Storms kill at least 70
Rescuers searched for survivors yesterday after rain-triggered landslides and lightning killed more than 70 people and destroyed homes in two remote villages in northwestern Pakistan, officials said. Dozens of people were still missing in the villages in Dirbala District, which was battered by heavy rains and storms on Friday, police official Khan Walizada said. Sultan Ghani, the region's deputy police chief, said officers and doctors were sent to the villages, which are located in the mountains near a fast-flowing stream. Some of the injured were taken to a hospital, he said, but rescuers faced difficulties transporting the dead and injured because the villages were so remote.
■ SOUTH KOREA
Pilots feared dead in crash
Both pilots aboard a South Korean jet fighter that crashed in the Yellow Sea off the nation's western coast on Friday were feared dead, air force authorities said yesterday. "Some wreckage was found and the two pilots are feared dead," the Air Force said in a statement. Helicopters, surveillance planes and patrol boats were combing the crash site, it said. The KF-16 jet crashed in the West Sea around 9pm on Friday after taking off from its base in Seosan, some 150km southwest of Seoul, it said.
■ SOUTH KOREA
Woman embezzles for shoes
Police are seeking a 26-year-old woman on suspicion of embezzling about US$1.4 million to fund a craving for designer shoes, bags and clothes, a spokesman said on Friday. "We have strong reason to believe she used this money to purchase about 1,000 designer goods," the police spokesman said. "Without doubt, you have to say she is a luxury addict," he said. The woman, identified only as "Miss A," worked for an agricultural cooperative. She is suspected of siphoning off utility and tax payments to fund purchases including, according to media reports, hundreds of pairs of shoes. Police are looking for accomplices, but would not release further details.
Rains, flooding wreak havoc
The death toll from storms in Shandong Province has risen to 40, the official Xinhua news agency said yesterday, citing the provincial civil affairs bureau. China's flood season, which usually lasts from May to September, has already killed hundreds of people this year and caused a 2 billion-strong plague of rats fleeing rising waters in Hunan Province. Heavy rain is forecast to continue to hit large swathes of China over the weekend.
Bookstores shelve `Potter'
Major bookstores pulled the final volume of the Harry Potter series off their shelves yesterday, protesting a price war sparked by supermarket retailers that sold the book at a massive discount. Only customers who reserved copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in advance could collect the book, Malaysia's three leading book chains -- MPH Bookstores, Popular Book Co and Times The Bookshop -- said in a joint statement. The companies, which run a total of more than 100 branches nationwide, also scrapped promotional activities that were supposed to mark the book's launch. The move was in response to what the booksellers called an "indiscriminate price discount" by grocery giants, including local outlets of the UK's Tesco PLC and France's Carrefour SA, that offered the new book at a discount of 40 ringgit (US$11.40) off its recommended retail price of 109.90 ringgit.
Doggie dessert introduced
Introducing "Dogissimo" -- an ice cream created specifically for canines which has gone on sale at a Vienna ice cream parlor. And with temperatures in the Austrian capital topping 35oC for almost a week, the treat -- available in rice, vanilla-rice and soy flavors -- has the potential to become a hit during the dog days of summer. Simona Leonardini, an Italian who concocted the creamy delight, said she hopes it will help man's best friend deal with the sizzling summer heat. "I own three dogs myself and if it's hot, they desperately need to cool down," she was quoted as saying. Leonardini used her Golden Retrievers as testers to get the taste just right.
Rockin' fish to be studied
A Finnish researcher is to study fish in an aquarium in Helsinki while a rock group performs nearby, to see if the sound causes any ill-effects or distress. Bands including aging rockers Uriah Heep will perform on Friday night to about 3,000 fans in a tent just a couple of dozen meters away from the aquarium. "I will be looking for any abnormal behavior or activity," said researcher Mikko Erkinaro. The 500,000-liter tank is home to salmon, trout, pike and perch and other species common in Finland's brackish coastal waters. "It could be quite nasty to arrange such an aquarium and a performance venue [so close]," Erkinaro said, "especially when the [band] is a bit old-fashioned."
