Warnings sent on more fires
Australia braced yesterday for the worst conditions since firestorms killed 210 people last month, prompting authorities to send warning text messages to the mobile phones of 5 million people. The unprecedented move comes after criticism that warnings ahead of the devastating blazes that hit on Feb. 7 were insufficient. With firefighters facing a potentially lethal mix of flames, heat and winds approaching 150kph today, Victorian Premier John Brumby said he wanted to ensure warnings reached as wide an audience as possible. “It’s been apparent that some people don’t listen to the radio, don’t watch TV and don’t read newspapers either, so getting that message through the mobile phone will be another way to make sure that people are advised,” Brumby said.
Five killed by wildfires
At least five people were killed by wildfires in western Nepal believed to have been deliberately started by poachers, police said yesterday. Five people, including four members of the same family, were burnt alive when they were trapped by raging forest fires on Saturday in Myagdi district, about 250km west of Kathmandu. The five had entered a forest near the village of Gaganpani to collect firewood when the fire engulfed them, police said. The wildfire started near the village on Friday and spread to a large area aided by high winds and dry weather, destroying hundreds of hectares of forest.
Bystanders awarded medals
Three bystanders — including a lawyer who was shot and killed and a Dutch backpacker who was wounded — were awarded the Australian Bravery Medal yesterday for trying to rescue a woman from a gunman on a busy Australian street two years ago. The three intervened when Christopher Wayne Hudson attempted to drag his girlfriend Kaera Douglas from a taxi on a busy street in Melbourne during morning rush hour on June 18, 2007. Douglas survived the incident. Lawyer Brendan Keilar, 43, was shot and killed in the confrontation and tourist Paul de Waard, from Middelburg, Netherlands, was shot twice. A third bystander, Edith Aquina, was unharmed despite pursuing the gunman as he fled the crime scene.
Official defends floggings
An official defended tough penalties against illegal immigrants after revealing that nearly 400 foreigners were whipped in the past five years for settling unlawfully in the nation, a news report said yesterday. Authorities have flogged 396 foreigners with rattan canes for entering Brunei without valid travel documents or overstaying after immigration laws were tightened in 2004, Immigration Department data reported by the Borneo Bulletin newspaper showed. The Bulletin quoted a senior official as saying that foreign workers must abide by the law.
Worker compressed in block
A paper-recycling company found the body of one of its workers crushed in a block of compressed paper, police said yesterday. A fellow worker at the plant raised the alarm after noticing blood oozing out of the concentrated mass of old paper. “Police officers rushed to the site and saw a man’s head and arms showing on the side of the paper block,” a local police spokesman said. “We first feared that the body was dismembered, but actually the body was folded and crushed.” The man was named as a 69-year-old part-time worker at the recycling plant in Aichi Prefecture.
Olmert faces indictment
The attorney general notified Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday that he plans to indict him on suspicion he illicitly took cash-stuffed envelopes from a Jewish-American businessman — a sensational case that gripped the country and turned public opinion so sharply against the Israeli leader that he was forced to resign. Before any final decision on an indictment is made, Olmert will be offered a last chance to try to persuade Attorney General Meni Mazuz not to charge him, Mazuz said in a news release. The attorney general is already considering bringing Olmert to trial in a second corruption case. Five corruption cases are pending against Olmert in all.
Woman loses life savings
A woman lost her life savings when she forgot 500,000 kronor (US$56,000) on a streetcar as she was headed to the bank to deposit the money, a newspaper reported on Sunday. The 83-year-old retired seamstress, identified only as Birgitta, had for years kept her savings in a desk in her home in the southwestern city of Gothenburg, but had finally decided it would be safer to put the cash in a bank account, the Aftonbladet daily reported. On Feb. 19, she had filled a paper bag to the brim with 10,000-kronor piles of bank notes before taking a streetcar to the center of town.
