`Free hugs' a flop
A "free hugs" campaign aimed at cheering up strangers by hugging them on the street seems to have failed, with some huggers being hauled away by police for questioning, media said on Monday. The campaign hit the streets of Beijing, Changsha and Xian this weekend, with participants opening their arms to embrace passers-by and brandishing cards saying "free hugs" and "care from strangers," the Beijing News said. In the capital, police took away four huggers briefly for questioning.
Lawyers demand protection
Shanghai's Bar Association called on the authorities yesterday to crack down on violence after a lawyer was beaten while making inquiries on a client's behalf. He Wei, 41, suffered a perforated eardrum and was held hostage for two hours in a dispute involving the owner and six employees of the Fuwei Printing company, the Shanghai Daily reported. He was inquiring into the case of his client, Zhang Xiufang, 17, who lost three fingers in a machinery accident but was denied compensation by the company.
Crackdown on downloads
A new round of a campaign has been launched to crack down on illegal downloads of films, music and software in efforts to curb rampant piracy, state media reported yesterday. The three-month campaign will target illegal Web sites and their operators, who have profited from providing platforms for Internet piracy, Beijing News quoted the National Administration of Copyright as saying. Authorities were currently investigating more than 300 cases, after collecting evidence from film and software industries in the US and at home, it said.
Train derails, worker killed
A railway worker was killed in the southeastern part of the country when a train carrying more than 1,000 passengers derailed, an official said yesterday. Five coaches of the train bound for the capital Dhaka derailed late on Monday after leaving the port city of Chittagong, said Shafiqul Khan, a railway spokesman. Minor train accidents are frequent in the country, which has a 2,800km network of track that was mostly laid between the 1860s and 1940s.
Rebel commander killed
Troops on Monday shot dead a top commander of Kashmir's dominant rebel group Hizbul Mujahedin, a defense spokesman said. The militant, a close associate of the group's leader Syed Salahuddin, was killed in a shoot-out in the disputed Himalayan region, he said. "A top commander of the Hizbul Mujahedin, Noor Mohammed alias Javed Burky, a former body guard of Syed Salahuddin, was killed in a gunfight in Doda District," 240km from Kashmir's winter capital of Jammu, the spokesman said.
Cyclone kills four
A cyclone off the coast of India's southern Andhra Pradesh state has weakened although heavy rains lashing the area have claimed four lives, officials said on Monday. The cyclone made landfall on Monday evening causing torrential downpours in coastal districts, said Satya Kumar, who heads Hyderabad's weather office. The authorities rescued 70 people stranded by floods, a government spokesman said. According to preliminary information, more than 750 houses were damaged by the storm, he said. Kumar said the had received heavy rains beginning late on Sunday and "more widespread rain or thundershowers were expected."
Pitt helps to build houses
Hollywood star Brad Pitt has joined former US president Jimmy Carter to help volunteers from a Christian charity build homes for the poor in the western part of India, the organization said. Pitt, who is in the country shooting a film with partner Angelina Jolie, dropped by the tourist town of Lonavla on Monday to briefly lend a hand to thousands of volunteers from Habitat for Humanity. Each year since 1984, Carter and his wife Rosalynn have spent a week building homes for the organization around the world and promoting its work. This week they were also joined by former Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh, among others. Photographs showed Pitt fixing a window grill.
■ Czech Republic
Japanese wins Kafka award
The Japanese author Haruki Murakami received the nation's foremost literary award, the Franz Kafka Prize, in Prague on Monday. Murakami traveled to the Czech capital for the first time to pick up the award, which commemorates the author whose most famous works include The Castle, The Metamorphosis and The Trail. "I really appreciate this Franz Kafka international literary award, maybe because Franz Kafka is one of my favorite authors of all time," Murakami said after he became the sixth recipient of the prize.
Bodies left to rot in morgue
Health authorities are trying to work out how two rotting corpses were left behind in a decommissioned mortuary with the electricity switched off after a hospital move early this month, officials said on Saturday. A funeral director made the macabre discovery after going to the mortuary of a new hospital which opened in the Cypriot capital three weeks ago, to collect a body for burial, Cypriot newspapers reported. Failing to find it there, he went to the old de-commissioned hospital on Friday and found two corpses in freezers which had been switched off. The condition of one was so bad that it had to be buried immediately.
■ Saudi Arabia
Cops apologize for blunder
Just because women are banned from driving, it doesn't stop police fining a woman for not carrying a driving license. The Shams newspaper said police insisted the 300 riyal (US$80) fine imposed on Dalal Chewish had to be paid before her passport could be renewed. It said her husband Fahd Eissa tried to convince police that it was impossible for a woman to be fined for not carrying a driving license, but to no avail. A passport official acknowledged that a mistake had been made. "There was a mistake. The officer issued the fine to the husband but he noted the ID number of the wife instead of that of her husband," the official said.
