Ganges dip ‘good for health’
Kumbh Mela, the world’s biggest religious festival, which sees up to 100 million people flock to take a bath in the river Ganges, is good for pilgrims’ health, a new study said. Despite facing cold weather, endless noise, poor food and the risk of disease, Hindu devotees who attend such events report higher levels of mental and physical well-being, the study said. The 55-day festival, which takes place every 12 years, began on Monday, with 8 million people jostling for space to take a dip in the sacred waters, which are said to cleanse sins. Social scientists from four British and five Indian universities concluded that the shared group experience of enduring hardships and sharing the same activities outweighed any physical discomfort.
Cats escape dinner table
About 600 cats stuffed into wooden crates and destined for dinner plates were rescued by animal protection volunteers after a truck crash, a volunteer said on Thursday. Volunteers hauled the felines from the truck on Monday after the accident in the central city of Changsha, Xu Chenxin of the Changsha Small Animal Protection Association said. About another 100 were already dead. Pictures of the rescue, showing volunteers unloading the crates late at night, were widely shared on Chinese social media sites. Many of the cats, which were white and plump, had escaped or died after being left out in the cold for more than 24 hours. The cats were “clearly” due to be served as food in southern China, Xu told reporters. The volunteer group negotiated with one of the truck’s drivers to buy the animals for 10,000 yuan (US$1,600) and they were now awaiting adoption, Xu said, adding: “We’ve already had inquiries from families across Changsha.”
Three dead in boat fire
Three people died and five were missing yesterday in a fishing boat fire in waters near islands at the center of a dispute between Tokyo and Beijing, Japanese coast guards said. “We have been informed by South Korean officials that three people died and five are missing from a South Korean fisheries ship that caught fire in waters near Uotsuri Island,” a spokesman said, referring to an island in the East China Sea. The incident was first discovered by a South Korean vessel in waters 100 nautical miles (185km) north of Diaoyu Island (釣魚島), the largest island in the Tokyo-administered Senkakus chain, which are called Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) by Taiwan, which also claims them. The coast guards said the ship had nine crew members aboard — seven South Korean nationals and two Chinese nationals. The other South Korean vessel had recovered four of the nine crew, of whom three were already dead, they said.
Queen receives varied gifts
A piece of Antarctica named after her, a baby llama, tea from Sri Lanka and her own set of Olympic medals were just some of the gifts given to Queen Elizabeth II during her diamond jubilee year last year. Foreign leaders, emissaries, luxury goods businesses and members of the public gave her a treasure trove, from jewels given by the Emir of Kuwait to a wind chime from a nursery school near her Sandringham estate, according to a list released by Buckingham Palace. The list documents more than 140 gifts given to the queen from world leaders such as US President Barack Obama (1950s Tiffany & Co silver compact). Other gifts included 436 books, 235 CDs and DVDs, 81 pieces of embroidery or knitting, 78 portraits of the queen, 40 digital photograph books, 28 wall hangings or bunting, 19 tea towels, nine jigsaws, honorary ownership of a baby llama and adoption of a baby Asian elephant.
Bolshoi official attacked
Moscow police say the artistic director at the legendary Bolshoi Theater has been attacked with acid. They said yesterday that Sergei Filin was attacked on Thursday night by a man who splashed acid onto his face as the 43-year-old former dancer came out of his car outside his home in central Moscow. The theater’s press office told Russian television that Filin’s eyesight is threatened. Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova told Channel One that Filin had received threats before and that they suspect that that he fell victim to the notorious infighting and rows between different groups of dancers and managers at the theater.
Wagner staying mum
Actor Robert Wagner has declined to be interviewed by detectives in a renewed inquiry into the drowning death of his wife Natalie Wood three decades ago, an investigator said on Thursday. Wagner was interviewed by authorities soon after Wood’s drowning in 1981, but he is the only person who was on the yacht the night Wood died who has not spoken to detectives as part of the latest inquiry, despite repeated requests, sheriff’s Lieutenant John Corina said. Blair Berk, an attorney for Wagner, said the actor had cooperated with authorities since his wife died. Detectives reopened the case in November 2011. After 30 years, Berk said, neither Wagner nor his daughters have any new information to add.
Fighter jets escort plane
Two F-15 fighter jets escorted an Alaska Airlines flight into Seattle’s main airport on Thursday after an anonymous caller told the FBI that a male passenger could be a hijacker. An FBI spokesman in Honolulu, Tom Simon, said an anonymous caller had informed his office that there could be a hijacker aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 819, which originated in Kona, Hawaii, and identified the man by name. Flight crew was alerted, and the plane landed “without any drama at all,” Simon said. Law enforcement and FBI officials removed the unidentified man from the plane for questioning.
Netanyahu stands firm
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday pledged that there would be no dismantlement of any Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins next week’s general election. He told the Maariv newspaper: “The days when bulldozers uprooted Jews are behind us, not in front of us. Our record proves it.”