World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

Fri, Aug 06, 2004 - Page 7

■ China

Stabber feared loss of job

A mentally ill janitor who stabbed 15 children and at least three teachers in a Beijing kindergarten was afraid of losing his job, state media said yesterday. The 52-year-old suspect, Xu Heping, is now in police custody after going on the rampage on Wednesday at the kindergarten affiliated with the Peking University No. 1 Hospital. One child has died from neck injuries. The official China Daily newspaper said the kindergarten was due to close in September, and quoted some witnesses as saying Xu feared losing his part-time job.

■ Pakistan

Army helicopter crashes

A Pakistani army helicopter with about 16 people aboard crashed yesterday in a remote northwestern tribal region that has been the scene of sporadic fighting with foreign militants and their local supporters, police and a senior army official said. Authorities have recovered at least four bodies from the crash site, said Inayat Ullah, a police official in Karak. He did not know if there were any survivors, but said they believe about 16 people were on board. Another police officer, Naseer Mohammed, said the helicopter caught fire after the crash and that several bodies might still be inside the wreckage.

■ China

Jail sentence in milk case

A Chinese man was sentenced yesterday to eight years in jail in what is believed to be the first conviction in a scandal over the widespread sale of potentially lethal baby milk powder, the supreme court said. Li Xindao, a shopkeeper in Taolao township of eastern Anhui province, was convicted of selling a sub-standard formula that caused the death of a four-month-old girl in December last year, the court said on its website. "Acting out of a profit motive, he deliberately sold food products that he knew did not conform with the standards," the county court in nearby Linquan City said in its ruling.

■ Thailand

Police targeted in attacks

A suspected Islamic militant shot to death a retired police sergeant and a bomb exploded outside the home of a police captain in separate attacks yesterday in Thailand's restive Muslim-dominated south, officials said. The 60-year-old retired sergeant, a Muslim, was shot twice by a gunman on a motorbike in the Yaring district of Pattani province, said police Colonel Suthon Distayabutr. In neighboring Narathiwat province, a time bomb exploded in a truck parked outside the house of the police captain, police said. The bomb was timed to explode in the morning when the captain usually takes the vehicle to work. However, he took a motorbike instead and no one was injured in the blast.

■ Hong Kong

Food poisoning cases rise

Food poisoning cases have rocketed in Hong Kong as safeguards rigidly followed after last year's SARS outbreak are quietly forgotten, figures suggested yesterday. Food poisoning cases affecting one or more people have shot up by more than 80 percent compared to 2003 according to the Department of Health. And more people are being struck down, with a 60 percent increase in the number of people affected by food poisoning. Health officials were yesterday investigating two new outbreaks in Hong Kong hotels affecting a total of nearly 100 people. The city of 6.8 million saw 268 food poisoning cases in the first six months of the year, up 82 percent more than the 117 reported during the same period last year.

■ United States

Los Alamos lab suspends 4

Four Los Alamos National Laboratory workers have been put on paid leave in a probe into two missing computer disks containing classified information, officials said. Lab Director Pete Nanos' action brings to 23 the number of workers suspended in a security scandal that has brought a halt to classified work and cast doubt on the 61-year-old lab's future. Last month, Nanos suspended 19 workers: 15 in connection with the missing disks and four others as part of a probe into how a lab intern suffered a serious eye injury from a laser. Beyond announcing the latest suspensions on Wednesday, Nanos declined to comment on the FBI's role or whether criminal charges are possible. ``I don't want to put anything out I can't stand behind,'' he said.

■ United States

Conjoined twins separated

Two-year-old twins from the Philippines who were joined at the tops of their heads were surgically separated on Wednesday, a hospital spokesman said in New York. Doctors teased apart abutting portions of Carl and Clarence Aguirre's brains after completing an incision around their skull, said Steve Osborne of Montefiore Medical Center. The boys survived, and doctors, nurses and technicians applauded in the operating room, Osborne said. The surgery continued after the separation. Doctors planned to reconstruct a membrane that covered the boys' brains and then cover their heads with skin.

