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An exceptionally rare watch worn by an American astronaut on the Moon which bears remnants of lunar material has sold for more than $1.6 million, a US auction house said Friday.

Dave Scott, the commander of the 1971 Apollo 15 mission, wore the Bulova Chronograph while conducting experiments on the Moon after his standard-issue Swiss Omega became damaged.

It is the only watch worn on the Moon in private hands and was bought by a Florida businessman in a frenetic, 12-minute bidding war with a rival in Britain, said Boston-based RR Auction.

It is also the only American-made watch worn on the Moon and its $1,625,000 price smashed the auction house's pre-sale estimates of $750,000 to $1 million.

It was exposed to the lunar surface for more than four hours, and bears remnants of chalky, ash-type lunar material on its band and scratches on its face, the auction house said.

"It's worth what it sold for," Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction, told AFP. The watch "played a major role in the safety of the mission," he added.

The dozen American men who have walked on the moon all wore NASA-issued Omega Speedmasters, which are considered US government property, and many are housed in institutions.

Omega won the contract to equip the Apollo program, bidding against five or six other companies, but Bulova was determined to get NASA to change their mind, testing their watch rigorously against the Speedmaster, Livingston said.

After he returned to the cabin following his second moonwalk, Scott saw that the crystal of his Omega had popped off, so for his third moonwalk, he strapped on his personal backup, the Bulova.

 

- Amazing scratches -

 

 

 

German automaker Daimler, constructor of the luxury Mercedes brand, on Thursday saw record unit sales on best ever quarterly earnings, lifting third-quarter operating profit by almost one third.

The strong sales showing indicated Daimler has so far managed to remain above the turbulence generated by the emissions-cheating scandal at troubled Volkswagen.

Net profit slid 15 percent on the same period last year to 2.4 billion euros ($2.39 billion), but factored into that were exceptional financial items and last year's one-billion-euro sale of Daimler's stake in a Rolls-Royce power systems unit.

The Stuttgart-based group said it sold 720,000 units -- 13 percent more than in the July-September period last year, lifting revenues to 37.3 billion euros and operating profits, or those earned from a firm's normal core business operations, by around one third to 3.6 billion euros -- beating analysts' forecasts of 3.4 billion.

Chairman Dieter Zetsche, said in a statement the results "speak for themselves".

"We achieved a return on sales of 10 percent in the automotive business in the third quarter, and proved once again that we are pursuing the right strategy and are progressing with the right products and technologies," he said.

Daimler said the group expected adjusted earnings before interest and tax from ongoing business to be significantly higher for the year as a whole than in 2014 even in a global market it saw as "heterogenous" for the coming months with Chinese demand notably on the slide as well as in Brazil and Russia.

The group said it believes that North America and Western Europe will in contrast make a "positive contribution" to its operations.

 

 

 

 

The European Union is expected to approve FedEx's 4.4-billion-euro ($4.8 billion) deal to buy Dutch rival TNT Express, a key tieup for the e-commerce delivery business, the companies said.

Brussels opened an investigation in July citing concerns the deal would lead to higher prices for consumers who are increasingly buying online and getting packages delivered directly to them.

"The internal deadline of the European Commission for issuing a Statement of Objections would have expired on 23 October 2015, but FedEx and TNT have been informed by the European Commission that no Statement of Objections will be issued," they said in a statement.

 

 

 

 

Hoverboards may have yet to make the leap from the "Back to the Future" movies to reality, but Austria's transport ministry has given them the green light anyway.

A ministry announcement on Tuesday -- a day before the day on which the plot of 1989's "Back to the Future II" unfolds, October 21, 2015 -- said hoverboards could be treated as "small off-road vehicles" that could be used "anywhere a skateboard is".

The ministry added that it wanted to provide users with "legal clarity" over the matter.

The only general restriction, as for skateboards, is that users must not "endanger passers-by or motor traffic".

But the ministry said more restrictive regulations would be needed for the Pit Bull hoverboard model featured in Back to the Future, which was powered by rockets.

Use of this model would require a pilot's certificate and flight authorisation, and a nautical permit if it was to be used on water.

 

 

 

Considered Mexico's prime villains, Donald Trump and fugitive drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman are Halloween stars in this country, with a company seeking to make a killing with masks of the infamous duo.

The latex mask with the Sinaloa cartel boss's signature mustache and a black-and-white striped prison uniform sell for $30 on the Internet and some shops in Mexico City.

Grupo Rev says it has already sold 2,000 Chapo disguises and is making another 1,700. The masks take an entire day to make at the factory in the central town of Jiutepec.

"There's a little bit of criticism but we are Mexicans and we find laughter in tragedy," Maria del Carmen Navarro, a Grupo Rev design engineer, told AFP.

 

 

 

An "intergalactic space ambassador", a man who believes he is Lucifer and a retired policeman who just wants his pension have announced bids for the Philippine presidency.

So-called "nuisance" candidates are a staple of the Southeast Asian nation's chaotic democracy, and dozens have again emerged during this week's registration period for next year's presidential elections.

Among them is Allan Carreon, who turned up at election headquarters in Manila with his title of "intergalactic space ambassador" emblazoned on his shirt and advising voters he was receiving wise counsel from aliens.

"The aliens have given me the will to run for president," Carreon told reporters.

