Boy dies of bird flu
A 12-year-old boy on the Indonesian resort island of Bali has died from bird flu on Tuesday, the fourth human death from the virus this year, an official said yesterday. The boy developed fever on Feb. 11 and was admitted to hospital five days later, said Rita Kusriastuti, head of the Indonesian ministry of health’s animal-borne infectious disease control department. “He suffered shortness of breath and eventually died on Feb. 21. Laboratory tests confirmed he died from the H5N1 virus,” she added.
US efforts failing: cable
The US ambassador to Afghanistan sent a top-secret cable to Washington last month warning that the existence of enemy havens in Pakistan was placing the US strategy in Afghanistan in jeopardy, the Washington Post reported late on Friday. Citing unnamed US officials, the newspaper said that the cable, written by ambassador Ryan Crocker, amounted to an admission that US efforts to curtail activities in Pakistan by the Haqqani network, a key Taliban ally, were failing.
Church property to get taxed
Italy’s government announced measures on Friday to end tax exemptions on commercial property owned by the Catholic Church, a move expected to add as much as 600 million euros (US$805 million) to state coffers each year. Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who is a practising Catholic, tacked the measure — which also affects other non-profit organizations — onto a larger deregulation package currently going through parliament. The Church owns many private clinics, hotels and guesthouses that enjoy tax-exempt status, because parts of them are also occupied by priests or nuns, or have a chapel. The new law closes this loophole. The income it makes from the measure will go towards cutting taxes, the government said.
Opposition leaders arrested
Kazakh police arrested three leading opposition members yesterday as hundreds of protesters braved a much stronger security presence to rally against strongman President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s rule. About 1,000 protesters had gathered on the main Palace of the Republic square in the financial capital Alamty to express outrage at the energy-rich state’s rights record under the veteran leader. Police raided the homes of three top members of the unregistered Azat (Freedom) party before the event began and hauled them off to a central police station for questioning, a party spokesman said by telephone.
Talks no closer: diplomat
A US diplomat said yesterday that talks with North Korea aimed at restarting six-party negotiations on the country’s nuclear programs are unlikely to produce a breakthrough in the near future. Glyn Davies, coordinator for US policy on North Korea, said there was still a “long way” to go before the six-party talks could resume. Davies was speaking in Seoul, where he arrived yesterday to brief South Korean officials on two days of discussions with North Korean diplomats in Beijing. In the Chinese capital he had said he had seen “a little bit of progress,” but no breakthrough. Asked about the prospect of the six-party talks resuming, Davies was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying: “We are so long away from anything like that.”
Chavez back in Cuba
President Hugo Chavez arrived in Cuba for urgent cancer surgery following an emotional departure in which he vowed to win the presidential election in October despite his illness. The socialist leader said he was greeted at the airport by Cuban President Raul Castro and that he planned to meet with Cuban doctors for medical tests scheduled for yesterday. “I have faith that everything will go well,” Chavez told state television by telephone late on Friday. Chavez, who is seeking his fourth term as president, has said the tumor that doctors will try to remove is probably malignant.