World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

Sun, Jul 24, 2005 - Page 7

■ China
Girl freed from prison home

Police have freed a 16-year-old Chinese girl whose mentally ill mother held her captive for 15 years in their apartment, a news report said yesterday. Police in the northeastern city of Harbin this week broke into the apartment of Jiang Wei and her 56-year-old mother, Jiang Binlan, after a neighbor found a letter from the daughter asking for help, the China Daily reported. Jiang Binlan suffered from severe schizophrenia and was afraid that her daughter might be taken from her following her divorce 15 years ago. The paper did not say how the two survived without leaving the apartment, but a photo on its front page showed Jiang Binlan using a basket on a rope to buy goods from vendors on the street below.

■ Pakistan

Family drowns at beach

Five family members including two children drowned yesterday during a picnic at a popular island getaway near the southern port city of Karachi, police said. Three others were also feared dead. High waves swept Shah Zeb, 11, and Shah Neela, 12, away as they played at the beach on the island of Manora, police said. Six male relatives raced into the sea to save them but were also caught by the treacherous waves. Rescuers recovered five bodies, including those of the children. Police said navy divers were searching for the three missing relatives.

■ India

Terrorist given seven years

A district court in India has sentenced a man to seven years in jail for planning to crash airliners into the House of Commons and Tower Bridge in London on Sept. 11, 2001. Judges in Mumbai handed down the sentence to Muhammad Afroze, who had also confessed in police interrogation to plotting with a group of al-Qaeda operatives to attack the Rialto Towers in Melbourne, Australia, and the Indian parliament in 2001. Afroze was arrested under controversial anti-terrorist laws in India after the Sept. 11 attacks. Afroze was arrested at a Mumbai city hotel in October 2001 in possession of pilot training documents from Britain and Australia.

■ Australia

Sailors seconds from death

A near tragedy on an Australian submarine prompted by an onboard flood persuaded the navy to reduce the depths to which its six Collins-class vessels dive, a report said yesterday. The HMAS Dechaineux was just 20 seconds from sinking irretrievably to the bottom of the Indian Ocean with 55 sailors on board while off Western Australia in February 2003, the Weekend Australian newspaper said, quoting crew members. The submarine began flooding when a sea water hose in the lower engine room failed while it was at its deepest diving depth, the report said. The deepest diving depth, as well as the depth at which the submarines now operate, is classified information.

■ Japan

Earthquake causes injuries

A magnitude-6.0 earthquake shook eastern Japan yesterday, injuring more than a dozen people, rattling buildings in the capital and temporarily suspending flights and train services. There was no danger of tsunami, the Meteorological Agency said. The earthquake, which struck at 4:35pm, was centered about 90km underground in Chiba prefecture, just east of Tokyo, the agency said. The quake injured about 16 people in the area, including five people who were hit by a falling signboard at a supermarket in neighboring Saitama prefecture, Kyodo News agency reported.

■ United Kingdom
Polanski wins libel suit

Filmmaker Roman Polanski on Friday won his libel suit against the publisher of Vanity Fair magazine over an article that accused him of propositioning a woman while on the way to the funeral of his murdered wife. Polanski, director of Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist, was awarded US$87,000 in damages. The jury of nine men and three women took 4 1/2 hours to reach their unanimous verdict at London's High Court. "It goes without saying that whilst the whole episode is a sad one, I am obviously pleased with the jury's verdict today," Polanski, 71, said in a statement.

■ France

Language test pushed

Immigrants may have to pass a French language test if they want long-term residence rights in the country, a junior social affairs minister said Friday. In a further tightening of already strict immigration laws, Catherine Vautrin, the state secretary for social cohesion and women's rights, said the French government aimed to create "a link" between linguistic competence and the granting of a 10-year residence permit. "We want to encourage as much as possible the integration of new arrivals," she said. "At present there is no language requirement, and I believe one is necessary."

