■ South Korea
Sea name change proposed
South Korea has proposed calling the body of water between it and Japan the "Sea of Friendship" so as to end a naming dispute, a presidential official said yesterday. South Korea hotly contests the widely used name Sea of Japan for the body of water, saying the proper name should be the East Sea. It has launched government-backed campaigns in order to sway world opinion, and many atlases use both names.
Ill-gotten gains to be sold
The prosecutor's office in Anhui Province will auction the ill-gotten gains of six convicted corrupt officials, including a former vice governor who was executed for graft, Xinhua news agency said yesterday. The items include rings, earrings, necklaces, calligraphy and paintings, clothing, wine, watches, jade and bronze ware, golden Buddha figures and computers and printers, it said. No date was given for the auction, nor was the value of the goods made public.
Official criticizes Kadeer
Nuer Baikeli, a deputy Chinese Communist Party secretary in Xinjiang, has criticized Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer and the prominence she has found abroad since going into exile, the Beijing News reported yesterday. Kadeer's fight for her people's rights has led supporters to dub her the "mother of the Uighur people." Baikeli said using that title for Kadeer was "extremely preposterous" and "tarnishes the race," the report said. Baikeli also criticized her nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, saying she had tried to disrupt the peace and stability of Chinese society, actions that "absolutely go against the intentions" of the award.
Parachutist plunges to death
A 27-year-old tourist from Iceland died after his parachute failed to open during a jump at a music festival, police said yesterday. The man -- whose identity was not immediately released -- suffered fatal head injuries after jumping from a helicopter at the Superfreak electronic music festival in the eastern town of Bonalbo late on Sunday, New South Wales state police said in a statement. Police said they were interviewing several witnesses who saw the man crash to the ground when his parachute failed to open. Investigations were continuing.
More elderly crime
Crimes committed by people 65 or older topped 10 percent of the total in 2005, a newspaper report said yesterday, amid the rapid aging of Japanese society. Elders accounted for 10.9 percent of recorded crimes in 2005, with 42,108 arrested that year, the Yomiuri newspaper said, citing National Police Agency research. The figure does not include arrests for on-the-job traffic accidents resulting in injury or death, it said. The number of elderly criminals was proportionate to 165 for every 100,000 people, the Yomiuri said. By comparison, in 1989 the rate was 46 to every 100,000, it said.
Monsoon causes flooding
Flooding from monsoon rains hit northern and eastern states as thousands of victims in a southern state waited for waters to recede in homes inundated weeks ago, news reports said yesterday. Villages and towns in Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah States began reporting floods following heavy rains over the weekend, with at least 600 people evacuated to relief centers so far, the Bernama national news agency reported. Eastern Sabah State on Borneo was also hit, and at least three houses were swept away in raging river waters that rose to dangerous levels, the Star newspaper reported.
Smaller group come of age
The smallest group of youths in nearly two decades to mark their transition into adulthood celebrated the occasion yesterday, amid growing concerns about Japan's low birth rate and rising elderly population. Coming of Age Day -- a public holiday -- traditionally honors those youths who turned 20 during the preceding year, the age of adulthood at which they can legally vote and drink alcohol. About 1.39 million Japanese reached that milestone last year, about 30,000 more than the smallest group on record did in 1987, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said in a recent statement. Hundreds of thousands of the newly arrived adults took part in ceremonies marking the event at city halls, temples and other public venues across the nation, including Tokyo Disneyland.
Workers get `nap room'
A Bangkok municipal office has launched a new program to increase productivity: Lights go out just past noon and civil servants are invited to take an afternoon nap. Seeking to infuse city workers with a bit more pep, the Pathumwan district office in central Bangkok has set up a lunchtime "nap room" with soft music, sweet-smelling flowers and strict rules barring mobile phones and talking, said Surakiet Limcharoen, the district's top official who started the program. "I've been taking naps at lunchtime for a long time, and decided to introduce the project to my staff in November," he said.
Helicopter crash kills three
A helicopter crashed on Sunday on the garden terrace of a restaurant in southeastern France, killing three people on the ground and severely injuring a fourth, rescue workers said. The Alouette 2 aircraft slammed into the garden of the Chez Bob restaurant along a highway between the towns of Salin-de-Giraud and Arles, rescue workers said. One woman whose leg was severed in the crash was taken to a nearby hospital. Police were investigating. Four occupants of the helicopter were not injured, the officials said.
