■ Hong Kong
Cat owner sues airline
The owner of an award-winning Persian cat is suing Cathay Pacific after the pet was found bleeding with nine claws missing before boarding a Malaysia-bound flight, a media report said yesterday. Grace Cheung Kei is seeking HK$45,000 (US$5,800) in compensation from the airline for the injuries to Sharamka Jemma, the South China Morning Post reported. The report said the incident happened in July, when Cheung took the animal and four other cats to the airline check-in counter for a flight to Kuala Lumpur, where they were to be entered in a show.
Minister orders checks
Education Minister Zhou Ji (周濟) has blamed middle school officials in Jiangxi Province for a stampede on a stairwell that killed six children and called for a nationwide safety check of schools, Xinhua News Agency said yesterday. The stampede occurred on Saturday, when hundreds of first-year students, about 12 or 13 years old, at Tutang Middle School swarmed out of their classes. Local authorities detained the principal on Sunday, it said.
■ South Korea
Labor group calls strike
A major labor group has called for a nationwide strike today, aiming to bring hundreds of thousands of workers onto the streets to protest over labor laws and a planned trade deal, organizers said yesterday. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), one of the country's biggest umbrella labor groups with 800,000 members, said it expects 200,000 people to jam Seoul and other cities. The KCTU is seeking laws to protect non-unionized labor, stop South Korea-US talks on a bilateral free trade deal and reform of safety legislation.
■ Hong Kong
Banker demands interest
A banker who won back US$8 million from a Latin dance champion and her husband for prepaid lessons she never took has demanded she also be paid interest on the award. The lawyer for Mimi Monica Wong argued the experienced banker would have had many opportunities to invest the money, so she should be paid back the interest as ordered by court, equivalent to about HK$9 million (US$1.2 million), a report said. Wong, head of HSBC's private banking in Asia, won the money in September from flamboyant Italian dance instructor Mirko Saccani after he insulted her publicly by calling her a "lazy cow" and told her to "move your arse."
■ South Korea
Soaps aim to increase births
Writers of television soap operas are being enlisted to help South Korea promote family life in an attempt to reverse its declining birthrate. Thirty scriptwriters for TV soaps and entertainment programs are taking part in a two-day workshop organized by the state-run Planned Population Federation of Korea and the Radio Writers Association, the Korea Times reported yesterday. The event aims to increase positive portrayals of marriage and birth in the mass media and especially in TV dramas. "More and more dramas portray birth and families with many children negatively while making the lives of single career women seem cooler and wiser," researcher Choi Eun-sil said.
Troops to stay in E Timor
There are no plans to withdraw troops from East Timor, and other nations may get involved in the peacekeeping process, Defense Minister Brendan Nelson said yesterday. "We will be staying as long as the government of Timor Leste and the United Nations believe it is important for the forces to stay," Nelson said of the UN-sanctioned force charged with restoring order in restive Timor. "We are committed to the people of Timor Leste as long as they need us," he said after meeting East Timorese Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta.