■ UNITED KINGDOM
Prisoners turn pagan
The number of prisoners who describe themselves as pagan has more than doubled in England and Wales since 2003, new government figures showed. Prison service guidelines say pagan prisoners may keep artifacts such as a hoodless robe and a flexible twig for use as a wand among their personal possessions. Naked worship, known as “skyclad,” is not allowed. The figures showed that 328 inmates listed themselves as pagan last year, up from 133 four years ago. The figures were released ahead of Halloween, a festival on which pagan prisoners will be allowed to choose not to work or attend education. Inmates are allowed to select two dates from a list of eight annual festivals when they are excused from work.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Military official resigns
The head of the country’s special forces in Afghanistan has resigned, reportedly in disgust at equipment failures that he believes led to the death of four of his troops. Major Sebastian Morley, commander of Special Air Service troops in Afghanistan, accused the government of “chronic underinvestment” in equipment in his resignation letter, the Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday. He had repeatedly warned that people would be killed if military commanders and government officials continued to allow troops to be transported in the lightly armored Snatch Land Rover vehicles, it said. Four of his soldiers died in June when their Snatch Land Rover hit a land mine in Helmand Province. Morley believes they died needlessly, the newspaper said.
TV station for gays launches
The country’s first television station for gay men will go on air this week offering entertainment and news with homosexual themes via satellite and cable, the new TIMM channel said on Friday. The line-up will include popular series such as Queer as Folk, The L-Word and Absolutely Fabulous dubbed into German, as well as documentaries on gay stars or celebrities who are big in the gay community, such as Rupert Everett, Susan Sarandon and Liza Minnelli, the station said in a statement. With the slogan “We love men,” TIMM said it was aimed at the country’s estimated 3.6 million gay men and hoped to draw their family and friends, lesbians and a few “metrosexuals.” “TIMM enriches the existing television landscape with programming from and by the target group — simply for everyone who loves men,” it said.
■ EL SALVADOR
Presidents leave summit
Eight presidents left the Iberian American Summit in San Salvador before it closed on Friday, in a mass escape that made the gathering’s last day lackluster. Between midday Thursday and early Friday, the leaders of Brazil, Nicaragua, Argentina, Panama, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic left San Salvador. The presidents of Venezuela, Cuba and Uruguay directly skipped the summit. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva missed the opening ceremony late on Wednesday and left after the first session of debate, at midday on Thursday. He traveled to Cuba for a visit of less than 24 hours. On Thursday, the countries meeting in San Salvador demanded a greater presence in global financial decisions at a time of crisis. Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Argentina, among other countries, called for a fairer multilateral world order that would take into account the views of emerging countries.
Policemen killed in Toluca
Authorities in Toluca say eight police officers have been killed in less than 24 hours in a state near the capital. Mexico state attorney general’s office spokesman Octavio Campos says the police chief and a commander in the town of Teoloyucan were found shot to death on Friday inside a patrol car. Campos says six state officers were gunned down in three separate attacks late on Thursday. Seven other people were also killed in the state during the same period. Mexico state is one of several that have suffered a wave of homicides. Officials blame the violence on warring drug gangs.
■ OUTER SPACE
US astronauts to vote
Two US astronauts who are soaring in orbit hundreds of kilometers from Earth will be able to vote in the US election on Nov. 4, the US space agency NASA said. Commander Mike Fincke and Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff, who are working aboard the International Space Station, are to vote by secure electronic ballot uplinked by Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, NASA said. Their votes will be submitted by secure link back to Earth, and recorded by local voting officials in Texas. Astronauts can vote from space due to a 1997 bill passed by Texas legislators which set up the process. Nearly all US astronauts live in Houston, NASA said.
■ UNITED STATES
Trick-or-treater shot to death
A 12-year-old boy trick-or-treating with his family in Sumter, South Carolina, was shot from inside a home on Friday and killed, and his father and brother were wounded by the gunfire, authorities said. The shooting suspect, Quentin Patrick, was in custody, a jail official said. Patrick, 22, has been charged with murder and three counts of assault and battery with intent to kill. The jail official said she didn’t know whether Patrick had an attorney and his telephone number was unpublished. The family was headed home from a city-sponsored event in Sumter, South Carolina, when they decided to stop at a few homes, Sumter Police Chief Patty Patterson said.
Wallaby escapes from pen
An intrepid wallaby has escaped from its pen at an exotic zoo and gone on an 80km walkabout across the eastern part of the country where he remained on the lam on Friday, zookeepers said. Wendell, a three-year-old Bennett’s Red Necked wallaby, was reported missing on Wednesday after a storm toppled a tree which destroyed the animal’s pen at a facility near the capital Ottawa. The animal, native to eastern Australia, and three others as well as a kangaroo, “just hopped out of their broken enclosure,” Carla Saunders, co-owner of Saunders Country Critters and Garden Centre said. But only Wendell strayed very far, she said.
■ UNITED STATES
Painting returned to France
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts has sent a US$2.8 million painting back to France after concluding it had been stolen by the Nazis during World War II. The museum had owned the 1911 Fernand Leger painting Smoke Over Rooftops since 1961. But after a decade of detective work, the institute decided to return it to the French heirs of a Jewish art collector who died in 1948. “Having researched this to the end of the road, we decided we had to return the painting; it was the right thing to do,” Kaywin Feldman, director of the institute, told the Star Tribune for a story published on Thursday.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
A squad of gun-toting police officers patrolled Myanmar’s sacred site of Bagan under the cover of night, taking on plunderers snatching relics from temples forsaken by tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions. Each evening as dusk falls, about 100 officers fan out across the plain of Bagan covering 50km2, sweeping flashlights over the crumbling monuments to scour for intruders. “Our security forces are patrolling day and night,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Sein Win told reporters. “We have it under control for the moment, but it’s a challenge.” The central Burmese city is strewn with more than 3,500 ancient monuments — stupas, temples, murals and sculptures