Insulting boss allowed
It's OK to use derogatory and vulgar language about your superiors in the office as long as it is done behind their backs, a court has ruled. The Industrial Court said that a secretary at Malaysia National Insurance Bhd was not guilty of misconduct when she sent e-mails from the office computer to friends, griping about her superiors, the national news agency Bernama reported on Friday. Court chairman Syed Ahmad Radzi Syed Omar said that Ratnawati Mohamed Nawawi's sacking for misconduct was unjust. The court awarded her back wages and compensation amounting to US$18,570.
Condoms too big
Condoms designed to meet size specifications used internationally are too big for many men as their penises fall short of what manufacturers had anticipated, a study has found. The Indian Council of Medical Research, a leading state-run center, said its initial findings from a two-year study showed 60 percent of men in Mumbai had penises about 2.4cm shorter than those condoms catered for. For a further 30 percent, the difference was at least 5cm. A poor fit meant the prophylactics often didn't do the job they were bought for.
Containers for US screened
The government has announced measures to more closely screen shipping containers bound for the US in a move to keep nuclear material and illicit weapons from the wrong hands, a newspaper reported yesterday. The island-state already checks cargo for radioactive material and uses powerful sensors to scan steel containers. The stricter new measures, to start next month, are in response to the US-led Secure Freight Initiative. The US Department of Homeland Security launched the first phase of the initiative on Thursday.
Nationalist theme park open
Authoritarian leader Saparmurat Niyazov on Friday formally opened an amusement park named after himself. Niyazov, who has ruled the country for 20 years, has created an extensive cult of personality around himself, including ordering citizens to call him Turkmenbashi, or Father of All Turkmen. The 33-hectare amusement park in the capital is named "The World of Turkmenbashi Tales." It has 54 rides including a Ferris Wheel echoing designs of Turkmen jewelry and a roller coaster swooping over a model of the Caspian Sea, the source of Turkmenistan's rich oil and gas reserves.
Wildfires disrupt flights
Smoky skies disrupted flights through the main airport in Victoria state yesterday, as firefighters battled what many fear will become the state's worst wildfires in almost 60 years. More than 20 towns were warned they could soon be threatened by the blazes, though no injuries or property damage had been reported. The country's largest airline, Qantas Airways, reported flight delays of up to an hour through the airport in Victoria's capital, Melbourne. Heavy smoke across much of the eastern part of the southern state reduced visibility and triggered fire alarms in the airport's baggage handling area and control tower. More than 170,000 hectares of drought-stricken farmland and forests have been incinerated by 18 major fires.
Soldiers, Islamists clash
Islamists and pro-government soldiers shelled each other in a second day of fighting yesterday, witnesses said, a major escalation of violence many fear will erupt into all-out war. The fighting occurred in Maddoy village about 40km from the interim government's headquarters in Baidoa, the only town it controls in its own country. The two sides fought in the area on Friday, killing at least two bystanders. "The war restarted about 30 minutes ago," Maddoy resident Ahmed Mohamed Adan told reporters by telephone.
■ United States
Space chic the final frontier
You've booked your seat on the spaceship and passed the medical -- but what to wear for that flight into the final frontier? Orbital Outfitters has the answer. The new Los Angeles-based company on Thursday promised to dress the first space tourists and crew members in style. "When someone puts on an IS3 [sub-orbital space suit], they will be protected by the best technology we cam muster, yet they will look like they've stepped off the set of a science fiction movie," Orbital Outfitters president Rick Tumlinson said. Tumlinson said Orbital Outfitters planned to be on the leading edge of space suit fashion in a tourism industry expected to blast off around 2008.
Storm knocks out power
A powerful storm with gusting winds lashed on Friday, knocking out power to 400,000 homes and one pedestrian was killed when a billboard collapsed in Paris. The northern, western and central regions of the country were the worst hit, with the weather service saying that wind gusts reaching 148kph and 137kph atop the Eiffel Tower. Authorities raised the weather alert to orange -- the second the highest of four levels -- for 26 out of the country's 95 regions. A pedestrian was crushed to death on Friday morning by a falling billboard, Paris firefighters said.
■ United Kingdom
DNA tests on Diana driver
DNA tests on blood samples back up initial findings that the chauffeur of Princess Diana's car was drunk on the night she died in a Paris crash in 1997, the BBC reported late on Friday. The BBC said on its Web site that the tests indicate that the samples taken from driver Henri Paul just after his death were indeed his and show him accurately to have been three times over the French drunk-driving limit. A source close to the French authorities said the DNA tests were done in France within the last year, adding that DNA taken from Paul's blood samples matched with that of his parents. Diana, 36, and Dodi Fayed, 42, were killed with Paul when their high-powered Mercedes crashed in Paris.
■ United States
Youth indicted for murder
Authorities on Friday indicted an 18-year-old in Arizona with the murder of a female Japanese tourist earlier this year. Randy Wescogame is accused of stabbing 34-year-old Tomomi Hanamure to death after robbing her on the Havasupai Indian Reservation on May 8. Wescogame, a member of the 650-strong Havasupai tribe, has been in Indian tribal custody on unrelated assault charges since May and was transferred to federal detention on Friday. He has been charged with five counts of murder, robbery and kidnapping and faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment if convicted.
HOUSES FLOODED: The ground shook in Tonga as explosions were heard, followed by gushing water and pelting rocks, sending people running to higher ground A massive volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves around the Pacific caused “significant damage” to the island nation’s capital and smothered it in dust, but the full extent was not apparent with communications still cut off yesterday. The eruption on Saturday was so powerful that it was recorded around the world, triggering a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the US. Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, suffered “significant” damage, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding that there had been no reports of injury or death, but a full assessment was not possible with communication lines down. “The tsunami has
‘ZERO’ STRATEGY: Carrie Lam said the airline faced a probe over its compliance with the rules after an outbreak was traced to air crew who breached quarantine Cathay Pacific is being investigated and faces possible legal action over an outbreak of COVID-19 in Hong Kong that began with the airline’s employees, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) said yesterday. The revelation came as Lam announced the suspension of all kindergarten and primary schools until after the Lunar New Year early next month. Like China, Hong Kong maintains a “zero COVID” strategy that has largely cut the international finance hub off from the mainland and the rest of the world for the past two years. A recent outbreak traced to Cathay Pacific air crew who breached home quarantine has sparked
PORT CONGESTION: Ships heading for Omicron-affected Dalian and Tianjin are being redirected to Shanghai, which does not have the capacity for the sudden cargo influx China has detected the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 in a second major port city, deepening concern that the vastly more infectious variant could spread quickly across the world’s largest trading nation, upending global supply chains. Chinese officials said yesterday that at least one person has Omicron in Dalian, a city of 7 million. A second person also tested positive for the virus, but the variant is unknown. Both are college students who returned home for the Lunar New Year holiday from Tianjin, where at least 137 other cases were traced as of Wednesday. Dalian joins Tianjin as the second crucial port city
Japan extended measures barring almost all new foreign arrivals until the end of next month and is to reopen mass vaccination centers as it battles an surge of COVID-19 cases, the government said yesterday. “We will keep the current border control policy until the end of February while taking necessary measures from a humanitarian viewpoint and considering the national interest,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters. Local media said that there would be some new exemptions for members of Japanese families as well as students studying in Japan, but there were no immediate details from officials. The government is also to reopen