10 in TEN
Swine flu virus kills two women in Beijing
TWO Chinese women have died from the H1N1 flu strain in Beijing in less than two weeks, Chinese state media said yesterday. They are the first deaths caused by the virus reported in China's capital since 2010.
A 65-year-old cancer patient died on Friday and a 22-year-old migrant worker died on December 27, the Beijing Daily said, citing the city's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. The rise in cases corresponds with weeks of record low temperatures in Beijing and across much of China.
H1N1 is the swine flu virus responsible for the pandemic that broke out in 2009, starting in the US and Mexico and spreading around the world in six weeks. - Reuters
Morsi throws ministers' heads to angry voters
EGYPT's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi has fired his finance and interior ministers, cabinet sources said on Saturday, in a government reshuffle he had promised to assuage public anger at the country's economic crisis.
General Mohamed Ibrahim will replace Ahmed Gamal el-Din as interior minister and Al-Mursi al-Sayed Hegazy takes over the finance ministry from Mumtaz al-Saaed.
Egypt's pound, 10% down since the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak, lost more than 3% against the dollar in the week to Thursday, hitting a record low as fears grew about Egypt's rapidly shrinking foreign currency reserves. - Reuters
Ex-Hussein henchman backs Sunni dissent
THE most senior member of the entourage of hanged Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein still at large has urged Sunni Muslims, in a broadcast by the pan-Arab news channel Al Arabiya, to stand their ground until the Shia prime minister, Nourial-Maliki, is toppled.
Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri heads Saddam's now-banned Baath party, the leaders of which fled after the US-led invasion in 2003 that overthrew the Sunni strongman and empowered the Shia majority.
Over the past two weeks, tens of thousands of Sunnis have staged demonstrations against Maliki, whom they accuse of excluding them, and other minorities, from power. - Reuters
Smugglers' tunnel for drugs, illegal migrants
MEXICAN authorities said on Saturday that they have discovered a tunnel believed to be intended for smuggling drugs and migrants across the US-Mexico border.
The entrance to the tunnel , which was still under construction, is in a warehouse about 300m from the border between the Mexican city of Mexicali and Calexico, California.
A man was arrested at the warehouse. - Sapa-AFP
Netanyahu fighting off settlers' poll offensive
ISRAELI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is appealing to his right-wing base to vote for his election list and not for a pro-settler alternative.
He is in danger of being unseated by a centre-left coalition.
Polls show that significant numbers of voters have withdrawn their support for his Likud Beiteinu list and are redirecting it to a pro-settlement party, Jewish Home. - Sapa-AP
Dig for Spitfire treasure trove gets under way
A SEARCH team led by a British aviation enthusiast arrived in Burma yesterday to begin excavations that they hope will unearth dozens of Spitfire fighter aircraft said to have been buried by the RAF in the Southeast Asian country at the end of the Second World War.
The fast single-seat aircraft made a major contribution to beating back waves of German bombers in the Battle of Britain. - Sapa-AP
Fatalities feared in Tasmanian wildfires
SEVERAL people were missing and were feared dead yesterday after wildfires swept through the island of Tasmania, destroying scores of homes and forcing thousands to flee.
Acting Tasmania police commissioner Scott Tilyard said officers were investigating several missing persons reports.
"I am fearful that someone may have died in this fire ... it is a very distinct possibility." - Sapa-AFP
Mullahs to fine-tune control of internet
IRAN is designing "intelligent software" that would give citizens restricted and controlled access to social networking sites banned in the Islamic theocracy, local media quoted police chief Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghadam as saying yesterday.
"Smart control of social networks will not only avoid their disadvantages but will allow people to benefit from their useful aspects," Ahmadi Moghadam said.
Facebook, Twitter and many other social websites are blocked as part of Iran's strict internet censorship regime. But many web users in Iran, where half of the 75million population is connected to the internet, have found illegal ways around the blocks. - Sapa-AFP
Villagers shot, hacked to death in night raids
GUNMEN shot or hacked to death about 10 people during a raid on two neighbouring villages in Nigeria's remote northwestern state of Zamfara, police said yesterday.
The region has long been plagued by Islamist militancy and lawlessness.
The motive for the attacks late on Saturday was not known, the police said. It is not known whether militant Islamist sect Boko Haram or a criminal gang were responsible.
Zamfara police spokesman Hassan Usman Talba said that the prime suspects were gangs of Fulani cattle herders whose semi-nomadic way of life has led to decades of conflict with the inhabitants of settled farming communities. - Reuters
Trials to follow New Year's Eve stampede
THE Ivory Coast will put on trial those responsible for security and other flaws that led to the death of 63 people in a stampede on New Year's Eve, the country's chief public prosecutor said on Saturday.
Prosecutor Koffi Kouadio Simplice said an investigation found that a road blocked by trees, as well as a lack of lights and security personnel, contributed to the accident.
The stampede was in Abidjan as hundreds of thousands of revellers were leaving a fireworks display.
According to the investigation, two streams of spectators going in opposite directions crossed paths, which led to panic.
Many of the victims were children. - Sapa-dpa