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|June 26-July 2, 2008
China evacuates 110,000
MOSCOW — The Chinese authorities are evacuating some 110,000 people from the Sichuan province, hit by a powerful earthquake in May, as aftershocks and floods continue to threaten the area, national media reported.
The death toll from the May 12 earthquake, measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale and the biggest to hit China in three decades, is nearing 70,000, with 17,000 people still missing.
“We are forced to begin the evacuation of over 110,000 inhabitants of Sichuan due to the serious threat of aftershocks and major floods,” a spokesman for the local authorities was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency.
Cost of quake: $70 billion
BEIJING — The cost to China’s economy from the devastating earthquake which hit southwest China in May could amount to $58-70 billion, a government think tank said in a report.
The report said, however, that the disaster is not expected to have a serious negative impact on the economic growth in the country, slowing it by 0.1 percent. But the cost of rebuilding in the affected regions could well boost growth by 0.4 percent, offsetting the losses and raising overall GDP by 0.3 percent.
China is the world’s fastest growing economy with 11.4 percent GDP growth or $3.46 trillion in 2007.
The country’s worst earthquake in 30 years claimed the lives of 69,172 people, but with more than 17,000 people still missing Chinese authorities expect the final toll to exceed 80,000.
According to official data, 373,500 people were injured in the quake, which affected more than 45.5 million people, with 1.5 million evacuated from the disaster zone.
Georgia denies spy drone flights
TBILISI, Georgia — Georgia’s Interior Ministry denied Abkhazia’s accusations that the country has resumed unmanned reconnaissance flights over the breakaway province.
Georgia officially suspended all reconnaissance flights over Abkhazia earlier this month, following criticism from the United Nations.
“Georgia will only resume flights if there is a necessity prompted by an increased military threat,” Shota Utiashvili, chief analyst at the ministry, said.
However, Abkhaz Defense Minister Merab Kishmariya told RIA Novosti: “Georgian drones still fly over the Kodori gorge, and they sometimes fly over the Gali district, along the security zone border. Georgian drones have never ceased flying over the area [the Kodori gorge].”
Ruslan Kishmariya, Abkhaz presidential envoy to the Gali district, confirmed that Georgian drones have continued to violate the province’s airspace. He said two planes were seen over the district, controlled by Russian peacekeepers.
Prosecutors finish murder probe
MOSCOW — Russian investigators said they had completed the investigation into the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya and filed formal charges against four suspects.
A spokesman for the Investigation Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office said three men were charged with involvement in the murder and a Federal Security Service (FSB) officer with abuse of office.
Colonel Pavel Ryaguzov was suspected of giving the killers Politkovskaya’s address.
The journalist was gunned down in the entranceway of her Moscow apartment building in October 2006.
Vladimir Markin said a separate probe had been launched against the man suspected of carrying out the shooting. Investigators earlier said he remained at large.
Markin said accusations against another suspect in the murder — Shamil Burayev, former head of Chechnya’s western Achkhoi-Martan district — were dropped due to lack of evidence.
Markin said the case file would now be made available to Politkovskaya’s son, and then to the defendants.
Politkovskaya gained international recognition for her criticism of the Kremlin and reports of military atrocities against civilians in the troubled Caucasus republic of Chechnya.
Man sets record for watching movies
NEW DELHI — A man in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has set a world record for watching movies non-stop for 120 hours, the Asian Age reported.
Ashish Sharma from Mathura city watched more than 48 Hindi films over a period of five days, breaking the previous record of 117 hours and four minutes set by a German woman, Claudia Wavra.
Each movie lasted around 90 minutes, and Ashish was permitted a 10 minute rest after each film. He was checked by a doctor, approved by the Guinness Book of World Records, every four hours.
At least 31 dead in coal mine blast
BEIJING — The death toll from a coal mine blast in north China’s Shanxi province has risen to 31, and the search for the three miners is continuing, Xinhua news agency reported.
The blast in the Anxin mine in the city of Xiaoyi occurred last Friday, June 13, when 58 people were working underground. Fifteen workers managed to escape, and another nine were saved by rescuers.
China’s coal mining industry is considered the world’s most dangerous with more than 3,000 people killed each year in fires, floods, explosions and rockfalls. The deadliest accidents usually occur in small privately-owned mines in autumn and winter as owners increase coal production during the winter season.
Monument to enema unveiled
STAVROPOL, Russia — The world’s first monument unusually dedicated to enema treatments has been unveiled at a health center in the southern Russia’s town of Zheleznovodsk.
“As gastroenterology is the main treatment area at the Zheleznovodsk spa center, it was decided to create such a unique monument, which is both funny and vital,” said Alexander Kharchenko, the director of the center.
The 1.5 meter-high bronze sculpture, weighing 350 kilograms (771.6 pounds), portrays “three angel-like children carrying above their heads a big pear-like enema,” the center director said.
The initiative to erect the sculpture was proposed by the center’s administration, where hundreds of similar procedures are carried out every day. An enema is primarily a medical procedure involving the injection of fluid into the rectum to clear out a patient’s bowel.
The monument is a symbol of most health centers around the Caucasus Mineral Waters, a renowned Russian spa resort, providing enemas as part of medical treatment for stomach problems, Kharchenko said.
Norway to dismantle Russian subs
MOSCOW — Norway has allocated $6.2 million to dismantle Russia’s decommissioned nuclear submarines in the northern Murmansk Region, Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear corporation said.
A contract between the Nerpa shipyard and Ramboll Storvik AS was signed in the Norwegian consulate in Murmansk.
Single reactor compartments from decommissioned nuclear submarines will be stored in an onshore dry storage facility in Saida Bay not far from the shipyard. The project is designed to last a year.
Russian company in Silicon Valley
MOSCOW — The Russian Web search company Yandex is to open a subsidiary — Yandex Laboratories — in the U.S.’s Silicon Valley, the company said in a press release.
It said Yandex Laboratories would be headed by Vish Makhijani, a former Yahoo executive.
Yandex, Russia’s most popular Internet search resource, has reportedly been valued at $5 billion for an initial public offering at the
U.S. Nasdaq trading floor in the fall. Yandex intends to float $1.5-2 billion worth of stock.
Yandex has mandated Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and Renaissance Capital to organize the share offering, the Russian Vedomosti business paper said last month.
According to the paper, Yandex is the world’s second most popular non-English-language search vehicle after China’s Baidu.
Traffic police on skateboards
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Traffic police on skateboards will began patrolling the Indonesian capital from July 1, the Koran Tempo newspaper reported.
The city’s traffic police chief, Dua Sutirto, said police had hired a professional skateboarder to teach a team of 20 young police officers. He believes that skateboards will be able to get traffic police to any congested road in Jakarta much faster than cars or motorbikes.
Jakarta is one of Asia’s most congested cities. Carpooling measures, restricted access to downtown areas, and the creation of dedicated bus lanes have already proved largely ineffective in the battle against traffic jams.
Python found in toilet
AUCKLAND, New Zealand — A 6-foot-long black-headed python has been found in a toilet on the 10th floor of an apartment block in Darwin, in northern Australia, national media reported.
The snake, likely a runaway pet, had apparently been traveling through sewer pipes before popping up in the toilet.
“When I saw it I was pretty shocked,” reptile catcher Chris Peberdy told the Northern Territory, after being called by a terrified resident. “It would certainly scare you if it came up from the depths of the toilet.”
“There is no possible other way it could have got there than through the toilet. I had to give him a wash because he was wet and a bit smelly,” Peberdy said.
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