World News Quick Take


Thu, Jul 15, 2004 - Page 7

■ South Korea

Cyber-attack discovered

South Korea's spy agency said yesterday that important government data may have been stolen during a spate of recent cyber attacks launched from China. The attacks were considered a serious threat to South Korea's national security and the Chinese government has been urged to carry out its own investigation, South Korea's National Intelligence Service said. Hackers had broken into 211 computers at 10 government agencies, including the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses and the Agency for Defense Development, using a variation of the Peep Trojan hacking program, which had been written by 30-year-old Taiwanese Wang Ping-an (王平安).

■ Australia

Radioactive dump scrapped

The Australian government was forced yesterday to abandon plans for a national radioactive waste dump on a remote outback site as the political price proved too high in election year. The site was to have been built on a sheep station acquired for the purpose near Woomera in South Australia, but after months of wrangling with state authorities, Prime Minister John Howard said his government had dropped the plan. The decision came after Howard's Liberal colleagues expressed fears over the electoral implications of foisting the dump on South Australia, in which three key marginal seats are under threat at the election due by the end of this year.

■ China

Trial starts in gas leak case

China yesterday began the trial of six people accused of negligence for contributing to an explosion and leakage of toxic gas that killed 243 people and injured thousands in southwestern China last December. The Chongqing City No.2 Intermediate People's Court opened the trial of the director of the gas well, a technician and four engineers, a court official said. The hearing is expected to last three days and follows a police investigation that concluded the six accused "should bear responsibility for the accident because of their dereliction of duty," state media said. The government has already said negligence caused the explosion.

■ China

Get off of my cloud

A storm is brewing in China as drought-plagued regions accuse each other of stealing clouds for rain-seeding.

With the help of modern technology, scientists can fire rockets filled with various substances into light, fluffy clouds to make them rain. "But the practice has caused considerable controversy in recent days, with some saying that one area's success with rain has meant taking moisture meant for one place and giving it to another," the China Daily said yesterday. The row over rainclouds was particularly heated in several cities in Henan Province.

■ Malaysia

Jailed leader hospitalized

Jailed former deputy leader Anwar Ibrahim was rushed to a hospital after developing neurological problems that government doctors insist require urgent surgery, Anwar's family and associates said yesterday. Anwar's deteriorating health stems from a long-standing back injury and nerve damage that have prompted his spinal canal to narrow and kidneys to swell, said Anwar's wife, Azizah Ismail. Physicians at the state-run Kuala Lumpur Hospital recommend an operation "immediately if possible" to relieve pressure on Anwar's spinal nerves and curb further health disorders.

■ United Kingdom

`Hijackers' can stay

Nine Afghans who stood trial for a hijacking at Stansted Airport outside London have won the right to stay in Britain, officials said on Tuesday. The men

were jailed for hijacking an Afghan Ariana Boeing 727 in February 2000, but they had their convictions overturned by Britain's Court of

Appeal last summer. The Immigration Appellate Authority has now ruled that returning the nine men to Afghanistan would breach their human rights, officials said. The Home Office expressed "disappointment" at the decision, and a spokesman there said that Home Secretary David Blunkett would appeal it.

■ United States

DNA solves old murders

DNA evidence has linked a convicted murderer to the killings of three women nearly 18 years ago, Maryland police said. Alexander Watson Jr., 34, was charged on Monday with first-degree murder for strangling two mothers and a high school freshman. In each case, he lived at the time just a few doors from his victims, according to court documents. All three were stabbed multiple times. DNA evidence collected at the three other crime scenes and a DNA sample from Watson entered into a statewide database were critical to the new charges, police said.

■ Canada

Blind excel at picking pitch

Infants who go blind at a very young age develop musical abilities that are measurably better than those who lose their sight later in life or retain full vision, a new study found. Scientists at Canada's University of Montreal have found that blind people are also up to 10 times better

at discerning pitch changes than the sighted -- but only when they went blind before the age of two. "It is well known that you have great musicians that are blind,

and a lot of piano tuners

are blind. But until this study there was no quantifiable evidence to demonstrate that blind people were indeed better," lead researcher Pascal Belin said.

