■ South Korea
Birth rate hits record low
The country's birth rate fell to its lowest on record last year, sparking concern about a shrinking population and aging society, officials said yesterday. The birth rate, which represents the average number of children a woman is expected to have during her reproductive lifetime, stood at 1.08 last year, down from 1.16 in 2004, the National Statistical Office said. South Korea's population, which stands at 48 million this year, is forecast to fall to 40 million in 2050, the welfare ministry said.
Heat kills more homeless
The death toll from a blistering heat wave in northern India rose to 34 yesterday as officials ordered primary schools in the most populous state to close. "Six people died of heat stroke in the last 24 hours, taking the toll to 24," said Anurag Singh, a government official in Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh. Ten others have died in the eastern state of Orissa. The dead, all homeless, have included two children, Singh said. Temperatures have hovered at 43oC -- four to five degrees above normal.
Seller picks wrong customer
A peddler of pirated DVDs has been busted after unwittingly offering his wares to Consumer Affairs Minister Shafie Apdal as he sat at a popular restaurant strip, a report said yesterday. Shafie, mastermind of the government's campaign to crack down on piracy, was offered a range of the latest movie titles, the New Straits Times said. "He [the peddler] said he did not recognize Shafie and that he had approached him like he did any other customer," said the ministry's assistant director Abdul Madi Wahab who led 30 officers on the raid.
Astrologers predict storms
Astrologers are hoping that by observing the stars and planets, they will be able to forecast storms and earthquakes, a newspaper reported. A group of local astrologers is comparing their storm predictions for this year with data from the meteorology department. If they are proven to be true, the astrologers plan to include storm forecasts in the annual astrological calendars for next year and 2008, Than Htay, vice president of the Myanmar Astrology Research Bureau, was quoted as saying in the Myanmar Times. "It is important work for us because it will help keep people away from natural disasters and will prove the accuracy of astrological predictions," Than Htay said in the report.
Club fire kills eight
A fire swept through a nightclub in the resort of Pattaya killing at least eight people and injuring about 54 others, police said on yesterday. The blaze swept through the "Route 999" entertainment complex shortly before opening time on Sunday evening. Police Lance Corporal Dechakamol Sudson said staff were in a routine meeting when the fire broke out. He said preliminary investigations showed it was probably caused by a short circuit in a power line near the building or a faulty air conditioner. Seven of the victims -- five women and two men -- were pronounced dead after being admitted to hospitals in Pattaya, southeast of Bangkok. Another man died inside the nightclub.
Prison riot injures 11
A riot between rival gang members in a jail left at least 11 inmates injured, including four members of the Muslim militant group Abu Sayyaf, jail and police officials said yesterday. Heavily armed police commandos rushed into the Metro Manila Rehabilitation Center late on Sunday to help jail guards bring the nearly two-hour riot under control, Manila police spokesman Agrimero Cruz said.