■ Hong KongGang funeral draws crowds
Hundreds of people paid their last respects to a top Hong Kong gangster under the watchful eye of about 200 police officers, a newspaper reported yesterday. Mindful of a possible show of force by gangsters, police took the unusual step of registering the names of mourners for the former gang leader, known as Yan Shuk, and then leading them to the funeral hall in groups of three, the Apple Daily reported. The newspaper ran a photo of mourners wearing black clothing crowding around as officers manning a row of desks took down their information. More than 600 people attended the funeral Sunday night as 200 police officers watched on, the report said.
■ Sri Lanka
Businessman sure of Bush
A Sri Lankan businessman is so confident President George W. Bush will be re-elected this week that he took out full page advertisements in all the island's leading newspapers yesterday to congratulate him. "Honorable Sir, Congratulations for your victory," read the advertisements, with a picture of the grinning businessman next to a picture of Bush waving triumphantly. "I love him... I think he is doing well. I think he is a great president," said ASP Liyanage, managing director of real-estate firm ASP Constructions Private Ltd. Liyanage, who has never set foot in the US, spent one million rupees (US$9,600) on the advertisements -- around 10 years' salary for the average Sri Lankan.
■ Hong Kong
Calligraphy coins it
Chinese calligraphy painted by an elderly Hong Kong man renowned for daubing the streets with meaningless graffiti has sold at auction for HK$55,000 (US$7,050), auction house Sotheby's said yesterday. The sale of the black-ink characters painted on board was the first commercial recognition given to 83-year old Tsang Tsou-choi, who has spent almost five decades covering public spaces with Chinese characters. Tsang calls himself the King of Kowloon -- an area of Hong Kong -- because he believes he is descended from an ancient line of Chinese royalty. He claims the millions of characters he has painted over walls, phone boxes, paving stones and even cars, were the names of descendents stripped of their royal status.
Opposition slams Howard
Australia's opposition called on Prime Minister John Howard yesterday to publicly retract comments he made hoping US President George W. Bush would win the US election. Howard's comment was earlier criticized by a top adviser to Democratic challenger John Kerry as "inappropriate" and interference in the US' domestic affairs. Labor Party foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said, "It is just not in Australia's national interests and in John Howard's case, reflects high levels of arrogance. It is time that John Howard corrected his statements," Rudd said.
■ Hong Kong
Air pollution unacceptable
Environmentalists yesterday handed Hong Kong's government a damning report claiming it has lied about the city's air pollution. Greenpeace said official measurements of smog in the autonomous region were misleading and their own studies showed pollution in some districts was as much as three times the level accepted in other cities. "Hong Kong air quality has exceeded international safety levels by 200 percent over the past nine days," a statement from the organization said.
■ United KingdomPolice hunt duo in attacks
London police were searching yesterday for two teenagers who carried out a series of "violent and random" attacks on people in the popular South Bank area, which ended in the beating to death of one victim. The assaults occurred within a 15-minute period early on Saturday. David Morley, a 37-year-old barman from west London, was beaten by youths who attacked him and a friend as they walked alongside the river at about 3:30am, the police said. Morley was taken to hospital, where he died. Police said they were searching for two teenagers, one white and one black, who were accompanied by two young women.
Thousands of locusts invade
Cyprus was invaded by a swarm of thousands of locusts on yesterday, a rare occurrence on the east Mediterranean island, which left farmers scrambling to protect their crops. Authorities described the insects as "big, pink locusts" which were first detected on the western shores of the island on Sunday and spread inland yesterday. Tests were pending on specimens to identify the insect, thought to have spread on winds from north Africa and attracted by unseasonably hot weather. "It is pink with clear wings with black dots on it. I have never seen this in Cyprus before," said Andreas Kazantzis, a senior officer of the Agriculture Ministry.
