Islamic militants freed
Two Islamic militants have been freed after being held for four years for belonging to the Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which is linked to al-Qaeda, the government said on Friday. The Home Affairs Ministry said in a statement the pair, detained in November 2003 under the city-state's Internal Security Act, had been released on Thursday on restriction orders under which their movements would be monitored for two years. The ministry said the two, who belonged to JI's Al-Ghuraba cell, had cooperated with investigations into the cell and JI, and "had responded positively to rehabilitation, including religious counseling."
Xi to manage HK, Macau
Rising political star Xi Jinping (習近平) has been named by the Communist Party to manage Hong Kong and Macau affairs, state media said yesterday. Xi was named to the party's powerful nine-member Politburo Standing Committee last month and is seen as the main candidate to take over for President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) when he retires in 2012. "I'm very happy to announce that Politburo Standing Committee member comrade Xi Jinping will head up the Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs," China News Service quoted Chen Zuoer (陳佐洱), vice head of the group, as saying.
State to cull wild horses
The northern state of Queensland plans to slaughter 10,000 feral horses, known as brumbies, that are damaging fragile habitats in national parks. More than 4,000 feral horses have already been shot in the popular Carnarvon National Park in central Queensland, the Courier Mail newspaper reported yesterday. State Sustainability Minister Andrew McNamara said shooting the horses was the most humane option. "Feral horses are causing serious erosion, spreading weeds, destroying freshwater springs and other water courses, damaging Aboriginal cultural sites, competing with native wildlife for feed, and destroying habitat," he was quoted as saying. McNamara said the program would ensure the feral horse population was kept at a manageable level relative to the native wildlife.
Court bans frolicking
A court has banned on-duty judges from wearing heavy makeup and "frolicking" with colleagues, in an exhaustive list of 55 regulations to improve judicial etiquette. A notice issued by the high court of Henan also banned judges using certain phrases in the courtroom, including: "Are you the judge or am I?" and "You will certainly lose this case." Judges would not be allowed to wear jewels, Friday's Beijing Times said. Holding hands with colleagues is also out, he said. "Judges must not dye their hair, wear heavy make-up, tattoos or painted nails," the paper said. Judges who broke the rules would receive "criticism and education," and serial offenders would be fired, it said.
Man dies of bird flu
A man from Riau Province on Sumatra Island has died of bird flu, taking the country's death toll from the disease to 91, a health ministry official said on yesterday. It was not clear if the 31-year-old man who died on Tuesday had been in contact with sick fowl. Including the latest fatality, there have been 206 deaths globally and 335 confirmed cases since 2003, according to World Health Organization data.
Report says Blair to convert
Former prime minister Tony Blair is expected to be received into the Catholic Church within weeks, British Catholic newspaper the Tablet said yesterday. The weekly said that Blair, an Anglican, was to convert to the religion of his lawyer wife Cherie and their four children. However, Blair's spokesman said: "This is just the same old speculation that I'm not commenting on." There were frequent rumors throughout Blair's 10-year tenure as prime minister, which ended when he stepped down in June, that he would convert. The Tablet said some Catholics might be upset by Blair's conversion, given that his parliamentary record showed he supported abortion.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Zany records sought
Share a bath with the most rattlesnakes. Join the longest bra chain. Marvel at the world's biggest underpants. Zany record-breakers from around the world on Thursday bid for immortality in the bible for the bizarre, seizing their chance to win an entry in Guinness World Records. Last year, more than 100,000 people tried to set new records on Guinness World Records Day. "This year, we expect twice as many," Guinness editor-in-chief Craig Glenday said. First up in London's Hyde Park was Ironman Manjit Singh, who attempted the fastest time to pull a red doubledecker bus 10m with his earlobes. He could only drag it 3.7m.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Rotten returns in London
The Sex Pistols snarled and shouted their way through their greatest hits late on Thursday at the start of a brief reunion tour, and early reviews praised the 50-somethings for maintaining the filth and fury. "Half a century young!" a defiant lead singer John Lydon shouted to thousands of fans at a packed Brixton Academy. Sporting his trademark spiky orange hair, the performer best known as Johnny Rotten wore a pheasant shooting outfit, which caused him several wardrobe malfunctions when his trousers kept slipping down. The four punk pioneers opened with Pretty Vacant and raced through most of their best known numbers in a gig that lasted just over an hour.
