CHINA

Courthouse thugs are a smiley bunch

The tough guys wore smiley face stickers, but they weren't there to spread good cheer. Scenes of pushing, shouting, and shoving outside a Beijing courthouse this week were orchestrated by plainclothes security officers identified by a sticker familiar around the world - the yellow decal identified since the 1970s with the slogan "Have a Nice Day."

Their attempts to intimidate journalists, foreign diplomats, and a small cohort of human-rights advocates outside the trial of a well-known activist lawyer are all too familiar to China's beleaguered dissident community.

"The plainclothes police are the ones the Communist Party uses when they know what they're doing has no basis in law," said environmental activist Wu Lihong. - AP
CHINA

Smog detector is the must-have gift

For Beijing residents obsessed with air pollution, the stocking stuffer of the season is a smog-detecting gadget called the Laser Egg.

The device is the size of a large orange and can be used at home, in the car or anywhere air pollution is a concern - which in Beijing these days is basically everywhere.

It joins a booming market for devices that measure indoor air quality, which can vary widely between rooms in the same building. But its stylish design and $79 price tag have made it more popular than wonky-looking, lab-style "particle counters."

Users can install an app on their cellphones that can monitor multiple Eggs, track the data over time, and send an alert if the air starts getting worse. - L.A. Times
PHILIPPINES

Typhoon kills one, knocks out power

Typhoon Melor left at least one person dead and wide areas without power Tuesday as it crossed over the central Philippines. About 730,000 people were evacuated to safer ground before the storm hit.

The government weather bureau said the typhoon had weakened but was still packing winds of 87 m.p.h. as it passed over Oriental Mindoro province. Classes, flights, and ferry trips remained suspended in affected areas.

Edgar Posadas, a civil defense official, said a 31-year-old man died after being hit Monday by a dislodged tin sheet while he was fixing his roof. - AP
MALAWI

Unicef screening

for malnutrition

Unicef is carrying out a mass screening for malnutrition in children under the age of 5 across 25 districts in Malawi, or 90 percent of the country, as the southern African nation struggles to cope with drought, the U.N. organization said.

"We want to make sure that every child suffering from malnutrition gets access to lifesaving treatment," Mahimbo Mdoe, Unicef country representative, said via email.

The country is facing the first corn deficit in more than a decade as it confronts a combination of challenges including food shortages, El Niño weather patterns, recovery from floods, a stagnant economy, and a prolonged drought.

- Bloomberg