- - Thursday, January 6, 2011

VIETNAM

U.S. protests treatment of diplomat in Hue

HANOI | The U.S. government has strongly protested to Vietnam over the treatment of an American diplomat, the ambassador said Thursday. A media report said the human rights officer was roughed up while trying to meet with a prominent dissident.

U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia said Christian Marchant, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, was attacked by police Wednesday outside the home of the Rev. Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest, in the central city of Hue.

Mr. Marchant was wrestled to the ground by authorities and later put into a police car and driven away, it said.

AUSTRALIA

Flood-weary area hit with new storms

BRISBANE | Cleanup crews toiled under more pounding rains Thursday to clear mountains of debris in flood-ravaged communities across northeastern Australia, as one mayor warned it could take his city up to a year to recover from the worst flooding in decades.

Officials were only beginning to see the scope of the damage as river levels across Queensland state started dropping despite new thunderstorms.

Floodwaters were expected to stay high in many areas for at least another week.

Around 1,200 homes have been inundated, with another 10,700 suffering some damage in the flood zone, an area greater than France and Germany combined.

The flooding has had a major economic impact on the region, shutting down three-quarters of the state’s lucrative coal mines and devastating crops.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the cost of rebuilding homes, businesses and infrastructure coupled with economic losses could be as high as $5 billion.

CHINA

Battery factory poisons 24 children

BEIJING | Twenty-four children have been hospitalized with lead poisoning caused by an illegal battery factory in their village in eastern China, state media said Thursday in the latest in a string of battery-related poisonings in recent years.

The official Xinhua News Agency said local authorities shut down the Borui Battery Co. Ltd. and another battery factory it did not name in Anhui province’s Huaining county after tests found that at least 200 local children had elevated lead levels, with 24 between the ages of 9 months and 16 years requiring hospitalization.

Borui had failed to pass necessary environmental checks and was operating illegally, Xinhua said.

It said both factories were just across the street from a residential area despite regulations that battery plants must be at least 1,600 feet away.

SOUTH KOREA

Police say Google collects personal info

SEOUL | Google Inc. collected e-mails and other personal information from unsecured wireless networks in South Korea while taking photographs for its Street View mapping service, police said Thursday.

In May, the Internet search giant announced it inadvertently had collected fragments of people’s online activities from unsecured Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries, prompting investigations around the globe.

Google accessed private data as its cars took photos of neighborhoods in Seoul and three other major cities in South Korea between October 2009 and May 2010, said Jung Suk-hwa, a police officer in charge of the investigation.

From wire dispatches and staff reports