Finland trip a bust
Beijing has punished a group of law enforcement officials who faked a letter of invitation from Finland's justice department because they wanted to get a free tour of Europe, state media reported on Tuesday. The group of 10, from Anhui Province's prosecutor's department, were deported upon arriving at Helsinki airport when Finnish officials sniffed out the ruse, the semi-official China News Service said. The "inspection tour" was at least in part legitimate, though. "The responsible people in the inspection group changed the route to be taken without authorization and added a few more destination countries," the report said, without elaborating.
■ NEW ZEALAND
Funeral cortege in accident
A policewoman ordered a hearse to pull over as it led a funeral cortege, causing several mourners' vehicles to crash into each other "like dominoes," local media reported yesterday. Police have launched an internal inquiry after the policewoman ordered the hearse to stop as it led up to 100 cars to Te Anau cemetery on South Island last week. Three vehicles were damaged, two of them extensively, in nose-to-tail crashes. "I thought it was absolutely disgusting," an anonymous son of the deceased told the Southland Times newspaper. "Here we are taking dad to the cemetery and we are all pulled over and there are accidents behind us. It was just like dominoes," he said.
YouTube video probed
Authorities are investigating a YouTube video of a student rapping to the national anthem using allegedly seditious lyrics, the Straits Times reported yesterday, citing officials. Nearly 500,000 people have watched the six-minute video by Namewee, a 24-year-old studying abroad at Taiwan's Ming Chuan University. The paper said that the song contained lyrics that "touched on racially sensitive issues by sarcastically singing the morning call to prayer for Muslims." In a partial translation of the lyrics circulating on the Internet the song also portrays the country's police as extortionists.
Tropical storm kills one
A tropical storm triggered a landslide that killed a boy in a mountain town in the north early yesterday, while rescuers saved five children from the wreckage of a house that collapsed in the torrential rains, officials said. The landslide buried a house in the resort city of Baguio, killing a nine-year-old boy who was sleeping inside. East of Manila firefighters pulled five children from the rubble of their house after a concrete wall collapsed during the downpour, police Chief Superintendent Nicasio Radovan said. The downpour, induced by Tropical Storm Pabuk and a new storm brewing off the coast, flooded many streets in the capital.
Luxury offices investigated
Beijing has sent investigators to 30 provinces to probe illegally built government offices after a spate of scandals over luxurious buildings appearing in poverty-struck areas, state media said yesterday. It is the latest crackdown on graft by the government. It is also the latest warning about ostentatious public buildings being put up with official funds. In the latest case, the government of Zhanjiang in Guangdong Province spent US$1.45 million on a poverty relief office in which only 20 people worked, the reports said.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Rowling lawsuit dropped
A British court rejected J.K. Rowling's lawsuit on Tuesday over the publication of a photograph of the author and her son taken on an Edinburgh street in November 2004. The author of the Harry Potter series sued Express Newspapers and the agency which supplied the photograph, Big Pictures (UK). Rowling and her husband, Neil Murray, complained their right to privacy had been violated. The picture showed Rowling and her husband with their son, David, in a baby carriage. It appeared with a Sunday Express story on her approach to family life. The author sought damages and a ban on further publication.