Rhino horn demand surges
Nguyen Huong Giang loves to party, but loathes hangovers, so she ends her whiskey benders by tossing back shots of rhino horn ground with water on a special ceramic plate. Her father gave her the 10cm brown horn as a gift, claiming it cures everything from headaches to cancer. Vietnam has become so obsessed with the fingernail-like substance that it now sells for more than cocaine. Experts say Vietnam’s surging demand is threatening to wipe out the world’s remaining rhinoceros populations, which recovered from the brink of extinction after the 1970s thanks to conservation campaigns. Illegal killings in Africa hit the highest recorded level last year and are expected to worsen this year.
‘Dead’ man found alive
Ambulance heads yesterday admitted an “error” after experienced Australian paramedics declared a man dead following a car crash and left the scene, only for him to be found alive an hour later. The driver was trapped upside down in the wreckage of a Porsche in a Melbourne suburb and was pronounced dead after being treated on Sunday. It was only when State Emergency Service volunteers finally began the process of removing what they thought was a corpse that they saw him twitch and discovered a “feeble pulse.” The man was rushed to hospital in a critical condition and is now listed as serious, but stable.
Bowl breaks world record
An extremely rare Chinese porcelain bowl fetched nearly US$27 million — smashing pre-sale estimates by about three times — at a hotly anticipated Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong yesterday. The modest-looking imperial ceramic bowl that was made about 900 years ago had been expected to fetch up to HK$80 million, but it was snapped up by an unidentified telephone bidder for HK$208 million (US$26.7 million). The price sets a new world record for a piece of ceramic from the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), according to Sotheby’s, beating a 2008 record when a “Guan” mallet vase went for HK$67.52 million. “The Ruyao Washer is among the most sophisticated achievements in Chinese ceramics,” Sotheby’s Asia deputy chairman Nicolas Chow said.
Nuclear sub in action
India was to return to the elite group of countries with a nuclear-powered submarine when it inducted a new vessel leased from Russia yesterday. Indian Minister of Defense A.K. Antony was to formally commission the INS Chakra II at its base in Visakhapatnam, a navy shipyard on the country’s south east coast in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The 8,140-tonne submarine is capable of firing a range of torpedoes as well as nuclear-tipped Granat cruise missiles.
At least four die in storm
A huge storm killed at least four people in Japan, police said yesterday, as violent winds and rain battered the nation and disrupted transport for a second day. The storm his now covering all of the north of Japan’s main island of Honshu and much of the northernmost island of Hokkaido, buffeting the region with strong winds caused by a severe low-pressure system. On Sado Island, on Honshu’s northwest, gusts of up to 156kph were recorded. Yesterday 72 flights were grounded, stranding about 6,000 people. Many commuter lines and bullet train services were also suspended.
Pensioner jumps to death
A 78-year-old woman jumped to her death from a fourth floor balcony on Tuesday after her pension was cut, police said. Authorities had recently reduced her monthly pension to 600 euros (US$791) from 800 and she had become overwhelmed with concern about not being able to make ends meet, her children told local police in Gela, Sicily. Suicide attempts connected to economic woes are reported regularly in the nation, which is struggling with a recession, rising unemployment and increasingly severe austerity measures. Last week, two men facing financial trouble set themselves on fire in the north in two separate incidents. Both survived, one with severe burns.