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.
Police come under attack
Police came under a sustained petrol bomb attack in the north on Tuesday following the discovery and removal of a sizeable stash of apparently home-made explosives. Officers were targeted by crowds of youths hurling petrol bombs, stones and fireworks in Craigavon, south-west of Belfast. Police officers, acting after reports of suspicious activity, said about 180kg of what was understood to be home-made explosives was recovered and removed for further examination. Dissident republicans were thought to be behind the suspected explosives. While the main Irish Republican Army has dismantled its arsenal, dissident republican groups remain active.
Croc falls out of apartment
Residents in the nuclear research town of Sarov got a jaw-dropping surprise on Tuesday when a crocodile fell from the 12th-story apartment of its owner, the emergency situations ministry said. The 1m caiman crocodile landed on a pavement after leaning too far out of the window of the apartment where it had lived for the last 15 years, the RIA Novosti news agency quoted an official with the local branch of the ministry as saying. Frightened passers-by called the emergency services and rescuers managed to lasso the stunned animal and take it to a shelter for stray pets. It was soon returned to its owner, unharmed apart from damage to one of its teeth, the official said.
Haribo discontinues bear
In a sure sign that his days as a global star are coming to an end, sweetmaker Haribo said on Tuesday it would halt production of jelly versions of Berlin Zoo's Knut the polar bear. Haribo launched its special line after the little bundle of white fur caused a global sensation when he survived rejection by his mother eight months ago and attracted thousands of visitors to the zoo. Knut was even snapped by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz for a Vanity Fair front cover, but he now tips the scales at a hefty 60kg -- and has rather lost his cuteness.
Russian hostages released
Six Russian hostages were freed in the oil producing Niger Delta on Tuesday after two months in captivity, a state government spokesman said. The six, including one woman, were abducted on June 3 from the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria, which is controlled by Russia's United Company RUSAL. "The six Russian hostages were released to the Rivers state government this evening. They are doing well," state government spokesman Emma Okah said. The release leaves at least six foreigners still in the hands of armed groups in the vast wetlands region, home to Africa's largest oil industry.
Stolen Picassos recovered
Police arrested three people on Tuesday in possession of three works by Pablo Picasso stolen from the Paris flat of the artist's granddaughter as she lay sleeping back in February. Police surveillance teams arrested the three suspects on Tuesday morning in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. They have been detained awaiting charges as inquiries continue. The two paintings and a drawing by the Spanish master, worth more than US$66 million, were taken from the flat of Diana Widmaier-Picasso overnight on Feb. 26. "The works are apparently in good condition," said Widmaier-Picasso's lawyer Olivier Baratelli after their recovery.
■ UNITED STATES
Disclosure bill passes
An Army school in Georgia that trains Latin American military -- and counts Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega among its alumni -- would be required to disclose the names of its graduates under legislation passed by the House. The Pentagon has concealed the records since 2005. A human-rights group says the secrecy was prompted by revelations in the 1990s that some graduates had later become involved in human-rights abuses and criminal activity in their countries. Pentagon spokesman Jeffrey Gordon responded that releasing the graduates' names could expose them to danger in countries with high levels of political violence. The bill has not yet passed the Senate.
Dutch scientist freed
A judge on Tuesday ordered a prominent Dutch scientist freed from prison while he appeals his conviction for environmental crimes and embezzlement, a court official said. Marc Van Roosmalen was convicted on June 15 of trying to illegally auction off the names of monkey species, keeping monkeys at his house without authorization and selling a scaffolding donated to the National Institute for Amazon Research where he worked. He was sentenced to 15 years and nine months in a prison in the Amazon city of Manaus, where he lived. Roosmalen has claimed in media reports that he was framed by powerful logging and ranching interests that operate in the Amazon.
Thief steals car with baby
A car thief in Montreal alerted police of his misdeed after discovering a baby sleeping in the back seat of the vehicle, then fled, authorities said on Tuesday. The mother had left her 14-month-old daughter asleep in the sports utility vehicle (SUV) with its engine running while she stopped to visit her sister on Monday afternoon in the Montreal neighborhood of Outremont, Constable Miguel Alston said. Moments later, a man jumped into the driver's seat and drove off, only to abandon the vehicle a few blocks away and call police from a pay phone, Alston said. Police located the SUV with the little girl still asleep in her seat, he said.
■ UNITED STATES
Seismic shocks foil rescue
Seismic activity "totally shut down" efforts to reach six miners trapped below ground, causing a cave-in that wiped out all the work done in the past day, a mine executive in Utah said on Tuesday. Crews are drilling two holes into the mountain in an effort to communicate with the miners -- provided they are still alive. Little was known about the six miners; only one has been identified. The Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City said three of the men are Mexican citizens. Unstable conditions below ground thwarted rescuers' efforts to break through to the miners, who have been trapped 457m below the surface for nearly two days, the executive said.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong (FCC) yesterday said that reporters in the territory were experiencing “highly unusual” visas problems, and called on the US and China to stop using the media as a political weapon. Journalists have been caught up in US-China tensions, with both sides placing limits or expelling reporters from their territories in the past few months. Now the spat is filtering into Hong Kong, a regional press hub nominally in charge of its own immigration policies. The FCC said in a statement that multiple media firms had reported delays getting visas in recent months. “The delays have affected journalists