Pills used for ‘desert rats’
Authorities have scattered 200kg of contraceptive pellets across the Tibetan plateau to control what they describe as a “plague of desert rats” blamed for destroying fragile high-altitude grasslands and accelerating the spread of deserts. But biodiversity experts say the campaign could worsen soil degradation and that poisons used could damage other parts of the plateau’s ecosystem. The drugs were designed to induce abortions and prevent pregnancy in “gerbils,” Xinhua news agency reported. It is possible they were referring to the pika, a small animal related to the rabbit, which has long been the target of government eradication campaigns. Workers began spreading the contraceptive in the Gurbantunggut desert in Xinjiang last May.
Journalist gets protection
President Gloria Arroyo yesterday ordered police to protect a journalist who has received death threats for linking the military to the murder of a communist insurgent’s daughter. “We must bring political killings to zero, including assassinations of government officials and media personalities,” she said in an address at the national police academy. Her speech came just days after the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists placed the Philippines on a list of countries where media personnel are allegedly murdered with impunity. Elgine Damasco of Radio Mindanao Network in Davao and his colleagues have blamed intelligence operatives from the military for the death threats.
Mom charged in plane birth
A 29-year-old Samoan woman who gave birth on a flight to New Zealand was charged on Wednesday with abandoning her baby girl in an aircraft toilet. She faces a maximum seven-year prison sentence for abandoning the baby, who is now in custody of the child welfare department. The woman underwent surgery at Middlemore Hospital after what police said was a complicated birth on board the plane as it arrived in Auckland from Apia, the capital of Samoa, last Thursday. The baby was reportedly found by cleaners in the plane’s toilet rubbish can. The woman was identified when immigration authorities noticed her bleeding.
Teen jailed for murder
A 15-year-old teenager was jailed for life yesterday for beating a Scottish tourist to death with a baseball bat. Jahche Broughton was just 14 when he attacked Karen Aim in Taupo, North Island, on Jan. 17 last year. Broughton, who pleaded guilty to murder in a court in Rotorua, was sentenced to remain in jail for 12-and-a-half years before he will be eligible for parole for the killing of the 27-year-old backpacker. He was also sentenced to six years for injuring a 17-year-old woman with intent to cause grievous bodily harm — an attack that took place just two weeks before Aim’s murder.
Poll is bad news for Ozawa
Two out of three voters want opposition Democratic Party chief Ichiro Ozawa to resign over a funding scandal that is clouding his party’s prospects in this year’s general election, a Kyodo news survey showed on Wednesday. Support for unpopular Prime Minister Taro Aso, however, rose almost eight points to 23.7 percent, but almost two-thirds of voters were still dissatisfied with him. Ozawa said on Tuesday, after a close aide was charged with accepting illegal corporate donations, that he would stay in his post.
Wacky surnames dying out
The number of people with surnames like Cockshott, Balls, Death and Shufflebottom — likely the source of schoolroom laughter — has declined by up to 75 percent in the last century. A study found the number of people with the name Cock shrank to 785 last year from 3,211 in 1881, those called Balls fell to 1,299 from 2,904 and the number of Deaths were reduced to 605 from 1,133.
Police probe ‘terror’ charity
Regulators said they were probing allegations that a local charity was linked to a huge cache of weapons and a bomb-making factory found in an Islamic school in Bangladesh. “The matter is of serious concern to us, and we are taking this action given the gravity of the matter, the public interest and the need to protect charity work and funds,” said Andrew Hind, head of the Charity Fund that regulates charities in England and Wales. Bangladeshi police on Tuesday raided an Islamic seminary or madrasah on the remote island of Bhola in the south of the country, uncovering firearms, bullets and explosive devices. The recently-opened madrasah was owned by the UK-based Green Crescent charity, police said.
Leaky ceiling reveals pot
A leaky ceiling has directed Berlin police to a full-scale indoor cannabis plantation in a three-room apartment. Police said they found some 780 blossoming cannabis plants, along with more than 1,000 seedlings and more than 6kg of marijuana, in the second-floor apartment in the capital on Sunday. They said on Wednesday that they were called to the building because water was dripping through the ceilings of rooms underneath the apartment. All three rooms of the apartment had been converted for growing cannabis — complete with ventilators, lamps and a watering system that appeared to be the cause of the leak. A police statement said that the tenant — a 34-year-old woman — and a male acquaintance were under investigation.
