■ EgyptIntact mummy found
A Japanese research team has found "a perfect mummy" in an unrobbed Egyptian tomb believed to be more than 3,500 years old, the team's leader said. The mummy was in a sealed wooden coffin unearthed in the archeological site of Dahshur North in northern Egypt, said Sakuji Yoshi-mura, who headed the team from Tokyo's Waseda Uni-versity. The mummified man was believed to be from a period 3,500-4,000 years ago, older than the era of Tutan-khamen, the pharaoh of ancient Egypt who ruled in 1336-1327 BC, Yoshimura said. The mummy, wearing a mask painted blue and red, was of high academic value as it was "a perfect mummy that has escaped robbery and other damage," he said, adding that the hieroglyphics showed the mummified man was an administrative officer.
Film Festival gains ground
The Bangkok International Film Festival has drawn welcome attention to Thai-land, shining a spotlight on its movie industry and attracting revenue to supplement its tourist sector. Alongside the festival, whose third edition wraps up tomorrow, runs a successful film market which was launched by organizers last year. The market, which opened on Monday and closed on Friday, was set in the five-star Shangri La hotel, where festival-goers were feted and filmmakers held press conferences, creating an ideal mixing-ground for the two events. "It is already a smash hit, we have more than tripled attendance over last year and have three times as many firms exhibiting," market director Christine Rush said.
Damaged tanker leaks oil
An oil tanker leaked thousands of tonnes of diesel oil into a river in Vietnam's rice basket Mekong Delta region but damage from the spill seemed limited after the remaining oil was trans-ferred to other ships, state media said yesterday. Oil spilled from the vessel, named as the Liberian-registered Kasco Monrovia, after it crashed into a pier at Catlai Port on the Dong Nai river in southern Vietnam on Friday, causing disruption to river traffic. The tanker was carrying 30,000 tonnes of diesel oil for state-owned oil importer Saigon Petrol. Officials said they had dispatched nine vessels to the area in an effort to contain the leak.
More dope, Ecstacy seized
Japanese customs officials seized record amounts of marijuana and Ecstasy last year amid rising illegal drug use and heightened crack-downs, the Finance Ministry said on Friday. Officials confiscated 889kg of marijuana last year, 16 percent more than the year before, the ministry said in a statement. International post was the favored method for smuggling marijuana, but inspectors also blocked an attempt to sneak in a 60kg stash hidden in a suitcase on a container vessel from Hong Kong. Ecstasy seizures reached a record high for the sixth straight year at 429,000 tablets, mostly from the Netherlands and France.
US send new envoy
US President George W. Bush on Friday named Thomas Schieffer, the current US ambassador to Australia, as the next envoy to Japan, the White House said. Schieffer, a Texan and close friend of Bush, will take over from current ambassador, Howard Baker, who is expected to retire. The 57-year-old Schieffer was appointed ambassador to Australia in August 2001, after Bush first won the presidency.
■ FranceDiet baguette to hit stores
To combat a growing problem of obesity in France, a new baguette for slimmers is to be launched next week in boulangeries across the country. The "Optimatin" loaf has the same refined taste as a classic baguette but contains a unique combination of grains and fibres that staves off hunger for longer, according to to its inventor, food scientist Claude Godard. "I discovered that nine out of 10 obese people who came to see me do not eat breakfast," explains Godard who has a dietary consultancy in the eastern town of Chalon-sur-Saone. "But a substantial breakfast based on bread actually worked in reducing their appetite later in the day."
■ South Africa
40 legislators to be charged
Forty members of South Africa's parliament implicated in a travel scam will be charged with fraud and appear in court next week, officials said on Friday. Prosecutors say they suspect the MPs of misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of parliamentary travel privileges, including vouchers for free air travel designed to enable them to return to visit their constituencies. "We've decided to prosecute 40 members of parliament," said Sipho Ngwema, spokesman for the elite Scorpions crime unit.
