Missing tourist found
A 22-year-old French woman missing for almost five days in the outback was found yesterday after scrawling a message to rescuers in the sand, police said. Searchers in a helicopter found her yesterday afternoon shortly after spotting the word "help" written in the sand, Northern Territory police said. She was taken to a medical center for a check-up but appeared fit and well, although a bit dehydrated. She set out alone from Kings Canyon on Sunday morning, telling park rangers that she planned to complete a 22km bush walk and return the following day. A search was launched when she failed to check in.
Tragedy on the tracks
Sixteen people, including two children, were crushed to death under a train on Wednesday night near the city of Surat in Gujarat state, a railway official said yesterday. The bodies of the victims, who had disembarked at Surat and were walking along the rail tracks, were spotted by the driver of another train, he said. Meanwhile, a baby girl born in a train toilet survived after falling down the metal tube onto the tracks, the Times of India reported yesterday. It said the mother, who was seven months pregnant, fainted in the toilet, resulting in the 1.4km baby slipping down the chute. When she came to, she alerted railway staff and the train was stopped. The baby was found on the stones between the steel tracks and sleepers; doctors said her condition was stable.
Illegal tolls cost drivers
Illegal highway tolls have cost motorists at least US$3.1 billion, Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday. Thirty-four people received criminal or disciplinary punishment for operating illegal highway tolls, Xinhua said. The findings came from a survey in 2005 of 86,800km of toll roads in 18 provincial-level regions, including Beijing and Shanghai, it said. Some local governments have used toll roads illegally to raise funds, it said.
■ HONG KONG
Pilot sacked for fly-by
A Cathay Pacific Airways pilot was fired after he swooped down and buzzed a Seattle-area airfield without permission while taking delivery of a Boeing 777-300ER passenger jet, the airline said on Wednesday. The airline said it was still investigating the Jan. 30 fly-by incident at Paine Field, 50km north of Seattle and home to a Boeing plant.
Bikers chase off thieves
A pair of masked bandits armed with machetes picked the wrong Sydney sports club to rob on Wednesday night. About 50 bikers were meeting in the Southern Cross Cruiser Club at the time. The bikers chased robbers outside and had one tied up for the police. The second man was caught by police a few blocks away. "If they'd only looked, right when they walked in the main door, they would have seen 40 or 50 of us sitting there," the club president, who gave his name only as "Jester," said. "Obviously they couldn't see out of the balaclavas, because they didn't even look."
Python nabs pet dog
A 5m python stalked a dog for days before swallowing the pet whole in front of two horrified children at their home near Kuranda in Queensland on Monday. Stuart Douglas, owner of the Australian Venom Zoo, was called in, but by the time he arrived, all that could be seen of the dog was its hind legs and tail. The snake will soon be relocated to the bush, he said.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Abuse chamber located
Police excavating a former care home on the Channel Island of Jersey where a child's remains were found discovered a subterranean chamber on Wednesday that tallied with victims' accounts of a chamber where children were physically and sexually abused. Forensic examiners who broke into the bricked-up cellar beneath Haut de la Garenne found a room that was about 3.5m by 3.5m and 2.5m high. The next step was to excavate the area, which would be a slow process because access was blocked by debris. Victims had said there may be human remains under the home.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Plutonium scare at school
Firefighters sealed off a building in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Wednesday after packages believed to contain radioactive materials were discovered, emergency services said. A box containing packets labeled "strontium," "radium" and "plutonium" was found in a cupboard in a language school, but officials said the materials were probably of low radiation. Jim Fraser, a spokesman for the local fire brigade, said "most schools have these sorts of materials for chemistry experiments and that sort of thing and it's really, really low risk."
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Addicts risk losing benefits
Drug addicts who refuse to accept treatment will lose their state benefits for up to six months under new measures announced on Wednesday. The plans, part of the Home Office's wider drugs strategy, have been denounced by critics, who labeled them flimsy and unlikely to achieve change. Unveiling the 10-year strategy, "Drugs: protecting families and communities," Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said almost US$1.98 billion would be invested to tackle drug-related crime. "We do not think it is right for the taxpayer to help sustain drug habits when individuals could be getting treatment," the strategy document said.
President warns Abkhazia
President Mikhail Saakashvili warned the breakaway region of Abkhazia on Wednesday that unless a reporter was released he would order a special operation to free the journalist. Three Georgians, including Malkhaz Basilaia, a reporter from Mze television, were detained on Tuesday by Abkhaz security officials at a checkpoint on the de facto border. "I want to tell [Abkhaz leader] Sergey Bagapsh ... either Bagapsh immediately orders his illegal police to stop torturing the injured and abducted journalist and release him or I, Georgia's president, will give the Georgian police a completely legal order to release Basilaia," he said.
