Gas leak plug attempt fails
An attempt to use mud to plug a gas leak in Qinxi, Sichuan Province, that forced more than 12,000 people from their homes on Dec. 21 has failed, as the leak reappeared within an hour, the Xinhua news agency said yesterday. Workers spent more than four hours pumping nearly 300m3 of mud into the gas well and had almost extinguished flames fed by the leak. But in less than an hour the leaking gas was burning more fiercely than before, Xinhua said. A previous attempt to cap the leak with 181 tonnes of cement failed. Authorities are now planning to build an emergency pipeline to divert the gas.
Phones tell on drunk drivers
KDDI Corp has developed a combined breathilizer and telephone that will let bus and taxi companies know if their drivers can take the wheel. When drivers blow into a tube on the machine, the device measures their level of intoxication and immediately sends the results to their company's computer via the phone. The phone also transmits snapshots of the drivers' faces and details on their location. Yesterday the National Police Agency proposed stiffer penalties for drunk driving -- up to five years in prison or a fine of up to ¥1 million (US$8,400), compared with three years and ¥500,000 now.
Jewelers to ban veils
Women wearing the burqah and other face-concealing veils could be banned from jewelery stores in Pune, Maharashtra state, after a wave of thefts involving burqah-clad customers. The jewelers said yesterday that they have asked authorities asking for permission to stop serving customers who refuse to show their faces to surveillance cameras from Jan. 1.
Body of US climber found
The body of a US climber missing for more than a month has been found on a remote mountain in the southwest while a second climber is still missing and presumed dead, a rescue coordinator said. Christine Boskoff, a top female climber, and Charlie Fowler, a well-known climber, guide and photographer, were reported missing after they failed to return to the US on Dec. 4. "They don't know which body yet. The rescuers were told to take pictures without disturbing anything. They will go back up in the morning with shovels," Arlene Burns, a friend of both climbers, said on Wednesday. "The other body could be under the snow or could be connected by a rope," Burns said.
Killer of 10 executed
A farmer who was sentenced to death for killing 10 people at a Taoist temple was executed yesterday, state media reported. Qiu Xinhua (邱新華), 47, was charged with killing the abbot of the Tiewadian temple in the northern city of Ankang, along with five staff members and four pilgrims on July 14. He reportedly believed the abbot had flirted with his wife. Qiu appealed on the grounds that he was mentally ill. But the Shaanxi provincial high court ruled that the attacks were carefully planned and that "he did not suffer from mental illness because his escape from police pursuit demonstrated his ability to carry out rational and independent action," Xinhua said.
Mystery killer illness
Health officials are investigating the deaths of 22 people from an unidentified illness characterized by high fever over a two-month period in the capital Jakarta. Samples from the patients have been sent to the US Naval Medical Research Unit 2 in Jakarta, but the cause of death remained a mystery, said Nyoman Kandun, a senior health ministry official. "We have not been able to conclude if this is or is not a new emerging disease," Kandun told reporters on Wednesday. "But after experiencing both bird flu and SARS we do not want to take any chances," he said.
Man wedged in drain
Berlin police said on Wednesday they had rescued a motorist who ended up wedged upside down in a drain after trying to retrieve car keys he had dropped. The 48-year-old man was seen by a bystander falling into the street drain late on Tuesday after he removed the manhole cover. Police were at first unable to find the man but later discovered him wedged in a drainage pipe below ground. He was at first unconscious and did not appear to be breathing. After police hit him on the back he began coughing up water and breathing again.
■ United Kingdom
Math help for shoppers
For millions of shoppers struggling to calculate how much of a bargain they are getting in the winter sales, help is at hand, the government said on Wednesday. About 14.9 million adults in England do not have the math skills expected of an 11-year-old and may have problems working out even basic deals like "20 percent off" or "buy one, get the second half-price," the Department of Education and Skills said. Teams commissioned by the department will hit the high streets to offer tips on savings and help people brush up their math, as part of the government's "Get On" campaign.
■ United Kingdom
Helicopter crashes, six killed
A helicopter transporting gas rig workers crashed into Morecambe Bay in northwest England, killing six. Rescuers in helicopters and boats searched early yesterday for one more person who was missing. Lancashire police, coordinating the search, and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said six bodies had been found by searchers in the cold water of the large bay within hours of the crash on Wednesday night. The search for the other person aboard the helicopter, which was carrying five Centrica PLC employees and two crew when it went down 39km off the coast at around 6:40pm, would go on.
Death penalty censured again
Parliament is to vote next month on a bill that would revise the Constitution to include the fact the death penalty is illegal, judicial officials said on Wednesday. Although France abolished capital punishment with a 1981 law, President Jacques Chirac has said he wants to go further by making the policy part of the Constitution. Judicial officials said the bill was still under study by the Council of State, France's highest administrative body. The issue would be on the agenda when both houses of parliament meet at the Chateau of Versailles outside Paris to vote on constitutional revisions, the officials said. An exact date for the meeting of France's Congress has not yet been set.
President, VP in legal spat
President Olusegun Obasanjo and his vice president each launched legal proceedings on Wednesday in a spat over the legality of the deputy maintaining his office after accepting an opposition party's nomination to run in Nigeria's presidential elections. Vice President Atiku Abubakar maintains that only impeachment or the expiration of his elected term can end his official duties, while Obasanjo says the Constitution stipulates that changing parties should nullify his position. The two camps each filed a suit on Wednesday at an appellate court in the capital, Abuja. The ruling party expelled Abubakar on Friday after he declared his candidacy in next year's presidential elections.
■ United Kingdom
Thief steals car, gifts, owner
A callous thief ejected an elderly woman from the car he had just stolen after realizing she was hidden among the piles of Christmas gifts in the back of the vehicle. The youth hoping for just a Christmas gift haul was apparently taken by surprise after leaping into the Volvo car parked outside a house in Redditch, central England. After driving 100m along the road he noticed the woman in the rear-view mirror with the gifts she had just been given by her family, stopped the car and dragged her out on to the pavement. "Although the woman was not hurt she was obviously left very shaken," policeman Matthew Hunt said.
Woman fabricates kidnapping
A 21-year-old woman who did not feel like going to work at a fast food restaurant sent her parents a text message saying she had been kidnapped. Police in the Bavarian town of Straubing said on Wednesday they had launched a massive search throughout the region for the woman who disappeared last Saturday but turned up unscathed the following morning, saying the kidnapper had set her free. A spokesman said the woman was questioned over the Christmas holiday and admitted she made up the story because she owed a colleague 25 euros (US$33) and did not have the money to pay her debt. She now faces a fine of up to 1,000 euros.
Choosing a full-fledged confrontation with the US due to the loss of a megacontract for submarines for Australia, France is making a risky bet and other nations are not rushing to its defense. After Australia renounced its deal for conventional submarines in favor of US nuclear-powered ones, France took the extraordinary step of pulling its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra for consultations. Bertrand Badie, an international relations professor at the Sciences Po institute in Paris, said France had put itself in a position where it can only appear to be backing down or losing face once its ambassador returns to the US,
‘SMOKESCREEN’: An agreement to declare an end to the Korean War would be ‘of no help at all’ and used to cover up ‘US hostile policy,’ a North Korean official said The influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un yesterday said it was “admirable” of South Korea to propose a formal end to the Korean War, but demanded Seoul first drop its “hostile policies” towards Pyongyang. Kim Yo-jong’s remarks, carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, were in response to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s recent calls for declaring an official end to the 1950-1953 conflict that ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two sides technically at war for more than half a century. In a speech at the UN General Assembly earlier this week, Moon proposed
A potential lurch to the left in Germany’s election on Sunday is scaring millionaires into moving assets into Switzerland, bankers and tax lawyers say. If the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), hard-left Linke and environmentalist Greens come to power, the reintroduction of a wealth tax and a tightening of inheritance tax could be on the political agenda. “For the super-rich, this is red hot,” said a German-based tax lawyer with extensive Swiss operations. “Entrepreneurial families are highly alarmed.” The move shows how many rich people still see Switzerland as an attractive place to park wealth, despite its efforts to abolish its image as a
Some health experts in Singapore are calling for mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 with a growing toll of severe cases among unvaccinated people as infections surge and with the vaccination rate plateauing at 82 percent. The government has linked reopening to vaccination targets, but it paused the easing of restrictions this month to watch for signs that severe infections could overwhelm the healthcare system. “I would love to see vaccine mandates for the over-60s — they are the group most likely to die,” said Dale Fisher, an infectious disease expert at National University Hospital in Singapore. “It’s the same reason that the age group