■ China Coal mine death toll hits 79 \n \nRescuers working around the clock pulled more bodies from the site of a coal mine blast, bringing the death toll to 79 yesterday, with 69 miners still missing, state media reported. There were few hopes anyone would be brought out alive from the Daping Mine, which filled with deadly gas on Wednes-day and ignited. Rescuers who descended into the caved-in mine shaft faced floods and pockets of poison gas -- slowing recovery work, the China Youth Daily newspaper reported. Other newspapers yesterday said ventilation and electricity had only been partly restored to mining areas. \n \n■ Thailand \nPartying monks kicked out \n \nA group of Thai Buddhist monks has been arrested and defrocked after holding a spate of rowdy drug and alcohol parties, police said yesterday. The group of six monks at a temple in Ratchaburi, west of Bangkok, was arrested Friday night after local villagers complain-ed about their wild behavior and drug-taking, said Police Major Annop Nuamnaka. "Villagers are fed up with the monks at this temple as they always make a loud noise when they drink and take pills," Annop said. He said five of the saffron-robed monks had tested positive for amphetamines. \n \n■ Malaysia \nAliens expected to go home \n \nMore than 160,000 Indone-sian illegal immigrants are expected to pour into Malaysia's ports to go home after authorities announced they could leave without penalty during the Muslim fasting month. Ferry services will be increased to cope with a likely surge in departures to Indonesia from western Malaysia's Port Klang and the southern state of Johor, the New Straits Times newspaper reported yesterday. At least 100,000 Indonesians would probably leave from Johor before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan ends mid-November, while another 60,000 are expected to leave from Port Klang. \n \n■ China \nAncient tombs unearthed \n \nArchaeologists have started unearthing hundreds of tombs in an arid northwestern region once home to a mysterious civilization that most likely was Caucasian, state media said yesterday. The researchers have begun work at Xiaohe, near the Lop Nur desert in Xinjiang region, where an estimated 1,000 tombs await excavation, according to Xinhua news agency. Their findings could help shed light on one of the greatest current archaeo-logical riddles and answer the question of how this isolated culture ended up thousands of kilometers from the nearest Caucasian community. The tombs, thought by some to be 4,000 years old, were first discovered in 1934. \n \n■ North Korea \nPress freedom the worst \n \nNorth Korea has been named the worst violator of press freedom in the world for a third consecutive year, media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders said yesterday. The Paris-based group, also known as Reporters Sans Frontieres, said North Korean journalists are subject to re-education for misspelling a top official's name or sent to concentration camps for doubting a govern-ment view. With all media controlled by the ruling Communist Party revering supreme leader Kim Jong-Il and his late father Kim Il-sung, journalists serve simply as propaganda tools in North Korea, the group said. North Korea has put the highest priority on "publicizing the greatness of Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il." \n■ Egypt Group wants Mubarak out \n \nMore than 650 politicians, activists and intellectuals issued a landmark joint statement saying they will push to amend Egypt's constitution to prevent Hosni Mubarak, the country's president for almost a quarter of a century, from standing for another term next year. Mubarak, 76, has been Egypt's president and leader of the National Democratic Party since replacing his assassinated predecessor, Anwar Sadat, in 1981. His current six-year term ends in October, next year and he has not chosen a successor. In four previous presidential referendums, which require Egyptians to vote yes or no, he has been the sole candidate. \n \n■ Iran \nEU proposal turned down \n \nIran yesterday turned down a EU proposal that it stop enriching uranium in return for nuclear technology. Diplomats had said that if Iran rejected the proposal, most EU countries would back a US demand that Tehran be reported to the UN Security Council for possible economic sanctions when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meets on Nov. 25. "The EU proposal is unbalanced ... unlimited uranium suspension is unacceptable for Iran," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a news conference. \n \n■ Mali \nGovernment pledges aid \n \nMali's government said on Saturday it could supply enough food for villagers who watched locusts devour their harvests and that the threat posed by the insects had largely subsided. Aid workers are beginning to assess the damage caused by the worst desert locust infestation for more than a decade in West and Central Africa. It has affected a vast area stretching from the Atlantic coast to landlocked Chad. "We can announce the very