Robots man hospital
Robots have made their debut at a hospital where an android receptionist and two porters now work alongside their human counterparts. Aizu Central Hospital in Aizu-Wakamatsu, some 200km north of Tokyo, introduced the trio on Oct. 28 at a cost of ¥60 million (US$508,000). The receptionist robot welcomes visitors at the entrance and answers spoken inquiries. The two porter robots, which can move at a maximum speed of 1.5kph, can carry luggage and take visitors and patients to their destinations.
Russia arrest `poachers'
Russian authorities were hauling four Japanese fishing vessels to an eastern Russian port yesterday on suspicion of illegal fishing, a Japanese foreign ministry official said. The four vessels were inspected by the Russian Federal Border Guard Service in the Bering Sea where the men were fishing, he said. "Three of them were taken to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy and the remaining vessel is also on its way to the port for further inspection," the official said, adding that the crew were reportedly in good condition.
Couple shocked over bill
The Regent Singapore claims Alex Lee, 30, owes S$16,355 (US$10,417) for damages to its presidential suite. He and Jolyn Goh, 30, held a wedding dinner in the ballroom on June 25 last year. The wedding package included a one-night stay in the suite and late that night, six friends went to the suite with some wine to celebrate. The hotel claimed the party left food and beverage stains and vomit on the carpet and sofa. "There is no way we could have caused damage worth that much and there is no avenue for us do anything now," Lee said.
■ South Korea
Miniskirts to be legalized
Hot pants and miniskirts will soon be legal. Officials are in the final stages of revising an indecency law that prohibits people from wearing revealing outfits that was once enforced by ruler-wielding police in the 1970s, officials said. "The law for excessive exposure does not match our current society," said Kim Jae-kwang, an official with the Korea Legislation Research Institute. The law allowed police to arrest or fine women for their fashion choices.
■ The Philippines
Mayor arrested for shooting
The mayor of Banisilan on Mindanao has been arrested and his entire police force sacked after he and his aides fatally gunned down five people, army commander Brigadier General Nehemias Pajarito said yesterday. "We have troops in the area. We don't want any future hostilities breaking out between feuding groups," he said. Mayor Floro Allado admitted he and his security escorts opened fire on a truck full of men in his town on Thursday but said it was in self-defense after they shot at his group. Pajarito did not say why the police force was relieved of its duties but sources said this may be linked to a suspected attempt to cover up the incident by claiming that Muslim separatist rebels were behind the shooting.
Temple stampede kills three
At least three people were killed and 25 injured early yesterday when worshippers stampeded during festival celebrations at the 12th-century Jagannath temple in Puri, 65km south of Orissa state capital Bhubaneswar. The stampede erupted on a narrow set of stairs leading to the inner sanctum of the temple, media reports said. As soon as the temple door opened the crowd lined up to see the temple deities surged forward and some of those in front tripped and fell, setting off the stampede. Ten people were hospitalized, doctors at the main Puri hospital said. Witnesses blamed temple authorities for poor planning on a weekend when thousands were expected to celebrate the Hindu festival of Kartik Purnima today.
Schools torched in south
Suspected Muslim insurgents burned down three schools and shot a teacher and his wife in southern Yala Province, police Lieutenant Tharawut Mahachai said yesterday. Three schools were totally destroyed and a fourth partially damaged by fires set almost simultaneously just before midnight on Friday, he said. In a separate incident yesterday morning, a gunman on the back of a motorcycle opened fire on schoolteacher Charoon Chuchareondej and his wife, also on a motorcycle. Both were rushed to a hospital with serious injuries, Tharawut said.
Condom ad condemned
Authorities want to stop the daytime airing of a TV advertisement promoting flavored condoms saying it is obscene and in bad taste, the Times of India reported on Friday. The ad promotes DKT's "XXX" strawberry, chocolate and banana flavored condoms with the tagline "What is your flavor of the night?" But the Censor Board and the Advertising Standards Council of India have the ad be banned from being broadcast during the day, especially during the popular Champions Trophy international cricket tournament. "Maybe DKT is targeting raunchy teenagers. But the ads are definitely not meant for children." Sharmila Tagore, Censor Board chairwoman, was quoted as saying.
■ United Kingdom
Keeping up with the Jones
People surnamed Jones from around the globe headed to Cardiff to set a new world record on Friday. Jones' from as far afield as the US and Australia flocked to the Welsh capital to beat the world record for a gathering of people with the same family name. The Welsh bid attracted 1,224 Jones' to a show in Cardiff where they were entertained by singers and dancers, all called Jones, including former Bond actress, supermodel and pop icon Grace Jones, who headlined the show. The previous Guinness World Record for a gathering of people with the same name was 583 Norbergs in Sweden.