Saberi parents plan Iran trip
The father of imprisoned journalist Roxana Saberi said he and his wife were making plans to go to Iran to see her in a couple of days. “I’m hoping if she sees us, it will lift her spirits,” Reza Saberi said on Wednesday. The Iranian government has said Roxana Saberi was imprisoned for doing reporting work in the country after her press credentials expired. Her parents found out about her arrest in a brief phone call from her on Feb. 10. Saberi, who grew up in Fargo, is a dual citizen of the US and Iran who has reported for a number of international news organizations. Her father said he worried his daughter may go on a hunger strike. He said she told him a prosecutor in Iran had told her she would remain in detention for months or even years.
Workers release 3M boss
A 3M industrial conglomerate manager was released yesterday after being held for more than a day by angry workers trying to force their US employer to improve their redundancy package. Following hours of talks between representatives of labor unions, 3M-Sante and 3M France, the laboratory manager of the company’s factory in Pithiviers, 85km south of Paris, left the office where he had been held since Tuesday afternoon. The factory, which produces pharmaceutical products, employs 235 people but 110 of these jobs are to be shed this year because of falling orders and another 40 are to be shifted to another plant.
Test flight ends in tragedy
The pilot of an F-22A fighter jet was killed when it crashed in California while on a test flight, news reports said. An Air Force spokeswoman said the crash took place about 55km northwest of Edwards Air Force Base. The F-22 Raptor is one of the most sophisticated fighter jets in the world and the crash was the first for this model since it went into full production, the spokeswoman said. The F-22 has been the focus of speculation about US President Barack Obama’s plans to cut spending on costly weapons systems. At US$140 million each, the F-22 is the Air Force’s most expensive fighter.
EPA nominee withdraws
US President Barack Obama’s nominee for the No. 2 position at the Environmental Protection Agency, Jon Cannon, removed himself from consideration on Wednesday. Cannon said he was removing his name from consideration to be EPA deputy administrator because of scrutiny of America’s Clean Water Foundation, where he once served on the board of directors. “While my service on the board of that now-dissolved organization is not the subject of the scrutiny, I believe the energy and environmental challenges facing our nation are too great to delay confirmation for this position, and I do not wish to present any distraction to the agency,” Cannon said in a statement released by the EPA. The EPA Inspector General’s Office found in 2007 that the Clean Water foundation mismanaged more than US$25 million in EPA grants, the Washington Post reported.
Stunt just like old times
Twenty-two students at St. Mary’s College of California have done something their predecessors famously did 50 years ago: cram into a phone booth. Teams competed to fit as many bodies as possible into a phone booth on the campus green on Wednesday, a half-century after Life magazine published a now-famous photograph of 22 St. Mary’s students stuffed into a phone booth, a popular college stunt in the 1950s.
Man ‘kept mom in freezer’
A man has been accused of stashing his 98-year-old mother’s dead body in a freezer so he could keep cashing her Social Security checks. State police say they discovered Herta Auslander’s body in a freezer chest in October after receiving a tip she had died more than a year earlier. An autopsy concluded she died of natural causes. Police say Roland Auslander was arrested on Wednesday following a stakeout at his home in Cooks Falls northwest of New York City. They say he’s charged with grand larceny, unlawful disposal of human remains and forgery for faking his mother’s signature.
Embargo violator jailed
A judge sentenced a woman to six years in prison on Wednesday for breaking a US trade embargo with Iraq by selling telecommunications equipment before the war in 2003. Dawn Hanna, who netted US$1.1 million, was motivated by greed and repeatedly ignored warnings from potential partners about doing business with Iraq, said US District Judge Marianne Battani. The prosecutor said Hanna lied to US and British authorities and committed perjury during the trial when she claimed the equipment was destined for Turkey. The equipment had “encryption technology,” which meant it could be used for civilian and military purposes, the government said. Hanna was in charge of international sales at Technology Integration Group Services of Rochester.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread
RISKY BUSINESS: The Chinese firm has stockpiled 500,000 pieces of 5G equipment not covered by US sanctions, but fears a wider ban could be announced in the UK Huawei Technologies Co believes it can supply 5G hardware unaffected by US sanctions to the UK for the next five years, sidestepping the expected conclusion of British emergency review on Tuesday. The company has stockpiled 500,000 pieces of kit, but fears a wider ban on its equipment is to be unveiled to placate rebel British Conservative Party lawmakers, who say that the Chinese supplier represents a national security risk. The British government on Friday said that it was “very likely” that British Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden would make a statement to parliament on Tuesday