World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

Tue, Jun 15, 2004 - Page 7

■ Malaysia

Pirates kidnap fishermen

A group of armed pirates believed to be Indonesian nationals abducted two Malaysian fishermen early yesterday while they were catching prawns off the northern Perak coast. Ng Teck Lai, 38, had gone to sea with his younger brother early yesterday when a big trawler with seven men speaking an Indonesian dialect pulled over their boat, said the state's executive councilor Ho Cheng Wang. The pirates had jumped on board and ordered Ng into their boat before leaving, Ho said. No belongings or cash were taken away in the pre-dawn incidents, but the pirates are expected to demand ransom from family members.

■ India

Let them eat rats: politician

People are starving to death in a remote eastern Indian village, but a politician suggested they can survive on snakes, rats and toads, news reports said yesterday. Voluntary organizations first alerted the media to the deaths in backward Amlashol village in West Bengal state -- five people died of hunger in the last four months, the Telegraph newspaper reported. Villagers said more than 20 people starved to death in the past year. Sambhu Mandi, a minister in the Leftist-ruled state, said as "long as the mountains have trees and leaves" the tribals of the village would not die from hunger. "If there is food scarcity... they will also survive on snakes, rats, toads", the Indian Express quoted him as saying.

■ China

Space woman may not drive

China plans to send its first woman into orbit by 2010, but the country, which prides itself as an equal-opportunity society, does not plan to let her sit in the driver's seat, state media said Monday. As early as next year, officials at the space program will start looking for the right candidate among the nation's 630 million females, the Beijing Times said. The lucky winner will go through a strenuous and demanding training regime before she blasts off onboard a Shenzhou spacecraft, probably as a researcher or technician, at the end of the decade, according to the paper. "The job of steering the Shenzhou will still go to a man," the paper said, quoting an unnamed official.

■ India

Activists set fire to theater

Rightwing activists set fire to a movie hall in the northern city of Varanasi yesterday where a Bollywood film with a lesbian theme was showing. The rightwing Kranti Shiv Sena group claimed responsibility for the fire at the Sajjan movie hall, which caused no injuries, Zee News TV reported. The controversial movie was entitled Girlfriend, one of Bollywood's first movies to explicitly portray lesbianism. Director Karan Razdan said he would not withdraw his film from cinema halls and had every right to make such movies in a democracy.

■ China

Lethal worms targeted

The government has vowed stronger measures to contain the spread of potentially lethal parasitic worms carried by freshwater snails that attack the blood and liver of humans, state media said yesterday. The government plans to use science in its fight against the disease, known as schistosomiasis or snail fever, as research will help identify infection sources and develop prevention methods, the China Daily reported. It is believed that more than one million Chinese are infected with the disease, but given the current prevalence of the carrier snail, 65 million Chinese are in danger of being infected.

■ North America

Potter' turns a buck

The third installment in the movie series about a youthful wizard kept its spell over North American audiences as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban grossed US$35.1 million in its second weekend, according to studio estimates Monday. The picture remained atop the box-office heap, and has now conjured US$158.1 million for distributor Warner Bros. A strong stable of contenders were aiming to unlock Azkaban from its hold on first place. The Chronicles of Riddick, a science fiction movie starring Hollywood muscleman Vin Diesel, was in second place with US$24.6 million.

■ Turkey

5 killed in fighting

Three Turkish village guards and two rebels from the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) were killed in separate incidents in southeastern Turkey Sunday night. The semi-official Anadolu news agency said two PKK rebels were killed during an attempted attack on a recreation building behind a military barracks near the southeastern town of Bingol. In a separate incident three village guards, local men armed and paid by the state, were killed in an attack by PKK militants in a mountainous area of Hatay, near the Syrian border.

■ United States

Moore plans Blair film

Michael Moore, the US documentary film maker who won the top award at Cannes this year for a film panning US President George Bush, has indicated he plans a similarly excoriating movie on British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his role in the invasion of Iraq. "I personally hold Blair more responsible for this war than I do George Bush. The reason is, Blair knows better," Moore said in an interview, details of which were published in yesterday's British press. "Blair is not an idiot. What is he doing hanging around this guy?" he asked.

