Legionnaires’ linked to water
An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease over the past 18 months has killed 10 people in Michigan, where officials are dealing with a major health crisis over lead-contaminated water. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday said that the outbreak dates back to June 2014 and it has not ruled out a link to the toxic tapped water in the city of Flint. “The state of Michigan is treating this situation with the same urgency and transparency as the lead response in the city of Flint,” the department said in a statement on the spike in Legionnaires’. Officials said that since there have been 87 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, a severe type of pneumonia caused by bacteria, resulting in 10 deaths. The illnesses occurred in Genesee County, where Flint is located. Officials said that nearly half the people with the disease were exposed to water in Flint.
Pigs tumble onto road
Dozens of pigs tumbled out of a truck that overturned on a motorway near the western city of Poitiers on Wednesday, but showed little appetite for their sudden freedom. “Most of the animals stayed near the vehicle,” road safety official Captain Jean Chevassu said. “Two or three pigs ... strayed further. It wasn’t too hard to recover them.” The driver of the tractor-trailer lost control, leaving the vehicle lying across the two-lane road and shutting it for most of the day. The impact tore a hole in the roof of the truck, through which most of the about 180 pigs emerged onto the road and into the surrounding forest. Twenty-six pigs died at the scene, while another 13 with severe injuries were put down.
Chilean wins Pritzker Prize
Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena won this year’s Pritzker Prize on Wednesday, earning praise for “powerful” designs that address key social and economic challenges of the 21st century. “Innovative and inspiring, he shows how architecture at its best can improve people’s lives,” said Tom Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, which awards the prize. Aravena, 48, who is based in Santiago, is to receive the US$100,000 award and bronze medallion at a ceremony at UN headquarters in New York on April 4. The Pritzker jury highlighted Aravena’s work at ELEMENTAL, a Santiago architectural group that focuses on projects of public interest and social impact. It has produced more than 2,500 units of affordable housing, including an innovative “half a good house” that allows residents to complete the work themselves, thereby incrementally raising their living standards.
Lawmakers defuse dispute
Three opposition lawmakers on Wednesday gave up their seats to try to defuse an acrimonious power dispute between President Nicolas Maduro’s government and the new opposition-led National Assembly. The Supreme Court had barred the three — plus a pro-government legislator — from office pending a probe into alleged vote cheating in their jungle state, Amazonas. However, the opposition, which won control of the legislature in last month’s elections for the first time in 17 years, defiantly swore the three in anyway. However, in a reluctant U-turn cheered by lawmakers as a “victory for the people,” the opposition majority on Wednesday approved a letter from the three asking to leave the legislature pending resolution of the election dispute.
Opera House locked down
The Sydney Opera House yesterday was cordoned off in a security scare sparked by “information on social media” with people cleared from the harbor front precinct before police declared it safe. Metal barriers were erected with onlookers kept about 150m away from the building, with police officers and security personnel guarding the area in a 90-minute lockdown. Similar precautions were taken across the harbor at the suburb of Manly on Sydney’s northern beaches, which has a ferry linking it to Circular Quay where the Opera House is located. “Following information on social media, police conducted an operation in the vicinity of the Opera House and Manly as a precautionary measure,” New South Wales Police said in a statement. No further information was provided, although Sydney’s Daily Telegraph said the scare revolved around a threat received about an object inside the Opera House.
Earthquake rocks Hokkaido
A magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck just off the northernmost main island of Hokkaido yesterday, the Meteorological Agency said. No tsunami warning was issued and NHK national television said that while there might be some changes in sea level, no tsunami damage was expected. There were no immediate reports of damage. No irregularities were reported at Hokkaido Electric Power’s Tomari nuclear plant and Tohoku Electric Power’s Higashidori nuclear plant, both of which have been kept shut pending stringent safety checks following the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster, spokesmen at both firms said. There were also no irregularities at the Rokkasho plutonium preprocessing and other nuclear-related facilities in Aomori Prefecture, operated by Japan Nuclear Fuel, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said.
Extended presidency mulled
The national parliament is considering a proposal to allow President Imomali Rakhmon to run for an unlimited number of terms, cementing his grip on power as others have done in the Central Asian region. The government has submitted to parliament, controlled by Rakhmon’s supporters, a package of amendments to the constitution which will ultimately need to be approved by a referendum. The amendments have not been officially published, but the draft includes a provision that lifts the limit of two consecutive presidential terms for Rakhmon, citing his special status as the “Leader of the Nation,” a title given to him by the legislature last month. Another proposed amendment would reduce the minimum age for presidential candidates to 30 from 35. Rakhmon’s elder son, Rustam Imomali, is 28 and will be 33 when his father’s current term ends in 2020.
Man killed in Sydney storm
Severe thunderstorms in Sydney yesterday killed at least one person and injured another, police said, with winds of 122kph lashing Australia’s busiest airport, besides ripping down power lines and closing roads. A man was killed and a woman passenger suffered critical injuries when a falling tree crushed their car in the city’s west, which emergency services said took the initial brunt of the storm. Photographs showed damaged shop fronts and roads left impassable by twisted metal and roofing panels. Authorities urged residents to stay indoors and keep away from windows.
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
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”