■ UNITED KINGDOM
Prisoners turn pagan
The number of prisoners who describe themselves as pagan has more than doubled in England and Wales since 2003, new government figures showed. Prison service guidelines say pagan prisoners may keep artifacts such as a hoodless robe and a flexible twig for use as a wand among their personal possessions. Naked worship, known as “skyclad,” is not allowed. The figures showed that 328 inmates listed themselves as pagan last year, up from 133 four years ago. The figures were released ahead of Halloween, a festival on which pagan prisoners will be allowed to choose not to work or attend education. Inmates are allowed to select two dates from a list of eight annual festivals when they are excused from work.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Military official resigns
The head of the country’s special forces in Afghanistan has resigned, reportedly in disgust at equipment failures that he believes led to the death of four of his troops. Major Sebastian Morley, commander of Special Air Service troops in Afghanistan, accused the government of “chronic underinvestment” in equipment in his resignation letter, the Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday. He had repeatedly warned that people would be killed if military commanders and government officials continued to allow troops to be transported in the lightly armored Snatch Land Rover vehicles, it said. Four of his soldiers died in June when their Snatch Land Rover hit a land mine in Helmand Province. Morley believes they died needlessly, the newspaper said.
TV station for gays launches
The country’s first television station for gay men will go on air this week offering entertainment and news with homosexual themes via satellite and cable, the new TIMM channel said on Friday. The line-up will include popular series such as Queer as Folk, The L-Word and Absolutely Fabulous dubbed into German, as well as documentaries on gay stars or celebrities who are big in the gay community, such as Rupert Everett, Susan Sarandon and Liza Minnelli, the station said in a statement. With the slogan “We love men,” TIMM said it was aimed at the country’s estimated 3.6 million gay men and hoped to draw their family and friends, lesbians and a few “metrosexuals.” “TIMM enriches the existing television landscape with programming from and by the target group — simply for everyone who loves men,” it said.
■ EL SALVADOR
Presidents leave summit
Eight presidents left the Iberian American Summit in San Salvador before it closed on Friday, in a mass escape that made the gathering’s last day lackluster. Between midday Thursday and early Friday, the leaders of Brazil, Nicaragua, Argentina, Panama, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic left San Salvador. The presidents of Venezuela, Cuba and Uruguay directly skipped the summit. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva missed the opening ceremony late on Wednesday and left after the first session of debate, at midday on Thursday. He traveled to Cuba for a visit of less than 24 hours. On Thursday, the countries meeting in San Salvador demanded a greater presence in global financial decisions at a time of crisis. Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Argentina, among other countries, called for a fairer multilateral world order that would take into account the views of emerging countries.
Policemen killed in Toluca
Authorities in Toluca say eight police officers have been killed in less than 24 hours in a state near the capital. Mexico state attorney general’s office spokesman Octavio Campos says the police chief and a commander in the town of Teoloyucan were found shot to death on Friday inside a patrol car. Campos says six state officers were gunned down in three separate attacks late on Thursday. Seven other people were also killed in the state during the same period. Mexico state is one of several that have suffered a wave of homicides. Officials blame the violence on warring drug gangs.
■ OUTER SPACE
US astronauts to vote
Two US astronauts who are soaring in orbit hundreds of kilometers from Earth will be able to vote in the US election on Nov. 4, the US space agency NASA said. Commander Mike Fincke and Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff, who are working aboard the International Space Station, are to vote by secure electronic ballot uplinked by Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, NASA said. Their votes will be submitted by secure link back to Earth, and recorded by local voting officials in Texas. Astronauts can vote from space due to a 1997 bill passed by Texas legislators which set up the process. Nearly all US astronauts live in Houston, NASA said.
■ UNITED STATES
Trick-or-treater shot to death
A 12-year-old boy trick-or-treating with his family in Sumter, South Carolina, was shot from inside a home on Friday and killed, and his father and brother were wounded by the gunfire, authorities said. The shooting suspect, Quentin Patrick, was in custody, a jail official said. Patrick, 22, has been charged with murder and three counts of assault and battery with intent to kill. The jail official said she didn’t know whether Patrick had an attorney and his telephone number was unpublished. The family was headed home from a city-sponsored event in Sumter, South Carolina, when they decided to stop at a few homes, Sumter Police Chief Patty Patterson said.
Wallaby escapes from pen
An intrepid wallaby has escaped from its pen at an exotic zoo and gone on an 80km walkabout across the eastern part of the country where he remained on the lam on Friday, zookeepers said. Wendell, a three-year-old Bennett’s Red Necked wallaby, was reported missing on Wednesday after a storm toppled a tree which destroyed the animal’s pen at a facility near the capital Ottawa. The animal, native to eastern Australia, and three others as well as a kangaroo, “just hopped out of their broken enclosure,” Carla Saunders, co-owner of Saunders Country Critters and Garden Centre said. But only Wendell strayed very far, she said.
■ UNITED STATES
Painting returned to France
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts has sent a US$2.8 million painting back to France after concluding it had been stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The museum had owned the 1911 Fernand Leger painting Smoke Over Rooftops since 1961. But after a decade of detective work, the institute decided to return it to the French heirs of a Jewish art collector who died in 1948. “Having researched this to the end of the road, we decided we had to return the painting; it was the right thing to do,” Kaywin Feldman, director of the institute, told the Star Tribune for a story published on Thursday.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Dark matter, mysterious invisible stuff that makes up most of the mass of galaxies, including the Milky Way, is confounding scientists again, with new observations of distant galaxies conflicting with the current understanding of its nature. Research published this week revealed an unexpected discrepancy between observations of dark matter concentrations in three massive clusters of galaxies encompassing trillions of stars and theoretical computer simulations of how dark matter should be distributed. “Either there is a missing ingredient in the simulations or we have made a fundamental incorrect assumption about the nature of dark matter,” Yale University astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan, a coauthor of