UK News

Culture

 

British Queen celebrates

World News

 

 

Closing in on his 104th birthday, a twinkle-toed Japanese sprinter has thrown down the challenge to the world's fastest man Usain Bolt, telling him: "let's rumble!"

Hidekichi Miyazaki -- who holds the 100 metres world record for centenarians at 29.83 seconds and is dubbed 'Golden Bolt' after the Jamaican flyer -- plans to wait another five years for his dream race and was happy to reveal his secret weapon: his daughter's tangerine jam.

"I'd love to race Bolt," the wispy-haired Miyazaki told AFP in an interview after tottering over the line with a joyful whoop at a recent Japan Masters Athletics competition in Kyoto.

"I'm keeping the dream alive. I try to stay in top shape and stay disciplined and healthy. That's important for everyone -- even Usain Bolt."

Born in 1910 -- the year Japan annexed Korea and when the Titanic was still under construction -- the pint-sized Miyazaki offered some dietary tips to Bolt, whose world record is 9.58 seconds.

 

 

 

"My body is small so I take care of what I eat," said Miyazaki, who stands just 1.53 metres (five feet) tall and weighs in at 42 kilograms (92 pounds).

"When I eat, I chew each mouthful 30 times before swallowing," he added, loosening his Usain Bolt running shoes. "That makes my tummy happy and helps my running. And I eat my tangerine jam every day."

In a country with one of the world's highest life expectancies, Miyazaki is the poster boy for Japan's turbo-charged geriatrics.

Some 6,000 pensioners are registered at the Masters federation which hosts more than 40 track and field meetings every year across the nation.

Serenaded by buzzing cicadas in sweltering heat, Miyazaki fell into the arms of 73-year-old daughter Kiyono after clocking 38.35 -- more than 20 seconds behind race winner Yoshio Kita, a relative spring chicken at 82.

"I'd give myself five out of 10 for that," he said after regaining his breath and copying Bolt's trademark 'lightning' pose. "Before I ran I curled up for a little nap -- big mistake! I felt stiff.

"I'm still young so it's a learning process," joked Miyazaki, grinning from ear to ear as he put on a straw hat. "I can run for another five years."

 

 

 

Miyazaki, who hails from tea-growing Shizuoka prefecture, about 200 kilometres southwest of Tokyo, was a late bloomer, only taking up running at the age of 92 after watching an old people's sports day broadcast on television.

Having become the planet's fastest centenarian in 2010, he now has his sights on another milestone in the unlikely 105-109 age group category.

"That's what I'm training for," said Miyazaki, who loses valuable seconds at the start of races because he can't hear the gun go off.

"It's my birthday next month and that's my next goal."

He need only cross the finish line to set the new world record as no official mark exists in that age class.

 

 

As Miyazaki left the track, 85-year-old Mitsue Tsuji tossed a shot put 4.73 metres -- this after she had set a mark of 2.07 metres in the long jump. Not content, she set a meet

 

 

 

With the setting sun glittering on the Hudson, nearly 5,000 people turned out Monday for the fourth edition of "Diner en blanc" (Dinner in White), dressed to the nines.

In what amounts to a flashmob sunset picnic, diners get details of the event with virtually no notice, and turn up all in white -- even bringing chairs.

This year, the surprise locale was Nelson Rockefeller Park, in Manhattan, with its enviable river view. As it is every year, the location was kept secret until minutes before organizers announced it.

Guests, who register in advance, turned out with tables, chairs, tableware -- all in white.

The tradition dates back to an original event 26 years ago in Paris at which the organizer invited guests to all wear white so they would be easily spotted in a park.

The weather was more than cooperative. The music was more than a soupcon French, with tunes from Edith Piaf, to Michel Fugain and Joe Dassin.

Guests often get a little whimsical in their dress, with massive hats, masks, feathers and the odd huge string of pearls.

