Health officials have recalled about one million doses of an antibiotic that is suspected of killing at least two people and sickening at least 48 others, Xinhua news agency said yesterday. The victims were injected with clindamycin phosphate glucose produced by a pharmaceutical plant in Anhui Province, Xinhua said. Experts linked the drug to the deaths last month of a six-year-old girl and a 48-year-old woman. The girl died on July 27 in Harbin, three days after she was given the antibiotic to treat a common cold. The woman died on Wednesday at a hospital in Yidu city, where she was admitted on July 23, the agency quoted local health officials as saying.
Gas leak kills 18 miners
An underground gas leak in a coal mine killed 18 miners in northwestern China, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday. The leak occurred on Friday in the Dahuiyao Coal Mine in Xinzhou, Shanxi Province, Xinhua said. It said the gas poured into the mine when a wall collapsed and exposed a gas-filled chamber. China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, with an annual fatality rate of more than 5,000 due to gas leaks, explosions and floods.
Bird flu kills second victim
A 27-year-old man has died of bird flu, becoming the second person this year to be killed by the disease in the country, a health ministry official said yesterday. Thawat Suntrajarn, chief of the Department of Communicable Disease Control, said that the man came from Uthai Thani Province in the north. Another ministry official, who demanded anonymity, said that the man died on Thursday and had come in contact with sick chickens.
Snakes won't move out
James Kinniburgh discovered two Amethystine pythons, one 6m long, living in the roof of his Cairns house a fortnight ago, Australia's AAP news agency reported yesterday. "I sat there shitting myself," Kinniburgh said. "I'm from Sydney, I've only been here three years, and I've never seen anything like this before." Worse news was to come. Wildlife officers told him that, with no manhole to the roof, he might as well resign himself to his massive housemates because there was no way of getting in to get them out. Wildlife officers have tried to assure him that he has nothing to fear. The non-venomous pythons are petrified of humans and are likely to keep out of his way.
Thefts in PM's plane probed
Air India (AI) has begun investigations into charges of theft of gifts from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's special aircraft, it was reported yesterday. India's Civil Aviation Ministry has directed AI to probe the graft involving the disappearance of gifts worth US$24,000, which were meant for distribution among the entourage on board Singh's flight, the Times of India reported. Security agencies said the thefts occurred during Singh's visit to Germany when he was flying to Berlin after attending the Hanover Business Fair on April 24. The gifts included premium pens, luggage items, assorted colognes, CD players, iPods, sunglasses and electronic goods and other items.
Cross-dressing thief jailed
A cross-dressing bandit on skates who robbed a bank across the street from his home was sentenced to prison on Friday. Nino Leo Lanu, 32, was wearing a skirt, wig, makeup and fake breasts as he brandished a replica gun while robbing a National Australia Bank branch in Melbourne in February, a prosecutor told the County Court of Victoria state. Lanu, a regular branch customer, rolled away on inline skates with A$24,000 (US$18,260) in cash. Lanu pleaded guilty to armed robbery, a firearm offense and growing cannabis.
Catholics told to `beget'
Roman Catholic leaders in southern Indian are urging their followers to have more babies because of the dwindling percentage of Catholics in a region long known as a center of Indian Christianity. In a letter to Catholics, Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil of the southern state of Kerala wrote that members of the community need to "lead a life rooted in Christian values and beliefs." Using language that sounded almost Biblical, the letter said "there has been a growing feeling that children are a nuisance to pleasurable life. Even those who have the resources do not beget for selfish reasons." In short, have as many children as you can afford.
Controversial play banned
A play deemed to portray Muslims in a negative light was prohibited from being staged in Singapore yesterday and today after its arts entertainment license was withdrawn. The title of the English-language production, Smjegma, refers to genital secretions. The license was withdrawn by the Media Development Authority (MDA)on Friday after it had been issued on Tuesday. The play was scheduled to be performed by theater group Agni Kootthu at The Substation Guinness Theater during the weekend.
All-female beach approved
Hotels at a seaside resort are eager to act on the town's decision to authorize an all-female beach section for Muslim women. The city council of Riccione, a popular resort on the Adriatic coast, has said it is prepared to authorize requests to set up partitions on parts of the shoreline to satisfy requests from the town's growing numbers of Muslim tourists. Attilio Cenni, owner of the Grand Hotel des Bains, said he plans to open the first secluded section starting next month. Supporters of the idea say that the separate beaches would allow observant Muslim women to enjoy the sun in privacy.