Bardot rips bear hunts
French former film star and now ardent animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot has condemned Greenland's plans to organize polar bear hunts for wealthy tourists. "I have been fighting for years to stop the ice shelf being stained with the blood of thousands of seals shamelessly exterminated in Canada and Norway," she wrote in an open letter dated Thursday to Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, of which Greenland is a dependent territory. "Your country also seems to want to leave its stamp on the ice shelf by causing the blood of these innocent bears to flow, bears whose survival is already threatened by global warming," Bardot said.
Singles site focuses on food
A German website for singles showed off its wares Friday with a dating service inspired by the motto the way to a man's (or woman's) heart is through the stomach. "Get to know friendly cooking enthusiasts in the neighborhood quick and easy, for hot cooking parties or romantic culinary dates," says the site, called "Cooking on your own is stupid" (Alleine-kochen-ist-doof.de). The recently started enterprise already has more than 11,000 members aged between 18 and 71, said site manager Tim Schaefer, presenting the service during Green Week, the annual Berlin agriculture and food fair.
Bribery how-to regretted
The Finnish government on Friday said it regretted sponsoring a book giving detailed examples of how to bribe Russian officials and businessmen published by the Finnish-Russian Chamber of Commerce. "We would say that the book really encourages bribing, and we are absolutely of the opinion that one must not allow instructions on bribing to be published in an instruction manual we are supporting financially," Bo Goeran Eriksson, head of the trade department of the Trade and Industry Ministry, told reporters.
■ NorwayDevil's in the details
A hand gesture by US President George W. Bush was lost in translation in Norway, where many viewers watching his inauguration thought it was a salute to the devil. But in reality, it was just a sign of respect for the University of Texas Longhorns, whose fans are known to shout out Hook 'em, horns!'' at athletic events. The president and family were photographed lifting their right hands with their index and pinky fingers raised up, much like a pair of horns during Thursday's inaugural. In Scandinavia, the hand gesture is popular among death metal groups and fans as a salute to the devil. "Shock greeting from Bush daughter," a headline in the Norwegian Nettavisen said above a photograph of Bush's daughter, Jenna, smiling and showing the sign.
The unwilling place an ad
A group of Icelanders slammed their government's support of the US-led war in Iraq, apologizing to Iraqis for Icelandic ministers' support for the war in a full-page advertisement in The New York Times on Friday. The advertisement, paid for with donations from more than 4,000 citizens -- about 1.4 percent of the population -- demanded "that Iceland be immediately removed from the list of invaders in the `coalition of the willing'." Four out of five Icelanders want their country off the list, according to a Gallup poll. Prime Minister Halldor Asgrimsson and Oddsson have come under fire for signing up Iceland as a coalition partner without consulting parliament.
Move over, Lolita
The real-life sexual exploits of a Sicilian schoolgirl which has shocked Roman Catholic Italy are about to hit the big screen. The film is based on a book, 100 Strokes of a Brush Before Bed -- which is symbolic of what Paranello did to purify herself. It is a diary of sexual awakening that allegedly took place when Melissa Paranello was 15 and 16 and which she secretly wrote in her family garage. The book, with tales of group sex on her 16th birthday and an affair, among others, has sold more than 1 million copies in Italy since 2003. The church has slammed it as pure smut and Italian commentators have accused her of chronicling more sexual fantasy than reality.
■ United States
Costco sells fine art
Giant US retailer Costco is famous for selling cheap products in bulk, but the latest item to fly off its shelves was a one-off original Picasso drawing offered on Costco's website, which sold for US$40,000 dollars. The drawing was signed and dated Nov. 29, 1970, and was authenticated by Picasso's daughter Maya, who is widely considered the final authority on her father's work. The report said Costco -- which in the past has sold lithographs and prints by celebrated artists such as Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse -- now plans to increase and diversify its offering of fine art, although it has one stipulation: no nudity.
■ United Kingdom
Top British eateries noted
Superchef and television star Gordon Ramsay, known for his "Hell's Kitchen" reality cooking shows both in Britain and the US, was joined by Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck and the Alain Roux of the Waterside Inn, both in the village of Bray-on-Thames, west of London as the best restaurateurs in Britain, according to the Michelin guide. Asian cuisine got a boost with mentions, too.