WWI battle remembered
Queen Elizabeth II attended a service at Westminster Abbey on Thursday, the eve of the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the deadliest chapters of World War I. The 90-year-old British monarch laid a wreath of roses on the grave of the Unknown Warrior inside the ancient abbey in London before a bugler sounded the Last Post, a tribute to the fallen. An honor guard of soldiers and civilians were to hold an overnight vigil at the grave, ending just before 7:30am, the time British troops were sent into battle on July 1, 1916. The British and French offensive against German forces ground on for 141 days in 1916, leaving more than 1 million dead or wounded. Prince William, his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry attended a vigil on Thursday evening at the Thiepval Memorial in northern France, where 70,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers are commemorated.
Breath testers recalibrated
Philadelphia police said their breath test machines have been recalibrated and returned to service after discovering they were improperly calibrated. Private attorney Joseph Kelley, who notified police of the issue on Wednesday, said he estimates between 500 and 1,000 driving under the influence cases could be affected by the improper calibrations. A police spokesman said they have asked the district attorney’s office to review cases involving breath tests from Jan. 17 to Wednesday. The machines must be calibrated yearly with updated solutions that determine the accuracy of blood alcohol readings. Kelly said the machines were accurate, but that defense attorneys can argue the results should be barred from court.
TV show to find aide
President Ramzan Kadyrov is to recruit a new aide through an Apprentice-style reality TV show, major state-run channel Rossiya said on Thursday. The station said it was looking for candidates to take part in the show called The Team. Contestants will face challenges such as climbing mountains as well as “experiencing Chechen hospitality and traditions to the full degree,” it said in a statement. Kadyrov is to hand the winning candidate a job as head of the Strategic Development Agency. “Who is the best? The head of the republic Ramzan Kadyrov will decide that himself. He will judge all the trials with the help of a special jury,” the statement said.
Package to help Puerto Rico
President Barack Obama on Thursday signed a rescue package for financially strapped Puerto Rico, which is facing more than US$70 billion in debt and a major payment that was due yesterday. Obama signed the bill hours after it won final Senate passage on Wednesday night. Obama said there is still tough work to do to get Puerto Rico out of the hole, “but it is an important first step on the path of creating more stability, better services and greater prosperity over the long term for the people of Puerto Rico.” This came as Puerto Rico’s governor signed an executive order on Thursday to implement a debt moratorium on more than US$1 billion worth of general obligation bonds. Puerto Rico was facing a US$2 billion debt payment due yesterday that includes those general obligation bonds. Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla previously said the government did not have enough money to make the payments.
Runoff election ordered
A presidential runoff election must be held again, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled yesterday, handing the Freedom Party’s narrowly defeated candidate another chance to become the first far-right head of state in the EU. The decision comes a week after Britain delighted groups who are against the EU, such as the Freedom Party, by voting to leave the bloc. Concerns about immigration and jobs featured prominently in the Brexit referendum, as they did in the knife-edge presidential election. The court said that widespread irregularities in the counting of the more than 700,000 postal ballots cast meant there was enough doubt over the election’s outcome for a rerun to be ordered. Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party lost the May 22 vote to former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen by less than 1 percentage point, or about 31,000 votes.
Town flooded with interest
A tiny town that offered property for bargain prices in a bid to attract more people has been swamped with more than 5,000 inquiries from around the world, the local mayor said yesterday. Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan said the South Island township of Kaitangata had more people than jobs, with a population of 800, but up to 1,000 vacancies, mostly in the thriving agricultural sector. To boost its population, the town has been offering house-and-land packages for NZ$230,000 (US$164,730) — a good deal considering the national average is NZ$577,000, rising to NZ$955,000 in Auckland. Cadogan said the response had been overwhelming, with global interest from people inquiring about moving to the town, which is set in a lush valley about an hour’s drive from Dunedin. “We’ve been smashed,” he told TV3. “I think my PA’s going to throttle me... there’s over 5,000 messages on my phone, the council Web site’s full. It’s just phenomenal.” The town has a coal mine, sawmills and processing factories for the dairy industry.
Worker hacked to death
A Hindu temple worker was hacked to death in the nation’s southwest yesterday in the latest attack blamed on militant groups, police said. At least three assailants on a motorbike fled the scene after hacking Shyamonando Das with sharp weapons, local police chief Hasan Hafizur Rahman said. The attack happened in Jhenaidah District, 210km southwest of Dhaka, as the victim was picking flowers for his morning prayers near the temple, Rahman said. The worker died on the spot. Police had no immediate clues about who was behind the latest killing, but they suspected militant groups could be responsible as the pattern of the attack fits previous ones. No group has claimed responsibility.
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting
A squad of gun-toting police officers patrolled Myanmar’s sacred site of Bagan under the cover of night, taking on plunderers snatching relics from temples forsaken by tourists due to COVID-19 restrictions. Each evening as dusk falls, about 100 officers fan out across the plain of Bagan covering 50km2, sweeping flashlights over the crumbling monuments to scour for intruders. “Our security forces are patrolling day and night,” Police Lieutenant Colonel Sein Win told reporters. “We have it under control for the moment, but it’s a challenge.” The central Burmese city is strewn with more than 3,500 ancient monuments — stupas, temples, murals and sculptures
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned against the “hasty” relaxation of anti-coronavirus measures, state media reported on Friday, indicating the country would keep its borders closed for the foreseeable future. North Korea in late January closed its borders as the virus spread in neighboring China, and imposed tough restrictions that put thousands of its people into isolation. Pyongyang insists it has not had a single case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus that has swept the world infecting more than 10.8 million people and killing more than 500,000. Analysts have said that North Korea is unlikely to have avoided the contagion