Space agencies streamlined
Japan merged its three space agencies yesterday to save money, just as China counts down the weeks to a milestone its wealthy neighbor has yet to reach -- its first manned space launch. The govern-ment aims to save ?10 billion (US$89.8 million) a year by unifying Japan's space-related activities, ranging from fundamental research to satellite development and rocket launches, under the management of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Cow disease traced
Japan has traced the country's mad-cow disease outbreak
of two years ago to either Italian cattle feed or British cows, but is still unsure exactly how the disease spread to domestic herds, according to a government panel report. The report concluded an 11-month investigation into the cause of the fatal bovine disease in Japan, where it was dis-covered in September 2001. Screening of all cattle bred for human consumption began a month later, but the source of the outbreak has perplexed scientists and concerns remain among ordinary Japanese about more possible cases. The outbreak likely stemmed from 14 British cows imported between 1982 and 1987, during the peak of infections there, or about 650 tonnes of meat-and-bone meal made from ground-up infected animals from Italy before 1991, the report said.
Durga festival begins
Over 100 million people in eastern India began a five-day festival yesterday for a 10-armed, demon-slaying Hindu goddess who triumphed over evil -- but is also associated with disasters, like the deadly floods that have recently ravaged the country. The five-day Durga Puja festivities honor Durga, a young woman chosen and empowered by the gods to kill a vicious demon king who rampaged through heaven and earth in ancient times, terrorizing mortals and gods alike. Hindus link natural events, like flood and drought, to Durga's annual arrival on earth.
Animal exports to continue
Australia will not halt its lucrative live animal exports despite concern over the plight of thousands of sheep that have been stranded at sea on a cargo ship for eight weeks, the government said yesterday. Australia exports A$195 million (US$125 million) worth of live animals each year, mostly to Islamic countries that require halal meat products -- that is, meat from an animal that has been killed by a Muslim who slits its jugular vein and drains all blood from the carcass. Australia also provides pre-packed halal meat to Islamic countries, but the demand is higher for livestock as many customers cannot afford the packaged product or do not have refrigeration to keep it fresh.
Soldiers give all for country
Chinese soldiers have entered a new line of production as sewage from six military units in Beijing is being recycled and turned into water clean enough for washing cars and watering flowers, state media said on Tuesday. Chinese soldiers have a proud tradition of supplying their labor to civilian society, and with the opening Monday of a military-designed sewage treatment system, they have an opportunity to contribute even more, the Xinhua news agency reported. The sewage system, the largest in Chinese history, is capable of processing and "rendering harmless" 5,000 tonnes of sewage a day, the agency reported.
Nuclear material in garage
A deputy director of a company that operates and repairs Russia's nuclear-powered icebreakers has been arrested for hoarding in his garage 2kg of highly radioactive material. Alexander Tyuliakov, 50, was seized as he tried to sell undercover investigators a suitcase containing the material, which is thought to include a small amount of uranium 235, capable of being used to make a "dirty" bomb. It was unclear on Tuesday whether he had got it from his employer, Atomflot, which refuels the Arctic icebreakers at its Murmansk shipyard, or from his contacts in the nuclear industry.
■ United States
Huffington out of recall race
A week before the election, independent Arianna Huffington dropped out of the California recall race to focus on torpedoing Arnold Schwarzenegger's run for governor as a new poll showed strong support for ousting Governor Gray Davis and the actor leading rivals to replace him. The Los Angeles Times poll showed the recall succeeding by a 56 percent to 42 percent margin. That was a dramatic shift from a Sept. 12 Times poll that showed support for the recall stalling, with 50 percent of voters supporting it and 47 percent in opposition. Schwarzenegger had support from 40 percent of likely voters in Tuesday's poll.
Pilots mutinous, MPs say
Israeli members of parliament called yesterday for 28 air force pilots to be sacked and tried for mutiny for refusing to attack Palestinian towns. The defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, told the knesset that the pilots were aiding "terrorists" when they signed a letter last week saying they would not carry out "illegal and immoral orders to attack, of the type Israel carries out in the [occupied] territories." These included targeted assassinations in Palestinian urban areas which, the pilots said, endangered civilian lives. Mofaz called the pilots pretentious, sanctimonious and arrogant. "The refuseniks' letter gives moral encouragement to the lawless members of the terrorist organizations," he said.
■ United States
Baby survives on ketchup
A two-year-old girl survived on ketchup, mustard and dried pasta for nearly three weeks after she was left home alone while her mother served time in jail. The child was recovering from malnutrition on Tuesday and was listed in good condition at Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. The child's father, Ogden Lee, who is separated from the child's 22-year-old mother, Dakeysha Telita Lee, said he had been trying to contact the mother for two weeks and did not learn until Sunday that she was in jail. When a manager let him into the apartment on Monday, the girl was lying in a baby's bathtub, covered with a towel and was watching cartoons.
It's never too late ...
Ecuadorans were reminded to set their watches on Tuesday, in a war against an evil as costly as theft or corruption: lateness. "He who is late steals time from another," said Cesar Montufar, the retired colonel in charge of ending lateness. The campaign begins Wednesday precisely at noon, or so. President Lucio Gutierrez will kick off events by signing a commitment to be on time. In Ecuador, where the national pastime is being past time, Montufar has a huge task, by his own accounting. He said lateness costs Ecuador, a tropical country for sure, 3.4 percent of its gross national product.
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