Rocket launch suspended
The country suspended the launch of its next-generation solid-fuel rocket yesterday just seconds before lift-off after engineers discovered a technical glitch, the space agency said. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) had planned to launch the Epsilon rocket from Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima, in the southwest, using just two laptop computers in a pared-down command center. However, the countdown was automatically stopped just 19 seconds before the planned blast-off “as an emergency measure due to some abnormal positioning” of the rocket, a JAXA spokeswoman said. At the control center, only eight workers were engaged in the launch operation, compared with about 150 people usually needed when JAXA launches its mainstream H2-A rocket.
Sonia Gandhi out of hospital
Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi has been discharged from a hospital after falling ill during a nine-hour debate in parliament, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said yesterday. Gandhi underwent a series of medical tests during the five hours she spent in the hospital late on Monday and was then allowed to return home, he told journalists. Gandhi, 67, had been suffering from fever for two days, but still decided to deliver Monday’s parliamentary speech in support of a landmark bill that proposes to provide cheaper grain to more than 800 million across the country.
Asylumseeker plan ‘crazy’
A senior lawmaker yesterday described as “crazy” a plan by Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott to pay Indonesians for unseaworthy boats to stem the flow of asylumseekers. “The idea is degrading and offensive to the dignity of Indonesians,” said Mahfudz Siddiq, head of the parliament’s foreign affairs commission. “Obviously he [Abbott] doesn’t understand diplomacy or bilateral cooperation.” Abbott’s A$440 million (US$400 million) scheme would include a capped government buy-back plan for the vessels and stipends for Indonesian “wardens” in 100 villages to provide information to Australia and bounty payments for information leading to successful smuggling prosecutions.
Internet attack ‘largest ever’
The nation has been hit by the “largest ever” attack on its Internet structure, crashing the country’s .cn servers, a government-linked agency said. The national domain name resolution service came under a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack for about two hours early on Sunday, the China Internet Network Information Center said in a statement. A second wave of the assault two hours later grew into “the biggest of its kind ever,” the center said, without giving any indication of who might have been responsible.
City ‘roasts’ ‘Rubber Duck’
Shanghai has served up a “roasted” version of Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s giant yellow duck, complete with drumsticks and crispy brown skin. Hofman’s Rubber Duck installation gained rave reviews when a 16.5m tall version arrived in Hong Kong this summer. Hundreds of thousands of people viewed it against the backdrop of the skyscrapers that line the city’s Victoria Harbour. Not to be outdone, Shanghai has unveiled its own version on the Huangpu River, which forms its waterfront Bund District. Shanghai’s duck is actually a working ferry boat, which state media said will carry passengers and host cultural performances including poetry reading.
Zimmerman fees sought
George Zimmerman’s attorney has told a newspaper that he plans to ask the state of Florida to cover US$200,000 to US$300,000 of his legal expenses. The Orlando Sentinel said Mark O’Mara told the newspaper on Monday evening that because Zimmerman was acquitted, state law requires Florida to pay all his legal costs. The 29-year-old Zimmerman was acquitted last month of all charges including second-degree murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, last year.
Al-Qaeda denies US claims
Al-Qaeda has denied US allegations that it is plotting massive attacks that prompted the closure of Western missions in the country this month, in a statement posted online. The extremist network also denied reports confirmed by President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi that US intelligence services had intercepted a conversation between al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, head of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. A source close to Hadi quoted him as saying on Friday that in the alleged conversation between the al-Qaeda leaders al-Wuhayshi told al-Zawahiri he would be hearing of something “that will change the course of history.”
US pastor’s appeal rejected
A court has rejected an appeal by a US pastor to reduce his eight-year prison sentence, a human-rights group representing his family in the US said on Monday. The decision by a two-judge panel on the Tehran Court of Appeals came on Sunday, but the panel refused to provide Saeed Abedini’s lawyer with a copy of the ruling, the Idaho Statesman reported. Abedini is of Iranian origin and had lived in Boise, Idaho, with his family since 2006. He has been jailed in Iran since September last year on charges that he attempted to undermine state security by creating a network of Christian churches in private homes, charges he rejects.
Gay blood ban proposed
Parliamentarian and Moscow mayoral candidate Mikhail Dyegtyaryov has said parliament should ban blood donations from homosexuals, news agencies said on Monday, upsetting activists angry at a nationwide ban on gay “propaganda.” Dyegtyaryov said the proposed move would help staunch Russia’s HIV-AIDS epidemic. However, many experts say Russia’s high drug addiction rates pose a greater HIV threat. Gay activists say that the propaganda law has increased discrimination and emboldened vigilante-style attacks. Gay rights advocate Yelena Kostyuchenko, who said she regularly gives blood, said on Twitter on Monday that she had been asked to donate that day. “Next time I’ll say: ‘I’m sorry, I’m a lesbian, I don’t deserve to give blood for your family members. Keep looking,’” she wrote.
Illegal migrants rescued
The military yesterday rescued 84 migrants from a large dinghy that was adrift and sinking about 18 nautical miles (33km) from the island, a spokesman said. The migrants, who had alerted the authorities by satellite phone, were transferred onto a patrol boat in rough seas and taken into port. Most of the arrivals are African refugees and migrant workers who crossed the Mediterranean from Libya. This was the first arrival after a lull of almost three weeks. More than 1,000 migrants arrived last month over just a few days, prompting the government to pressure the EU for assistance.