Divorce rate soars
The divorce rate soared 21.2 percent last year after legal reforms that did away with the need for couples to get permission from their bosses before they split, the government said. More than 1.6 million couples divorced last year. The increase was attributed to changes in the law in October 2003. Previously, couples seeking divorce needed the permission of the leaders in their work units. The flood of divorces last year probably represents a backlog of people who had wanted to divorce for some time but had been "too bashful to file for one," said an official, who predicted that the divorce rate would stabilize and then decrease over the next few years. "Irreconcilable differences" were most often cited as the reason for divorce, although a growing number cited domestic violence triggered by "mounting social and work pressure."
Zhao family files petition
Relatives of people killed in China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown have petitioned the legislature to restore the reputation of the late Zhao Ziyang (趙紫陽), the former Communist Party leader who was ousted from power for sympathizing with pro-democracy protesters. The government's condemnation of Zhao constitutes "an unjust case in history that should be re-evaluated," a group called the Tiananmen Mothers said in an open letter to the legislature. In the letter, they said they want legislators to be aware that human rights in China have ``deteriorated'' in recent years with strict controls on speech and Internet writings.
■ Hong Kong
Schoolboy attempts suicide
A 16-year-old schoolboy was critically injured after running out of a math class and leaping from six stories high in an apparent suicide attempt. The student got up from his desk and ran out as his teacher cleaned the blackboard on Tuesday morning. He went to a sixth-floor corridor and leapt before teachers could catch him. He was taken unconscious to the hospital and was in critical condition. He landed on a patch of wet grass, which softened the impact and allowed him to survive the initial fall. News reports said a diary was found in his schoolbag, indicating he was upset about his girlfriend leaving Hong Kong to study abroad.
■ South Korea
Joint exercises carried out
The US and South Korea will conduct joint military exercises this month, the US military command in Seoul said yesterday. North Korea has denounced such exercises in the past as preparations for an invasion. The March 19-25 exercises, involving land, sea and air forces, are designed to improve the joint US-South Korea forces' ability to defend South Korea against ``external aggression,'' the US Command said in a statement. The exercises come amid a standoff over the communist North's nuclear weapons program.
Supermarket sushi spiked
Police arrested an unemployed man for burying needles in fried chicken at a supermarket and swallowing them in a bid to get money from the store. Kyosuke Miyasako, 43, told the supermarket in the Tokyo suburb of Sayama that he had eaten needles in its chicken and another customer found needles in sushi. But the probe turned on Miyasako and he was arrested for obstructing the shop's business with fake claims. "I wanted money," Miyasako, who was unemployed, said.
■ United States
`Stiffer penalties mulled
UN peacekeepers who sexually abuse the women and children they are supposed to protect should be punished and their home countries publicly identified, a US lawmaker said on Tuesday. UN "blue helmets" found guilty of sexual abuse are often simply repatriated, which Representative Chris Smith called "a slap on the wrist if there ever was one." Smith disputed the current UN policy of not releasing the names of countries whose peacekeepers commit sexual abuse. "The idea of naming and shaming countries ... I wonder if that's something that could be a useful tool," Smith asked Jane Holl Lute, assistant UN secretary general for peacekeeping operations.
`Mortal Kombat' kills boy
A 14-year-old schoolboy was killed in the northeastern town of Valmiera by friends who say they were inspired by a video game, police said. The five boys, aged 13 to 16, were arrested on Sunday in connection with the murder which occurred on Saturday, she said. They explained that "they used techniques borrowed from the video game Mortal Kombat in dealing with their victim," the spokeswoman said. "They employed the use of the legs in a scissor fashion to try to break the opponent's neck," said the head of the investigation division of Valmiera police department Salvis Stamers.
■ United Kingdom
Queen meets rockers
Queen Elizabeth II had a crash course in British rock and pop music on Tuesday when she hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace for hundreds of stars from Eric Clapton to Geri Halliwell. Introduced to four of Britain's guitar masters -- Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Brian May -- at the reception for Britain's music industry her majesty asked: "And what do you do?" May, from the rock band Queen, reminded the queen that he had played the National Anthem on the palace roof to start a concert marking her 2002 Golden Jubilee. "Oh! That was you was it?" Elizabeth II exclaimed. Moving on to Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, the queen inquired: "Are you a guitarist too?" Guitar god Eric Clapton took no chances and, firmly shaking her hand, introduced himself by name. "Have you been playing a long time?" the queen asked. "It must be 45 years now," replied Clapton, 59.
Doctor finds prime number
A German eye specialist with a keen amateur interest in mathematics has discovered the world's largest prime number after a 50-day search using his personal computer. Dr Martin Nowak, who has his own practice in Michelfeld, stumbled upon the number last week, breaking the previous record for a prime number by half a million digits. Prime numbers are divisible only by themselves and 1. While the first prime numbers 2, 3, 5, and 7, are easy to identify, Nowak's monster prime number is more than 7.8 million digits long and is written as 2 to the 25,964,951st power minus 1.
