Questions raised about Iranian leader's health
BEIRUT, Lebanon : Reports about the health of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have stirred speculation about whether the controversial populist will run again for the country's highest elected office in June. In an interview published Saturday by Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency, a close associate of Ahmadinejad said the president had fallen sick because of overwork and exhaustion. "Every human being can face exhaustion under such a workload," lawmaker Mohammed Ismail Kowsari, an ally of Ahmadinejad, said in the interview. "The president will eventually get well and continue his job." The exuberant and media-hungry Ahmadinejad, who turns 53 today, told a reporter in a report aired last night on state television that he was not ill. "Exhaustion is possible but no illness," he said in remarks reported by the Associated Press. Ahmadinejad missed several public appearances last week, though he appeared at several low-key events over the weekend.
Chemical melamine found in Chinese eggs
HONG KONG : The discovery of excessive levels of the industrial chemical melamine in Chinese eggs has prompted Hong Kong authorities to expand testing to include meat products imported from China, a senior official said yesterday. The move follows the announcement late Saturday that Hong Kong testers had found 4.7 parts per million of melamine in imported eggs produced by a division of China's Dalian Hanwei Enterprise Group. The legal limit for melamine in foodstuffs in Hong Kong is 2.5 ppm. Hong Kong Secretary for Food and Health York Chow said the melamine might have come from feed given to the chickens that laid the eggs. The discovery prompted officials to expand food testing to meat imports from China, Chow told reporters. Calls to Dalian Hanwei Enterprise Group, based in the northeastern port city Dalian, went unanswered yesterday.
Arkansas city mourns death of newswoman
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. : Flowers and candles piled up yesterday outside the home where a TV anchorwoman was found brutally beaten, as tributes poured in to the Web site of the Little Rock station where her colleagues mourned her death. Anne Pressly, 26, an anchor for KATV, died Saturday night in a hospital. Her mother found her brutally beaten Monday after the journalist didn't answer her regular wake-up call. Authorities have said they have no suspects. A makeshift memorial of flowers, candles and teddy bears lay near a tree outside the anchorwoman's home yesterday. KATV has established a reward fund for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Pressly's killer. The station said the fund had reached $30,000 as of Saturday evening.
Rebels make advances in fierce Congo fighting
MOMBASA, Kenya : Rebels overran an army base and seized the headquarters of a nearby gorilla park in intensified fighting yesterday in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since August, fighting has driven nearly 200,000 more people from their homes in a region where more than 1.4 million, or about one-fifth of the population, have already been displaced, aid officials say. "It's significantly worse in that rebels seem to have gained a lot of ground," said Emmanuel de Merode, director of Virunga National Park, home to 200 of the world's last remaining mountain gorillas. Although parts of the park have been under rebel control for months, yesterday's fighting forced 53 park rangers to flee into the forest as rebels seized the headquarters. Rebels also retook control of the Rumangabo military camp north of the city of Goma. Rebels had overrun the camp this month, stealing a cache of heavy artillery and antiaircraft guns before turning control of the facility over to the U.N.
Private security firms join fight against pirates
NAIROBI, Kenya : Blackwater Worldwide and other private security firms - some with a reputation for being quick on the trigger in Iraq - are joining the battle against pirates active in one of the world's most important shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia. The growing interest among merchant fleets to hire their own firepower is encouraged by the Navy and represents a new and potentially lucrative market for security firms scaling back operations in Iraq. But some maritime organizations said that armed guards could increase the danger to ships' crews or that overzealous contractors might accidentally fire on fishermen. The record in Iraq of security companies such as Blackwater, which is being investigated for its role in the fatal shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007, raises concerns about unregulated activity and possible legal wrangles.