Bear mauls toddler
A two-year-old toddler has had both his legs bitten off below the knee by a caged bear in northern Vietnam, a local official said yesterday. Pham Van Hung was playing last weekend near the cage of a 200kg Malayan sun bear when the animal dragged him into the cage and mauled him, the local police officer said from Mong Cai, a town on Vietnam's northern border with China. The family kept the bear to harvest the animal's bile, considered a health-giving tonic in Vietnam and other countries where traditional eastern medicine is practised. "This should be a lesson for every family raising bears for gall, as the business is booming in many places now," the police officer said from Quang Ninh Province, 200km north of Hanoi.
Tidal wave victims get food
The UN World Food Program (WFP) said on Tuesday it was sending 31 tonnes of food to assist some 2,000 people in Somalia's northern Hafuni island, which was battered by surging waves spawned by the mammoth earthquake off Indonesia. "The food is going by road -- the journey takes six hours in low tide [and] there is a land bridge to the island. They should be reaching any time," WFP said in a state-ment. At least 40 fishermen were confirmed dead and more than 60 others were still missing after their wooden fishing dhows capsized on Sunday in the wake of killer waves off the east-African coast.
■ Hong Kong
Activists slam church group
A Christian group in Hong Kong has come under fire for arranging a seminar yester-day aimed at "curing" gay people of their homo-sexuality. The evangelical Christian group that organized the event, the Society for Truth and Light, argued that gays have a choice and can switch to heterosexuality. Gay activist Roddy Shaw of Civil Rights for Sexual Diversities attacked the seminar and accused its organizers of offering false hope, saying "the whole tone of the workshops is that homo-sexuality is an illness that can be treated and converted," he told the South China Morning Post.
Tourists to get PDAs
Japan will start lending to foreign visitors personal digital assistants with travel information and translation services in a test program on ways to promote tourism. The pilot program is part of a government drive to find ways to make Japan more attractive to foreign tourists, who are often put off by the language barrier and the country's high prices. The mobile units with Chinese, Korean and English software will be lent to selected tourists who land at Narita Airport near Tokyo from February through March to test the response, the trans-port ministry said in a state-ment. "We will examine ways to build an environ-ment in Japan that will be easier for foreign tourists," the state-ment said.
Cadres to have sober parties
China has told party cadres and government officials they must "avoid extravagant activities and maintain social stability" during the upcoming Lunar New Year, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday. A notice issued by the Commu-nist Party's Central Commit-tee and the State Council, or China's Cabinet, said officials must ensure that "people throughout the country will enjoy merry, peaceful and stable holidays," Xinhua said. "It is of great importance to safeguard the overall situa-tion of reform, development and stability," it said.