Indonesian fires foul air
Thick haze from fires in Indonesia has caused the air quality over parts of Malaysia's Sarawak State on Borneo Island to hit unhealthy levels and visibility to plunge, officials said yesterday. In Sarawak's capital Kuching, the Air Pollutant Index hit 113 yesterday morning, reaching into the unhealthy range of 101-200, a Department of Environment official said. In oil-rich Bintulu it measured 105, while in the town of Samarahan it posted at 117 and Sri Aman had 119.
■ Hong Kong
Fugitive croc finds a home
A saltwater crocodile that became a global media star after successfully evading capture for months in 2003 was given a new home yesterday in a wetland park. Pui Pui, who was caught after more than seven months of living in a dirty drainage channel, was moved after the completion of new quarters at the park in Tin Shui Wai, the same area where the crocodile was initially discovered.
■ South Korea
North urged back to talks
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun urged North Korea yesterday to return to stalled talks on its nuclear weapons program and said Seoul was ready to provide assistance to the North to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. "North Korea should return to the six-way talks without conditions," Roh said in speech marking the 61st anniversary of the peninsula's liberation from Japan's 1910 to 1945 colonial rule.
■ New Zealand
Maori queen passes away
Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu, the queen of the indigenous Maori population, died yesterday, her family announced. She was 75. Te Ata was the seventh Maori sovereign, a direct descendant of a royal line that began in 1858 when the Maori responded to Britain's colonization of New Zealand by choosing a monarch of their own. The role carries only ceremonial powers but is very respected by most Maori.
Looking for `Xtreme sheep'
Scientists have called on the country's farmers to report any ugly sheep found in their flocks. A campaign called "Xtreme sheep" aims to study sheep with undesirable wool features in order to unlock the genetic makeup of the prized merino and ensure production of its high quality fleece. The South Australian Research and Development Institute said yesterday its search for "Australia's ugliest merino lambs" may hold the key to securing the nation's A$2.8 billion (US$2.1 billion) wool industry. The institute said ugly lambs -- those that have uneven wool, strange fibers, clumps of wool that fall out, bare patches, no wool, or highly wrinkled skin -- are usually culled from herds by farmers.
Hicks should be charged
Australian Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks should face new charges before a US military tribunal by November or be returned home, the government said yesterday. Lawyers for Hicks, who has been held at the US camp in Cuba for four years, have called for his release after the US Supreme Court ruled in June that planned military trials for Guantanamo inmates were illegal. US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on Aug. 2 that plans were being drafted to try enemy combatants based on military court martial procedures, with a number of key changes.
■ United States
National Guard plan panned
In an unusual act of bipartisan and regional unanimity, 51 governors have joined to voice their strong opposition to legislation to let the US president federalize National Guard troops in a disaster without local authorities' consent. In a letter to congressional leaders last week, the governors detailed their argument that the measure, drawn up after Hurricane Katrina and tucked into a military authorization bill that the House of Representatives recently passed, would undermine their authority and autonomy. "This provision ... represents an unprecedented shift in authority from governors as commanders and chief of the Guard to the federal government," the letter states.