■ Sri Lanka \nSome tsunami victims raped \nA teenager who escaped death but was left orphaned and homeless by the Asian tsunami met yet one more agony: gang rape, one of several cases of child abuse being investigated in the disaster zone, an official said. Of all the human tragedies emerging from the worst natural disaster in decades, sexual abuse of vulnerable children in refugee camps must be among the most shocking. But experts say it's not uncommon in times of conflict and trauma. "When there is displacement and chaos, the possibility of this type of behavior is higher," Harendra de Silva, head of the National Child Protection Authority, said Saturday. With nearly 1 million losing their homes, Sri Lanka has immediate concerns of survival, rolling out relief trucks as cargo planes ferry food, drinking water and medical supplies from donor nations. \n■ Singapore \nRelief worker killed in crash \nA Singaporean leading an aid convoy to tsunami-hit southern Thailand was killed after the vehicle he was travelling in crashed, the Sunday Times reported. Richard Fong, 45, died after his Land Rover crashed in Malaysia's North-South highway, 60km from the Thai border. Two doctors who were among the 32-car convoy tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate Fong before he was declared dead. The mission to deliver relief and medical supplies to southern Thailand is still going ahead despite the accident, a member of the convoy said. \n■ Cambodia \nEx-king warned of disaster \nFormer king Norodom Sihanouk says an astrologer warned him that an "ultra-catastrophic cataclysm" would strike, but that his country would be spared if proper rituals were conducted. "My wife and I decided to spend several thousand dollars to organize these ceremonies so our country and our people could be spared such a catastrophe," Sihanouk, who abdicated last year, wrote on his Web site. Cambodia was unscathed by the 10m tsunami waves generated by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake under the sea off Indonesia's Sumatra island on Dec.26. The waves rolled through the Indian Ocean, devastating coastal communities and killing roughly 127,000 people. \n■ Hong Kong \nFake donation site found \nSuspected fraudsters are trying to swindle tsunami relief donations by sending out purported fundraising e-mails, a Hong Kong daily reported yesterday. Relief organization Oxfam's Hong Kong branch informed local police about the fake e-mails, which call on recipients to deposit donations into a Cyprus bank account and fax the deposit receipts to an office in Spain, Ming Pao Daily News reported. The unauthorized e-mails describe the relief efforts of Oxfam and other relief groups, the report said. Oxfam Hong Kong has set up two local bank accounts to receive donations for relief efforts in areas struck by tsunamis after a magnitude 9.0 quake hit off the coast of Indonesia on Dec. 26. \n■ Australia \nDowner gives warning \nAustralians shouldn't travel to tsunami-hit areas across Asia in search of the bodies of loved ones killed last week because the rapid decomposition of corpses has made visual identifica-tion impossible, authorities said yesterday. "It will be only possible to get identification through dental records or DNA," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said. \n■ Germany \nNew toll system takes effect \nRoving patrols caught at least 200 cheats Saturday on the first day of Germany's new highway tolls, but tens of thousands of truck drivers paid their dues, earning the Berlin government about 1 million euros on New Year's Day alone. Under the completely automated toll scheme, all trucks must pay an average 12.4 euro cents (US$0.17) per kilometer to use Germany's 12,000 kilometers of autobahn roads. There is no charge for cars. Germany's national truck transport agency sent out inspectors in cars Saturday to catch and fine cheats. The first free-rider was pulled over just 8 minutes after midnight. \n■ Italy \n`Escape king' caught \nItaly's "escape king," professional thief Max Leitner, has been caught again. This time in Morocco. Leitner, 45, and his partner in crime, Mafia arms trafficker Emanuele Radosta, 36, were arrested in the capital Rabat after a tipoff from Interpol, state news agency MAP said on Saturday. Leitner notoriously escaped from an Austrian prison by tying bed sheets together and climbing out of a window. He had been jailed for a heist on an armored car in 1990. In his fourth jailbreak, he escaped with Radosta from a prison in Bergamo, northern Italy, on Oct. 15. \n■ South Africa \nMbeki vows to help Sudan \nSouth African President Thabo Mbeki vowed Saturday to shoulder the responsibility of rebuilding Sudan through the African Union (AU) following the signing of the peace agreement next week. "We will take the responsibility of rebuilding Sudan at the AU level," said Mbeki in a statement to the Sudanese people on the occasion of 49th anniversary of the Sudanese independence. However, Mbeki stressed that Sudanese government must create a multi cultural, religious and ethnic society to achieve "unity in diversity" as a firm basis for the united new Sudan. \n■ Afghanistan \nClash kills two \nOne US soldier and a former Afghan militia leader were killed Sunday when American troops clashed with gunmen during a search operation in western Afghanistan, US and Afghan officials