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World Scene

- - Tuesday, August 10, 2010

SWITZERLAND

WHO declares end of swine flu pandemic

GENEVA | The World Health Organization acknowledged Tuesday that the swine flu pandemic is finally over, long after many national authorities started canceling vaccine orders and shutting down telephone hot lines as the disease ebbed from the headlines.

The official death toll — once predicted to be in the millions — reached 18,449 last week, and WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said she agreed with experts that swine flu has "largely run its course."

WHO received at least $170 million from member states to deal with the outbreak, some of which was invested in immunization programs long after the A (H1N1) strain was known to provoke only mild illness in most of those infected. Governments spent many times that amount buying vaccines and antiviral medicines that are now being junked.

UNITED KINGDOM

Lawmakers demand al-Megrahi files

LONDON | Scottish lawmakers are demanding that their government publish full details of the medical advice that led to the release from prison of the Lockerbie bomber almost a year ago.

Opposition Labor Party legislators are calling for the prognosis given on Abdel Baset al-Megrahi's health before he was freed on compassionate grounds.

The decision to release al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison has stirred anger in the United States and prompted U.S. senators to begin an investigation into the decision.

Al-Megrahi is the only person to have been convicted for the 1988 bombing of a jetliner above the small Scottish town of Lockerbie, which killed 259 people — mostly Americans — on the plane and 11 on the ground.

CHINA

Landslide death toll tops 700

ZHOUQU | The death toll from landslides in northwestern China more than doubled to 702 on Tuesday, as rescue crews in three Asian countries struggled to reach survivors from flooding that has imperiled millions.

Rescuers digging by hand through mud found a 52-year-old man who had been trapped for more than 50 hours inside a leveled apartment building in the remote town of Zhouqu, where more than 1,000 other people were still listed as missing. Rescuers with sniffer dogs discovered the man, Liu Ma Shindan, who was weak but breathing normally.

The disaster in China's Gansu province was caused when a debris-blocked swollen river burst, swamping entire mountain villages in the county seat of Zhouqu.

SUDAN

North, south leaders meet on referendum

KHARTOUM | Northern and southern Sudanese leaders resumed negotiations on Tuesday on the ramifications of southern independence early next year, such as the distribution of oil wealth.

South Sudan, home to much of the country's proven oil reserves, is set to hold an independence referendum in January as part of a peace agreement that ended two decades of civil war in 2005.

The first round of talks between the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement and the ruling National Congress Party began on July 20.

The talks center on four points: citizenship, security, the economy and the sharing of oil revenues. They are meant to ensure a peaceful conclusion to the vote.

Under the 2005 peace agreement, the south is entitled to 50 percent of the wealth despite sitting on most of the reserves.

INDIA

Oil leak plugged on damaged ship

MUMBAI | A fuel leak has been plugged in a container ship that struck another cargo vessel and spewed 500 tons of oil into the Arabian Sea, India's government said Tuesday.

But the principal port of Mumbai — India's economic hub — will remain closed until at least Wednesday because of the nearby spill and the 300 cargo containers that fell off the ship and pose a navigational hazard, the Defense Ministry said.

The Panamanian-registered MSC Chitra smashed into the St. Kitts-registered MV-Khalijia-II near Jawaharlal Nehru port Saturday. The MSC Chitra ran aground and has been listing heavily. Its fuel and lubricants spilled into the sea.

MONTENEGRO

Citizenship offered to big investors

PODGORICA | Montenegro will offer citizenship to people who invest more than $662,650 in the tiny Balkan country, the government said Tuesday.

The "economic citizenship program" is designed to attract businessmen to move their companies to Montenegro, which has a population of 600,000, the government said on an official website.

The government said the move underscores Montenegro's openness to foreign investment.

But opponents criticized the government idea. Opposition leader Nebojsa Medojevic contended it would "only attract tycoons and corrupt politicians on the run" and undermine Montenegro's credibility abroad.

From wire dispatches and staff reports