■ HONG KONG
A sleepwalking woman who stabbed and strangled a friend was released from prison yesterday after being cleared of attempted murder. Zheng Wei-dong, 30, was found not guilty by reason of insanity of trying to kill her friend after a jury decided on Wednesday she had been in a state of "insane automatism" when she launched the attack. Three psychiatrists testified that Zheng had fallen asleep and acted out a violent dream when she wandered into the room of her friend and attacked her, saying: "I am the devil and I am killing you." She stabbed her friend's neck, almost severing the jugular vein, and then tried to smother her with a pillow in the incident last December, her trial was told. Zheng, who said she blacked out after offering her friend a slice of pear, denied attempted murder. The High Court must still decide whether Zheng should be sent to a psychiatric unit or placed under a supervision order.
Protests over dance `theft'
Hundreds of people protested outside the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta yesterday over the use of a traditional Javanese dance in a tourism advertisement for Malaysia. The demonstrators traveled by bus from East Java and demanded that Kuala Lumpur offer an apology "to all the people of Indonesia," they said. "If the Indonesian government does not, we demand a severing of diplomatic ties," said Purnomo Sidi, the leader of the Association of Reog Ponorogo. Reog Ponorogo is a dance from East Java which features a dancer carrying a large headdress with the head of a tiger surrounded by peacock feathers.
■ NEW ZEALAND
Hospitals rescind offer
Hospitals yesterday scrapped an offer of a supermarket voucher for mothers who leave the maternity ward within six hours of giving birth, after critics slammed it as bribing impoverished women to forgo health care. The Capital and Coast District Health Board, which runs public hospitals in Wellington, initially said its offer of a NZ$100 (US$77) would apply next month and in January as a way to combat a shortage of midwives. But the board was forced to back down within hours of making the proposal public, following an outcry from midwives, interest groups and others.
Political leaders hold talks
Top political leaders held crisis talks yesterday to try to break the political deadlock that has gripped the country since former rebels quit the government, forcing the Nov. 22 elections to be postponed indefinitely. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala met with former rebel leader Prachanda and the heads of other main political parties in Kathmandu, said Arjun Narsingh, a spokesman for Koirala's Nepali Congress party. "The prime minister is trying to persuade the other political parties to first declare a new date for elections and then resolve other issues," he said. The elections for the Constituent Assembly, which would rewrite the Constitution, were postponed after the Maoists withdrew from the government in September.
Anti-terror chief attacked
Police are investigating an attack on the Australian head of an anti-terrorism school in the central Java town of Semarang, officials said yesterday. Lester Cross, director of the Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation, was unharmed when three men riding motorcycles fired at his car on Sunday after he refused to stop, a police officer said.