Military test-fires missile
Islamabad said it test-fired a short-range cruise missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead yesterday, one day after India test-fired a long-range missile with nuclear capability. The 350km-range Pakistani missile, known as the Ra’ad, or Hatf VIII, was developed exclusively for launch from aircraft, a military statement said. The statement said the missile “has special stealth capabilities,” is a “low altitude, terrain-following missile with high maneuverability” and “can deliver all types of warheads with great accuracy.”
Parties close to agreement
Ruling parties appeared closer yesterday to resolving a dispute about how to reinstate judges fired by President Pervez Musharraf, an issue that threatened to break up the coalition government. A committee of representatives from the two leading parties came up with a draft parliamentary resolution aimed at reinstating the judges, Law Minister Farooq Naek said late on Wednesday. Key differences remained, however. However, two constitutional experts on the committee had a “divergence of views” on exactly how the resolution could be implemented, Naek said.
Adultery law reconsidered
The constitutional court began considering yesterday a petition from a top actress seeking to abolish a 54-year-old law which makes adultery a criminal offence. Ok So-ri filed the petition in February, claiming the law infringes on the right of individual choice in sexual relations. The court has rejected three previous appeals on the grounds that social morality may be weakened. Ok is awaiting trial for adultery after her actor husband Park Chul sued her and two men for allegedly having affairs with her.
Bomber wedding rejected
Authorities have rejected a request by a Muslim militant on death row for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings to remarry his ex-wife in prison, an official said yesterday. “A few days ago I rejected the lawyers’ demand for Amrozi to hold his wedding at the jail,” said Bambang Winahyo, head of the Central Java Justice and Human Rights office. Amrozi, known as the “smiling assassin,” was planning to remarry his first wife, Rahma, in prison on May 12. “I rejected the demand because it should not have been addressed to me, but to the attorney-general,” Wahyono said.
Malaysian pullout to begin
Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim said his country would pull out its peacekeeping forces from the troubled Philippine province of Mindanao in a phased withdrawal beginning tomorrow. Yatim, who was on a two-day working trip to the Philippines, said his government was unable to continue with an unlimited deployment in the international monitoring team, according to a foreign ministry statement released on Wednesday. He said however that Malaysia was committed to helping resolve the Philippine situation.
Intimate piercing not for kids
The country’s most populous state will ban young teenagers from having intimate body piercings, with authorities saying yesterday that the health risks from the fashion trend were too great. New South Wales Community Services Minister Kevin Greene said nipple and genital piercings for under-16s would be outlawed and children would need parental permission for other types of piercing, such as ear, nose and navel.
Lighter Web touch mulled
The government is considering a lighter touch in regulating the Internet after 13 bloggers called for freedom to discuss political issues and views, the group said yesterday. The bloggers also proposed that any regulation of online content should not be at the administrative discretion of officials, but through moderation by a consultative body of citizens. “To keep up with the fast-evolving new media landscape, we have been reviewing our light-touch approach and are considering how we could take a lighter-touch approach,” the Straits Times quoted K Bhavani, press secretary at the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, as saying.
Orchids sap wasps: study
Orchids that mimic female wasps may not only waste the time of the male wasps they lure into spreading their pollen — they also seduce them into wasting valuable sperm, researchers reported on Wednesday. “Pollinators may suffer considerable costs,” Anne Gaskett of Macquarie University in Sydney and colleagues said. “Insects pollinating Australian tongue orchids frequently ejaculate and waste copious sperm,” they wrote in the American Naturalist. They found that the wasps who frequent these flowers are haplodiploid species. Their offspring produced by sexual unions are female, while females can produce males asexually. “Therefore, female insects deprived of matings by orchid deception could still produce male offspring, which may even enhance orchid pollination,” the researchers wrote. “Male pollinators can prefer orchids to real females, prematurely end a copulation with a real female to visit an orchid, or be unable to find real female mates among false orchid signals.”
Moscow pressures Georgia
Moscow threatened yesterday to send more troops to the Georgian separatist province of Abkhazia if Georgia added to its own military presence in the region, news agencies quoted the defense ministry as saying. “Further steps by Georgia’s military structures adding to the deployment of troops in the conflict zone can only lead to necessary and adequate measures by the Russian side to raise the peacekeeping contingent to the maximum number allowed,” the ministry said in a statement. The statement, quoted by Interfax and RIA Novosti, said the troop level was 2,542 servicemen and that the maximum allowed under accords ending fighting between Georgia and Abkhaz rebels in the 1990s was 3,000.
