British PM joins Sina Weibo
British Prime Minister David Cameron has joined Sina Weibo and posted his first message ahead of a visit to Beijing, Downing Street said on Saturday. “Hello my friends in China. I’m pleased to have joined Weibo and look forward to visiting China very soon,” he said in English and Mandarin in his first message. It has since been forwarded more than 24,000 times. Cameron has attracted more than 101,000 followers since setting up his account, which helpfully points out that he has the star sign Libra. The British prime minister’s social media savvy has come a long way since he said in 2009 that he was not joining Twitter because “too many twits might make a twat.” He set up his own Twitter account in October last year under the handle @David_Cameron, which now has more than 525,000 followers. Cameron was due to leave for China yesterday on a trip aimed at fostering good relations with the new leadership in Beijing and forging business links.
No damage from 6.3 quake
A strong, shallow earthquake rocked eastern parts of the country early yesterday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The US Geological Survey said the 6.3 magnitude quake was centered 343km northwest of Saumlaki, a coastal town in Maluku Province, at a depth of 9km beneath the sea. The Meteorology, Earthquake and Geophysics Agency put the quake’s preliminary magnitude at 6.7 and said that it was unlikely to trigger a tsunami, said Suhardjono, an agency official who, like many Indonesians, uses a single name.
AIDS compassion urged
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi urged greater openness and compassion in the global struggle against AIDS yesterday as experts warned against complacency despite falling infection rates. Aung San Suu Kyi, the UNAIDS global advocate for HIV/AIDS victims, drew parallels between the plight of sufferers and her own struggle for democracy at the launch on World AIDS Day of a new “zero discrimination” campaign and a conference to be held in Australia in July. “The fight against discrimination is an extension of our fight for freedom from fear,” the Burmese opposition leader said, using the title of a famous essay she wrote. “My simple message as the global ambassador for zero discrimination is it all starts in the mind and in the heart. There must be less calculation and more warmth, more love, more affection, more compassion. We must have our differences and we must recognise them, but these differences should be an opportunity for us to be more complete human beings.” The world’s first Zero Discrimination Day is to be held on March 1.
Typhoon survivors tricked
About a thousand traumatized survivors of the nation’s deadliest typhoon fled their homes following false rumors of a tsunami, officials said yesterday. Officials in the province of Antique were visiting upland villages where people had fled overnight to convince them there was no danger and it was safe to return to their coastal homes, said Broderick Train, the civil defense chief for the province. “These are people who have been traumatized by their experience with Typhoon [Haiyan]. When the false information began spreading yesterday [Saturday] they immediately fled,” he told reporters in a telephone interview. “When people leave their homes they become targets for break-ins,” a spokesman for Antique’s disaster management group said.
Former champion in sting
Former world heavyweight boxing champion Herbie Hide has been sentenced to 22 months in jail for agreeing to sell cocaine in an undercover operation by a newspaper. The 42-year-old Briton, who was World Boxing Organization champion twice in the 1990s, had his sentence reduced at Cambridge Crown Court on Friday because of the entrapment tactics employed by the Sun on Sunday newspaper in meetings set up in January and February. Hide has had previous convictions for criminal damage, battery, threatening behavior and carrying a knife. Hide’s lawyer, Martin Budworth, said his client “is a shy man and a vulnerable man, and was ripe for the picking by experienced and professional men like [Sun on Sunday reporter] Mr Mahmood,” who is known for his sting operations. Hide became WBO champion in 1994 and again in 1997.
Forced caesarean in news
Social services forcibly removed a baby from a pregnant Italian woman’s womb by caesarean section while she was in the country on a work trip, a report said on Saturday. The woman was sedated and then had the girl taken out of her body after authorities in Essex, England, obtained a court order, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper said, citing her lawyers. The authorities said the woman had had a mental breakdown and it acted in the best interests of the child, who is now 15 months old. The mother has now launched a legal battle for the child, who is being put up for adoption by the social services. The woman had flown into the country last year for a two-week Ryanair training course at Stansted Airport north of London when she suffered a panic attack, which her family believe was due to her failure to take medicine for a bipolar condition, the newspaper said.
