Divorce rate soars
The divorce rate soared 21.2 percent last year after legal reforms that did away with the need for couples to get permission from their bosses before they split, the government said. More than 1.6 million couples divorced last year. The increase was attributed to changes in the law in October 2003. Previously, couples seeking divorce needed the permission of the leaders in their work units. The flood of divorces last year probably represents a backlog of people who had wanted to divorce for some time but had been "too bashful to file for one," said an official, who predicted that the divorce rate would stabilize and then decrease over the next few years. "Irreconcilable differences" were most often cited as the reason for divorce, although a growing number cited domestic violence triggered by "mounting social and work pressure."
Zhao family files petition
Relatives of people killed in China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown have petitioned the legislature to restore the reputation of the late Zhao Ziyang (趙紫陽), the former Communist Party leader who was ousted from power for sympathizing with pro-democracy protesters. The government's condemnation of Zhao constitutes "an unjust case in history that should be re-evaluated," a group called the Tiananmen Mothers said in an open letter to the legislature. In the letter, they said they want legislators to be aware that human rights in China have ``deteriorated'' in recent years with strict controls on speech and Internet writings.
■ Hong Kong
Schoolboy attempts suicide
A 16-year-old schoolboy was critically injured after running out of a math class and leaping from six stories high in an apparent suicide attempt. The student got up from his desk and ran out as his teacher cleaned the blackboard on Tuesday morning. He went to a sixth-floor corridor and leapt before teachers could catch him. He was taken unconscious to the hospital and was in critical condition. He landed on a patch of wet grass, which softened the impact and allowed him to survive the initial fall. News reports said a diary was found in his schoolbag, indicating he was upset about his girlfriend leaving Hong Kong to study abroad.
■ South Korea
Joint exercises carried out
The US and South Korea will conduct joint military exercises this month, the US military command in Seoul said yesterday. North Korea has denounced such exercises in the past as preparations for an invasion. The March 19-25 exercises, involving land, sea and air forces, are designed to improve the joint US-South Korea forces' ability to defend South Korea against ``external aggression,'' the US Command said in a statement. The exercises come amid a standoff over the communist North's nuclear weapons program.
Supermarket sushi spiked
Police arrested an unemployed man for burying needles in fried chicken at a supermarket and swallowing them in a bid to get money from the store. Kyosuke Miyasako, 43, told the supermarket in the Tokyo suburb of Sayama that he had eaten needles in its chicken and another customer found needles in sushi. But the probe turned on Miyasako and he was arrested for obstructing the shop's business with fake claims. "I wanted money," Miyasako, who was unemployed, said.
■ United States
`Stiffer penalties mulled
UN peacekeepers who sexually abuse the women and children they are supposed to protect should be punished and their home countries publicly identified, a US lawmaker said on Tuesday. UN "blue helmets" found guilty of sexual abuse are often simply repatriated, which Representative Chris Smith called "a slap on the wrist if there ever was one." Smith disputed the current UN policy of not releasing the names of countries whose peacekeepers commit sexual abuse. "The idea of naming and shaming countries ... I wonder if that's something that could be a useful tool," Smith asked Jane Holl Lute, assistant UN secretary general for peacekeeping operations.
`Mortal Kombat' kills boy
A 14-year-old schoolboy was killed in the northeastern town of Valmiera by friends who say they were inspired by a video game, police said. The five boys, aged 13 to 16, were arrested on Sunday in connection with the murder which occurred on Saturday, she said. They explained that "they used techniques borrowed from the video game Mortal Kombat in dealing with their victim," the spokeswoman said. "They employed the use of the legs in a scissor fashion to try to break the opponent's neck," said the head of the investigation division of Valmiera police department Salvis Stamers.
■ United Kingdom
Queen meets rockers
Queen Elizabeth II had a crash course in British rock and pop music on Tuesday when she hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace for hundreds of stars from Eric Clapton to Geri Halliwell. Introduced to four of Britain's guitar masters -- Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Brian May -- at the reception for Britain's music industry her majesty asked: "And what do you do?" May, from the rock band Queen, reminded the queen that he had played the National Anthem on the palace roof to start a concert marking her 2002 Golden Jubilee. "Oh! That was you was it?" Elizabeth II exclaimed. Moving on to Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, the queen inquired: "Are you a guitarist too?" Guitar god Eric Clapton took no chances and, firmly shaking her hand, introduced himself by name. "Have you been playing a long time?" the queen asked. "It must be 45 years now," replied Clapton, 59.
Doctor finds prime number
A German eye specialist with a keen amateur interest in mathematics has discovered the world's largest prime number after a 50-day search using his personal computer. Dr Martin Nowak, who has his own practice in Michelfeld, stumbled upon the number last week, breaking the previous record for a prime number by half a million digits. Prime numbers are divisible only by themselves and 1. While the first prime numbers 2, 3, 5, and 7, are easy to identify, Nowak's monster prime number is more than 7.8 million digits long and is written as 2 to the 25,964,951st power minus 1.
Soldiers in winter training
NATO and other troops practicing winter warfare techniques in snow-swept parts of Norway were like ``Bambi on ice,'' according to the Norwegian military. A Norwegian military helicopter had to rescue two freezing French soldiers from a mountain. During the night, two French soldiers also radioed for help from a mountain in order to get treatment for hypothermia.
