Plane's crew foils hijack attempt
The crew of a Chinese airliner thwarted an attempt to hijack a domestic flight Wednesday, and airport police killed one of the suspected hijackers after the plane landed safely, state-run media reported. The plane's captain and another crew member were injured in the attempted hijacking. All 143 passengers were unharmed.
The Xinhua Airlines flight took off at 7:20 a.m. from Baotou, in China's Inner Mongolian region, and was headed for Beijing, 370 miles to the east, the government-run news agency, Xinhua, reported.
During the flight, at least one man tried to hijack the Boeing 737, but was subdued by the crew, Xinhua said. It added that the plane landed at Jinan, about 185 miles south of Beijing, at about 9:40 a.m.
Council lifts ban on women's studies
After heated debate, reformist lawmakers voted Wednesday to lift a ban on unmarried Iranian women studying abroad. The measure which passed 137-74 now goes to the hard-line Guardian Council, which must approve it for the bill to become law.
"To protect women's dignity and high standing in Islam, the ban should not be lifted," said an opponent of the bill. "Allowing unmarried women to study abroad without any custodian where there are no restrictions on relations between men paves the way for the corruption of our girls."
The status of women in Iran has improved since the 1997 election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who appointed a woman as one of his vice presidents.
U.S. businessman charged with spying
Russian prosecutors said Wednesday that they have officially charged U.S. businessman Edmond Pope with spying, clearing the way for a trial expected to begin next month.
Pope, 54, has been held in Moscow's Lefortovo prison since April 5, when Russia's Federal Security Service arrested him and said he had illegally bought plans for a high-speed torpedo.
The action was mainly procedural, but prosecutors could have asked for more time to investigate, drawing out the case. Officials have said the trial would take place in October, though no specific date has been set. He faces 20 years in prison if convicted.
Tens of thousands displaced by floods
Flood waters inundated parts of Calcutta, a city of 13 million on Wednesday, leaving 55,000 people homeless many rowing in boats.
Fed by monsoon rains, the rising waters of the Hooghly River running through Calcutta swept away sandbag barriers and coursed through the city's central, eastern and northern regions.
No deaths were reported in Calcutta, but authorities said 727 people have died in eight days of floods in West Bengal state, of which Calcutta is the capital.
Police in jeeps patrolled the crowded shanty clusters along the river, using loudspeakers to warn Calcutta residents to move to safer areas in India's second most populous city after Bombay.
More rain was predicted, and Calcutta weather official R.N. Goldar said a high tide was expected Thursday that could reach 21 feet and flood the whole city.
Members of banned sect die in prison
Two members of the banned Falun Gong sect have died in custody, the latest deaths in China's crackdown on the spiritual movement, a rights group reported Wednesday.
The deaths bring to at least 52 the number of Falun Gong followers who have died in detention, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy reported.
In a letter to President Jiang Zemin, Falun Gong practitioners have threatened to mount more protests if authorities detain sect members ahead of National Day on Sunday.
Before it was outlawed in July 1999, Falun Gong attracted millions with its mix of exercise, meditation, Buddhist and Taoist philosophy and the teachings of Li Hongzhi, who fled to the United States two years ago.