Dengue fever cases jump
Guangdong Province has reported a sharp rise in mosquito-transmitted dengue fever cases in the past two months, with dozens of people still in hospital, state media said yesterday. Experts blamed recent humid and hot weather and inadequate anti-mosquito efforts in the area for the recent increase, the Southern Metropolis Daily said. Most of the more than 70 infections so far this year have been reported since June, and more than 20 patients were still being treated in a hospital in the capital Guangzhou, prompting authorities to issue an epidemic warning.
Bird flu `vaccine' safe
A vaccine against the H5N1 strain of bird flu in humans has been found safe in its first round of tests, a government news agency said yesterday. Researchers began work on a vaccine last year. The government said then it was ready to start mass production, but any vaccine would face more rounds of testing before it could be declared safe for human use. Tests were conducted on six human volunteers at a Beijing hospital between last November and June, Xinhua news agency said.
Scores to stay private
Students long accustomed to being publicly honored or disgraced by the open ranking of exam scores may soon be able to celebrate their intelligence, or hide their shame, in private. Over the weekend, the Education Ministry barred primary and middle schools from making public rankings of test scores, a practice that has been blamed for student depression and even suicides. The measures would not be applicable to high schools.
Boy dies playing with grenade
One boy was killed and five others wounded while playing with a grenade left over from decades of fighting in Aceh Province, police said yesterday. The children found the explosive outside a former military post in the town of Bireun on Sunday, and started hitting it with a piece of wood, said Lieutenant Colonel Supriyanto Tarah, the local police chief. The device detonated, killing a 12-year-old boy and wounding five others, aged four to 12, Tarah said, adding that a bomb-squad later scoured the area but did not find any other explosives.
Probe of video launched
The government is investigating a video clip that shows two men allegedly being beaten and humiliated in police custody, with one of them forced to lick saliva from a floor, news reports said yesterday. An initial investigation indicates the grainy footage -- broadcast on the private TV3 network's evening news on Saturday -- was filmed by a policeman with a cellphone camera at a police station in a Kuala Lumpur suburb in May, Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharum was quoted as saying. "The interrogation of the suspects was done badly,'' Johari was quoted as saying by the Star newspaper. ``It should not have happened that way."
■ New Zealand
Ex-minister in more trouble
Fresh allegations of graft against a sacked Cabinet minister are awful and he should reconsider his future as a lawmaker, Prime Minister Helen Clark said yesterday. She stopped short of demanding former junior minister Taito Phillip Field give up his parliamentary seat, saying he had suffered "public humiliation" and his future was up to the ruling Labour Party. Field was sacked from his post by Clark after an independent inquiry found him guilty of "misjudgments" in aiding immigrants -- some of whom he employed at cheap rates to work on properties he owned. Allegations at the weekend said Field had also pocketed donations from constituents, acted inappropriately by having immigrants work for little pay in return for getting them work visas and altered a birth certificate.
Spears poster causes fuss
Tokyo's subway allowed a publisher to display posters of a nude and heavily pregnant Britney Spears yesterday, overturning a decision to cover up part of the image for being "too stimulating" for young people. The picture of the pop singer -- nude but covering her breasts with her arms and crossing her legs at the knee -- appeared in this month's issue of Harper's Bazaar in the US and will be on the cover of the magazine's Japanese edition for October. Tokyo Metro and the publishers had initially agreed to display a censored version of the cover photo, with the pop star's body covered from the elbow down.
47 killed in tank collapse
Forty-seven people were killed and 30 injured on Sunday when a water storage tank they were sitting on collapsed in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, a government official said. The incident took place at about 6pm in Kama town in the Bharatpur district, about 200km east of the state capital, Jaipur. The group was using the concrete water tank, meant to store water for the area, as a stand to watch a wrestling match. Eight people were being treated in a local hospital while the rest had been discharged, said R. Venkateshwaran, the area's top administrator.
Rebel leaders to appear
Rebel leaders from the Lord's Resistance Army confirmed on Sunday they will surface under the terms of a tentative truce despite facing arrest warrants by an international court on war crimes charges. Rebel leader Joseph Kony, who has only been seen in public a handful of times during the 19-year rebellion, will assemble along with other fighters at two agreed locations in southern Sudan, said Martin Ojul, the rebels' lead negotiator. There they will be monitored and protected while negotiators continue to work toward a formal ceasefire and peace deal. The government and the rebels agreed on Saturday to a ceasefire.
■ United States
Confucius Institute set up
Beijing has named the University of Oklahoma as a home for a Confucius Institute, which university officials say is an important recognition of the school's growing Chinese language program. The institutes are being established around the world to promote Chinese culture and literature. The university's institute is one of only 80 in the world and only 11 in the US. Oklahoma university officials signed an agreement last Wednesday that pairs the university with Beijing Normal University in China. The universities will work together to create Web-based Chinese classes and summer language immersion programs in China, the Oklahoman newspaper reported yesterday.
■ United States
Storm prompts evacuations
Tropical Storm Ernesto bore down on Cuba yesterday, prompting large-scale evacuations on the island as well as in the Florida Keys that could be hit next. US weather authorities warned that Ernesto could regain hurricane strength as it moves away from the mountains of Haiti and toward open water. Cuban authorities said they had evacuated tens of thousands of people from southeastern areas of the country. In Florida, where Ernesto was expected later in the week, Governor Jeb Bush ordered a state of emergency, saying the southeastern state "may be threatened by a major disaster."