Spider sex holds surprises
Not all male nursery web spiders looking to have sex play dead, but those that do more than double their chances of getting lucky, said a study reported on Wednesday in the British magazine New Scientist. In experiments designed by Trine Bilde of the University of Aaarhus in Denmark, researchers set up mating opportunities for Pisaura mirabilis spiders. All the males sought to attract partners by offering a gift of food, held in the mouth. But the ones that lay flat and motionless -- even if it meant getting dragged about by a female that had latched onto the food -- wound up in a position to engage in sex. Males that played dead were also allowed to copulate longer, ensuring more fertilized eggs.
Cat laundered to death
Police are investigating the laundering of a cat to death by college students last weekend in Ottawa, authorities said on Wednesday. The three-month old orange and white tabby had allegedly been run through a washing machine by friends of its owners' roommates while she was out, according to reports. "It had gone through a full cycle," owner Sylvia Gough told the Ottawa Citizen. Constable Isabelle Lemieux of the Ottawa Police Service said: "We're investigating cruelty to animals."
Residents lynch policemen
Three off-duty policemen were stoned, beaten and hanged to death in a central Bolivian town after residents said they tried to extort money from a man driving without license plates, local media said on Wednesday. Deputy Interior Minister Ruben Gamarra called the lynching a "cowardly assassination" and said there would be an investigation into the possible participation of local authorities in the town of Epizana, in the province of Cochabamba, 600km southeast of La Paz. According to local media reports, residents said the policemen had stopped a driver and were trying to get money out of him because he did not have license plates.
Minister may wear diaper
Ontario's health minister said on Wednesday he was prepared to wear an adult diaper in response to complaints that seniors in nursing homes are left in soiled diapers for extended periods of time. George Smitherman's suggestion was immediately dismissed as ridiculous, with a union saying he had missed the point -- that nursing homes are so short-staffed, residents are forced to wear soiled diapers through the night and sometimes well into the next day. "If the minister wants to play silly games, well then, let him put on a diaper and sleep in it all night long and come into the legislature and wear it up until 12 o'clock," said Sid Ryan, head of Ontario's chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
■ UNITED STATES
Conservative icon dies
William F. Buckley, an influential writer and commentator hailed as the guiding light behind US political conservatism, has died at 82, media reported on Wednesday. Buckley, who founded the National Review, essential reading for the right-of-center political class, reportedly died at his home in Connecticut after fighting emphysema. Buckley hosted the influential political chat show Firing Line on US television from 1966 until 1999, and was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist.
Town to protest over photo
Residents of a remote town plan to demonstrate today after a photo of US presidential hopeful Barack Obama in Somali dress took center stage in an increasingly acrimonious race for the White House. The picture showed the senator donning a traditional headdress and robes during a 2006 trip to Wajir in northeastern Kenya. Ahmed Sheikh Bahalow, a retired teacher and elder from ethnically Somali Wajir, said his community was offended by the insinuation Obama had done anything wrong on his visit. "The Somali community and in particular those living in Kenya have never been that interested in America politics," Bahalow said. "But we are following it keenly now because we have been provoked." Wajir residents planned to demonstrate after Friday prayers to show their support for Obama, he said.
‘DEEPLY DISTURBING’ In one extreme case at an Ontario nursing home, an elderly patient was believed to have choked to death while being fed lying down Conditions at Ontario nursing homes hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as described by troops helping out there, are “deeply disturbing,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday. The Canadian military last month deployed troops at the height of the pandemic to five elderly care homes in the nation’s most populous province to fill severe staff shortages. The military said that it found blatant disregard for infection control measures and “horrible” care of seniors that verged on abuse, a report said. The troops said that among other forms of mistreatment, residents had been “left in beds soiled in diapers,” crying for help and
Less than two months after detecting its first COVID-19 infection, Montenegro is the first nation in Europe to declare itself free of the coronavirus, a success story the tiny nation hopes would lure tourists to its Adriatic coast this summer. For weeks hotel staff have been raking empty beaches as the pandemic kept away visitors who would normally be arriving by plane, cruise ship and road this time of year, but finally there is a sliver of hope after Montenegro announced it no longer has any active cases of COVID-19. Tourism operators have already seized the opportunity to brand Montenegro as “Europe’s
With cat photographs and sometimes scathing irony, Switzerland-based Mathieu Rebeaud biochemistry researcher has nearly tripled his Twitter following since the COVID-19 pandemic began. With 14,000 followers, he posts almost daily, giving explanations on the latest scientific research and, in particular, aims to fight misinformation that spreads as fast as the novel coronavirus. He is among a growing number of doctors, academics and institutions who in the past several weeks have adapted and amplified their scientific messaging in hopes of countering what has been termed an “infodemic” — a deluge of information, including widespread false claims, which experts have said can pose a
NEW ZEALAND PM unfazed by quake Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern barely skipped a beat when an earthquake struck during a live TV interview yesterday morning. She interrupted Newshub host Ryan Bridge to tell him what was happening at the parliament complex in the capital, Wellington. “We’re just having a bit of an earthquake here Ryan, quite a decent shake here,” she said, looking up and around the room. “But, um, if you see things moving behind me.” The magnitude 5.6 quake struck in the ocean about 100km northeast of Wellington, the US Geological Survey said. The quake hit just before 8am and