Police urged to hound youth
Police should be harassing badly behaved youths by openly filming them and hounding them at home to make their lives as uncomfortable as possible, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said yesterday. The crime initiative is part of a government strategy to win back voters by proposing more radical approaches to tackling deep seated problems. In a speech in London, Smith urged police forces across the country to follow the example of Essex police, who have mounted four-day “frame and shame” operations by filming and repeatedly stopping identified persistent offenders on problem housing estates.
Men going off sex
“Not tonight, Josephine.” Napoleon Bonaparte’s response to the bedtime blandishments of his wife is being repeated in bedrooms across the country. Men are simply going off sex, said relate, the country’s largest firm of relationship counselors. It said there had been a 40 percent increase in male clients admitting that, despite being physically able to have sex, they can’t be bothered. “Men used to come to us with impotence, but Viagra has sorted some of that problem,” said Peter Bell, Relate’s head of practice. “What we have is a lot of men who say, as women did in the 1950s: ‘I can have sex, but I don’t want to. It’s not rewarding.’” Bell says that about half the men admit to a complete lack of libido.
Bombing suspects arrested
Members of a terrorist group with links to the UK and the US who were behind a blast at a mosque last month that killed 14 and wounded 200 in Shiraz were arrested yesterday, a news agency said. Officials had previously said the April 12 blast, in the Shohada mosque during an evening prayer sermon by a prominent local cleric, was caused by explosives left over from an exhibition commemorating the 1980 to 1988 Iran-Iraq War. “The blast ... was caused by a bombing by a terrorist group with links to Western countries, especially Britain and America,” ISNA news agency quoted Intelligence Minister Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei as saying late on Wednesday.
Top priority EU referendum
New Prime Minister Brian Cowen vowed on Wednesday to make winning a crunch EU referendum next month his first priority, immediately after being elected to succeed Bertie Ahern. Cowen faces growing economic gloom after a decade-long boom under Ahern. “I will strive to ensure that our European vocation is alive, engaged and a creative thing,” he said after his election by the Irish Dail. “I look forward to leading a campaign over coming weeks to assure the Irish people that ratification of the European Reform Treaty is in our interests,” he said.
No ambulance proves costly
A member of Congress had a heart attack while debating a transportation bill and died hours later in a hospital after having to be transported in a private car because no ambulances were available. Jose Fernando Castro, a member of President Alvaro Uribe’s majority coalition, collapsed mid-debate in a committee room. Castro spent 20 minutes on the floor of the room before those trying to help him decided to move him without the help of an ambulance, which was called but never arrived. Castro’s condition worsened while in the car on the way to the hospital, said fellow lawmaker Roy Barreras, a medical doctor by training who tried to revive him.
Officer jailed for massacre
A judge on Wednesday gave a 54-year prison term to a cashiered army lieutenant colonel who was convicted of ordering the massacre of 10 elite anti-drug police in an ambush. Judge Edmundo Lopez also slapped near-maximum sentences of 52 years on the unit’s second-in-command, and 50 years each on the other 13 soldiers convicted of participating in the May 22, 2006 slaughter. Senior police officials believe former Lieutenant Colonel Byron Carvajal and his troops had been protecting a drug lord. There were numerous attempts to subvert the trial, including an auxiliary prosecutor’s offer to help the defense in exchange for more than US$400,000, senior police officials and prosecutors familiar with the case said. Carvajal was found to have ordered the ambush in the town of Jamundi, where an informant had told police they would find at least 100kg of cocaine at a psychiatric center. When police pulled up, the soldiers opened fire. No drugs were found and the informant was also killed.
Police taped beating men
About 12 Philadelphia police officers were videotaped on Monday beating three men in response to a drug-related shooting, and six of the officers have been removed from street patrols, police commissioner Charles Ramsey said Wednesday. In the incident officers surrounded a car carrying the three men. They were pulled from the car and kicked and punched by officers. The incident followed the shooting death of Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski on Saturday. Liczbinski was pursuing three robbery suspects.
Farmers resume strike
Thousands of farmers resumed a crippling strike on Wednesday after one month of talks with the government to roll back a stiff tax hike on soybean exports broke down, a union leader said. Mario Llambias said the country’s four major farming groups would stop all cereal exports in the country for one week and block the country’s main roads again, although this time without stopping food supplies to major cities.
Volcanic ash spreading
A thick cloud of ash from the erupting Chaiten volcano in southern Chile spread across a swath of South America on Wednesday, prompting fears of health crisis for the people caught in its wake. The enormous plume spread over Argentina’s ski resort of Bariloche, 230km northeast of the volcano and ash particles were detected as far away as Mar del Plata, 1,600km to the east. Authorities are fearful that the airborne ash particles might reach Buenos Aires and its surroundings, raising health concerns for millions.
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and