Dust shrouds Lhasa
The country’s pollution reached new heights yesterday as the Tibetan capital of Lhasa was shrouded in a cloud of dust that halted flights and rendered one of its most-recognizable landmarks nearly invisible. Lhasa, which at 3,700m above sea level is one of the highest cities in the world, was named by the Ministry of Environmental Protection last month as one of 10 cities with the country’s best air quality. However, yesterday the picturesque city was enveloped in a thick cloud of pollution that the Hong Kong-based ifeng.com news Web site said was caused by dust that had blown in from north of the Tibetan Plateau. Visibility in some areas was reduced to 5km, flights were grounded and the city’s air quality index exceeded 500, the highest level, the report said. Photos posted online by ifeng.com showed the world-famous Potala Palace, a sprawling Buddhist complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site that previously served as the winter palace of the Dalai Lama, nearly invisible from a few kilometers away.
Woman finds semen in water
A woman is suing a deli after drinking bottled water that allegedly contained semen, lawyers said yesterday, with claims that DNA showed it matched the owner of the business. Alicia Cooper has filed a writ of summons in the District Court of Western Australia against the owner, who no longer runs the business, according to media reports that were confirmed by Slater and Gordon, the legal firm representing Cooper. Among its accusations the writ states the owner knowingly placed the sperm in the bottled water and allowed its sale. “Instantly I knew something was not right, I just knew,” Cooper, who is seeking damages and medical expenses for the stress and depression suffered from drinking the water, told Fairfax Media. After Cooper lodged a complaint about the water with the health department in the city of Stirling, a sample was collected for testing and the results revealed it contained spermatozoa, the Fairfax report said. A DNA sample was taken from the owner and testing confirmed his sample was a profile match for the sperm in the water.
Body found at US base
A human body decomposed “beyond recognition” has been found at a US military camp on the island of Okinawa, military and police officials said yesterday. The corpse was discovered on Wednesday inside a former housing area at Camp Foster, but the identity of the person, including their gender and approximate date of death, were unknown, a spokeswoman for the base said. The US Naval Criminal Investigative Service is leading a probe into the case, she added. The body was badly decomposed, but was presumed to be that of an adult, an official at Okinawa prefectural police headquarters said. It was found by Japanese workers contracted to dismantle buildings and survey the grounds in the housing area.
UN choppers to evacuate staff
The UN sent four helicopters to evacuate staff from one of its bases in the country’s Jonglei State where three UN peacekeepers were killed on Thursday in violence gripping the world’s newest nation. Fighting has spread since the attack on Sunday last week outside an army barracks in the capital, Juba, with the violence leaving as many as 500 people dead, while at least 20,000 have sought shelter at UN compounds, according to the government and UN. The government lost control of Bor, the capital of Jonglei State, on Wednesday to a group linked to former vice president Riek Machar, who is being hunted by security forces for staging a failed coup this week. Machar denies that accusation. The violence has heightened ethnic tensions, with Machar’s Nuer group pitted against the Dinka people of President Salva Kiir.
Crack prison sentences cut
President Barack Obama commuted the prison sentences of eight people convicted of crack cocaine offenses on Thursday, saying they were punished under an unfair legal disparity that overwhelmingly hurt impoverished black communities. All of the inmates had been imprisoned for at least 15 years, including six who were sentenced to life behind bars. Most will be released by April 17. The prisoners would likely have received lighter jail terms if they had been sentenced under a law Obama signed three years ago that reduced sentencing disparities that once treated crack cocaine offenses more harshly than powder cocaine ones. Obama said the six men and two women were jailed under an “unfair system” in which someone arrested with one gram of crack cocaine received the same sentencing as someone arrested with 100 grams of powdered cocaine, a ratio that was mitigated by the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act.
Stolen cars have Tajik link
Officials say stolen cars may have ended up with people close to the family of the Tajik president. Berlin regional justice minister Thomas Heilmann’s office confirmed a report on Thursday by daily Bild that he alerted the Foreign Ministry to the issue in May after Tajikistan ignored requests for legal assistance. Heilmann wrote that some cars are in the hands of “people with business and family ties to the Tajik president’s family.” The Foreign Ministry said there had been talks with Tajikistan on fighting organized crime, but would not Bild’s report that the Tajik ambassador was summoned.
Second man gunned down
Police said the head of a fishermen’s union was shot dead yesterday, the second fatal shooting in as many days in a nation unaccustomed to gun crime. Tadayoshi Ueno, 70, was found lying in the street in the southern city of Kitakyushu after residents nearby heard what was believed to be the sound of gunfire. Police said he was confirmed dead at hospital, with reports suggesting he had been shot multiple times. Ueno, whose family runs a civil engineering company, was previously fired at in front of his house in 1997, but escaped unhurt, Jiji Press news agency said. However, his brother was shot dead the following year, a crime for which mobsters were arrested, with investigators saying they had targeted him because he refused to give favors in public works projects, Jiji said. Yesterday’s shooting came the day after the president of a well-known dumpling restaurant chain was shot dead in Kyoto.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
The dramatic quietening of towns and cities during lockdown in Britain has changed the way the Earth moves beneath our feet, scientists said. Seismologists at the British Geological Survey (BGS) have found that their sensors are twitching less now that human activity has been curtailed, leading to a drop in the anthropogenic din that vibrates through the planet. The fall in the human hum that rings around the world means that, in theory at least, the scientists should be able to detect smaller earthquakes in the UK, and more distant tremors in Europe and in countries further afield than their equipment usually