Israel-Palestinian talks urged
The country called for a resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians at a conference in Beijing, as the rising global power seeks greater diplomatic influence in the Middle East. “We need to redouble efforts to promote peace talks,” Assistant Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu (馬朝旭) said at the UN International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, an event attended by diplomats, UN delegates, academics, and figures from the Palestinian and Israeli parliaments. Beijing has voiced support for the Palestinian push for full state membership in the UN. It has traditionally remained distant from Middle East affairs, although it has begun to take a more active diplomatic role in recent years, wielding its UN veto to scuttle some Western-backed proposals on Syria.
Supercomputer is fastest
The country has built the world’s fastest supercomputer, almost twice as fast as the previous US holder and underlining the country’s rise as a science and technology powerhouse. The semiannual TOP500 official listing of the world’s fastest supercomputers released on Monday says the Tianhe-2 developed by the National University of Defense Technology in Changsha is capable of sustained computing of 33.86 petaflops per second. That is the equivalent of 33,860 trillion calculations per second. The Tianhe-2, which means Milky Way-2, knocks the US Department of Energy’s Titan machine off the No. 1 spot. It achieved 17.59 petaflops per second. Supercomputers are used for complex work, such as modeling weather systems, simulating nuclear explosions and designing jetliners. It is the second time China has been named as having built the world’s fastest supercomputer. In November 2010, the Tianhe-2’s predecessor, Tianhe-1A, had that honor, before Japan’s K computer overtook it a few months later.
Monks rebuked over jet ride
The behavior of the country’s Buddhist clergy has been thrust under the spotlight after footage emerged of three monks flying in a private jet, wearing earphones and sunglasses and traveling with a Louis Vuitton luxury bag. The video, which has been viewed nearly 200,000 times on YouTube, has prompted fevered debate in the Buddhist-dominated kingdom over monks’ adherence to austere principles that include living without possessions, beyond a handful of robes. According to one of the monks, who has since been “reprimanded,” the jet was chartered by a devotee to fly them home to northeast Si Sa Ket from Bangkok after performing duties in November last year, said Nopparat Benjawattantnun, director of the National Office of Buddhism.
Railway offers train wedding
A rail company is offering one lucky couple the chance to get married aboard one of Tokyo’s busiest commuter trains as it encircles Tokyo, it said yesterday. East Japan Railway (JR East) said it wanted to find a couple who would like to tie the knot aboard the usually heaving Yamanote Line, in the company of up to 120 friends and family. Guests will have exclusive use of the 11-car train, which normally carries about 1,000 tightly packed commuters. The train will take an hour to travel the around the 35km Yamanote line, stopping at all 29 stations, but not opening its doors.
HIV milestone imminent
This month somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa the millionth baby will be born without HIV to a mother who suffers from the disease, thanks in large part to a decade-old US aid program. The millionth baby born HIV-free was yesterday to be trumpeted as part of celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known by its acronym PEPFAR.
Saatchi downplays photos
Former advertising tycoon Charles Saatchi on Monday downplayed photographs in which he is shown grabbing his wife, celebrity chef Nigella Lawson, around the neck, saying it was just a “playful tiff.” Britain’s Sunday People newspaper published photographs of Saatchi with his hands around his wife’s neck, and with her in tears, while they were having dinner on the terrace of a London restaurant. The 70-year-old was also photographed pinching 53-year-old Lawson’s nose before walking away from the restaurant on June 9. Saatchi, who writes a column for The Evening Standard, told the newspaper that he recognized the impact of the pictures, but said they conveyed the wrong impression. “About a week ago, we were sitting outside a restaurant having an intense debate about the children, and I held Nigella’s neck repeatedly while attempting to emphasize my point,” he said. “There was no grip. It was a playful tiff.” He said the couple made up by the time they reached home, but acknowledged that Lawson had moved out, saying this was for her privacy.
Court invalidates voter law
The US Supreme Court on Monday invalidated a law that required people to show proof of nationality when registering to vote in the state of Arizona. The law in the Republican-ruled state, put in place to keep undocumented immigrants from casting ballots, required documents that the federal government does not ask for when people complete a federal voter registration form. Federal law “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wrote on behalf of the panel’s majority. This decision only affects Arizona. However, four other states — Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee — have similar laws. Twelve additional states envisage doing the same. The ruling is a victory for activists who saw it as a new infringement on the rights of minorities.
Broadcaster gets 15 months
The attorney general is to review the 15-month jail term given to broadcaster Stuart Hall on Monday for a series of sex attacks on girls as young as nine. Hall, 83, described by the Crown Prosecution Service as “an opportunistic predator,” abused his 13 victims over a period of two decades from 1968. Within minutes of Hall being led from the dock at Preston crown court there were calls for the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, to examine if the sentence was “unduly lenient.”
Moths mass on Madrid
Millions of moths have engulfed Madrid in a population explosion blamed on spring rains, a sudden blast of summer heat and winds that have wafted them in as unwelcome guests to the city. No one is sure of precisely where they came from. Many flew to the capital from southern Spain, but others may have migrated from northern Africa on a long journey across the Gibraltar Strait to destinations across Europe.