Fish sex is electric business
Sex among electric fish in the Congo River is a rather charged business, a new study reporting on an unusual experiment showed. Mormyrids are fish that use low-voltage discharges from an electrical organ to hunt for food. Intrigued as to how these unusual creatures locate each other for reproduction in almost zero visibility, a German team replicated the mood for mormyrid love in a tank on the outskirts of Berlin. “All males showed a kink in their anal fin base indicating sexual maturity,” the study recounted, a touch breathlessly. The females, were placed at night in the middle of a large tank with a small zone at either end that was sectioned off with a grill. The results of the study showed that the females showed the same interest in the right electric signals as they did for a male from their own species, suggesting that — as in human love — it’s the electricity that counts.
■ NEW ZEALAND
Hand wash plea fails to wash
A surgeon who blamed the alcoholic hand wash he used to scrub up after operations for failing a breathalyzer test was convicted yesterday of a drunk-driving charge, news reports said. Ian Denholm, 53, head of orthopedic surgery at Wairarapa Hospital, north of Wellington, said he had only two glasses of wine and blamed an extraordinary ability to absorb alcohol in the hand wash gel because of eczema for putting him over the limit. His not guilty plea failed to wash with Judge Stephen Harrop at the Wellington District Court who fined him NZ$500 (US$275) and banned him from driving for six months.
Internet baby placed in care
A Belgian baby bought over the Internet for adoption by a Dutch couple must be placed in the temporary care of the Dutch authorities, a court ruled on Thursday. Media reported that the couple bought the boy in July from a Belgian couple in Ghent. One TV report said between 5,000 and 10,000 euros (US$6,450 to US$12,900) was paid. The Dutch couple denies buying the baby, saying on Dutch TV that they only paid the pregnancy costs incurred by the parents. The court said the couple had broken the laws for adopting foreign children and had to hand the baby over to child welfare authorities.
Christian sues government
A Christian is suing the government for allegedly violating her religious rights after airport officials seized Christian educational CDs that she brought from Indonesia, the woman’s lawyer said. Customs authorities confiscated eight CDs from Jill Ireland when she flew back to Kuala Lumpur on May 11 after a trip to Jakarta, her lawyer Annou Xavier said late on Thursday. The Home Ministry informed her in a letter that the CDs were seized mainly because their cover titles contained the word “Allah,” which is prohibited in non-Muslim religious material, Xavier said.
Sikh loses license battle
The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday dismissed a case brought by a French Sikh man who wanted to wear a turban on his driving license photograph in breach of French rules. Shingara Mann Singh, 52, a French national, lost a series of appeals in France against the refusal by authorities to issue a new license with a photograph of him wearing a turban. In a statement, it recognized that the rule on photographs “amounted to interference with the exercise of the right to freedom of religion,” but judged that this was justified.
‘Good Samaritan’ robbed
A driver got himself into a sticky situation when he pulled over to help a woman whose pickup appeared to have broken down by the highway. Anadel Carrizales was driving on Wednesday near Monterrey when a blonde woman in a black miniskirt motioned for him to pull over. Once he had stopped, the woman walked up and told him an accomplice was pointing a gun at him, said David Perales, a spokesman for state investigators. She then tied him up with packing tape, super-glued his hands to the steering wheel of his truck and demanded money. Carrizales didn’t have any cash, but the woman took his credit cards and fled. With his motor still running and his hands glued to the wheel, Carrizales managed to drive a few kilometers down the road until he found a police officer to help him.
No home for ex-alderwoman
A former businesswoman of the year who later served as alderwoman of the city of Rotterdam was found to be homeless after checking herself in at a local night shelter, the daily newspaper Metro reported on Thursday. Rabella de Faria has lived on the streets most of this year but is now staying with friends, Rotterdam city councilor Driesch Mosch told Metro. De Faria, 48, was the city’s alderwoman for security and public health between 2002 and 2004. After her resignation as alderwoman in 2004, de Faria could not find a new job. She lost her home after her husband divorced her.
Boy crashes teacher’s car
An eight-year-old schoolboy who wanted to complain to his mother about being sent out of class took his teacher’s car and crashed it, police said. The boy, banished from class for disrupting a lesson, pinched the 40-year-old teacher’s car key when she was not looking and managed to start up her compact car, accelerating and putting the vehicle into first gear. “The little fellow drove for about 25m before crashing into a Volvo, also parked in the car park outside the school,” a police spokesman in the city of Zwickau said on Thursday.
■ UNITED STATES
‘Pumpkin’ moves to Disney
Better to be the main attraction than the main dish. “Pumpkin” the turkey was honored as the grand marshal of Disneyland’s Thanksgiving Day parade on Thursday, a day after being pardoned by President George W. Bush at the White House. The 20kg tom and National Turkey Federation chairman Paul Hill then flew first-class from Washington to Los Angeles. After the parade, Pumpkin and his backup bird, “Pecan,” moved into their winter residence next to the theme park’s seasonal display of live reindeer. The two turkeys will live out their days at a coop for celebrity turkeys at Disney’s Big Thunder Ranch.
Court orders man be blinded
A man who blinded a woman with acid after she spurned his marriage proposals will also be blinded with acid under the nation’s Islamic law, the Etemad-e Melli newspaper said on Thursday. The court made the ruling on Wednesday based on the system of qisas, or fair retribution, Etemad-e Melli said. The man identified as Majid proposed several times but was spurned by the woman, identified as Ameneh, it said. In revenge, he threw acid in her face as she left her work in 2004, it said. Ameneh traveled to Spain for surgery to reconstruct her face but efforts to restore her sight failed. On return from Spain, she asked the court for retribution, the newspaper said.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big