World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

Thu, Jun 03, 2004 - Page 7

■ China

Clothing police dog Britney

Struggling to hold in check liberal tendencies of the country's increasingly affluent and curious urban middle class, Beijing's bureaucrats will vet Britney Spears' wardrobe to ensure she does not reveal too much raw talent on her first tour of China next year, a report said on Tuesday. The singer is seeking permission to perform five concerts in Shanghai and Beijing early next year, which would be among the biggest staged by a foreign act in China. But her reputation appears to have prompted Chinese officials into thinking that she may expose too much flesh.

■ China

SARS alert lifted

Beijing has closed down

its SARS-prevention headquarters and ended emergency control measures on Tuesday, state press reported yesterday. In a similar move, the Ministry

of Public Health announced

the suspension of daily surveillance reports on the epidemic, saying the latest outbreak was under control, Xinhua news agency said. The anti-SARS headquarters, a joint working team responsible for epidemic control and prevention, was established on April 22 when Beijing reported its first SARS case this year. The notice said the decision was made following the discharge of all seven SARS patients recovering in the city and the removal from isolation of those who had close contact with them.

■ China

Finger can't save marriage

A man in western China who cut off his finger to prove his devotion to his fiancee is suing her over his lost digit now that she has divorced him, a report said yesterday. Zhang Liang cut off his finger in front of his fiancee and swore he would stop gambling when she threatened to leave him

four years ago. The gesture

won her heart and the

pair married but the union turned sour when Zhang started gambling again and stole money from his wife, the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily reported. After his wife walked out

on him, Zhang went to court demanding 12,000 yuan (US$1,400) compensation for his lost finger. The court threw out his application.

■ New Zealand

SMS protest lands huge bill

A New Zealander sent over 80,000 text messages from his mobile phone last month -- an average of 2,580 texts a day -- in protest at a hike in short message service (SMS)tariffs. Allowing eight hours for sleep every day, Fraser Ray, a 24-year-old stay-at-home father, zapped off a blizzard of 80,012 text messages from his phone after Telecom Corp

decided to end a deal giving subscribers unlimited SMS for NZ$10 (US$6.29) a month. His text attack

was simple enough -- he repeatedly sent friends a message reading: "Hi. How are you?" At a maximum rate of NZ$0.20 per message, Ray would have tallied a bill of NZ$16,000 for his protest.

■ Singapore

Go north, my children

Singapore will offer scholarships to hundreds of students to become experts on China to ensure the city-state remains relevant to Beijing and its growing economic power, former prime minister and founding father Lee Kuan Yew said. The candidates must have a deep understanding of Chinese culture, language and history, he said on Tuesday. Lee said Singapore needs more experts on China to gain the upper hand over other countries trying to win China's business.

■ United Kingdom

Chinese food shortage looms

A British government crackdown on illegal workers in the restaurant trade has sparked a labor shortage in the Chinese food sector, which traditionally relies on such employees, a report said yesterday. The worker shortage is particularly acute in London's bustling Chinatown, where many kitchen staff have tended to be unofficial entrants to the country paid below minimum wage levels, the Guardian newspaper said. Faced with official warnings that they could be jailed for two years or fined stiffly for employing illegal staff, restaurant owners have sacked hundreds of workers, the paper said.

■ United Kingdom

Prince `should get married'

Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey says Prince Charles and his longtime love Camilla Parker Bowles should be married. "He is heir to the throne and he loves her," Carey told The Times newspaper in an interview published yesterday. "The natural thing is that they should get married." Charles' office has said repeatedly that he has no plans to marry. The Church of England has stayed neutral on a marriage between Parker Bowles and Charles, who divorced Princess Diana before her death in 1997. It's a sensitive issue because Charles would be the supreme governor of the church if he succeeds to the throne, and some Anglicans remain opposed to remarriage of divorcees.

■ Saudi Arabia

Americans attacked

Militants opened fire on two Americans in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on yesterday, but no one was injured, Saudi security officials said. The attack took place as the Americans were leaving a compound on the Kharj highway in southern Riyadh. It wasn't immediately clear whether they were in the same car or driving separately. A Western diplomat said some Americans had come under fire by assailants in three vehicles and that one of the Americans was injured.

■ United States

`Fahrenheit' gets distributor

The independent studio Lions Gate Films will distribute Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which has gained wide notice for its critique of US President George W. Bush and was spurned for distribution by the Walt Disney Company. It will be released on June 25 in about 1,000 theaters. IFC Entertainment is putting up 25 percent of the theatrical distribution costs, which could range from US$8 million to US$10 million, said executives involved in the deal. Showtime, which already has a deal in place with Lions Gate, will show the film on pay cable. Harvey and Bob Weinstein, co-chairmen of Miramax, privately acquired the film last week from Disney after Disney instructed them not to distribute the film because of its political nature.

■ United States

Scott Peterson trial starts

For a year and a half, the deaths of Laci Peterson and her fetus have been among the most talked-about crimes in the US, with every detail, true or supposed, picked apart on television, in newspapers and over bowls of popcorn on living room couches. On Tuesday, the process finally moved into a courtroom as the murder trial of Laci Peterson's husband, Scott, 31, got under way in San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City, California. It was clear from the outset that Rick Distaso, the lead prosecutor in the case, assumed the jurors knew a lot about the case. He spent no time on the basics or even introducing the Petersons.