Whale hunt to proceed
Opposition by anti-whaling nations will not stop Japan from pressing ahead with its upcoming hunt, which will take humpbacks for the first time in 40 years, the government spokesman said yesterday. "Japan's research whaling is conducted after consultations with various countries," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, when asked about continuing Australian opposition. "We cannot change the program abruptly." The hunt, which is now under way, has drawn criticism from the US, Australia, New Zealand and the EU.
Domestic violence rising
Domestic violence is widespread and on the rise, with complaints of abuse soaring 70 percent last year, the China Daily said yesterday, citing the All China Women's Federation. The group received 50,000 complaints last year, and the "number of cases [had increased] in recent years," the daily quoted Jiang Yue, head of the group's rights and interests department, as saying. Women in rural areas, especially those who had gone to work in cities, were particularly susceptible, Jiang said, citing a survey last year. "Female migrant workers are restricted in accessing legal assistance as they are constantly on the move," Jiang said, adding that divorce was often too costly for rural women.
Firecracker blast kills five
Five children were killed and one seriously wounded by a blast at an abandoned firecracker factory where they were playing, state media said yesterday. The six, all about 10 years old, were playing inside the factory in Yuncheng in the northern province of Shanxi on Sunday when the explosion occurred. "A small amount of expired explosives stored in the factory went off at about 1pm, killing five instantly and seriously injuring the other," Xinhua news agency said. Fatal blasts at fireworks factories, many unlicensed in residential areas, are common in China.
Eat more bluegill
Authorities in the central province of Shiga have launched a "catch-and-eat" drive to eliminate the bluegill as the emperor himself voiced regret about introducing the fish. The bluegill, introduced by Emperor Akihito from the US a half century ago, has turned into a nuisance by feeding on native species, leading the emperor to offer unusually personal comments of regret earlier this month. Shiga officials are encouraging people who fish bluegill in Lake Biwa not to release but to eat them. The prefecture's official Web site has pictures showing how to slice open the fish along with recipes to make bluegill fries and cook them with sweet-and-sour sauce.
■ NEW ZEALAND
Woman dies in exorcism
A woman drowned in a family exorcism ceremony and her younger cousin had her eyes gouged by relatives in an attempt to lift a curse, the Dominion Post reported yesterday. Janet Moses, 22, had her eyes scratched and water syringed into them before drowning in front of 40 relatives during the exorcism ceremony last month, the Dominion said. Her 14-year-old cousin also had her eyes gouged and water poured down her throat to get rid of a devil the relatives said they saw in her eyes. The girl nearly drowned and was taken to a hospital where she underwent surgery to restore her vision.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Cranks give MI6 headache
The success of the James Bond movies has given the Secret Intelligence Service a recruitment headache -- too many cranks want to join MI6. "I think it gives people a false impression of what working for the organization is actually like," the head of MI6 recruitment -- named only as "Mark" -- told BBC Radio One's Newsbeat program yesterday. "So it does tend to turn up quite a lot of thrill seekers and fantasists and we're really not interested in them." As well as dismissing the notion that spying was a never-ending life of fast cars, fast women and shaken not stirred Martini cocktails, "Mark" was keen to demolish another myth surrounding MI6. "We don't have a license to kill -- we don't carry Berettas -- that's simply not true."