- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2008

CHINA

Woman, man found in quake debris

CHENGDU — Rescuers yesterday freed a 60-year-old woman who was trapped for more than 195 hours after last week’s earthquake and had survived by drinking rainwater, while the confirmed death toll rose to more than 40,000.

The woman suffered a hip fracture and facial bruises during her eight-day ordeal, which began after a landslide swept away a temple in the city of Pengzhou, Hong Kong-based Phoenix Satellite Television reported.

She was one of only two people thought to have been rescued yesterday, the Xinhua news agency said. The other was a man pulled from a flattened power plant just after midnight.

The tales of survival came after the confirmed death toll from the disaster rose to 40,075, according to the State Council, China’s Cabinet. Officials have said the final number killed by the quake was expected to surpass 50,000.

CHINA

U.S. military cites Beijing’s capabilities

The U.S. military painted China yesterday as posing a growing threat to the United States and others in space and cyberspace.

China is “aggressively” honing its ability to shoot down satellites along with other space and counter-space capabilities, said Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Horne of the U.S. Strategic Command.

Such know-how has big implications for Beijing’s potential to curb access in the Taiwan Strait “and well beyond,” he told the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressionally created advisory group.

Col. Gary McAlum, chief of staff of the command’s Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations, told the panel, “Several Chinese advances have surprised U.S. defense and intelligence officials and raised questions about the quality of our assessments of China’s military capabilities.”

BRITAIN

Plan eyed to store e-mails, phone calls

LONDON — Britain is considering a massive government database to store e-mails, Internet information, phone calls and text messages of all residents to help security forces in the fight against crime and terrorism.

At the moment, records of phone calls and text messages are kept up to 12 months by telecommunications companies in compliance with a European Union anti-terrorism directive.

But a new Home Office proposal would require Internet-service providers and telecommunications companies to hand over records containing billions of e-mails as well as Internet usage and voice-over-Internet calls, media reports said yesterday.

Police and security services would be able to have access to the information after seeking permission from the courts.

AFGHANISTAN

NATO soldier, interpreter killed

KABUL — A NATO soldier and an interpreter were killed in a blast in central Afghanistan yesterday, the alliance’s International Security Assistance Force said.

Two other ISAF soldiers were wounded in the blast in the province of Ghazni, it said in a statement.

The 40-nation force does not give the nationalities of its casualties. Most of the international troops in Ghazni are U.S. nationals.

Meanwhile, a top Afghan official said the government will decide when foreign troops will leave the country, but Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta added they will be needed until Afghan security forces can stand on their own feet.

CHINA

Democracy seen key to Beijing relations

TAIPEI — Taiwan’s new president yesterday tied improved political relations with rival China to Beijing’s progress toward democracy — a condition the communist superpower may have trouble meeting.

The comments by Ma Ying-jeou in his inaugural address took place on a day of dramatic developments in Taipei, as prosecutors announced they were launching a corruption probe into outgoing President Chen Shui-bian’s handling of a special presidential fund.

In his inaugural address, the new leader reaffirmed the themes of his presidential campaign — a desire for greater economic engagement with Beijing without renouncing Taiwan’s sovereignty.

CUBA

Gitmo inmate tried suicide, lawyer says

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The suspected “20th hijacker” in the Sept. 11 attacks tried to kill himself at Guantanamo last month, his attorney disclosed yesterday , saying the Saudi prisoner was distraught over a possible death sentence for charges later dropped by the Pentagon.

Mohammed al-Qahtani cut himself at least three times and had to be hospitalized at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, lawyer Gitanjali Gutierrez said.

Al-Qahtani made the suicide attempt after learning military prosecutors filed capital charges against him and five other Guantanamo prisoners for their suspected roles in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“I cannot accept this injustice,” the lawyer quoted him as saying. “If I have to stay in this jail, I want to put an end to this suffering.”

ZIMBABWE

U.S. urges Tsvangirai to return home

JOHANNESBURG — Zimbabwe’s opposition leader should return home to lead his campaign for president, the U.S. ambassador to the southern African country said yesterday.

Ambassador James McGee, speaking to the Associated Press in South Africa, said he understood the opposition’s security concerns — it claims its leader Morgan Tsvangirai is the target of a government assassination plot. But he said Zimbabweans who have been attacked for supporting Mr. Tsvangirai need him in the country to lead them.

Meanwhile, the government denied the assassination allegations, and an official called them “stupid.”

GERMANY

Fire breaks out at Philharmonic

BERLIN — A fire yesterday sent plumes of acrid gray smoke pouring from the roof of the Berlin Philharmonic’s landmark home, where musicians and firefighters rushed to save precious instruments.

The blaze broke out beneath the roof of the building over the main concert hall, which seats 2,440 and is famed for its extraordinary acoustics. There were no injuries, officials said.

Welding work had been carried out on the building’s tin roof earlier in the day, and police were investigating that as a possible cause, police spokeswoman Heike Nagora said.

About 300 people were evacuated from the building.

From wire dispatches and staff reports