The burly nomad with a henna beard and a fierce scowl grips the pen between his thick fingers. Turgul cannot read the election material around him, but is determined to practice the first vote of his life. \nThe turbaned tribesman drags the pen across a scrap of paper. "Just like that," he says uncertainly, holding aloft the squiggle that will mark his choice. \nFew elections have faced such a dizzy array of challenges as Saturday's presidential poll in Afghanistan. Taliban terrorists are threatening bombings and warlords may try to warp the result. The terrain is forbidding, the logistics maddening and, like Turgul, many voters are illiterate. \n"It's been very difficult," said Amandine Roche, a UN civil education officer. "But Afghans really want this to work." \nMore than 10 million voters have registered, 40 percent of them women; there is an ethnically diverse field of 18 candidates; and for the first time ever, war-worn Afghans will taste democracy. \nThere is also anxiety. In the south and south-east, the Taliban have threatened to scuttle the poll through violence and intimidation. Afghan and coalition forces on Saturday arrested 25 Taliban suspects in a dawn raid in Kabul. \nAway from the capital, the main worry is the warlords who, between them, have 45,000 gunmen in their pay. Flush with soaring drug revenues, many vow to retain influence over their fiefdoms. \n"Many rural voters say the militias have told them how to vote, and they're afraid of disobeying," said Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch. \nThe UN, which is spending US$200 million on the election, has 115,000 election officials and has hired 5,000 satellite phones, 1,150 jeeps, four helicopters and a cargo jet. The final vote will not be tallied until the last ballot box returns from the farthest reaches of the Hindu Kush mountains by donkey, up to two weeks after polling day. \nYet Afghans display an infectious enthusiasm about the poll. Yesterday Kuchi nomads gathered outside their tents on a hillside near Kabul for a lesson in voting. \nShah Faqir, a one-eyed sheep farmer, was unable to read but could point to the photograph of his chosen candidate, Hamid Karzai, the country's interim leader. "He stopped the fighting and brought stability to this country," he said. "The others are bad guys. If they win, the gunmen will return and the country will be destroyed." \nThe Kuchi women have also registered to vote, but were nowhere to be seen. \nKarzai is the favorite but may face a second round of voting if his nearest rival, the former Education Minister Yunus Qanooni, polls strongly. Both are flag-bearers for their ethnic communities: Qanooni is a northern Tajik, Karzai a southern Pashtun but with broader appeal. \nSome say an election now is too dangerous. But "most Afghans see it as a move away from the rule of the gun, and that is positive," said Grant Kippen of the US National Democratic Institute, which helps to oversee elections.
THE ANSWER? The drug uses neutralizing antibodies produced by the human immune system, which the team isolated from the blood of 60 recovered patients A Chinese laboratory has been developing a drug it believes has the power to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to a halt. A drug being tested by scientists at Peking University could not only shorten the recovery time for those infected, but even offer short-term immunity from the coronavirus, researchers said. Sunney Xie (謝曉亮), director of the university’s Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Genomics, said that the drug had been successful in animal testing. “When we injected neutralizing antibodies into infected mice, after five days the viral load was reduced by a factor of 2,500,” Xie said. “That means this potential drug has [a]
‘SERIOUS QUESTIONS’: Three US senators sent a letter to the US commerce secretary asking whether the project ‘takes into consideration national security requirements’ US Senator Chuck Schumer and two other Democratic colleagues have written to top US administration officials asking for details of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd’s (TSMC) plan to build a US$12 billion fab in Arizona. Hsinchu-based TSMC on Thursday last week announced that it would build a plant to make 5 nanometer chips by 2024 that would have the capacity to produce 20,000 semiconductor wafers per month. The world’s biggest contract chipmaker already has one chipmaking fab in Camas, Washington, and design centers in Austin, Texas, and San Jose, California. It said it planned to start construction in Arizona next year and
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
MOM’S LONG CAMPAIGN: Mao Yin had been brought up in Mianyang, Sichuan Province, without any idea that he was the target of a decades-long, high-profile search A Chinese man who was stolen from his family as a toddler has been reunited with his parents after 32 years. Mao Yin (毛寅), then two-and-a-half years old, was snatched in 1988 when he was walking home from nursery with his father. His parents finally embraced him again on Monday in Xian, where he was born. After Mao vanished, his mother Li Jingzhi (李靜芝) quit her job and launched a decades-long search for her son, that included sending out more than 100,000 flyers and appearing on numerous TV shows. That long campaign helped 29 other families find their own missing children and made