■ United States

Lawn defender gets prison

A man who attacked a letter carrier because he walked on his lawn was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison on Wednesday. Arthur Parker, 30, of Old Bridge, New Jersey, was charged with assaulting a federal employee and pleaded guilty in May. Parker became angry after letter carrier Kevin Ward walked on his lawn while making a delivery. Parker drove to confront Ward about 3km away, punching him twice in the face. Ward, 50, was taken a hospital and underwent reconstructive surgery. Ward said on Wednesday that he contin-ues to have dizziness and headaches as a result of the attack.

■ United Kingdom

Falling chainsaw kills wife

A London man pruning a tree with a chainsaw fell from his ladder, landing on his wife and fatally injuring her, police said on Wednesday. "It was a really tragic accident. He is obviously in a great deal of shock," a police spokesman said. They said the 56-year-old man, who has not been named, was cutting back a tree outside their home in the London suburb of Eltham when he fell. His wife died instantly. The man was reported to be in a hospital being treated for shock.

■ Austria

Spa offers chocolate bath

An Austrian health spa is giving chocolate lovers a chance to take the ultimate plunge. Bad Eisenkappel, a spa in southwestern Austria, is drawing visitors with a relaxing soak in a tub filled with melted chocolate, Austrian television reported on Wednesday. Nina Sabitzer, a cosmetologist at the spa, told state broadcaster ORF the baths include cocoa butter, which she said helps protect skin from developing wrinkles. Although clients are encouraged to splash around, "we don't let them eat any -- it's too fattening," she said.

■ Denmark

Officer denies abuse claim

A Danish intelligence officer on Wednesday denied allegations she had abused prisoners during interrogations at the Danish headquarters in southern Iraq. Reserve Captain Annemette Hommel, 37, who is under investigation by army auditors, told Danish TV2 that the complaints against her were groundless. "I'm frankly a person who is very cautious when it comes to other people's rights. There is absolutely no substance to these allegations," Hommel said. Hommel was sent home last week from Iraq, before her tour of duty was up, after former unit colleagues complained about the way she interrogated prisoners. Danish media said Iraqi prisoners were allegedly denied water during questioning and forced to hold stressful positions for extended periods of time. The military would not confirm the allegations.

■ Canada

Russian subs to be scrapped

Canada has agreed to spend US$18.3 million (C$24.4 million) to help Russia scrap three Cold War-vintage nuclear submarines, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew announced on Wednesday. The agreement says Canada will eventually help dismantle 12 of the Victor-class subs at a cost of more than US$75 million (C$100 million). "Spent nuclear fuel in Russian submarine reactors presents an international security risk and an environmental threat to the Arctic and Barents Sea," Pettigrew said. "Funding this initiative is a key element of our international security agenda."

■ United Kingdom

Kids say Gandalf beat Spain

Many British youngsters think J.J.R. Tolkien's wizard Gandalf, fictional sailor Horatio Hornblower or explorer Christopher Columbus led English forces that defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, according to a survey published on Wednesday. Less than half identified Sir Francis Drake as a key figure in one of the most famous sea battles in British history, the poll for the BBC showed.

More than a fifth of 16- to 24-year-olds thought Britain had been conquered by the Germans, the Americans or the Spanish at some point, the poll found.

■ Saudi Arabia

Landmark polls postponed

The staging of municipal elections across Saudi Arabia, the first such polls here in decades, will begin in November instead of September as scheduled, the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday. SPA said the local council elections in the region of Riyadh, the capital, have been pushed back to November so as not to clash with the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which begins mid-October. Polls in other Saudi municipalities will be held over two stages late this year and early 2005 so they don't coincide with the hajj -- or pilgrimage -- season, which begins 40 days after Ramadan ends.

■ United Kingdom

Herpes could cure tumors

Scientists in the UK have been given the go-ahead for one of the biggest ever gene therapy trials to investigate whether a modified form of the cold sore virus could save people with brain tumors. The new treatment involves injecting a form of the herpes virus directly into the brain of patients with tumors. The virus has been altered genetically so that it replicates inside the cancer cells and kills them off, but leaves the normal brain cells unharmed. The first patients who received the treatment years ago are still alive today, despite being told at the time that they had only months to live.