Junta warns of attacks
The government said pro-democracy activists are plotting to launch terrorist attacks and cause unrest in the country on the coming Martyrs' Day holiday, state media reported yesterday. The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said people who took part in 1988 nationwide pro-democracy protests, as well as members of "a political party," were trying to destabilize the country by demonstrating and distributing leaflets. The paper said they would use next Wednesday's holiday, "as a tool." The report did not identify any groups, but was apparently referring to the opposition National League for Democracy.
CCP ousts 45,000 members
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) said yesterday that it expelled nearly 45,000 members last year as part of efforts to maintain its legitimacy and show it is serious about tackling corruption. "To those party members who refused to change and who failed to meet our requirements, we have taken actions ... according to the party constitution and relevant regulations," the deputy head of the Organization Department of the party's central committee said.
■ Hong Kong
Taxes on bets reduced
Lawmakers have passed tax reforms to make legal betting more competitive with illegal bookmakers. Horse betting proceeds will now be taxes after, instead of before, payouts. The Home Affairs Bureau said horse racing betting turnover has dropped from HK$92.4 billion (US$11.9 billion) in 1996 to 1997 to HK$62.7 billion in 2004 to last year. The Hong Kong Jockey Club estimates the illegal market for horse betting is HK$50 billion to HK$60 billion a year.
Missiles boost bunker biz
Hiroyuki Mogi heaves open a thick concrete door to reveal a basement room lined with cans of food and bottles of water along with beds, an air filter and a laptop. Like a growing number of people alarmed by the threat of North Korean missiles, Mogi has made his own arrangements to protect himself and his family in case of a nuclear attack. The government employee from Hino, western Tokyo, said in an interview he had packed enough food to feed his family of four for 10 days in a nuclear shelter in his basement, which is built to withstand temperatures of 1,500?C. "Since we have a neighbor like North Korea, we as individuals can't avoid shouldering the cost," said Mogi, 44. "Having a shelter at home gives us peace of mind."
■ Sri Lanka
Rebels killed in `shootout'
Sri Lankan troops yesterday found the bodies of two suspected Tamil Tiger rebels believed killed in a shootout the night before, the military said, as soaring violence threatened a return of a full-scale civil war. The latest fighting broke out on Wednesday night when rebels attacked a patrol near Trincomalee, a town 215km northeast of Colombo, the military's Web site said. Troops recovered two suspected rebels bodies, two assault rifles and a grenade launcher, the military said.
King to be questioned
A judicial commission is preparing to question King Gyanendra over his role in a violent crackdown on pro-democracy rallies earlier this year, although a date has yet to be set, the commission said yesterday. The commission is investigating powerful figures in the king's administration who are accused of committing human rights abuses and misuse of power to counter a pro-democracy movement that eventually forced Gyanendra to give up his direct rule in April. "We are preparing to question the king because he was the chairman of the Cabinet that took all the decisions at that time," said Harihar Birahi, a commission member.
Tight security planned
The government plans to deploy at least 13,000 police and troops around Congress for the president's state-of-the-nation address after uncovering an alleged plot to seize the legislature, a police official said yesterday. The plot involved mutinous officers who allegedly planned to take lawmakers hostage and declare a revolutionary government to oust President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, amid concern of restiveness in the military, metropolitan Manila police chief Vidal Querol said. Arroyo is set to address the nation on July 24.
Taliban attack foiled
Coalition and Afghan forces killed at least 19 Taliban after some 200 rebels surrounded a police headquarters in southern Afghanistan, the governor's spokesman said yesterday. The Taliban poured into Nawzad, Helmand Province, around midday on Wednesday and set up positions around a police compound where Afghan soldiers and police, along with coalition forces, were based, he said. "The Taliban surrounded this area, including a nearby bazaar, and told all their shopkeepers to leave before attacking the compound with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades," Muhiddin said. Coalition warplanes launched several airstrikes, killing 12 militants after hitting a Taliban vehicle and killing another nine when they struck an insurgent position near the compound, he said.
Clinton spreads message
Former US president Bill Clinton visited this southern African country on Wednesday and urged its citizens to overcome the stigma surrounding AIDS and be tested. "Going for testing and knowing your status helps you to plan you future," Clinton said during a visit to an HIV/AIDS clinic near the capital that is supported by his foundation. "If you are positive, you will be able to get treatment and medication in time to prolong your life. It is important to fight stigma so that many people can come forward for testing and live positive lives," he said.
Rhino feared extinct
The West African black rhino appears to have become extinct, according to a leading global conservation group. Extensive searches throughout the black rhino's last known habitat have failed to find any rhinos or signs of their existence. The western black rhino sub-species, Diceros bicornis longipes, had declined precipitously in the past 20 years largely as a result of poaching. In 2002 there were only 10 remaining. The few left were distributed over a wide area, making breeding more difficult. Specialists from the World Conservation Union (IUCN) mounted 48 field missions in which they searched across 2,500km. "They looked for spoor [tracks] ... but they didn't find anything," said Richard Emslie, a scientific officer with the IUCN.
