Briefly: Seoul court ends law requiring real names online

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SOUTH KOREA

SEOUL — A South Korean court ended a law requiring Internet contributors to use their real names to leave comments, ruling unanimously Thursday that the policy undermined free speech.

The online naming law took effect in 2007 under a bipartisan push to curb libeling, the spread of false rumors and abusive comments in cyberspace.

South Korea saw a flurry of celebrity suicides allegedly motivated by malicious online comments, which mobilized the move to control the Internet space.

The eight judges at the Constitutional Court said the real name policy discouraged people from voicing dissents out of concern they would be punished.

PAKISTAN

26 die from heavy rains, flooding

PESHAWAR — Pakistani officials said monsoon rains that triggered flooding in the country’s north have caused at least 26 deaths.

An official at the State Disaster Management Authority said torrential rains that started Wednesday have killed 17 people and damaged about 500 homes in the Pakistan-held Kashmir region.

Another official said nine people died Wednesday in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Six of the deaths occurred in Mansehra district, and three in Nowshera district.

AUSTRALIA

Premier denies wrong doing in 1995 union fund

CANBERRA — Prime Minister Julia Gillard denied she personally benefited from helping a boyfriend set up a union fund 17 years ago, comprehensively addressing the scandal Thursday for the first time in a likely acknowledgement that silence could harm her party’s election chances next year.

The accusations have dogged Miss Gillard for years, but her news conference came after the Australian newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd., apologized on its website for reporting in Thursday’s print edition that she had set up the trust fund in 1995 for Bruce Wilson, a top official with the Australian Workers Union.

Miss Gillard was a lawyer at the time, and had in fact only given legal advice to Mr. Wilson, then her live-in romantic partner.

JAPAN

Report: Noda to call election in November

TOKYO — Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has told top opposition politicians he plans to call a general election in early November, Kyodo news agency reported Thursday.

The agency cited senior lawmakers from the opposition Liberal Democratic Party as its source, but did not immediately give further details.

Mr. Noda was forced to promise the opposition an early general election to gain its support in parliament two weeks ago for a bill to double Japan’s sales tax.

The legislation was an attempt to partially plug the country’s vast deficit, and was supported by international bodies, newspapers and most domestic commentators.

But surveys show less than half the electorate approved.

Its passage was a rare tangible achievement in the revolving door world of Japanese leaders that has seen six prime ministers in as many years, but could cost Mr. Noda, who has only been in office for 11 months, his job.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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