Hundreds flee hotel fire
About 500 people yesterday were evacuated after a fire at a luxury hotel, but there were no injuries, emergency services officials said. Footage showed thick, black smoke billowing from the Grand Hyatt Hotel near the Orchard Road shopping district, but the Singapore Civil Defence Force said the fire was quickly put out. The blaze involved a kitchen stove and an exhaust duct in a restaurant on the second floor, it said, adding that the blaze was extinguished by water sprinklers before firefighters arrived. “The smoke was really terrible... It got into my throat. I think it was quite thick,” Nadiah Yayoh, 40, who works at a boutique in the hotel, told reporters.
‘Keyboard warrior’ disrupts IS
A young female graduate recruit successfully impersonated a senior male Islamic State (IS) commander online to convince a young radicalized man to abandon his quest for jihad. The covert operation by one of Canberra’s so-called “keyboard warriors,” described as a yoga-loving scientist, was part of the Australian Signals Directorate’s broader efforts to fight IS, which included the disruption of communications and the spread of propaganda.
New party changing things up
Dynamized by a telegenic billionaire, staffed by trendy graduates and powered by the millennial vote, the Future Forward Party has emerged as a new force in politics, with a mission to restructure an unequal economy and take an axe to the army’s influence. At the party’s headquarters in Bangkok the euphoria was barely concealed as early results from Sunday’s election showed it on track to win 30 lower house seats, with a proportional party list system likely to reward their 5 million ballots with dozens more. If the results play out, the party would become the third-largest party, barely a year after being formed. Its agenda is radical: rewriting the constitution to excise the military from politics, slashing the defense budget, ending conscription and addressing chasmic inequality.
Freddie Mercury censored
The government has scrubbed at least 10 scenes with gay references from the Oscar-winning biopic Bohemian Rhapsody about British rock star Freddie Mercury, incensing some domestic viewers who said that authorities were overreacting. The film about the lead singer of the band Queen, idolized by gay Western fans, has earned more than 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) in box office revenue since opening in arthouse theaters on Friday, Alibaba Pictures said. However, at least three minutes of scenes, from a close-up of Mercury’s gyrating crotch as he performs, to a kiss with a male guest and the spanking of a female guest at a party, are missing. “In effect, it feels like the whole movie has been cut,” one commentator on Sina Weibo said.
Scientists collect Everest data
A team of US scientists has flown to the Mount Everest region to study how pollution has affected the Himalayan mountains and glaciers that are melting due to global warming. The team led by John All of Western Washington University plans to spend the next two months in the region and climb the world’s highest peak in May as they collect samples and study the ice, snow and vegetation. The team plans to bring the samples and data, and study with local university and government agencies.
Five Stars facing crisis
The anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) might be on its last legs amid electoral flops, a corruption scandal and an identity crisis that risks tearing it apart, experts have said. In the latest blow, M5S took home just 20 percent of the votes in Sunday’s regional election in southern Basilicata, less than half what it got there in the general election in March last year. “A movement which brandishes the great utopian idea of a fight against all forms of elite, necessarily changes its spots when it becomes elite itself — and that distances some of its voters,” University of Bologna sociology professor Piergiorgio Corbetta said.
Chinese student found
Police on Tuesday said a Chinese student who was abducted in the Toronto area on Saturday last week has been found. York Regional Police Constable Andy Pattenden said Wanzhen Lu showed up at a house looking for help in what is called cottage country in Ontario. He has minor injuries and was treated in the hospital. Police on Tuesday arrested a 35-year-old man, but later released him. They are still looking for four suspects.
Drones deliver labwork
Drones were used on Tuesday to fly blood samples across a North Carolina hospital campus in the latest move to expand their roles in business and healthcare. The short trips between WakeMed buildings in Raleigh mark the first time that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has allowed regular commercial flights of drones carrying products, said UPS and drone company Matternet, which partnered with the hospital on the program. “This is a turning point and it’s a historic moment because this is the first FAA-sanctioned use of a [drone] for routine revenue-generating flights,” UPS advanced technology group vice president Bala Ganesh said.
Zoo to return pandas
Two giant pandas that have been a star attraction at the San Diego Zoo in California for decades are soon to be returned home to China, officials said. Bai Yun, the 27-year-old female giant panda, and her son, six-year-old Xiao Liwu, would be repatriated next month. “Although we are sad to see these pandas go, we have great hopes for the future,” San Diego Zoo Global chief operating officer Shawn Dixon said in a statement on Monday. “Working with our colleagues in China, San Diego Zoo Global is ready to make a commitment for the next stage of our panda program.” The pandas had been on loan to the zoo as part of a long-term conservation agreement that is coming to an end.
All-female spacewalk aborted
Astronaut Anne McClain was supposed to float out of the International Space Station tomorrow with newly arrived Christina Koch to replace old batteries, but she pulled herself from the lineup because there is not enough time to get two medium suits ready for them. Koch is to go out with a male crewmate, Nick Hague. McClain trained before flight in medium and large spacesuits, NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean said on Tuesday. She wore a medium when she went out on her first spacewalk on Friday last week and was supposed to switch to a large this week. However, after last week’s spacewalk, she decided that a large would be too big.
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
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”
A Malaysian student whose cellphone was stolen while he was sleeping has tracked down the culprit: a monkey who took photo and video selfies with the device before abandoning it. Zackrydz Rodzi, 20, on Wednesday said that his mobile phone was missing from his bedroom when he woke up on Saturday. He found the phone’s casing under his bed, but there was no sign of robbery in his house in Johor state. JUNGLE When his father saw a monkey the next day, he searched in the jungle behind his house. Using his brother’s cellphone to call his own device, he found it covered