Cartoon leads to ban
A student from central China has been barred from university for drawing a cartoon of his "ugly" math teacher on his college entrance exam paper, a news report said Friday. The student drew a caricature of the teacher on his exam paper and wrote beneath it: "Look, this ugly man is my math teacher," the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily reported. The student, from Handan, Hebei province, first had 30 per cent of his test score docked and was then informed by the provincial test committee he would not be admitted by any university, the newspaper said.
Divorce by SMS
Malaysian Muslim men can divorce their wives through text messages on mobile telephones, the New Straits Times daily reported yesterday, quoting a religious adviser to the government. Hamid Othman, adviser to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, said divorce via SMS or short messaging service was in accordance with sharia law if it was clear and unambiguous. "SMS is just another form of writing," the daily quoted Hamid as saying, following an Islamic court decision on Thursday that ruled in favor of a man who served divorce on his wife using SMS. Islamic law permits a man to divorce his wife by declaring "I divorce you" three times.
■ North Korea
DPRK says it will test nukes
North Korea is prepared to conduct a nuclear test unless the US responds positively to its proposals for resolving a row over Pyongyang's weapons ambitions, Japanese and North Korean sources were quoted as saying by a Japanese newspaper yesterday. The Asahi Shimbun said this had been conveyed to US envoy Jack Pritchard by a North Korean official in a secret meeting between officials from the two nations earlier this month. The Asahi said that a North Korean official told Pritchard: "If the US continues its policy of pressure against us, we may be forced to take opposing measures. Such as, for example, a nuclear test."
Naked steward on leave
A Singapore Airlines steward was placed on medical leave after he stripped off all his clothing on a flight and tossed out the contents of his wallet, a SIA spokesman said yesterday. Two hours into the flight from Perth, Australia to Singapore on July 11, the 31-year-old steward travelling as a passenger started acting up, according to the account in The Straits Times. He stood up and flung the contents of a glass of wine on passengers sitting around him, began shouting and made his way to the toilet in the middle of the plane, said witnesses. The crew members could not immediately do anything because they were stuck behind meal carts they had wheeled into the aisles.
Kangaroo cullings slammed
Animal rights activists protested yesterday outside an Australian army base where sharp shooters have been hired to kill 6,500 kangaroos. Many of the 36,000 or so kangaroos left inside the Puckapunyal base 100km north of Melbourne are starving to death because the long drought has reduced fodder. Marksmen already have picked off more than 20,000 kangaroos at Puckapunyal. Activist Rheya Linden said better options were available for bringing the herd to a more manageable size. As many as 25 million kangaroos have died of starvation during the drought.
Nuke vandals `irresponsible'
Calling them ``dangerously irresponsible,'' a federal judge sentenced three nuns to at least 30 months years in prison Friday for vandalizing a nuclear missile silo during an anti-war protest last fall. The Roman Catholic nuns cut a fence and walked onto a Minuteman III silo site last October, pounding the silo with hammers and painting a cross on it with their own blood. Officials said they caused at least US$1,000 in damage.
Blair sends Lockerbie letter
Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi says British Prime Minister Tony Blair has written to him saying outstanding issues from the Lockerbie bombing are almost resolved, Sky News TV reported Friday. Sky News said Qaddafi told the channel he had received a letter from Blair in the past few weeks. "This file [on the Lockerbie bombing], is, you know going to be closed very soon," Qaddafi said in an interview. Libya's Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam said in April that Libya accepted "civil responsibility" for the 1988 explosion of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and was willing to pay US$2.7 billion in compensation in return for the lifting of UN and US sanctions and Washington's removal of Libya from its list of states sponsoring terrorism.
Aid for cattle industry
Responding to a mad cow disease scare that has led 35 countries to block Canadian beef exports, government officials on Friday announced additional aid for the beleaguered cattle industry. Three provinces -- Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan -- will give a combined US$157 million to their beef producers, officials said. Those funds will augment US$136 million in federal aid. The crisis began after the discovery of a single case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Northern Alberta on May 20. That announcement prompted key international trading partners to shut their borders to exports of Canadian beef and cattle.
