Islamic militants freed
Two Islamic militants have been freed after being held for four years for belonging to the Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which is linked to al-Qaeda, the government said on Friday. The Home Affairs Ministry said in a statement the pair, detained in November 2003 under the city-state's Internal Security Act, had been released on Thursday on restriction orders under which their movements would be monitored for two years. The ministry said the two, who belonged to JI's Al-Ghuraba cell, had cooperated with investigations into the cell and JI, and "had responded positively to rehabilitation, including religious counseling."
Xi to manage HK, Macau
Rising political star Xi Jinping (習近平) has been named by the Communist Party to manage Hong Kong and Macau affairs, state media said yesterday. Xi was named to the party's powerful nine-member Politburo Standing Committee last month and is seen as the main candidate to take over for President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) when he retires in 2012. "I'm very happy to announce that Politburo Standing Committee member comrade Xi Jinping will head up the Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs," China News Service quoted Chen Zuoer (陳佐洱), vice head of the group, as saying.
State to cull wild horses
The northern state of Queensland plans to slaughter 10,000 feral horses, known as brumbies, that are damaging fragile habitats in national parks. More than 4,000 feral horses have already been shot in the popular Carnarvon National Park in central Queensland, the Courier Mail newspaper reported yesterday. State Sustainability Minister Andrew McNamara said shooting the horses was the most humane option. "Feral horses are causing serious erosion, spreading weeds, destroying freshwater springs and other water courses, damaging Aboriginal cultural sites, competing with native wildlife for feed, and destroying habitat," he was quoted as saying. McNamara said the program would ensure the feral horse population was kept at a manageable level relative to the native wildlife.
Court bans frolicking
A court has banned on-duty judges from wearing heavy makeup and "frolicking" with colleagues, in an exhaustive list of 55 regulations to improve judicial etiquette. A notice issued by the high court of Henan also banned judges using certain phrases in the courtroom, including: "Are you the judge or am I?" and "You will certainly lose this case." Judges would not be allowed to wear jewels, Friday's Beijing Times said. Holding hands with colleagues is also out, he said. "Judges must not dye their hair, wear heavy make-up, tattoos or painted nails," the paper said. Judges who broke the rules would receive "criticism and education," and serial offenders would be fired, it said.
Man dies of bird flu
A man from Riau Province on Sumatra Island has died of bird flu, taking the country's death toll from the disease to 91, a health ministry official said on yesterday. It was not clear if the 31-year-old man who died on Tuesday had been in contact with sick fowl. Including the latest fatality, there have been 206 deaths globally and 335 confirmed cases since 2003, according to World Health Organization data.
Report says Blair to convert
Former prime minister Tony Blair is expected to be received into the Catholic Church within weeks, British Catholic newspaper the Tablet said yesterday. The weekly said that Blair, an Anglican, was to convert to the religion of his lawyer wife Cherie and their four children. However, Blair's spokesman said: "This is just the same old speculation that I'm not commenting on." There were frequent rumors throughout Blair's 10-year tenure as prime minister, which ended when he stepped down in June, that he would convert. The Tablet said some Catholics might be upset by Blair's conversion, given that his parliamentary record showed he supported abortion.