This year, there was sushi, charcuterie, salads, salmon, a cheese plate and champagne before dancing.

 

 

 

 

Friends, relatives and colleagues have paid tribute to American journalist James Foley, executed by Islamic State jihadists, with his parents praising their "fearless" son.

Condolences and shocked messages poured in after the Islamist group released a video of Foley's beheading late Tuesday, including from French journalists who revealed they had been held alongside him in the past year.

Foley, 40, had been missing since he was seized in Syria in November 2012.

"We're very proud of him. He was a courageous, fearless journalist, a very compassionate American. He was just a hero," Foley's mother Diane told reporters outside their New Hampshire home.

"It haunts me, how much pain he was in and how cruel this method of execution is as opposed to so many others," said his father John. "We believe he was a martyr, a martyr for freedom."

French journalists Didier Francois and Nicolas Henin, who were released by Syrian jihadists earlier this year, revealed on Wednesday they had been held alongside Foley.

 

 

 

"He was an extraordinary guy, an extremely nice companion in detention, very solid," said Francois of Europe 1 radio, who was held with Foley from October 2013 until his release in April.

"This was someone who never fully submitted to the kidnappers. He was always thinking of others during the whole detention, notably asking for food for everyone."

Henin of L'Express magazine said Foley had faced particular abuse from their jailers because he was American and his brother is in the US air force.

"He was a guy of great bravery," said Henin. "He became the whipping-boy of the jailers ... but remained unperturbed."

 

 

On Twitter, fellow journalists implored users not to view the graphic video of the execution, instead sharing images of Foley in the field.

Dick Costolo, Twitter's CEO, wrote: "We have been and are actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery."

In the nearly five-minute video, titled "A Message to America" and distributed online by known Islamic State sources, the group declares that Foley was killed after Obama ordered air strikes against IS positions in northern Iraq.

Thousands posted messages of sorrow on the Facebook site Free James Foley, while US President Barack Obama said the entire world was appalled by the execution.

"No just god would stand for what they did yesterday," he said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the murder was "brutal and barbaric".

 

It was "increasingly likely" that a British jihadist had carried out the killing, Cameron said, adding that "far too many" Britons had travelled to the region to take part in extremism.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expressed its deep shock at "the appalling beheading."

"This horrifying and cowardly killing of an unarmed man is another call for action to protect journalists and civilians who are brutally targeted by armed groups and terrorists" said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President.

 

 

‘Green little men’ could use KGB’s caches to seize the territories of East European countries. ‘Green little men’, which, according to some well-known Russian politicians, will arrive in Baltic countires and Eastern Europe to seize administrative buildings and to hold ‘referendums’ using the Soviet army caches created by the agency during the ‘cold war’.  This was reported today by the ukrainian news agency Ridnyi Krai (Motherland).

Recently a number of Russian politicians, including GosDuma vice-speaker Vladimir Jirinovskiy, have openly stated that the Kremlin has plans to take over Baltics, Poland and other regions of Eastern Europe.

Apparently the Russians will again use their XXI century know-how– the method of war when unidentifiable Russian speaking armed forces will invade a country yet they will deny any affiliation to the Russian army.

They will hold a referendum, the results of which will be immediately hidden from the public and in a week’s time they will announce the territory to be joining the Russian Federation.

Given the fact that military crossing of the Eastern European border could prove rather difficult, Moscow may activate ‘the Plan B’ using the army caches full of weapons created in the last decades of XX century by soviet agents operating in West and East European countries.

The information about these caches have become public lately following the publication of Mitrohin’s archives in Cambridge last summer.

 

 

Africans have long used technology developed abroad, but now a Kenyan cash transfer network which bypasses banks is being adopted in Europe.

The M-Pesa mobile money transfer system which allows clients to send cash with their telephones has transformed how business is done in east Africa, and is now spreading to Romania.