said. The troops came under attack from "an unknown number of enemy forces" while searching a compound near Shindand Airfield in Herat province early Sunday morning and returned fire, a US military statement said. "The Afghan citizen died at the scene," the statement said. "The US soldier was wounded in the attack and ... died a short time later at the airfield as a result of wounds received." \n■ Italy \nBerlusconi `fine' after attack \nItalian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he was fine on Saturday after a tourist threw a camera tripod at him in a packed Rome square. Berlusconi was hit behind the ear by the tripod during an impromptu walkabout in Piazza Navona shortly after sunset on Friday. "Everything's fine, I'm fine," Berlusconi, wearing a plaster behind his right ear, told reporters as he left his Rome residence on Saturday. His assailant was a 28-year-old bricklayer from northern Italy who was in Rome for the New Year holiday. He was seized immediately after the aggression but was released on Saturday. "I did it because I hate him," local news agency ANSA quoted the man as telling police. "I certainly didn't plan this, but when I saw him there greeting the crowds, I couldn't stop myself." \n■ Austria \nElBaradei unchallenged \nMohamed ElBaradei will run unchallenged for a third term as head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), despite Washington's campaign to oust him. ElBaradei, an Egyptian lawyer, recently announced he would seek re-election as director general of the agency he has headed since 1997. No other candidates came forward before the deadline for nominations. Some US and other countries' officials have privately complained that ElBaradei was not only soft on Iraq and Iran, but had also withheld information from the IAEA board of governors that could boost the US campaign to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for sanctions. \n■ United States \nRadio host warns senators \nJames Dobson, the conserv-ative leader who used his radio program to call on millions of Christians to vote in the November election, warned in a letter that some senators ``will be in the `bull's-eye'" if they block US Pres-ident George W. Bush's judicial nominees. A January letter from Dobson to supporters of Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based group he founded, suggests that Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota was defeated in Nov-ember in part for blocking votes on Bush nominees. "Let his colleagues beware," Dobson said. \n■ United States \n36 kids hurt in sled accident \nThirty-six children were injured in a sledding accident during an all-night New Year's Eve party hosted by a religious organization. Three of the children were hospitalized, but all were in stable condition Saturday, hospital officials said. The others were treated and released. Police Sergeant Winston Black said more than 100 children ages 12 to 19 attending a Youth for Christ event gathered at a high school around 4am to slide down a hill using sleds built out of cardboard boxes. A sign posted on the hill prohibited sledding. The children and staff piled eight to 12 passengers on the sleds, Black said. "The sleds struck rocks, a light pole and each other," he said. \n■ United States \nReservist auctions goods \nA teenage Army reservist whose decision to auction off sports memorabilia to buy equipment for his unit drew criticism has raised nearly US$3,000. Sean Flynn's plans became public last month as the military was being criticized for not adequately supplying some troops in Iraq. His unit, upon hearing reports that the auction was intended to raise funds for body armor and other protective gear, responded by saying its members had all the equipment they needed. The 10-day eBay auction raised US$2,806, plus about US$1,000 in donations. \n■ United States \nLife detention mulled \nThe Bush administration is preparing for possible lifetime detention of suspected terrorists, including hundreds whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge, the Washington Post reported yesterday. Citing intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials, the newspaper said the Pentagon and the CIA had asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for those it would not set free or turn over to courts at home or abroad. The defense department, with 500 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, plans to ask Congress for US$25 million to build a 200-bed prison to hold detainees who are unlikely to ever go through a military tribunal for lack of evidence, defense officials told the newspaper.
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Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto has admitted damaging ancient Aboriginal rock shelters in Australia’s remote Pilbara region — blasting near the 46,000-year-old heritage site to expand an iron ore mine. Traditional owners said that the culturally significant cave in Juukan Gorge, Western Australia — one of the earliest known sites occupied by Aborigines in Australia — had been destroyed in a “devastating blow” to the community. Explosives were detonated on Sunday near the site in line with state government approvals granted seven years ago, Rio Tinto said in a statement. “In 2013, ministerial consent was granted to allow Rio Tinto to conduct activity