Volunteer shoots Palestinian
Police say one of their volunteers shot and killed a Palestinian staying inside the country illegally during an arrest raid. Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Border Police were seeking Palestinians who do not have permits to reside inside the country in Petah Tikvah, near Tel Aviv. One threatened a police volunteer, who, thinking his life was in danger, opened fire on Saturday. In the dark he thought the Palestinian had a knife, but it seems it was a rock, Rosenfeld said. Police are investigating. Police are cracking down on Palestinians who enter the country without permits. Most enter seeking work. A teenage Palestinian from the West Bank town of Jenin, who was in the country illegally, stabbed a newly recruited soldier to death as he slept on a bus last month.
Panel votes on draft charter
A panel resumed voting yesterday on the final draft of a new constitution, with the spotlight expected to be on articles regulating the military’s powers and privileges. If adopted, the charter will be put to a popular referendum early next year in the first milestone of the military-installed government’s transition roadmap. This is set to be followed by presidential and parliamentary elections in the middle of next year. On Saturday’s first day of voting, the 50-member panel approved 138 of the 247 articles of the draft charter. Those articles included one stipulating that Islamic Shariah law will be the main source of legislation. The other main article approved was one forbidding the formation of religious parties or parties based on religious grounds.
Actor Paul Walker dies
Paul Walker, one of the stars of the popular Fast and Furious fast-car action movies, died in an auto crash in Los Angeles County on Saturday, his publicists said on his social media accounts. “It is with a truly heavy heart that we must confirm that Paul Walker passed away today in a tragic car accident while attending a charity event for his organization Reach Out Worldwide,” read the posting on the actor’s Facebook account. “He was a passenger in a friend’s car, in which both lost their lives.” A similar message was posted on Twitter. Walker, 40, was best known for his role as undercover agent Brian O’Connor in the Fast and Furious movies. He appeared in all but one of the six movies in the series.
Bulger items face auction
Former Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger could soon see some of his jewelry, clothes and other belongings on the auction block. The US Marshals Service will auction off many of the items seized from Bulger’s California apartment after his arrest two years ago, the Boston Globe reported on Saturday. Authorities say the profits will be split among the families of those who were killed by Bulger. Federal prosecutors told the newspaper that the items belonging to Bulger and his girlfriend are in storage in Massachusetts and are being appraised. The 84-year-old Bulger was sentenced Nov. 14 to life in prison for 11 murders and dozens of other gangland crimes. Bulger also owned a boxing mannequin topped with a hat that was apparently propped in the window of his apartment to make it look as though there was someone keeping lookout.
Rousseff gains ground
President Dilma Rousseff has improved her odds of re-election since last month, while her potential rivals have lost ground, according to a Datafolha opinion poll published by Folha de S.Paulo newspaper on Saturday. Rousseff, expected to seek a second term in October next year, won 47 percent support in the most widely expected matchup — up from 42 percent in last month’s poll. Senator Aecio Neves of the traditional opposition party PSDB took 19 percent and Pernambuco Governor Eduardo Campos, whose center-left PSB party recently broke with the governing coalition, polled at 11 percent. Neves and Campos took 21 percent and 15 percent respectively in the October Datafolha poll. Rousseff’s popularity is recovering from widespread demonstrations in June against shoddy public services. Popular social programs and nearly record-low unemployment have bolstered her support despite sluggish economic growth.
Mothers start Mexico search
Fifty Central American mothers were to begin their trek through Mexico yesterday to look for their missing sons and daughters who disappeared there on their way to the US. The mothers from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are to travel as far north as the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. Caravan organizer Elisabel Hernandez on Saturday said that this year the mothers will not make it all the way to Mexico’s northern border states because authorities say they cannot guarantee their safety. This is the seventh year the group has made the trek hoping to find their loved ones or at least bring attention to the plight of migrants who have disappeared in Mexico.
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
KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and