World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

Sat, Aug 11, 2007 - Page 7

■ CHINA

Masses tie the knot

Beijing reported a sevenfold increase in weddings on Wednesday, as Chinese took advantage of what is considered an auspicious date. A spike in Cesarean births was also reported in some areas, the single biggest baby bump since the rush to be the first to give birth on Jan. 1, 2000, newspapers said on Wednesday. Beijing's Olympic organizers had already taken advantage of the timing to launch their one-year countdown to next year's summer Games. The number eight is considered lucky because it rhymes with the word for "prosper."

■ PAKISTAN

Storm kills 15 people

A wild storm and heavy rains lashed the nation's largest city, Karachi, collapsing some houses, flooding streets and leaving at least 15 people dead, an official said yesterday. The damage in Karachi, a teeming city of 15 million people, was not widespread, but officials were still assessing the damage from the overnight storm and the death toll could rise, said Anwar Kazi, a spokesman for the Edhi Foundation, a private relief service. The foundation pulled 15 bodies and 24 injured people from collapsed houses, he said.

■ CHINA

Official sentenced to death

A court has sentenced a former senior city official to death for killing his mistress with a car bomb after he tired of her constant demands for money, state media said on Thursday. Duan Yihe, once Communist Party secretary and head of the local assembly in the eastern city of Jinan, asked his niece's husband, Chen Zhi, to help with the plot, the official Xinhua news agency said. Chen was also sentenced to death. Duan had had "irregular sexual relations" with victim Liu Haiping, the report said -- official speak for an affair. "During that time, Liu asked Duan to buy a house for her and got him to arrange jobs for several relatives, but still kept demanding money," Xinhua said. "Duan gradually tired of her, yet found it hard to extricate himself."

■ JAPAN

Man duped 61 times

A man was swindled out of a fortune after being duped not once but 61 times by conmen who told him his name was circulating among shady money lenders, police said on Thursday. The 54-year-old company worker first received a phone call in early June from a purported financial company, asking him: "Haven't you been receiving lots of offers of loans lately?" The reason, the caller explained, was because the man's personal data had been leaked and was circulating among disreputable money lenders. "We will erase your data, which will cost 5,000 yen. Please send us 30,000 yen as we'll refund you 25,000 yen later," the caller said, according to Tokyo police.

■ SWEDEM

Beaver attacks grandma

A grandmother taking a leisurely swim in a river ended up in the hospital after a beaver attacked her with its tail, regional newspaper Nerikes Allehanda reported on Wednesday. Police sources said it was the second time a beaver had attacked humans at the beach on the banks of the Bottenaa, around 150km west of Stockholm, the newspaper reported. "The beaver attacked the grandmother. She was seriously hit by the animal's tail and received a number of bites and scratches," an officer told the newspaper. The authorities have decided to kill the dozen or so beavers living near the beach to eliminate any risk to bathers.

■ UNITED STATES

Worker cocaine use down

Cocaine use has fallen sharply among workers in a country where on-the-job drugs tests are mandatory for some employees, a study showed on Thursday. Of more than 4.4 million workers tested for cocaine in the first six months of the year, only 0.58 percent returned positive samples, an ongoing study conducted by Quest Diagnostics to track cocaine usage among US workers showed. "Workplace drug testing is apparently a deterrent to workplace drug use in the United States," said Wendy Bost, a spokeswoman for Quest. The results of the study showed a 15.9 percent fall from the number of positive tests returned during last year.

■ FRANCE

Pedophile arrested

Police have detained a man who admitted sprinkling itching powder on young children at the Disneyland theme park near Paris and filming them as they scratched themselves, a judicial source said on Wednesday. The 50-year-old was arrested last Sunday after a German tourist spotted him sprinkling her niece's underwear with itching powder, the source said. The man had been photographing young girls when they dropped their underwear to relieve the itching. A police search of the man's home later revealed a hoard of child pornography and videos of the suspected raping one of his nieces and of sexual assaults on other minors, the source said.

■ UNITED KINGDOM

Serviceman arrested

A serviceman has been arrested in connection with the attempted murder of a female officer at the elite Sandhurst officer training academy, defense ministry police said on Thursday. "A 25-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and is being questioned at Maidenhead Police station following an incident at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst," a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

■ UNITED STATES

Blacks suffer in murder rate

African-Americans are victims of nearly half the murders committed nationwide, despite making up only 13 percent of the population, a report published on Thursday showed. Around 8,000 of nearly 16,500 murder victims in 2005, or 49 percent, were black, according to the report released by the statistics bureau of the Department of Justice. Broken down by gender, 6,800 black men were murdered in 2005, making up more than half the nearly 13,000 male murder victims. Black women made up 35 percent, or 1,200, of the nearly 3,500 female homicide victims.

■ UNITED STATES

Teen arrested for murder

Two people, one of them a 15-year-old boy, have been arrested over the execution-style killing of three college students in New Jersey, officials said on Thursday. The 15-year-old suspect, who was not named because of his age, was arrested late on Wednesday on murder charges. He was reportedly identified by a fourth person who survived last weekend's attack despite a gunshot in the head. The three people who died were shot at close range in the back of the head in a Newark schoolyard. Authorities have said they do not believe the killings were related to gang violence or were racially motivated.

■ UNITED STATES

Two bodies recovered

Divers pulled at least two more bodies from the wreckage of the collapsed Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, bringing the disaster's confirmed death toll to seven, more than a week after the span crumbled. Later, authorities said one of those sets of remains might actually include another victim, which would bring the toll to eight if confirmed. The first victim recovered on Thursday was identified as Peter Hausmann, 47. Crews have been searching for at least eight people missing and presumed killed in the collapse, including a mother and her young daughter and another woman and her adult son.

■ UNITED STATES

Jesus sealant sold on eBay

A smudge of driveway sealant resembling the face of Jesus Christ has fetched US$1,525.69 in an online auction. The family that found the image on its garage floor in Forest, Virginia, sold it on eBay on Wednesday, more than a week after the slab of concrete was put on sale. "I really never thought I'd get any, to be honest," said Deb Serio, a high school teacher. "It's fun to see what people say and think about it," said Serio, who has gotten hundreds of messages from around the world. The family has hired a contractor to remove the section of concrete.

■ UNITED STATES

Marines cleared of charges

Two Marines facing charges in connection with the alleged massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha two years ago were cleared of wrongdoing on Thursday, the military said. In rulings released at the Marines Camp Pendleton base in southern California, Lieutenant General James Mattis announced that charges against Lance Corporal Justin Sharratt and Captain Randy Stone had been dropped. Sharratt had been charged with three counts of murder while Stone was accused of failing to properly investigate the incident, the most serious case of alleged war crimes involving US forces in Iraq. Prosecutors allege Marines went on a rampage, shooting men, women and children after a bombing that tore a comrade in half.

■ UNITED STATES

Spears hits Benz, splits

The owner of a parked Mercedes-Benz that was scraped up when Britney Spears smashed her car into it said she only found out about the incident because it was caught on camera by paparazzi. Kim Robard-Rifkin, 59, told an entertainment Web site on Wednesday that nobody from Spears' camp contacted her about the car. "It's sad because I was really hoping she'd step up and be a mensch, be a human being," Robard-Rifkin said. A video on CelebTV.com, taken Monday, shows the 25-year-old pop star -- with a puppy on her lap -- attempting to pull her black convertible into an empty parking space when she hit Robard-Rifkin's car.