Tue, Apr 24, 2007 - Page 7 News List

World News Quick Take

■ AUSTRALIA

Muslim prisoners broken up

A group of murderers and rapists who converted to Islam in Super Max prison has been broken up and its leader moved to another jail as officials feared they were using religion as a cover for a possible escape. The 12 prisoners in the nation's highest-security jail were nicknamed the "Super Max Jihadists," authorities told local media, and had placed pictures of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden on cell walls, shaved their heads and grown long beards. New South Wales Corrective Services Commissioner Ron Woodham vowed yesterday to break up the gang and translators were examining telephone conversations.

■ CHINA

Polluted land poses risks

More than 10 percent of arable land is polluted, posing a threat to the country's food production, a state-run newspaper reported yesterday. The China Daily, citing the Ministry of Land and Resources, said the situation was getting worse, with polluted water, excessive fertilizer, heavy metals and solid wastes contaminating the land. The ministry said by the end of October, the nation's arable land area had shrunk to 121.8 million hectares, a loss of 306,800 hectares in the first 10 months of of last year. Three-decades of economic boom have left waterways and coastlines severely polluted by industrial and farm chemicals and domestic sewage.

■ INDIA

Rights sought for dead

A small political party in northern India is pushing for the reinstatement of the legal rights of people who have been declared dead by unscrupulous relatives trying to steal their assets. The Mritak Sangh, or Association of the Dead, knows it is unlikely to win polls running through to next month in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous, and frequently lawless, state. But Lal Bihari, 48, the party's founder and president, said on Saturday he hopes to highlight the plight of thousands of people who have had their lives taken away from them, usually by relatives in cahoots with corrupt government officials.

■ MALAYSIA

Astronaut TV planned

The government is planning a dedicated television channel for round-the-clock coverage of the nation's first astronaut in space in October, a report said yesterday. Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Kong Cho Ha was quoted by the New Straits Times as saying that preparations were being discussed with Russian authorities to telecast the event live on Oct. 6. "Our astronaut will board the Russian spacecraft, Soyuz 2, to the International Space Station," Kong said in the report. "We have fixed the date for the launching and they are expected to dock at the ISS on Oct. 6." Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, 34, and Faiz Khaleed, 26, are vying to join a Russian space expedition.

■ SOUTH KOREA

Gender rules adopted

Textbooks depicting men only as breadwinners and women as housewives are set to disappear from schools in Seoul under new gender equality rules, reports said yesterday. The city's education office has released guidelines for all schools meaning they must discard textbooks which show stereotyped gender roles such as male doctors, the Korea Times and Korea Herald reported. History curriculums will put more focus on women's achievements. The education office will also recommend changing rules barring girls from wearing trousers to school.

■ LUXEMBOURG

Le Pen loss cheers Berlin

Germany, holder of the EU presidency, yesterday welcomed the poor showing of far right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round of the French presidential elections. "I'm quite satisfied that the more radical groups, like Le Pen, have fallen behind very clearly," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on arrival at an EU foreign ministers meeting. In Sunday's voting Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal, the center-right and socialist candidates respectively, advanced to the May 6 runoff for France's presidency. They shut out 10 other hopefuls including Le Pen, who had hoped to repeat his shockingly strong showing of in the 2002 elections yet finished a weak fourth this time, with 10.5 percent of the vote.

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