Pandas to get pornography
A Thai zoo that has hosted a couple of pandas for four years will play "porn" videos for the male next month to encourage him to breed in captivity, the project manager said yesterday. The pair -- who have been living chastely together at the zoo in the northern city of Chiang Mai since arriving from China in 2003 -- would be separated next month, but stay close enough for occasional glimpses of each other, said panda project chief Prasertsak Buntrakoonpoontawee.
Poker makes its debut
Singapore will lay its cards on the table today when it hosts an international poker tournament billed by organizers as the first-ever in the city-state. Britain-based Betfair, a betting exchange, says it has teamed up with local operator Capital Events for the six-day Betfair Asian Poker Tour. "This is the largest poker tournament to take place in Asia and the first poker event in Singapore," Betfair's head of poker, Ben Fried, said in a statement. Qualifying starts today. Last year Singapore lifted a four-decade ban on casinos despite strong domestic opposition, saying two planned casino projects would boost the tourism sector.
Malay purified on TV
The state-owned television station will drop programs that use a mishmash of Malay and other languages, a newspaper reported yesterday. The Star quoted the information minister, Zainuddin Maidin, as saying that the government-owned station RTM will take "stern measures" to uphold the Malay language's purity in its programming. The government has long promoted a Malay identity.
Mahathir moved from ICU
Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has been moved out of an intensive care unit as he continues to make a speedy recovery from a heart attack, his son said yesterday. "He has progressed tremendously and has been moved to a normal ward in just two days," Mokhzani Mahathir said. The 81-year-old Mahathir shocked the country after he was taken to the National Heart Institute on Thursday after suffering a mild heart attack. He previously suffered a heart attack in 1989 and had bypass surgery. Mokhzani said Mahathir was already talking and meeting with visitors.
Policemen killed in south
Suspected Muslim insurgents fatally shot two policemen yesterday in the country's restive south, police said. The attackers fled with the officers' guns after killing them in the Yaha district of Yala Province, said Yala police chief Major General Phaitoon Chuchaiya, who blamed the attack on insurgents. The killings were the latest in three years of almost daily violence that has continued despite efforts by Thailand's post-coup government to halt the deadly insurgency. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, who visited the region on Wednesday, has apologized for the hard-line approach of his predecessor Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in September.
Stiff blamed for speeding
A dead man has been blamed for hundreds of speeding offenses in what police believe is a major fraud designed to help motorists avoid traffic fines. Police in Sydney said 240 people were under investigation over the speeding scam, where hundreds of motorists blamed either the same dead man, or a person living in another state, for driving their cars at the time of the speeding offenses. "These offenses amount to fraud and, if proven, those involved could face stiff penalties including imprisonment," New South Wales Police Superintendent Daryl Donnolly said in a statement yesterday.
Police kill nine rebels
Police shot dead nine Maoist rebels, including five women, on Friday in a forest gun battle in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, police said. Commandos specially trained to fight the rebel insurgency that affects a large swathe of rural India ambushed the Maoists in Kadapa district, 390km south of Hyderabad, the state capital. Police had been searching for another group of rebels who had killed a local leader of the state's ruling Congress party on Thursday night at the time, top officer Y. Nagi Reddy said. Andhra Pradesh is one of the worst-hit of at least 13 Indian states facing Maoist violence. The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of millions of India's landless laborers and peasants.
Teen nailed for wireless use
A teenager has been charged with tapping into someone else's wireless Internet connection, a crime that carries a penalty of up to three years in jail, a newspaper reported yesterday. Garyl Tan Jia Luo, 17, is the first person to be charged with this crime under the Computer Misuse Act, the Straits Times reported. The report said Tan is accused of using a laptop computer to gain unauthorized access to a home wireless network on May 13.The newspaper said a neighbor had apparently lodged a complaint against Luo.
Elk terrorizes pupils
A drunken elk is terrorizing children at a school near Molndal in southern Sweden. "That could be the problem. We could be dealing with a boozy elk," said Jan Caiman, a police officer in Molndal. The elk was probably eating fermented apples in a garden and had become inebriated, Caiman said. Elk can weigh as much as 500kg and personnel at the school described the erratic male as "completely mad." "The children are really scared," a receptionist at the school said. Caiman said police had contacted hunters and that if the elk did not calm down, it could be shot.