■ United States

No more needles?

A revolutionary procedure that uses a stream of gas to open up small holes in the skin, allowing drugs to be given with the wipe of a swab, could soon end the need for painful injections, US medical scientists report. The technique, known as microscission, uses gas to bombard a small area of skin with crystals, removing the rough surface-layer and creating tiny holes through which drugs can be administered. In recent trials, scientists found that holes up to a fifth of a millimeter deep -- enough to reach a patient's bloodstream -- could be created without even touching the skin. A local anaesthetic, the test medication, was then successfully applied with a swab. Experts believe that the 20-second procedure could revolutionize how vaccinations and other needle-based medications are administered.

■ Space

First Phoebe pictures arrive

The spacecraft Cassini, due to begin exploring Saturn next month, flew within 2,000km of the planet's mysterious moon Phoebe at the weekend. The first pictures sent back show a black, bruised and tiny world, about 200km across. Phoebe reflects only about 6 percent of the sunlight that falls on it. "This odd moon has a little ice and a lot of black material on its surface but, beyond that, we know very little," said Dale Cruikshank, a Nasa scientist who will use data from the flyby to calculate Phoebe's chemical composition.

■ Iraq

US to keep prisoners

The US will continue to imprison between 4,000 and 5,000 Iraqi prisoners it deems threatening, a US military source said. Fewer than an additional 1,400 detainees will either be released or transferred to Iraqi authorities by June 30, the US said on Sunday. The International Committee of the Red Cross said Sunday that all Iraqi prisoners of war and interned civilians should be released by the US when sovereignty is transferred. Yet US officials also plan to keep two other facilities open for Iraqi detainees, and

US military divisions and brigades will continue to operate their own short-term detention facilities

■ United Nations

Flooding seen increasing

Devastating floods will affect about 2 billion people by 2050 because of climate change, deforestation, rising sea levels and population growth in flood-prone lands, the United Nations University said in a study released Sunday. The UN University, a think tank for the world organization based in Tokyo, says in the study that already 1 billion people, or one-sixth of the world's population, live in lands known for recurring floods. The study was released to coincide with the opening today in Bonn of the UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), which studies natural disasters.

■ Belgium

Dutroux hearings end

Jurors at the trial of child rapist Marc Dutroux were set to retire to consider their verdict starting yesterday as hearings into abductions, abuse and murders neared an end. The jury will pass judgement on the former electrician and his three co-accused. Dutroux faces life in jail if convicted. While he has confessed to kidnapping and rape in the mid-1990s, he denies murder. The other three are charged with offenses including abduction, rape and drug-dealing, and face sentences of up to 30 years. Dutroux was arrested by police hunting for a missing girl, Laetitia Delhez, 14. She and Sabine Dardenne, then aged 12, were rescued from the dungeon built by Dutroux.

■ United States

Handcuffed escapee found

A handcuffed theft suspect who escaped officers by stealing an unmarked police car was captured Wednesday while hiding under a bed, police said. David Smith, 27, was originally arrested Tuesday night after he was pulled over while riding a motorcycle, then failed to produce a driver's license and a vehicle registration, police said. While the officer waited for backup, Smith worked his handcuffed hands in front of him, got into the front seat and drove away, police said. Investigators tracked the suspect to a New Orleans home and found Smith hiding under a bed. Smith was booked with attempted murder of a police officer for striking the officer with the stolen police car, among other charges.

■ United States

Ring found after decades

Ann Cummings, 69, of Peculiar, Missouri, got a surprise gift for her 50th wedding anniversary: the engagement ring she lost 45 years ago. ``I never thought I'd see that ring again,'' she said. ``I made my husband buy me a metal detector,'' said Cummings, who dug holes all over the yard in a search of the ring. When cards left at Saturday's party were opened, a ring was found. Cummings doesn't know who left it, and she says she doesn't care: ``We have decided that whoever returned it is an angel."