Internet users up 30 percent
China's population of Internet users, already the world's second-largest after the US, has risen by 30 percent over the past year to 132 million, a state news agency said yesterday. The figure was up from 123 million at the end of June, the Xinhua News Agency said, citing the government's China Internet Network Information Center. It said the number of Chinese customers with broadband access has grown to 52 million.
China has come up with an earthquake prediction system which relies on the behavior of snakes, state media said on Thursday. The earthquake bureau in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi autonomous region in southern China, monitors snakes at local snake farms via video cameras linked to a broadband Internet connection. "Of all the creatures on Earth, snakes are perhaps the most sensitive to earthquakes," bureau director Jiang Weisong (蔣維松) was quoted as saying. Jiang said the snakes could sense an earthquake from 120km away, three to five days before it happens. They respond by banging their heads and behaving strangely.
Gangsters get death penalty
A central Chinese court has sentenced 11 people to death for their involvement in a range of gangster activities involving homicide and drug trading, state media reported yesterday. Another seven people belonging to the 97-strong criminal gang were given life sentences. The gang was convicted for robbery, illegal possession of guns, drug trading, gambling, extortion and blackmailing activities.
Buffalo gatecrashes wedding
Six persons were injured when a rampaging bull buffalo gored guests at a wedding ceremony and passers-by, police said yesterday. The buffalo charged from a nearby field into some 100 guests who were attending a wedding on Thursday of the daughter of a Cambodian tycoon on the outskirts of the capital Phnom Penh, said Chey So Sila, a district police chief, declining to reveal the name of the tycoon. After goring four guests he ran off to attack two passers-by, the officer said. All were hospitalized, some with serious injuries. He said the buffalo's owner fled his home after learning about the incident for fear of being held responsible.
Police seek fraudster
Authorities are trying to trace an Indian citizen suspected of cheating 18 Nepalese workers who claimed they were promised flights from Malaysia and lucrative jobs in Australia, an official said yesterday. The suspect, identified as Bipin Arora, brought the Nepalese to Kuala Lumpur -- intended to be a transit point to Australia -- on Oct. 17, said Ishak Mohamed, the Immigration Department enforcement chief. The Nepalese claimed they each paid Arora between US$500 and US$3,000 because he promised to secure them jobs in Australia and fly them all to the eastern city of Brisbane, Ishak said.
An Australian family of four owe their lives to their pet cat after the animal prevented a house fire from turning into a tragedy, an official said yesterday. After a mattress caught on fire in the night, the courageous moggie leapt to the aid of its sleeping owner by digging its claws into his face, waking him before the blaze engulfed the family home in north Queensland. "The occupant was woken by the household cat which was scratching his face, alerting [him] to the ensuing dangers," Cairns firefighter Robert White-MacFarlane said. The owner was then able to wake his family, who escaped the blaze and call the authorities.
Former rebel to govern Aceh
A former rebel leader has been officially declared the winner of gubernatorial elections in Aceh Province, confirming initial quick-count results earlier this month. Irwandi Yusuf, who was in jail for treason when the Indian Ocean tsunami crashed into Aceh in 2004, won 38 percent of the vote. His closest rival, Ahmad Humam Hamid, trailed with 16 percent, provincial election chief Muhammad Jafar told reporters. Yusuf and his newly elected deputy, Muhammad Nazar, will govern for five years.
A regional court charged two Chechens with murder during a brawl which sparked inter-ethnic riots in the town of Kondopoga in September, media said on Thursday. Two Kondopoga residents were killed in the fight, over an unpaid bill, between local Russians and ethnic Chechens in the town near the Finnish border. The protest that followed turned into mass attacks on businesses and property owned by migrants from the Caucasus. The Chechen community was forced to flee the town. Media quoted prosecutors as saying four more Chechens suspected of taking part in the brawl were detained and were likely to face charges yesterday.
Turks float conciliation plan
Turkish Cypriot officials on Thursday announced a new bid to end a dispute on reuniting the war-divided capital's commercial district after more than 40 years. But the Greek Cypriot government said it expected further steps before agreeing to open the Ledras Street crossing, in Nicosia's walled Old City. A spokesman for Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat said work was due to start yesterday to remove a controversial footbridge carrying the street over a military road on the city's Turkish side. Hasan Ercakica said Talat's decision to demolish the structure aims to contribute to reunification efforts.
