■ Hong Kong
Pet lovers seethe over kitten
The government has promised to take tougher action on animal abusers after pet lovers took to the street following a vicious attack on a kitten, a news report said yesterday. The protesters were demanding a review of penalties following the attack in which a kitten died after its legs were ripped off by an attacker. They carried pictures of the kitten and their own pets in the protest which took place on Sunday. Animal cruelty carries a maximum fine of US$640 or six months in jail, but protesters want to see it increased to a US$6,400 fine and five years in jail.
Prince urges female reign
Japan's Prince Tomohito urged a government panel to reconsider its proposal to resolve an imperial succession crisis by letting females reign, months after he suggested employing concubines to produce a male heir, a news report said yesterday. Tomohito, a cousin of Emperor Akihito and fifth in the line of succession, said the panel should look into options such as reinstating former imperial branch family members who lost their royal status after World War II, Kyodo News Agency reported. There was "no need to immediately" reach a decision, the report quoted the prince as saying.
Police nab decapitator
Police have arrested an Indian real-estate agent over the killing of an elderly German woman who had been living in the western Indian city of Pune for decades, an officer said. Police found the beheaded body of Gudarun Corvinus, 72, on Saturday in her apartment in Pune, 200km south of Bombay, police said. Her severed head was found on a nearby river bank. Corvinus, a historian, lived alone in the apartment. The Press Trust of India news agency said the suspect, 26-year-old Fakir Mohammed Sheikh, allegedly killed Corvinus because he had wanted her apartment.
Snooker ban lifted
Malaysia's only Islamic opposition-ruled state has lifted a 15-year-old ban on snooker parlors as its government moves to shed its hardline, fundamentalist image, an official said yesterday. The opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic party that rules the northeastern Kelantan state announced on Sunday that snooker parlors can operate as long as they close early, keep men and women patrons separate and do not permit gambling. In the announcement, Chief Minister Nik Aziz Nik Mat said state legislation was being amended to categorize snooker and billiards as "sport" instead of entertainment to simplify licensing procedures by local authorities.
Millions of females aborted
An estimated 10 million female foetuses have been aborted in India over the last two decades, according to a study of birth rates to be published online yesterday by the British medical journal Lancet. A team of researchers from Canada and India analyzed information from 133,738 births in 1997 across India, and determined that fewer females are born as second or third children to families who do not yet have a boy, compared with those who already have a boy. The statistics according to birth order were striking. The sex ratio for the second birth when the preceding child was a girl was 759 girls per 1,000 males, and for the third child was 719 girls if the previous two children were girls.
■ United Kingdom
Car kills four cyclists
A group of cyclists were killed on Sunday and eight were injured after they collided with a car on a country road. The four, part of a group of 12 cyclists from a local club out on a practice session, were killed after a driver lost control of his car on an icy north Wales road, police said. Scott Eccles, secretary of the Rhyl Cycling Club, said those killed were a 14-year-old boy, two men aged 42 and 49, and a third man in his 60s. Police did not confirm the identities.