin, by which time all bets must be placed. The trio placed bets on all six numbers in the section where the ball would definitely end up. The trio were let off because it was deemed they had not violated any law, since the scanner did not interfere with the ball or wheel, the newspaper reported. \n■ Turkey \nPutin in diplomatic first \nRussian President Vladimir Putin was in Turkey yesterday on an unprec-edented visit to boost trade and counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries, which have been rivals since the time of the Czars and Sultans. Putin arrived late on Sunday on the first-ever official bilateral visit by a Russian leader -- a record that reflects the troubled history of the nations, both the kernels of once-sprawling empires that struggled for supremacy at their heights and still compete for clout. Putin was to hold official meetings yesterday as well as attend a business forum. Before the talks, Putin visited Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's Mausoleum, a national shrine honoring the father of the modern Turkish Republic. \n■ Italy \nItalian troops to stay in Iraq \nItaly will keep its some 3,000 troops in Iraq until the new Iraqi government decides that it is stable enough for them to leave, Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said in an interview published in The Wall Street Journal newspaper yesterday. The government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a staunch supporter of the US-led war in Iraq, had previously suggested it might be ready to withdraw its troops after Iraqi elections due at the end of next month. Fini, who was appointed to the foreign ministry last month, said previous reports had been a "misunderstanding." \n■ Spain \nBoy dies in Mafia crossfire \nThe resort of Marbella Sunday declared three days of mourning after a 10-year-old boy and an Italian hairdresser were killed in the crossfire of what appeared to be an underworld assassination attempt. Three men drew up in a car outside a hairdressing salon and peppered it with machine gun fire. The target, said to be a French-Algerian underworld figure, was reported to have been inside the Cosmo hairdresser when the gunmen began shooting. He escaped, but a 10-year-old Spanish boy on holiday was killed, and the aunt he was with was wounded. The second victim was a 36-year-old hairdresser at the salon. Local media reported that more than 50 shots had been fired during the shootout. \n■ Canada \nSecurity uniforms lost \nAuthorities have begun an investigation into the disappearance of hundreds of uniforms and badges worn by airport security screeners, news reports said on Sunday. Federal Transport Minister Jean Lapierre ordered the investigation following a television report that said in the first nine months of this year 1,127 uniform parts were lost or stolen. More than 200 of the uniform parts bore the logo of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. In addition, 91 security badges are missing. "What worries me is it makes it much easier to impersonate an official," Colin Kenny, chairman of the standing Senate committee on national security and defense, told CBC television. \n■ France \nSoldier refuses to retire \nA soldier who had locked himself in an explosives depot and threatened to blow it up surrendered yesterday, the French Interior Ministry said, ending a three-day standoff that prompted the evacuation of hundreds of villagers. Angered about being forced to retire at age 47, 46-year-old Regis Le Tohic on Friday seized control of the depot where he worked near the town of Fere-Champenoise. The warehouse contained 54 tonnes of explosives, mostly anti-tank mines. Le Tohic had been turned down for a promotion he had requested, officials said. He was demanding that the army reconsider his case. \n■ United States \nJackson DNA sample taken \nInvestigators took DNA from pop star Michael Jackson's mouth on Saturday, a day after raiding his Neverland Ranch to prepare for his trial on child molestation charges, a family source said. "The DNA swab was done on Saturday in Michael's house at the ranch," the source said. "Attorney Tom Mesereau, Michael Jackson and his three children -- aged 7, 6 and 2 -- were all at the ranch when dozens of sheriff's deputies armed with two search warrants arrived. Police on Friday spent eight hours combing Jackson's ranch.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
BEYOND CULTURE: The US State Department was expected to announce that the Chinese government-funded institutes would have to register as foreign missions US President Donald Trump’s administration is increasing scrutiny of a long-established Chinese-government funded program that is dedicated to teaching Chinese language and culture in the US and other nations, the latest escalation of tensions with Beijing. The US Department of State was expected to announce as soon as yesterday that Confucius Institutes in the US — many of which are based on college campuses — would have to register as “foreign missions,” according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified. The designation would amount to a conclusion that the institutes are “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by