Holocaust survivor dies
Alice Herz-Sommer, the world’s oldest known Holocaust survivor and the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary, has died in London aged 110, her family announced on Sunday. Herz-Sommer, originally from Prague, spent two years of World War II in Czechoslovakia’s Terezin concentration camp, where she entertained inmates by playing the piano. According to an update on the Facebook page for her Oscar-nominated film The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life, she died after a short illness. The 38-minute film, in which she shares her life story and describes the importance of music and laughter for a happy life, is up for best short documentary at Sunday’s Academy Awards.
Paralyzing illness puzzles
A polio-like illness has afflicted a small number of children in California since 2012, causing severe weakness or rapid paralysis in one or more limbs. The Los Angeles Times reported that state public health officials have been investigating the illness since a doctor requested polio testing for a child with severe paralysis in 2012. Since then, similar cases have sporadically been reported throughout the state. Carol Glaser, who heads the California Department of Public Health team investigating the illnesses, called the doctor’s request “concerning” because polio has been eradicated in the US and the child had not traveled overseas. The symptoms sometimes occur after a mild respiratory illness. Doctors said the children had all been vaccinated against polio.
Axolotls spotted in the wild
Researchers say they have sighted, but not caught, two of the salamander-like axolotl known as the “water monster” and the “Mexican walking fish.” The axolotl, admittedly ugly with a slimy tail, plumage-like gills and mouth that curls into an odd smile, has only one natural habitat in the Xochimilco network of lakes and canals, but are now suffering from pollution, urban sprawl and invasive species. The creature is important in scientific research because of its ability to regenerate severed limbs. A weeks-long effort last year by researchers in skiffs trying to net axolotls in Lake Xochimilco found none, raising fears that they might only now survive in captivity. However, biologist Armando Tovar Garza of Mexico’s National Autonomous University said on Friday that members of the team carrying out the search had seen two axolotls during the first three weeks of a second survey expected to conclude in April.
Few have seen Oscar bets
It may be one of the best years in recent memory for high-quality Hollywood film, but two-thirds of Americans have yet to see any of the movies nominated for the best picture Oscar, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday. Among other questions, the poll asked 1,433 Americans whether they had seen any of the nine best-picture nominees, plus two other films competing in other categories. Among those who responded to the online survey, Somali piracy thriller Captain Phillips was the most-watched film, at 15 percent. However, 67 percent said they had yet to see any of the 11 films in the poll. The outer-space drama Gravity was second with 14 percent, while crime caper American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, each had been seen by 12 percent of those surveyed. The survey was conducted from Feb. 17 to Friday last week.
Leopard runs riot in city
A leopard sparked panic in Meerut, 60km northeast of New Delhi, when it strayed inside a hospital, a cinema and an apartment block before evading captors, an official said yesterday. Authorities closed schools in the city after the leopard was discovered prowling the streets on Sunday, a senior city official said. “Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to track the leopard down. We have launched a massive hunt for the beast,” Additional District Magistrate S.K. Dubey said. The cat was found inside an army hospital on Sunday. Wildlife officers were called and managed to fire a tranquilizer dart into the animal, Dubey said. “But despite that he managed to break [out through] the iron grills and escaped,” he added.
Interim government resigns
The government has resigned, Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi said yesterday, a step likely to pave the way for army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to declare his candidacy for president. Al-Beblawi, who was tasked by interim President Adly Mansour with running the government until polls are held, did not give a clear reason for the move. “This [government resignation] was done as a step that was needed ahead of [al-]Sisi’s announcement that he will run for president,” an official said. For al-Sisi to run, he would first need to quit as defense minister. The official said the Cabinet resigned en masse because al-Sisi did not want to be seen as acting alone.
Dead elephant group found
Seven elephants have been found dead on Sumatra Island and it is thought they were poisoned, a wildlife official said yesterday. Dozens of Sumatran elephants have died after being poisoned in recent years, as they come into conflict with humans due to the rapid expansion of palm oil plantations into their habitat. The latest to die were a female adult, five male teenagers and a male calf believed to be from the same herd, wildlife agency spokesman Muhammad Zanir said. Their remains were found on Feb. 16 outside Tesso Nilo National Park and it is thought they died five months earlier, Zanir said.
Thieves steal giant mango
Thieves armed with heavy machinery and cranes made a daring midnight heist in Queensland, stealing a 10m, 7 tonne mango monument, officials said yesterday. The Big Mango, a towering likeness of the fruit in the statue’s hometown of Bowen, is one of more than 150 “Big Things” erected as kitschy tourist attractions across the country. Bowen Tourism chairman Paul McLaughlin told Australian Broadcasting Corp he thought it was a joke at first, but “I’ve come out and sure enough the mango has disappeared.” McLaughlin said there was surveillance footage of the heist and he was sure the plundered fruit would be found. “At the end of the day it’s a bloody big mango and I’m sure someone will see it and we’ll find it anyway,” he told the Brisbane Times.
Molten metal kills worker
A factory worker has died after 13 tonnes of molten metal tipped over him, police said yesterday. Kazuki Tada, 23, was working on Saturday morning beneath a huge bucket containing an alloy that had been heated to about 1,300?C at a Nippon Denko plant in the country’s southwest. The bucket, which was suspended in mid-air, overbalanced, pouring the molten metal on Tada, police said. An investigation into the accident is underway, a police spokesman said.