Employers spy on maids
Singaporean employers are planting high-tech security cameras at home to spy on their foreign maids, a report said yesterday. Recent disturbing media coverage involving maids has prompted many homeowners to install domestic surveillance systems, some totalling as many as 10 cameras in a single apartment, the Sunday Times said. "It gives me peace of mind. Still, I'd rather not find anything," real estate agent Kent Tan was quoted as saying. He forked out S$7,000 (US$4,190) for the cameras and found his maid wearing his wife's clothes while at work. Security camera vendors told the newspaper that home queries had risen sharply in the past three years, with many customers opting for coin-sized cameras that can easily go unnoticed.
Archaeologists make find
Chinese archaeologists claim to have found one of the world's oldest observatories, dating back 4,100 years ago, state media reported yesterday. The observatory was uncovered at the Taosi relics site in Shanxi Province, He Nu, a research fellow with the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said. The observatory "was not only used for observing astronomical phenomena but also for sacrificial rites", He said. The remains, in the shape of a semi-circle 40m in diameter in the main observation platform and 60m in diameter in the outer circle, were made of rammed earth, the report said. Archaeologists said 13 stone pillars, at least 4m tall, stood on the foundation of the first circle originally, forming 12 gaps between them. The Taosi relics site is believed to be a settlement from the "five legendary rulers" period.
Train wreck toll climbs
Army divers searched yesterday for survivors and the dead in the submerged cars of a train that derailed and plunged into a rain-swollen river in southern India, killing at least 110 people, officials said. The accident occurred before sunrise on Saturday in the town of Veligonda in Andhra Pradesh state after flash floods washed away a portion of the track. Ten more bodies were found downstream overnight, raising the death toll to 110, said state Home Minister K. Jana Reddy. Scores of passengers remained trapped inside the railcars, five of which lay on their sides, partially submerged. Soldiers were lowered onto the cars from a helicopter to cut through the top and retrieve passengers who spent the night hanging on to luggage racks and ceiling fans.
■ Hong Kong
Bird flu drill planned
Hong Kong will stage an emergency drill next month to prepare for a possible bird flu pandemic, the territory's health secretary said. York Chow, secretary for health, welfare and food, said the exercise is needed because of public worries over recent bird flu outbreaks in the region and in Europe. It can also test Hong Kong's preparedness for a flu pandemic, he said. Yesterday, government workers distributed leaflets about bird flu prevention to people in several downtown districts.
Mother asks queen for help
The mother of an Australian drug smuggler who has been condemned to death in Singapore has written to Queen Elizabeth asking her to intervene, lawyers said yesterday. Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, of Vietnamese extraction, was sentenced to death after being arrested at Singapore's Changi airport three years ago with almost 400g of heroin. An appeal for clemency has already been dismissed. "You and I are mothers. You are our leader. You know a mother's love. Please help and intervene," a lawyer quoted the letter as saying. The lawyer said he expected the queen would respond.