Rift over separatists
Thailand's foreign ministry said yesterday it doesn't support secret peace talks reportedly held between the defense ministry and Muslim separatists in the south, exposing an apparent rift in the government. Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathia-rathai told reporters the government has "no policy to talk with any insurgent because we do not recognize any insurgent group ... If security agencies have conducted secret talks ... it is their way of resolving the problem. But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not recognize or acknowledge such a contact because that's not the government policy,'' he said.
Flood preparations ordered
Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) has ordered flood prevention officials to prepare for more flooding after weeks of heavy rain killed at least 296 people and affected millions, state media said yesterday. Widespread flooding has forced more than 412,000 people to flee their homes, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said on its Web site. Floods have swept across the northwestern part of Hunan Province since last Saturday, affecting 2.68 million people and killing two people in Huaihua, Xinhua said. Hu urged flood prevention authorities, local govern-ments and the armed forces to brace for more flooding.
Peace efforts vowed
Pakistan's prime minister vowed to pursue peace with India at the opening of a meeting of regional foreign ministers yesterday, lending a hopeful start to a conference that inevitably will be domi-nated by efforts by the group's two largest members to end a half-century of hatred. "I want to assure all members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation [SAARC] and indeed the world that Pakistan is committed to pursuing peace with India,'' said Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. SAARC is a group of seven nations including Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
Bhopal payments ordered
India's supreme court has ordered the government to distribute money held in the bank to more than 500,000 victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy who have been waiting 20 years for compensation. Legal wrangles have left destitute most of those who suffered injury in the world's worst industrial accident, but yesterday the court ruled that money held in the Bank of India since 1989, currently worth US$324 million, must be paid out. In December 1984, tonnes of a toxic gas leaked from a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide in the central city of Bhopal, killing 3,800 people almost immediately.
Teenagers filmed burning
Four teenagers accused of burning to death a homeless man filmed themselves while they allegedly committed the crime, Melbourne Children's Court heard yesterday. The boys, two aged 16 and one aged 15, are accused of killing 66-year-old Arthur Burrows last November by torching his makeshift shelter with him inside in the town of Mildura in Victoria state. The hearing will deter-mine whether there is enough evidence against the three boys, who can't be identified because they are juveniles, for them to be tried for murder by a Victoria state Supreme Court jury. A fourth suspect in the case, aged 18, has already been committed to stand trial for murder in the Supreme Court.
■ United Kingdom
Soft stuff, no snuff
A man survived a 30m fall off a cliff on Britain's southern coast on Sunday after landing on a patch of sand, police said. The man had stopped to inspect damage after his car hit a road barrier and apparently slipped, police in the southern county of East Sussex said. "He's
a lucky man. He landed on
the only patch of soft stuff around," said an official from the Coast Guard, which took the man to the hospital with a fractured pelvis.
■ United Kingdom
Intruder targets Beckhams
An intruder carrying petrol and drugs was arrested
after trying to break into the home of England football captain David Beckham and his popstar wife Victoria, police said on Monday.
The man scaled a 2.1m
wall at the couple's home
in Hertfordshire, north of London, and was heading for the main buildings
when he was tackled by
five guards, according to
a spokesman. Victoria, 30, was alone with children Brooklyn and Romeo
in her home -- dubbed "Beckingham Palace" by Britain's tabloid press -- at the time of the incident on Sunday night. Guards said he was ranting about the England captain, and police confirmed a 38-year-old was arrested on suspicion of carrying equipment to damage the mansion.
■ United Kingdom
Animal lab disrupted
Oxford University pledged yesterday to press on with a science center using animals to conduct research into human disease, after British animal rights activists apparently forced a construction company to pull out. Montpellier withdrew from the lab currently under construction in Oxford
after shareholders received threatening letters that caused the company's share price to drop. The company and the university issued statements saying builders Walter Lilly, a subsidiary
of Montpellier, had pulled
out of the project with immediate effect, but gave no reasons. The facility was to use mice, amphibians and monkeys in research into diseases such as leukemia, Alzheimer's and asthma.
Miners killed in explosion
At least 25 miners were killed in a methane gas explosion
at an eastern Ukrainian
coal mine, the Ministry for Emergencies said yesterday. The blast, believed to be a methane explosion, hit a section of the mine in the Krasnolimanskaya mine in the Donetsk region, about 550m below the surface on Monday night, the ministry said in a statement. By
early yesterday rescuers had retrieved the bodies of 25 miners, while 11 others remained missing, the ministry said. The emergency teams searching for dead and injured are being hampered by high concentrations
of gases and smoke and temperatures reaching 40oC.
■ European Union
Green light for GM corn
The EU on Monday approved the importation
of a genetically modified (GM) corn from the US for animal feed, an important break in a six-year-long moratorium on the approval of biotechnology crops that has touched off a trade war. The announcement of the approval in Brussels was met with relief at Monsanto, the biotechnology giant that produces the corn, where
it was seen as a welcome change after years of rejection. The decision will allow the importation and sale of the feed corn, but not its cultivation. Europeans are far more suspicious of GM food than Americans, considering the issue one of safety rather than free trade.
■ United States
Moore comment draws irk
Singer Linda Ronstadt not only got booed, she got the boot after praising filmmaker Michael Moore and his new movie Fahrenheit 9/11 during a performance in Las Vegas. Before singing Desperado for an encore Saturday night, Ronstadt called Moore a ``great American patriot'' and ``someone who is spreading the truth.'' She also encouraged the audience at the Aladdin hotel-casino to see the documentary about President George W. Bush. Ronstadt's comments drew loud boos, and some of the 4,500 people in attendance stormed out of the theater. People also tore down concert posters and tossed cocktails into the air. She as later denied access to her suite and escorted off hotel property.
■ United States
Marine denies desertion
The Marine who vanished last month in Iraq and turned up three weeks later in Lebanon said on Monday that he had been taken by enemy forces, emphatically denying that he had deserted. Speaking publicly for the first time since his re-emergence, Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun, read a brief statement outside the base here, where military investigators have met with him and he has been undergoing repatriation, a routine process for any Marine who has been captured or detained. "I did not desert my post," Hassoun said at a news conference. The details of how Hassoun, 24, disappeared on June 20 near Fallujah and resurfaced at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut on July 8 are the subject of a military investigation, the details of which officials accompanying him declined to discuss.
■ United States
Vietnam activists get cash
The House of Representatives late Monday voted to freeze all non-humanitarian assistance to Vietnam and provide aid to its dissidents in response to what it described as "a policy of harassment, discrimination, and intimidation" against those who dare to speak out against the country's government. By a vote of 323-45, the chamber passed the Vietnam Human Rights Act that bars the government from increasing non-humanitarian assistance to the southeast Asian nation over this year's level of about US$40 million, unless the president certifies that Hanoi is releasing political prisoners and is taking steps to improve its overall human rights record. It also authorizes the White House to spend US$4 million in fiscal 2004 and 2005 to provide support for Vietnamese dissidents and groups that "promote internationally recognized human rights."
■ United States
Crime-related deaths fought
Spurred by a rash of deadly crashes involving stolen cars, the District of Columbia declared a crime emergency on Monday, the second time in a year that the city has taken that measure to fight crime. Although crime is down this year in all major categories, including auto theft and homicide, district officials assert that auto theft involving teenagers remains at epidemic levels -- often with fatal consequences. This month, a 21-year-old father was killed in Southeast Washington when the moped he was riding was struck by a stolen van driven by an adolescent boy. Last week, a teacher from suburban Washington and a 15-year-old Washington boy were killed in an accident involving a stolen van. And early Monday morning.
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,