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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Party bans Sunday sex sales
The ruling Labor Party voted to ban the purchase of sex on Sunday in a bid to stop prostitution by targeting those who buy it rather than those who sell it, officials said. The decision by the Labor Party's congress puts the country on course to join Sweden in adopting such a policy. Sweden introduced a similar ban in 1999. Prostitution is legal, although procuring it is illegal. Street prostitution in the capital, Oslo, has become increasingly visible and aggressive in the past few years, provoking calls for a ban.
Murder suspects arrested
A court on Sunday formally arrested and jailed five suspects on charges of murder in the slayings of three Christians at a publishing house in the eastern town of Malatya. Six other people were released pending trial, the court said. It was unclear what charges they faced. The three victims -- one German and two Turkish men -- were tied up and had their throats slit on Wednesday at a publishing house that was at the center of protests by some nationalists because it distributed Bibles.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Scots face sewage problem
Environment officials on Sunday launched an emergency operation to protect public safety after more than 170,000 tonnes of raw sewage was discharged into the Firth of Forth when a pump broke down. Edinburgh City Council put up signs urging people not to bathe in the water and to wash their hands thoroughly after visiting the shores of the estuary. There were fears the effluent could contain viruses and bacteria capable of infecting wounds and causing illness if ingested. Health inspectors will test the water for E. coli and other micro-organisms before the area is declared safe.
Five babies die in fire
A fire in a downtown orphanage in Sarajevo's killed five babies and injured 19 others on Sunday, the chief prosecutor's office said. The fire broke out in a third floor room of the Ljubica Izevic children's home shortly before 6am, said Dubravko Champara of the prosecutor's office. While fire crews were able to put out the blaze rapidly, he said, three boys and two girls died from the effects of smoke inhalation. A nurse who had tried to save some of the babies was also injured, with burns to the arms and face, Champara said in a telephone interview. Nineteen others were being treated for smoke inhalation and were not thought to be in critical condition, he said.
■ UNITED STATES
Democratic Representative Juanita Millender-McDonald has died of cancer. Millender-McDonald, 68, died late on Saturday at her home in Carson, California, said her chief of staff, Bandele McQueen. McQueen on Sunday could provide no details on what form of cancer Millender-McDonald had. He said she had been receiving hospice care. Under California election procedures, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has 14 days to set a date for a special election to fill the seat. Her death will not affect the balance of power in the House, where Democrats have a solid majority.
■ UNITED STATES
Teen wins text crown
Thirteen-year-old Morgan Pozgar, of Pennsylvania, was crowned LG National Texting champion on Saturday after she typed"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from Mary Poppins in 15 seconds. "I'm going to go shopping and buy lots of clothes," the teen said after winning her US$25,000 prize from the electronics company LG. Morgan defeated nearly 200 other competitors to become the East Coast champion and then beat West Coast champion Eli Tirosh, 21, of Los Angeles. Morgan estimated that she sends more than 8,000 text messages a month.
Health costs to be regulated
President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that he would enact a law to regulate prices at private hospitals and warned that his government would seize any hospital caught flouting the new controls. Chavez said he would approve the law by presidential decree, using special powers granted to him by the National Assembly nearly three months ago. "We're going to have strict regulation. Any clinic that doesn't comply, let it be closed down," Chavez said. "We could take it for Inside the Barrio [a state health program], convert it into a popular clinic. No problem."
Chavez to complain to UN
President Hugo Chavez on Sunday said his government will lodge a protest in the UN over the release of Cuban militant Luis Posada Carriles from a US jail, accusing Washington of letting a terrorist go free. Caracas has asked the US to extradite the 79-year-old former CIA agent to be tried on charges that he plotted the 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane in which 73 people were killed. Chavez also charged that Posada has been plotting to assassinate him for years and accused US President George W. Bush of complicity in failing to bring Posada to justice. "President Bush, you are a protector of terrorists. As such, you are a terrorist," Chavez said during his TV and radio program Hello, President.
■ UNITED STATES
Police catch alligator
Human beings were not the only ones basking in a sudden spate of warm weather in Huntington, New York, over the weekend. An alligator was spotted on Saturday sunbathing by a small pond, marking a startling sight for a community about 56km from Manhattan. Suffolk County police were involved in capturing the alligator, which "wasn't too happy to see us," said Officer Vinny O'Shaughnessy. "We were incredulous at first, but then we knew that we had to do something about it." The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is looking for whoever may have released the alligator. He or she could face animal cruelty charges, an SPCA official said.
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
A squad of gun-toting police officers patrolled Myanmar’s sacred site of Bagan under the cover of night, taking on plunderers snatching relics from temples forsaken by tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions. Each evening as dusk falls, about 100 officers fan out across the plain of Bagan covering 50km2, sweeping flashlights over the crumbling monuments to scour for intruders. “Our security forces are patrolling day and night,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Sein Win told reporters. “We have it under control for the moment, but it’s a challenge.” The central Burmese city is strewn with more than 3,500 ancient monuments — stupas, temples, murals and sculptures
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned against the “hasty” relaxation of anti-coronavirus measures, state media reported on Friday, indicating the country would keep its borders closed for the foreseeable future. North Korea in late January closed its borders as the virus spread in neighboring China, and imposed tough restrictions that put thousands of its people into isolation. Pyongyang insists it has not had a single case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus that has swept the world infecting more than 10.8 million people and killing more than 500,000. Analysts have said that North Korea is unlikely to have avoided the contagion