■ North Korea
Reactor may be activated
Pyongyang has possibly activated a nuclear reactor suspected of producing weapons-grade material, based on a satellite photograph released by an online security agency, South Korean media reported yesterday. The image shows a plume of smoke ascending from a 5 megawatt reactor in Yongbyon on January this year that was absent in identical images taken in March 2003. "The steam plume in the January 5, 2006 view is indicative of the reactor being active," read the caption to the photo released this weekend on the Web site of Global Security, which provides background information on defense, space and intelligence online.
`House husbands' criticized
A top Malaysian minister has said that a husband who stays at home to handle chores while his wife earns money is incompatible with the country's culture, official reports said yesterday. Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said the "trend" of men playing the traditional role of their wives would be difficult for the public to accept. "I personally feel that men should go out to work. As a man, he is the breadwinner and protector of the family unless he is ill or incapacitated," Shahrizat was quoted as saying by the official Bernama news agency.
Officials deny report
Japanese officials yesterday denied a news report claiming that work stress was cited as the reason for a consular attache's suicide in Shanghai despite allegations he killed himself because of blackmail by Chinese intelligence agents. The unidentified consular official said he was driven to suicide after Chinese agents used a karaoke hostess, blackmail and intimidation to pry state secrets from him in an alleged suicide note printed in the Yomiuri newspaper in March. China has denied that any agents were involved with the man. Last December, the Chinese embassy in Tokyo posted a statement on its Web site saying that work-related stress had driven the man to kill himself last year, not pressure from Chinese spies as Japan claimed.
Navy grounds choppers
The Australian navy has grounded a A$1 billion dollar (US$750 million) fleet of US-built helicopters over safety concerns and may sue the contractors, the defense minister said yesterday. The navy ordered 11 of the anti-submarine and anti-shipping Super Seasprite helicopters but none of the 10 delivered since 2001 have been in full operational service due to technical problems. Defense Minister Brendan Nelson said he had banned the Seasprites from flying and that the government was considering scrapping the fleet altogether.
Microsoft adds Aussie slang
Even if most people outside Australia wouldn't know a jackaroo (cowboy) from a wuss (wimp), computers Down Under will be able to recognize the words from next year. Microsoft's Australian subsidiary announced yesterday that it was putting forward a list of local words and slang for inclusion in its 2007 Microsoft Office software. People will be able to vote online on which words out of a list selected by a panel of experts should be included, spokesman Tony Wilkinson said. "While Office features an already comprehensive Australian spelling option, based on the Macquarie dictionary, we felt that many commonly used Aussie words were being left out," he said.