Senior politician dies at 92
Omar Ong Yoke Lin, a former senior politician and the last surviving member of the nation’s first independence Cabinet, died yesterday at 92, an aide said. Born on July 23, 1917, Ong was a prominent ethnic Chinese leader who played a key role in the country’s road to independence from Britain in 1957. Ong helped form the Alliance Party, which won the first nationwide legislative elections in 1955. Based on the success of the Alliance Party, Tunku led a delegation to London in 1955 to negotiate independence, which was granted two years later. Ong served in various Cabinet positions before being made ambassador to the UN.
Taliban leader captured
NATO said Afghan and international forces have captured a Taliban district leader after a four-hour gunbattle in Helmand Province. A NATO statement said a “large number” of insurgents were killed in the Wednesday night fighting in the remote Baghran district in the northern part of Helmand. A number of insurgents were wounded and captured, including the Taliban district chief of Now Zad, a district southwest of the fighting. Now Zad was the scene of heavy fighting last year between the Taliban and US Marines, who say they have made progress in restoring security in the former insurgent stronghold.
Nine trapped in coal mine
Nine miners were trapped after a flood in Shanxi Province, China’s coal-producing heartland, Xinhua news agency reported yesterday. Safety officials had made contact with eight of the group at the mine, an official told Xinhua, adding that they would be rescued “soon.” Twenty-three miners were around 1,400m underground at the time of the flood on Wednesday afternoon and 14 of them escaped to safety.
Test-takers turn to kung fu
Students in central China have found a way to get a leg up on their contemporaries at the all-important university entrance exam — paying huge sums of money for a kung fu master certification. Some students in Hunan Province who achieved top exam scores forked out around 20,000 yuan (US$3,000) for a martial arts course that all but guaranteed them extra points toward their overall mark, the official Global Times said. “During my first year in high school, my head teacher asked me if I wanted to sign up for a kung fu course, which he said would earn me 20 extra points for the college entrance exams,” an unidentified student was quoted as saying. “But the money is refundable if I don’t get the extra points.” The scheme is an example of the great lengths families will go to secure higher scores for their children at the highly competitive university exams.
Gay man sues blood center
A Chinese man is suing a Beijing Red Cross center after his blood donation was turned down because he is gay, in what the China Daily said yesterday was the first such case in the country. The man, an editor identified by his pen name Wang Zizheng, said he was gay in a health questionnaire filled out when he went to donate blood early last month, and was then told he could not be a donor, the China Daily said. Wang, who says he has been the victim of discrimination, filed the lawsuit in Beijing and is waiting for the court to accept the case, the report said. Huang Yizhi, Wang’s lawyer, said that the court’s acceptance of the case would be a major victory “because this is the first one in China.”
Secret meeting sparks furor
Secret talks between Israeli Trade Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to resolve the diplomatic crisis over the May 31 flotilla raid has provoked a major row between the Israeli foreign ministry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. The dispute erupted late on Wednesday after media reports revealed talks had been held in Belgium. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman only learned of the talks through the media reports. The official silence was widely interpreted as an attempt to hold back from anything that would aggravate the tension between Netanyahu and Lieberman. “The foreign minister views as extremely serious the fact that this was done without notifying the foreign ministry. This goes against all norms of government and does serious harm to the trust between the foreign minister and the prime minister,” Lieberman’s office said in a statement. Netanyahu’s office promptly issued a statement saying the fact that Lieberman had not been informed was a “technical” oversight.
Solar night flight postponed
A team planning to circle the globe in a solar-powered plane has postponed a 24-hour test flight because of an equipment problem. Bertrand Piccard, cofounder of the Solar Impulse team, says he cannot say when the next attempt will be made. But he says the test flight has to happen before the beginning of next month because after that the days will be too short to charge the plane’s batteries to last through the night. Pilot Andre Borschberg says the problem is with a piece of measuring equipment. Piccard told supporters and reporters at the Payerne airfield in Switzerland yesterday that it was the team’s first setback. “If this project was easy, everybody else would have already done it,” he said.