Le Pen faces trial
Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen will face trial for saying the Nazi occupation of France during World War II had not been "particularly inhumane," a judicial source said on Wednesday. The conservative government, anti-racism organizations and Jewish groups sharply condemned Le Pen's comments last year, when they were published in an interview with right-wing weekly magazine Rivarol. "In France, at least, the German occupation was not particularly inhumane, although there were some blunders, inevitable in a country of 550,000 square kilometers," Le Pen had said. Denying the Holocaust is a crime in France.
Man gored in butt by bull
One man was gored and two people suffered head injuries from falls following the seventh bull run at the annual Pamplona festival yesterday. A bull gored Iker Pellicer Gonzalez, 27, from Pamplona, in the buttocks 30 seconds into the run when the man appeared to slip on the sidewalk, said Jose Mari Colomo, a town hall official. Two other men sustained head injuries in falls, another had chest injuries and a fifth had a fractured wrist, he said. All five were Spaniards. The relatively clean run lasted just over two minutes. Several hundred people took part in the event.
■ United Kingdom
Pyre raises controversy
A Sikh man became the first person to be burnt on a funeral pyre in Britain since a law against outdoor cremation was passed in 1902, police said on Wednesday. Police said, however, that despite initially giving permission for the ceremony, they have since launched an investigation into whether it violated the Cremation Act. The body of Rajpal Mehat, an illegal immigrant who arrived in Britain two years ago from India, was burnt in a remote field in Northumberland, about 725km from London. Mehat, 30, was found drowned in London's River Thames by police last December.
Eruptions prompt evacuation
Authorities were evacuating about 8,000 people in southwest Colombia on Wednesday following a volcanic eruption. A minor eruption of the 4,275m Galeras volcano prompted authorities to declare a state of maximum alert as they waited to see if further explosions would occur, said Eduardo Gonzalez, head of the government's disaster prevention office.
■ United States
Commandant talks tough
The first female commandant of cadets at the US Coast Guard Academy pledged a tough stance against campus sexual violence on Wednesday following a court-martial in which cadets testified that such issues were not taken seriously. Such attacks are "just reprehensible and I do not want to graduate a cadet into the Coast Guard as a junior officer who is a perpetrator of sexual assault," Captain Judith Keene said in an interview. A senior cadet was convicted of sexual assault and extortion last month in the school's first student court-martial. Witnesses discussed heavy drinking and carousing and a culture in which some female cadets were hesitant to come forward with assault allegations.
UNESCO honors Tequila
Tequila may have blurred the memory of many a drinker, but the Agave fields that produce it won't soon be forgotten after UNESCO put them on its list of World Heritage sites. Residents of Jalisco state on Wednesday toasted the addition of their blue-tinged, Tequila-producing Agave landscape to the list of places "considered to be of outstanding value to humanity," in the words of the UN cultural agency's Web site. "We are very emotional," said Yadira Gaytan, the assistant mayor of the town of Tequila in Jalisco state. "There is a lot of joy among people here because we have been waiting for this for a long time." The cactus-like Agave plant, which is native to the area, is grown in abundance around Tequila.
■ United States
Parents appeal phone ban
An organization of parent association leaders in New York plans to sue the city's Department of Education to overturn a ban on students carrying cellphones in public schools, members of the group said on Wednesday. The lawsuit, which the plaintiffs said they intended to file yesterday in Manhattan, was to argue that the ban jeopardizes the students' safety by making it hard for them to keep in touch with their parents before and after school. The Department of Education has defended the ban by saying that students use cellphones to cheat, make drug deals and take photographs in locker rooms.
■ United States
Report lists zoo as target
Old MacDonald's Petting Zoo in Alabama is listed as a critical potential target for terrorists, according to an internal audit by the US government that condemns the Department of Homeland Security for taking a too-broad approach to the risk of attack. The report, by the department's inspector-general, lists numerous other sites in the National Asset Database "whose criticality is not readily apparent" -- including the Sweetwater Flea Market in Tennessee, Amish Country Popcorn in Indiana and a kangaroo conservation center. The data is supplied by individual states, and plays a central role in the division of federal anti-terrorism funds. Senator Chuck Schumer described the report as "the smoking gun that thoroughly indicts the system."
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
Australia is notorious for its venomous spiders, snakes and sea creatures, but researchers have now identified “scorpion-like” toxins secreted by a tree that can cause excruciating pain for weeks. Split-second contact with the dendrocnide tree, a rainforest nettle known by its Aboriginal name gympie-gympie, delivers a sting far more potent than similar plants found in the US or Europe. A team of Australian scientists said that they now better understand why the gympie-gympie’s sting haunts those unlucky enough to brush up against its leaves. Victims report an initial sting that “feels like fire at first, then subsides over hours to a pain reminiscent