Landslides kill five
Pounding rains triggered landslides and flooded six villages in the south over the weekend, killing at least five people and forcing 600 others into emergency shelters, officials said yesterday. Landslides and floodwaters damaged or blocked portions of a major road leading into the villages in Kapatagan town in Lanao del Norte Province, making it difficult for rescue workers to access the affected villages, police said. Water was so deep in some neighborhoods that residents were forced to climb on top of their shanties, where they waited for hours for rescue, officials said.
Top official in Tehran
A top official in charge of nuclear nonproliferation issues headed to Iran yesterday, state media said, amid international efforts to persuade Tehran to give up its nuclear program. The official Xinhua news agency said Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai (崔天凱) would discuss nuclear issues and other topics of mutual concern with Iranian officials. The brief report gave no other details. Iran vowed this month to expand uranium enrichment, defying a UN Security Council deadline for it to suspend its nuclear activities by Aug. 22 or face the threat of political and economic sanctions. Tehran has denounced the July 31 UN nuclear vote as illegal.
Horse patrols begin
Police have started using horses to patrol Kuala Lumpur's major shopping zone in a move to clamp down on petty thefts and robberies as well as encourage tourism, a news report said yesterday. The police horse unit, which had previously only been used during riots and for crowd control, was chosen for its maneuverability. "They will be able to cover more ground, especially in crowded areas and alleys," district police chief Kamal Pasha Jamal said.
Bills to help displaced
The state plans to hike electricity bills to help pay for a new compensation package for some 22 million people forced to relocate for dam and reservoir projects, state media said yesterday, amid rising public anger over graft. The official Xinhua news agency said the central government will pay those displaced people 600 yuan (US$75) a year over 20 years, with money transferred directly into their bank accounts to prevent local officials from skimming profits off the fund. The program, announced on Sunday by the State Development and Reform Commission, is meant to relieve poverty among displaced communities and help to restore social stability, Xinhua said.
■ New Zealand
Industry fails in flab fight
The food, media and advertising industries have failed to tackle a growing trend toward obesity, despite their voluntary accord two years ago to trim the nation's expanding waistline, a researcher said yesterday. Half of those aged 15 and over are overweight or obese and their numbers are increasing, according to recent government figures. But Janet Hoek, a marketing professor at Massey University, said that her review of results so far showed that stronger measures were needed, and that it was time for the government to step in. "Foods high in fat, salt and sugar are still regularly advertised and discounted, and consumers are rewarded with loyalty gifts and competition entries for purchasing them," she said.
Ahmadinejad launches blog
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has launched his own blog. The hardline leader's debut on the international blogosphere came in the form of a 2,300-word tract that asked readers to decide if the US and Israel were trying to start a new world war. Ahmadinejad, who has identified himself with Iran's army of poor people, also described his humble origins in an impoverished rural village. His entry into the mass ranks of bloggers marks the latest step in a concerted effort to communicate directly with ordinary Iranians over the heads of the elites.