Mental health law passed
China yesterday adopted a law to protect for the first time the rights of the mentally ill after years of accusations that psychiatric hospitals are used to lock up people against their will and silence dissidents. Human rights advocates called the hard-fought for law, which has been debated for more than two decades, significant, even though they say it still falls short of international standards as it allows for involuntary commitment without judicial review. “The most important thing that this law does is it will allow civil society to step in to monitor and press for improvement in the management of mental health in China, including ... pushing for greater transparency and progressive curtailment of police rights,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Storm leaves six dead
Tropical Storm Son-Tinh has left six people dead and nine missing in the country and is heading toward Vietnam and southern China. Civil defense chief Benito Ramos said yesterday the fatalities included an 88-year-old woman who died of hypothermia and a 77-year-old man hit by a falling tree in central Philippines More than 30,000 people stranded at seaports and airports were expected to resume their journeys after storm warnings were lifted yesterday and floodwaters began subsiding.
Gas leak delays launch
The nation was forced to postpone its third attempt to launch a satellite into space from its own soil because of a last-minute technical glitch. Space agency chief Kim Seung-jo said engineers found a gas leak in the link between the two-stage rocket and the launch pad just hours before yesterday’s planned lift-off. The South has tried unsuccessfully two other times to launch a satellite. In 2009, the rocket failed to deploy the satellite in orbit. In 2010, the rocket carrying the satellite exploded just two minutes after lift-off. Kim said it would take at least another three days to try again.
Reward for thief’s head
Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has offered a US$121,000 reward for the decapitated head of the alleged leader of a gang of car thieves. Duterte, known for being tough on criminals, told a news conference in Davao on Wednesday that he would give 2 million pesos (US$48,400) if suspect Ryan Yu is arrested and 4 million pesos if he’s killed. He said he would add another 1 million pesos if Yu’s decapitated head was delivered to him “in ice.” Davao police chief Ronald de la Rosa said yesterday that many interested parties had sent text messages wanting assurance they would receive the reward.
US returns artifacts
The US has returned more than 4,000 artifacts to Mexico, some more than 1,500 years old, that were brought across the border illegally, US customs officials said.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said on Thursday that the artifacts had been seized at the border and inside the US in more than a dozen operations in recent years. The artifacts include five pre-Columbian statues, 26 ceramic fragments dating back 1,500 years, and an Aztec whistle.
Feathered fossils found
Scientists have unearthed the first fossils of a feathered dinosaur ever found in the Americas, the journal Science reported on Thursday. The 75 million-year-old fossil specimens, uncovered in the badlands of Alberta, include remains of a juvenile and two adult ostrich-like creatures known as ornithomimids. Until now feathered dinosaurs have been found mostly in China and in Germany. Francois Therrien, curator at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, and the co-author of the study, said the discovery revealed another fascinating fact — the existence of early wings in dinosaurs that were too big to fly.
US seeks to soothe anger
The US yesterday issued its most high-level apology yet to Japan over the alleged rape of a woman in Okinawa by two servicemen. US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told an audience in Tokyo of Washington’s sorrow, the latest move to soothe anger at a time of heightened anti-US feeling on the island. The US put all 47,000 military personnel — in Okinawa and elsewhere — under an indefinite nighttime curfew in response to the alleged rape, following the arrest of two servicemen last week. The rape case came amid already high tensions in Okinawa, which has seen angry demonstrations against the US deployment to the island of the tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft, which local activists charge has a poor safety record.
UN expert asked to resign
Canada has said a UN rights expert should resign over his call for a boycott of companies taking part in Israel’s settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories. The appeal by Richard Falk, the UN special investigator on human rights in the occupied territories, also provoked a sharp response from Israel and the US, which said it would “poison the environment for peace.” Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said on Thursday that the remarks were “both offensive and unhelpful.” Falk has “not only done a disservice to the UN, but also to the Palestinian people,” he added. Earlier this week Falk said the UN General Assembly and civil society should boycott firms that help build and maintain Israeli settlements.
Dead star earns US$210m
From beyond the grave Elizabeth Taylor has overtaken her close friend Michael Jackson to become the top- earning dead celebrity. The estate of the actor, who died last year, earned US$210 million in the past 12 months largely due to Christie’s record-setting auction of her jewelry and art collection, according to Forbes’ annual poll of the richest dead celebrities. Taylor’s auction, which included a Van Gogh that fetched US$24.6 million, helped her push Jackson into second place. Her fortunes were also boosted by sales of her perfume, “White Diamond,” which earned US$75 million last year.