■ United Kingdom
Ten exposed to radiation
Ten people have shown signs of low-level exposure to polonium-210, the rare radioactive element that killed one-time Russian intelligence agent Alexander Litvinenko -- but they are unlikely to fall ill, health authorities said on Thursday. The Health Protection Agency said those affected had not suffered enough exposure to cause illness in the short term, and the long-term risk of illness is very small. Seven of those who tested positive were staff from the Pine Bar in London's Millennium Hotel, which Litvinenko visited on Nov. 1, the day he became ill, the authority said. Litvinenko died of polonium-210 poisoning in a London hospital Nov. 23.
■ United Kingdom
Adams wants police force
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams announced on Thursday he wants a special convention of his party to vote on supporting a police force, a long-awaited peace move. Adams said his party's executive board were to meet in a Dublin hotel yesterday to set a date for the convention next month, which will involve up to 2,000 grassroots members -- among them Irish Republican Army veterans involved in killing nearly 300 police officers during the outlawed group's campaign from 1970 to 1997.
Former PM files appeal
Lawyers for former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi have filed an appeal in the nation's top court to overturn a lower court decision to keep the lead judge in the trial of Berlusconi and the estranged husband of Britain's culture minister, a lawyer said on Thursday. Berlusconi and British lawyer David Mills face charges of false accounting, embezzlement and tax fraud in the purchase by Berlusconi's Mediaset empire of TV rights for US movies. Berlusconi's lawyers had requested the removal of Judge Edoardo D'Avossa because the judge had presided over other cases involving Mediaset, Berlusconi's media empire. However, a court ruled against their request.
■ United States
Move over Rover
If you're in a New York City park and tell your dog Max to fetch, you might find a strange pooch retrieving your ball. That's because Max was the top dog name in New York last year, according to the city Health Department. The name Max was engraved on 1,228 dog licenses of the 101,274 issued last year, the department said. All top five names remained the same as in 2004 -- Max, followed by Lucky, Princess, Rocky and Buddy.
■ United States
Actors forced to flee
A holiday vacation in Northern California came to an abrupt end for actors Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal when a fire destroyed the country lodge where the siblings were staying. The Gyllenhaals were among a dozen or so guests who fled Manka's Inverness Lodge after the fire broke out at about 3am on Wednesday. The lodge and its restaurant were a popular destination for VIPs. Jake Gyllenhaal was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as a heartsick cowboy in Brokeback Mountain.
■ United States
Car kills man in living room
A man was killed when a speeding driver being chased by police spun out of control and crashed a car through his home's walls and into his living room, authorities said. Neighborhood residents, who witnessed Thursday's accident, said the car was traveling at about 145kph. The car went through several walls of the house before striking and killing homeowner William Calhoun, Suffolk County police Detective Sergeant Kenneth Williams said. The body of Calhoun, 59, was still pinned under the car hours after the crash because heavy equipment was needed to remove the vehicle without collapsing the house, police said. The driver was arrested at the scene and was being questioned, police said.
Broadcaster to bite the dust
Authorities will not renew the license of an opposition-aligned TV station when it expires next year, President Hugo Chavez said on Thursday, accusing the broadcaster of backing plots to topple him. Chavez said in a speech to troops that the head of Radio Caracas Television, Marcel Granier, was mistaken in believing "that concession is eternal." "The television concession runs out on him in March," Chavez said. "So he had best start packing his bags and seeing what he's going to do after March. There will be no new concession for that coup-plotting television channel named Radio Caracas Television." RCTV is among a number of private TV and radio networks that in recent years have strongly criticized Chavez's government.
■ United States
Bus tickets for homeless
The police chief in Daytona Beach, Florida, wants to give the homeless free bus tickets so they can find housing with out-of-town family and friends and get help with problems such as mental illness. Chief Michael Chitwood says the homeless population of about 2,600 has given the city a bad image. Earlier in the year, he told police officers to arrest the homeless for petty crimes such as trespassing and panhandling to push them into getting help from social-service agencies. The American Civil Liberties Union supports Chitwood's idea. "It's a positive," said Central Florida chapter head George Crossley, who has opposed Orlando's razing of two homeless camps and banning of feedings of the homeless in certain areas. "At least it gives a person the option of being back with friends and family."
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
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
‘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