Electricity had returned to most of Italy by yesterday morning after a national blackout, although train services were disrupted overnight and authorities said power cuts could still hit about five percent of households. \nFour deaths were unofficially attributed to the outage, the biggest in nearly a decade which struck at 3:20am on Sunday. \nAlmost all the country's 57 million people were affected, a scale similar to last month's collapse in the US Northeast and Canada. But coming on a weekend night its initial impact was less dramatic and caused less economic damage. \nAuthorities attributed the outage to a breakdown of electricity lines, some in heavy storms, from France and Switzerland -- neighbors supplying Italy some 17 percent of its power. But they disagreed on who was to blame. \nIndustry Minister Antonio Marzano called for an investigation, which highlighted Italy's heavy reliance on imported power. \nThe national grid, GRTN, blamed the blackout on problems in the Swiss and French networks. \n"We will look at all the data in the computer," Marzano said at a news conference. \nIt was the fourth major Western blackout in two months, after cuts in North America, parts of London and Scandinavia. \nThe four deaths included a man killed in a traffic accident at an intersection where the lights had failed, an elderly woman burned by candles that fell on her, and two elderly women who fell down stairs. \nAbout 110 trains were stranded when the power went out and hundreds of people were trapped in elevators across the country. \nBut the overall impact was muted, with most people asleep and emergency generators kicking in for hospitals and key services. \nThere was no estimate of losses, although retail trade association Confcommercio said the food industry alone lost about 120 million euros (US$138 million) of business and frozen food. \nThe blackout affected all of Italy except the island of Sardinia and some small pockets of the mainland, officials said. \nThe national grid operator said it was the biggest blackout since 1994 in Italy, which suffered several outages this summer.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
An Australian graduate student arrested for spying and expelled from North Korea last year said that he was threatened with a firing-squad execution and told not even US President Donald Trump could save his “sorry arse.” Among the crimes Alek Sigley was accused of committing was posting a picture of a toy tank on Instagram, which his interrogators told him was military espionage. Sigley, 30, was studying for a master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang when he went missing in June last year, sparking alarm. A fluent speaker of Korean, he had written articles for several publications