World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

Sun, Sep 03, 2006 - Page 7

■ Cambodia
Former king goes to China

Former king Norodom Sihanouk, who is battling cancer, left for China yesterday for medical treatment, officials said. The cancer-stricken 83-year-old was accompanied by his wife, former queen Monineath, and their 53-year-old son, King Norodom Sihamoni, who was formally sworn in as monarch in October 2004. "He goes to China for medical treatment as he is old and has been away from doctors for a while," said Prince Sisowath Panara Sirivudh, who is also the minister of culture. In May, the former king returned to Cambodia after spending nearly a year abroad for medical treatment.

■ China

SARS hero gets life

A health official once hailed as a hero for his work in fighting the spread of SARS has been jailed for life for taking "huge" bribes from vaccine distributors, state media said yesterday. Luo Yaoxing, an official with the Guangdong Provincial Disease Prevention and Control Center, was convicted and sentenced on Friday, the China Youth Daily reported. From July 2001 to April 2006, Luo took 11.2 million yuan (US$1.41 million) in bribes from SARS vaccine dealers, the newspaper said. Originally sentenced to death, he saw his penalty reduced because he had pleaded guilty and returned the money. His case is the first of several involving officials at the Guangdong Provincial Disease Prevention and Control Center.

■ Nepal

Flood victims need help: UN

Thousands of flood victims need urgent humanitarian assistance and protection from outbreaks of disease, according to a UN envoy. At least 50 people were killed last week in flash floods and landslides triggered by monsoon rains. Thousands of displaced people are being housed in schools or temporary camps. "People urgently need basic shelter, food, clothes, water and medicines," UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Nepal Matthew Kahane said in a statement issued late on Friday.

■ Cambodia

Adultery law sparks walkout

Parliament passed a law on Friday which could send adulterers to jail for up to a year. The vote prompted a walkout by opposition lawmakers who said the law carried echoes of the Khmer Rouge and the Taliban in a country which should be tackling poverty and corruption instead of legislating about morality. But the government argued the law would help reduce pervasive corruption by removing the temptation for officials to steal from state coffers to maintain mistresses as well as halting what it called a decline in morality.

■ Japan

Historic ship sinks

An historic ocean liner once known for its millionaire passengers and widely admired for its beauty sank off the southeastern coast, the coast guard said yesterday. There was no one on board the former Stella Polaris, which was being towed to China from central Japan for repairs before being turned into a hotel in Sweden, the coast guard said in a statement. The tugboat's crew told authorities late on Friday that the ship, renamed the Scandinavia, had begun to take in water about 3km off Wakayama Prefecture, some 450km southwest of Tokyo, the statement said. Television footage of the area yesterday appeared to suggest the ship had sunk to the seabed some 70m below the water's surface.

■ Netherlands
Madonna OK for crucifixion

The Dutch justice minister has rejected a call by a Christian party to stop Madonna from staging a mock-crucifixion in concerts in Amsterdam. Minister Piet Hein Donner said he understood the concerns of the SGP party, which asked the minister to prevent Madonna performing the scene in concerts today and tomorrow, but said only a court could take action against the show. "It is understandable that Christians feel offended by the crucifixion act that Madonna performs," he said in remarks posted on the SGP website.

■ Bulgaria

Sleeping beauty goes home

A sleeping teenager flew home to Bulgaria and then back to Malta after the air crew apparently failed to notice she was still on the plane. Maria Ilieva, 17, was traveling alone and fell asleep on an Air Malta plane on an overnight flight from Valletta, Malta to Sofia, the Bulgarian capital. Unfortunately she had returned to Malta by the time she woke up, the girl's family said Friday. Maria was finally reunited with her family Thursday, almost four days after her sleepover.

■ IRAQ

Abu Ghraib prison closed

Iraq's government has formally taken over the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, the site of an abuse scandal involving US soldiers, a government spokesman said yesterday. "The Abu Ghraib detention facility was handed over to the Iraqi government," said Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "It is now empty of any detainees." The deputy justice minister confirmed to the Asociated Press last Sunday that the prison was emptied on Aug. 15. Al-Dabbagh said the facility had become synonymous with abuse. "This detention facility has witnessed serious violations and serious crimes during the rule of Saddam Hussein," he said.