15 die in mine collapse
Fifteen bodies have been pulled from a diamond mine that collapsed in central Congo last week and further rescue efforts have been abandoned, officials said on Sunday. Three people were rescued soon after the mine in the town of Tshikapa caved in on Friday, said Mayor Mwamba Mutombo. He said they did not know if others were in the mine when it fell in but said hope of rescue had been abandoned after two days. Mutombo said the group appeared to have been teenagers who had been gone digging in the community mine with the hope that recent rains would uncover diamonds.
■ United States
New bat species discovered
A biologist at Chicago's Field Museum said he has discovered a new species of sucker-footed bat that is thriving in deforested areas of western Madagascar. Field researcher Steven Goodman said he found the bats, named Myzopoda schliemanni, on the island in 2003. Since then, researchers have studied skull measurements and other characteristics to verify the animal is a new, undiscovered species. Goodman's findings are published in the current issue of the journal Mammalian Biology.
Largest unmanned aircraft
The world's largest unmanned aircraft is being developed which will be used for long-range operations and destroying ballistic missiles as they are being launched, a security official said yesterday. The Eitan has been developed by Israel Aircraft Industries and has a wing span of 35m -- similar to that of a Boeing 737 passenger plane -- the official said. According to the Yediot Aharonot daily, the drone was designed for long endurance and high altitude flights and is equipped with an array of advanced cameras and missiles which allow it to identify and intercept long-range missiles as they are being fired on the ground. It will make its maiden flight in the coming days, the paper said.
Soccer tackles depression
A psychiatrist is obtaining startling results with patients suffering from schizophrenia and depression by enlisting them in a competitive soccer team. Mauro Raffaeli trains his players, many of whom cannot work and are on psychiatric medication, twice a week on a pitch on the outskirts of Rome. Of the 80 who have passed through the ranks since the team formed in 1993, over half have cut down their drug intake, but more importantly, more than half have returned to work. "Drugs you can often never get rid of, but reintegrating into society is as important," he said. Since the team was formed, 50 other squads of mental patients have sprung up around Italy, but Raffaeli's charges remain the benchmark.
■ United States
Famous bookstore closes
The final word has been written for one of New York City's most famous independent bookstores: closed. Coliseum Books, which opened in Manhattan in 1974 but struggled in recent years, shut its doors on Saturday. "It has been our pleasure to serve so many great readers for so many years," the store said on its Web site. "We urge you to continue supporting independent bookstores and, equally importantly, keep reading." Coliseum Books was once referred to on the business review Web site Citysearch as "the Cheers of bookstores (minus the beer)."
■ United States
Web surfers nab immigrants
A test run of a Web site allowing users to monitor the Mexican border helped authorities catch 10 illegal immigrants of the more than 12,000 who officials said were apprehended in November, a newspaper reported on Sunday. The El Paso Times obtained state reports about the results of the November trial of Governor Rick Perry's Texas Border Watch online camera program. Through a public records request, the newspaper also received a sampling of the 14,800 e-mails viewers sent through the Web site. The Web site also helped authorities make one drug bust and interrupt a smuggling route, the newspaper said.
■ United States
Bush Snr has hip replaced
Former president George Bush has been released from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, after undergoing successful hip replacement surgery, the clinic said. The 82-year-old former president was discharged from the clinic on Saturday, following the operation on his right hip that was performed on Wednesday, the Mayo Clinic said on its Web site. He traveled to the Mayo Clinic on Tuesday after delivering a eulogy at the Washington funeral of president Gerald Ford. Surgeons at the clinic replaced his left hip in 2000. Former first lady Barbara Bush also had successful hip replacement surgery at the clinic, in 1997.
■ United States
Former suspect can sue
A former suspect in a federal terrorism case who says he was mistreated while in jail can sue the county, a federal judge has ruled. Moroccan immigrant Karim Koubriti, 28, was held for three years in a Wayne County, Michigan, jail and claims he was strip searched, held in isolation for 23 hours a day and not allowed to exercise. US District Judge Bernard Friedman last week rejected the county's request to dismiss Koubriti's lawsuit, the Detroit Free Press reported on Sunday. No trial date has been set. "The decision means he'll get his day in court and his say at trial," said Koubriti's lawyer, Ben Gonek.
■ United States
Pluto gains respect
Pluto is finally getting some respect -- from wordsmiths. "Plutoed" was chosen 2006 Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society at its annual meeting on Friday. To "pluto" is "to demote or devalue someone or something" much like what happened to the former planet last year when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto did not meet its definition of a planet. "Our members believe the great emotional reaction of the public to the demotion of Pluto shows the importance of Pluto as a name," said society president Cleveland Evans. "We may no longer believe in the Roman god Pluto, but we still have a sense of personal connection with the former planet."
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500