"From east Africa to eastern Europe, that's quite phenomenal when you think about it," Michael Joseph, who heads Vodafone's Mobile Money business, told AFP in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

"I think that this is something the rest of the world can look at, to say that there are ideas that can emanate out of the developing world, and take it to the developed world."

M-Pesa -- or "mobile money" in east Africa's Swahili language -- was introduced in Kenya in 2007 by Safaricom, the country's largest mobile telecommunications company, in partnership with British giant Vodafone.

Since then the service has grown exponentially, with about $40 billion (30 billion euros) flowing through the service in Kenya alone.

In Kenya, the system has become a part of daily life, with more than 18 million customers, and is used by almost two-thirds of the population with more than eight million transactions daily.

The network allows customers to bypass the traditional banking system, using an application available on the simplest of mobile phones to pay utility bills, buy a drink in a bar, or send cash to family and friends.

 

 

Romania is the latest nation Vodafone is tapping, with its first European launch last March.

For Michi Carstoiu, an engineer in the capital Bucharest, M-Pesa complements established online payment services.

"Most importantly, I save time - plus I think the transaction fees are smaller," Carstoiu told AFP, shortly after activating his mobile phone account at one of the 1,000 outlets already open.

The number of distribution points is expected to triple by the end of the year.

"Everyone has a mobile phone, and it is very simple to send and receive money or make payments," he added.

Users can charge up their phones by paying in cash at mobile-money agency points, and often at one of the points where they are doing a transaction.

Similarly they can withdraw cash against mobile-money credits at an agency, or when settling a bill, much in the same way as customers in Europe can obtain cash at some supermarkets when using bank cash cards.

Agents are often found in the form of shops or street kiosks.

The outstanding credit can be sent via a special text message to others for a small transaction fee.

African countries using the system include Egypt, Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania, and it has also been rolled out in India.

A savings version has been set up as well, allowing those without access to formal banking systems to earn interest on their savings.

The scheme has largely succeeded in Kenya because it meets the needs of millions of people without a bank account who would otherwise operate strictly within a cash economy.

They benefit from a network of M-Pesa agents spread across the country.

 

 

 

The only sounds in the abandoned Liberian village were the cries of a little girl, shut up with her mother's body inside the family home, starving and thirsty as she waited for death.

Eventually even the girl -- 12-year-old Fatu Sherrif -- fell silent as she too succumbed to the deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging her country and other parts of west Africa.

When AFP visited Fatu's village of Ballajah on Sunday, she had been locked away with her mother's body for a week after most residents fled to the forest to escape an outbreak of the virus.

Belongings lay abandoned around the village, the doors of some homes left open by those rushing to leave.

A few villagers remained, including Momoh Wile, a septuagenarian local chief, who told AFP Fatu's harrowing story.

Ballajah, some 150 kilometres (90 miles) from the Liberian capital Monrovia, is at the heart of one of the quarantine zones established in the country in a desperate bid to try to contain the spread of the disease.

More than 1,000 people in west Africa are now believed to have died from Ebola since the start of the year. In Liberia alone, some 599 cases have been diagnosed, with 323 deaths.

 

 

 

 

Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces are coordinating a counter-offensive against jihadists around the Iraqi city of Mosul with Kurdish fighters from Syria and Turkey, a political leader said on Wednesday.

 

 

 

 

Surrounded by glittering waters, Rwanda's remote Iwawa island appears idyllic, but it has housed thousands of drug users, as well as reputedly those the authoritarian government deems unsuitable for society.

Isaac Mugange was an alcoholic and heavy smoker of cannabis, but the 24-year computer technician was sent to the Iwawa Rehabilitation and Vocational Training Centre, a tiny island in the vast waters of Lake Kivu, to wean himself off drugs.

"A family council decided to send me here to rehabilitation, and I agreed," said the young man, who comes from a wealthy background. His large eyes are still reddened by years of abuse.

The jungle-clad island ringed by beaches could appear at times like a holiday camp.

