■ North Korea
Reactor may be activated
Pyongyang has possibly activated a nuclear reactor suspected of producing weapons-grade material, based on a satellite photograph released by an online security agency, South Korean media reported yesterday. The image shows a plume of smoke ascending from a 5 megawatt reactor in Yongbyon on January this year that was absent in identical images taken in March 2003. "The steam plume in the January 5, 2006 view is indicative of the reactor being active," read the caption to the photo released this weekend on the Web site of Global Security, which provides background information on defense, space and intelligence online.
`House husbands' criticized
A top Malaysian minister has said that a husband who stays at home to handle chores while his wife earns money is incompatible with the country's culture, official reports said yesterday. Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said the "trend" of men playing the traditional role of their wives would be difficult for the public to accept. "I personally feel that men should go out to work. As a man, he is the breadwinner and protector of the family unless he is ill or incapacitated," Shahrizat was quoted as saying by the official Bernama news agency.
Officials deny report
Japanese officials yesterday denied a news report claiming that work stress was cited as the reason for a consular attache's suicide in Shanghai despite allegations he killed himself because of blackmail by Chinese intelligence agents. The unidentified consular official said he was driven to suicide after Chinese agents used a karaoke hostess, blackmail and intimidation to pry state secrets from him in an alleged suicide note printed in the Yomiuri newspaper in March. China has denied that any agents were involved with the man. Last December, the Chinese embassy in Tokyo posted a statement on its Web site saying that work-related stress had driven the man to kill himself last year, not pressure from Chinese spies as Japan claimed.
Navy grounds choppers
The Australian navy has grounded a A$1 billion dollar (US$750 million) fleet of US-built helicopters over safety concerns and may sue the contractors, the defense minister said yesterday. The navy ordered 11 of the anti-submarine and anti-shipping Super Seasprite helicopters but none of the 10 delivered since 2001 have been in full operational service due to technical problems. Defense Minister Brendan Nelson said he had banned the Seasprites from flying and that the government was considering scrapping the fleet altogether.
Microsoft adds Aussie slang
Even if most people outside Australia wouldn't know a jackaroo (cowboy) from a wuss (wimp), computers Down Under will be able to recognize the words from next year. Microsoft's Australian subsidiary announced yesterday that it was putting forward a list of local words and slang for inclusion in its 2007 Microsoft Office software. People will be able to vote online on which words out of a list selected by a panel of experts should be included, spokesman Tony Wilkinson said. "While Office features an already comprehensive Australian spelling option, based on the Macquarie dictionary, we felt that many commonly used Aussie words were being left out," he said.
Cops recover Stradivarius
Police seized a Stradivarius violin worth more than US$1.3 million during a raid in a red-light district near Barcelona, reports said on Sunday. The instrument, dating from 1715, was probably stolen from a museum in Romania, the reports said. Police arrested 11 Romanians and two Spaniards during the raid on bordellos targeting human traffickers and pimps. The suspects are thought to be members of a gang run by a Romanian mafia boss, who allegedly directs operations from his prison cell in Salamanca, western Spain.
■ South Africa
Zuma gets ANC job back
Politician Jacob Zuma has been handed back his duties of deputy president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) a week after he was acquitted of rape charges, a newspaper reported. The Star reported yesterday that the ANC National Executive Committee decided to reinstate Zuma to his party role at a Sunday night meeting. "ANC Deputy President Jacob Zuma will resume his duties for the party with immediate effect," the Star said. It gave no source for its report and the ANC said it would issue a statement on the subject later yesterday. Many of Zuma's ANC supporters have denounced the rape charges as a smear campaign to prevent him from succeeding President Thabo Mbeki in 2009.
Deby confirmed winner
President Idriss Deby Itno's victory in presidential elections earlier this month was confirmed late on Sunday, with officials saying he won 77.5 percent of the vote. "I pay homage to the Chadian people, a mature people, a people which has won by being politically mature. The people have made their choice and it's me," he told journalists. The veteran leader's victory was never in any doubt after opposition parties boycotted the polls claiming Deby's regime was siphoning off oil revenues earmarked for national development.
Rival groups ink ceasefire
Islamic militias and rival secular fighters signed a formal ceasefire on Sunday under pressure from clan leaders -- a deal intended to end eight days of fighting that has killed at least 142 people. The chairman of the radical Islamic Court Union militias and a senior commander for the secular fighters agreed to stop the bloodletting after clan elders threatened to unleash their own combatants on whichever side was violating the ceasefire, leaders said. Sporadic gunfire that rang across northern Mogadishu for most of Sunday ended after Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed signed the deal on behalf of the Islamic fighters and Nuur Daqle signed for the secular Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism.
More raids planned
The government declared yesterday that it would carry out more military operations in the Palestinian territories after Israeli soldiers shot to death seven suspected Palestinian militants in raids in the northern West Bank. The battle in the territories would continue as long as militant organizations there carried out attacks on Israeli civilians, Israeli military sources told Israel Army Radio. According to Israeli authorities, one of the people killed in Sunday's raids in the West Bank was Elias al-Ashkar, a high-ranking Islamic Jihad member and the mastermind of several suicide bombings.
■ United States
Hillary Clinton backtracks
Backing away from her assertion that the current generation is lazy, Democratic Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Sunday that she simply wanted to "set the bar high" when she told an audience last week that young people today "think work is a four-letter word." Clinton said her daughter, Chelsea, called to complain after learning about her remarks at a gathering of the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington on Thursday. In that speech, Clinton criticized young people for having a sense of entitlement after growing up in a "culture that has a premium on instant gratification."
■ United Kingdom
`Values' lessons possible
The government is considering introducing compulsory lessons on "core British values" for children in response to last July's suicide bomb attacks on London, the education minister said yesterday. Bill Rammell said a six-month review would examine whether all 11 to 16-year-olds should be taught about issues such as freedom of speech, civic responsibility, and democracy and how historically they developed in Britain. "If we are to get a proper modern sense of British identity, which I think is the best way to tackle extremism, then I think that's very important," Rammell told BBC radio.
■ United States
Bush says it with trees
US President George W. Bush thanked one of his staunchest allies, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, for supporting his "liberty agenda" by presenting Australia with the gift of two trees with White House roots. The two men and their wives, Laura Bush and Janette Howard, planted the elm and magnolia grown from White House trees on the grounds of the Australian embassy on Sunday evening as both leaders called the gift a symbol of their countries' friendship. "I can't thank you enough, John, for your strong support of the liberty agenda, deep desire for the world to be a peaceful place," Bush said.
■ United States
Teacher sorry for assignment
A high school teacher has apologized for asking students to write about who they would kill and how they would do it, and officials said he will likely keep his job. Michael Maxwell, who teaches industrial technology at Central High School in St Joseph, Missouri, said his request that students in his beginning drafting class describe how they would carry out a murder was merely a writing prompt. It was not clear why he asked the drafting class to write fiction. "I made a horrible mistake that I regret," Maxwell said. "I want to apologize to my students, my colleagues and to the community."
■ United States
Intelligent stave off dementia
A study of Alzheimer's disease has found that on average the onset of the disease tends to occur later in intelligent, well-educated people. The study, conducted by Columbia University in New York and reported in the May edition of a German magazine for pharmacists, found that better-educated people who contract the disease, however, experience a more rapid degeneration of brain cells once the disease advances. Participants in the study with higher intelligence were able to stave off the effects of Alzheimer's apparently thanks to the especially good network of nerves in their brains, the report said. But their conditions worsened more rapidly than study participants who were less educated.