■ Poland

Boy wreaks havoc at bank

A 10-year-old boy caused havoc at a bank in southern Poland when he dropped a fake bomb threat in a deposit box, apparently as a protest after his mother received slow service, police said Thursday. Officers evacuated the bank in the city of Chorzow on Wednesday after an employee found a note threatening to "kill everyone with a bomb" if the bank did not hand over 50,000 zlotys (US$14,600) within 24 hours. "It turned out to be a 10-year-old boy who had been in the bank the day before with his mother ... apparently he was motivated by impatience at the length of time it took for her to complete formalities," said police spokesman Piotr Bieniak.

■ Peru

Corpse-hunters go online

Wanted by Friday: Female corpse, price US$640. A Peruvian state university has posted an advertisement on a government Web site offering 2,070 soles (US$640) for a corpse for its medical students to practice on, despite the fact that buying and selling cadavers is illegal. The macabre want ad was posted on the site of the Center for the Promotion of Small and Micro Businesses (www.prompyme.gob.pe), where state institutions are required to publish tenders for supplies to ensure transparency.

■ United Kingdom

King's cure made him worse

Far from making him better, the medication used to treat the madness of England's King George III may actually have made him worse, according to research published Friday. One of the longest serving British monarchs who ruled for nearly 60 years, George had five very public bouts of madness culminating in his death -- blind, deaf and insane in January 1820. The generally accepted theory has been that his fits of insanity were due to a genetic disorder that caused variegate porphyria. Now a team of scientists from Britain and Australia have found high concentrations of arsenic in samples of the king's hair and suggested it came from the antimony-based medicine administered -- sometimes by force -- to cure him.

■ Canada
Drug tunnel raided

Three people have been arrested after police raided a sophisticated tunnel intended to smuggle drugs under the US-Canada border between Vancouver and Seattle. The smugglers spent more than a year building the 360-foot (110m) tunnel that ran from a Quonset hut-style storage building in the rural Aldergrove neighborhood of Langley, British Columbia, to the living room of a home in Lynden, Washington. "It was well built, probably one of the most sophisticated tunnels we've ever seen," said a US narcotics agent. Investigators said it was the first time a drug smuggling tunnel had been found on that border.

■ United States

Pollard case loses appeal

A fomer US naval intelligence analyst who was imprisoned after being convicted of spying for Israel lost an appeal against his life sentence on Friday. Jonathan Pollard was arrested in 1985 on charges that he had sold classified information to Israel. Pollard was arrested outside the gates of the Iraeli embassy in Washington, where he had unsuccessfully sought sanctuary. He was charged with handing classified information to Israel, including information on Soviet-built weapons possessed by its Arab neighbors. His former wife received a five-year sentence for assisting him. Israel initially denied Pollard had been one of its spies but has since apologized to the US.

■ United States

Jackson's property returned

Most items seized from Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch during police searches of the property must be returned to the popstar, a superior court judge ruled. The items to be returned include pornographic magazines, books and computer hard drives, but not photos of the singer's genitalia taken as evidence during a 1993-1994 investigation into whether Jackson molested a 13-year-old boy. Those images must remain locked in a safe deposit box. The photos were not used in the trial, which ended June 13 in Jackson's acquittal on all 10 criminal counts.

■ United States

Inmate bites into finger

A California prison inmate is seeking US$75,000 in damages from a food packager after a human fingertip turned up in a vegetarian meal served to him in his jail cell. The inmate, Felipe Rocha, 29, thought the finger was like a cashew when he was eating the meal, so he tried to chew it before taking it out of his mouth. The food packager said in a letter to the maximum security prison where Rocha is incarcerated on drug charges, that the 2cm-long fingertip accidentally was sliced off one of its workers when he was cleaning a filling machine. They thought all flesh had been flushed from the machine and apologized for the "foreign object" found in one of its frozen entrees.

■ Cuba

Political dissidents arrested

Dissident leader Marta Beatriz Roque and more than a dozen other activists have been arrested in what appears to be a new crackdown on the Cuban opposition by President Fidel Castro's regime, dissidents said. Roque, a 59-year-old economist, is president of the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society, which organized a protest in front of the French Embassy on Friday to demand the release of political prisoners from Cuban jails. Many of those detained Friday were leading figures in the group. Roque was arrested along with her driver at about 8:30am, as she was leaving home to go to the protest.