good news that there has been a real lull [in locust infestation] in most areas," government spokesman Ousman Thiam said. \n \n■ United Kingdom \nSatanic seaman recognized \n \nA technician in the Royal Navy has become the first serviceman in Britain's armed forces to be officially recognized as a Satanist, the defense ministry said yesterday. Chris Cranmer, 24, has been given the go-ahead by his captain to perform Satanic rituals on board the HMS Cumberland and is reportedly lobbying his employers to register Satanism as an official religion in the armed forces. "There is a guy who has asked to practice his [Satanic] beliefs on a Royal Navy ship," a defense ministry spokesman told reporters. "His request was treated sympathetically by the ship's commanding officer." Cranmer holds the rank of leading hand -- the naval equivalent of corporal -- and in line with naval tradition will be permitted to have a funeral carried out by the Church of Satan should he be killed in action. \n \n■ United Kingdom \nParliament to be `fortress' \n \nBritain's Houses of Parliament, its celebrated neo-Gothic exterior a symbol of the nation itself, will go behind an electric fence, roadblocks and even a floating barrage in the Thames under new security rules reported by The Sunday Times. The weekly said a leaked document revealed a plan to transform one of London's biggest tourist draws into a "fortress." The Palace of Westminster has served as the stage for several recent security failings -- all spectacular stunts designed to draw attention to domestic political causes. \n■ Brazil Rocket launched into space \n \nBrazil successfully launched its first rocket into space, 14 months after a devastating accident that killed 21 space agency employees and damaged the reputation of the country's space program. The two-stage rocket, named VSB-30, or Brazilian Exploration Vehicle, was launched at 1:30pm on Saturday from the Alcantara launch site in the state of Maranhao, 2,700km north of Rio de Janeiro, said officials with the Brazilian Air Force's Research and Development Department. A successful launch would not only restore the reputation of Latin America's first space program, but would also allow it to follow through on plans to export the rockets to the European Space Agency. \n \n■ United States \nErrant bomb drop probed \n \nMilitary officials are investigating why a jet fighter accidentally dropped a 11.25kg practice bomb on a hiking trail 1.6km from its intended target in southeastern Pennsylvania. No one was injured when the grapefruit-sized, cast-iron bomb fell on the trail Oct. 13 during a training mission for a pair of A-10 Thunderbolts. The bomb created a crater about 15cm wide in the trail along an abandoned rail line in Schuylkill County. At least one hiker was close enough to hear the thud. "It took a while for me to realize what had occurred," the hiker said in an e-mail to the state Game Commission. "Couldn't believe it! Retraced my steps. Still couldn't believe it!" \n \n■ United States \nMan collapses after `Oprah' \n \nA former Lincoln County minister was hospitalized after his adult daughters went on The Oprah Winfrey Show and accused him of molesting them. It was unclear Saturday whether he would be well enough for today's scheduled start of his trial on sex abuse charges involving one of the daughters in Yadkin County Superior Court. The program aired Thursday, hours before paramedics were called to the home of Ted Eugene Hendrix, 66, of Denver, North Carolina. When medics arrived early Friday, they found Hendrix on the floor, breathing but barely able to speak. It was unclear whether Hendrix had watched the show. \n \n■ United States \nKerry gets Muslim backing \n \nDemocratic presidential candidate John Kerry has received the backing of leaders of the estimated seven-million-strong Muslim-American community, but the endorsement was lukewarm at best. The half-hearted expression of support last week was the most that the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections (AMT) was prepared to give the Massachusetts senator after months of behind-the-scenes negotiations with his campaign officials. "(AMT) is calling on Muslims nationwide to cast a protest vote for Senator John Kerry," the group said, expressing "disappointment" with what it described as an "insensitive" Bush administration. \n \n■ Venezuela \nGovernment demands land \n \nVenezuelan President Hugo Chavez stepped up the pressure on wealthy landowners Saturday, saying he will send troops to confiscate unused farmland if large property owners refuse to give up the land to help the poor. Outlining what he dubbed "the new stage of the revolution," Chavez, a self-proclaimed revolutionary, declared "war against large estates," saying they were an obstacle for ensuring more equality in this oil-rich, but poverty-stricken, South American country of 25 million. Owners of large plots of land have two choices, he said: give up their land or have the army take it away.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and