World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

Thu, Feb 24, 2005 - Page 7

■ Hong Kong

Boy chokes on `lucky' coin

A "lucky" coin hidden inside a dumpling nearly choked a schoolboy to death in western China when it lodged firmly in his throat, a news report said yesterday. The boy, 8, swallowed the coin at a family's Lunar New Year feast in Chongqing as part of an old Chinese tradition. Whoever finds the coin is supposed to have good luck in the Lunar New Year, according to the tradition. The Year of the Rooster began this month. The choking boy was rushed to hospital where doctors saved him and told the family he would have died if they had arrived three minutes later, the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily reported.

■ Australia

Monster eel wreaks havoc

A monster eel is proving its pulling power as a tourist attraction at an Australian fish farm, but manager Gary Wales reckoned the 3m interloper is eating more than any profit it brings in. Wales told the national broadcaster ABC yesterday that a bounty of A$1,000 (US$750) would be paid to anyone who caught the fish alive and unharmed. The eel, which weighs up to 100kg and has a head the size of a football, is chomping through trout at Tommy Finn's Trout Farm at a worrying rate. Wales said he believes the eel was washed into the trout farm during Melbourne's wettest day ever earlier this month. Melbour-ne Aquarium curator Nick Kirby said long-finned eels grow in proportion to the amount they eat.

■ Thailand

Monk glues eyes shut

Thai doctors have restored the sight of an elderly Buddhist monk who accidently glued his eyes shut when he mistook a tube of super glue for eyedrops, a news report said yesterday. During a two-hour operation on Tuesday, doctors at Angthong Hospital restored sight in the right eye of 81-year-old Monk Prapatwor-akhun. Last week, the monk accidently applied super glue taken from his temple's drug cabinet to his eyes thinking it was a tube of eyedrop solution, The Nation newspaper reported. His eyes were immediately glued shut after the mistake occurred on Feb. 17 in Angthong, 180km north of Bangkok. Eye specialist Doctor Banjob Nimitporn-sukho said they had used an acetone solvent to remove the glue from the monk's right eye without harming the cornea and would perform a similar operation today on the left eye that was still sealed.

■ Malaysia

State to build `happy toilets'

A Malaysian state plans to build new public toilets equipped with soft, background music and newspapers for people to enjoy while using the bathroom. Officials announced that "Happy and Healthy Toilets" would be installed in popular spots in the northeastern state of Kelantan, the Star daily reported yesterday. State public administration official Takiyuddin Hassan said the toilets, to be completed within three months, would have soothing music as well newspapers pasted on the doors. "This would make it interesting for the user to spend more time in the toilet, reading something interesting. This way, he would appreciate toilets and make it a point to ensure the cleanliness of such areas because he is sure to make a repeat visit," Takiyuddin was quoted as saying. He said if the public did not take efforts to maintain the conditions of the toilets, the public toilets would still end up being "dirty and nauseating."

■ Iran

Quake toll rises to 420

Relief efforts intensified yesterday in southeastern Iran following the 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck the area on Tuesday, leaving at least 420 people dead and more than 1,000 injured, news reports said. Many victims of the disaster spent the cold winter night in tents or in the open, the reports said. The epicenter of the quake was in Kerman province, near the city of Zerand, which has 130,000 residents. Local residents said about 20 villages were destroyed. The Iranian army provided helicopters for relief operations and transport planes were dispatched to fly in needed supplies. The Iranian news agency IRNA reported that rescue operations were hampered by heavy rains.

■ United Kingdom

Queen won't attend wedding

Queen Elizabeth II stunned royal observers yesterday by announcing she would not attend her son Prince Charles' civil wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles, with some declaring it a snub to an indecorous city hall ceremony. "The queen will not be attending the civil ceremony because she is aware that the prince and Mrs. Parker Bowles wanted to keep the occasion low-key," Buckingham Palace said. The palace said the British sovereign would however attend a subsequent blessing and prayer service after the wedding led by the head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

■ Latvia

Escaped convict comes back

Finding life on the run as restrictive as life behind bars, a man who escaped from a minimum-security prison five years ago showed up at the prison doorstep asking to be let back in. Sergei M., who prison officials would not fully identify, turned himself in on Monday at the Vecumnieki penitentiary, 50km southeast of the capital, Riga, where he had escaped from in 1999 with 10 months left on his seven-year burglary sentence. Karlis Serzants, a prison spokesman, said Sergei had been living in Riga with his girlfriend and had worked illegally at various jobs, but was finding it hard to find work and evade the authorities. Sergei will serve the remaining 10 months of his burglary sentence and could face as long as three more years for his escape, Serzants said.

■ United Kingdom

Officials attend gum summit

Officials from some of the UK's largest cities met for a summit on chewing gum on Tuesday to consider plans for a tax on gum to fund cleaning the sticky sweet from streets. The delegates at the first national gum summit in London called for the tax -- ?0.01 (US$0.02) per packet of gum -- to help meet the costs of removing gum from sidewalks, trains and other public places.

■ Vatican

Pope's fifth book released

The Vatican on Tuesday officially released Pope John Paul II's fifth book in which he describes the attempt on his life in 1981, condemns the evil of terrorism and likens abortion to the Holocaust of the Jews. That comparison has infuriated Jewish groups, but German Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, who presented the book at a news conference, said the pontiff had been misunderstood. "The pope does not put the Shoa and abortion on the same level ... He calls our attention to the permanent temptations for humanity, and on the need to take care not to fall into the pitfalls of evil." The book, Memory and Identity was to go on sale in Italy yesterday for 16 euros (US$21).

■ United States

Official accused in naked run

A state prosecutor in Florida's island city of Key West is under arrest after he allegedly ran naked and drunk across a parking lot and hopped into the wrong car, a local daily said on Tuesday. Albert Tasker of the local state prosecutor's office told police he had been drinking with friends and thought it would be funny to take off his clothes and run to a friend's car in the parking lot, according to the Florida Keys Citizen. But Tasker, 28, apparently got into the back seat of the wrong car, much to the distress of the woman in the vehicle. She screamed and called her boyfriend who telephoned police.

■ United States

Female president OK: poll

More than six in 10 voters say they believe the US is ready for a female president, a poll found. The poll, conducted by the Siena College Research Institute and sponsored by Hearst Newspapers, also found that 81 percent of people surveyed would vote for a woman for president and 53 percent think New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton should try for the job. Other polls have identified the former first lady as the voters' favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination. On the Republican side, 42 percent of voters said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should run for the White House and 33 percent named North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole.

■ Dominican Rep.

Businessman charged in US

A powerful Dominican Republic businessman was arraigned in New York on Tuesday on charges he headed a cocaine-trafficking group that had imported tons of the illegal drug into the US since 2003. Quirino Ernesto Paulino Castillo, also known as "El Don," appeared in Manhattan federal court after his extradition from the Dominican Republic, the first under a newly adopted criminal code there. Paulino Castillo, a wealthy landowner who was a key fund-raiser for former president Hipolito Mejia, was indicted on five counts of drug smuggling and money laundering.

■ United States

Atlanta subway to get TVs

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority says it will be the first subway system in North America to have its rail cars equipped with televisions. By spring, 115 MARTA cars will each have five 38cm televisions aboard for passengers to watch while traveling. Each television will be tuned to news programming from Atlanta's ABC affiliate, WSB-TV. Eventually, all the authority's 300 rail cars will have televisions. Audio for the newscasts will be available through any FM radio, and as the rules state on placards throughout the subway cars, all audio devices must be used with headphones.

■ United States

FBI warns of bogus e-mails

The FBI warned on Tuesday that a computer virus is being spread through unsolicited e-mails that purport to come from the FBI. The e-mails appear to come from an fbi.gov address. They tell recipients that they have accessed illegal Web sites and that their Internet use has been monitored by the FBI's "Internet Fraud Complaint Center," the FBI said. The messages then direct recipients to open an attachment and answer questions. The computer virus is in the attachment. "Recipients of this or similar solicitations should know that the FBI does not engage in the practice of sending unsolicited e-mails to the public in this manner," the FBI said in a statement.