Torrent of water kills 35
At least 35 people returning from a pilgrimage in Pakistan were killed when the tractor-trolley they were in was swept away by a torrent of water gushing down a hill, police said yesterday. Up to 10 others were missing after the vehicle was swept away late on Friday in central Dera Ghazi Khan, some 80km west of Multan, senior police officer Salman Chaudhary said. "We have found bodies of 35 people, mostly women and children, who met the accident late Friday," he said.
Two teenagers were found guilty yesterday of murdering two Thai-born prostitutes who were bound and thrown alive into a crocodile-infested river in northern Australia. A jury unanimously convicted Ben William McLean and Phu Ngoc Trinh, both 19, on two counts of murder each over the deaths of the women, who were based in the Northern Territory capital of Darwin. They were both given mandatory life sentences, with a non-parole period to be set in May. The trial heard that sex workers Phuangsri Kroksamrang, 58, and Somjai Insamnan, 27, were bound with cable ties and thrown alive into the Adelaide River in March last year.
Pandas to be microchipped
The government will implant microchips in its captive panda population in a bid to improve protection and prevent inbreeding among the endangered species, state media said yesterday. Data such as age and pedigree will be stored and used together with the implanted chips in a nationwide operation later this year, Xinhua news agency quoted a State Forestry Administration official as saying. The information stored on the chips will improve the managed reproduction program and help trace the bears once they are returned to the wild, the unnamed official said. At the end of last year, China had 163 pandas in captivity and an estimated 1,590 in the wild.
Hungry wolves attack
At least four Afghans have been devoured by wolves driven down from the hills in search of food during the worst winter in a decade, family members said yesterday. Villagers in Naka, a remote settlement in southeastern Paktia province, found little more than remains and bloodied, shredded clothes when they went looking for 27-year-old Sher Gull and Gull Nawaz, 32. "They had planned to go to another village to participate in a funeral ceremony. We are sure they were killed by wolves," Sher Gull's grieving father Haje Baz Khan said in his mud-brick house. Two other people from the mountainous Mosa Khel district of neighboring Khost province were also killed by wolves, locals said.
Princess weds commoner
The only daughter of Japan's Emperor Akihito, Princess Sayako, was formally engaged to an urban planner yesterday following a traditional ceremony held at the imperial palace. Dressed in a long, white dress embroidered with cherry blossoms, the 35-year-old princess, accompanied by Akihito and Empress Michiko, accepted a marriage proposal from commoner Yoshiki Kuroda, the royal household said. Sayako is due to marry her 39-year-old fiance, who works at the Tokyo metropolitan government, later this year. After the ceremony, Sayako said: "I would like to express my deep gratitude to both the emperor and the empress for blessing us." The families exchanged gifts of sea bream, three bottles of sake and two sets of silk, the official said.
■ United Kingdom
Ex-spook to challenge Blair
A former British counter-intelligence officer announced Friday that he intends to stand against Tony Blair, in the contest for the parliamentary seat currently held by the prime minister in Sedgefield in the northeast of England, at the UK general election widely expected to be in early May. David Shayler will be representing neither left nor right. He said he would campaign on three issues: Blair's credibility and ability to lead "in the light of his lies over the war;" the prime minister's support of "the illegal invasion of Iraq," which had put the lives of the British people at greater risk from terrorism; and Blair's "attacks on democratic rights." He said "if Blair were an American or French president, the electorate would have a chance to remove him from power."
■ United Kingdom
Suspicious moped blown up
Heidi Brown was told she could park her new scooter outside the vehicle registration office while she waited to get license plates. To her horror, it was blown up by the army after someone reported that it might be a bomb. Police in Ipswich, eastern England, confirmed on Thursday that a moped had been blown up in a controlled explosion after local businesspeople "raised concerns" that it could be a bomb. "We weren't able to identify whose vehicle it was because there were no license plates on it," said a spokeswoman for Suffolk police.
■ United Kingdom
Ozone over Britain thinning
Scientists warned on Friday that levels of protective ozone over Britain are approaching record lows. According to a monitoring center in Germany, the ozone layer above Britain was reduced to half its normal thickness on Friday, and could get worse by yesterday. Markus Rex, head of an ozone monitoring program in Potsdam, said a combination of the coldest Arctic winter on record and the current high pressure weather system over the north Atlantic had created ideal conditions for ozone loss.
■ United Kingdom
No terrine for composer
Queen's composer, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, is as comfortable with culinary invention as musical creation. So when a swan flew into power lines near his home on the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland and died, he recovered the carcass, informed the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds of the bird's demise, and prepared to make some fresh swan terrine. But the composer's intentions landed him in trouble, as police descended on his house on the Orkney island of Sanday, removed the swan he planned to cook, and cautioned him.
Lottery winner goes to work
The nation's biggest individual lottery winner had no time to celebrate after becoming 20.4 million euros (US$27 million) richer, because he was too worried about being late for work. When the salesman, who was not identified by WestLotto, arrived Thursday to buy his weekly lottery ticket at a shop in the industrial Ruhr area he was told last week's 12-euro ticket that he hadn't bothered to check had won the jackpot. The man's reaction left the lottery operator dumbfounded. "After he was told he had won the jackpot, he said he didn't have time to chat because he would get into trouble with his boss," a lottery spokesman in the western city of Muenster said. Instead, he rushed off to catch a bus to work.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread