Anger spreads over trial
One of the country's largest charities, the Salvation Army, said that public anger over convicted drug runner Schapelle Corby's jailing in Bali was hampering its main annual door-to-door fundraising drive, the Red Shield Appeal that was held yesterday. Salvation Army spokesman Pat Daley said that "Collectors right around the nation have been reporting that people do not want their money going to Indonesia," although Red Shield Appeal has always been used to fund domestic charity projects, not overseas aid. Some charities such as World Vision have also reported calls from people asking for their tsunami donations to be returned in the wake of the Corby case. Many Australians have also threatened to stop vacationing on the resort island of Bali.
Taxes to be phased in
Afghans and foreigners working in the country are soon going to have to start paying tax on their incomes. The wage tax is being imposed on all businesses with two or more employees from Sept. 23. The new tax will be set at a rate of 10 percent on incomes over 12,500 afghanis (US$250) a month. Incomes over 100,000 afghanis (US$2,000) a month will be taxed 20 percent. Afghanistan gets half of its more than US$600 million annual budget from donor nations and they are keen to see the government start developing sustainable revenue streams. The average basic salary of a government employee is 1,250 afghanis (US$25) a month so the new tax is largely aimed at the more than 2,000 foreigners and Afghans working for companies and aid groups.
Family drowns in a well
A man in southern China fell into a well and died, and five of his relatives who jumped in to save him also perished. Authorities in a village in Guangdong province recovered the six bodies from the well. The man who fell in first had slipped Friday when laying a water pump. One male relative jumped in to save him and when he wasn't successful, the others jumped in one after the other to help out; all drowned. The six were all of the males in the family, surnamed Li, who had dug the well at the beginning of the year.
■ Sri Lanka
Aid to be shared with rebels
President Chandrika Kumaratunga yesterday vowed to share foreign aid with Tamil rebels a day after former US president Bill Clinton urged local politicians to support the controversial move. Kumaratunga is facing opposition to any deal with the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) from her own coalition partner, the Marxist JVP, or People's Liberation Front, which has threatened to quit.
Horny men duped by AIDS ad
Ads featuring a voluptuous brunette inviting telephone calls have triggered nearly 400,000 responses from intrigued men apparently unaware they are responding to the latest tactic by an AIDS awareness group. "You like my voice?" the woman "Nikki" asks her hotline callers. "Do you think it's sexy?" Nikki was created for the latest Action For AIDS (AFA) campaign in Singapore, with ads in public places depicting the sensuous woman in skimpy attire. She tempts people with slogans such as, "Want to know me?" and "You'll call again and again." Callers are greeted in English or Mandarin, with a sultry Nikki saying she would like to meet the man but wants to know if he would wear a condom.
■ United Kingdom
Big Ben stands still
Big Ben, the world-famous clock at the Houses of Parliament in London, stopped late on Friday night, and nobody is quite sure why, officials said on Saturday. The 147-year-old timepiece -- one of the most reliable in the world -- stopped at 10:07pm, then started again, then stalled a second time at 10:20pm, where it remained for 90 minutes before it was reset. Hot weather might have been to blame -- Friday was the hottest May in London since 1953, with a high of 31.8oC -- but no-one was certain this was the cause. Big Ben is renowned for its accuracy, surviving a dozen attacks by German bombers during World War II when it continued to mark the time within one-and-a-half seconds of Greenwich time.
■ United Kingdom
Home-grown is in demand
An explosion in the amount of cannabis grown in British homes has alarmed senior police officers, with some forces reporting a sixfold increase in seizures. Home-grown cannabis now accounts for more than half of all consumption in the UK. While cultivating cannabis is illegal, it is not illegal to buy seeds and growing equipment and business is booming. "We're selling at least 200 packets of seeds each week. Some of it is down to the reclassification -- there's a lot of confusion out there, and some people think it's now legal. The other factor is the increased availability of hydroponic equipment which enables you to grow plants indoors," said Mark Evans, director of Internet-based retailer everyonedoesit.com.
Benedict goes for a spin
Pope Benedict XVI began his first papal trip with a visit yesterday to the eastern seaport of Bari, a brief but symbolic outing that follows in the much-traveled footsteps of his predecessor. Benedict flew by helicopter to Bari, a city closely tied to the Orthodox Church. After landing, he boarded a white "popemobile" and waved to the crowds as the vehicle made its way slowly to Bari's seaside, where he was to celebrate an open-air Mass that will close a national conference on the Eucharist. Security in the city was tight, with the town center and seaside boulevard leading to the Mass site closed to regular traffic. Some 150,000 to 200,000 people were expected to attend the Mass.
