Police in hot water again
The nation's police, already mired in scandal after a female detainee was forced to strip naked and squat, faced new charges yesterday that they had shaved the heads of 11 elderly men for playing mahjong. The ethnic Chinese men were hauled into custody and shaven bald for playing mahjong during the Lunar New Year holidays, reports said. "What was done by the police to the men was degrading, demeaning and an affront to human dignity," commissioner for the government-backed Malaysian Human Rights Commission Hamdan Adnan said. Gambling is a crime in conservative mainly Muslim Malaysia, but the men said they were using plastic chips instead of money and have pleaded not guilty.
Village feud injures 20
At least 20 people were injured in a gunbattle between two feuding villages in Guangdong Province that was brought under control by thousands of police, news reports said yesterday. Hundreds of residents from one village used shotguns and homemade bombs on Friday to attack another village near Huangpo in Wuchuan County over a land ownership dispute, Hong Kong network Cable TV quoted a witness as saying."Whey they threw hand grenades at us, there were explosions and we ran. Then some people at the back rushed to the front and shot at us," the villager, identified by his surname, Liu, said on the network.
■ Hong Kong
New Year dish fells 441
A total of 441 Hong Kong diners suffered food poisoning after eating a traditional New Year dish contaminated with bacteria, authorities said yesterday. All 240 women and 201 men, aged one to 86, fell ill after eating Poon Choi bought from the same restaurant. Poon Choi, a traditional Lunar New Year dish, is difficult to cook properly because of its mixed ingredients which include seafood, meat and vegetables. The cases came to light just days after health officials issued a warning to the public on incorrectly storing and undercooking the dish.
Show stampede probed
Executives of the country's leading TV network and a popular game show host were yesterday summoned for questioning over a weekend stampede that killed 73 and injured nearly 400. An Interior Department fact-finding body ordered by President Gloria Arroyo began interviewing security staff at the site of the tragedy. Later in the day, ABS-CBN executive vice president Charo Santos and Wowowee host Willie Revillame were also expected to appear before the panel. It was not clear whether the body would recommend criminal liabilities, but Telecommunications Minister Leandro Mendoza said the probe would determine "possible culpability" of the show's executives.
Ferry deaths rise to 35
Rescuers searching for survivors of a ferry that capsized in Indonesia have found another five bodies, officials said yesterday, taking the confirmed death toll to 35 with 61 others listed as missing. Agus Susilo at the rescue post in the eastern town of Kupang said that the search was concentrated on waters around Semau island, where many of the victims had been found. Some 124 people had been rescued alive, he added. The last survivor was recovered on Friday. The Jembatan Madura ferry sank in heavy seas in the strait separating Timor island and Rote island late on Tuesday.
■ United Kingdom
Britain had bomb warning
Senior White House officials confirmed on the weekend that Britain received a warning about a potential attack on London involving a cell of four bombers just a few months before the July atrocities last year in which 52 people were killed. In the wake of the revelation, bomb victims' families have renewed calls for the government to hold a public inquiry to find out whether vital intelligence was missed that could have prevented the attack. Last August the London-based Observer newspaper revealed that Saudi intelligence had passed warnings to British and US intelligence in Riyadh in December 2004 about a terror plot aimed at London.