■ ChinaMine blast kills 33
Thirty-three workers were killed after a gas explosion at a coal mine in north China, once again highlighting the appalling safety standards blighting the industry, officials said yesterday. Seventy-one miners were in the shaft when the blast occurred on Thursday afternoon at Nanlou township near the city of Yangquan in Shanxi province, a county official told reporters. Twenty-eight miners were killed in the initial explosion and five others died during a rescue attempt, he said. Everyone else escaped. The accident comes less than two weeks after 166 people were killed in a coal mine in neighboring Shaanxi province in the country's worst mining disaster in 44 years.
Worm removed from brain
Surgeons in central China have removed a 12cm-long parasitic worm from a 24-year-old man's brain, a news report said Friday. The case is one of less than 100 worldwide where a human has been infected by the sparganum worm, according to the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily. The man is believed to have been infected with the parasite -- which works its way towards the brain after being infested -- after eating wild snake and frog, species that can carry the worm.
Soldiers' bodies found
Vietnamese authorities have uncovered remains believed to be of French soldiers who died in the battle that won Vietnam's independence 50 years ago, senior local officials said on Friday. The 15 sets of remains were uncovered during construction at the former Dien Bien Phu battlefield, the official said. Eleven sets of remains were discovered last week during construction of a dam on the Nam Rom river, just 200m southwest of the bunker of the French commander, Colonel Christian de Castries.
Bilingual toilets planned
China's capital Beijing plans to require attendants at its public toilets to speak basic English in a bid to improve the services provided to foreign visitors, state media said yesterday. It is part of an ambitious campaign to raise the standards of public loos in the city of 13 million as it gets ready to welcome thousands of tourists for the 2008 Olympics, the Beijing Morning Post reported. The paper did not specify the level of English toilet staff need to possess, but said they must in future also be proficient in sign language. It made no mention on whether they planned to train the workers, or leave them to their own devices. Beijing is emerging as an actor to be reckoned with in toilet science, recently hosting the World Toilet Summit, a gathering of urban planners and environmental experts.
■ ZimbabweSome NGOs banned
Zimbabwe's parliament approved legislation on Thursday that would effectively outlaw foreign or foreign-supported NGOs, groups that have pressed for broader human-rights guarantees in President Robert Mugabe's authoritarian government. This legislation and a sheaf of other proposals restricting domestic freedoms have been denounced by human-rights activists, who say the measures are part of a broader plan to suppress opposition political activity before elections in March. But Mugabe, who has railed against what he calls a Western plot to restore colonial rule, has accused foreign-backed civic groups of being "conduits of interference in our national efforts."
Thousands left homeless
At least 10,000 people have been left homeless by rain-induced floods in northern Argentina, officials said late Thursday. In Chaco province, more than 600,000 hectares of residential land were under water, the provincial government said. The floods coincide with a world climate conference taking place in the country's capital, Buenos Aires, where experts have warned that such flooding will become more frequent through global warming. Governor Roy Nikisch said that the floods were the result of uncontrolled clearing of land over the past decades. Rescue workers were bringing victims of the flooding into emergency shelters supplied with food, warm blankets and clothing.