Former spy saw abductees
A former North Korean spy told Japanese lawmakers yesterday that he was aware of about 15 Japanese who had been kidnapped and were living in the communist country. An Myong-jin defected to South Korea in 1993. North Korea has admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese, but many in Japan suspect the number of victims is higher and some may still be living in the reclusive state. "I have firsthand information, including my own eyes, of 15 Japanese alive in North Korea," An told a special committee on the abductions in parliament. An also said that the total number could be as high as 30.
Great Hall conserves energy
China's top leaders could face a torrid time this summer at meetings with foreign dignitaries at Beijing's Great Hall of the People. With the nation sweltering in a seemingly endless heatwave, and soaring electricity demand threatening widespread power cuts, authorities decided to set an example by reducing consumption. They decreed that air conditioners in meeting rooms at the cavernous hall on Tiananmen Square should be set at 25?C and go on 30 minutes at most before a function. Lights go on five minutes beforehand.
EU to lead Aceh mission
The EU will lead a peace monitoring mission to Indonesia's Aceh province to oversee a deal to end three decades of conflict between rebels and the government. The 200-strong team could move into place as early as Aug. 16, a day after a peace deal is to be signed. Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for the EU's foreign policy chief, said, "All the monitors will be civilians. It's not a military mission."
Silk Road antiquities at risk
As much as 90 percent of the cultural relics along the ancient Silk Road in northwest China have been defaced or seriously damaged by environmental elements. Wind and rain erosion as well as desertification have led to serious damage of frescoes, Xinhua said. Air pollution has also led to erosion and even collapse of ancient buildings, grottoes and tombs at many of China's World Heritage sites in the heavily polluted area. Insufficient maintenance and human activities, especially tourism, are also blamed for the damage.
Most want Arroyo to resign
About 73 percent of Filipinos want embattled Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo out of office, a nationwide poll showed yesterday. The percentage of those who do not want Arroyo to continue as president increased from 61 percent last month, when vote-rigging allegations against her sparked calls for her resignation. The poll also showed that 22 percent believe that Arroyo's holding on to power until her term ends in 2010 was "most inimical/destructive" to the country. Of those who want Arroyo out of office, 34 percent said her resignation or impeachment and the subsequent holding of snap elections "is best for the country".
Disputed textbooks approved
A disputed history textbook accused of glorifying Japan's militaristic past was approved for use in 26 Tokyo schools. Students will begin studying the controversial history text published by Fusosha Publishing Inc at the start of the new Japanese school year next spring, Tokyo school board official Michiyo Kura said. Many say both textbooks gloss over the Japanese Imperial Army's atrocities such as the massacre of civilians in Nanking, China, in the 1930s, and the use of Asian women as sex slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II. The textbooks fail to mention sexual slavery, and relegate the Nanking killings to a footnote.
Elephant import put on hold
Two zoos agreed yesterday to delay the import of eight Asian elephants from Thailand pending a legal bid by animal welfare groups to halt the move. Last week, the Australian government approved an application from Sydney's Taronga Zoo and the Melbourne Zoo to import the endangered pachyderms to stock a captive breeding program that one prominent critic has slammed as "commercial enterprise dressed up as conservation." The Humane Society International and other groups filed an appeal against the government's decision, saying that moving the animals to zoos would be detrimental to their well-being and that the proposed breeding program will do nothing to enhance the conservation of the species.
A court yesterday charged former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani with rioting and inciting Hindu mobs to demolish a 16th century mosque. The court, in the northern town of Rae Bareilly, decided there was enough evidence to re-try Advani, now India's top opposition leader, and leaders of his party over the destruction of the Babri mosque, after the case was initially acquitted in 2003. The religious rioting after its destruction killed more than 2,000 people. Advani has rejected the allegations and says the case is politically motivated.
■ United States
Child killer gets death
Convicted child killer and rapist Marcus Wesson was sentenced to death on Wednesday for murdering nine of his children and grandchildren. The California man, portrayed by prosecutors as a cult leader who claimed to be Jesus, was found guilty last month of nine counts of first-degree murder and 14 sex crimes, including raping and molesting his underage daughters. Wesson, 58, fathered all of the victims, aged one to 26, with his wife, daughters and nieces. Each was shot once in or near the eye. Wesson appeared stoic with his arms folded in front of him as the California Superior Court judge upheld the jury's recommendation of the death penalty.
