Panda twins born at Japan zoo

TOKYO (AFP): Japan’s panda population grew by two, a zoo announced Wednesday, with the birth of twin cubs Tuesday night. The pair came into the world weighing less than 200 grammes (7 ounces) each, a spokesman for Wakayama Adventure World in western Japan said. The birth of the two cubs takes to seven the number of pandas at the zoo, which has an active breeding programme for the creatures that have a notoriously low reproductive rate. At just 21 and 22 centimetres (around 8 inches) the tiny youngsters have a long way to go before they are the size of their mother, 14-year-old Rauhin. Kyodo News reported that the twins have made a good start, with the first-born beginning to breast feed soon after its birth. The zoo is yet to name the cubs and has not decided when to place them on public display.

Stolen dinosaur skull can be returned to Mongolia

BERLIN(AFP): Vanilla sugar for Christmas biscuits trickling from an envelope sparked a bioterrorism scare at a German mail distribution centre on Monday, local police said.

Police, paramedics and a fire brigade team in full protective suits swarmed the facility after staff spotted the white powder and an employee complained of itching, apparently fearing it was a dangerous chemical or biological agent.

Testing quickly determined that the material was not dangerous, said police after the incident in the town of Pinneberg near the northern city of Hamburg. Further investigation found that the material was home-made vanilla flavoured sugar which a 40-year-old woman had mailed to her mother, who was planning to bake traditional Christmas biscuits for the family.

India’s Orissa halts ‘bicycle pump surgery’

Orissa (BBC): An Indian state has halted mass sterilisations at health camps after a doctor was found using a bicycle pump to inflate women’s abdomens. Dr Mahesh Chandra Rout, who used a pump on 56 women last Friday, told the BBC pumps were regularly used in Orissa. State officials said carbon dioxide should be used for the procedure, and using pumps could be dangerous. Last month, a separate scandal erupted over sterilisations when 15 women died after operations in another state. Tainted drugs were blamed for the botched surgeries in Chhattisgarh state. Sterilisation camps are frequently held to carry out mass tubectomy operations on women in India as part of an effort to control the country’s booming population.  Reports that Dr Rout had used a bicycle pump to inflate the abdomen of women patients have sparked outrage since news emerged at the weekend.