World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

Sat, Apr 14, 2007 - Page 7

■ JAPAN

Constitutional bill passed

The lower house of parliament yesterday approved guidelines for amending the pacifist Constitution, a key step in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to give the military a larger global role. The legislation was passed easily because of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) majority in the chamber. The 1947 US-drafted Constitution has never been amended. The vote came after members of the LDP and its coalition partner the New Komei Party pushed the legislation through a lower house panel meeting on Thursday despite calls for more debate.

■ CHINA

Seven jailed over protest

A court jailed seven villagers for up to four years for protesting over a land dispute, a lawyer and a human rights group said yesterday, in the latest crackdown on dissent. Liu Dehuo (劉德夥) from Nanhai County, Guangdong Province, one of the protest organizers who had demanded compensation for land seized by a local company, received a four-year sentence, his lawyer Zhang Jiankang (張鑑康) said. "The court's decision was totally unreasonable and unjust," Zhang said by telephone. "They [the villagers] only demanded that their rights be protected," he said, adding that the government had prevented him from defending his client. Six other participants were also sentenced to between two years and six months and four years on the same charges.

■ NORTH KOREA

Deadline unlikely to be met

Pyongyang said yesterday it was still confirming the release of frozen funds that had been its key condition for dismantling its nuclear programs, making it unlikely it would meet a weekend deadline for shutting down its bomb-making reactor. The North's Foreign Ministry said its intention to implement a February agreement with the US and regional powers on initial steps to disarm "remains unchanged" and that the country "will also move when the lifting of the sanction is proved to be a reality." The North has not yet withdrawn some US$25 million that was unfrozen this week in Macau.

■ MALAYSIA

Teacher caned in error

A teacher was dealt a rude shock when she was caned on her backside by the school's principal, who mistook her for a student, according to state media. The secondary school teacher said she was dressed in Malay martial arts attire and ushering some students back to their classrooms on Wednesday after extra-curricular activities when she was whacked. "Suddenly and without asking questions, the female principal who was patrolling the area caned me on the buttocks and also caned several other students," the teacher told the Bernama news agency on Thursday.

■ EGYPT

Amnesty report rejected

The government rejected an Amnesty International report that accused the country of systematic abuse against prisoners, calling it inaccurate and unfair. Amnesty's report, released on Wednesday, said the country had 18,000 people in jails without trial, some for more than a decade. It also said torture was pervasive in police stations and prisons. The human-rights group warned that rights abuses were likely to worsen because of constitutional amendments approved last month that suspended civil rights in terror investigations. The Foreign Ministry said the country had made progress in human rights, citing the establishment of the state-appointed National Council of Human Rights.

■ UNITED KINGDOM

Classic tunes rev up drivers

Want to stay safe on the roads? Then avoid listening to Guns N`Roses' Paradise City, Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell and Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run behind the wheel. The trio are among the artists featured on a top 10 of tracks that get people's blood pumping and in the mood to drive aggressively. Some 1,700 voters have so far responded to an online poll run by Electronic Arts and AOL to mark the launch of a new racing videogame, Burnout Dominator. The resultant shortlist of tracks that get people revved up spans more than 30 years of chart favorites, although none of them actually reached No. 1.

■ CROATIA

Former PM near death

Former prime minister Ivica Racan, hospitalized and suffering from cancer that has spread to his brain, was close to death, a political aide said yesterday. Racan, 63, who headed Croatia's first staunchly pro-Western government from 2000 to 2003 and afterward led the country's strongest political opposition, was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his shoulder two months ago. Doctors said the cancer had spread from his kidney and recently reached his brain. Racan, who resigned as the head of the Social Democratic Party on Wednesday saying he was stepping down "to continue the battle for my life," was apparently falling in and out of consciousness throughout the night.

■ CYPRUS

Fight erupts at convent

Two people were stabbed and two arrested in scuffles at a convent on Thursday in a power struggle between rival factions, police said. Witnesses said priests and nuns were involved in the night-time fracas at the Metamorphosis tou Sotiros convent, some 35 km southeast of Nicosia. Disputes there have been simmering for months over control of its speculated vast wealth. The people injured and those arrested were laymen, police said. "Two required stitches for head injuries inflicted by sharp implements and two were detained for obstructing police," a police source said.

■ UNITED STATES

Toilet death brings lawsuit

An American Airlines passenger died in a restroom during an April 2005 flight from Tokyo and was not found until the cleaning crew boarded the plane after it landed, a federal lawsuit contends. Taisuke Matsuo, 66, apparently had a heart attack on the flight to Chicago -- the first leg of a trip home to Indianapolis, Indiana, according to the lawsuit filed on Monday by his wife, Carolyn Watts. The lawsuit accuses the airline of negligence and seeks about US$150,000 in damages.

■ UNITED STATES

Governor critically injured

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine was critically injured when his motorcade crashed on a highway, a doctor said. Doctors inserted a breathing tube because injuries to his chest left him unable to breathe on his own. Corzine, 60, suffered numerous broken bones but his injuries from Thursday's crash were not considered life-threatening, officials said. He was recuperating yesterday at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey, after two hours of surgery to repair a seriously damaged leg and other injuries.

■ UNITED STATES

Sheriff writes himself ticket

Dennis Kocken, the sheriff of Brown County, Wisconsin, said on Wednesday that he truly believed that no one was above the law -- not even the sheriff. He wrote himself a ticket last month after he was involved in an accident in the village of Howard, outside Green Bay. Kocken said the accident occurred after he started following a driver who had sped past him. As he moved into the lane behind her car, his attention was briefly drawn to a snowblower near the edge of the road. "I was picking up speed," he said, "and wouldn't you know it, she slowed down to turn left, and I hit her." There were no injuries.

■ UNITED STATES

Vatican defrocks ex-priest

The Vatican has defrocked a former priest accused of sexually assaulting and whipping boys participating in Passion plays, the Philadelphia archdiocese said. The Reverend Thomas Smith was accused of putting pins in his mouth and pricking the boys until they bled, according to a 2005 grand jury report. He also was accused of whipping boys participating in dramatic representations of the trial, suffering and death of Jesus Christ. The diocese said in a statement on Thursday that the allegations in the grand jury report had been found to be credible and called the behavior "depraved and sadistic" in determining Smith should be defrocked.

■ UNITED STATES

Attorneys challenge deal

Attorneys for a man convicted of murdering a six-year-old girl when he was 12 years old said they want his 30-year sentence vacated on the grounds that one of his former attorneys was incompetent. A motion was filed in the 4th District Court of Appeals in Florida earlier this week, said Jim Lewis, an attorney for Lionel Tate. Tate was once the youngest person in modern US history to receive a life sentence after he was convicted of murder in the 1999 beating death of six-year-old Tiffany Eunick. But the sentence was thrown out in 2004 and he was given a plea deal and probation. Tate began serving a 30-year sentence for violating his probation after he was arrested for allegedly robbing a pizza delivery man at gunpoint in May 2005.

■ UNITED STATES

Girl stabs newborn to death

A 17-year-old girl stabbed her newborn baby 135 times and then tossed her body in a garbage can outside her home in Minnesota, authorities said. The high school senior told police she gave birth on the floor of the laundry room in her home early on Monday, according to court documents. Nicole Marie Beecroft said she saw the baby's finger move and then stabbed the child in a "panic state," the complaint said. An autopsy determined the infant was born alive, but suffered numerous puncture wounds in the chest area and bled to death from 135 sharp-force injuries, the complaint said. Beecroft was charged with first-degree, or premeditated, murder and was being held in a juvenile detention facility.