■ CambodiaTwo-headed calf idolized
Students were flocking in their hundreds to make offerings of money and incense to the dead body of a two-headed calf in the belief it was a gift from heaven that may increase their brainpower, provincial police said yesterday. Koh Sotin district police chief Yit Yoeun of Kompong Cham province, about 130km north-east of Phnom Penh, said that the calf had been born last Thursday and word had spread quickly that it was a miracle which may help students pass upcoming exams. The calf's owner had packed the animal's body in ice to preserve it for worshippers, who pay anything from a few cents to a few dollars for an audience.
Ecstasy found in oven
Australian police said yesterday they had intercepted the country's largest ever shipment of the party drug ecstasy, hidden in commercial kitchen equipment sent from Poland. Australian Customs and Federal Police said they found 820kg of the drug hidden in compartments of a bakery oven that was shipped from Poland to Australia via Germany on a Malaysian Airlines flight. Two Australian men aged 54 and 32 appeared in a Sydney court over the Oct. 15 drugs haul. An X-ray spotted packages hidden in the wall and base cavities of the oven and an inspection revealed 62 boxes containing about 115kg of powder and about three million tablets weighing 705kg.
Boy falls from plane
The body of a teenage boy who fell from the landing gear of a passenger plane on which he and a friend had stowed away was found on the tarmac soon after the aircraft took off, Chinese state media said yesterday. The boy's 13-year-old companion managed to survive a 700km flight from Yunnan province's capital city Kunming to Chongqing on Thursday by holding tightly onto the landing gear rod. He was found by airport porters after the plane landed from an hour-long flight. The 14-year-old's body was found by tarmac cleaning and transport crews and they alerted airport authorities, Beijing Youth Daily reported.
Princess to marry commoner
Princess Sayako, the 35-year-old only daughter of the Japanese emperor, is set to marry a commoner and leave the imperial family, Japanese media said yesterday. The princess, known informally as Nori, is engaged to marry a Tokyo local government official, 39-year-old Yoshiki Kuroda, next spring, the reports said. The couple both graduated from the private Gakushuin University in Tokyo, and share an interest in wildlife, media said. Nori is the youngest of three children of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.
Miners dug too deep
China's deadliest coal mine explosion in years was caused when the miners dug too deep and poor ventilation allowed gas to build up to dangerous levels, the official Xinhua news agency said yesterday. The gas was ignited by sparks from a running engine, it said, citing the results of an investigation into the accident that killed 148 miners at Daping mine in the central Chinese province of Henan on Oct. 20. "The mine operators failed to realize that further extension of the mine would greatly increase the amount of gas in the tunnel," Xinhua said citing Zhao Tiechui, deputy head of the State Administration of Production Safety. "The inefficient ventilation increased the density of gas," it said, citing the results of the investigation.
■ United StatesSurfer averts shark attack
A surfer who was bumped off his board by a shark was able to push the animal away and paddle back to shore. Brian Kang, 38, was 182m offshore Thursday, waiting for a wave in a popular surfing area near Eureka, when the shark knocked him into the water. The shark came back toward him as he tried to climb back onto the surfboard. "It just came out of the blue," Kang said from his hospital bed, where he was being treated for gashes on his hip, knees and thumb. "I pushed it away with my hands." Kang said he never got a good look at the shark, but another surfer spotted a 1m dorsal fin, which would indicate a great white shark.
A Pakistani was charged in Spain Saturday with financing a terrorist organization and remanded in custody, court officials said. The man, whose identity has not been disclosed, was charged with "cooperating with an armed band to finance a terrorist organization." He was remanded in custody after appearing before Madrid examining magistrate Ismael Moreno, who is conducting investigations into a suspected Islamic extremist cell discovered in September in the northeastern Spanish city of Barcelona. The man charged is suspected of having laundered money for an extremist group, legal officials said.
■ United Kingdom
Conservative politician fired
A spokesman for Conservative Party leader Michael Howard said Boris Johnson, A prominent politician and journalist, had been sacked as the party's vice-chairman and arts spokesman because of articles about his alleged extramarital affair that were due to run yesterday's newspapers. Johnson, 40, appears frequently on television and also edits the weekly Spectator magazine. Relations between Johnson and Howard were strained last month after the Spectator ran an editorial by Johnson criticizing the "extreme reaction" of people in Liverpool to the beheading Ken Bigley, a local man kidnapped in Iraq.
