Chinese snap up baby milk
Supermarkets and pharmacies were running out of popular baby formula yesterday after unprecedented sales reportedly due to Chinese customers trying to secure supplies. Nutricia, supplier of top-selling formula brand Karicare, said there had been a sudden surge in demand for its products, which had seen stocks plummet and left shelves empty. Major supermarket Coles said it was trying to arrange extra shipments of infant formula. Some pharmacies were rationing sales across brands to a few cans per customer. Media reports said Chinese residents or tourists in Australia were buying formula in bulk and shipping it back to their native country for family or sometimes sale online. “Chinese visitors buy as many cans as they can fit into their luggage to take back to China,” one manager of a pharmacy near a major international hotel in central Sydney told the Daily Telegraph newspaper. Many Chinese are suspicious of domestically produced milk following a major food safety scandal in 2008, in which six children died and 300,000 fell ill after drinking milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.
Cold snap kills over 100
Police say more than 100 people have died of exposure in the north because of historically cold temperatures. Police spokesman Surendra Srivastava yesterday said that at least 114 people have died from the cold in the state of Uttar Pradesh. At least 23 of those died in the past 24 hours. Srivastava said many of the dead were poor people whose bodies were found on sidewalks or in parks. The weather department said temperatures in the state were 4°C to 10°C below normal.
Drug trials ‘causing havoc’
The Supreme Court yesterday said that unregulated clinical trials of new drugs were causing “havoc to human life” in the country as it ordered the health ministry to monitor any new applications for tests. The comments were made during a hearing on a petition detailing deaths and health problems caused by clinical trials carried out on Indians, often without their knowledge or consent. “There are so many legal and ethical issues involved with clinical trials and the government has not done anything so far,” Justice R.M. Lodha said. Low costs, weak laws and inadequate enforcement and penalties have made India an attractive destination for the tests, activists say. The petitioners in the public interest litigation case — a group of doctors and a voluntary organization — claim several patients seeking medical help in the central state of Madhya Pradesh were used in drug tests.
Man kills three, injures two
A man shot and killed three people and wounded two in the village of Daillon, and was then arrested by officers who shot and injured him, police said yesterday. Police in the southern state of Valais said they were alerted to the shooting just before 9pm on Wednesday. Three of the victims died at the scene and the two injured people were taken to hospitals. A police statement early yesterday gave no detail on their injuries. When officers arrived at the scene, “the shooter pointed his weapon at our colleagues, so they had to open fire to neutralize him, to avoid being injured themselves,” police spokesman Jean-Marie Bornet told Swiss radio. He said the shooter lived in Daillon. His possible motives “are not clear at all,” Bornet said.
Minister sorry for boot row
The government apologized to the Egyptian ambassador on Wednesday after a fracas with police over security screening at the island’s main airport. Egyptian ambassador Menha Mahrous Bakhoum was involved in an argument with police when she was asked to undergo security checks to enter a departure terminal on Saturday, where she was seeing off members of her family. Local media reported the ambassador agreed to undergo security screening, but objected to removing her boots. In a heated debate that followed, media reported, a police officer was slapped and the ambassador was manhandled by police. An apology released on Wednesday lauded the country’s “brotherly relations” with Egypt.
Ship stable: coast guard
A coast guard official who flew over a petroleum drilling ship grounded on a remote Alaskan island says there are still no signs of any fuel sheen or environmental impact and the rig appears to be stable. The drill ship Kulluk ran aground in a fierce North Pacific storm on Monday off an uninhabited island near Kodiak. Calmer weather conditions on Wednesday also allowed a team of five salvage experts to be lowered by helicopter to the rig to conduct a structural assessment. Officials say their information will be used to formulate salvage plans. Also taken to the Kulluk was a state-owned emergency towing system for use in the operation.
Woman stuck in supermarket
While others were celebrating the start of the year, an elderly woman spent New Year’s Eve trapped in a supermarket after being locked inside, officials said. The 73-year-old was stuck inside the supermarket in the northern city of Roubaix after emerging from the toilet to find the shop closed and the doors locked, local firefighters said. She set off the alarms several times throughout the night, but there was no answer. She was only discovered the morning of New Year’s Day around 10:30am.
Sperm donor fights request
A man who donated sperm to a lesbian couple is fighting efforts by Kansas state authorities to force him to pay child support for the now three-year-old girl, arguing that he and the women signed an agreement waiving all of his parental rights. The state argues that because William Marotta did not work through a clinic or doctor, as required by state law, he can be held responsible for about US$6,000 that the child’s biological mother received through public assistance — as well as future child support. Marotta answered an ad in 2009 from a local couple. The three signed an agreement relieving Marotta of any financial or paternal responsibility. However, instead of working with a doctor, Marotta agreed to drop off a container with his sperm at the couple’s home and the women successfully handled the insemination themselves.
Mantel wins book award
Writer and two-time Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel has been named novelist of the year at Britain’s Costa Book Awards for Bring Up the Bodies. Mantel’s achievement for her blood-soaked Tudor saga makes her the first author to win both the Costa novel award and Booker Prize in the same year. Other winners included Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie for The Overhaul and Francesca Segal for her first novel, The Innocents. Severely dyslexic writer and illustrator Sally Gardner won the children’s book prize for her fifth novel, Maggot Moon.