Complaint filed on Israel
Iran has complained to the UN over a "series of threats" by Israel after an Israeli official refused to rule out a military strike against the Islamic republic, it was reported yesterday. Mohammed Javad Zarif, Iran's ambassador to the UN, submitted the complaint to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the UN Security Council on Friday following the comments by Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh. "The letter, underlining threats from Sneh and other Israeli officials, regards these statements as illegal, ridiculous and a sign of the Zionist regime's criminal policies and terrorist intentions," the report said.
■ United Kingdom
Manners make millionaires
For international executives navigating the minefield of corporate politics, help is at hand in Scotland -- impeccable British manners can clinch that big deal. So says etiquette expert Diana Mather who on Friday launched a weekend house party at a Scottish castle for businessmen, academics and diplomats eager to prove the 14th century proverb "Manners Maketh Man." As well as traditional country house pursuits such as clay pigeon shooting, bridge and formal Scottish dancing, participants will be tutored in the finer arts of charm and proper etiquette -- all in the name of good business.
Town stops signpost sexism
The town council of Fuenlabrada south of Madrid has vowed to banish sexism from street signage by demanding that half of all road signs and traffic lights show female figures with skirts and ponytails. The council will replace old and damaged road signs and traffic lights with new stock within a year. "In this way the sexism, which until now has seen only masculine figures appear in traffic signals, will be brought to an end," the council said in a statement. The statement, which said it would ask manufacturers to incorporate female figures in their signs, said the new policy would not cost taxpayers an extra cent.
Pasternak grave desecrated
Unknown vandals have desecrated the grave of dissident Russian poet Boris Pasternak, whose novel Doctor Zhivago won him the Nobel Prize for Literature, Russian television channels said on Friday. The modest tombstone, at a cemetery in the famed writers' retreat of Peredelkino outside Moscow, was covered with soot after vandals put wreathes around it and set them on fire on Thursday night, TV reports said.
■ United States
Oscar-winning star dies
Oscar-winning actor Jack Palance, one of Hollywood's best-known screen villains who personified evil as a cold-blooded gunslinger in the classic western Shane, died on Friday at the age of 87, his spokesman said. Palance, who later won an Oscar for the comedy City Slickers and famously brought down the house by performing one-armed push-ups on the stage, died of natural causes, spokesman Dick Guttman said.
World title up for grabs
Top players from around the globe will gather in Toronto this weekend to compete for a C$10,000 (US$8,840) prize and the title of world rock, paper and scissors champion. More than 500 contestants are expected to attend. Tournament organizer Graham Walker said players will have to steel themselves against psychological pressure as players typically form teams to rally each other. "The team will surround the arena, provide moral support and usually try to intimidate the opponent," said Walker.
■ United States
Hospital under scrutiny
Federal investigators are looking into patient care at the hospital made famous in the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, where there have been reports of abuse, short staffing and overcrowding. The Oregon State Hospital is one of the oldest and most dilapidated state mental institutions in the nation. The movie was filmed there in 1975. The Justice Department alerted Governor Ted Kulongoski in June that it would investigate whether patients' constitutional rights were violated. Reports of abuse and other problems have led lawmakers to reassess the hospital's future. Lawmakers have proposed replacing it with two separate hospitals and two residential facilities at an estimated cost of at least US$324 million.
■ United States
Two die in derailment
The bodies of two workers were recovered from the wreckage of a derailed maintenance train and investigators said the dead crew members had tried to stop the locomotive with emergency brakes as it barreled down a slope in California. Survivors told authorities that the men who died had been working together to apply the brakes when the train ran off the tracks in a ravine about 100km east of Sacramento. The emergency brake slowed the locomotive only slightly before the train's supervisor -- in a final, desperate move -- threw it into reverse, said Dave Watson, lead investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board. The train kept rolling and gathering speed, eventually hitting a curve at about 80 kph.
Newspaper editor slain
A newspaper editor was found dead in the Pacific resort city of Zihuatanejo, a day after running stories about organized crime and city government corruption. Misael Tamayo Hernandez, editor of El Despertar de la Costa, was found on Friday with his hands tied behind his back, in a room of a motel, Zihuatanejo police officials said. He was lying on a bed, covered only with a sheet, and investigators found three puncture marks on his body, one in his right hand and two others in a forearm. The cause of death was a heart attack, forensic investigators said. Tamayo Hernandez had published a story on Thursday alleging that city officials had given illegal discounts on water services to individuals and businesses. Thursday's edition also contained stories on organized crime.
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
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘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
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable