World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

Fri, Sep 04, 2009 - Page 6

■MALAYSIA

Concert ban repealed

Kuala Lumpur reversed an earlier ban on Muslims attending a concert by US hip-hop band The Black Eyed Peas, saying it had no right to restrict people from entertainment events. The concert on Sept. 25 is sponsored by Guinness as part of celebrations for the alcoholic brew’s 250th birthday. Guinness is owned by the world’s biggest spirits group Diageo. Information Minister Rais Yatim said it was up to the individual’s “better judgment” to decide whether he or she should attend events organized by an alcoholic beverage company. “We have no legal powers actually to bar people from attending functions,” the Star newspaper quoted Rais as saying on Wednesday.

■CHINA

Dog dates 16,000 years

Man’s best friend, the domestic dog, has been dated back to southern China 16,000 years ago, researchers from Sweden and China said on Wednesday. Using DNA analysis the team traced the link back to the region south of the Yangtze River, where people first tamed and domesticated several hundred wolves. The study offered “a detailed picture of the dog, with its birthplace, point in time and how many wolves were tamed,” said Peter Savolainen, a biologist at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. The findings were presented in the scientific journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. The team studied the genetic makeup of 1,500 dogs in Asia, Africa and Europe and were able to trace back the geographical origin to southern China. Archeological findings also appeared to back up the findings, suggesting that the transition from hunters and gatherers to farmers took place some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago in the region.

■AUSTRALIA

Joint exercises welcome

Canberra was open to holding joint military exercises with China and the US, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said yesterday, amid growing concern about Beijing’s military build-up. “Australia has defense cooperation and contact with a range of countries ... there’s no reason that can’t be contemplated with China,” Smith told reporters in Perth. His comments came as the top US military commander in Asia said joint military exercises would increase regional stability and ease concerns in the US and Australia about Beijing’s military might, Fairfax newspapers reported. The report said US Admiral Timothy Keating and Australian Defence Force chief Angus Houston met this week and agreed to put the proposal to China “at the earliest opportunity.” Keating said the proposed exercises would start with small-scale naval and land activities, followed by personnel exchanges.

■INDIA

Chopper crash kills minister

A powerful politician was killed in a helicopter crash in a densely forested area of Andhra Pradesh state, party officials said yesterday. The bodies of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, chief minister of the southeastern state, and four other victims were found more than 24 hours after their helicopter went missing. Congress party spokeswoman Jayanthi Natarajan confirmed Reddy’s death and said that “the Indian people and the Congress party had lost a great leader.” Reddy, 60, was a major powerbroker in politics and was pursuing tie-ups with international investors to turn his state into India’s second-largest software hub. Reddy was on a tour of Andhra Pradesh to visit drought-hit villages and inspect relief schemes addressing the weak monsoons.

■ISRAEL

Program can decipher texts

Researchers say they have developed a computer program that can decipher previously unreadable ancient texts and possibly lead the way to a Google-like search engine for historical documents. The program uses a pattern recognition algorithm similar to those law enforcement agencies have adopted to identify and compare fingerprints. But in this case, the program identifies letters, words and even handwriting styles, saving historians and liturgists hours of sitting and studying manuscripts. By recognizing such patterns, the computer can recreate with high accuracy portions of texts that faded over time or even those written over by later scribes, said Itay Bar-Yosef, one of the researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

■ITALY

Qaddafi orders rocket car

How do you celebrate a coup that gave you 40 years in power? For Muammar Qaddafi, the answer is simple: Order a rocket car. An Italian company said on Wednesday that the Libyan leader wanted an ultra-safe car as sleek as a rocket to celebrate the anniversary of the 1969 coup that brought him to power — so that’s what they made for him. The “Rocket” is an “elegant sedan” 5.5m long and 1.8m wide, with a 3 liter, V-6 gasoline engine. It can go hundreds of kilometers on a flat tire. Car design company Tesco TS SpA said Qaddafi asked that Libyan materials including marble, leather and fabric be used. The car was unveiled earlier this week in Tripoli at the end of an African Union summit. Qaddafi already owns one rocket car, which he bought 10 years ago when he marked 30 years in power. At the time, Libya said the vehicle was the safest in the world.

