■ Hong Kong
Old notes for red envelopes
Hong Kong is urging people to eschew the tradition of stuffing crisp new bank notes into red envelopes given away as gifts during the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on Jan. 29 this year. People should put used cash in the gift packets to avoid wasting resources and harming the environment, Monetary Authority Chief Executive Joseph Yam said in a statement issued this week. Yam said there's usually a demand for about HK$300 million (US$38.7 million) in new bank notes during the holiday. It takes 400 tonnes of cotton to make the paper needed to print the currency, he added. Yam said banks will encourage clients to accept "good-as-new notes" that have been circulating but are still in fine condition.
Rebels raid police station
Communist rebels raided a police station in a central Philippine town and seized 31 firearms as guerrillas made good on a vow to intensify operations, police said yesterday. No one was injured in the attack late on Friday in Albuera, Leyte province, said regional police chief Eliseo dela Paz. Four of six officers who were having a dinner fled the station when several New People's Army guerrillas barged into the building, which was surrounded by other rebels. The rebels ordered the two remaining officers to disrobe and hogtied them. They seized 19 M-16 rifles and 12 pistols from the station before fleeing.
Anti-terror bill on the way
The government is to draw up a new anti-terrorism bill to allow it to detain and question without arrest warrants people it defines as terrorists or members of terrorist groups, Japanese media said yesterday. The government hopes to pass the new law next year after an expert panel has looked into questions including the effect on human rights and a possible clash with the Constitution, reports in the Yomiuri and Mainichi dailies said. A National Police Agency report warned last month that attacks on Japan by militant Islamists could not be ruled out because of the country's close links with the US.
Bomb explodes in tea shop
Two Thai women and a Malaysian man were slightly injured yesterday when a bomb exploded at a tea shop in the troubled south, police said. The bomb was placed under a marble table at the tea shop in the town of Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat province, one of the three restive Muslim-dominated southern provinces bordering Malaysia. "The bomb was set off by a mobile phone with a Malaysian signal," Colonel Term Inthasara said. The unrest in southern Thailand erupted on Jan. 4, 2004, when militants launched a daring raid on a weapons depot in Narathiwat province. Since then, more than 1,000 people have been killed in near-daily shootings, bombings and arson attacks.
Snow traps some 220,000
Heavy snow has trapped some 220,000 people in remote areas of of Xinjiang, cutting off roads and communications and forcing the evacuation of about 100,000 others, state media said yesterday. Up to 1m of snow fell last week on some areas of Xinjiang, and overnight temperatures dropped to as low as minus 43oC, the official China Daily newspaper said. The snow has affected about 620,000 people in the region, and more than 9,000 livestock animals have died, it quoted local reports as saying.
Kids pile on the kilos
French children are catching up with their US counterparts in the obesity stakes, a group of French pediatricians said on Friday. The scales are tipping towards obesity at a rate of five percent per year since 1997 in France, the same rate as seen on the other side of the Atlantic, the AFPA association said. "This regular increase is especially worrying and, if nothing is done, it suggests there will be a minimal difference between the two countries within 15 years," it said in a statement. France's state National Statistics Institute released a study last November showing that 40 percent of French adults are overweight.