■ United States
One dead in border incident
A US border partrol agent fatally shot a man who was throwing rocks at officers from the Mexican side of the border, officials said. The incident on Saturday night began after agents spotted a suspicious vehicle near the Andrade Port of Entry west of the California-Arizona border. The driver fled and then tried to swim across a pond in an effort to return to Mexico, the agency said in a press release. But the man began to struggle to stay afloat and agents threw him a flotation device and tried to rescue him. Several people on the other side of the border then began throwing rocks at the agents, and one officer was struck in the head. The officer then shot at a man who was getting ready to throw another rock, the border patrol said.
Zambian conman arrested
Police have arrested a Zambian man who attempted to swindle a Kenyan sports minister, officials said on Sunday. They said Minister Maina Kamanda got a call from Monaco from a man claiming to be the son of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) chief Lamine Diack, who asked the minister to assist his son with US$5,100 after he was carjacked and robbed in Mombasa. When Kamanda phoned the IAAF chief to ask whether he could offer any other help, Diack denied knowledge of any hijacking.
Holocaust forum scheduled
The government will hold an international conference on the Holocaust in December that will allow historians to present "hidden aspects" of the slaughter of Jews under Nazi Germany, newspapers reported yesterday. The two-day conference, entitled "Study of Holocaust, A Global Perspective," is to start on Dec. 11, the reports said, and will touch on issues including the "reasons for anti-Semitism in Europe," "the Holocaust and Zionism," "the Holocaust in historical documents" and "Holocaust: rules and media." According to the foreign ministry, "there should be scientific opportunities created for researchers to present hidden aspects of this most important event of the 20th century as transparently as possible."
UK defense chief visits
British Defense Secretary Des Browne visited Baghdad yesterday for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other Iraqi and US officials, a British embassy spokesman said. Discussions were likely to include arrangements for Britain to hand formal control of security in Dhi Qar Province to Iraqi forces, part of a process started last month. Browne was also likely to discuss with Maliki efforts to ease violence in Basra among rival factions of the dominant Shiite Muslim community.
■ United Kingdom
Police injured at rave
Two hundred riot police used teargas, dogs and batons to disperse 1,000 ravers at an illegal party in Essex, southeast England, on Saturday night. Riots broke out in a cornfield next to the village of Ickleton as partygoers clashed with police in scenes reminiscent of the zenith of the free party movement in the late 1980s. The violence was sparked when a small delegation of officers tried to negotiate the break-up of the party but said they met "unprecedented and ferocious" resistance. A police car was set on fire and nine officers wounded during the clashes, with injuries to police including a suspected broken collarbone and a severed finger. At least two revellers were also injured.
■ United States
Shuttle launch scrubbed
NASA has canceled today's planned launch of the space shuttle Atlantis, but put off a decision to return the orbiter to its hangar to protect it from Tropical Storm Ernesto, a spokesman said yesterday. However, workers at Cape Canaveral, Florida, began making preparations on Sunday for a rollback. Moving Atlantis back to the hanger would challenge NASA's ability to launch the shuttle before a Sept. 7 deadline. The agency wants to launch before then so the shuttle's visit to the international space station doesn't interfere with the trip of a Russian Soyuz in the middle of next month.
■ United Kingdom
Cancer cells tricked
Scientists have found a way to trick cancer cells into committing suicide. The new synthetic compound, which removes a molecular safety catch that activates a natural executioner in the body's cells, could lead to better treatments of cancers including those affecting the lung, skin, breast, kidney and colon. The body has several defenses against cells growing out of control and into tumors -- one is to cause defective or dangerous cells to commit suicide. A team led by Paul Hergenrother, a chemist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has found a way around the natural biological process that kickstarts cell death or apoptosis. The research results were published yesterday in Nature Chemical Biology.
‘TRAVEL FREELY’: Visitors from 10 countries deemed low-risk would be allowed into Thailand, while others must still undergo a week of quarantine at a hotel Thailand plans to fully reopen to vaccinated tourists from countries deemed low risk from Nov. 1, the country’s leader said on Monday, citing the urgent need to save the kingdom’s ailing economy. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Thailand attracted nearly 40 million visitors a year drawn to its picturesque beaches and robust nightlife, with tourism making up almost 20 percent of its national income. However, pandemic-related travel restrictions have left the economy battered, contributing to its worst performance in more than 20 years. Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced that the country would be reopening its borders to vaccinated tourists travelling by air from
Vaccination is highly effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19, even against the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, a vast study in France has shown. The research published yesterday — focusing on prevention of severe COVID-19 and death, not infection — looked at 22 million people over 50 and found those who had received jabs were 90 percent less likely to be hospitalized or die. The results confirm observations from the US, the UK and Israel, but researchers say it is the largest study of its kind so far. Looking at data collected starting in December last year, when France launched its vaccination campaign,
Australia’s highest court yesterday dismissed an intellectual freedom claim by a university physicist who was fired in part over his public statements that scientists exaggerated damage to the Great Barrier Reef. Five High Court judges unanimously dismissed physicist Peter Ridd’s claim that he had been unlawfully dismissed in 2018 by James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland. The court ruled that a clause in his employment contract that protected his intellectual freedom was not a “general freedom of speech” clause and did not protect him from being fired for serious misconduct under the university’s code of conduct. Australian Minister for Education Alan Tudge said
South Korea yesterday said that it would lift COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings next week as the country prepares to switch to a “living with COVID-19” strategy amid rising vaccination levels. A new panel established this week is drawing up a plan for a gradual lifting of curbs, aiming to lift restrictions and reopen the economy next month on the expectation that 80 percent of the adult population will be fully vaccinated. From Monday, the South Korean government is to allow gatherings of up to four unvaccinated people and ease operating-hour restrictions imposed on venues such as restaurants, cafes and cinemas, South