Car left at gas station
A man forgot his car after filling it up at a gas station, police said on Friday. "He just forgot about it and walked off home," said a spokesman for police in the western city of Wuppertal. After the car had sat blocking the pump for about an hour, a woman working at the gas station became suspicious and alerted authorities. Officers contacted the 63-year-old from Remscheid, who returned to fetch the vehicle. He had paid to fill up the car before walking off.
Flasher stuns courtroom
A flasher stunned lawyers during his appeal hearing on a flashing conviction by stripping off in court, authorities said on Thursday. "The court withdrew for deliberations and during the adjournment the man removed his clothes again," said a spokesman for the court in the western city of Duisburg. "It appears he sees it as art, and views himself as a living work of art." The 60-year-old was in court to appeal his conviction for running onto the field naked during a girl's soccer match and striking a range of "body builder poses," the spokesman said. State prosecutors filed fresh charges of indecent behavior against the man after the court incident.
Lawmaker found guilty
A Florida state lawmaker accused of offering US$20 for oral sex to an undercover police officer in a park men's room has been found guilty of soliciting prostitution. State Representative Bob Allen faces up to 60 days in jail and a US$500 fine. The Republican was accused of peering over a stall at an undercover police officer and agreeing to pay US$20 to perform oral sex on him. Allen said he would appeal the verdict. He co-sponsored a bill months before his arrest that would have raised charges from a misdemeanor to a felony for "lascivious acts or exposure or exhibition of sexual organs" within 304m of a park, school or child care facility.
■ UNITED STATES
Women ran prostitution ring
Five women accused of running massage parlors as fronts for prostitution were convicted of conspiracy on Friday in a trial that focused on a far-flung sex industry that brought Korean women to work as prostitutes along the East Coast. The women can expect to spend up to three years in prison. Prosecutors alleged that women were smuggled into the US with fake documents and shuttled in cabs from parlor to parlor. They worked up to 18 hours per day to repay huge smuggling fees.
■ UNITED STATES
Scare charges dropped
Authorities in New Haven, Connecticut, have dropped charges against two people who inadvertently caused a bioterrorism scare when they sprinkled flour in a parking lot to mark a trail for their offbeat running club. The sprinkled powder forced hundreds to evacuate an IKEA furniture store in August. Ophthalmologist Daniel Salchow, 36, and his sister, Dorothee, 31, were charged with first-degree breach of peace, a felony. The charges were tossed out on Thursday after Daniel Salchow agreed he and his sister would pay US$4,000 to local charities. Daniel Salchow and his attorney, Michael Jefferson, said they were pleased with the resolution but still believe authorities overreacted.
■ UNITED STATES
O.J. may not have known
O.J. Simpson may not have been aware that men accompanying him to a confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers in Las Vegas were carrying guns, a court heard on Friday. Auction house owner Thomas Riccio, the man who set up the meeting that ultimately led to Simpson's arrest, also told a hearing in Las Vegas that at no stage in the incident did Simpson brandish a firearm. "It was real chance he didn't know [about the guns]," said Riccio, who rented the room at the Palace Station Hotel where the incident happened. "Do I know 1,000 percent? I know that's what [Simpson] said. He was standing several feet in front of the guns."
■ UNITED STATES
Nominee gunman released
The man who shot and paralyzed Alabama Governor George Wallace during the 1972 presidential race was released from prison on Friday, prison officials said. Arthur Bremer, who shot Wallace and three others as the governor campaigned in Maryland for the Democratic presidential nomination, wrote in his diary that he acted to gain fame. Bremer served 35 years but was released 17 years early from a Maryland prison because of good behavior. Wallace, known for his racist policies and statements, was an Alabama governor and ran unsuccessfully for president four times. He later became a born-again Christian and repudiated his racist views.