Porn found on aid laptops
Nigerian schoolchildren in Abuja who received laptops from a US aid organization have used them to explore pornographic sites on the Internet, the official News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported on Thursday. NAN said its reporter had seen pornographic images stored on several of the children's laptops. "Efforts to promote learning with laptops in a primary school in Abuja have gone awry as the pupils freely browse adult sites with explicit sexual materials," NAN said. A representative of the One Laptop Per Child aid group was quoted as saying that the computers, part of a pilot scheme, would now be fitted with filters.
Visas to Georgians resumed
Russia has resumed issuing study, work and business visas to Georgians, the Russian embassy in Tbilisi said on Friday, reversing measures imposed during a bitter diplomatic row last year. "Since July 19 the consulate has been looking at the documents of those who wish to obtain a study, transit, work or business visa," embassy press attache Zarina Gabieva told reporters. "The question of the allocation of tourist visas is still under consideration." Relations have been rocky between Moscow and Tbilisi since 2003, when the pro-Western Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in the former Soviet republic.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Man makes grisly catch
A North Sea fisherman has netted a gruesome catch: a piece of skull belonging to his missing friend. The fisherman picked the skull fragment out of his net in December while trawling near the mouth of the River Tyne, about 450km north of London, Northumbria police said in a statement. He turned the bone over to authorities, and forensic tests confirmed that it belonged to Brian Allison, one of two fellow fishermen who disappeared when their trawler sank in the area more than two years ago. The fisherman was not with Allison when he disappeared.
■ UNITED STATES
Placenta returned to mother
A judge has ordered a southern Nevada hospital to return a placenta to a mother who sued to retrieve it. Clark County District Court Judge Susan Johnson granted a preliminary injunction on Tuesday, ordering Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center to return the placenta to Anne Swanson. The hospital had refused to give the uterine lining to Swanson following the April 12 Cesarian birth of her daughter, with officials calling it contaminated biohazardous waste. The organ is currently frozen. Swanson originally wanted to dry the placenta and grind it into a powder for her own consumption citing a theory that placental hormones can help control post partum blues.
Monument plates recovered
Twenty-seven of 34 stolen bronze plates inscribed with the names of Pacific war dead have been recovered in Hong Kong, according to Guam police. The panels were removed from the War in the Pacific National Historical Park monument, which displays the names of thousands of those tortured and killed on Guam during World War II. Joseph Elibosang, who was arrested on July 6, was charged this week with theft of government property in US District Court. Elibosang told police he sold the panels to a recycling center, but he denies stealing them, according to court documents.
Exorcist against `Potter'
The leading exorcist of Mexico's main archdiocese said the popular Harry Potter book and film series could allow the devil to enter children's minds, and does "a lot of damage." The Reverend Pedro Mendoza, a Roman Catholic priest and exorcist coordinator of the Archdiocese of Mexico City, made the comments at the end of a five-day exorcism conference in the capital. "There are many demonic influences, infestations, curses, witchcraft," he said. "And it's in that field that the devil is working." About 280 priests and lay people attended the conference, which included a US$230 exorcism course.
■ UNITED STATES
Gore Junior charged
Al Gore's son was charged on Friday with possessing marijuana and other drugs that authorities say were discovered in his car after he was pulled over in Orange County this month for speeding. Al Gore III, 24, is free on US$20,000 bail and scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 1. He faces two felony counts of drug possession, two misdemeanor counts of drug possession without a prescription and one misdemeanor count of marijuana possession, the district attorney's office said in a statement. Gore also was charged with a traffic infraction for allegedly driving faster than 160kph. He could be sentenced to a maximum of three years and eight months in prison if convicted.
■ UNITED STATES
Firefighters battle blaze
A wildfire near Nephi, Utah, that may have been started by sparks from riding on the rim of a flat tire raced across thousands of acres, a day after burning through a campground and motel and forcing rescues. With a highly skilled team on its way from Florida, 150 area firefighters were battling the 62km2 fire on Friday against a backdrop of extraordinary heat and drought, with no immediate relief predicted. The fire was burning toward the tiny community of Indianola, and residents in at least two dozen homes were advised to be ready to leave.
‘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,
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,