Tattoos earn death sentence
A man in northeast Jilin Province was sentenced to death for tattooing insulting and obscene words on the bodies of three women against their will, state press said yesterday. Zhou Jingzhi, 42, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve by an intermediate court on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported. Zhou was convicted of kidnapping a former lover in 2004 and using threats to tattoo more than 100 characters on her body, the report said. Zhou was arrested in January last year, after which his former wife and a third woman came forward to accuse Zhou of tattooing them.
Flood toll climbs to 170
Storms across the south of the country have killed 170 people in the past month and forced 1.6 million people to flee their homes, the China Daily said yesterday. Since late last month, continuous torrential rain has triggered floods and mudslides in Fujian, Guangdong and all the way inland to Hunan and Sichuan. Fujian and Guizhou provinces have suffered the highest number of deaths, with 98 people killed, the newspaper said, citing a disaster relief official from the Ministry of Civil Affairs. In the Guangxi region, two rainstorms in the past three weeks have killed 21 people, the paper said. Some 195,500 people were evacuated because of mud-flows and landslides, it said.
■ Hong Kong
Smuggled cigarettes seized
Customs officers said yesterday they had seized 1.57 million cigarettes worth nearly US$300,000 that were being smuggled in from China. A truck was stopped as it crossed the land border at Lo Wu on Wednesday, and the smuggled cigarettes were found hidden in secret compartments.
Toilet cleaners `upgraded'
Singapore, famous for its spotless streets, is stepping up its campaign against filth in the rest room with a training program to boost the status and skills of the city-state's toilet cleaners, a newspaper reported yesterday. More than 50 toilet cleaners will be promoted to "rest room specialist" upon completing the three-day pilot course taught by Japanese experts in the latest toilet technology, the Straits Times reported. The program -- sponsored by the city-state's National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore-based World Toilet College -- aims to boost the image and wages of professional toilet cleaners by training them to do more on the job, the Straits Times reported.
Aussie tourist dies
A 26-year-old Australian tourist has died after spending four days in a coma following a drive-by shooting at a Thai bar, an Australian embassy official said yesterday. Pamela Fitzpatrick was shot on Monday in the back of the neck at the bar in Kanchanaburi, 100km west of Bangkok, and had been fighting for her life in hospital. "We can confirm that she died last night. She passed away as a result of injuries sustained in the shooting incident on June 19," the embassy official said. "Thai police are investigating the shooting," he added. Fitzpatrick arrived in Thailand with her sister last weekend and was travelling in Kanchanaburi.
■ Hong Kong
Smoking ban mooted
Hong Kong may ban smoking on beaches and in parks as part of a crackdown aimed at making the territory of 6.8 million people a smoke-free city, officials said yesterday. Smoking may also be banned at public transport interchanges, legislators were told at a hearing into the extent of the smoking ban to be introduced in Hong Kong next year. From the beginning of next year, smoking will be banned in all offices, restaurants and pubs although there will be exemptions for nightclubs and mahjong parlors. Some legislators at yesterday's debate said extending the ban to beaches was impractical and unenforceable and represented too great a restriction on people's freedom.
■ Hong Kong
A teacher who beat her nine-year-old pupil with the consent of the student's parents has been prosecuted for assault, a news report said yesterday. Private tutor Tsoi Shok-kan, 38, hit the girl 200 times on the hand with a wooden ruler and 100 times on another occasion for not doing her homework, the South China Morning Post reported. When the girl cried or tried to avoid the beatings, Tsoi beat her on her arms, thighs and cheek, hitting her so hard the ruler broke and the girl was left with bruises, a court heard on Wednesday.
More sex needed
More sex. That's what one expert says is needed to solve the country's baby shortage. "Japanese people simply aren't having sex," Dr. Kunio Kitamura, director of the Japan Family Planning Association, was quoted as saying by the Japan Times, an English-language daily. An association survey of 936 people between the ages of 16 and 49 showed 31 percent had not had sex for more than a month "for no particular reason" -- a condition known as "sexless." "As much as subsidies and welfare programs are important, sexlessness is also a critical issue in this problem," Kitamura said. Japan's fertility rate fell to an all-time low of 1.25 last year.
Argentine leader meets king
Argentine President Nestor Kirchner met on Wednesday with King Juan Carlos at the start of a visit aimed at forging closer ties with Spain, seeking more Spanish investment and renegotiating Argentina's debt from its 2002 economic crisis. Kirchner met with the king at the Zarzuela Palace near Madrid, and was later to have lunch with the royal family and Kirchner's wife, Cristina. The leaders discussed bilateral ties and the political and economical situation in Latin America, a Royal Palace spokesman said.
Daytime billiards banned
Ugandan police have banned people from playing pool during the daytime because it encourages crime, local media said on Wednesday. The game is very popular in the country, where pool tables sit under canopies outside thousands of small bars. But Kampala police chief Grace Turyagumanawe said youths often played while drinking illegal spirits and smoking drugs. "They also use this as a meeting place to make plans of robbing people of their property at night," he told the Daily Monitor.
■ South Africa
Broadcaster bans critics
The public broadcaster has banned high-profile critics of the government from its programs, fueling claims of bias toward the ruling African National Congress (ANC). At least six political analysts who have on occasion criticized the president, Thabo Mbeki, and his allies have been blacklisted on the grounds that they are ill-informed. The decision followed several rows that prompted accusations that the SABC had become a mouthpiece for the ANC. This week it emerged that producers had been told not to use certain commentators. The blacklist was drawn up by the head of news, Snuki Zikalala, an ANC member and former government spokesman.