Gunmen kill two, wound one
Gunmen shot and killed two men and wounded a third person in Sodertalje early yesterday, police said. Police spokeswoman Bjorn Engstrom said the men were shot at a location used for card games in the Ronna area of the city, which is about 30km south of Stockholm. He said police are searching for two or three gunmen. A scooter they used in their getaway was later found burning nearby. The wounded man was hospitalized in stable condition, Engstrom said.
Opposition leader released
The son of a prominent opposition leader says authorities have released his father 45 days after he was detained and the party newspaper shut down. Hassan Turabi was arrested after criticizing the nation’s first multiparty elections in April as illegitimate. President Omar al-Bashir easily won another five-year term in those contests. The 77-year-old Turabi was released overnight without any explanation, his son Siddique Turabi said yesterday. His paper remains shut.
Militants kill 11 policemen
Armed Islamists ambushed a convoy, killing 11 gendarmes on Wednesday, near the southern border with Mali, the El Watan daily reported. The paramilitary police officers were attacked in their vehicles at dawn near Tinzaoutine, the paper said on its Internet site. The Islamists destroyed the vehicles and made off with the weapons, it said. “It was a well-planned attack,” said a security official in Bamako, who said the Islamists had taken two prisoners — one of whom was sent back to the authorities with news of his comrades’ deaths.
Giant whale ‘discovered’
Scientists reported on Wednesday the discovery of an extinct predator sperm whale with jaws and teeth so huge it probably hunted other whales not less than half its size. Named in honor of the author of Moby Dick, Leviathan melvillei lived between 12 million and 13 million years ago, a 14m behemoth sharing top billing in the ocean food chain with giant sharks. The prehistoric sperm whale gripped large prey with its interlocking teeth, inflicting deep wounds and tearing large pieces from the body of its victims, the researchers said. Paleontologists had long suspected that some such air-breathing monster once roamed ancient seas, but up to now only a few gigantic teeth had turned up in the fossil record.
Complex life had early start
Scientists unveiled fossils from west Africa yesterday that push back the dawn of multicellular life on Earth by at least 1.5 billion years. Just how complex the newly discovered organisms are is sure to be hotly debated. However, there can be no doubt that the creatures unearthed from the hills of Gabon, visible to the naked eye, have upended standard evolutionary timelines. “The cursor on the origin of complex multicellular life is no longer 600 million years ago, as has long been maintained, but more like 2.1 billion years,” said Abderrazak El Albani, a researcher at the University of Poitiers and lead author of the study. The findings were published in the British journal Nature.
Yousef granted asylum
An immigration judge tentatively granted asylum on Wednesday to the son of a Hamas founder who turned his back on his father’s terrorist group and became a spy for Israel. The ruling came after the federal government abruptly dropped concerns that Mosab Hassan Yousef was a terrorist threat. Yousef, 32, was greeted by a small group of cheering supporters as he left an immigration detention center where the 15-minute hearing was held under heavy security. He had argued that he would be killed if he was deported because he spied on Hamas for Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency and abandoned Islam after becoming a Christian.
Goalkeeper turns suspect
Police say they have found blood stains in the home and car of a Brazilian goalkeeper who is suspected of involvement in the disappearance of a 25-year-old woman. A spokesman for the Minas Gerais state police department said laboratory tests will determine if the blood belongs to Eliza Samudio, who has been missing for nearly a month. The spokesman declined to be identified because of department regulations. He said that Flamengo goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes de Sousa is a suspected, along with two friends, of having beaten Samudio to death and hidden her body. The spokesman said on Wednesday that Samudio is the mother of a four-month-old boy from a relationship with the 25-year-old Sousa.
Protest leaders released
The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the convictions of 12 leaders and other participants in a violent 2006 protest during which leftist demonstrators took over a town and battled police. The court cited insufficient evidence as the reason for nullifying the men’s kidnapping sentences, which ranged from 31 to 112 years in prison. “Authorities based the case on false and weak suppositions,” the court said in a statement.
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
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
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