Rudd rejects holiday call
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday rejected calls from Aboriginal rights activist Mick Dodson, named this year’s Australian of the Year on Sunday, for the national holiday to be moved out of respect for his people. National Day is celebrated on Jan. 26 to mark the arrival of white settlers in 1788. But Rudd refused to entertain the notion. “To our indigenous leaders and those who call for a change to our national day let me say a simple, respectful, but straightforward no,” said Rudd, speaking at an Australia Day function. “There have always been controversies about national days, but this is not the point. The central point is then what we resolve to fashion as a nation ... and whether the nation we fashion through our resolve, our energies and our efforts is a nation which includes all, not just some ... That is why I support this, our national day.”
Old tuatara becomes dad
A captive reptile has unexpectedly become a father at the ripe old age of 111 after receiving treatment for a cancer that made him hostile toward prospective mates. The centenarian tuatara, named Henry, was thought well past the mating game until he was caught canoodling with a female named Mildred last March — a consummation that resulted in 11 babies being hatched yesterday. An endangered species, the hatchlings born at the Southland Museum and Art Gallery will provide a badly needed boost to the tuatara’s genetic diversity, said Lindsay Hazley, the tuatara curator.
Bicycle bomb kills five
A bomb planted on a bicycle exploded near a women’s hostel in the northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan yesterday, killing five people and wounding several, police said. “It was a cycle bomb. Five people died on the spot while the wounded were shifted to hospitals,” police officer Bashir Khan said by telephone from the scene. Khan declined to say if the women’s hostel was the target. A hospital and a press club are also in the vicinity.
Muslims banned from yoga
Muslims in the country are now banned from practicing yoga that contains Hindu rituals like chanting, but will continue to be allowed to perform it for purely health reasons, the chairman of the country’s top Islamic body said yesterday. Cleric Maruf Amin said the Ulema Council issued the non-binding ruling following weekend talks attended by hundreds of theological experts in Padang Panjang, a village in West Sumatra province. Although the ruling is not legally binding, most devout Muslims are likely to adhere to it — as they consider it sinful to ignore a fatwa.
Pact reached on border row
Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said yesterday he and visiting Thai Minister Kasit Piromya had agreed they must end a land dispute near an ancient temple, where troops from both nations clashed on Oct. 15, leaving four soldiers dead. “The demarcation of the border at Preah Vihear temple and discussions over troops is an urgent priority,” he told a joint press conference after the meeting. “Both sides — Cambodia and Thailand — agreed to set up a date from Feb. 2 to 4 in which the joint border commission will start to demarcate territory.” Thailand’s defense minister will visit Cambodia on Feb. 6 to discuss withdrawing troops from disputed territory around the 11th century Khmer temple, he said.