Python goes missing
A frantic search was under way on Wednesday for a python missing from the Ankara Zoo. The python, which is 6m long and weighs about 70kg, has been missing since June 10, but the zoo management alerted the authorities only on Monday, triggering a criminal investigation into the incident, newspapers reported. "I am responsible for the protection of animal rights .... My biggest concern is the possibility that the python might have become shish-kebab," Environment Minister Osman Pepe was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet daily. "I advise citizens not to eat shish kebab until the python is found," he said, presumably tongue-in-cheek.
Museum plans organ theaters
A giant monument to human health is springing up in the tiny Dutch town of Oegstgeest. Workers were to start construction yesterday on "Corpus," a health education museum built around a 35m three-dimensional sitting human figure. Walking through the figure, a visitor gets "an inside view of the entire body through organ theaters, such as the beating heart, lungs, sneezing nose, and brain," a statement announcing the project said. Visitors will "walk in through the knee, up the thigh, and eventually end up in the brain and eyes," spokeswoman Veronique van Zanten said. "There is the `Uterus Theater,' where you will view the moment of conception, viewed from within the body," she said. "It's very tasteful."
Mounties get their men
More than 30 people have been arrested in a raid on a drug trafficking ring that smuggled marijuana and ecstasy into the US, police said on Wednesday. The network shipped 40kg of marijuana per week by truck to the northeastern US and laundered C$4.8 million (US$4.3 million) in the first five months of the year, the Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP) said. Some 350 Quebec and RCMP officers took part in the arrests in southwest Quebec, which netted 36 suspects, the RCMP said in a statement.
■ United States
Waco condemns lynchings
The Waco City Council approved a resolution condemning lynchings that were carried out there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. "We are appalled and grieved by heinous lynchings and other forms of violence that created a culture of fear and injustice," the council said in the resolution approved on Tuesday. A Community Race Relations Coalition had asked for the resolution, saying it was necessary for the community to heal, but some people said the city should not apologize for something that happened before they were born.
■ United States
Phone tower protest ends
A Missouri woman protested her family's eviction from an apartment by spending nearly three days on a phone tower. A police negotiator who was sent up in the basket of a fire department ladder truck talked Alice Gatimu, 39, into coming down from the tower on Wednesday, police said. She climbed the tower on Monday, sitting on a platform about 15m up. Family members said she had been without food or water during the protest. Springfield police spokesman Matt Brown said police did not try to force her down because of the danger of a struggle at that height. Gatimu was seeking an apology and restitution from the landlord who evicted her family from a Springfield apartment.
Lawyers gunning for Garcia
Chilean human rights lawyers planned to file complaints against Peruvian president-elect Alan Garcia, due in Chile for a quick visit yesterday, for alleged human rights violations during his first term in office. Lawyers say they are trying to sue Garcia because they say he is responsible for disappearances, political executions, and torture committed during his first presidency. A judge must review the complaints, filed under international law, before deciding whether they merit further investigation. Garcia, who won the presidential election runoff on June 4, ruled Peru from 1985-1990. He fled Peru after his term ended to avoid corruption charges.
Morales welcomes new year
The nation's first indigenous president, Evo Morales, held his hands toward the rising sun on Wednesday to see in the Aymara Indian new year and give new impetus to an ancient ritual. Thousands cheered as Morales, an Aymara Indian himself, emerged from a helicopter at the Tiwanaku ruins wearing a white embroidered poncho and woolly hat. As Aymara priests made burnt offerings to Pachamama (Mother Earth), the crowds raised the palms of their hands to the sky to greet the Aymara new year, which always coincides with the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. "This is historic because we can't remember having another president here for June 21 and we're very pleased to have celebrated `the return of the sun' with him," Tiwanaku Mayor Lino Condori said.
China has possibly committed “genocide” in its treatment of Uighurs and other minority Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China said in a report on Thursday. The bipartisan commission said that new evidence had last year emerged that “crimes against humanity — and possibly genocide — are occurring” in Xinjiang. It also accused China of harassing Uighurs in the US. China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills, which others have called concentration camps. The UN says that
A racing pigeon has survived an extraordinary 13,000km Pacific Ocean crossing from the US to find a new home in Australia. Now authorities consider the bird a quarantine risk and plan to kill it. Kevin Celli-Bird yesterday said he discovered that the exhausted bird that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 last year had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on Oct. 29. Experts suspect the pigeon that Celli-Bird has named Joe — after US president-elect Joe Biden — hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific. Joe’s feat has attracted the attention
Australian scientists have raised questions over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in establishing herd immunity, calling for a pause on its widespread rollout as the country recorded one new case of the virus yesterday. Opposition to the vaccine casts a cloud over Australia’s immunization plans, with 53 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab already on hand. “The question is really whether it is able to provide herd immunity. We are playing a long game here. We don’t know how long that will take,” Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology president Stephen Turner said. Turner added
The Polish Supreme Court on Friday quashed a lower court’s green light for the extradition of a businessman to China for alleged fraud, a charge he has denied, saying that he is being targeted for supporting Falun Gong. Polish authorities took Chinese-born Swedish citizen Li Zhihui, now 53, into custody in 2019 on an international warrant issued by China for alleged non-payment in a business deal, Krzysztof Kitajgrodzki, his Polish lawyer, told reporters. Following the Supreme Court ruling, the case would return to a lower appellate court for review. Kitajgrodzki told reporters that it was still not a given that his client