Snake death shocks children
Dozens of children have fainted, apparently because of mass hysteria, after school authorities in Nepal killed a snake, considered as sacred by many Hindus, witnesses said on Thursday. At least 67 students, aged between nine and 16 years, have had fainting fits since Tuesday in the mainly Hindu country, they said. "Children suddenly scream, cry and faint," Rishikesh Baral, assistant headmaster of the school, told reporters. "Some recover after a couple of hours while others are yet to fully recover. We apologize for killing the snake," he said.
WHO confirms H5N1 cases
The WHO has confirmed two more cases of bird flu in Indonesia, one of them fatal, bringing the country's confirmed death toll from the virus to 48. The cases, which occurred last year, were added to the WHO tally because of a recent change in the testing standards that the body sets for H5N1 cases. They were already included in Indonesia's Health Ministry tally. "WHO is adding two cases in Indonesia, dating back ... to 2005," the WHO said in a statement issued yesterday.
Militants raid police post
Militants raided a police station in Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing two officers and stealing more than a dozen rifles, police said yesterday. The attack in the remote mountainous Doda district, some 200km northeast of Jammu, the winter capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state, occurred late Friday night. The militants were aided by a former police officer, who tipped them off when most of the police were out on patrol, said a senior police officer speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
■ South Korea
Joint survey planned
The government agreed with Japan to conduct a joint marine survey of radioactive waste near islets claimed by both countries, South Korean officials said yesterday. The survey is aimed at determining the level of radioactive pollution from nuclear waste dumped by the former Soviet Union, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said. During working-level talks on Friday, South Korea and Japan agreed in principle to conduct the survey near the islets -- called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese -- that lie in waters roughly halfway between the two countries, the ministry said in a statement posted on its Web site.
`McCurry' legal battle ends
US burger chain McDonald's Corp has won a five-year legal battle against a tiny Malaysian eatery called "McCurry," persuading a judge that passers-by might confuse it with the fast-food giant. The 24-hour open-air restaurant serves spicy fish-head curries, tandoori chicken and other Indian delicacies on a street corner in Kuala Lumpur under a large "McCurry" sign. "The defendant's use of the word `McCurry' and employing signage featuring colors distinctive to the plaintiff's was indulging in acts that could rise to confusion and deception," the judge was quoted as saying in local media on Friday. In Thursday's ruling, the court ordered the curry house to drop the "Mc" from their signage, but state news agency Bernama said the restaurant planned to appeal the ruling.
■ New Zealand
Hefner pans Playboy Ball
Hugh Hefner wants a New Zealand charity ball to be canceled, claiming promoters have illegally used his Playboy brand and bunny logo and may tarnish his business empire's image, a newspaper reported yesterday. Craig Douglas, organizer of the Playboy Ball, says he got permission from Playboy Enterprises International eight months ago to hold the Sept. 16 party to raise money for Koru Care Christchurch, a charitable trust for sick children, the Christchurch Press reported. "Apparently, the person who wrote back to us had no authorization to tell us that was OK, but as far as we're concerned, we're covered," Douglas told the newspaper.
Quake rocks nation's east
A strong undersea earthquake rocked the east of the nation yesterday, the US Geological Survey said. There were no immediate reports of damage, and the quake did not immediately trigger a tsunami alert. The 6.2 magnitude quake was deep under the Flores Sea, 205km northeast of Sumbawa Island, the survey said in a statement. Callers to el-Shinta radio station from Bali and Flores islands said they felt the quake, but they had not seen any damage as a result of it.
Police uncover terror factory
Anti-terror police yesterday seized bombs, detonators and explosive materials during a raid on a house on Sulawesi Island, a police officer said. Five people were being questioned over the finds in the house in Polewali in west Sulawesi, said police chief Major General Aryanto Budihardjo. He said officers confiscated an unspecified number of homemade bombs that were diffused at the scene. They also found detonators, explosive materials and bits of metal and glass apparently for use as shrapnel in devices under construction. Two spoons used to measure explosive powder were also seized, he said.
Man pumps up before crash
A driver who crashed into a bus shocked rescuers who found him unconscious and half naked with a vacuum pump on his penis. Police said the 42-year-old man, driving an old Citroen in the town of Levice, had ignored a "give way" sign. "It's very likely he had auto-sex while driving, it is a matter of investigation. After the accident he was found lying in the seat, his pants were off and it [the pump] was placed on his penis," police officer Peter Polak said. "I've never seen anything like this, nor have my colleagues," he added. The man was taken to hospital with head injuries.
Calderon stymied by protest
Angry protesters sabotaged a home-town public appearance by Mexico's president-elect on Friday in what may be a taste of resistance to his administration by a leftist rival claiming electoral fraud, newspapers reported. Conservative Felipe Calderon, named president-elect this week after a court threw out fraud claims by his leftist rival, was to place flowers in a square in his home town of Morelia in western Mexico as a tribute to a celebrated independence hero. But some 200 supporters of leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador flooded the square prior to his entrance, forcing him to put it off until later, said national newspapers Reforma and El Universal.
Man threatens another judge
A Basque separatist prisoner on trial for threatening to kill a judge on Thursday told the presiding judge that he would shoot him and "skin him alive," risking yet another jail sentence. Ignacio Javier Bilbao Goikoetxea, a convicted murderer and member of Basque separatist group ETA, kicked the dock's bullet-proof screen and launched a torrent of abuse at judge Alfonso Guevara and Baltasar Garzon, the judge he had threatened at a previous trial who was appearing as a witness. "If you're a man, come here ... I'm going to skin you alive. Come here if you've got the balls ... I look forward to shooting you seven times when I get my hands on you," Bilbao Goikoetxea told Guevara in the Madrid courtroom.
Bomb disposal plant opens
Engineers covered in head-to-toe protective gear on Friday inserted neutralizing chemicals into bombs filled with a deadly nerve agent, officially starting the work at Russia's third chemical weapons destruction plant. The plant opening near Maradykovsky accelerates Russia's campaign to eliminate the world's largest arsenal of the toxins. The plant, 725km northeast of Moscow, holds 6,900 tonnes of nerve agents stored in aerial bombs and missile warheads -- more than 17 percent of Russia's stockpile.
Art shatters in museum
The Pompidou Center in Paris on Thursday admitted responsibility for the destruction of two works of art that fell off walls and smashed to pieces. The works were on loan from the US and formed part of a four-month exhibition of Californian artists called Los Angeles 1955-1985. On Thursday, Bruno Racine, president of the Paris museum, said the museum "unambiguously accepted full responsibility. It is heart-breaking for us." An investigation was launched after Untitled, a resin work worth ?22,000 fell off the wall during the night. The second work was Untitled Wall Relief, worth £48,000.
■ United States
Mugger gets a surprise
Margaret Johnson might have looked like an easy target. But when a mugger tried to grab a chain off her neck on Friday, the wheelchair-bound 56-year-old pulled out her .357 pistol and shot him, police said. Johnson was in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood on her way to a shooting range when the man came up from behind and went for the chain. Deron Johnson was taken to Harlem Hospital with a single bullet wound in the elbow, police said. He faces a robbery charge, said Lieutenant John Grimpel, a police spokesman.
■ United States
Red Cross fined
The US government has fined the American Red Cross US$4.2 million for failing to ask blood donors proper screening questions and skipping other steps meant to keep the blood supply safe. The fine -- the largest ever levied by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a blood safety violation -- follows a multi-year battle between the FDA and the Red Cross, which collects about 45 percent of the blood donated in the US each year for transfusions.
■ United States
Dare turns ugly
Eight diners recently came down with a rare lung infection after eating live sawagani crabs on a dare. The crabs, which are usually served fried, were eaten at various southern California restaurants. Some patrons had started a tradition where they would reach into a jar of live crabs and devour them raw while being cheered on by their friends. Six to 10 weeks after eating the crabs, the participants ended up with a parasite carried by the crab that migrates from the intestines to the lungs and causes lung fluke infection. The infection -- whose symptoms include coughing, diarrhea, breathing problems, abdominal pain, fever and hives -- can lead to a very serious lung infection or damage the brain.
■ United States
Lindauer unfit for trial
Susan Lindauer, a former congressional aide accused of working with Iraqi intelligence before Operation Iraqi Freedom, was released from prison on Friday after a federal judge ruled that she could not be forced to take anti-psychotic medication to make her competent to stand trial. The judge said he was not convinced that even if she took the medication, the defendant would be capable to stand trial. At least a half dozen doctors for both the defense and the prosecution have found that Lindauer suffers from delusions of grandeur and paranoia, which makes her incompetent to stand trial The ruling is a setback for the government's case against Lindauer, who was arrested in March 2004 on charges of conspiracy to act as an unregistered Iraqi agent from October 1999 until February 2004.
Pinochet loses immunity
The Supreme Court has stripped former dictator General Augusto Pinochet of immunity from prosecution for abuses at one of his regime's most notorious detention centers. This marks the first time that torture has been specifically mentioned in one of the numerous legal cases brought against the 90-year-old former dictator. The decision, which cannot be appealed, paves the way for Alejandro Madrid, the judge handling the case, to indict Pinochet. The immunity Pinochet enjoys as a former president must be lifted by the court before cases -- such as that of the notorious Villa Grimaldi, allegedly one of the "worst houses of torture" used under Pinochet -- can go forward.