- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006


Warming blamed for deadly weather

BEIJING — China experienced some of its deadliest weather in years in 2006, and climate specialists expect extreme conditions to continue, the state news agency reported. Typhoons, floods and drought killed 2,704 persons and inflicted economic losses equal to $27 billion this year, the highest losses in nearly a decade, Xinhua news agency said.

“The losses China suffered this year were second only to those inflicted in 1998, when an extremely severe flood ravaged the country,” said Qin Dahe, director of the China Meteorological Administration, quoted by Xinhua.

China’s first national climate-change assessment predicted this week that the country will face rising temperatures and more extreme weather in coming years as global warming increases. Mr. Qin said the intensity of the weather and the damage caused this year are rare.


Bird flu outbreak kills 450 ducklings

HANOI — Bird flu killed about 450 ducklings in Vietnam this week as the virus jumped to a third southern province, animal health authorities said yesterday.

The outbreak appeared in two communes in Hau Giang province, said Nguyen Ba Thanh, director of the Can Tho regional animal health department. Vietnam and the United Nations began a public-awareness campaign last week on the risk of the H5N1 virus in the winter months leading to the Tet Lunar New Year’s festival in mid-February, when poultry consumption usually rises.

The government has reported no new human cases of the disease since November 2005. The flu killed 42 persons in Vietnam between 2003 and 2005, but new animal outbreaks were reported in three provinces in the past week. Epidemiologists say the H5N1 virus could trigger a global pandemic if it becomes transmitted easily among humans.


Australian ousted as ‘undesirable’

HONIARA — The Solomon Islands government has reopened its diplomatic dispute with Canberra by effectively throwing out its Australian police commissioner as an “undesirable immigrant.”

Relations have been strained since September when Canberra’s high commissioner, or ambassador, was expelled from Honiara and Australia tried to extradite the Solomons’ attorney general on child-sex charges.

Patteson Oti, the Solomons’ foreign affairs minister, gave no reason for the effective expulsion of police Commissioner Shane Castles, who is in Australia on leave. “Diplomats who are deemed persona non grata and non-diplomats who fall within the category of ‘prohibited immigrants’ can be lawfully excluded from our country at any time,” Mr. Oti said.

Weekly notes …

Pregnant women who eat fish more than three times a week could be putting their babies at risk because of higher mercury levels in their blood, according to a study by researchers in Taiwan. Expectant Chinese mothers tend to eat more fish, thinking it is healthier than red or white meat. A study of 65 pregnant women in Taipei found mercury concentrations of about 9.1 micrograms per liter in their blood and about 10 micrograms per liter in blood in their umbilical cords — levels far above those considered safe, the researchers wrote in a paper to be published in January in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. … Japan will push for closer ties with NATO when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels early next month, seeking to play a bigger role in global security affairs. Mr. Abe is to visit NATO on Jan. 12, the first visit by a Japanese leader, and deliver a speech to the North Atlantic Council as part of a European tour.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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