State plans holiday changes
The government has approved a plan to change the country's national holiday schedule to cope with overwhelming travel congestion and restore tradition, state media reported. The Cabinet, the State Council, approved a draft plan in principle on Friday and will announce the final version soon, the official Xinhua news agency said. No date was given, but state media have said the changes could start next year. In the proposal issued last month, the government suggested paring the weeklong May 1 Labor Day break down to one day and making new one-day official holidays out of three traditional celebrations: Tomb-sweeping Day, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-autumn Festival. The government had eliminated those holidays in previous years in an attempt to break from what they considered China's feudal past.
Enlightenment tree hacked
Authorities are investigating allegations that senior priests at Buddhism's holiest site chopped off a branch from Buddha's enlightenment tree, apparently to sell as souvenirs, a lawyer said on Friday. The incident in the northern town of Bodh Gaya allegedly took place in June when three men ordered a branch of the tree cut off, said Pranay Kumar Singh, a lawyer who has filed a complaint in a local court. On Friday, the court in Bodh Gaya ruled there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal case against the men, Singh said in a telephone interview. But charges have yet to be filed, added Singh, who represents another priest at the temple, Arup Swami. Singh said the suspects, who include the chief priest of the Buddhist temple at the site, planned to sell pieces of the branch.
High-speed rail planned
A high-speed rail line linking Beijing with financial center Shanghai is expected to be completed around 2013, the government said. The Ministry of Railways will finance 78.9 percent of the project, according to a bidding notice posted on the Web site of the ministry's engineering center seen yesterday. Trains on the 1,318km line would run at speeds of up to 350kph, cutting travel time between the cities to less than five hours from 10. The China Daily quoted an unidentified source as saying the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway Corp will have a registered capital of 115 billion yuan (US$15.54 billion) and that regional governments will most likely be the other investors.
Rescuers raised mine toll
About 50 people with no rescue training rushed to extricate colleagues trapped in an underground mine in north China but never resurfaced, resulting in a death toll of more than 100, state media said yesterday. The bodies of at least 105 people have so far been recovered from the Xinyao mine in coal-rich Shanxi Province, which was hit by an explosion on Wednesday. Mine owners tried to launch their own rescue operation, which newspapers said probably increased casualties.
Trump sues property firm
Donald Trump is taking on a Philippine property firm over their alleged attempt to use his name in one of their real estate projects, a report said yesterday. The Philippine Star said that Trump has taken action against Megaworld Corp for its "outrageous attempt to mislead buyers into thinking that my name and company is affiliated with Megaworld's project." He was referring to a property development in a Manila suburb, called "the Trumps." However the report quoted a Megaworld spokesman saying that "we do not need to ride on the name of Mr Donald J. Trump as we are a leading property developer in the Philippines while Mr Trump has no known real estate project in the country."
CCP praises failed mutiny
Communist insurgents yesterday praised last month's failed military mutiny but denied allegations that they were involved in the plot. Brigadier General Danilo Lim and Senator Antonio Trillanes led a small band of rebel soldiers and civilian supporters in taking over the Peninsula Hotel in the capital's Makati financial district. The group, who demanded President Gloria Arroyo step down, were forced to surrender a few hours later. "The CPP [Communist Party of the Philippines] ... praise the group of General Lim and Senator Trillanes for denouncing the puppetry, exploitativeness, corruption, mendacity and brutality of the Arroyo regime," the communists said.
Law enforces filialness
Citizens who neglect their ageing parents face possible prison under a new law passed by worried politicians. The law, passed late on Thursday, reflects concerns that rapid modernization and a growth in nuclear families is undermining a centuries-old social fabric of extended families. Under the law, Indians can face up to a month in jail if found guilty of parental neglect. The law also allows authorities to order children or relatives to pay a monthly maintenance allowance to the aged.
Investigators believe a deadly package bomb explosion at a Paris law office was not the work of a terror group, and police have detained an architect as a suspect, officials said on Friday. An office secretary opened the wooden box package after it was delivered to the law office on Thursday and two explosives inside went off, killing her and seriously injuring a lawyer. Judicial police detained the 45-year-old architect at his mother's home, where he was living, police officials said on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing. The man denied organizing the attack, the officials said.
■ EUROPEAN UNION
Poland steps into line
Poland on Friday withdrew its opposition to holding an annual European Day against the death penalty, diplomats said. For months Warsaw had refused to join the 26 other EU members in backing a stepped-up anti-death penalty campaign in Europe, holding up the plan that needs unanimous approval. Poland lifted its objection during a meeting of EU justice ministers on Friday, days after newly elected Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk visited EU headquarters in an effort to patch up ties with EU officials. Tusk ousted the conservative government of prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, which had opposed the proposal.