■ United Kingdom
Embryos checked for cancer
Parents with inherited forms of cancer have won the right to select embryos free from genes that might trigger the disease in future generations, The Times reported yesterday. Four couples affected by a genetic form of bowel cancer will start the procedure by the end of the year, after the government's fertility watchdog allowed a London clinic to screen in-vitro fertilization (IVF) embryos for the disorder, the paper reported. Infants would otherwise have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the colon cancer. The ruling is bound to deepen the controversy over designer babies.
■ United Kingdom
Abuse policy raises hackles
A proposal that medical professionals should ask all pregnant women whether they are suffering physical abuse at home as a matter of routine antenatal care has provoked controversy. Public Health Minister Melanie Johnson announced the plans at a London conference, citing statistics that around 30 percent of domestic violence either starts or intensifies during pregnancy. Opposition politicians attacked the plans as intrusive and pointless. Conservative Member of Parliament Ann Widdecombe said: "This is carpet-bombing everybody for the sake of getting information about a minority. The Daily Mail tabloid described the pro-posal as "the ultimate in nanny state intrusion." But a member of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) supports the move.
Ruling party wins vote
President Festus Mogae of Botswana and his ruling party are to return to power after having won a majority of seats in the general election in the diamond-rich southern African country, it was announced yesterday. When results late Sunday showed the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) had clinched a majority -- 29 of the 57 constituencies being contested -- Chief Justice Julian Nganunu declared Mogae the winner, allowing Mogae to begin a second five-year term in office.
■ United StatesAlert for northern Europe
The US on Sunday warned citizens living in or passing through the Nordic and Baltic states of possible imminent terrorist attacks in crowded public places in those countries. The State Department, in notices issued by the US embassies in Finland and Latvia, urged Americans to be particularly vigilant in shopping centers and mass transportation hubs in Nordic and Baltic nations. It said the warning should be heeded "especially in centers of ground-based mass transit." A separate but similar notice issued by the US embassy in Riga urged Americans in the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to avoid such shopping and mass transit areas altogether beginning yesterday.
■ United States
Moore posts `observers'
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore announced that he is dispatching 1,200 people to literally watch the polls in today's presidential election in the US. The volunteers will be outfitted with video cameras to record any irregularities that might occur in the battleground states of Florida and Ohio. The well-publicized opponent of President George W. Bush made the award-winning documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, which was released this year and bashed Bush and his decision to go to war in Iraq. In a statement, Moore said he was sending out the observers because he was worried that some voters might be intimidated and their votes suppressed.
Marxist rebels freed four hostages whom they had held in the jungle for as long as three years and four months, relatives of the former captives said. The four former hostages were flown to Neiva, 240km southwest of the capital Bogota, on Sunday aboard a military plane. One of the hostages said their release was unexpected. Anibal Rodriguez, her daughter Natalia and brother-in-law Jaime Brinez were among 16 people who were snatched by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, on July 26, 2001, during a mass kidnapping in Neiva.
Elections strengthen Chavez
Left-wing President Hugo Chavez consolidated political power on Sunday by sweeping to victory in regional elections two months after winning a referendum, according to preliminary results. National Electoral Council director Jorge Rodriguez said partial results showed supporters of the former army officer had captured at least five more states and the greater Caracas mayor's post from opponents. Chavez, a firebrand populist first elected in 1998, has vowed to strengthen his social, land and education reforms for the poor after ousting opposition governors and mayors whom he accuses of backing a brief 2002 coup against him.
Leftists win presidency
Uruguay's Left celebrated its first presidential victory into the wee hours yesterday while partial election returns indicated Tabare Vazquez would win and his main challengers conceded on exit poll results. With half of the votes tallied, the charismatic 64-year-old doctor was just short of the 50 percent needed to win in first-round balloting on Sunday. But he should surpass that level when more votes come in from the capital Montevideo, his stronghold and home to half of the country's voters. Vazquez declared himself winner a few hours after compulsory voting ended in the nation of 3.4 million.