No March summit with PRC
Prime Minister Taro Aso will not visit China this month, Japanese government officials said yesterday, following earlier reports that Tokyo and Beijing were trying to schedule a summit this month. “We’ve been coordinating with China to hold the meeting as soon as possible, but we now recognize that realizing it within March is difficult,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters. No firm dates had been announced by either government, but Japanese officials had told reporters both sides were trying to schedule Aso’s meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) for late this month.
Pilot averts crash
A plane with 80 passengers aboard was seconds away from a crash when a man teaching his girlfriend to drive sped across the runway as the aircraft landed, newspapers reported yesterday. The Cebu Pacific plane briefly touched down at Legazpi airport on Saturday but took off again as the van being driven by the couple crossed the runway, the Philippine Star said. The man is the son of a local aviation official, who has been ordered suspended from duty. “It could have been a disaster if not for the presence of mind of a veteran pilot,” Legazpi Mayor Noel Rosal told the newspaper.
Drugs found in CPUs
Customs police foiled an attempt to smuggle in 4 million ringgit (US$1.1 million) worth of the psychotropic drug nimetazepam, better known as Eramin 5, at the cargo area of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, news reports said yesterday. Customs officers had become suspicious when a shipment of 10 computer central processing units, or CPUs, arrived from Taiwan weighing 148kg, when the weight of a single unit is normally less than 5kg, department director general Mohamed Khalid Yusof said. “The officers then opened the package and found about 260,000 Eramin-5 pills stashed inside the CPU shells, which had already been emptied of all electronics,” Mohamed Khalid was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times daily.
Blast kills 14: police
The death toll from a suicide bombing in the city of Rawalpindi has risen to 14, with another 18 people wounded, police said yesterday, regional police commander Nasir Durrani said, including the suicide bomber in the death toll. Officials said the bomber was probably deployed to attack a mass protest, which had been scheduled in Rawalpindi and Islamabad on Monday, but was called off after the government vowed to reinstate the country’s top judge.
Archbishop Jukka Parma of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on Monday called for “calm discussion” between supporters and opponents of same-sex unions and its consequences for the Church. Parma’s remarks were made after he accepted a 200-page report on the charged subject that has been drafted by a working group appointed by the bishops’ conference. In 2002 the country made same-sex unions legal. However, the Church has yet to decide on guidelines concerning requests for blessings of same-sex unions. At the end of 2007, some 1,080 couples had registered same-sex partnerships.
Satellite launch postponed
The European Space Agency (ESA) on Monday postponed the launch of its most sophisticated Earth observation satellites to date because of a technical glitch at a Russian cosmodrome, the ESA spokesman said. “The doors of the launch service tower did not open,” Franco Bonacina said by telephone. He said the cause of the fault had yet to be established. “The two big doors installed at the tower should have opened to allow the tower to retrieve and expose the launcher to free air to be launched,” Bonacina said.
Vultures are in trouble
Vultures are hungry, even starving — and the regional government in Madrid plans to do something about it. EU laws aimed at halting the spread of mad cow disease require the countryside to be kept clear of dead livestock even if they died of natural causes. But Juan Carlos Atienza of the Spanish Ornithological Organization says the lack of animal corpses since the law was introduced in Spain in 2002 has hit certain vultures very hard. Esperanza Aguirre, president of Madrid’s regional government, said on Monday the capital aims to ease the vultures’ hunger by allowing some dead animals to remain.
Prankster gets 19 years
An undergraduate has been sentenced to 19 years in prison for obtaining US$47,000 from an Australian woman by convincing her over the Internet that he was 57 years old, white and madly in love with her. Lawal Adekunle Nurudeen met his victim on the Internet in 2007 and convinced her that he was a British widower called Benson Lawson. He said he was an engineer working in Lagos whose wife and only child had been killed in a car accident. “The victim, a 56-year-old woman from Australia, told the convict that she wanted a husband and all the men she had met always disappointed her,” said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the anti-corruption police.
Parties clash, women raped
Six women were raped on Monday in clashes between the two largest political parties, said officials. The clashes were set off on Friday, when members of the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party were accused of throwing stones and broken bottles a parade led by the mayor of the ruling All People’s Congress. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd on Friday and again on Monday, as thousands of ruling party supporters converged on the opposition party’s headquarters, trapping party members on the roof of the four-story building. An official at a downtown hospital who asked not to be named because he is not allowed to speak to the press said six women who were raped during the riot were treated there and at least 14 were treated for other injuries.