One of his potential rivals is the heavily bearded Romeo John Ygonia who said he preferred to be called "Archangel Lucifer", adding that he was running on the orders of his "master".

Asked who his master was, he cryptically replied: "He is dwelling in my heart".

Another claiming divine intervention was Marita Arilla, 70, who said she was a retired school teacher with ambitions of turning the Republic of the Philippines into a monarchy for God.

"I run for president as an independent candidate bringing the banner of an absolute monarchy that is an unlimited power of God," Arilla told reporters.

Retired policeman Romeo Plasquita, 61, had more modest ambitions.

"I am not suited to run for president. I don't have money and I have no personality," he told reporters as he registered.

He said he was running because he had not received his pension for five years, and government officials had ignored his requests for help.

"They will pay attention to me (now) because I am a presidential candidate," he said.

 

 

European Union leaders will on Thursday try to thrash out solutions to the continent's spiralling migrant crisis and step up a diplomatic offensive aimed at winning Turkey's help in stemming the flow of Syrian refugees.

The summit will focus on working with countries outside Europe's borders to help tackle the worst crisis of its kind since World War II.

The leaders will also discuss creating a possible safe zone in the north of war-torn Syria.

The key issue will be efforts to get a reluctant Turkey's approval for an EU plan to assist it in hosting over two million refugees, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel heading to the country on Sunday for talks.

EU Vice-President Frans Timmermans and other senior officials meanwhile arrived in Turkey on Wednesday to push the government on the plan, having postponed their visit after deadly suicide attacks in Ankara at the weekend.

 

 

"An agreement with -- and concessions to -- Turkey only make sense if it effectively reduces the influx of migrants," European Council President Donald Tusk said as he prepared to host the summit.

European leaders hope that helping refugees inside Turkey, giving it money and aiding the country to strengthen its coastguard will discourage Syrian refugees from taking perilous sea and land routes into the continent.

- Syria, Russia -

But Turkey, whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Brussels last week, wants more cash and rejects proposals for more refugee camps. Erdogan also wants more EU cooperation for his fight against "terrorism", which is aimed both at Kurdish separatists and Islamic State jihadists.

Tusk, who visited Turkey and Jordan last month, said that the EU summit would also discuss "complex" issues "including (the) question of (a) safe zone in Syria. Turkey wants it. Russia is openly against."

Turkey has called for a safe area and no-fly zone in northern Syria that would be free from both Bashar al-Assad's forces and IS but EU countries are "sceptical", diplomats say, especially after Russia launched military action in Syria.

 

 

 

The first Democratic debate of the 2016 US presidential campaign kicked off Tuesday with frontrunner Hillary Clinton trying to draw a line under scandals that have chipped away at her support.

Here are some key moments in the debate:

- 'Will you say anything to get elected?' -

CNN moderator Anderson Cooper opened the debate with a tough question for Clinton about policy flip-flops and what she is willing to do to gain power, a topic that has dogged the former first lady, secretary of State and New York senator.

"I have always fought for the same values and principles, but like most human beings, including those of us who run for office, I do absorb new information, I do look at what's happening in the world," Clinton shot back, with a steel that would be seen throughout the evening.

- Barnstorming Bernie -

Bernie Sanders, Clinton's nearest rival in the polls, wasted no time in displaying his leftist chops, speaking in a tone that for America's conventional politics sounded uncompromising, bordering on revolutionary.

 

 

 

 

Cigarette smoking will kill about two million Chinese in 2030, double the 2010 toll, said researchers Friday who warned of a "growing epidemic of premature death" in the world's most populous nation.

On current trends, one in three young Chinese men will be killed by tobacco, the team wrote in The Lancet medical journal. Among women, though, there were fewer smokers and fewer deaths.

"About two-thirds of young Chinese men become cigarette smokers, and most start before they are 20. Unless they stop, about half of them will eventually be killed by their habit," said the article's co-author Zhengming Chen from Oxford University.

China consumes over a third of the world's cigarettes, and has a sixth of the global smoking death toll.

"The annual number of deaths in China that are caused by tobacco will rise from about one million in 2010 to two million in 2030 and three million in 2050, unless there is widespread cessation," the researchers wrote.

"Widespread smoking cessation offers China one of the most effective, and cost-effective, strategies to avoid disability and premature death over the next few decades."

The 2010 death toll was made up of some 840,000 men and 130,000 women in China, which has a population of about 1.4 billion.

Smokers have about twice the mortality rate of people who never smoked, with a higher risk of lung cancer, stroke and heart attack.

The proportion of deaths attributed to smoking among Chinese men aged 40-79 has doubled from about 10 percent in the early 1990s to 20 percent today, said the researchers.

- Women smoke less -

Among city dwellers the figure was even higher -- a quarter of all male deaths, and rising.

 

 

 

 

A rare grey pearl necklace that once belonged to a British aristocrat sold for HK$41 million ($5.27 million) in Hong Kong on Wednesday, auctioneers Sotheby's said.

The string of pearls was part of the collection of Viscountess Cowdray, Lady Pearson.

The buyer, a private collector from Hong Kong, made the winning bid by phone.

Viscountess Cowdray, who died in 1932, was famed for her collection of furniture and works of art, as well as jewellery. The pearls were first put up for auction in 1937.