Zoo gets 3,000 job seekers
A zoo said 3,000 people traveled from across recession-hit Britain to apply for 150 summer jobs. Twycross Zoo spokeswoman Kim Riley said the park was overwhelmed by the response. Job hunters driving to the recruitment day on Saturday caused a 8km traffic jam outside the zoo. The zoo, in Atherstone, central England, home to lions, elephants and dozens of primates, advertised for temporary cleaners, cooks and park rangers. Riley said on Sunday that laid-off executives were among those who registered interest in the posts. The jobs are usually filled by college students. Successful applicants will work from late this month to September for basic wages.
Basque non-nationalists win
Non-nationalists won more parliamentary seats than Basque nationalists in elections in the country’s most turbulent region on Sunday, in a result that could usher in the region’s first non-nationalist government in 30 years. The ruling Basque Nationalist Party gained a seat to win 30 in the 75-seat parliament. But three smaller nationalist allies lost seats, leaving the coalition with a total of 37 seats — one short of the needed majority, electoral officials said on TV and radio with close to 100 percent of the votes counted. The Socialist party gained six seats to end with 24, and its allies the conservative Popular Party and the Democracy Union Party won 13 seats and one respectively.
Ties improve with DR Congo
Kigali intends to establish full diplomatic relations with the Democratic Republic of the Congo following a joint military operation that saw the neighbors and former enemies collaborate in hunting down an extremist militia, the UN chief said. President Paul Kagame confirmed the plan during an hour-long meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the president’s offices. “I am heartened by his intention to establish full diplomatic relations,” Ban told reporters on Sunday. Ban said he told Kagame during their private talk about “my satisfaction at the steps he has taken to open a new chapter” in the two countries’ relations.
LA tries for No Cuss Week
Pay no attention to that eerie silence in the most populous county this week; it will simply be the sound of 10 million people not swearing. At least that’s the result McKay Hatch is hoping for once his campaign to clear the air is recognized by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. On Tuesday, the board is scheduled to issue a proclamation by Supervisor Michael Antonovich making the first week in March No Cussing Week. That would mean no blue language from the Mojave desert, where it gets hot as %$#! in the summer, to the Pacific Ocean, where on a winter’s day it can get colder and nastier than !%. Not that 15-year-old Hatch expects complete compliance.
Woman arrested with cash
Authorities on Sunday confiscated more than US$700,000 from a woman who was carrying the cash in two suitcases as she traveled by bus in the southern state of Oaxaca, the defense ministry said. The cash was found wrapped in “43 transparent nylon packets that contained US$716,830” inside the suitcases, the defense statement said. Federal authorities took 54-year-old Rosalva Rojas in for questioning, it said.
Cop pleads not guilty
A police deputy has pleaded not guilty to assaulting a 15-year-old girl in a case that has stunned many with the release of a surveillance video of the incident, US media reported on Sunday. Deputy Paul Schene, 31, pleaded not guilty to fourth-degree assault and went on paid administrative leave, reported KING5 TV in Seattle, Washington. “The video shows the young auto theft suspect in a holding cell at SeaTac City Hall on Nov. 29, 2008. The girl is seen being led into the cell, then kicking her left shoe out the door in the direction of Schene and another deputy,” the TV said. “Two deputies are then seen storming into the cell. The girl ends up facing a wall next to the toilet. Schene is then seen apparently pulling the girl’s hair as she falls to the ground, face first. It then appears that Schene hits the girl twice while she is on the ground,” it said.
A Gallup poll of Muslims in the country has found that they are far more likely than people in Muslim countries to see themselves as thriving. In fact, the only countries where Muslims are more likely to see themselves as thriving are Saudi Arabia and Germany, the poll showed. And yet, within the country, Muslims are the least content religious group when compared with Jews, Mormons, Protestants and Roman Catholics. Gallup researchers say that is because the largest segment of local Muslims are African-Americans, and they generally report lower levels of income and education.
East gets heavy snow
A massive snowstorm ravaged eastern states early yesterday, snapping power lines, closing schools and snarling the morning commute amid freezing temperatures from Maryland to Maine. More than 30cm of snow was possible in some northern states, the National Weather Service said as the winter storm began to unleash its furor on the upper portion of the country late on Sunday. New York City residents stocked up on groceries while city officials deployed extra snowplows and salt trucks to fend off the snow piles, which were expected to hit a height of up to 36cm by daybreak.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,