Poet’s sentence reduced
An appeals court has reduced the sentence of a jailed poet from a life term to 15 years for a verse considered offensive to the nation’s ruler. Despite the reduction, poet Mohammed al-Ajami denounced Qatar’s judicial system in a court session yesterday held under heavy security. The case has brought international appeals by rights groups and is part of widening crackdowns by Gulf Arab nations against free expression, including sentences for social media posts deemed insulting to leaders. Al-Ajami was given a life sentence last month for a verse posted online in 2010 that spoke about the traits needed to be a good leader. He also wrote a poem in 2011 that lauded the Arab Spring rebellions and criticized Arab governments that restrict freedoms.
Hidden continent discovered
Scientists said on Sunday they had found traces of a micro-continent hidden underneath the Indian Ocean. The slab, dubbed Mauritia, was probably formed about 61 to 83 million years ago after Madagascar split from India, but eventually broke up and became smothered by thick lava deposits, they said. In a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, scientists analyzed beach sand on Mauritius that contained ancient zircons between 660 million and about 2 billion years old. The minute chips of mineral were a remarkable find, as they were buried in sand formed only recently in geological terms — from 9-million-year-old volcanic rock.
Sherpa breaks record
A Nepalese woman mountaineer has been recognized by Guinness World Records for climbing Mount Everest twice in the same climbing season. Tourism Minister Posta Bahadur Bogati handed over the certificate issued by Guinness World Records to 29-year-old Chhurim who scaled the 8,850m summit on May 12 last year and again a week later on May 19. Chhurim, who like most Nepalese Sherpas use only one name, said she plans to climb other high peaks in the future. Everest has been climbed by nearly 4,000 climbers, but women climbers make up only a small portion of that number, according to the Nepal Mountaineering Association.
Anastasiades claims win
Rightwinger Nicos Anastasiades romped to victory in the presidential election on Sunday, vowing to secure an “earliest possible” bailout for the financially crippled EU state and winning support from the European Commission. Replacing the only communist president in the EU, the leader of the right-wing Disy party won 57.5 percent of the vote in a second round runoff against communist-backed Stavros Malas, who polled 42.5 percent, final results showed. “We intend to discuss and cooperate ... with our European partners so as to achieve the earliest possible completion of the MoU” bailout accord, while protecting “vulnerable groups, social cohesion and peaceful labor relations,” he said in a victory address. “We will implement an ambitious program of structural changes and reforms both in the state and in our economy,” said Anastasiades, whose win was celebrated by jubilant supporters — in a sea of Greek rather than Cyprus flags — in a packed Nicosia stadium. “Cyprus belongs in Europe. We will restore our credibility in the European and international arena,” the bestactacled pro-EU leader of a proudly Hellenistic party said.