Artworks take a tumble
Two fragile artworks on loan from the US slid from the walls of Paris' Pompidou Center and shattered, the museum said on Friday. Part of an exhibit on Los Angeles art from 1955 to 1985, the lost artworks were a 1971 untitled resin piece by Peter Alexander and a 1967 Plexiglas creation by artist Craig Kauffman called Untitled Wall Relief. The Pompidou said that it had carefully followed the loaners' instructions on how to display the pieces. Kauffman's work was hung from a cornice while representatives of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art -- which loaned the piece -- were present, the Paris museum said.
■ United States
Iranians turned away
At least 15 Iranian nationals were turned away from Californian airports in recent days after their visas were revoked without explanation. The Iranians were gathering this weekend for a reunion of graduates of Sharif University of Technology in Santa Clara, California. One of the Iranians, Kourosh Elahidoost, said the State Department informed him that his visa to travel in the US has been revoked "for reasons of national security." During a detention at Los Angeles International Airport that lasted almost two days, he was questioned about a number of personal matters.
■ Ivory Coast
Weapons amnesty ditched
A disarmament program for militias in the west of Ivory Coast was suspended on Friday because too few weapons were being handed over, the UN mission said. Militias fought alongside government troops in some of the fiercest combat of the West African state's brief 2002-2003 civil war in which rebels seized its northern half. "[The national disarmament program] has suspended the operation because the number of weapons has not increased," Jean-Luc Stalon, head of the UN peacekeeping mission's disarmament section, said in a statement. About half the 2,000 militiamen supposed to disarm as part of a faltering UN-backed peace plan have completed the scheme.
■ United Kingdom
Street march planned
Activists, claiming a groundswell of anti-war sentiment not seen since the US-led invasion of Iraq, prepared to stage a mass protest in London yesterday against the conflict in Lebanon, demanding a ceasefire. The rally organized by the Stop the War Coalition is to start at 12 noon at London's Hyde Park, pass the US embassy and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's office before ending up at the Houses of Parliament. "Leave children's shoes on Tony Blair's doorstep," the coalition urged protesters on its website ahead of the demonstration. "Almost half of those killed so far in Lebanon are children."
■ United States
Kill a bird for Castro
The white dove looks warily at shopkeeper Oscar Osorio as he pulls it from a cage and holds it in his hands. "I don't think he trusts me," Osorio says. "I think he knows what's coming." The bird has reason to be nervous, because the illness of Cuban leader Fidel Castro has moved adherents of Santeria to appeal for divine help in hastening either Castro's demise or his recovery, depending on which side of the Florida Straits they live. Santeria is the voodooish Afro-Cuban religion that uses animal sacrifice to communicate with the gods, which makes these tough times for favorite sacrificial creatures such as chickens, goats and, in this case, doves.
■ United States
Killer painter disciplined
A convicted killer in Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California, who sold postcard-sized paintings he created with dye from M&Ms chocolate candies, was disciplined on Friday for running an unauthorized business out of his cell. While Donny Johnson has not profited from his art -- all the money is being used to start a program for children of inmates -- prison officials said he was wrongfully engaged in a business without the warden's permission. Johnson, 46, has been locked up since 1980 for second-degree murder in a drug-related killing. In 1989, he was convicted of assaulting one guard and slashing the throat of another.
■ United States
Oscar declared fake
An Internet auction for a 1944 film Oscar was canceled on Friday after the Academy Award institute declared it a first-class fake. The auction agency, Mastro Auctions, had asked the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences to authenticate the statue, which allegedly was given to US director Leo McCarey for his 1944 Going My Way starring Bing Crosby. While the copy looks similar, the academy found it was a pound too heavy and carried a faked plaque. The auction was planned for next thursday. McCarey also won Oscars for directing The Awful Truth in 1937 and as script author for Love Affair in 1939.
■ United States
Former adviser charged
A former White House policy adviser, who was arrested in March and charged with multiple counts of shoplifting, pleaded guilty on Friday to a single count, in a plea agreement under which he will pay a fine and make partial restitution but will avoid having a criminal record if he completes probation successfully. The former official, Claude Allen, was initially charged with stealing more than US$5,000 of merchandise from Target and other retailers in a fraudulent-return scheme. At the time, Allen denied the charges through his lawyer and said there had been a mix-up concerning his credit card.
A former police officer has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for human rights abuses in the first conviction handed down since the Supreme Court overturned amnesty laws protecting former officials from dictatorship-era hostilities. Julio Simon was sentenced Friday by a federal tribunal in Buenos Aires in connection with the 1978 disappearance of a Chilean man and his Argentine wife during the military dictatorship. Defense lawyers, however, argued there was insufficient evidence to convict him, and vowed to appeal. Human rights groups hailed the ruling, saying it marked a step toward obtaining justice after the 1976-1983 dictatorship.