■ United Kingdom

Government pulls Web site

The government abruptly ended a bold experiment in online democracy on Friday by withdrawing a Web site that requested ideas for environmental policies after it was bombarded with abuse and ridicule. UK Environment Secretary David Miliband -- tipped as a future leader of the governing Labor Party -- had hoped the public would contribute ideas for a draft paper setting out key ecological responsibilities for individuals, government and businesses. But administrators at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs withdrew the Web pages on Friday.

■ Turkey

Militants kill five troops

Separatist Kurdish guerrillas attacked two military outposts along the Iraqi border, killing five Turkish soldiers and wounding two others, local authorities said yesterday. The guerrillas detonated a remote-controlled bomb planted near an outpost in the town of Guclukonak, Sirnak Province, killing a lieutenant, a reserve officer and a private. In another overnight attack, the guerrillas attacked an outpost in the town of Cukurca, Hakkari Province, killing two soldiers and wounding two others. Earlier this week, a Kurdish militant group believed to be linked to the party claimed responsibility for a wave of bombings in tourist resorts and in Istanbul that left three people dead and dozens injured, including 10 Britons and several other tourists.

■ Peru
Humala charged with killing

The runner-up in the presidential election and the nation's de facto opposition leader has been charged with murder in connection with his role in fighting Maoist rebels and drug traffickers in the 1990s. Ollanta Humala, who lost to President Alan Garcia but whose movement holds the largest number of seats in Congress, cannot leave the country and must post bail of 20,000 soles (US$6,170), Judge Miluska Cano said in a ruling late on Thursday. No date has been set for his trial, but Cano said Humala would face more than 15 years in prison if convicted. Humala on Friday denied any wrongdoing, saying the charges were aimed at preventing his nationalist movement from winning in regional polls in November.

■ United States

Isley gets three years

Soul legend Ronald Isley, who sang such hits as Twist and Shout and This Old Heart of Mine as a member of the Isley Brothers, was sentenced on Friday to three years in federal prison for tax evasion. Isley, 65, was also ordered to pay about US$3.1 million to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), having engaged in "pervasive, long-term, pathological" evasion of federal taxes, US District Court Judge Dean Pregerson said. The sentences were handed down after Isley was convicted last October of five counts of tax evasion and one count of willful failure to file a tax return.

■ United States

Journalist temporarily out

A freelance video journalist jailed for a month after he refused to turn over footage of a political protest to a grand jury was released while a federal appeals court considers his case. Josh Wolf, 24, videotaped a protest during the G8 economic summit where anarchists were suspected of vandalizing a city police car in July last year. One San Francisco officer was struck during the rally and his skull was fractured. Wolf refused to turn over tapes of the demonstration to a federal grand jury. A judge found him in contempt of court and ordered him jailed on Aug. 1.

■ United States

EPA warns of mercury risks

Ritualistic use of toxic mercury by followers of voodoo and other religions is dangerous but regulating it could drive the practice underground and possibly violate US guarantees of freedom of religion, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Thursday. Mercury can be worn in amulets, sprinkled on the floor, or added to an oil lamp as part of some Latino and Afro-Caribbean practices, the EPA's inspector general said. Some practitioners believe that the mercury can attract love, luck or riches, and even ward off evil, the report said. But mercury's toxic effects are pronounced in the nervous systems and brains of exposed children, and can damage organs and cause seizures in adults.

■ United States

School shooter killed dad

A man obsessed with the 1999 Columbine school attack made a videotape showing his father's bloody corpse and describing plans to attack his former high school, then mailed it to a newspaper which posted excerpts on its Web site. The release of the video late on Thursday was the latest twist in the case, which began when Alvaro Castillo was arrested on Wednesday in front of Orange High School in Hillsborough, North Carolina, after multiple shots were fired from the parking lot. Two students suffered minor injuries in the attack. Investigators say Castillo confessed to his father's slaying after he was taken into custody.