■ United States
Wanted smuggler caught
A Japanese man accused of arms smuggling and illegal firearms possession has been arrested in the US. Kozo Wada, one of the most wanted people sought by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), was arrested in Portland, Oregon, late on Monday, according to ATF special agent Kelvin Crenshaw. A federal grand jury indicted Wada in February 2003 on five felony counts, including dealing in firearms without a license, unlawful transportation of a firearm, and illegal exportation of defense articles. In December 2003, Wada pleaded guilty to two counts in the indictment, but he failed to appear in federal court last September.
Student freed from jail
A Mexican college student is being freed after serving three years in prison on weapons charges, a partial victory for his supporters who say police tortured and framed him and his two brothers. Alejandro Cerezo, a 23-year-old economics and sociology student, was leaving a federal prison on Tuesday, a day after a judge ordered his release. Cerezo's brothers, who were convicted on the same charges, remain in jail and human-rights workers say the case typifies abuse and inconsistencies in Mexico's justice system. Depending on who tells it, the Cerezo brothers' saga features dirty prosecutors, clandestine guerrillas and a trio of social activists with a love of literature and art.
Migrants face civilian patrols
While the Mexican government develops plans for legal action against civilian patrols expected to descend on the Arizona-Mexico border in April, activists said on Tuesday they will show migrants how to avoid the volunteers. The Minuteman Project, headed by Jim Gilchrist, a retired accountant and Vietnam War veteran, has recruited nearly 500 volunteers from across the US to patrol the Arizona border for illegal migrants. The volunteers plan to patrol an 120km stretch of the southeast Arizona border from the ground and air throughout April, when the tide of immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border peaks.
■ United States
More drivers talk on mobiles
More Americans than ever are driving under the influence of their cellphones, according to a survey released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The survey showed 8 percent of drivers, or 1.2 million people, were using handheld or handsfree cellphones during daylight hours last year, a 50 percent increase since 2002 and a 100 percent rise in four years. All that talking is a potential safety issue, NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson said on Tuesday. "While we don't have hard evidence that there's been an increase in the number of crashes, we know that talking on the phone can degrade driver performance," Tyson said.
■ United States
Woman sues over scents
A woman has filed a lawsuit against the US city of Norwalk for exposure to her colleagues' perfumes and colognes, alleging officials have failed to lessen her exposure to such scents in the town clerk's office and that she is being harassed. According to the suit, Gorman's problems started in March 2002, when a temporary staffer's perfume made Gorman ill. A memo was issued asking employees not to wear perfumes or colognes, but later stated that trendy scents, as well as body lotions and detergents, could be used in moderation as long as they could not be detected within 1.6m of Gorman.
RE-EDUCATION: The ambassador to Australia told reporters that he understood there ‘might be a process for the people in Taiwan to have a correct understanding of China’ China’s ambassador to Australia yesterday said that Beijing is prepared to use “all necessary means” to prevent Taiwan from being independent, saying there can be “no compromise” on its “one China” principle. Chinese Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian (肖千) repeatedly told the National Press Club in Canberra that the US was to blame for the recent escalation in tensions, adding that China’s decision to launch ballistic missiles in live-fire exercises in response to US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was “legitimate and justified.” Xiao said that after a “good start” with the new government of Australian Prime Minister
Newly married and with his first child on the way, auto worker Wang (王) wanted to move into the apartment he bought in Wuhan three years ago, but those hopes were dashed by China’s ballooning property crisis. Saddled with nearly US$300,000 in debt and with his unit nowhere near completion, the 34-year-old decided he had enough and stopped making mortgage payments. He is among numerous home buyers across dozens of cities in China who have boycotted payments over fears that their properties will not be completed by cash-strapped, debt-laden developers. “They said construction would resume soon,” Wang said, only giving his surname. “But
PROPAGANDA LEAFLETS: Seoul voiced ‘strong regret’ as Kim’s sister threatened to eradicate South Korean authorities for sending the virus across the border North Korean leader Kim Jong-un suffered from a “high fever” during a recent COVID-19 outbreak, his sister Kim Yo-jong said yesterday, as she vowed to “eradicate” South Korean authorities if they continued to tolerate propaganda leaflets the regime blames for spreading the virus. Kim Yo-jong blamed “South Korean puppets” for sending “dirty objects” across the border in leaflets carried by balloons, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. The revelation of her brother’s illness marked an unusual admission for a regime that rarely comments on the leader’s health — and then only to show that he shares the struggles of
A landmark sexual harassment case in China yesterday returned to court after an earlier ruling dealt a blow to the country’s fledgling #MeToo movement. Zhou Xiaoxuan (周曉璇) stepped forward in 2018 to accuse state TV host Zhu Jun (朱軍) of forcibly kissing and groping her during her 2014 internship at the broadcaster. While the case of Zhou, now 29, inspired many others to share their experiences of sexual assault publicly and sparked a social media storm, a court ruled last year there was insufficient evidence to back her allegation. Zhou appealed, and returned to court for another hearing yesterday in Beijing. “I still feel