Man develops space shoes
A shoemaker is developing lightweight sneakers for outer space, hoping to help astronauts keep their muscles from wearing down due to the rigors of zero-gravity. Asics Corp has teamed up with the Japanese space agency to create the sneakers and plans to donate a pair to Japanese astronaut Takao Doi, who will join a US space shuttle mission late next year. "In an environment of no gravity, human muscles become atrophied and astronauts need to train themselves on machines," said Takehiro Tagawa, who developed the far-out footwear.
Unresponsive officials fired
Beijing has sacked five officials in Sichuan Province after they failed to respond to an outbreak of bird flu in poultry, state media said yesterday. The disciplinary action was announced a week after the WHO highlighted China and Indonesia as two countries that had "room for improvement" in their fight against the virus, citing inadequate response on the local government level. The five officials from Dazhu County were found guilty of dereliction of duty and incompetence in responding to the province's first outbreak of bird flu.
Evacuees return after blast
More than 16,000 people were allowed to return home a day after being evacuated when chemicals exploded at a warehouse in Guangzhou, state media said yesterday. Some 49 people were injured when the explosion occurred in the city's Tianhe district on Wednesday evening, resulting in the evacuation of the 16,000 -- 10,000 of whom were students from nearby universities, the China Daily said.
New Zealand not for sale
New Zealand is not for sale, despite somebody in Australia trying to offload the nation of 4 million to the highest online bidder. With a starting offer of just A$0.01, brisk bidding for the prime chunk of South Pacific real estate quickly boosted the price to A$3,000 before eBay pulled the plug on the auction this week. "Clearly New Zealand is not for sale," eBay Australia spokesman Daniel Feiler told the New Zealand Press Association, adding that 22 bids had been made before the company acted. The trader has not been named. Apparently unimpressed with the country he was trying to sell, his advertisement described New Zealand as having"very ordinary weather."
Suharto charges dropped
Corruption charges against ailing former Indonesian dictator Suharto have been dropped, and he is a "free man," the attorney general announced yesterday. "Now Suharto is no longer a defendant, he is a free man," Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh said. Suharto, 84, is currently in hospital in Jakarta, where he has undergone colon surgery. Doctors say he is in frail health, which may have influenced the decision to drop the charges. Rahman said, however, that the decision was made solely on the basis of the law. Rahman's announcement came just hours after the country's president said he had abandoned a plan to drop the corruption charges, citing what he said was public anger over the proposed move.
`Gangster' politician buried
A politician described as a gangster by police was buried on Thursday, a day after gunmen shot him in the head and chest as he left a mosque in the ex-Soviet state, officials said. Ryspek Akmatbayev, was imprisoned for assault and racketeering in the 1990s. Police said it appeared to be a gangland killing. "We only confirmed his death after the examination of his body," Interior Minister Murat Sutalinov told reporters. "I think this [killing] was the action of a criminal group."