World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

Fri, Jul 30, 2004 - Page 7

■ Philippines

Former hostage testifies

An American missionary kidnapped and held for more than a year by Muslim militants in the Philippines testified against her suspected former captors yesterday in an emotional return to the country. Gracia Burnham, whose husband Martin died in a rescue attempt by troops in June 2002, identified 6 out of 8 suspected members of Abu Sayyaf, which is linked to al-Qaeda, as having taken part in the kidnapping of 3 Americans and 17 Filipinos from a beach resort in 2001.

■ Japan

Fischer gets bigwig backer

An influential Japanese politician said yesterday he has volunteered to be Bobby Fischer's legal guarantor and urged immigration authorities to release the former world chess champion from an airport detention cell where he is being processed for deportation. Ichiji Ishii, a former deputy foreign minister and three-term member of Parliament, said he was volunteering to support Fischer "as a person who likes chess, and as a friend." Fischer was detained after trying to board a plane for the Philippines on July 13 with an invalid passport. "There is no danger of him hiding or disappearing," Ishii said.

■ Australia

Weeping statues are fakes

Two "bleeding and weeping" statues that drew thousands of the faithful to a Vietnamese church in this eastern Australian city are fakes, the Catholic Church said Thursday after investigating them. "The substance that seeped from the artifacts is very like one that is commercially available and it is possible that the substance was applied to them by human hands," Brisbane's Roman Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby said. The church investigation was ordered after thousands of people flocked to the Vietnamese Community Church in Brisbane, believing the statues were miracles.

■ Singapore

Regime shuns conformism

The Singapore government -- which has traditionally emphasized conformity -- is urging young people to rebel. Acting Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Thursday described conditions in the city-state as "over-protective" and said Singaporean youths should visit poorer neighboring states like Malaysia and Indonesia to broaden their horizons, the Straits Times reported. "I would prefer your generation to be rebellious," Khaw told a student group. "If you are just conforming to the social norms, then you are merely following our footpath, which may not be relevant to you." Few citizens speak openly about their views, as speaking up has sometimes met with stern official responses.

■ Germany

TV news quickly forgotten

The next time you watch the news on TV, just remember you are going to forget most of it. According to a study in Germany, most viewers completely forget what they see on the TV news the day before. Seven in 10 people in the survey had forgotten the most important political news item they had seen the previous evening. One top story on German TV news -- about a major company wanting to re-introduce the 40-hour week -- had been forgotten by 98 per cent of those surveyed. The news items people best remember are those with emotional content or which are accompanied by strong pictures, the TV program magazine TV Hoeren und Sehen reported.

■ United States

British MP snubbed

Organizers of the Republican National Convention in New York next month have banned a British Labour parliamentarian on the grounds that he is not conservative enough, British newspapers reported yesterday. "This is the first time this has happened and we are far from pleased," Member of Parliament Alan Williams, chairman of the British-American Parliamentary Group, said. "I find it singularly strange that Labour MPs can be welcomed on the floor of Congress but not at the Republican convention. They said they didn't want any politician who wasn't a conservative on the floor of the convention center," he added.

■ United States

Volcano warning

Noting a swarm of tiny earthquakes beneath volcanic Mount Spurr, scientists have warned that the volcano 130km west of Anchorage could erupt in the next few weeks. Eruptions most often follow a pattern of quakes, said geophysicist John Power of the US Geological Survey, one of three federal and state partners in the Anchorage-based Alaska Volcano Observatory. Power added, however, that the earthquakes will most likely end without an eruption. Mount Spurr was last significantly active in 1992. In an August explosion that year, it spread a thin layer of ash over Anchorage.

■ Canada

No need to strip for visa

The government is denying reports its visa officers are sifting through hundreds of nude photos from women hoping to enter the country to work as strippers and exotic dancers. But immigration officials admit they do require photographic evidence from applicants of their trade -- and say its all done to crack down on trafficking in women. In May, reports from Mexico said immigration officers were ferreting through pictures of strippers to ensure they were bona fide applicants. "We never, never ask for nude photographs," Immigration Canada spokeswoman Maria Iadinardi said. "The applicants are asked to provide evidence that they are professional dancers," she said, adding that photos could be taken in clubs before a performance.

■ United States

Moore film shown near Bush

Hundreds of people gathered in a rural parking lot near US President George W. Bush's Texas ranch on Wednesday to watch Michael Moore's anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, although the filmmaker canceled plans to attend. Sitting before a giant inflatable movie screen, filmgoers from across Texas booed and cheered as Moore's record-setting anti-war film satirically recounted Bush's controversial 2000 election and lambasted his response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and his reasons for going to war in Iraq. Some at the screening booed and catcalled when Moore appeared in the film with his signature baseball hat and blue jeans.

■ United Kingdom

Cleaners tear down artwork

A British local council commissioned work from a local artist to brighten a pedestrian subway before mistakenly cleaning it off later the same day, thinking it was illegal flyer posting, a report said yesterday. Artist Tom Bloor spent nine hours pasting a collage of colorful pop art-style posters onto the subway in Birmingham, central England, as part of a visual arts festival in the city, the Daily Telegraph reported. The work was created with the blessing of the city council, which forgot to inform its cleaning division. After a complaint from a local resident, council cleaners ripped down the still unfinished artwork in the belief the posters were illegal advertising flyers.