Legionnaires’ linked to water
An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease over the past 18 months has killed 10 people in Michigan, where officials are dealing with a major health crisis over lead-contaminated water. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday said that the outbreak dates back to June 2014 and it has not ruled out a link to the toxic tapped water in the city of Flint. “The state of Michigan is treating this situation with the same urgency and transparency as the lead response in the city of Flint,” the department said in a statement on the spike in Legionnaires’. Officials said that since there have been 87 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, a severe type of pneumonia caused by bacteria, resulting in 10 deaths. The illnesses occurred in Genesee County, where Flint is located. Officials said that nearly half the people with the disease were exposed to water in Flint.
Pigs tumble onto road
Dozens of pigs tumbled out of a truck that overturned on a motorway near the western city of Poitiers on Wednesday, but showed little appetite for their sudden freedom. “Most of the animals stayed near the vehicle,” road safety official Captain Jean Chevassu said. “Two or three pigs ... strayed further. It wasn’t too hard to recover them.” The driver of the tractor-trailer lost control, leaving the vehicle lying across the two-lane road and shutting it for most of the day. The impact tore a hole in the roof of the truck, through which most of the about 180 pigs emerged onto the road and into the surrounding forest. Twenty-six pigs died at the scene, while another 13 with severe injuries were put down.
Chilean wins Pritzker Prize
Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena won this year’s Pritzker Prize on Wednesday, earning praise for “powerful” designs that address key social and economic challenges of the 21st century. “Innovative and inspiring, he shows how architecture at its best can improve people’s lives,” said Tom Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, which awards the prize. Aravena, 48, who is based in Santiago, is to receive the US$100,000 award and bronze medallion at a ceremony at UN headquarters in New York on April 4. The Pritzker jury highlighted Aravena’s work at ELEMENTAL, a Santiago architectural group that focuses on projects of public interest and social impact. It has produced more than 2,500 units of affordable housing, including an innovative “half a good house” that allows residents to complete the work themselves, thereby incrementally raising their living standards.
Lawmakers defuse dispute
Three opposition lawmakers on Wednesday gave up their seats to try to defuse an acrimonious power dispute between President Nicolas Maduro’s government and the new opposition-led National Assembly. The Supreme Court had barred the three — plus a pro-government legislator — from office pending a probe into alleged vote cheating in their jungle state, Amazonas. However, the opposition, which won control of the legislature in last month’s elections for the first time in 17 years, defiantly swore the three in anyway. However, in a reluctant U-turn cheered by lawmakers as a “victory for the people,” the opposition majority on Wednesday approved a letter from the three asking to leave the legislature pending resolution of the election dispute.
Opera House locked down
The Sydney Opera House yesterday was cordoned off in a security scare sparked by “information on social media” with people cleared from the harbor front precinct before police declared it safe. Metal barriers were erected with onlookers kept about 150m away from the building, with police officers and security personnel guarding the area in a 90-minute lockdown. Similar precautions were taken across the harbor at the suburb of Manly on Sydney’s northern beaches, which has a ferry linking it to Circular Quay where the Opera House is located. “Following information on social media, police conducted an operation in the vicinity of the Opera House and Manly as a precautionary measure,” New South Wales Police said in a statement. No further information was provided, although Sydney’s Daily Telegraph said the scare revolved around a threat received about an object inside the Opera House.
Earthquake rocks Hokkaido
A magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck just off the northernmost main island of Hokkaido yesterday, the Meteorological Agency said. No tsunami warning was issued and NHK national television said that while there might be some changes in sea level, no tsunami damage was expected. There were no immediate reports of damage. No irregularities were reported at Hokkaido Electric Power’s Tomari nuclear plant and Tohoku Electric Power’s Higashidori nuclear plant, both of which have been kept shut pending stringent safety checks following the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster, spokesmen at both firms said. There were also no irregularities at the Rokkasho plutonium preprocessing and other nuclear-related facilities in Aomori Prefecture, operated by Japan Nuclear Fuel, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said.
Extended presidency mulled
The national parliament is considering a proposal to allow President Imomali Rakhmon to run for an unlimited number of terms, cementing his grip on power as others have done in the Central Asian region. The government has submitted to parliament, controlled by Rakhmon’s supporters, a package of amendments to the constitution which will ultimately need to be approved by a referendum. The amendments have not been officially published, but the draft includes a provision that lifts the limit of two consecutive presidential terms for Rakhmon, citing his special status as the “Leader of the Nation,” a title given to him by the legislature last month. Another proposed amendment would reduce the minimum age for presidential candidates to 30 from 35. Rakhmon’s elder son, Rustam Imomali, is 28 and will be 33 when his father’s current term ends in 2020.
Man killed in Sydney storm
Severe thunderstorms in Sydney yesterday killed at least one person and injured another, police said, with winds of 122kph lashing Australia’s busiest airport, besides ripping down power lines and closing roads. A man was killed and a woman passenger suffered critical injuries when a falling tree crushed their car in the city’s west, which emergency services said took the initial brunt of the storm. Photographs showed damaged shop fronts and roads left impassable by twisted metal and roofing panels. Authorities urged residents to stay indoors and keep away from windows.
LIFE GOES ON: After a strict lockdown that left millions on the brink of starvation, Indians embrace work to avoid starvation and get ready for several major festivals India is on course to top the world in COVID-19 cases, but from Maharashtra’s whirring factories to Kolkata’s thronging markets, people are back at work — and eager to forget the pandemic for festival season. After a strict lockdown in March that left millions on the brink of starvation, the government and people of the world’s second-most populous country decided life must go on. Sonali Dange, for instance, has two young daughters and an elderly mother-in-law to look after. She was hospitalized this year in excruciating pain after catching the novel coronavirus. However, after the lockdown exhausted the family’s savings, the 29-year-old had
A COVID-19 outbreak among hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian fishers flown to New Zealand to bolster its struggling deep-sea fishing industry has prompted that country’s largest daily increase in infections in months, authorities said yesterday. More than 230 fishers were flown in from Moscow last week, with 18 of the crew members then testing positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine, New Zealand Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. The Pacific nation has almost eliminated local transmission of the virus, but regularly records small numbers of new cases in returned travelers. The fishing cluster pushed the daily tally of new infections to 25,
From monitoring vital signs to filtering filthy air and even translating speech into other languages, the COVID-19-fueled boom in mask-wearing has spawned an unusual range of high-tech face coverings. As masks become the norm worldwide, tech companies and researchers are rolling out weird and wonderful models to guard against infection and cash in on a growing trend. One of the wackiest comes from Japan, where start-up Donut Robotics has created a face covering that helps users adhere to social distancing and also acts as a translator. The “C-Face” mask works by transmitting a wearer’s speech to a smartphone via an app, and allows
JAPAN Deer-edible bags invented The deer that roam Nara no longer face discomfort — or far worse — after local firms developed a safe alternative to the plastic packaging discarded by tourists that often ended up in the animals’ stomachs. Last year, several of the 1,300 deer that wander around the ancient capital’s central park were found dead after swallowing plastic bags and food wrappers. Firms collaborated to develop bags that pass safely through the animals’ complex digestive system. The bags are made with recycled pulp from milk cartons and rice bran, one of the main ingredients of the shika senbei savory