Grabber gets the message
Grab a woman's behind, go to jail. That's the precedent established on Monday by the Supreme Court, which ruled that a messenger who was convicted of fondling a woman without her consent last year had caused her "violent injury." The court was reviewing the case of Victor Garcia, a messenger who was sentenced to four years for sexual assault. Garcia was riding his bicycle in June last year when he stopped to grab the backside of a woman walking along a path. "It was an attack on the honor of the victim," Judge Alvaro Orlando Perez said. But the court also ruled that Garcia had committed simple assault, rather than sexual assault, and ordered him freed to stand trial on the lesser charge.
`Love witch' loses case
A woman won a lawsuit against a "love witch" who failed to induce her ex-boyfriend to come back with rituals under the full moon designed to cast a spell over him, a Munich court said on Monday. "The witch lost," said Munich district court spokeswoman Ingrid Kaps. The "love witch" was ordered to return her 1,000 euro (US$1,300) fee and pay "several hundred euros" in costs. "The plaintiff was in despair after her boyfriend left and tried to get him to return with help from a woman who calls herself a `love witch,'" she added. "The court has ruled it was a service that was `objectively impossible' to render."
■ United States
Needle panic in school
A Vermont high school student found a used needle and syringe by the side of a road and jabbed eight fellow students last Thursday and Friday, police and school officials said. Jabbed students at Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans were urged to be vaccinated immediately against hepatitis B. The student who wielded the needle threw it away, officials said. Police have not been able to recover it and do not know whether it was infected, police officer Frank McCarty said. A 16-year-old student will be charged with eight counts of assault, police said. "He just walked up and stabbed me with a needle and said, `You now have hepa-titis,'" student Ava Staples said. "I'm pretty nervous."
■ United States
Bat saliva trial gets go-ahead
An experimental stroke treatment, desmoteplase, based on the saliva of vampire bats, rose from the dead on Monday days after a safety panel stalled human testing because of a potential safety risk, its developers said. An independent panel monitoring clinical trials of the drug said on Monday a large study could resume. Last week it had halted patient recruit-ment so that it could investigate additional data to evaluate a possible safety issue. The medicine's German developer, Paion AG, and US partner Forest Laboratories said they expected the trial results by the middle of next year.
■ United States
Bush movie tanks
The provocative film Death of a President, which imagines the assassination of George W. Bush, bombed at the North American box office with a meager US$282,000 grossed from 143 theaters in its first weekend. The pseudo-documentary played at 91 US theaters and 52 Canadian cinemas during its first three days of release, averaging an estimated US$1,970 per screen, according to dis-tributor Newmarket Films, which reportedly paid US$1 million for US rights to the picture. "That's a very poor opening," said Brandon Gray, an analyst at industry watcher Web site boxofficemojo.com.
■ United States
Hitman faces execution
A hitman sentenced to death for murdering a witness to a drive-by shooting is sche-duled to be executed today in Texas, the US' busiest death row. Donell Jackson was paid US$200 and some marijuana cigarettes to kill Mario Stubblefield on Aug. 31, 1993, before the 17-year-old could testify again in court about the drive-by shooting he had witnessed. On the night of the murder, Jackson showed up at Stubblefied's home under the guise of being a friend of a relative, and asked to speak to him outside. Once outside, authorities said Jackson pulled out a gun and fatally shot the teen in the neck and head.
Pinochet under house arrest
Former dictator Augusto Pinochet was placed under house arrest and indicted for the first time on torture charges for abuses at a secret detention center where President Michelle Bachelet and her mother were once held, the judge handling the case reported on Monday. Two court officials notified Pinochet at his suburban Santiago mansion of the decision by Judge Alejandro Solis, who on Friday had charged Pinochet with one homicide, 35 kidnappings and 24 cases of torture at Villa Grimaldi, one of the most infamous detention centers in the early years of his 1973-1990 dictatorship. Pinochet's chief defense lawyer, Pablo Rodriguez, said he will appeal Solis' ruling "all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary."
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Dark matter, mysterious invisible stuff that makes up most of the mass of galaxies, including the Milky Way, is confounding scientists again, with new observations of distant galaxies conflicting with the current understanding of its nature. Research published this week revealed an unexpected discrepancy between observations of dark matter concentrations in three massive clusters of galaxies encompassing trillions of stars and theoretical computer simulations of how dark matter should be distributed. “Either there is a missing ingredient in the simulations or we have made a fundamental incorrect assumption about the nature of dark matter,” Yale University astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan, a coauthor of