Cabinet makes ‘Nobel’ vow
Ministers are pooling together money to help purchase a washing machine for Shinya Yamanaka, who was recently awarded the US$1.2 million Nobel prize along with a British researcher. Yamanaka joked that he was fixing a rumbling washing machine when he received a call from Oslo saying that he and Britain’s John Gurdon were jointly honored with the prize for their discovery in stem cell research. On Friday, 16 ministers from Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Cabinet promised to chip in ￥10,000 (US$126) each to help the 50-year-old physician buy a new washing machine, reports said. The move is being seen by some media as a publicity stunt to impress voters as unpopular Noda is seen likely to call a snap general election in the coming months in response to growing demands from opposition parties.
Dud bomb defused
An unexploded 220kg World War II incendiary bomb was defused and removed from Tokyo’s business district yesterday after a delicate hour-long operation, officials said. About 200 residents evacuated their homes within a 100m radius of the bomb, which was found last month at a construction site in Motoakasaka area of Minato ward, as soldiers worked on removing the device. Self Defense Force members started to defuse the rusty ordnance, which was discovered 4.5m underground, at 9:13am and had safely removed it from the area by 10:18am, local officials said. The area was declared safe shortly afterward, they added. Tokyo was a target of intense US air raids near the end of the World War II and about 70 unexploded bombs are found in the capital every year, according to the local administrative office.
Man killed by cleaner truck
An elderly man in Tokyo was killed when a street cleaning truck hit him and swept his body to a public landfill site where it was found among trash, media reports have said. The body of what police believe was a 69-year-old male was discovered by a worker at the landfill site off Tokyo Bay in a pile of garbage brought in by a road sweeping vehicle, the Yomiuri Shimbun and Sankei Shimbun reported. It is thought the victim was lying down in the street in the early hours of Tuesday morning when he was hit, the Fuji News Network said, adding that his shoes had been found by the road and that his body was full of fractured bones. The driver of the truck has told police that he did not notice anything unusual while operating the machine, other reports said.
Millions in ivory seized
Authorities seized HK$26.7 million (US$3.5 million) of ivory tusks and ornaments smuggled from Africa, authorities said, the territory’s largest-ever seizure of illicit ivory that is still widely sought despite an international ban. Customs officers in Hong Kong and neighboring Guangdong confiscated the ivory, weighing a total of 3.8 tonnes, in raids at a container port last week, the government said. Customs officers found 972 tusks and the ornaments in bags of plastic scraps inside a container that arrived from Tanzania on Tuesday. Another 237 tusks were found the next day in a container carrying beans from Kenya. “We believe a small portion would have gone to the mainland and the rest elsewhere in the region, such as Japan and Taiwan,” the South China Morning Post quoted senior customs official Lam Tak-fai as saying.
Police kill naked woman
Two off-duty Florida law-enforcement officers fatally shot an armed, naked woman who confronted them at a social gathering on Saturday, authorities said. The shooting occurred at about 1:15pm on Saturday north of Tampa. The county sheriff’s office said in a news release that the men were approached by an “armed, naked and irrational female.” The news release does not identify the weapon, but it says “one or both of the law enforcement officers fired their weapons, striking the female.” She died at the scene. Lieutenant Cinda Moore, a spokeswoman for the Hernando sheriff’s office, said in an e-mail late on Saturday that she could not immediately identify the woman or disclose the weapon she was carrying. She said she also could not comment on what the woman specifically said or did or whether she was told to drop the weapon.
Cancer affected campaign
President Hugo Chavez, who was diagnosed with cancer last year and won re-election this month, on Saturday acknowledged that campaigning while in recovery cost him votes. Chavez said in a meeting shown on state television VTV that after radiation therapy, he had only done “10 percent” of what he would have normally done on the campaign trail, adding he would have done more if he had been “fully fit.” The 58-year-old populist socialist leader, in power since 1999, won 55.26 percent of the vote on Oct. 7, against 44.13 percent for challenger Henrique Capriles, a businessman and governor of Miranda State. “If I had been ... fully fit, I would have beaten the [opposition] candidate by at least 20 percent,” said Chavez, who was criticized by the opposition for keeping details of his illness close to the vest, and for seeking treatment in Cuba.
Engraving not destroyed
The government has denied that an 8,000-year-old rock engraving depicting the Sun as a divinity has been destroyed in the south of the country in an attack residents had blamed on ultra-orthodox Salafi Muslims. Communications Minister Mustafa el-Khalfi took journalists to the site of the pagan engraving in the Toukbal National Park to demonstrate that reports of its destruction were untrue. Ahmed Assid, a prominent activist for the indigenous Amazigh people and member of the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture (IRCAM), had said the petroglyph had been destroyed last week and that local activists had blamed Salafis. However, Assid said at the time he had yet to see pictures of the reported damage. Meryem Demnati, of the Amazigh Freedoms and Rights Watchdog, had also said the petroglyph had been destroyed.
Food shortages ‘chronic’: UN
The UN deputy humanitarian chief says food shortages are “a chronic problem” in southern Africa and more than 5.5 million people in eight countries need aid this year, a 40 percent increase compared with last year. Catherine Bragg, winding up a five-day southern Africa trip on Saturday, said worsening food shortages were the result of drought or floods and rising world food prices. In Zimbabwe, 1.6 million people are affected by food shortages and many rural families have begun selling village livestock, often kept as a symbol of status and well-being, to cope with the “dire situation,” Bragg said. A decade of seizures of commercial farms has disrupted food production in the nation, a former regional breadbasket. Food shortages are also particularly acute in Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland, Bragg said.