Scientist gets death reprieve
A Swedish-Iranian scientist facing execution for espionage on Wednesday has been granted a reprieve, his lawyer said. Ahmadreza Djalali had not been transferred out of Evin prison in Tehran to Raja’i Shahr jail as expected on Tuesday night, which would have been a prelude to his killing, the lawyer said. It was not immediately clear if the reprieve was temporary or arose from the intense public and diplomatic pressure placed on the Tehran authorities to re-examine his case. His wife, Vida Mehrannia, had been making media appeals for European governments to come to her husband’s aid.
Lotto players cry foul
An unusual sequence of numbers drawn by the national lottery has sparked accusations of fraud after 20 people won a share of the jackpot. The consecutive numbers 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and a “PowerBall” number of 10 were the winning combination on Tuesday night. Twenty lucky players hit the jackpot and won 5.7 million rand (US$371,812) each. Another 79 won about 6,283 rand for guessing the sequence, but missing the PowerBall. Many perplexed players on Wednesday took to social media alleging the results has been fixed, while some called for a judicial graft probe. The National Lotteries Commission said the six consecutive number combination was unprecedented and vowed to look into the draw.
Mystery object a rocket
A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all, astronomers confirmed on Wednesday. Observations by a telescope in Hawaii clinched its identity, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said. The object was classified as an asteroid after its discovery in September, but NASA’s top asteroid expert, Paul Chodas, quickly suspected it was the Centaur upper rocket stage from Surveyor 2, a failed 1966 moon-landing mission. Chodas was proven right after a team led by the University of Arizona’s Vishnu Reddy used an infrared telescope in Hawaii to observe not only the mystery object, but a Centaur from 1971 still orbiting Earth. The data from the images matched. The object formally known as 2020 SO entered a wide, lopsided orbit around Earth last month and, on Tuesday, made its closest approach at 50,476km. It will depart the neighborhood in March, shooting back into its own orbit around the sun. Its next return: 2036.
New monolith appears
A new mystery metal monolith has appeared atop a mountain in California, just a week after a similar structure captured the imagination of the world when it was discovered in the deserts of Utah — before being taken down. The local newspaper in the small town of Atascadero reported that the silvery column had been found atop Pine mountain where dozens of local hikers made the trip to view it — and post their pictures on the Internet. “The three-sided obelisk appeared to be made of stainless steel, 10 feet [305cm] tall and 18 inches [46cm] wide. The object was welded together at each corner, with rivets attaching the side panels to a likely steel frame inside,” the Atascadero News reported. Unlike its Utah sibling — which was firmly mounted in the rocks where it was found — the Atascadero monolith was apparently a little wobbly and the newspaper reported that it might be possible to push it over.
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has fully vaccinated 90 percent of its eligible adult population within just seven days, the Bhutanese Ministry of Health said on Tuesday. The tiny country, wedged between India and China and home to nearly 800,000 people, began giving out second doses on Tuesday last week in a mass drive that has been hailed by the UN Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) as “arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic.” Bhutan grabbed headlines in April when its government said it had inoculated about the same percentage of eligible adults with the first dose
CAUSE FOR ALARM: The virus has spread through 14 provinces in just a few days despite high vaccination rates, as authorities ramp up containment measures China is confronting its broadest COVID-19 outbreak since the pathogen emerged in late 2019 after the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant broke through the country’s defenses, with cases now in 14 provinces. While the overall number of infections — more than 300 so far — is much lower than outbreaks elsewhere, the wide spread indicates that the variant has been on the loose for some time and is alarming officials who wield the strictest containment measures in the world. It is the biggest challenge for the world’s second-largest economy since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December
MISINFORMATION: The digital giant said there were ‘numerous’ offending videos that were removed from the channel, which has 1.85 million subscribers Sky News Australia has been banned from uploading content to YouTube for seven days after contravening its medical misinformation policies by posting numerous videos that denied the existence of COVID-19 or encouraged people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin. The ban was imposed by the digital giant on Thursday afternoon, the day after the UK’s Daily Telegraph ended Alan Jones’ regular column amid controversy about his COVID-19 commentary, which included calling the New South Wales Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant a village idiot on his Sky News program. YouTube has not disclosed which Sky News program the videos were from, but said there
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has appeared in the past few days with a bandage about the size of a few postage stamps on the back of his head, in the latest episode to stoke speculation about his health. The bandage was visible in state media images when Kim appeared at a Korean People’s Army event from July 24 to Tuesday last week, the NK News Web site and Chosun Ilbo newspaper said. There were also images at events late last month in which the bandage was gone and a greenish spot was visible, they said, citing a review of North