Ministers reject Scientology
Federal and state interior ministers declared the Church of Scientology unconstitutional on Friday, opening the door for a possible ban on the organization. Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and 16 state interior chiefs agreed "that we do not consider Scientology an organization that is compatible with the Constitution," saod Ehrhart Koerting, Berlin's interior minister and chairman of a ministers' conference in Berlin. The country does not recognize Scientology as a religion, seeing it as a cult masquerading as a church to make money. Scientologists reject this view.
DGS suspends officials
The DGS border police said on Friday it had suspended a senior Muslim official on suspicion of involvement in war crimes and 12 other officials suspected of abuse of office. SRNA news agency reported that Alagic was suspected of taking part in the murder of 48 Serb civilians in the southern town of Konjic during the 1992 to 1995 war. Pending the completion of a probe, the DGS also removed from office 12 officers believed to have been involved with a criminal gang which evaded taxes during the import, customs clearance and registration of cars.
Study raises cancer alarm
Regular use of mobile phones increases the risk of developing tumors, a new scientific study by Israeli researchers and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology revealed on Friday. An extract of the report seen by the Yedoit Aharonot newspaper put the risk of developing a parotid gland tumor nearly 50 percent higher for frequent mobile phone users -- more than 22 hours a month. The risk was still higher if users clamped the phone to the same ear, did not use hands-free devices or were in rural areas. The study included 402 benign and 58 malignant cases of parotid gland tumor diagnosed in Israel at age 18 years or more, between 2001 and 2003.
■ UNITED STATES
Same-sex divorce ruled out
The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled on Friday that same-sex couples who marry in Massachusetts, the only state that allows same-sex marriage, may not divorce in Rhode Island. In a 3-2 decision, the court ruled that it was up to the legislature, not the court, to determine whether same-sex marriages and divorces would be recognized in Rhode Island. The court said its role was "not to determine policy, but simply to determine legislative intent." The ruling said, "The General Assembly has not granted the Family Court the power to grant a divorce in the situation described."
■ UNITED STATES
Man sues Burger King
A man who says he bit into a Burger King sandwich and found an unwrapped condom inside has sued the owner of the restaurant. Van Miguel Hartless, 24, of Fair Haven, said Friday he bought the Southwestern Whopper at a Burger King in Rutland on June 18 and made the discovery when he got home and started eating it. "My third bite into the burger, it was just a foreign taste," he said. "It was a very sour, bitter sort of taste. It almost had a numbing sensation." Hartless said he waited three weeks before contacting an attorney. Similar claims have turned out to be fraudulent in other cases.
■ UNITED STATES
'Green card' bride arrested
A Russian woman who allegedly advertised herself online to get married in order to obtain immigration status has been arrested, a newspaper reported on Friday. Yuliya Kalinina, 24, who was living in Los Angeles, spelled out exactly what she was looking for in a husband in her Internet ad: "Green Card Marriage -- Will pay US$300/month. Total $15,000," she allegedly wrote in an ad placed on the Craigslist Web site, according to the Los Angeles Times. The ad caught the attention of the man who would eventually marry her on Feb. 17 last year. But it also alerted agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
■ PUERTO RICO
Mayor commits to shelter
The mayor of the city where contractors allegedly took pets from public housing projects and hurled them off a bridge said the city will build its own shelter to hold captured animals. Barceloneta Mayor Sol Luis Fontanez made the announcement on Thursday, one day after a judge charged the contractor's owner and two employees with animal cruelty in the October incident. The mayor said the "deplorable incident" prompted him to seek bids for a shelter that will hold animals temporarily before sending them to a larger shelter. In October, municipal officials and animal-control workers took dogs and cats from three housing projects in Barceloneta.
■ UNITED STATES
NASA postpones launch
NASA officials on Friday again postponed the launching of the space shuttle Atlantis as they continued to discuss how to deal with a fuel sensor problem. The flight, originally scheduled for Thursday and then pushed to yesterday, is scheduled for liftoff today at 3:21pm, said Allard Beutel, a spokesman for NASA. Agency managers and engineers were in the midst of discussions about the sensor issue on Friday evening when they decided to forgo the possibility of flying yesterday. The Atlantis' mission is to carry a large European science laboratory to the International Space Station. NASA has until Dec. 16 to get the shuttle off before that last launching window of the year closes.