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|May 15-21, 2008
Virus claims 28 children
BEIJING — The number of children who have died in China of complications caused by hand, foot and mouth disease has climbed to 28, with all the victims being under the age of 6, the Xinhua news agency said.
The number of infected children has also risen by around 4,000, to almost 16,000. The majority of the infected are under two years of age.
Enterovirus 71 and Coxsackievirus, major causative agents for hand, foot and mouth disease, are being blamed for the epidemic.
Though the death rate from the enterovirus itself is quite low, it can cause a number of severe complications depending on the age of the patient, such as polio and meningitis.
The virus has since spread across China with the two new deaths reported in the central province of Hunan and southwest Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Soviets don’t trust U.S. promises
MOSCOW — Promises made by U.S. leaders cannot be trusted, former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.
“The Americans promised that NATO wouldn’t move beyond the boundaries of Germany after the Cold War, but now half of central and eastern Europe are members, so what happened to their promises? It shows they cannot be trusted,” he said in Paris.
He also said that Washington’s claims that a missile defense system it is planning to build in central Europe was aimed exclusively at countering the threat from so-called rogue states could not be believed.
Plans to end bride abductions
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — Religious leaders in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Chechnya plan to eradicate a century-old tradition of bride abductions, the republic’s chief mufti said.
“Abductions of brides contradict the norms of Shariah law and the traditions and customs of the Chechen people,” Sultan Mirzayev said, adding that the tradition should be abolished.
Bride abductions have been reported throughout the Caucasus region, including in the republics of Chechnya, Daghestan and Ingushetia, as well as in the former Soviet states of Georgia and Armenia.
Cow and bull married in India
NEW DELHI — A remote village in northwest India hosted a solemn marriage ceremony between a cow and a bull, the Indo-Asian news service said.
Hundreds of residents of a village in Rajasthan attended the unusual wedding, which included the “chanting of hymns and rituals, as well as music and sweets,” the agency said. The owners of the animals played the role of parents to the four-legged bride and groom.
A priest at a local temple said similar weddings used to be quite common. Marriages between holy animals are believed to bring good luck and wealth.
Suspect released in murder case
MOSCOW — The Moscow City Court released from custody Magomed Dimelkhanov, a suspect in the 2006 murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
The Basmanny court had earlier remanded Dimelkhanov in custody until the end of August. He was released on the condition that he remain in Russia.
“Dimelkhanov was released on the condition that he remain in Russia, as he did not take an active part in the murder,” a prosecutor said.
Of nine suspects in the murder case, seven are in custody.
Another suspect, Kyrgyz national Rustam Makhmudov, has become the subject of an international manhunt, a spokesman for the investigation committee at the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office said.
“Rustam Makhmudov has been placed on an international wanted list,” Vladimir Markin said.
Russia’s top prosecutors announced in late March that Politkovskaya’s killer had been identified and placed on the country’s “most wanted” list.
Politkovskaya, who gained international recognition for her criticism of the Kremlin and reports of military atrocities against civilians in the troubled Caucasus republic of Chechnya, was gunned down in the entranceway of her Moscow apartment building in October 2006.
Russia remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries for reporters. According to data from the international organization Reporters Without Borders, 21 journalists were murdered in Russia between 2000 and 2007.
CIS countries protest vandalism
VIENNA — Embassies of the CIS countries in Austria sent a protest note to the Austrian Foreign Ministry over an act of vandalism recently committed at a Red Army monument in Vienna, a Russian diplomatic source said.
A group of unidentified hooligans sprayed the monument at the Schwarzenbergplatz in the center of the Austrian capital with black paint.
The protest note demands that the incident be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators be brought to justice. The document expresses the hope that Austrian authorities will do everything possible to prevent such incidents in the future.
Russia informed the Austrian Interior Ministry about the incident shortly after the crime was discovered.
Austrian police responded immediately and had the monument cleaned within an hour and a half after being informed by Russia.
Defense minister denies war plans
TBILISI, Georgia — Georgia’s defense minister denied that the country planned to wage war against its breakaway republics of
Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“We are not going to attack or start a war against anyone,” David Kezerashvili told Russian journalists. “I do not think Georgia looks like a country that has gone mad and suddenly decided to wage a war against Russia.”
Tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi have escalated rapidly since Russia’s Vladimir Putin called for closer ties between Moscow and Abkhazia and South Ossetia in mid-April.
Kezerashvili said Georgia’s armed forces were currently deployed at their bases, adding that Tbilisi was not increasing troops near the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zones.
Russian sets world record
MOSCOW — Russia’s Denis Nizhegorodov set a world record in the 50 km walk by covering the distance in three hours, 34 minutes and 13 seconds at the World Race Walking Cup.
The 27-year-old Russian athlete, the holder of the silver medal in the 50 km walk at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, bettered the time set by Australian Nathan Deakes in 2006 (3:35:47).
Bus veered off mountain road
NEW DELHI — A bus carrying more than 40 passengers veered off a mountain road in north India and fell into a river, killing at least 15 people, the IANS news agency reported.
The bus was rounding a curve when the driver apparently lost control and the vehicle plummeted 400 feet into the Chenab River in India’s northern state of Jammu and Kashmir.
“The bodies of 15 people have been recovered by police and army teams,” a local policeman told the agency, adding that only four passengers had so far been discovered alive.
Rare paintings arrive in Moscow
MOSCOW — A special flight has delivered a collection of rare Pre-Raphaelite paintings for an exhibition at Moscow’s Tretyakov State Gallery, a spokesman for Christie’s London auction house said.
The exhibition, “The Art of Pre-Raphaelites and Russian paintings”, which will showcase 22 canvases, is scheduled to take place on May 14-20.
“The average insurance value of the exhibition is estimated at $70 million,” the source said.
The exhibition includes 13 Pre-Raphaelite works, including canvases by John William Waterhouse, Frederick Leighton, James Tissot, Albert Moore, Frank Dicksee, John Everett Millais and Lawrence Alma-Tadema.
Cattle methane emissions taxed
TALLINN, Estonia — Estonian farmers have received tax notices for methane emissions from their cattle, the country’s opposition party, the People’s Union of Estonia, said.
Livestock produce large quantities of methane gas through belching and flatulence when they digest grass, which accounts for about 15-25 percent of overall gas emissions, according to different estimates.
A single cow produces on average 350 liters of methane and 1,500 liters of carbon dioxide per day.
No other EU country imposes a flatulence tax on farmers.
Fifth Georgian drone downed
MOSCOW — Georgia’s breakaway republic of Abkhazia has shot down a Georgian surveillance drone, the fifth since the beginning of the year, the defense minister said.
“We downed another [Georgian] drone over the village of Gudava in the Ochamchir district,” Merab Kishmaria said.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili immediately denied the report.
“I have just spoken with the [Georgian] defense minister,” Saakashvili told reporters. “No plane has been downed.”
Abkhazia earlier claimed its air defenses had shot down four Georgian surveillance drones this year, two on March 18 and April 20, and two on May 4.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry called Abkhazia’s claims “absurd,” and said they were aimed at escalating tensions in the region.
On April 20, Georgia accused Russia of shooting down an unmanned reconnaissance plane over Abkhazia, a claim Russia flatly denied, calling the video footage provided by Georgia a fake.
Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have drastically deteriorated since the Kremlin called for closer ties between Moscow and the two Georgian breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in mid-April.
Moscow has increased the number of Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia to around 3,000 from 2,000, but said the rise was within the limits of agreements on troop numbers signed by the Georgian leadership.
Doomsday sect still holed up
PENZA, Russia — Russia’s doomsday sect members, still holed up in a dugout in the country’s central Penza Region, have excavated a well after an earlier reported cave-in, local officials said.
The well, which the cave dwellers dug prior to going underground in November, had served as the only water source until the cave’s roof collapsed last month following heavy rain. The rain also partially destroyed the entrance to the dugout.
The nine sect members, who are still in the cave, communicate with local authorities through messages in which they discuss “issues of a domestic and religious character,” and start singing when asked other questions, the official added.
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