Pepper robot ‘alive’ and well
Technology firm Softbank denies that it is pulling the plug on its friendly bubble-headed Pepper robot. “There is absolutely no change to our Pepper business,” Softbank Robotics spokesperson Ai Kitamura said yesterday. While production was halted temporarily, Kitamura denied reports setting off speculation that Pepper might be “killed.” The robot’s latest gig has involved computer programming education in schools. Experts say that locals have a soft spot for robots like Pepper, which look somewhat human and can appear to show emotion. The outpouring from Pepper fans showed that the robot has become a beloved icon, Kitamura said. “So many people said they would be sad if Pepper was gone,” she said.
Bali ferry sinks; seven dead
Rescuers were searching for 11 people still missing after a passenger ferry sank off the coast of Bali in rough seas, killing at least seven, authorities said yesterday. Dozens of survivors were on Tuesday evening plucked from the water after the KMP Yunicee, carrying 57 passengers and crew, went down near the Port of Gilimanuk. It had been traveling across a narrow strait from Java island. “We are still searching for the missing. Last night, the rescue was hampered by low visibility and high waves,” Bali National Search and Rescue Agency head Gede Darmada said. It was unclear what caused the accident.
Golden cat caught in images
Camera traps have captured images of a rare golden cat inside northeast Ratanakiri Province for the first time. The golden cat is listed as an endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List and there is little information on them. “The presence of the golden cat is rarely recorded because it is a rare species among the eight species of tigers,” Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said. The sightings of the cat, weighing about 9kg to 16kg, inside Virachey National Park were part of a three-month research project on wildlife aimed at better managing conservation work, the ministry said on Tuesday.
Ex-central banker charged
Former Reserve Bank of Malawi governor Dalitso Kabambe and three other former senior officials have been charged with four counts of financial impropriety, including money laundering, at a magistrates’ court in Lilongwe. Tuesday’s charges followed his arrest on Monday and came in the wake of a forensic audit by Deloitte, which showed that the central bank had made several irregular payments to firms linked to the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party, including to a local bank listed on the Malawi Stock Exchange. Kabambe, who has denied any wrongdoing, has not yet entered a plea.
IS claims suicide bombing
The Allied Democratic Forces, an affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group, on Tuesday claimed responsibility for two explosions in the eastern town of Beni, including the area’s first suicide bombing. On Sunday, a Ugandan man detonated explosives at a busy intersection and another explosion rocked a Catholic church, authorities said, urging residents to remain calm. News of the suicide bomber terrified many residents. “Here in Beni we have never seen such things,” Mumbere Mafuta said. “Today it is a bar, church and market. We don’t know if tomorrow it will be a school. May God help us.”
Reporters’ homes raided
Police on Tuesday questioned several investigative journalists and raided their apartments. Proyekt, one of Russia’s last remaining independent media firms specialising in in-depth investigations, said that police raided the homes of its chief editor, Roman Badanin, deputy editor Mikhail Rubin and reporter Maria Zholobova. All three were questioned later in the day, with police confiscating their computers and phones. The searches came ahead of the publication of an investigation into the alleged wealth of Minister of the Interior Vladimir Kolokoltsev, his son and other relatives, Proyekt said. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that there were “legal grounds” for such searches.
Cargo craft launched
An uncrewed Russian cargo ship yesterday blasted off on a mission to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. The Progress MS-17 lifted off atop a Soyuz rocket from the Russian space complex in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, at 4:27am. It was scheduled to dock at the station two days later, delivering food, fuel, equipment and supplies for its seven residents. The orbiting outpost is operated by NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur; Russians Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide; and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.
Delia Fiallo dies
Cuban screenwriter Delia Fiallo, widely seen as the “mother of the telenovela” and the writer behind international hits like the soap opera Crystal, died on Tuesday in Miami at the age of 96, her daughter-in-law said. A pioneer of the romantic soap operas in Latin America, Fiallo, whose career began in the middle of last century, said in an interview in 2018 that she wanted to be remembered “as a person who loved a lot and who was very loved.” Adored by her fans, Fiallo left her mark on Hispanic popular culture in the US in the second half of the 20th century. In all, she wrote more than 40 works for radio and television.
LA buys back fireworks
Los Angeles announced a fireworks buyback program that was to be held yesterday ahead of the July 4 holiday. The initiative was to make it possible to anonymously hand in fireworks — whose sale and use are banned in the city — to the police in exchange for baseball tickets and other gifts. The majority of California is under extreme drought conditions, according to the Drought Monitor, creating parched vegetation and conditions ripe for wildfires.
Couple fined over trees
A couple has been fined US$18,000 after uprooting 36 Joshua trees to make space for a home and then burying them in a hole. Authorities hope the fine discourages others from mowing down the crooked-limbed plant, which is an imperiled species being considered for protection under California’s endangered species act. Douglas Poston, a prosecutor in San Bernardino County, reportedly said that the couple thought that Joshua trees under a certain diameter could be taken down. The couple owns the lot and wanted to build a home there. However, “that’s not accurate, obviously,” the Los Angeles Times quoted Poston as saying. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a foot [30cm] tall or 20ft tall, it’s under that protection.”
UNCERTAINTY: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not specify measures NATO might take, but many believe that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project could be canceled The US has said it has evidence that Russia has made plans for a “large scale” attack on Ukraine and said NATO allies are “prepared to impose severe costs” on Moscow if it attempts an invasion. Speaking at a NATO ministers meeting in Latvia, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that it was unclear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin had made a decision to invade, but added: “He’s putting in place the capacity to do so in short order, should he so decide.” “So despite uncertainty about intention and timing, we must prepare for all contingencies while working to see to
‘TRAVEL APARTHEID’: Biden’s top medical adviser said the US was considering lifting restrictions on travel from African nations imposed after the variant was discovered The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is rapidly spreading throughout the US, but early indications suggest it might be less dangerous than the Delta variant, which continues to drive a surge of hospitalizations, US health officials said on Sunday. US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci told CNN’s State of the Union that scientists need more information before drawing conclusions about Omicron’s severity. Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest that hospitalization rates have not increased alarmingly. “Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Fauci
South African hospitals are bracing for a surge in admissions as the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 drives a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections and as more evidence emerges about the severity of the illness caused by the strain. The seven-day moving average of daily new cases in the country rose to 10,055 last week, from fewer than 300 three weeks earlier. Hospitalizations also picked up, but remain relatively low, with admissions standing at 3,268 on Sunday. Whether there would be a deluge of new patients is the biggest question. Severe symptoms in patients who contracted earlier variants typically developed between one and three
SURGE: South African infections increased to a record 3 million on Friday, data for the 24-hour period showed, with 16,055 bringing the cumulative total to 3,004,203 South Korea again broke its daily records for COVID-19 infections and deaths, and confirmed three more cases of the new Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 as officials scramble to tighten social distancing and border controls. The 5,352 new cases reported by the Seoul-based Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency yesterday marked the third time this week that the daily tally exceeded 5,000. The country’s death toll was at 3,809 after a record 70 people died in the most-recent 24-hour period of tallying, while the 752 people in serious or critical conditions were also an all-time high. Amid the Delta variant-driven surge, there is also