■ Sri Lanka
Monitor urges probe
Up to 200 Tamils have been slain in apparent political violence that has undermined Sri Lanka's peace since the 2002 halt in its civil war, and the government hasn't done enough to investigate the attacks, a human-rights monitor said yesterday. The New York-based Human Rights Watch suggested most of the killings were the result of a split in the ranks of the Tamil Tigers last year, and called for an independent commission to investigate the violence and recommend ways to end it. Sri Lankan police denied they had closed their eyes to the killings.
Men urged to dress down
The government's top spokesman turned fashion trendsetter yesterday when he doffed his tie as part of a "Cool Biz" campaign to get men to dress down to save energy. Sartorially conservative government workers and politicians are being encouraged to leave off coats and ties between June 1 and Sept. 30 so that air conditioner thermostats can be set higher to save energy. Sporting a light blue shirt and navy trousers at a news conference in place of his usual dark suit, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda presented pamphlets showing a variety of options for the "tieless look."
Patient killed in AC row
A kidney patient was slashed to death by a fellow patient while receiving dialysis treatment, apparently because of a row over the air conditioning. Goh Kim Kee, 50, bled to death after a 39-year-old patient attacked him with a machete as 10 other patients hooked up to dialysis machines looked on in horror, the New Straits Times reported. Goh was slashed four times and both his arms were almost severed, police said. The two men had in the past argued about the air conditioning at the dialysis center in the capital Kuala Lumpur, with Goh complaining that it was too cold, the Sun newspaper said.
City staff hit the gyms
Shanghai civil servants are being told to hit the gym amid a rise in obesity and other health problems, an official newspaper reported yesterday. The Xuhui district government says most of its 4,000 employees are severely out of shape, with just 30 percent receiving good or excellent marks on their physical exams, the Shanghai Daily reported. About 15 percent of the district's bureaucrats are overweight, with most living sedentary lifestyles and making little time for exercise, it said. The district has told bureaucrats to join one of 25 gyms or sports clubs that are offering discounted fees, with those who work out at least once a week to be reimbursed.
Rights activist detained
Authorities have arrested a prominent human-rights activist in the eastern city of Andizhan who strongly criticized recent violence there, a US-based rights group said yesterday. Saidjahon Zaynabitdinov was detained on Saturday and is being held on unknown charges, Human Rights Watch said. It said his arrest appeared to be linked to his outspoken remarks about the May 13 violence, in which Uzbek forces opened fire on demonstrators after armed militants freed inmates from a jail and seized government buildings. International media have quoted comments by Zaynabitdinov condemning the crackdown in Andizhan and saying the death toll could be as many as 1,000 or more -- far above government claims that 169 people died.
Palestinian used as shield
Soldiers used a Palestinian teenager as a shield against rock-throwers during an incident last week in the West Bank, an Israeli TV station reported on Monday. Channel 10 TV showed film of soldiers leading the 17-year-old youth, identified as Fahdi, to a building where soldiers were stationed in the village of Dura in the southern West Bank. In a combination of actual footage and reenactment, the TV report showed how soldiers led the blindfolded youth out onto a second-floor balcony, as a soldier aimed a rifle with a tear gas grenade from behind the teenager, as fellow teens threw rocks at the building from across the street. An Israeli military statement denied the allegation.
School bus crash kills five
Police investigating the deadliest school bus crash in Irish history said yesterday they would interview the drivers of the bus and two cars involved in the collision. The crash Monday night near Navan, northwest of Dublin, left five teen-age girls dead and 46 injured. Twenty-two people, mostly teens, remained in hospital yesterday, including six listed in critical condition. The accident happened on a straight but narrow road that was being resurfaced; construction work was happening a few hundred meters from from the crash site. Students on board the bus reported being hit by one of the two cars.
Soldiers hurt in mine attack
Ten Russian servicemen were wounded when an unknown assailant detonated a remote-controlled mine on a highway in southern Russia, police said yesterday. The soldiers were in a military convoy traveling on the Kavkaz highway in the republic of Ingushetia when a mine exploded, hitting trucks but causing no injuries, said Alexei Polyansky, spokesman for the southern branch of the Russian Interior Ministry. A second mine was detonated after police arrived on the scene, and 10 soldiers were wounded, two of them seriously, he said. The incident occurred in the vicinity of the regional capital, Magas.
