Typhoon claims 23 lives
The death toll from the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year rose to 23 yesterday, as rescue workers rushed to clear landslides and send food and medicine to isolated areas, disaster officials said. Thousands of people were displaced by typhoon Mindulle, which packed winds of 190km per hour and gusts of up to 230km per hour as it swept past the northern region of the main Luzon island. Crop and infrastructure damage was estimated at US$9.8 million, mostly in rice- and corn-growing areas in Cagayan Valley region.
Officials want terror suspect
Indonesia wants to interrogate top regional terror suspect Hambali and told US Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday that its appeal for access to the suspect -- who is in US custody -- is more urgent following the recent arrests of six militants here. Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda made the request at a meeting with Powell on the sidelines of a regional security meeting in Jakarta, Indonesian officials said. Powell said US authorities would consider the request, according to foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa. Hambali allegedly was the operations chief of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, blamed for the 2002 nightclub bombings on Indonesia's Bali island.
■ Hong Kong
Man requests alien ears
A young man in eastern China is having plastic surgery to make his ears look like an alien's, a news report said yesterday. The man from Nanjing, Jiangsu province, went to doctors saying he was unhappy with the shape of his ears and wanted pointy ears like a creature from another planet. Doctors tried to talk him out of the idea but he insisted on going ahead with the plastic surgery, according to the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily newspaper. He told surgeons he plumped for the alien look because he wanted to have "a more interesting shape" to his ears, the newspaper said.
■ South Korea
Peddler flogs fake Viagra
Counterfeit Viagra made in North Korea has turned up on the streets of South Korea, where police detained a man for peddling a bogus version of the pill. Police officers in Seoul said yesterday they were holding Bu Hyun-shik, 52, after confiscating close to 3,000 pills that they said Bu claimed were made in North Korea. "The pills are white, round and wrapped in aluminum foil," as opposed to the blue oval shape of Pfizer's erectile dysfunction medication, police said. Viagra is sold in pharmacies in Seoul at about 15,000 won (US$13) a pill, triple Bu's price tag of 5,000 won.
Bomb kills three
Three people were killed and 15 injured yesterday when a car bomb exploded in eastern Turkey as the provincial governor drove by, Anatolia news agency reported. Van governor Hikmet Tan, who escaped unhurt, told NTV television that a car bomb had exploded in the center of the town as his official convoy passed by. A second bomb was defused shortly afterwards, police spokesman Ramazan Er said in Ankara. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the region has long been a battleground between security forces and secessionist rebels.
■ United Nations
Money needed for HIV
The world will need between US$5.1 and US$5.9 billion to meet a UN target to ensure that 3 million poor people get access to anti-HIV drugs by the end of next year, experts say. The estimate comprises drugs, medical support and administrative and logistical costs, they say. The so-called Three by Five initiative was launched by the WHO and the specialist agency UNAIDS in September last year. Its focus is on low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Africa, which are bearing the brunt of the global AIDS pandemic but cannot afford antiretroviral drugs.
Blame it on Vishwakarma
India's railways minister has absolved himself of blame for accidents plaguing the world's largest train network, saying the fate of its 13 million daily passengers rested with the Hindu god of machines, Vishwakarma. "Indian Railways is the responsibility of Lord Vishwakarma," Laloo Prasad Yadav said, as quoted yesterday by The Times of India newspaper. "So is the safety of passengers. It is his duty, not mine. I have been forced to don his mantle," the mercurial minister said.
Slime hides soft hearts
Some species of leeches brood like birds and mammals, carrying their newborns and nurturing their young. The Australian leech is the first known example of an invertebrate caring for its young into maturity, said biologist Fred Govedich at Monash University. "Although the word leech is often considered synonymous with selfishness and exploitation, many leeches are devoted parents," Govedich said yesterday. A study has found the leech carries its young for up to six weeks after hatching, gathers food and protects them from predators. The leeches also gather in groups of up to 50 and will provide food to others' young. "It is fascinating that an invertebrate is displaying vertebrate-like parenting," Govedich said.
Teens forced off scooters
An estimated 400,000 Italian teenagers were forced to hang up the keys to their scooters and walk on Thursday when a new law came into force making it illegal for them to drive without a permit. Previously anybody was allowed to drive a scooter with an engine of up to 50cc from the age of 14 without so much as a license or a driving lesson. Under the new law, people under 18 have to take classes in the rules of the road and pass a written test. Motor organizations and teenagers have complained there has not been enough time to complete the courses and the tests.
■ United States
Army warms to medallions
The Army has reversed a decision and will continue
to help a nonprofit
group distribute honorary medallions that cite a Bible verse. Fallen Friend, which since 1995 has distributed nearly 2,000 medallions to survivors of those killed in the line of duty, had been told by the Army in May that it could no longer help forward the medallions because
the inscription "John 15:13"
was inappropriate and might offend some families. The verse, which itself is not on the gold-colored medallion, reads, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
■ United States
US pulls out UN personnel
The US military will pull
tiny contingents out of two
UN peacekeeping missions because US forces are
no longer exempt from international prosecution
for war crimes, a Pentagon spokesman said. A seven-person team will be removed from the UN mission keeping the peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and two liaison officers will be taken out of the UN mission in Kosovo, spokesman Larry Di Rita said. "It was determined ... that the risk was not appropriate to our forces, and so they were withdrawn," Di Rita said. Four personnel assigned to the Ethiopia-Eritrea mission will leave immediately and three others will depart once replacements are found, he said.
■ United States
Bases ban soda cans
As part of a summer promotion, some Coke
cans contain cell phones
and global positioning chips,
but officials at some military installations voiced concerns that the cans could be used
to eavesdrop, and said they
are instituting protective measures. Coca-Cola says such concerns are nothing but fizz. Asked if Coke would curtail the promotional campaign because of the alleged security issues raised, spokesman Mart Martin said, "No. There's no reason to." Winners activate the device by pushing the button, which can only call Coke's prize center, he said. "It cannot
be an eavesdropping device,"
he said. Nonetheless, military bases are restricting the cans.
Murder probe held over
Proceedings against a
US captain charged with murdering an Iraqi follower
of radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have been postponed while his division redeploys to Germany, the US military said yesterday. "The Article 32 investigation will reconvene in Germany in late July," the military said in a statement. Captain Rogelio Maynulet of the 1st Armored Division was charged on
June 12 with murder and dereliction of duty for the suspected killing of a follower of al-Sadr, the statement
said. On May 21, Mohammed al-Tabtabai was arrested as he headed to Najaf, 160km south of Baghdad.
■ United Kingdom
Bonnie and Clyde ride again
British police are hunting for a couple who held up a string of banks by posing as a
knife-wielding raider and his helpless female hostage, a report said yesterday. The duo, dubbed a British Bonnie and Clyde after the famous US gangster couple of the 1930s, have robbed at least six banks in the past six weeks, the Times said. The crimes have all begun with the man bursting into a bank and grabbing what appears to be a random female customer -- his accomplice -- before holding a knife to her throat and demanding that staff hand over money. Police said they had not ruled out
that the pair, described as possibly being of Eastern European origin, might even be a mother-and-son team.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable