H7N9 virus kills four
Four more people have died from a new strain of bird flu, bringing to 31 the number of deaths from the H7N9 virus, with the number of infections rising by two to 129, health authorities said. Among the deaths, two occurred in Jiangsu Province, one in Zhejiang and another in Anhui, authorities said on Monday. The government did not provide more details of the victims. Health authorities said two new infections were reported in Fujian Province. Meanwhile, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the current strain of bird flu cannot spark a pandemic in its current form, but that there is no guarantee it will not mutate and cause a serious pandemic.
Large fleet to Spratlys
Beijing has sent one of its largest recorded fishing fleets to disputed islands in the South China Sea, the China Daily reported yesterday, amid tensions over Beijing’s assertion of its claims in the region. A flotilla including 30 fishing vessels set sail on Monday for the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) — which are also claimed by other countries, including Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines — the report said. The fleet, which includes two large transport and supply ships, left Hainan Province for a 40-day trip to the region, the report said.
Metallica guitar surrendered
The heavy metal-loving governor of Jakarta has surrendered a guitar that was a gift from US band Metallica to anti-corruption authorities, an official said yesterday. A beaming Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo appeared on TV last week strumming the maroon bass guitar given to him by Metallica’s Robert Trujillo, which was autographed and bore the words “Giving Back! .. Keep Playin’ That Cool Funky Bass!” However, the powerful Corruption Eradication Commission said that Widodo, widely considered clean in a notoriously graft-ridden country, had now handed the gift to them. “We will check if there is any conflict of interest or if there was an exchange of favors,” commission spokesman Johan Budi said.
Tiger abuse sparks outrage
A tiger park has sought to quell public anger after images of holidaymakers sitting astride a strapped-down cub prompted outrage online, state media said yesterday. Pictures taken at a Siberian tiger park in Jilin Province showed visitors posing for photos while sitting on top of a tiger cub tied to a wooden table, the Global Times reported. Video footage has also emerged from another animal park in Zhejiang Province, showing a tiger strapped to a bench while a man sat on top of it, bouncing up and down and slapping the tiger’s head. The incidents provoked outrage on the popular social networking site Sina Weibo.
Daredevil scales bridge
A man in Saint Petersburg climbed one of its lifting bridges before evading police by plunging into the water, in a death-defying stunt that stopped traffic, officials said on Monday. Police in the city said they have launched a probe as photos of the unidentified daredevil, holding a red flare in one hand and hanging on to the railing with the other as the Troitsky Bridge swung upwards, went viral on the Internet. Photographer Nikolia Gontar, who posted the pictures on Facebook, identified the culprit as a young stuntman who goes by the name of Mustang Wanted and is known for hanging off skyscrapers and cranes by his bare hands.
Explosive in blast identified
Officials said on Monday that they had determined that ammonium nitrate stored at a Texas fertilizer plant is what exploded on April 17, killing 14 people and injuring hundreds. The finding was expected, and officials had said they were focusing their investigation on the explosive chemical used in many fertilizers, said Rachel Moreno, spokeswoman for the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office. A spot where the ammonium nitrate was stored is now a 27.5m wide crater, Moreno said. However, the ignition source for the explosive chemical remained undetermined on Monday.
Tarbuck arrested over abuse
Veteran comic Jimmy Tarbuck has become the latest celebrity to be arrested in connection with a historical child sex abuse investigation, media reported yesterday. North Yorkshire Police confirmed that a 73-year-old man was arrested in Kingston upon Thames on April 26. The Daily Mail yesterday identified him as Tarbuck. Police released the former quiz show host on bail after questioning him over claims that a young boy was assaulted in the late 1970s, according to the reports. Police said the arrest came after information was given to them by Metropolitan Police officers working on Operation Yewtree, the probe set up following the slew of claims against late former BBC presenter Jimmy Savile. However, the force said the arrest was “not part of Yewtree, but a separate investigation.”
Mirren gives a royal rebuke
A troupe of street drummers got a shock when Helen Mirren, dressed as Queen Elizabeth II, emerged from a London theater to berate them for disrupting her show. Mirren is starring in The Audience, a drama about the weekly meetings between the queen and the nation’s prime ministers over her 60-year reign. Mirren told the Daily Telegraph that she used less-than-royal language in the rant during the intermission of Saturday’s performance. “I’m afraid there were a few ‘thespian’ words used,” Mirren was quoted as saying on Monday. “They got a very stern royal ticking off, but I have to say they were very sweet and they stopped immediately. I felt rotten, but on the other hand they were destroying our performance so something had to be done,” she said. The drummers were marching through London to promote As One in the Park, a gay music festival being held this month. “Not much shocks you on the gay scene,” parade organizer Mark McKenzie told the Telegraph. “But seeing Helen Mirren dressed as the queen cussing and swearing and making you stop your parade — that’s a new one.”
Suspect’s pal awaits trial
A friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been released from federal custody while he awaits trial for allegedly lying to federal investigators probing the April 15 bombings. Robel Phillipos was charged last week and faces up to eight years in prison if convicted. The 19-year-old was a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with Tsarnaev. Prosecutors initially asked that Phillipos be held while he awaits trial, arguing that he poses a serious flight risk. However, prosecutors and Phillipos’ lawyers said on Monday in a joint motion they now agree that Phillipos can be released under strict conditions, including home confinement, monitoring with an electronic bracelet and a US$100,000 secured bond. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler agreed to the request during a hearing on Monday.