■TURKS AND CAICOS
Britain to take over
Britain plans to dissolve the Cabinet and legislature of the territory for two years following a corruption inquiry that found “clear signs of political amorality and immaturity,” Governor Gordon Wetherell said on Monday. He said an order has been drafted to suspend parts of the British territory’s Constitution and transfer the authority of ministers to him. The order was to be submitted to the queen for approval today before going to the British parliament next Wednesday. Prime Minister Michael Misick blasted the order on Monday night and called for political parties to put aside their differences and oppose “the strong arm of modern-day colonialism.”
Actress critically injured
British actress Natasha Richardson was in critical condition in a Montreal hospital after being severely injured in a skiing accident in Quebec, two Web sites reported yesterday. People.com and IrishCentral.com reported that the Tony award-winning actress and wife of actor Liam Neeson suffered a head injury on Monday. Richardson, 45, is the daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave.
Astronauts lose bike
Discovery astronauts risk becoming couch potatoes after the spacecraft’s exercise equipment went on the fritz. NASA officials said on Monday that the “ergometer” — a stationary bike-like contraption specially designed for use in zero gravity — was not functioning properly. This means astronauts will have to improvise to stay in shape during the 13-day mission. The deleterious effects of microgravity on the body makes exercise vitally important in helping astronauts maintain bone density and muscle mass.
Shooter planned arson
Florida police say a man who fatally shot his estranged wife, his stepdaughter and her boyfriend and another person at a weekend party also tried to blow up his neighborhood by placing gas cans and propane tanks around his apartment before setting it a fire. But the tanks never exploded. Investigators say 48-year-old Guillermo Lopez drove to his apartment after the early Sunday shooting, then lit it and his truck on fire. He then fatally shot himself.
Lula wants tariff lifted
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday implored US businessmen to help convince Washington to lift an import tariff of US$0.53 for every 3.7 liters it places on his country’s ethanol fuel. Speaking at a Wall Street Journal-sponsored investor forum on Monday, Silva defended the gasoline alternative as a cheap and easy way to end dependence on foreign oil and help reduce global poverty. US farmers make ethanol from corn but Brazil makes ethanol from sugar in a process that is much more efficient and costs less.
Power lines disorienting
Researchers who reported last year that most cows and deer tend to orient themselves in a north-south alignment have now found that high voltage power lines can disorient the animals. When the power lines run east-west, that is the way grazing cattle tend to line up, researchers led by Hynek Burda and Sabine Begall at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany reported in yesterday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Cows and deer grazing under northeast-southwest or northwest-southeast power lines faced in random directions, they found.
PASTA PUNCHLINE: Billy McLean’s spoof poking fun at misinformation on the coronavirus was meant for friends, but is being eaten up by frazzled Britons It started off as an ad-libbed joke for some friends in a soccer banter group and ended up being heard by vast numbers of Britons within hours. However, the man responsible for a joke WhatsApp audio clip that claimed the UK Ministry of Defence was about to requisition Wembley Stadium to cook the world’s biggest lasagna has said his viral success also shows the risks of believing everything that gets sent to you on the messaging service. Billy McLean, a 29-year-old Londoner who works in software sales, came forward to the Guardian to identify himself as the creator of the much-shared clip
‘AN HONORABLE TASK’: The brigade to Italy is the sixth contingent of doctors the nation has sent abroad to aid governments contending with the COVID-19 pandemic Cuba has dispatched doctors and nurses to Italy for the first time this weekend to help fight COVID-19 at the request of the worst-affected region Lombardy, it said. The Caribbean nation has sent its “armies of white robes” to disaster sites around the world largely in poor countries since its 1959 revolution, with doctors on the front lines in the fight against cholera in Haiti and against ebola in West Africa in the 2010s. Yet with the 52-strong brigade, this is the first time Cuba has sent an emergency contingent to Italy, one of the world’s richest countries, demonstrating the reach of
There are growing concerns for the health of Rokia Traore, a Malian singer who has been on hunger strike at the Fleury-Merogis Prison near Paris since she was arrested on March 10 on allegations of kidnapping her daughter in a child custody dispute. “I am very worried,” said Kenneth Feliho, her lawyer. “She is only drinking. She has not been eating for over a week and her immune system is weak.” Among those calling for the musician’ release are African stars including Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour and Angelique Kidjo. Damon Albarn, who performed with her in the group Africa Express, wrote: “We demand,
FATAL IDEA: The nation’s drugs regulator is curbing use of hydroxychloroquine, which Donald Trump has promoted for its alleged potential to treat COVID-19 Australia’s drug regulator has been forced to restrict powers to prescribe a drug undergoing clinical trials to treat COVID-19, because doctors have been inappropriately prescribing it to themselves and their family members, despite potentially deadly side effects. The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the similar compound chloroquine are currently used mostly for patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, but stocks in Australia have been diminished thanks to global publicity — including from US President Donald Trump — about the potential of the drug to treat COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have potentially severe and even deadly side effects if used inappropriately, including