Chemical arms use denied
The government yesterday denied accusations it had used chemical weapons against ethnic minority rebels in Kachin State. “Our military never uses chemical weapons and we have no intention to use them at all. I think the KIA [Kachin Independence Army] is accusing us wrongly,” presidential spokesman Ye Htut said. The rebels on Wednesday told reporters that the army had stepped up its operations in recent days, in a push toward the KIA stronghold of Laiza. “It is already three days [they have] used chemical weapons [and] they are able to occupy very important posts,” KIA spokesman James Lum Dau told reporters. He said there was an intense heat and soldiers “lost consciousness” when the shells exploded. Foreign media were not able to verify the claims.
Cold snap kills at least 80
A cold snap yesterday which saw temperatures drop to their lowest point since the nation gained independence has killed about 80 people, officials said. The weather office said the lowest temperature recorded was 3?C in the northern town of Syedpur and the Red Crescent said hospitals were packed with patients suffering respiratory illness. Shah Alam, deputy head of the weather office, said the last time the temperature had dropped below 3?C was in February 1968, when the country was still part of Pakistan. The Red Crescent Society said poor rural areas had been worst hit as many people could not afford warm clothing or heating.
Rare earths probe to begin
The government will launch a survey of its Pacific seabed with the hope of finding rare earth deposits large enough to supply its high-tech industries and reduce dependence on China, an official said yesterday. Researchers from the Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology will start the probe from Jan. 21 on the seabed near Minamitorishima Island, about 2,000km southeast of Tokyo, he said. Finding large-scale reserves inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone would be a boost to industry, which relies on imports from China. The survey follows an earlier finding by Tokyo University professor Yasuhiro Kato that indicate deposits amount to about 6.8 million tonnes of the valuable minerals, or 220 times the average annual amount used by industry.
Hamas, Fatah revive deal
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal have agreed to expedite a stalled reconciliation deal between the rival factions, a Hamas official said yesterday. The decision came at a meeting in Cairo that was the first in almost a year between the West Bank’s Fatah leader Abbas and Meshaal, who heads the Hamas movement that rules the Gaza Strip. Fatah and Hamas officials will meet soon to discuss further developments, Hamas politburo member Izzat al-Rishq told reporters, but did not give more details. On their visit to Cairo, Abbas and Meshaal also held separate talks with President Mohamed Morsi.
Rare snowstorm hits capital
The worst snowstorm in 20 years shut roads and schools in Jerusalem yesterday and along the region bordering Lebanon. Elisha Peleg, an official in charge of emergencies for the city told Israel Army Radio that10cm to 15cm of snow had piled up in the city center and more than that in outlying areas. A Gaza health official said a Palestinian man died after being electrocuted by a power cable snapped loose by the ferocious witner- winds.
‘Zorb’ deaths investigated
Authorities have launched an investigation into the death of a 27-year-old man in a giant “zorb” ball that tumbled down a mountainside in a horrific accident that was caught on video, a regional investigative committee spokesman said on Wednesday. Denis Burakov, 27, died of his injuries after he and a friend, Vladimir Shcherbov, 33, paid to roll together in the zorb down a snow slope at a ski resort in the Karachayevo-Cherkessia region of the North Caucasus. Zorbing is an extreme sport invented in New Zealand in the 1990s in which participants roll down slopes strapped inside large transparent plastic balls. During the Jan. 3 accident, the zorb with the two men veered off a snowy track down the 3,000m high Mussa-Achitaro peak and rolled into a gorge, continuing for about a kilometer before stopping on a frozen lake, investigators said.
ishops cancel abuse study
Roman Catholic bishops canceled a study into sex abuse scandals within their church on Wednesday, prompting the lead researcher to accuse them of trying to censor his findings. Bishop Stephan Ackermann, spokesman on abuse issues for the Bishops Conference, said the bishops had lost confidence in researcher Christian Pfeiffer and would look for another specialist to continue the study. Pfeiffer told German Radio the bishops, who had agreed with him in 2011 to open staff files for nine diocese dating back to 1945, had begun demanding changes in the project guidelines, including a final veto over publishing its results. In Germany, about 180,000 Catholics left the church in protest in 2010, a 40 percent jump from the previous year, after a wave of revelations about priests abusing young boys.
Painting may lead to jail
Prosecutors are investigating a Swedish artist’s claim that he used the ashes of Holocaust victims to make a painting, an act that could carry a prison term. The artist, Carl Michael von Hausswolff, last year wrote on the Web site of the Bryder Gallery in Lund, Sweden, that he made a painting using ashes that he took from crematorium furnaces in Majdanek, a former Nazi German death camp in eastern Poland, on a visit there in 1989. Spokeswoman Beata Syk-Jankowska said on Tuesday that prosecutors in Lublin have opened an investigation to check whether there is truth to the artist’s claim. The small painting, named Memory Works, is made of broad vertical brown and gray strokes of brush that leave an impression of a tight group of people. If he did use the ashes, he also could be charged with desecrating human ashes and their resting place and face up to eight years in prison.
Three found dead in institute
Three Kurdish women were found killed with a gunshot to the head early yesterday inside the Kurdish Institute of Paris, a police source said. The bodies of the women were found shortly before 2am. “The scene leads one to think of an execution, but the investigation will determine the exact circumstances,” the source said. One of the women was 32-year-old Fidan Dogan, who worked in the institute’s information center, its director, Leon Edart, said. The identities of the other two women, who were reportedly Kurdish activists, but did not work at the Institute, were not immediately available. The three were last seen mid-day on Wednesday at the center, which was found locked by late afternoon, according to Edart.