Don't talk about it
Viagra makers may not even raise the subject of erectile dysfunction after a ban by Brazilian health authorities. Viagra makers had flouted a ban on prescription drug ads by paying soccer legend Pele to hint around about sexual performance. "Eli Lilly, Bayer and Pfizer are specifically suspended from advertisements ... that mention erectile difficulty or sexual performance," the national health agency said in a statement. The authorities want to restrict any "stimulus to consume" products sold by prescription.
■ United States
Bambi safe in Vegas
A promoter who offered to take men on "Hunting for Bambi" safaris in which they could hunt down naked young women with paintball guns admits that it was a hoax and now faces misdemeanor charges, the mayor said. Promoter Michael Burdick could get six months in jail and a US$1,000 fine for operating without a proper business license, Mayor Oscar Goodman said on Friday. "I'll do everything I can to see this man is punished for trying to embarrass Las Vegas," Goodman said. Burdick found himself in the crosshairs of women's groups after he told a Las Vegas TV station that he was selling reservations to men willing to pay US$5,000 to US$10,000 to hunt down naked women in the desert.
Polish force arrives
An advance guard of Polish troops has arrived in Iraq to form the nucleus of the 9,000-strong international division which will shortly assume peacekeeping duties in the center of the country. The postwar reinforcements bring together an extraordinary alignment of countries, mainly close allies of the US, from eastern Europe, central America and Asia. Even Mongolia and Fiji are participating. The deployments are being made as Washington steps up efforts to persuade friendly countries to share the burden of preserving order in Iraq. Turkey is being sounded out as part of a wider drive to repair frayed relations between Ankara and Washington.
Officials halt Auschwitz trip
German authorities on Friday barred a German far-right leader from traveling to Poland after he said we wanted to visit the notorious former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz. Authorities in Brandenburg, the state which surrounds Berlin, issued Horst Mahler with an order not to travel to neighboring Poland, for fear he planned to dispute that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, the state government said.
Pianist drops piano into lake
A French concert pianist ended his career on Friday by hiring a helicopter to drop a worn-out piano into a lake in the south of the country. Francois-Rene Duchable played Beethoven's Third piano concerto and Saint-Saens' Second to an audience of 2,000 before the instrument was consigned to the depths of the lake of la Colmiane near Nice in southeast France. He said he was retiring at the age of 51 to "change his life," far from tours with a perpetual eye on the time. The gesture, he said, was to show that everything was over, to get rid of the weight of a career.
Holocaust remark rebuked
Israel issued Romania with a stern rebuke on Friday after the Romanian president was quoted by an Israeli newspaper as saying the Holocaust was "not unique to the Jews." The Romanian ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry and Israel's ambassador to Bucharest was ordered to submit a strong protest to "this miserable statement," ministry spokesman David Saranga said. This is the second time in two months that Romanian ambassador Valeria Mariana Stoica has been taken to task over her country's statements about the Holocaust. On June 13 the Romanian government denied that any Holocaust took place inside the country's borders.
Bottle message washes up
A message in a bottle apparently thrown into the sea 60 years ago by an Estonian refugee fleeing the Nazis has been discovered on a remote Swedish beach. Thorsten Schwarz said on Friday he found the bottle outside Oxeloesund, a town 90km southwest of the capital, Stockholm. Schwarz, a Swiss tourist, said the message was written in English and dated 1943, when the Nazis occupied Estonia, 320km east of Sweden, across the Baltic Sea. He said the message was signed by Maja Westerman, an Estonian refugee who wrote that she and her sister had arrived a year earlier on the small Swedish Baltic island of Gotska Sandoen, 110km southeast of Stockholm. "We are still dreaming about our home," the yellow letter said. "Is the war over yet? We are looking forward to peace and friendship. I would be very grateful if I could see my family again."