Soldiers in winter training
NATO and other troops practicing winter warfare techniques in snow-swept parts of Norway were like ``Bambi on ice,'' according to the Norwegian military. A Norwegian military helicopter had to rescue two freezing French soldiers from a mountain. During the night, two French soldiers also radioed for help from a mountain in order to get treatment for hypothermia.
■ United States
Wanted smuggler caught
A Japanese man accused of arms smuggling and illegal firearms possession has been arrested in the US. Kozo Wada, one of the most wanted people sought by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), was arrested in Portland, Oregon, late on Monday, according to ATF special agent Kelvin Crenshaw. A federal grand jury indicted Wada in February 2003 on five felony counts, including dealing in firearms without a license, unlawful transportation of a firearm, and illegal exportation of defense articles. In December 2003, Wada pleaded guilty to two counts in the indictment, but he failed to appear in federal court last September.
Student freed from jail
A Mexican college student is being freed after serving three years in prison on weapons charges, a partial victory for his supporters who say police tortured and framed him and his two brothers. Alejandro Cerezo, a 23-year-old economics and sociology student, was leaving a federal prison on Tuesday, a day after a judge ordered his release. Cerezo's brothers, who were convicted on the same charges, remain in jail and human-rights workers say the case typifies abuse and inconsistencies in Mexico's justice system. Depending on who tells it, the Cerezo brothers' saga features dirty prosecutors, clandestine guerrillas and a trio of social activists with a love of literature and art.
Migrants face civilian patrols
While the Mexican government develops plans for legal action against civilian patrols expected to descend on the Arizona-Mexico border in April, activists said on Tuesday they will show migrants how to avoid the volunteers. The Minuteman Project, headed by Jim Gilchrist, a retired accountant and Vietnam War veteran, has recruited nearly 500 volunteers from across the US to patrol the Arizona border for illegal migrants. The volunteers plan to patrol an 120km stretch of the southeast Arizona border from the ground and air throughout April, when the tide of immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border peaks.
■ United States
More drivers talk on mobiles
More Americans than ever are driving under the influence of their cellphones, according to a survey released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The survey showed 8 percent of drivers, or 1.2 million people, were using handheld or handsfree cellphones during daylight hours last year, a 50 percent increase since 2002 and a 100 percent rise in four years. All that talking is a potential safety issue, NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson said on Tuesday. "While we don't have hard evidence that there's been an increase in the number of crashes, we know that talking on the phone can degrade driver performance," Tyson said.
■ United States
Woman sues over scents
A woman has filed a lawsuit against the US city of Norwalk for exposure to her colleagues' perfumes and colognes, alleging officials have failed to lessen her exposure to such scents in the town clerk's office and that she is being harassed. According to the suit, Gorman's problems started in March 2002, when a temporary staffer's perfume made Gorman ill. A memo was issued asking employees not to wear perfumes or colognes, but later stated that trendy scents, as well as body lotions and detergents, could be used in moderation as long as they could not be detected within 1.6m of Gorman.
An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft has acquired imagery data covering all of Mars, including visuals of its south pole, after circling the planet more than 1,300 times since early last year, state media reported yesterday. The Tianwen-1 successfully reached the Red Planet in February last year on the country’s inaugural mission there. A robotic rover has since been deployed on the surface as an orbiter surveyed the planet from space. Among the images taken from space were China’s first photographs of the Martian south pole, where almost all of the planet’s water resources are locked. In 2018, an orbiting probe operated by the European
TRADE TALK: Xiao Qian said that Australia had fired the ‘first shot’ in deteriorating trade relations with China, but improvements were possible if Canberra takes action China’s new ambassador to Australia chided protesters who heckled him yesterday during a speech about the future of relations between the two countries. Xiao Qian (肖千), who has only been in the role since January, had just begun his speech at the University of Technology Sydney when the first protesters interjected, calling for freedom for Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong. The ambassador was repeatedly interrupted by sign-wielding protesters, some criticizing China’s treatment of the Uighur people as well as the university for inviting Xiao to speak. “People who are coming again and again to interrupt the process, that’s not expression of freedom of
QUARANTINE SHORTENED: A new protocol detailing risk levels and local policy responses would be ‘more scientific and accurate,’ a health agency spokesman said China’s revised COVID-19 guidelines, which cut a quarantine requirement in half for inbound travelers, also create a standardized policy for mass testing and lockdowns when cases of the disease flare, showing that the country still has a zero-tolerance approach to the virus. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) solidified the position during a trip to Wuhan, where the pathogen first emerged in 2019, saying that China is capable of achieving a “final victory” over the virus. The “zero COVID-19” policy is the most effective and economic approach for the country, Xi said during the trip on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported. The first
A former South Korean Navy SEAL turned YouTuber who risked jail time to leave Seoul and fight for Ukraine said it would have been a “crime” not to use his skills to help. Ken Rhee, a former special warfare officer, signed up at the Ukrainian embassy in Seoul the moment Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked for global volunteers and was fighting on the front lines near Kyiv by early March. To get there, he had to break South Korean law — Seoul banned its citizens from traveling to Ukraine, and Rhee, who was injured in a fall while leading a special operations