■ Thailand \nAid workers eschew meat \nThe gruesome task of retrieving the bodies of tsunami victims has turned many Thai rescue workers vegetarian. The leader of a team of 70 aid workers in Khao Lak where about 4,000 people, more than half of them foreign tourists, were killed on Dec. 26, said, "After we turned to vegetarian food and lighting jossticks to the spirits asking for help, the job has become much easier." Vegetarian food was all the rage in one nearby village, where a makeshift relief kitchen produced about 1,000 boxes of meatless food a day. The newspaper quoted a survivor as saying that the smell of death had put her off meat. \n■ Australia \nNude musicfest to open \nOrganizers of Australia's first nudist music festival are promising to turn away single people and eject those who start dancing. "This is not a swingers event," Australian Nudist Federation (ANF) spokesman Raice Nicholls said. "Which is why we say `couples only' because we don't want people coming along thinking this is some kind of sexual thing." Nicholls said enquiries had come in from nudists around the world about next week's Nude Performing Arts Festival at Elephant Rock near Brisbane. He said the aim of the three-day festival was to dispel myths about nudism. "Nudists are very educated people a lot of the time," he said. "Nudity is a great leveller. You don't have to put jewellery on or garments." \n■ Hong kong \nWoman fined for lost key \nA Hong Kong housewife has been fined nearly US$200 for littering after dropping her housekey near her home. Lau Shiu-fun, 55, accidentally dropped the key when she fumbled in her purse for change and suddenly found herself surrounded by litter patrol officers. "As soon as I started to reach down to pick up my key, four male officers totally blocked my way and forbade me from picking up my key. They claimed I had committed littering. For God's sake, who would litter with their own home's door key?" she said. Hong Kong has launched a crackdown on littering in the wake of the SARS outbreak last year. \n■ Malaysia \nBoxer beat for good looks \nA Malaysian army boxer is suing nine other soldiers who he said beat him up because they envied his good looks. Private Mohammad Suhaimi Abu Bakar, 22, said he was suddenly cornered by his colleagues who hit him with metal rods and threw him into a nearby toilet. Mohammad told a court the beating left him in a coma for three months and as a result of his injuries, Mohammad is seeking unspecified damages for losses, pain and hardship, saying he could no longer get married and lead a normal life. \n■ Germany \nPoo flags baffle cops \nBaffled authorities in southern Germany issued an alert Thursday concerning unknown persons who have been sticking small US flags into piles of dog droppings in Bayreuth public parks. "This has been going on for about a year now, and there must be 2,000 to 3,000 piles of excrement that have been thusly `adorned' during that time," said the parks administrator. The series of incidents originally was thought to be some sort of protest against the US-led invasion of Iraq. When it continued it was thought to be a protest against US President George W. Bush's re-election campaign. Bayreuth police say they are completely baffled. "We have sent out extra patrols to try to catch whoever is doing this in the act," said a police spokesman. "But frankly, we don't know what we would do if we caught them." Legal experts agreed, saying there is no law against using feces as a flag stand and the federal constitution is vague on the issue. \n■ Germany \nBat spit may be medicinal \nA company developing stroke treatments based on the saliva of vampire bats is seeking to raise up to US$90 million to fund trials of its potential drugs. Paion's most advanced drug, Desmoteplase, is in trials to help stroke patients just after they have suffered an attack. A stroke is caused by a clot blocking the blood supply to the brain. Vampire bat spittle contains a substance that prevents the blood from clotting, so the bat can feast on its victim for longer. The drug could help stroke patients by dissolving the clots to restore blood flow more quickly. \n■ Iran \nNobel winner in hot water \nIran's judiciary has ordered 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner and human-rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi to appear before the feared Revolutionary Court or face arrest, Ebadi said on Thursday. Ebadi, who has riled religious hardliners in the Islamic state by defending many high-profile political dissidents, was not informed of any charge against her. "They have summoned me to the Revolutionary Court," Ebadi said. "It was mentioned that if I don't attend within three days they will arrest me." Ebadi, 57, the first Muslim woman and first Iranian to win the Nobel Peace Prize, said she still had not decided when she would go. \n■ Netherlands \nVan Gogh killer re-charged \nDutch authorities have brought a further charge carrying a possible life sentence against the alleged killer of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, prosecution officials said Friday. Mohammed B., the radical Moslem charged with the Nov. 2 murder, will also face the charge of hindering a parliamentarian in the course of her duties. The letter pinned with a knife to Van Gogh's body threatened Somali-born member of parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali, who cooperated with Van Gogh in making the film Submission, was flown out of the country on Nov. 10 for her own safety. \n■ Russia \nPlane wreck kills 9 \nAll nine people aboard a Russian plane that went missing on Thursday have been killed, an Emergencies Ministry spokesman said. The wreckage of the aircraft was found early on Friday near an airfield in Siberia. It was not clear what caused the plane to crash, but officials said there would be an investigation. "The black box (flight recorder) has been found." \n■ United States \nCruelty law gets first test \nA pit bull enthusiast who sold videos of dogfights and dogs attacking a pig became the first person on Thursday to be convicted under a federal law banning depictions of cruelty to animals, prosecutors said. Robert Stevens, 64, of Pittsville, Virginia, was found guilty in a Pittsburgh court of selling three videos a jury decided violated the ban on depicting the intentional maiming, mutilation or torture of animals or any wounding or killing. Under the law, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1999, prosecutors must also prove such videos have no serious educational, historical or scientific value. Dog fighting is illegal in all 50 states. \n■ United States \nChurch holds protest \nIn a protest against the Episcopal Church's refusal to allow same-sex marriages, the leaders of a church in the stately East Rock section of New Haven, Connecticut have announced that they will perform no marriage ceremonies at all. The decision, conveyed on Thursday in a letter from the priest to the 115 families of St. Thomas' Episcopal Church, is a novel challenge to the social and religious barriers to marriage between homosexuals. Some Episcopal churches have sidestepped the ban by offering gay couples a blessing ceremony that is not legally considered a marriage. \n■ United States \nSoldier faces murder charge \nA US soldier faced charges of murder at a court martial in Iraq yesterday in connection with the killing of a severely wounded Iraqi teenager in a Baghdad slum district during a Shiite uprising last year. Staff Sergeant Cardenas Alban of the 41st Infantry Regiment, from Fort Riley, Kansas, is charged with murder under the US Uniform Code of Military Justice. He is the second US soldier to be court martialed over the incident. Last month, Staff Sergeant Johnny Horne was sentenced to three years in jail, reduction in rank and dishonorable discharge from the military after pleading guilty to charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Alban and Horne were accused of fatally shooting an Iraqi man who suffered severe abdominal wounds and burns. US military officials have described the incident as a "mercy killing." \n■ Haiti \nMan murdered at his funeral \nA young man who was not dead at all was apparently murdered by his gravediggers at a funeral home in Haiti, just hours before he was to be buried, local media reports said Thursday. The Haiti Press Network reported that the 23-year-old man, given up for dead, was probably stabbed to death on Tuesday at a private morgue where his relatives had taken him on Jan. 2. According to witness accounts, the man was thought to have died on Jan. 1 and was taken to the La Conscience funeral home. At the chapel where the funeral was to be held, the family realized something was wrong when they saw blood dripping from the coffin. After opening the coffin, they found the man's body showing signs of having been beaten and stabbed. \n■ United States \nAid to Serbia to be withheld \nThe US government will withhold US$10 million in aid to Serbia and Montenegro because of its continuing lack of cooperation with a UN war crimes tribunal, a US State Department official said on Thursday. There has been no improvement in Serbia and Montenegro's cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the US said.
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable