Bird flu measures taken
A village hit by a new outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu virus will be closely monitored for 30 days, as officials also inspect surrounding areas in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading, an official said yesterday. Following recommended procedures, animal health officials will continue collecting samples from poultry in the village and in a 3km radius around it to test for bird flu, said Kao Phal, director of the Agriculture Ministry's animal health department. "The village itself has been placed under constant monitoring for a 30-day period to prevent the spread of the virus," Kao Phal said.
Land clearing casts haze
Thick and acrid haze from fires set to clear land is blanketing parts of the Indonesian section of Borneo island, a meteorology official said yesterday. "The haze is thick early in the morning, limiting visibility to under 200 meters, but by 9am visibility would already have improved to around 2,000 meters," said Bambang, an official with the meteorology station at Pontianak in West Kalimantan Province.
Foreign cartoons restricted
The government will ban foreign cartoons from being aired on television in prime time, state media reported, signaling an apparent attempt to help and protect local producers. Beginning on Sept. 1, only Chinese-made cartoons will be allowed on TV in the crucial after-school period from 5pm to 8pm, the Beijing Youth Daily reported. Even if a specific cartoon is a Sino-foreign co-production, it cannot be aired unless it has special permission, it said.
Millions lack drinking water
About 17 million people in the southwest don't have access to clean drinking water due to sustained drought, state media reported yesterday. Crops on large tracts of farmland in Sichuan Province and the nearby Chongqing municipality have withered due to the month-long drought, causing economic losses of 9.23 billion yuan (US$1.15 billion), Beijing News and the Xinhua news agency said. Local governments have allocated funds to help residents fight the drought by tapping ground water and improving water conservation facilities, Xinhua said. The searing heat meant 14 million people in Chongqing and 3 million in Sichuan lack clean drinking water, the media said.
■ Hong Kong
Vandals attack gravestones
Vandals have attacked gravestones in a cemetery dedicated to public servants who died in the line of duty, police said yesterday. Pictures that adorned the graves of 29 of the city's fallen heroes in the Gallant Garden cemetery were smashed, apparently with a hammer, a police spokeswoman said. Among those remembered in the garden are police and firemen killed while on duty and health care workers who died while treating SARS patients. Police said that as yet there were no suspects and they had no idea of the motive.
Melon named after leader
A new lip-smacking melon has been named in honor of President Saparmurat Niyazov as the Central Asian state celebrated "Melon Day," an official said yesterday. The new "Turkmenbashi melon" is distinguished "by its delicious aroma, excellent taste and large size," an official from Turkmenistan's food industry association said. Niyazov, an authoritarian leader elected as president-for-life by the country's parliament, likes to be known as Turkmenbashi (Chief of All Turkmens) as part of a bizarre personality cult that surrounds him. "All Turkmens celebrate this holiday. The Turkmen melon is the source of our pride, its taste has no equal in the world, the smell makes your head spin," Niyazov said in a statement.