Bollywood ban lifted
Films from India's prolific Bollywood movie industry -- officially banned for decades in Pakistan but still watched by millions there -- have become legal, a news report said yesterday. Pakistan outlawed public screenings of Indian films in 1965, the year the nuclear-armed neighbor countries fought the second of their three wars. But now, both countries are working hard on a sweeping peace process. The Times of India newspaper quoted Saeed Rizvi, president of the Pakistan Film Producers Association, as saying the Indian film ban has been lifted. Authorities in Pakistan could not immediately be reached to confirm the report.
Battle to save workers
Rescuers were pumping tonnes of water out of a flooded railway tunnel to save 11 construction workers missing since the site flooded, the official Xinhua News Agency said yesterday. The flood occurred on Saturday morning in Lichuan County in Hubei Province according to Xinhua. It said 14 workers were inside the tunnel, which was to connect a rail line from Hubei's Yichang County to Wanzhou District in Chongqing, when it flooded. Three managed to escape. Xinhua cited rescuers as saying it would take more than 30 hours to pump out the more than 150,000m3 of water that inundated the tunnel.
Firearms probe launched
Authorities have launched investigations into the theft of firearms and ammunition stolen from a navy base, news reports said yesterday. More than 12 people including seven navy personnel have so far been arrested, while some firearms, ammunition and hand grenades have been recovered, The Star newspaper reported, quoting sources familiar with the probe. Authorities said they believe thefts had been occurring sporadically over the past few years but were only discovered recently, causing a high-level police taskforce to be established.
Army warns fugitive officers
The military yesterday urged four fugitive army officers to surrender, warning that some groups were plotting to "inflict harm" on them as part of efforts to destabilize the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The four army officers, who took part in a failed uprising against Arroyo in July 2003, escaped from detention on Jan. 17, triggering fresh talks of unrest in the military and rumors of a coup against the government. "We are urging the four to return to military control because we are worried that some groups might take advantage of their being on the run," army spokesman Major Bartolome Bacarro said in a radio interview. "They might inflict harm on them and later pass the blame to the army or the military," he added.
Public unaware of poll
The nation's first senate election began yesterday but has gone largely unnoticed by a public who cannot cast their ballots. Only parliamentarians and members of commune councils -- local administrative bodies -- can vote, according to the Senate election law, which calls for non-universal suffrage. About 11,000 people will go to the polls, according to election officials. Previously senators had been appointed by their political parties and the king. Four parties began campaigning earlier this month for the 61-seat Senate, which has no real power to amend or change legislative content and is seen by many as an ineffectual body.
Speak Dutch: minister
Immigrants should comply with a national code of conduct including speaking Dutch in public and respecting women's rights, a government minister was quoted as saying on Saturday. Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said she was interested in applying nationally the idea of a citizens' code proposed in the city of Rotterdam this week by the council led by the right-wing party founded by murdered anti-immigration populist Pim Fortuyn. Verdonk said immigrants were often unsure what was expected of them and said she planned to discuss the idea with experts.
Anthrax killing rare zebras
Outbreaks of deadly anthrax exacerbated by a searing drought that has hit east Africa has killed scores of rare Grevy's zebras in the country and is threatening the endangered species with extinction, wildlife officials and scientists said yesterday. The zebras, known for their narrow stripes and large ears, are dying of anthrax at an alarming rate in and around the nation's central Samburu National Reserve, one of their last remaining habitats, and more are feared to have perished further north, they said. "They have died in the dozens in the northern part of the reserve and their carcasses are littered all over," said Fred Perezo, who administers Samburu for the Kenya Wildlife Service. Fewer than 5,000 Grevy's zebras are believed to live in the wild.
Tax office bombed
A man died early yesterday when he tried to bomb the main tax offices in Aix-en-Provence, police and firemen said. The man's mangled body was found near the downtown offices, which suffered only minor damage in the blast at 2:40am, they said. A security perimeter was set up around the building in case other explosives had been left there.
