Infected fowl washes ashore
A dead chicken found on a Lantau Island seashore had the H5N1 virus, and officials are trying to determine how the bird got there. There are no chicken farms within 3km of where the carcass was found on Dec. 18. There also was no evidence of any backyard poultry being kept in nearby villages. The territory banned backyard poultry in 2006 to prevent bird-to-human spread of the virus. Agricultural officials said yesterday lab tests confirmed the bird had H5N1. A woman who visited the mainland was confirmed last month as Hong Kong’s first human case of H5N1 in seven years. Her condition has since been reported as stable.
Suspect packet a scary hoax
A suspect packet that forced the evacuation of a metro station in central Stockholm, less than two weeks after the country’s first suicide bombing, turned out to be a fake bomb. “It looked like a real bomb. Someone made it to frighten people,” Stockholm police spokesman Henrik Billestam said. Police described the packet as about the size of a milk carton, wrapped with silver adhesive tape with cables connected to a cellphone. On Thursday night, police completely evacuated the Kungstraedsgaarden metro station and sent in deminers after a train driver alerted authorities to the possible threat. The metro station is close to the seat of government in the Swedish capital.
Present sparks evacuation
Part of the EU embassy in Berne was evacuated on Thursday after a scare over a suspect package — but it turned out to be a Christmas present, Swiss police said. The parcel was investigated and was quickly declared safe, police said.
Placebos can help: study
Placebos can help patients feel better, even if they are fully aware they are taking a sugar pill, researchers reported on Wednesday on an unusual experiment aimed to better understand the “placebo effect.” Nearly 60 percent of patients with irritable bowel syndrome reported they felt better after knowingly taking placebos twice a day, compared with 35 percent of patients who did not get any new treatment, they report in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE. “Not only did we make it absolutely clear that these pills had no active ingredient and were made from inert substances, but we actually had ‘placebo’ printed on the bottle,” Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who led the study, said in a statement.
Arms ‘facilitator’ captured
A member of the elite al-Quds force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has been captured in the south accused of cross-border weapons smuggling, international forces said yesterday. The man, described as a “key Taliban weapons facilitator,” was captured last Saturday in Zhari district, Kandahar Province. He was targeted “for facilitating the movement of weapons between Iran and Kandahar through Nimroz Province,” a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said. It is thought he was connected to smuggling small arms between the countries. “The now-detained man was considered a Kandahar-based weapons facilitator with direct ties to other Taliban leaders in the province,” the ISAF spokesman added in a statement.
Iranian bailed on charges
A court granted bail on Thursday to an alleged member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, who along with three Nigerians was charged last month with illegally importing arms into the country. The government reported the seizure of the shipment — including rockets and other explosives hidden in containers of building materials — to the UN Security Council last month for an apparent breach of UN sanctions on Iran. Azim Adhajani, identified on the charge sheet as a Tehran-based businessman and a Revolutionary Guard Corps member, says he’s not guilty. A trial date of Jan. 31 has been set.