■ New Zealand
New volcanic island sighted
A new volcanic island has risen from the South Pacific near Tonga, according to reports from two vessels that passed the area. The crew of the Maiken reported on their blog on Aug. 12 that they saw streaks of light, porous pumice stone floating in the water -- then "sailed into a vast, many-miles-wide belt of densely packed pumice." They posted photos of huge ``pumice rafts'' that they encountered after passing Tonga's Late island while sailing toward Fiji. The next day they spotted an active volcanic island, Haken wrote. There was no official confirmation of a new island, either from Tonga's Ministry of Lands or the Tonga Defense Service. Separately, fishing boat captain Siaosi Fenukitau reported seeing the island, the Matangitonga news Web site reported.
Eunuchs sing for tax
Eunuchs in eastern India were drafted by authorities to sing outside the homes of tax evaders to embarrass them into paying up, a report said yesterday. Sari-clad eunuchs were out in force with municipal tax collectors on Wednesday in Patna, capital of Bihar, India's most lawless state, the Indian Express reported. "Pay the tax, pay the Patna Municipal Corporation tax," chorused the eunuchs on the doorstep of their first target, Ram Sagar Singh, who owed 100,000 rupees (US$2,240). A mortified Singh promised to pay within a week, the report said. The municipality netted 400,000 rupees on Wednesday using the eunuchs, who got a 4 percent commission. It vowed to step up its drive, cheered by its success.
Serial killer gets death
A court on Wednesday sentenced a laid-off factory manager to death for robbing, killing and dismembering seven dancers, state media reported yesterday. Liu Xuexin, 56, was charged with killing seven women, aged between 31 and 51, though he told the court he had killed 15, the Beijing News said. Liu, former head of an elevator factory in Shenyang, met the dancers in bars, took them home and killed them in his bathroom, Xinhua news agency said.
Sex rules may be eased
The nation is considering decriminalizing oral and anal sex between consenting heterosexual adults, but not between homosexuals, official documents show. The Ministry of Home Affairs yesterday posted a public consultation paper about proposed amendments to the city-state's penal code. "We intend to repeal s.377, rescoping it such that anal and oral sex, if done in private between a consenting adult heterosexual couple aged 16 years old and above, would no longer be criminalized," the paper said. Currently, section 377 of the Penal Code "criminalizes all forms of carnal intercourse against the order of nature, other than vaginal intercourse," The paper makes no mention of the decriminalization of oral and anal sex between men.
Villagers protest granary
Thousands of villagers in Guangdong Province surrounded a newly built granary to protest inadequate compensation for the land, trapping guests attending an opening ceremony for the structure, US-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) said yesterday. The protesters from Sanzhou Village said they were forced to sell their farmland below market rates to make way for the granary and were demanding payment, RFA said. The villagers remained outside the granary early yesterday, it said.
Holy See wants parade ban