■RUSSIA

Moscow may banish show

The fabled beauty of the Kremlin’s golden onion domes dusted with winter snow may be a thing of the past under a scheme by the Moscow mayor reported by newspapers yesterday to banish snow. “Why don’t we keep this snow outside the Moscow city limits?” the Izvestia and Gazeta dailies quoted Mayor Yuri Luzhkov — who has a well-established track record of micro-managing Moscow’s weather — as saying this week. “For the countryside, this means more moisture and bigger harvests. And for us, less snow,” Luzhkov said, adding that Moscow already relies on cloud-seeding techniques to guarantee clear skies on holidays. Under Luzhkov’s proposal, the skies would be cleared whenever snow-laden clouds approach Moscow.

■SPAIN

Referendum raises hackles

Lawyers representing the government have lodged a legal appeal against plans by a village in northeastern Catalonia to stage a referendum on independence for the region, judicial sources said on Wednesday. Arenys de Munt, a village of just 8,000 near Barcelona, has called the non-binding referendum for Sept. 13. The initiative — launched by a separatist association — is backed by all parties in the village council bar Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialists. The villagers were to be asked whether Catalonia should become an independent state within the EU. Villages cannot call popular votes on anything except local matters, the state lawyers argued, saying that a local vote on a question of national importance could encourage other localities to organize similar polls.

■UNITED STATES

Kennedy writes of remorse

In a posthumous memoir, Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy writes of fear and remorse surrounding the fateful events on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969, when his car accident left a woman dead, and says he accepted the finding that a lone gunman assassinated his brother, president John F. Kennedy. The memoir, True Compass, is to be published on Sept. 14 by Twelve, with the New York Times obtaining an early copy. Kennedy says his actions on Chappaquiddick on July 18, 1969, were “inexcusable.” He says he was afraid and “made terrible decisions” and had to live with the guilt for more than four decades. Kennedy also wrote that he had a full briefing by Earl Warren, the chief justice on the commission that investigated the Nov. 22, 1963, Dallas shooting. He said he was convinced the Warren Commission got it right and he was “satisfied then, and satisfied now.”

■UNITED STATES

New calculator for US debt

The national debt is so large, it doesn’t even fit on most calculators. Western Colorado real estate developer Matt Miles says he was concerned that no one in government, nor most Americans, had ever seen the number. So he made a new calculator. The “Big Red” calculator displays 16 digits. That’s enough to show all the numbers in the national debt, which totaled nearly US$11.8 trillion — or US$11,792,918,170,836.43 — at the start of this month. Miles says he wants to get people thinking about how much the US owes.

■UNITED STATES

Stranger ‘slaps’ crying kid

Police say a 61-year-old man annoyed with a crying two-year-old girl at a suburban Atlanta Walmart slapped the child several times after warning the toddler’s mother to keep her quiet. A police report says after the stranger hit the girl at least four times, he said: “See, I told you I would shut her up.” Roger Stephens of Stone Mountain is charged with felony cruelty to children. It was unclear if he had an attorney and a telephone call to his home on Wednesday was unanswered. Authorities say the girl and her mother were shopping on Monday when the toddler began crying. The police report says Stephens approached the mother and said: “If you don’t shut that baby up, I will shut her up for you.” Authorities say Stephens then grabbed the child and slapped her.

■UNITED STATES

Husband drops charges

A domestic battery case against porn star and potential Louisiana senate contender Stormy Daniels has been dropped after the alleged victim chose not to prosecute. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Gregory Clifford, was arrested in Florida in July and charged after her husband told Tampa police that she hit him several times in a dispute about laundry and unpaid bills. A spokeswoman with the local state attorney’s office says prosecutors could not determine who was the aggressor in that situation.

■UNITED STATES

Pit bull euthanized

A pit bull that chewed the toes off of a four-month old baby in North Carolina has been euthanized, while the child’s mother and her boyfriend remain in custody, charged with felony child abuse. The one-year-old dog was put down and tested negative for rabies. A spokeswoman for Onslow County Animal Control said that to test for rabies, animals must first be euthanized. Messages left for the attorneys of the mother, Robie Lynn Jenkins, and her boyfriend, Tremayne Spillman, were not returned on Wednesday.