■ United Kingdom
Prince may open parliament
Queen Elizabeth II, who is suffering from a persistent back injury, may not be fit enough to carry out the showpiece state opening of parliament on Nov. 15 newspapers said yesterday. Newspapers speculated that the strain of the two hours of pageantry may be too much for the queen's bad back. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail said the Queen could request that Prince Charles, step in for her. But the tabloid said she would not wish to see his second wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, participating in such an occasion. "If anything is likely to heal Her Majesty's painful back, it is the thought of Camilla parading along the carpeted corridors of the House of Lords," it quoted an unnamed Buckingham Palace aide as saying.
Freed reporter heads home
Photojournalist Gabriele Torsello flew home early yesterday, a day after being released from three weeks in captivity in which his kidnappers did not allow him to see daylight. Torsello, 36, was rescued on Friday after his abductors dropped him off at the side of a road in southern Afghanistan not far from where he was abducted by unknown men on Oct. 12, the Italian embassy said. He arrived in Kabul late on Friday and flew out on a special flight early yesterday, an embassy official said. During his meeting at the embassy, Torsello described the conditions of his detention as "very harsh," the official said.
Prisoner escapes as a lamp
A 36-year-old Bosnian escaped from prison by getting himself shrink-wrapped with some parts for street lamps made by inmates and trucked out, the mass-circulation Kronen daily said. The man, named as Muradif H, had been serving a seven-year term for burglary in the southern city of Graz and was due for release in 2012. Kronen said Muradif, who had a prison job making parts for street lamps, had himself wrapped in plastic with finished parts on a pallet and loaded into a truck on Tuesday.
Toddler suspect arrested
A two-year-old boy was briefly arrested and banned from boarding a Turkey-bound flight after his name appeared on a list of wanted terrorist suspects, a newspaper reported yesterday. Emirates Today said the boy's passport details, including the date of birth, matched those in an arrest warrant. The reason for the mix-up was not known. "While going through the passport checking procedures to get on board, one of the officers on duty said they wanted to take Suhail," Emirates Today quoted the boy's father, Abdullah Mohamed Saleh, as saying. "I thought he was kidding me and said `Take him if you want,'" the father said.
■ United States
Man finds letters to God
A New Jersey man who found 300 letters to God floating in the Atlantic Ocean said on Friday he will donate them to a church. The letters had been sent to a deceased Baptist clergyman, but they mysteriously wound up in a sealed plastic shopping bag near a beach in Atlantic City. Bill Lacovara said he waded out to get the bag while on a fishing trip last week. The letters were addressed to the Reverend Grady Cooper of Jersey City who died in 2004. The letters included one from a teen-age girl asking God to forgive her for having an abortion, one from a prisoner who said he was innocent and wanted to be at home with his family, and one from a man who wanted help winning the lottery.
■ United States
Judge sets limits
A judge in New York City said thousands of emergency workers expected to claim they were harmed by World Trade Center dust after the Sept. 11 attack may have to share up to US$1 billion, the amount he believes is the city's limit on liability. US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein expects between 10,000 and 11,000 people who worked at the Trade Center site will file lawsuits. He might soon make a formal finding that the city's liability has a limit and appoint a special master to speed claims. He said he wanted to lessen the work for lawyers or else a greater proportion than necessary of the US$1 billion will go to lawyers rather than victims.
■ United States
Ohio Representative Bob Ney, who pleaded guilty last month in an influence-peddling investigation, has resigned from Congress. Ney, a Republican, sent a letter of resignation on Friday to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, according to Ney's chief of staff, David Popp. Ney pleaded guilty on Oct. 13 to conspiracy and making false statements, admitting to taking trips, tickets, meals and campaign donations from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in return for actions on behalf of Abramoff clients.
■ United States
Serial killer sentenced
A man originally charged with killing seven people more than a decade ago was sentenced to 245 years in prison for three of the slayings and the rape of a teenage girl. Eugene Britt will serve that sentence concurrently with his sentence of life in prison plus 100 years for the 1995 slaying of an eight-year-old girl. He was sentenced on Friday in Crown Point, Indiana. Britt pleaded guilty but mentally ill on Oct. 6 to murder in the perpetration of rape in the deaths of Nakita Moore, 14, Tonya Dunlap, 24, and Maxine Walker, 41; and in the rape of the 13-year-old girl. He had also admitted to raping and killing three other women but charges in those deaths were dropped in the plea agreement.
■ United States
Prison guards convicted
A federal jury in Florida found a male prison guard guilty of bribery and another guilty of witness tampering in a sex-for-contraband scheme that ended in a deadly shootout at the Tallahassee Correctional Institution for women. The jury convicted Gregory Dixon of three counts of bribery and Alan Moore of witness tampering on Friday. Both were found guilty of conspiring to accept illegal gratuities. Three other guards have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. A sixth guard was killed in the gunfight he started when federal agents came to arrest the guards. Dixon faces up to 47 years in prison, while Moore could get up to 14 years.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500