US Navy nabs `pirates'
US Navy vessels pursued a suspected pirate ship in the Indian Ocean off Somalia's coast and fired warning shots to capture its crew on Saturday, US Navy Forces Central Command said. The guided missile destroyer Winston S. Churchill and other US naval forces located the vessel after receiving a report of an attempted act of piracy, but it failed to respond to orders to stop. "Churchill began aggressive maneuvering in an attempt to stop the vessel. The vessel continued on its course and speed. [Then] Churchill fired warning shots," said a navy statement. Members of the crew were seized and US Navy sailors who boarded the vessel discovered small-arms weapons on board, the statement said.
Batasuna ban draws outcry
Several thousand people protested a ban on a congress planned by outlawed Basque separatist party Batasuna in northern Spain on Saturday. The demonstrators, including Batasuna party leader Arnaldo Otegi, gathered in front of the conference center in the town of Barakaldo near Bilbao, where the assembly was due to take place, local radio reported. The national court in Madrid last Tuesday banned Saturday's meeting following calls from the public prosecutor and the families of victims of terrorism. Batasuna, the political wing of the militant organization ETA, was outlawed by the Supreme Court in 2003 for refusing to condemn ETA's terror tactics.
Bid to head AU stalled
African countries were split on Saturday over Sudan's bid to head the African Union (AU), a move that could scuttle AU-sponsored peace efforts in Darfur and damage Africa's drive to improve its image. Khartoum, under fire for human rights abuses, is hosting a two-day AU summit starting today. Sudan is seeking to take over from Nigeria as chairman, based on a tradition that the summit host becomes the next head. Sudan says it has East and North Africa's backing in the AU, where countries tend to work in blocs. However, diplomats said southern, central and western African states were working behind the scenes to encourage Sudan to withdraw its bid.
Blasts cut gas supply
Two explosions early yesterday on pipelines running through southern Russia cut the natural gas supply to Georgia and Armenia, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov said the blasts appeared to be accidental but investigators were still probing the causes.The explosions hit two pipelines in the region of North Ossetia, not far from the border with Georgia, Beltsov said. ITAR-Tass quoted an another ministry official as saying that it would take two to three days to complete repairs.
■ United States
Vegas hosts Miss America
A 22-year-old aspiring teacher from Oklahoma was crowned Miss America on Saturday night in Las Vegas, the first time the storied but struggling pageant was held outside Atlantic City, New Jersey. Jennifer Berry outlasted 51 other women to become Miss America 2006, earning a US$30,000 college scholarship and a year-long speaking tour in the process. Berry, a student at the University of Oklahoma, wowed the judges by dancing ballet for her talent routine. The pageant, which dabbled in reality TV-style gimmicks in recent years as it tried to lure viewers back, struck a more old-fashioned theme this time out, despite the move to Sin City.
■ United States
Miners' bodies found
Rescue teams late on Saturday discovered the bodies of two miners missing since a fire Thursday in a coal shaft in Melville, West Virginia. "We have two miners who have perished," West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin announced in a press conference. Six five-member rescue teams had been searching the huge network of underground passageways to find the two men. The fire broke out on Thursday night about 300m underground at the Aracoma Mine. Nineteen miners were able to escape, but the two who died had failed to emerge, setting off a grueling, often simultaneous firefighting and search effort. It was the second major accident this month in a West Virginia coal mine.
■ United Kingdom
London whale dies
A lost young whale that swam up the River Thames into central London and captured the heart of Britons died on Saturday, despite a marathon rescue effort that brought it back close to the open sea. In an operation watched by riverbank crowds and covered live on television, marine experts finally snared the whale that had eluded them since Friday and hoisted it onto a barge before sailing it downriver toward the North Sea. But the health of the northern bottle-nosed whale, apparently injured and exhausted after its two-day sojourn in fresh water, took a turn for the worse near the Thames Estuary. The whale died near the sea.