■ HONG KONG
MURDERS SURGE IN HALF YEAR
The number of murders nearly tripled in the first half of this year even though the territory’s overall crime rate fell, a media report said yesterday. There were 21 murders in the territory in the first six months of the year, compared with eight in the same period last year, the South China Morning Post said. However, the 10-year average was 49 homicides while last year’s figure was the lowest in 30 years, the police force’s crime and security director John Lee said.
OFFICIAL SACRIFICES ANIMALS
After the government won a crucial confidence vote last week, there was relief and celebration in the victors’ camps. And, for one central lawmaker, there was also blood. Kishor Samrite, a member of a key party that supports the ruling coalition, said he sacrificed more than 200 goats and four buffaloes at a 16th-century temple in the northeast to thank a goddess for delivering victory to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government. Singh and his Congress party survived the July 22 confidence vote after weeks of political uncertainty that nearly toppled the government.
Police raid manufacturer
Police yesterday raided a machine tool maker for exporting equipment without government approval that can be used to make nuclear weapons, officials said. Television footage showed officers raiding the headquarters of Horkos Corp near the western city of Hiroshima. Police were suspicious about the company’s exports of equipment that is normally used to make auto parts but can be converted to produce centrifuge parts for uranium enrichment, a spokesman said. Exports of such sensitive equipment normally require prior approval by the government.
BOMB INJURES 18 IN SOUTH
Eighteen people, including a six-month-old baby, were injured in a bomb blast early yesterday at a busy market in the Muslim south, where a separatist insurgency is raging, police said. The bomb was hidden in a motorcycle and detonated with a mobile phone. The blast sent metal flying into the crowded market in downtown Narathiwat. Witnesses told police that a teenager had parked the motorcycle at the market early in the morning, and that the bombed exploded just as two soldiers walked by.
TOXIC FERRY SPILL CONTAINED
The toxic cargo of pesticides on a ferry that capsized in June is contained, though leaks may occur if typhoons hit the region, a UN official said. The MV Princess of the Stars lies about 3km off Sibuyan Island with about 10 tonnes of the agricultural chemical endosulfan on board. Water samples show no spill has occurred, the UN’s news service IRIN cited Andrew MacLeod, who oversees relief operations in the country, as saying.
INCENSE STICKS CAUSE CANCER
Joss sticks lit as offerings in shrines and temples fill the air with cancer-causing toxins as deadly as traffic fumes and cigarette smoke, according to a Thai study. Manoon Leechawengwong, who led a two-year study of temple workers who clear the smoldering sticks, found the chemicals in the smoke put them at risk of leukemia, lung, blood and bladder cancers. “One joss stick creates the same amount of cancer-causing chemicals at one cigarette,” said Manoon. The findings came from 40 workers in three temples.
SERIAL TREE KILLINGS PROBED
A businessman and his brother appeared in court on Wednesday on suspicion they destroyed scores of pine trees because they were obstructing the view of advertising billboards. The advertising company owner and his brother are accused of destroying 233 pine trees mainly on public highways by injecting pesticide or herbicide through holes drilled into the trunks. The men, who deny any involvement, could face maximum jail terms of three years if convicted. “According to the forestry department, the cost of damage to the trees — which average 27 years old — is 21,127 euros [US$33,000],” investigating officer Iosif Katsouides told the court. “But this is not only about money. The damage is catastrophic to the environment,” he said. The court heard that the businessman had previously complained to the forestry department and asked for the removal of trees that spoilt the view of his advertising billboards.