Thief dupes police officers
A swindler posing as the owner of a jewelry store outside Paris managed to steal a set of luxury pens and watches with the unwitting help of local police and a locksmith, police said on Saturday. Claiming to be the owner of a jewelry store a few blocks away, a 30-year-old man called in at the police station in Enghien-les-Bains, a small town northwest of Paris, at around midnight on Saturday last week. The man, identified only as Yves, told the officers he had lost his keys and needed their help to get into the shop. They kindly obliged, calling in a locksmith to pry open the door.
■ United States
Bogus `W' bill fools woman
A case of funny money has ended happily for a woman who had been charged with passing a bogus US$200 bill with President George W. Bush's picture on it. Prosecutors dropped all charges Friday against Deborah Trautwine, 51, after she paid the store in real currency. Trautwine "wasn't aware that it ... wasn't actual legal tender," her attorney said. A clerk at a Fashion Bug clothing store also thought the bill was real and gave Trautwine US$100.58 in change from her August purchase. There is no US$200 denomination bill, even without Bush's picture on it.
■ IraqGovernment official killed
Gunmen have ambushed and killed a senior official of the Iraqi Communist Party in northern Iraq, a colleague said. Four cars followed Waddah Hassan Abdel Amir, a member of Iraq's provisional national assembly and two of his aides, from the city of Khalis and attacked them on Saturday evening on the road to Arbil, Kurdistan Communist Party official Ali Zanka said. He said several others were hurt in a car crash caused by the attack. Insurgents bent on under-mining Iraq's American-backed interim government have carried out a campaign of assassinations against public officials they see as collaborating with the US occupation of the country.
Tourist stabbed in robbery
A 61-year-old Japanese tourist was in serious condition Saturday after being stabbed and then hit by a car while trying to escape from robbers in the upscale Copacabana district in Rio de Janeiro, authorities said. Yoshiko Magoshi was attacked Friday night by eight men while walking with her husband along the city's famous Copacabana beach, said Claudia Guerreiro, a spokes-woman for Rio's public safety secretary. Magoshi was stabbed in the stomach, then struck by a car after running into heavy traffic on one of the tourist district's main avenues at about 7:30pm, Guerreiro said.
Evidence of Atlantis found
An American researcher on the trail of the lost city of Atlantis has discovered evidence of man-made structures submerged in the sea between Cyprus and Syria, a member of his team said on Saturday. Robert Sarmast, who is convinced the fabled city lurks in the watery depths off Cyprus, was set to give details of his findings yesterday. "Something has been found to indicate very strongly that there are man-made structures somewhere between Cyprus and Syria," a spokesperson for the mission told reporters. The mystery of Atlantis, both whether it existed and why it disappear-ed, has fired the imagination of explorers for decades.
Palestinians can carry guns
Officials have decided to allow Palestinian security forces to continue carrying guns in public, military sources said Saturday, in a move aimed at building goodwill with the new Palestinian leadership. Israel barred Palestinian security forces from carrying guns in early 2002 after a large Israeli offensive into the West Bank, launched in response to a deadly suicide bombing. With rare exceptions, any Palestinian carrying a weapon risked being shot by Israeli soldiers. Israel lifted the ban ahead of Palestinian Yasser Arafat's burial, which was attended by tens of thousands of people Friday.
■ United States
Cheney leaves hospital
US Vice President Dick Cheney, who has a history of heart attacks, went to a Washington hospital on Saturday after experiencing shortness of breath but later left for home and said he was fine. Cheney, 63, has had a cold and aides said his cardiologist, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, advised him to visit George Washington University Hospital out of an abundance of caution. Reiner later issued a statement ruling out "any cardiac cause" of Cheney's symptoms and also ruled out pneumonia and lung problems. "The vice president likely has a viral, upper respiratory infection," Reiner said in a statement. Walking toward his motorcade as he departed the hospital, Cheney told reporters, "I feel fine."