■ France

Kohl aide arrested

Police on Tuesday arrested a former close aide to German ex-chancellor Helmut

Kohl who is wanted in his

home country on suspicion

of corruption and who disappeared five years ago, German and French officials said. Holger Pfahls, who served under Kohl as secretary of state for

defense from 1989 to 1992, is suspected of tax fraud and of taking nearly 2 million euros (US$2.4 million) in bribes in connection with the sale of 36 armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia. Pfahls is alleged to have taken the money during the 1991 Gulf War in helping German industrial giant Thyssen obtain a contract.

It was never declared to German tax authorities.

■ Mexico

Chips implanted in officials

Mexico's attorney general and other senior staff

have had computer chips implanted in their arms to serve both as an identity device and a tracking mechanism should they be kidnapped. Rafael Macedo de la Concha said similar non-removable chips had been inserted under the skin of senior staff in his office and the 160 employees of

a new state-of-the-art crime database. Macedo did not seem particularly concerned about getting his arm chopped off in consequence, perhaps because he already believes he is risking his life. The primary function of the chip was to control access to the center to prevent sensitive information being leaked to criminal gangs.

■ United States

`Astronomical' rain falls

A freakish midsummer deluge that pounded parts of southern New Jersey forced more than 750 people to flee their flooded homes Tuesday and left a landscape of burst dams, damaged bridges and debris-filled roads throughout Burlington County. No deaths or serious injuries were reported after the storm, which drenched the area in 33cm of rain Monday night and early Tuesday, but meteorologists were awed. Roy Miller, with the National Weather Service, described the rainfall as "kind of astronomical" for a 24-hour period.

■ United States

Ban on gay marriage stalls

A White House-backed drive to amend the US Constitution to ban same-sex marriage headed toward an election-year defeat on Capitol Hill yesterday. While two-thirds of the 100-member US Senate must approve a constitutional amendment, Republicans scrambled to get a simple majority. And they admitted they did not have the 60 votes needed to survive a procedural vote set for yesterday. Republicans, accused by Democrats of pushing the measure merely to rally their socially conservative base for the November elections, vowed to try again -- perhaps next year. "This issue is not going away," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican.

■ Saudi Arabia

Textbooks scorn religions

Saudi schoolchildren are being taught to disparage Christianity and Judaism in a textbook issued by the education ministry, a report said on Tuesday. The book forms part of the kingdom's revised curriculum -- supposedly cleaned up after complaints that demonizing the west had become endemic in Saudi schools. A lesson for six-year-olds reads: "All religions other than Islam are false." A note for teachers says they should "ensure to explain" this point. The Saudi Institute, a Washington-based pro-reform group, said yesterday the book, Monotheism and Fiqh, contradicted the Koran.

■ United Kingdom

Jail for accidental eunuch

A British man who accidentally shot himself in the testicles after drinking 15 pints of beer was jailed for five years on Tuesday for possessing an illegal firearm, a court spokesman said. David Walker, 28, was arguing with a friend at a pub in South Yorkshire, northern England, when he went home to get his sawn-off shotgun, which he jammed into his trousers. But as he walked back to the pub, the gun went off, blasting pellets into his testicles. After the shotgun had discharged he placed it in a rubbish bin and crawled back to his home address. "This was an isolated incident -- an aberration," Walker's lawyer, Gulzar Syed said. "It was out of character for him in a state when he had been drinking."

■ United States

Nuclear fuel rods `found'

Two highly radioactive pieces of spent nuclear fuel were found where they belong, in the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant's spent fuel pool, three months after they were reported missing. The discovery was made by engineers using a special tool to open a container in the pool, which houses thousands of spent nuclear fuel assemblies from the plant's 32 years of operation, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman said. Two earlier robotic searches of the pool had failed to turn up the container. Its existence became known last week when investigators found a record at a General Electric laboratory in California.