Internet blocks eased
The government on Monday lifted blocks on Web sites including Facebook and YouTube that it imposed after a police chief appeared in an online video announcing his defection to the Islamic State group. Local Internet providers restored access to sites that also included Russian social networks Odnoklassniki and VKontakte, as well as popular independent news agency Asia Plus, after pressure from the US. However, a block on the Tajik service of Radio Free Europe, Radio Ozodi, was not lifted. Access to the Web sites had been blocked since May 28, a day after 40-year-old Colonel Gulmurod Halimov appeared in footage blasting the nation’s anti-Islamic policies and swearing loyalty to Islamic State. Halimov headed the special forces unit in the Ministry of Interior and received anti-terrorism training in the US prior to his defection, the US Department of State confirmed last month.
Truck hits cafe, 19 hurt
Nineteen people were hurt yesterday after a pickup truck smashed into a cafe in Queensland, sparking a fire that engulfed the building, police said. Officials were trying to figure out what caused the driver to veer off the road and into the Serves You Right Cafe in Ravenshoe, south of Cairns. The crash caused a gas canister at the cafe to explode, Queensland police spokesman Todd Saunders said. Three people were seriously injured and flown to a hospital in Cairns, he said. The others were being treated at local hospitals. The driver was among those who were hurt. Kate Lewis, who works in a supermarket across from the cafe, described the scene as horrific. “We just heard a massive sonic boom and went running out and saw the cafe on fire and lots of burned people,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Public loo users to be paid
A city council is planning to pay residents to use public toilets to stop legions of people urinating and defecating in public. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corp (AMC) has decided to give residents one rupee (US$0.016) per visit to draw them into its 300 public toilets and away from open areas and public walls, which often reek of urine. AMC health officer Bhavikk Joshi said the offer would be trialed at 67 facilities across Ahmedabad, the main city in Gujarat State, where officers will give a coin to each user. “Once successful, the project will be implemented in all 300 public toilets in Ahmedabad,” Joshi said on Monday. AMC standing committee chairman Pravin Patel said repeat offenders would be “identified and encouraged” to use the coin-paying toilets.
Pilgrims die of poisoning
Authorities have arrested five people over the deaths of four young Saudi pilgrims as a result of fumigation in their hotel, officials said on Monday. The Islamic Republic news agency quoted judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi as saying that authorities are investigating the incident. The five arrested are hotel employees. “There is no evidence to show the incident was a deliberate act,” Ejehi said. The news agency said the victims included a 14-year-old girl and three young boys, all aged 3. Ejehi said 24 other people were hospitalized for exposure to a poison commonly used to kill insects and rats. The incident took place in the city of Mashhad, which is home to a major Shiite Muslim Shrine. The state-run Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization said in a statement that insect repellent sprayed on the fifth floor of the hotel accidentally leaked into the rooms.
Piglets flood Ohio highway
A semitrailer carrying 2,200 piglets overturned on an Ohio highway. Numerous agencies and volunteers worked to corral the animals after the crash on Monday night on US Route 35 in Xenia Township, near Dayton. Crews picked up the squealing pigs by their hind legs. They were taken to Greene County Fairgrounds. Authorities said between 300 and 400 pigs were killed. They said some of the animals ran into a nearby wooded area. Authorities said the driver of the semitrailer lost control and slammed into a guardrail. He was not hurt. A female passenger was taken to a hospital with minor injuries. The truck was traveling from South Carolina to Indiana.
El Nino looks potent
The El Nino developing in the Pacific keeps sending signs reminiscent of the last big El Nino from 1997 to 1998, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, which said data point toward a pattern that is set to last all year. This year’s El Nino continues to develop and climate models suggest further warming of the tropical Pacific is likely, the bureau said on Tuesday in a fortnightly update. Sea-surface temperatures are forecast to remain above El Nino thresholds for the remainder of the year, it said. “All five Nino indices are at least plus 1.2C° above-normal,” the bureau said. “It is unusual to have such a broad extent of warmth across the tropical Pacific; this has not been seen since the El Nino event of 1997 to ’98.” The 1997-to-1998 event was the strongest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. All five sea-surface indices in the tropical Pacific exceeded 1C°, the Australian bureau said in the last update on May 26, adding that that is the first time it has occurred since the El Nino from 1997 to 1998.
Earthquake hits north
A magnitude 5.2 earthquake struck north of Athens early yesterday morning, according to the US Geological Survey, but while it was felt in the Greek capital there were no reported casualties. According to the survey, the quake’s epicenter was 83km north of Athens, near the town of Malesina. It began at around 4:10am and lasted for several seconds, waking residents in the area. The Athens Observatory said the earthquake measured 5.3 in magnitude, and the hypocenter was under the sea.
Two firemen missing
Two Ukrainian firemen were missing after a fire they had been battling through the night at a fuel depot outside Kiev triggered a powerful explosion, Ukrainian Minister of the Interior Arsen Avakov said yesterday. At least 16 fuel tanks, most of them storing gasoline, were on fire and sending a huge pall of smoke over the area surrounding the depot near Vasylkiv, 30km from Kiev. “In the area of the blaze, there is another fuel depot,” Avakov said in a tweet. “All people have been evacuated and a cordon is being set up.” At least five workers were injured in the fire and one later died in hospital, police said. Sixty-two fire-fighting units and three trains delivering water and supplies were mobilized, emergency services said. Police said the fire, which began in one fuel tank and spread to others, was likely to have been started by a technical fault but the cause was not yet fully clear. “As of 7am, efforts to fight the fire are still going on. The fire extended over eight tanks with a capacity of 900m3 and several small containers,” the service said.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Dark matter, mysterious invisible stuff that makes up most of the mass of galaxies, including the Milky Way, is confounding scientists again, with new observations of distant galaxies conflicting with the current understanding of its nature. Research published this week revealed an unexpected discrepancy between observations of dark matter concentrations in three massive clusters of galaxies encompassing trillions of stars and theoretical computer simulations of how dark matter should be distributed. “Either there is a missing ingredient in the simulations or we have made a fundamental incorrect assumption about the nature of dark matter,” Yale University astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan, a coauthor of