No free lunch, Lee says
There’s no such thing as a free lunch: That’s the message from President Lee Myung-bak to residents of the capital where the midday meal has become a hot political issue. Seoul residents will vote on Aug. 24 on whether to provide all children with a free lunch at school, in what on the surface appears to be minor affair, but has been front page news for months. Last December, emotions even spilled over at a city council meeting with politicians brawling over the affair. Lee has endorsed his ruling party’s stance that a free lunch is a cost the state cannot afford to bear — and points to the debt crisis in Europe as an example of the fiscal strain caused by excessive welfare spending. The two main political parties have clashed repeatedly over the issue, and the city’s conservative and ambitious mayor, Oh Se-hoon, has staked his political reputation on the vote.
Heatwave claims four lives
A blistering summer heatwave has claimed four lives and seen 900 people hospitalized this week, media reports said yesterday, amid an energy--saving campaign due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The mercury has risen above 35oC for three days in a row in much of the country, where the thermostats of most air--conditioners have been turned down to reduce electricity consumption. More than two-thirds of the nation’s nuclear reactors are offline five months after the March 11 quake and tsunami. Four people died of heat stroke on Thursday, the Asahi Shimbun said. More than 900 people have been taken to hospital with heatstroke symptoms, including about 20 in serious condition, Kyodo news agency said.
Lost languages to be revived
The New South Wales State Library yesterday launched a “search-and-rescue” mission to revive lost indigenous languages, using the letters and diaries of early British settlers. When the British first arrived on the shores of what became Sydney Harbour in 1788, an estimated 250 local languages were spoken in the country, but many have been lost. With the support of mining giant Rio Tinto, the library will attempt to bring some back, acting chief executive Noelle Nelson said. “Fragments of these languages can be found among the letters, diaries and journals of British naval officers, surveyors and missionaries held in the State Library’s unrivalled collections,” Nelson said. The three-year “Rediscovering Indigenous Languages” project aims to identify as many word lists as possible in the library’s collections and make them available to the relevant indigenous communities.
Animal skulls, skins seized
Orangutan, lion and bear skulls were among hundreds of illegal wildlife products seized in a raid on a property in Sydney, the environment department said on Thursday. Investigators also discovered the skins of a lynx and an Alaskan wolf, as well as numerous other skulls and pieces of ivory, in the haul of almost 400 items. “Operation Bonaparte is one of the largest wildlife seizures in Australia, and follows detailed monitoring and investigative work by departmental officers,” department spokeswoman Deb Callister said. The raid at a house in the suburb of Parramatta on Wednesday also uncovered a variety of weapons, including two walking canes containing hidden swords, flick knives and cross bows. A 41-year-old man was charged with weapons offenses and is due to appear in court on Aug. 31. No charges have yet been laid over the wildlife stash.