Wed, Jun 20, 2007 - Page 5 News List

World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

PHOTO: AP/AUSTRALIAN CUSTOMS SERVICE

■ AUSTRALIA

Gnomes stuffed with snakes

Customs officials have discovered more than a dozen snakes and lizards stuffed inside garden gnomes and similar pottery figures during a recent international mail check, they said yesterday. Two snakes and three lizards were found wriggling inside the ceramic statues during a routine postal inspection in Sydney on June 10. The next day, officials at the same facility found another package filled with five snakes and five lizards stuffed inside pottery. Both packages had been sent from Britain. It is illegal to bring live reptiles into the country without a license. The reptiles were euthanized because of quarantine laws.

■ CHINA

Beijing cases of HFM rising

Beijing has reported 1,092 cases of children infected with hand, foot and mouth (HFM) disease since the beginning of the year, a sharp increase over previous months, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday. Most of the infections involved children under the age of five, the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau said. Xinhua said there were no reports of critical cases of the disease. It said Beijing reported only 186 cases during the January-May period last year.

■ JAPAN

Bathhouse blast kills two

Two women were killed and at least three other people injured in an explosion in a women-only bathhouse in a Tokyo residential area yesterday afternoon, police officials said. About 150 rescuers used search dogs to scan the debris for other possible victims, fire official Junko Asasaka said. One person was rescued later in the day, but their condition was unknown. Police said the blast was believed to have been caused by the explosion of a boiler at the bathhouse.

■ PHILIPPINES

Police find baby, not bomb

Manila police, jittery over recent bus bombings, were called in to check a bag that was left on a bus on Monday night -- only to find a crying month-old baby boy stuffed inside, Radio DZBB reported yesterday. The bag was stashed under a seat and was opened barely enough for the baby to breathe. Police handed the baby over to social welfare authorities.

■ ITALY

Prisoner can't procreate

Authorities in Rome have denied a request by a Mafia boss to allow him to artificially inseminate his wife on the grounds he would not be able to care for his offspring because he is serving a life sentence, prison officials said on Monday. Salvino Madonia received the prison term for the 1991 murder of a Palermo businessman, Libero Grassi, who had defied Cosa Nostra by refusing to pay "protection" money. Penitentiary officials ruled recently that because Madonia was in prison for life he would not be able to "offer guarantees of caring for the child," which is a requirement of a 2004 Italian law which tightened criteria for artificial procreation.

■ GREECE

Sunken cruise ship fined

Authorities on Monday fined the owners, operator and captain of a sunken cruise ship a total of 1.17 million euros (US$1.57 million) for polluting the Aegean Sea. The Sea Diamond cruise ship has leaked an estimated 300 tonnes of fuel into the sea since sinking off a holiday island two months ago. Nearly 1,600 people were safely evacuated after the Cypriot-owned ship hit rocks off Santorini in the Aegean Sea on April 5, but two French tourists are still missing and presumed drowned. The ship's owners, Louis Group, operators Louis Cruise Lines and Greek captain Yiannis Marinos were fined for polluting the sea and the coast near the shipwreck and failing to submit a final action plan to pump the remaining fuel from the hulk, the Merchant Marine Ministry said.

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