But it has a darker reputation: on the mainland, Iwawa is spoken of by some as a "Guantanamo" or "Alcatraz", a reference to the infamous US prisons.

Critics say Iwawa, officially set up to help drug addicts, also houses beggars, homeless people, street children and petty criminals -- or anyone who might taint the clean image Rwanda seeks to promote.

Rwanda's tough leaders have sought to rebuild a society left in ruins after the 1994 genocide, pouring energy into creating an orderly nation with smooth roads, efficient administration and tight security -- efforts that critics say can also go too far, suppressing dissent.

 

Like nearly 2,000 others aged between 18 and 35, Mugange spent a year on the island some 28 kilometres (17 miles) from the mainland of southwestern Rwanda. After six months attending sessions with a psychologist, he is now learning carpentry.

Rwandan authorities insist it is a drug detox and rehabilitation centre, not a detention island or prison.

"This centre is a training school that helps youths, first to get rid of drugs, but also to develop professional skills that can help them earn a living... and become a solution for the government rather than a burden," said Servilien Bizimana, deputy director of the centre.

In a workshop nearby, Mugange and 20 companions cut and sand down wood. Behind a basketball court, dozens of youths sitting under shade trees listen to lessons on hygiene.

Others wait at the health centre to be circumcised, as part of a government program aimed to reduce the risk of AIDS.

The centre's leaders insist all residents are on the island voluntarily.

While the government "reserves the right to help the addicts" by sending them to Iwawa, centre coordinator Nicolas Niyongabo said they are all still free to leave the island if they wish.

 

 

 

But in Rwanda's capital Kigali, one former resident insists that several escape attempts resulted in drowning. The centre's management says two people drowned due to swimming accidents in 2013.

On the island, Olivier, a man in his 30s, admits to being a drug addict and alcoholic.

"I was arrested by police in Kigali. I was drunk and I didn't have my papers," he said, sitting at a sewing machine.

"I want so much to go to Kigali... my wife does not know where I have been for the past five months, because I do not know the phone number."

Centre residents are allowed to make telephone calls and receive visits, but many families are not informed when their relatives are sent to the island, often on simple administrative orders without legal processes.

 

 

 

 

Daily, long-term doses of aspirin can slash the risk of cancer of the digestive tract, according to research published on Wednesday.

Aspirin greatly reduces the risk of developing and dying from bowel, stomach and oesophageal cancer, its authors said.

They found that taking aspirin for 10 years could cut bowel cancer cases by around 35 percent and deaths by 40 percent.

Rates of oesophageal and stomach cancers were cut by 30 percent and deaths from these cancers by 35-50 percent.

To gain these benefits meant people had to start taking a daily dose of 75-100 mg for at least five years and probably 10 years between the ages of 50 and 65.

No benefit was seen while they took aspirin for the first three years, and death rates were only reduced after five years.

Aspirin has long been considered to be a boost in the fight against cardiovascular disease and has also been investigated for reputed anti-cancer effects.

This is the first to throw up broad evidence that it can be a shield against these types of cancer, the scientists said.

The study, published in the European cancer journal Annals of Oncology, was led by Jack Cuzick, a professor at the the Centre for Cancer Prevention at Queen Mary University of London.

It looked at more than 200 clinical trials and other studies that explored aspirin's anti-cancer effects.

“Our study shows that if everyone aged between 50-65 started taking aspirin daily for at least 10 years, there would be a nine-percent reduction in the number of cancers, strokes and heart attacks overall in men and around seven percent in women," Cuzick said in a press release.

"The total number of deaths from any cause would also be lower, by about four percent over a 20-year period. The benefits of aspirin use would be most visible in the reduction in deaths due to cancer."

 

 

 

Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces are coordinating a counter-offensive against jihadists around the Iraqi city of Mosul with Kurdish fighters from Syria and Turkey, a political leader said on Wednesday.