■ North Korea
Reactor to unload fuel rods
Pyongyang is planning to unload fuel rods at its Yongbyon reactor within the next three months in what would be a significant boost to its nuclear weapons capability, US academic Selig Harrison said yesterday in Beijing. He said Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan told him during a meeting last week in Pyongyang that the North would unload the rods "beginning this fall, and no later than the end of the year." Removing the fuel rods is "a significant new development because it underlines that North Korea is enhancing its weapons capability," said Harrison, director of the Asia program at the Washington-based Center for International Policy. He has been an occasional visitor to North Korea, whose government has often used him to convey messages to the outside world. Officials would neither confirm nor deny the that a nuclear test was being planned, he said.
Mahathir chastises Lee
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has accused Singapore's elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀) of hypocrisy for claiming that Malaysia's ethnic Chinese minority was being marginalized, news reports said yesterday. ``You are not that clever. In a small group, perhaps you seem clever,'' Mahathir said, referring to Lee late on Friday in a speech to supporters in Terengganu state. "But when [Lee] goes to China, the Chinese there don't want to listen to him. The Chinese in China don't think much of him and it is a fact that he is marginalized by Chinese in the world," Mahathir was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama. Lee was reported to have said recently that Singapore's neighbors "have problems with their Chinese.
■ South Korea
US could pull jets
The US has threatened to move its jet fighters out of the Korean peninsula unless Seoul offers a new, exclusive firing range for US airmen within a month, reports said yesterday. The warning from Lieutenant General Garry Trexler, deputy head of US troops in South Korea, was construed as an ultimatum to South Korea ahead of high-level security talks in Washington next month. "I think we are very close in coming to closure on this issue, but if it's not done within the next 30 days, we'll be forced to send aircraft which are critical to the deterrence of this peninsula off this peninsula," Trexler said.
Kidnap victim released
Government negotiators have won the release of the kidnapped daughter of a southern Philippine university president nearly two months after she was seized by suspected Muslim militants. Grace Gonzales, a 19-year-old deaf-mute, had been seized on Aug. 2 near her home in southern Zamboanga city. The al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group was suspected for the abduction. She was handed over late on Friday on nearby Basilan island to Akhmad Bayam, a former Muslim rebel commander. After being reunited with her family, the girl was flown by an air force helicopter to a military hospital for a medical examinations.
Looking at the sun
Japan yesterday put into orbit Solar-B, a satellite which will measure the Sun's magnetic field. The satellite's three telescopes -- one optical, one X-ray and one ultraviolet -- will get the closest look yet at the Sun's magnetic fields and help scientists get a better understanding of the violent solar activities that affect the Earth. It will orbit the Earth for three years and spend three-quarters of the time in direct sunlight. The satellite was launched from the Uchinoura Space Center in southern Japan in cooperation with the US and European space programs, which will assess the data to complement their own research. Solar-B is scheduled to start its solar observation in two months.
■ United Nations
China to give more
China has said it is ready to increase its financial contribution to the UN to match its explosive economic growth, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) told the UN General Assembly on Friday. Pressure has been mounting on China to make concessions over its contribution, which is currently about two percent of the total UN two-year budget of approximately US$3.8 billion. "As China's economy grows, we are prepared to increase our contributions to the UN budget in accordance with the principle of the ability to pay," Li said as he gave China's presentation to the General Assembly. He added that China would give US$3 million to the UN Peacebuilding Fund.
Minister slams croc safaris
Plans to launch a crocodile safari industry that would give tourists the chance to hunt crocs in the remote Northern Territory will be blocked, a minister said yesterday. Environment Minister Ian Campbell described the proposal to allow holidaymakers to annually cull 25 of the reptiles as "stupid" and inhumane. "Getting amateurs in to take a pot shot at a croc is not a modern, sensible or humane approach and the Australian Government won't be having a bar of it," Campbell told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Grope-sellers lose case
A fee of 25,500 euros (US$32,000) is way too much for a woman to charge a man for fondling her bosom, a district court ruled. The court jailed a couple in their twenties for more than a year for charging a 74-year-old who suffers from dementia a total of 25,500 euros to enjoy the woman's breasts on 10 occasions. "Based on general life experience alone, it is indisputably clear that a 25,500 euro charge is disproportionate to the compensation in question," Judge Hasse Hakki said on Friday. The retiree filed charges against the couple, who were convicted of extortionate overcharging, even though he told the court he paid the price willingly at the time.