■ West Bank
Gunfire wards off protesters
Palestinian police fired volleys of gunfire into the air on Monday to bar dozens of anti-government protesters from forcing their way into President Mahmoud Abbas's West Bank compound. At the same time tens of thousands of supporters of Hamas, a rival faction to Abbas's ruling Fatah movement, demonstrated in the Gaza Strip against a court ruling overturning Hamas victories in recent local elections. The Ramallah protesters, from the West Bank village of Bilin, were angry at what they consider the Palestinian authorities' failure to take strong action to try to stop a barrier Israel is building through their land.
Russian base discussed
Russia has discussed opening a second military base in Kyrgyzstan to help fend off terrorist threats in the volatile region, a senior Kyrgyz official said yesterday. Anvar Artykov, governor of the Osh region in southern Kyrgyzstan, said the Kyrgyz government had yet to make a final decision on the issue. "There has been preliminary talk about a military base in Osh, about a Russian anti-terror unit here," Artykov said at a news conference. "The issue is yet to be considered at the government level." Kyrgyzstan hosts both US and Russian military bases, located just about 30km apart.
Aboriginal study launched
The government intends to fund a US$5 million study to combat murder and rape of Aboriginal women and help shape laws, social services, police procedures and public education, a native women's group said on Monday. More than 500 Aboriginal women have disappeared or been killed in the last 20 years. While only 3 percent of female population in Canada, they represent 29 percent of women inmates in federal prisons, Canadian rights groups estimate. "Young women leave the community and are never heard from again," said Sherry Lewis, executive director of the Native Women's Association of Canada, who announced the project.
■ United States
New sex drug offers hope
A new drug to treat premature ejaculation can increase men's sexual stamina more than threefold, its makers said on Monday. The drug, dapoxetine, was unveiled at an annual meeting of the American Urological Association on Monday. Premature ejaculation affects between 27 percent and 34 percent of males of all age groups, according to the association. Jon Pryor, who led Johnson & Johnson's trial, said dapoxetine had few side effects in clinical trials. "It can be taken on demand, one to three hours before intercourse, and the reason its side effects are so low is probably because it clears out of the system quickly," he said.
■ United States
Another plane intercepted
Military jets intercepted a small plane that strayed into restricted airspace around Washington on Monday, the second time in nearly two weeks fighter planes steered a wayward aircraft away from the US capital with flares, officials said. Unlike the May 11 incident when the airspace breach prompted the evacuation of the White House, Capitol and Supreme Court, Monday's incident triggered no frantic security response on the ground. It was not clear if poor weather was a factor in the incident. The Cessna was apparently on a flight from Tennessee to the Washington area and "clipped" restricted airspace about 32km from Washington.
■ United States
Bear takes dip in yard pool
A 63kg bear wandered into a suburban neighborhood and took a dip in a swimming pool before being tranquilized and returned to the wild. The female bear ambled into the San Fernando Valley's Porter Ranch area shortly after 6pm on Sunday, bumping into doors and windows before taking a few splashes in a backyard pool, fire depart-ment spokesman Brian Humphrey said. Homeowner Maryam Salahael pulled her children out of the pool when the bear showed up, and she called authorities. "My dog began barking very loudly. I went to see what's going on. I see a bear in my backyard," Salahael told KTTV-TV. Authorities cordoned off the area as wildlife officials tranquilized the bear, said Cindy Wood of the California Department of Fish and Game.
■ United States
Man punished for skull
A Los Angeles man was sentenced on Monday to 600 hours of community service and ordered to pay more than US$13,000 for trying to sell an antique Hawaiian skull in an online auction. Judge Howard Matz ordered Jerry Hasson to publish an apology in several Hawaiian newspapers and on a bulletin board on the online auction site eBay. Hasson pleaded guilty in January to trying to sell the skull on eBay, saying he had found it on a beach in Hawaii in 1969.
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