Cold claims lives
At least 11 people have died this week as temperatures have fallen to near freezing in parts of this Himalayan country, news reports said yesterday. The Nepal FM radio station quoted local officials as saying that two people died on yesterday in the Bara area, about 160km southeast of the capital Kathmandu. According to the Kathmandu Post newspaper, at least nine people have died in other parts of the country this week. Local officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
`Ghost ships' identified
Two "ghost ships" which were found beached on Malaysia's east coast have been identified as Singapore-owned barges which drifted away from a tugboat during a storm, reports said yesterday. The two enormous vessels, each the length of two football fields, and three storys high, were found empty and abandoned by villagers on the coast of eastern Pahang state on Sunday. The New Straits Times said that the cable linking the two Singapore-registered barges to the tugboat snapped in heavy seas last Wednesday as they were being towed to the city-state. Terus Maju Logistic, the agent appointed to salvage the vessels, said they would be taken back to sea in the next few days.
PM voted most embarrassing
Prime Minister John Howard may be popular with voters, winning four elections in 10 years, but he has been voted the nation's most embarrassing citizen in a survey of 10,000 readers of a major men's magazine. The 2006 "Bloke Awards" in the latest FHM magazine ranged from best real and fake boobs, best beer, movie and punch, biggest sook (complainer) and most embarrassing citizen. Howard, who is often ridiculed by cartoonists and comedians for his diminutive stature and bushy eyebrows, picked up most embarrassing citizen, narrowly ahead of recently retired Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe. Thorpe is regularly lampooned by the media for his "metrosexual" fashion style.
Court officials suspended
The military regime yesterday suspended the country's chief judge and chief magistrate pending an investigation into alleged judicial corruption. Military strongman Commodore Frank Bainimarama placed the country's Chief Judge Daniel Fatiaki and Chief Magistrate Naomi Matanipobua on indefinite leave, pending an official inquiry. "Following the involvement of certain members of the judiciary in questionable activities ... and numerous complaints that we have received of corruption, irregularities and gross inefficiencies in the judicial system, the chief judge has been sent on leave on full pay until further notice," Bainimarama told reporters.
George escapes slaughter
A two-year-old calf that escaped slaughter at an abattoir in Mumbai has been named George, after the US president, a report said yesterday. George bolted and ran into a scrapyard where he kept butchers at bay for 20 hours, the Times of India reported. "George is certainly a very lucky survivor as it is very difficult for any animal to escape the `death camp' at Deonar [abattoir]," shelter official J.C. Khanna said. "He instinctively knew that attack is the best form of defense, like the real Bush," Khanna said.
Berlin mayor to the rescue
Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit was the hero of his apartment building on New Year's Eve when he warned neighbors the roof was on fire -- and consoled them with champagne in a nearby Greek restaurant. Wowereit was celebrating with his partner Joern Kubicki in their apartment when Kubicki spotted smoke on the roof and called the fire department, while the mayor ran from door to door warning his neighbors, his spokesman said on Tuesday. "We were sitting there eating our chocolate fondue when he rang the bell and shouted `The building is on fire!'" neighbor Gerd Luetjen told the Bild newspaper.
■ South Africa
Woman traps cave tourists
An overweight woman got stuck in a well-known cave for nearly 12 hours on New Year's Day, trapping 23 others in the process, an official said on Tuesday. The woman was stuck inside the "Tunnel of Love" shortly after noon and was freed with the help of liquid paraffin and a pulley around 11:30pm, the manager of the Cango Caves in the Western Cape said. "She was forewarned at the ticket office and by the guide that she might have difficulty on the tour, but she insisted on going along," he said. The other people trapped in another tunnel behind the woman were given blankets, water, chocolate bars and ablution buckets during the rescue effort -- and insulin for one who was a diabetic.
Suspected witches expelled
Mariama Alidu was cast out as a witch from her village by her own family, yet she swears she has never cast a spell. The mere suspicion of witchcraft was enough to see her and 80 other suspected witches expelled to a scruffy camp of mud huts on the fringes of the town of Gambaga in the north. "It is the work of the devil. I can't say I have ever practiced it myself," says Mariama, who has lived in the camp for about 10 years. Hundreds more women accused of witchcraft live in similar camps in the cocoa -- and gold-producing West African country.
Goat survives the holidays
A giant straw goat that has been the target of a violent Christmas tradition for four decades survived the holiday season unharmed, Swedish officials said on Tuesday. For once, they said, vandals failed to burn it down. The city of Gavle dismantled the 13m-high Christmas monument on Tuesday, marking a rare victory against vandals who have made it a sport to destroy the goat in imaginative ways before Christmas every year. It was only the 12th time in the goat's 40-year history that it had survived unscathed, said Anna Ostman, a spokeswoman for the city's goat committee.
Villagers exact revenge
A mob of 400 people burned the house and cars of a villager known as the "Bald One" on New Year's Eve, claiming revenge for seven years of his threats and violence against locals, a newspaper reported on Monday. Javier Bernui often went into bars and supermarkets in the central village of Villaconejos, 56km from Madrid, with a pistol or a knife, mayor Lope Benavente de Blas told Spanish daily El Pais. "He would take what he wanted and never paid anything. He had been in prison," Benavente de Blas said. "Bernui didn't hesitate to use violence against the residents in bars, drove his car wherever he liked and did whatever he felt like," he added.