Artist offers love on stilts
Couples in Amsterdam are writing out their dreams of passion for the chance to spend a night in a small car fitted with a bed and hoisted up on poles. For a free overnight stay, couples must write to the Italian artist who converted the hatchback, and explain their romantic intentions -- ranging from marriage proposals to re-enactments of teenaged backseat fumblings. Federico D'Orazio said he removed the seats of the Opel Kadett, squeezed a double bed into it and placed it on 4m-high poles to provide a place for "real love" in a city famed for its sex trade. "I tried to make a space for real love in a city where sex is dominant," D'Orazio said.
Burglars get nasty surprise
Burglars in Vienna opted for a speedy getaway after they found eight severed human heads when breaking into the basement of an apartment building, Austrian police said on Friday. A dentist had stored the mummified heads, which he used for research, in a chest in the basement. Burglars stumbled upon the collection when they broke in, police said. "The burglars were looking for loot when they discovered the heads," said a spokeswoman for Austrian police. "From what it looks like, they just left them lying and bolted away."
Cocaine baron arrested
Authorities said on Friday they had arrested a top Colombian cocaine baron in a luxury villa in Caracas, but did not name him. "He was the second-most-wanted man in Colombia. It was in co-operation with Colombia," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said in a television broadcast, boasting that his country had landed a "big fish" from the world's No. 1 cocaine producer. Colombia's Ministry of Defense said the captured man answered to the name of Farid Dominguez and was accused of being a member of the Norte del Valle cartel, reckoned by the US to be Colombia's biggest.
Sven Nykvist, one of the world's foremost cinematographers, whose poetic use of light illuminated many of Ingmar Bergman's greatest films, died on Wednesday after a long illness. He was 83 and was living at a nursing home where he was being treated for aphasia, a symptom of dementia, said his son, Carl-Gustaf. Nykvist, who won two Academy Awards for best cinematography with the Bergman films Cries and Whispers (1972) and Fanny and Alexander (1982) pioneered the expressive use of naturalistic light in filmmaking. He retired after his aphasia was diagnosed in 1998.
■ United States
DVD lands maker in court
A producer of a video portraying gang life was ordered to stand trial on two felony weapons charges. Lonnell "Nitti" Greene, 29, helped produce Fresno Uncensored, a 91-minute DVD released locally last year that showed gun-toting gang members mocking police, growing marijuana and showing off gang tattoos. "A great percentage of the video contains criminal acts," Fresno police detective Ron Flowers testified on Thursday in Fresno County Superior Court. Officers said Greene supplied gang members with two assault weapons for use in the DVD.
■ United States
Resentment drove map thief
A dealer of antiques who admitted stealing more than US$3 million in rare maps was resentful of the world's top libraries and acted to finance his rich tastes and rising debt, prosecutors said on Thursday. Shedding light into why Edward Smiley III stole 98 of the world's most precious maps over seven years, papers filed in Connecticut's US District Court said he initially acted because he felt he had been wronged and slighted. "Although he had a large degree of access to many libraries for his research and used such access, he did not steal maps from every library that he visited," prosecutors wrote.
■ United States
Killer gets death sentence
Florida Governor Jeb Bush has signed a death warrant for the man who pleaded guilty to the grisly 1990 slayings of five Gainesville college students. Danny Rolling pleaded guilty in 1994 to the string of murders, and a judge followed a jury's recommendation that he be sentenced to death. He is to be executed on Oct. 25, Bush's office said on Friday. Rolling, a drifter from Shreveport, Louisiana, terrorized Gainesville in late August and early September 1990, killing four women and a man in their off-campus apartments. One victim was decapitated and others were mutilated, posed and sexually assaulted. Killed were Christa Hoyt, 18; Sonja Larson, 18; Christa Powell, 17; Tracy Paules, 23, and Manny Taboada, 23.
■ United States
Catholic cardinal starts blog
His day job requires adhering to traditions that are thousands of years old, but Cardinal Sean O'Malley's newest hobby is decidedly modern. O'Malley, the leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, just started a blog complete with Internet slang and personal stories. Cardinalseansblog.org was unveiled this week and will chronicle the cardinal's 10-day trip to Rome, his first since being elevated to cardinal there in March. Archdiocesan officials said they did not know if the blog would continue after he returns on Oct. 2. So far, O'Malley has posted two entries.
■ United States
More veterans stressed
More than one-third of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans seeking medical treatment from the Veterans Health Administration report symptoms of stress or other mental disorders -- a tenfold increase in the last 18 months, according to an agency study. The dramatic jump in cases has triggered concern among some veterans groups that the agency may not be able to meet the demand. Contributing to the higher levels of stress are the long and often repeated tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Officials said the increase in soldiers complaining of stress or mental disorder symptoms also may suggest that efforts to reduce the stigma of such problems are working and that commanders and medical personnel are more adept at recognizing symptoms.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete