■ South Korea
Roh criticized for comment
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun was slammed as an international relations novice yesterday in editorials that argued he hurt his country's prestige by saying Seoul may fight a "diplomatic war" with Japan. Roh said in a letter to the South Korean people on Wednesday that Seoul's determination to set Japan right on a territorial dispute between the two countries over tiny islands and a Japanese textbook that critics say whitewashes Japanese militaristic past "may cause stinging diplomatic war." The South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo suggested that Roh study a course in Diplomacy 101.
Screams lost in translation
China imported a US-made scream machine to scare away the birds at Beijing airport -- except they didn't recognize the noises and refused to budge. The bird-dispersing equipment had recorded the screams of US birds or the sounds of the birds' natural enemies, the Beijing Evening News said. "Local birds did not understand the foreign language" the newspaper said. So Chinese experts "translated" the US bird noises into those of their Chinese counterparts. "The workers have already recorded six or seven bird screams which are common in Beijing," it said.
Ice-trafficking gang tried
A Chinese gang has gone on trial accused of trafficking more than US$5.5 billion worth of methamphetamines, or "ice," in one of the world's biggest narcotics cases, the China Daily said yesterday. The eight suspects appeared in court in the southern boomtown of Guangzhou charged with manufacturing and trafficking 10.89 tonnes of the drug between 1999 and 2002, "almost equal to the amount of ice drug seized globally in 1999," the newspaper said. The defendants, including suspected gang leader Chen Bingxi, 49, face the death penalty if found guilty in keeping with China's hard line on drugs, including forced rehabilitation of addicts.
German arrested again
A one-legged German at the center of an HIV scare involving hundreds of Thai women and girls was arrested and set to be deported for a second time in 10 days, police said yesterday. Hans-Otto Schiemann, 54, who claims to be infected with HIV and had unprotected sex with hundreds of Thais, was arrested Wednesday in Chaiyaphum province, three days after re-entering the country through Thailand's main international airport despite being blacklisted. "He is under detention at immigration in Bangkok awaiting deportation," Chaiyaphum police Lieutenant Colonel Kampol Nonuch told reporters.
Officer's sentenced reduced
A former police officer whose lawyer had claimed he went missing in Asia's tsunami when he failed to appear in court to appeal his conviction on sex charges had his 18-year sentence reduced yesterday by almost two years. Sakda Changrua, a former police Lieutenant Colonel, was convicted in 2002 of sexually molesting two underage girls -- aged 13 and 15 -- but was released on bail so he could appeal. When Sakda didn't show up at an appeal hearing on Feb. 24, his lawyer told the court Sakda was missing in southern Thailand, where more than 5,000 people were killed by the Dec. 26 tsunami. Police said Sakda's name did not show up on lists of those missing in the tsunami, and the court scheduled another hearing.
■ United States
Alarm clock fights back