■ United States
Missile a road hazard
Spilled animal parts and a Tomahawk missile that tumbled out of a truck caused some of the worst traffic nightmares of last year, according to a report on roadway incidents. A meatpacking truck carrying cow body parts was involved in an accident near San Francisco, the compilation by Metro Networks traffic reporting said. A truck in Houston involved in an accident tumbled off a ramp, breaking open and spilling frozen chickens onto a freeway below. New York had one of the most bizarre incidents of the year. A truck overturned in the Bronx in July, sending a Tomahawk missile it was carrying onto the roadway. The weapon did not have a warhead.
■ United States
CNN apologizes for typo
CNN apologized on Tuesday for mistakenly promoting a story on the search for Osama bin Laden with the headline "Where's Obama?" A spokesman for Illinois Senator Barack Obama, a potential Democratic presidential candidate, said the apology was accepted. The blunder came on Monday evening on Wolf Blitzer's news show The Situation Room. The host offered an apology during CNN's morning show on Tuesday. CNN called it a "bad typographical error." Tommy Vietor, Obama's press secretary said: "Though I'd note that the `s' and `b' keys aren't all that close to each other, I assume it was just an unfortunate mistake, and don't think there was any truly malicious intent."
■ United States
Man saved on subway tracks
A quick-thinking commuter saved a teenager who fell on subway tracks in New York City by pushing him into a trough between the rails, police said. The teen was having medical problems that caused him to fall onto the tracks. Wesley Autrey saw him fall, jumped onto the tracks and rolled with him into the rut between the rails as a southbound train was coming in. Autrey said he initially tried to pull the man up to the platform but had to decide whether he could get him up in time to avoid both of them getting hit.
■ United States
Man survives trash ordeal
A man who fell asleep on Thursday in a trash container awoke inside a garbage truck that was about to compact its load but was saved after making a frantic cellphone call to police in Oak Park, Michigan. "He said, `I fell asleep in a Dumpster and a trash truck has now picked up the Dumpster and emptied the load in the back of the truck,'" a policeman said. The man only knew the street where he fell asleep. As he was talking to a police dispatcher, he said the truck was starting to compact its load. Then police spotted a garbage truck in a parking lot. The driver emptied the garbage and officers found the man unhurt.
■ United States
State execution ban mulled
An independent commission recommended on Tuesday that the US state of New Jersey abolish the death penalty, judging the punishment indecent and too susceptible to irreversible mistakes. "There is increasing evidence that the death penalty is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency," the 13-member commission of police officers, judges, attorneys and religious leaders said in its report. "The commission recommends that the death penalty in New Jersey be abolished and replaced with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, to be served in a maximum security facility," it added.
LOST AT SEA: Survivors of a sunken Cambodian ship said they floated for two days in open waters, while a UN official said that traffickers might continue undeterred Chinese survivors from a boat that sank near a Cambodian island, killing three people and leaving eight missing, said they embarked on what they believed would be a short-term fishing job and ended up without food and water aboard the vessel, and their belongings were taken away. Cambodian authorities said on Friday they rescued 21 people one day after the boat small wooden fishing vessel sank near Koh Tang, a Cambodian island close to the maritime border with Vietnam. Nine more people were rescued by the Vietnamese and three bodies were recovered by Cambodia, leaving eight people still missing, Preah Sihanouk provincial
SOUTH CHINA SEA: Despite differences on some matters, Marcos has pledged to foster closer ties with China, calling the relationship ‘advantageous’ to both nations The Philippines is interested in renewing talks with China on joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea to expand and diversify its sources of energy, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said in an interview. The Southeast Asian country seeks a compromise with China, which is claiming parts of the South China Sea that are within Philippine territory, Marcos said, stressing that any agreement must not contravene his nation’s laws. While the Philippines and China could not agree on which nation’s law would apply, “we continue to explore, perhaps there can be other ways that we can do it,” Marcos
Prominent Chinese commentator Hu Xijin (胡錫進) on Sunday said that as China ponders its COVID-19 policies, epidemic experts need to speak out and China ought to conduct comprehensive research and make any studies transparent to the public. Hu’s unusual call on Chinese social media for candor and transparency earned him 34,000 likes on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging platform, as well as frank responses from commentators in a normally tightly policed Internet quick to censor voices deemed a risk to social stability. China’s top leaders warned in May amid the COVID-19 lockdown of Shanghai and widespread restrictions in the Chinese capital, Beijing,
Standing in line to try to buy food, Rekha Begum is distraught. Like many others in Bangladesh, she is struggling to find affordable daily essentials such as rice, lentils and onions. “I went to two other places, but they told me they don’t have supplies. Then I came here and stood at the end of the queue,” said Begum, 60, as she waited for nearly two hours to buy what she needed from a truck selling food at subsidized prices in the capital, Dhaka. Bangladesh’s economic miracle is under severe strain, as fuel price hikes amplify public frustrations over rising costs for