World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

Sat, Dec 25, 2004 - Page 7

■ Hong KongMan swallows heroin

A drug smuggler arrested in Hong Kong had swallowed 80 condoms filled with heroin, customs officials said yesterday. The 33-year-old man from Sierra Leone swallowed 1.5kg of heroin worth US$550,000 in 80 condoms, each containing 20g of the drug. He is believed to have been paid around US$3,000 to smuggle the drugs and was waiting for a flight to China when he was arrested Wednesday, a customs spokesman said. The haul, discovered after a tip-off, is the biggest ever internally concealed quantity of drugs discovered by customs officers in Hong Kong. The tip-off and intelligence was provided by UK customs officials, the spokesman added.

■ China

Men get death for smuggling

China has sentenced two Hong Kong men to death for smuggling 36 million yuan (US$4.3 million) worth of VCD player components into southeast Xiamen city, state media said yesterday. The defendants Fang Canshen and Wang Rurong were among 15 people sentenced, including three customs department officials, in Xiamen city, Fujian province Thursday, the China News Service said. Fang was sentenced to death while Wang was given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, which is often reduced to life imprisonment. A Xiamen customs official was jailed for life while the other 12 were imprisoned for up to 13 years.

■ Hong Kong

Priest goes free

A former Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy in the 1970s in Hong Kong walked free yesterday after a judge dropped the case, saying it would be impossible to have a fair trial over the decades-old matter. Government prosecutor Steve Chui said the victim, now 42, was very disappointed with the ruling. "He was very emotional and was crying," Chui said, adding that the Department of Justice will study the ruling before considering whether to appeal.

■ China

Bridge to Hainan planned

China is considering building a 22.5km long bridge linking tropical Hainan island in its south to China, state media reported Friday. Hainan is planning to initiate a feasibility study with a firm proposal to be handed to the Ministry of Communications for review no later than mid-next year, the China Daily said.When another cross-sea bridge is built to connect China's Zhuhai Special Economic Zone with Hong Kong, it would take only three hours for vehicles from Hainan to Hong Kong, the newspaper said. The Zhuhai-Hong Kong bridge is now in its final stage of feasibility studies. Construction of the project is expected to start in two years.

■ United KingdomBBC staffers get door advice

Staff at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) have been given instructions on how to walk through a door, a tabloid newspaper reported yesterday. The Sun, Britain's biggest selling daily newspaper, reported that workers at the global broadcaster's offices in Birmingham, central England, had been issued with a memo advising them on how to get through a revolving door. An email, sent to 800 staff -- complete with matchstick man diagrams for ease of understanding -- comes after one worker trapped her foot in the new doors at the BBC's offices in Britain's second city, cracking a toenail, The Sun said.

■ United Kingdom

British worst at languages

Britons are the worst in Europe when it comes to speaking a foreign language, and fewer people from Britain can speak another language than any other country in Europe. Britain comes bottom of the pile of 28 countries surveyed in European Union data, in which 1,000 people from each country were interviewed and the percentages able to speak a particular foreign language added together. Britain scored a ranking of just 34, behind Hungary (35) and neighboring Ireland (39). Luxembourg performed best with 244 ranking points, followed by the Netherlands (159) and Denmark (154).

■ United Kingdom

Stabber was mentally ill

A man who went on the rampage through the streets of London, randomly stabbing one man to death and leaving five other people seriously injured, has a history of mental illness, police said Thursday. The man drove across 15.5km2 area of north London at the height of the morning rush hour, stopping and stabbing victims at random in six locations. The hour-long series of attacks left one 58-year-old man dead and three others people needing surgery after suffering life-threatening wounds. The attacks ended only after police traced the suspect from the registered address of the car he was using.

■ United States

Bush mulls Sudan sanctions

US President George W. Bush signed legislation into law on Thursday that urges him to freeze the assets of Sudanese officials and government-run businesses to protest the violence in Darfur. The administration said it was considering whether to act on the proposed sanctions. Relief convoys are being attacked in Sudan's western Darfur region and peace talks stalled while 1.8 million people have been forced to leave their homes. The Africa Union is deploying monitors and troops but is still far short of the 3,300 personnel expected.

■ United Kingdom

Queen's cousin banned

Britain's Duke of Gloucester, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, has his presidency of a motoring organization on the line after being banned for speeding, a daily newspaper reported yesterday. Membership of the Institute of Advanced Motorists is automatically revoked if members lose their driving licence, The Times said. The duke was handed a six-month driving ban and fined ?60 pounds (US$115) with ?35 in costs by a court in Ely, eastern England, after being caught by a speed camera driving at 113kph in a 97kph zone. "I don't recall the offence so I don't really know what the circumstances were," said the duke.

■ United StatesKuwaiti freed from prison

US authorities are releasing one of 11 Kuwaiti detainees held at a military detention center for terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a group of family members and a lawyer. Nasser al-Mutairi is a 26-year-old employee of the Kuwaiti Education Ministry whose family says he was teaching English in Afghanistan when he was captured three years ago. He is expected home soon aboard a special plane sent by the Kuwaiti government, said Kalid al-Odha, the father of another Kuwaiti detainee. US. military officials declined to comment, citing Defense Department policy that requires a detainee to no longer be in US custody before his or her case can be discussed.

■ United States

Ship found partially sunk

Days after violent storms forced cleanup crews to leave a freighter that split apart, a salvage team returned to find the bow section had sunk, likely spilling another 666,200 liters of oil near an environ-mentally sensitive area of Unalaska Island. Crews still plan to unload more than 302,800 liters of fuel from tanks in the stern of the Selendang Ayu. But the three biggest tanks -- totaling 1.2 million liters of oil -- are believed to be ruptured and the fuel inside lost, Coast Guard Petty Officer Sara Francis said Thursday. The ship was split in two after running aground Dec. 8 in the Aleutian chain. The 225m freighter was carrying soybeans, 1.6 million liters of fuel oil and 68,135 liters of diesel.

■ United states

Asbestos bosses convicted

A father and son were sentenced Thursday to long prison terms after being convicted of running a statewide asbestos-removal operation that prosecutors said exposed countless people, especially their employees, to potentially fatal lung diseases. Alexander Salvagno, 38, received 25 years in federal prison. His father, Raul Salvagno, 72, who worked as a partner at their corporation, AAR Contractors of Albany, received a sentence of 19 years and seven months. Craig Benedict, the assistant US attorney who prosecuted the case, said the sentences were the longest ever handed down for an environmental crime. The Salvagnos were also ordered to pay more than US$23 million to victims.

■ United kingdom

Brit to write for `Simpsons'

Springfield, the garish home of the American cartoon family The Simpsons, is a long way from Slough, west of London. But the two towns will be linked next year in the form of Ricky Gervais, aka David Brent of the hit TV comedy The Office, who said Thursday he had been asked to write for the American series. Matt Groening, a fan of British comedy in general and The Office in particular, asked Gervais to write an episode after meeting him in Los Angeles last year when the British comedy won two Golden Globe awards.

■ United states

FDA warns against painkiller

The Food and Drug Administration recommended Thursday that doctors limit prescriptions for the popular pain pills Celebrex and Bextra because recent studies have suggested that they may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The agency's advisory did not ban prescriptions of the drugs for any group of patients, instead simply telling doctors to use their best judgment in light of those studies. Indeed, it said patients who were at high risk of gastrointestinal bleeding or had done poorly on other pain pills "may be appropriate candidates" for Celebrex and Bextra.