Nude exhibition to be held
Vienna's Leopold Museum has invited the public to come in the nude on Friday to view an exhibition of erotic works by Austrian masters like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. "At this time of the year, people prefer the beach to museums because there they get to take their clothes off. So we thought they find this an attractive proposition," Verena Dahlitz said. The more bashful could wear bathing suits, she added. The exhibition titled "The Naked Truth: Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka and other scandals" showcases nude portraits by Austrian artists that scandalized the country at the turn of the last century and have in many cases retained their shock value.
Political referendum held
Ugandans chose whether or not to allow multiparty politics in the East African country in a referendum yesterday, the first step in reforming the country's constitution, which forbids political parties from campaigning in elections. President Yoweri Museveni banned multiparty politics when he came to power in 1986, insisting political parties were tribally-based and responsible for years of partisan violence and civil war.
■ United States
Corrupt official kills self
A former city commissioner recently indicted on corruption charges fatally shot himself in the lobby of the Miami Herald building, authorities said. Arthur Teele shot himself in the head shortly after 6pm Wednesday, police said. He had just asked a security guard if he could see columnist Jim DeFede, an acquaintance of many years, the Herald reported. Teele and an electrical contractor were indicted July 14 on charges of lying to get more than US$20 million in contracts at Miami International Airport that were supposed to go to minority-owned businesses.
■ United Kingdom
Hacker contests extradition
A Briton accused of "the biggest military computer hack of all time" appeared in a London court on Wednesday to contest extradition to the US on charges that he interfered with US military and other government computers before and after the 9/11 attacks. Gary McKinnon, 39, of Wood Green, north London, faces extradition for allegedly accessing 97 US government computers between February 2001 and March 2002, causing US$700,000 worth of damage. One of the allegations relates to his deleting operating system files and logs from computers at the US naval weapons station Earle at a critical time after the attacks on Sept. 11 2001.
Court says no to wiretapping
The nation's highest court on Wednesday struck down a state law in Lower Saxony permitting wiretapping that supporters said would have let the police maintain closer surveillance of potential terrorists and dangerous criminals. The German Constitutional Court ruled against a law that permitted wiretapping even when there was no concrete evidence that a crime was being planned, calling it an unconstitutional infringement of civil liberties.
■ United Kingdom
Blair, wife at odds over law
British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday denied he faced a domestic rift after his lawyer wife Cherie warned that an excessive response to the terrorist threat could undermine "our most deeply held values." Booth said during a lecture in Kuala Lumpur that senior judges should defend individual rights against the decisions of the majority to help educate people about "the real meaning of democracy." Her husband told a monthly press conference in London on Wednesday that claims made by judges in the Belmarsh case, that the government was a bigger threat to liberty than terrorism, would not be uttered now. Booth praised the law lords' decision last November to declare that the indefinite detention of 11 foreign suspects at Belmarsh prison was in breach of the Human Rights Act.
New abuse probe launched
A company of the California Army National Guard has been placed on restricted duty amid allegations that some members mistreated detainees in Iraq, military officials said. Investigations are under way into the allegations of mistreatment by soldiers with the 1st Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment, a California National Guard official said on Wednesday. Other members of the battalion's Alpha Company are under investigation in connection with allegations of extorting money from Iraqi shopkeepers. The battalion's commander has been suspended.
■ United States
Congress blocks tests
Outrage over a planned program to use children from low-income Florida families for pesticide testing has led the US Congress to block such tests until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets strict guidelines for such tests involving humans. The moratorium was announced on Wednesday. The amendment denies the EPA any money for human experiments with pesticides. Several dozen parents in Florida had signed up their children for a pesticide test after they were promised up to US$970 over two years.
■ United States
Radio tags for border use
The US Department of Homeland Security will install radio frequency technology at five border posts with Canada and Mexico to track foreigners driving in and out of North America. The Department of Homeland Security said the wireless chips for vehicles would become mandatory at designated border crossings in Canada and Mexico as of next Thursday. Canadians and Mexicans are exempt from needing the chip.
■ United Kingdom
Charles' finances criticized
Lawmakers said yesterday that Prince Charles should be more open about the finances of the Duchy of Cornwall, the estate that provides him with most of his private income. The lawmakers said there were "obscurities" in the duchy's accounts.
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
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
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