■ West Bank
Palestinian recruits sought
The Palestinian Authority is moving ahead with securing the coastal Gaza Strip area that Israel is to evacuate this summer, putting out a call for 5,000 new security forces, an Interior Ministry spokesman said on Saturday. Although there are fears Palestinian militants will fire on Israeli targets during and after the pullout, the new recruits won't be armed because of Israeli restrictions on the number of guns Palestinian forces can carry, spokesman Tawfiq Abu Khousa said. He urged Israel to let other countries supply the Palestinians with additional weapons if it wants maximum security in Gaza.
Government wins poll
The ruling coalition and allied political parties have won a majority in the country's 547-seat parliament, according to provisional results, the National Electoral Board said. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's coalition won 269 seats while four small independent parties affiliated with the ruling party won 14 seats in provisional results released on Saturday from the May 15 vote, the National Electoral Board said.
More dead soldiers found
The Chilean army found three more bodies in snow at Antuco in the Andes Saturday, bringing to 38 the number of soldiers confirmed dead, with seven conscripts still unaccounted for in a military maneuver that went wrong. Rain that fell Saturday is believed to have helped in uncovering bodies hidden in the snow, said Los Angeles regiment commander Colonel Patricio Espinoza. The dead include one sergeant and 37 conscripts. Nearly 400 soldiers were involved in the failed maneuver in which blizzards hit on May 18 while the men marched along a 25km path linking two shelters near Antuco, east of the army base at Los Angeles.
■ United States
Stripping leads to charges
A mother faces criminal charges after she hired a stripper to dance at her 16-year-old son's birthday party. Anette Pharris, 34, has been indicted by a grand jury on charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and involving a minor in obscene acts. The boy's father, the stripper and two others also face charges. "I tried to do something special for my son," Pharris said. "It didn't harm him." About 10 people under the age of 18 were at the birthday party in September, including minors who were not related to the family, authorities said. Police spokesman Don Aaron said minors are not permitted in adult establishments. "A person shouldn't be allowed to circumvent that law by hiring a stripper, a lady who took all her clothes off and danced around minors," he said.
■ United States
Police end standoff on crane
A murder suspect perched about 100m up a construction crane in Atlanta, Georgia was arrested Saturday after a standoff with police that stretched for more than 48 hours. It only ended when an officer was able to approach him by offering a cup of water before drawing a concealed Taser stun gun and using it to subdue the suspect. Police had shut down the neighborhood around the site, prompting complaints from local businesses, and news channels ran regular updates as fugitive Carl Roland, 41, gained national notoriety. Police said that Roland, suspected of killing his former girlfriend in Florida, had refused food and drink while sitting or lying on the crane's arm.
■ United States
General to mediate talks
The government has expanded the role of its pointman for Middle East security to mediate between Israelis and Palestinians on security issues as Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip, the Washington Post said Saturday. Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, who attended a White House summit Thursday, disclosed US General William Ward's new mandate to a small group of reporters Friday in Washington, according to the Post, which said the change was confirmed by an Israeli official and a senior US official.
Students busted for cheating
Three students were arrested on Saturday for conspiring to cheat in a university entrance exam using a wireless camera hidden in a pen, police said. The police were alerted to the ploy by the principal of the Athens high school where the mathematics exam was being held, who noticed an antenna cable running from the school's front gate to a clump of bushes nearby. Two of the unidentified youths, aged 20 and 24, had hidden a laptop in the bushes overnight, allegedly planning to use it to help their 19-year-old friend cheat.
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
‘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
RISKY BUSINESS: The Chinese firm has stockpiled 500,000 pieces of 5G equipment not covered by US sanctions, but fears a wider ban could be announced in the UK Huawei Technologies Co believes it can supply 5G hardware unaffected by US sanctions to the UK for the next five years, sidestepping the expected conclusion of British emergency review on Tuesday. The company has stockpiled 500,000 pieces of kit, but fears a wider ban on its equipment is to be unveiled to placate rebel British Conservative Party lawmakers, who say that the Chinese supplier represents a national security risk. The British government on Friday said that it was “very likely” that British Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden would make a statement to parliament on Tuesday