McDonald’s BTS-meal frenzy sparks virus closures in Indonesia

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Food delivery riders queue up at a McDonald’s outlet in Bogor on June 9, 2021, to buy the new BTS-meal deal for hungry fans in the K-Pop mad country. (AFP)
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Food delivery riders make their way into a McDonald’s outlet in Bogor on June 9, 2021, to buy the new BTS-meal deal for hungry fans in the K-Pop mad country. (AFP)
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Updated 09 June 2021

McDonald’s BTS-meal frenzy sparks virus closures in Indonesia

  • At least 13 outlets that were deluged with online food-delivery drivers picking up the meal set were closed
  • The meal set of chicken nuggets, fries and a drink, first made available in Indonesia Wednesday

JAKARTA: More than a dozen Indonesian McDonald’s outlets were temporarily shuttered Wednesday over virus fears as the chain’s new BTS meal deal sparked frenzied buying from fans in the K-pop mad country.
Jakarta and several other cities slapped closure stickers on at least 13 outlets that were deluged with online food-delivery drivers picking up a meal set named after the hugely popular Korean boy band.
“We temporarily closed four of six McDonald’s stores here in Semarang for a couple of days,” said Fajar Purwoto, the city’s public order agency head.


“I don’t want Semarang to be in the Covid-19 red zone again.”
Indonesia is one of the hardest-hit nations in Asia.
Jakarta authorities did not respond to requests for comment. But local media said five stores in the capital were shut over BTS-meal orders.
The meal set of chicken nuggets, fries and a drink, first made available in Indonesia Wednesday, has been on offer in dozens of countries since May.
BTS have become global superstars with millions of fans around the world since their debut in 2013.


Hundreds of migrating songbirds crash into NYC skyscrapers

Updated 17 September 2021

Hundreds of migrating songbirds crash into NYC skyscrapers

  • Stormy weather Monday night into Tuesday contributed to the deaths, said Kaitlyn Parkins of NYC Audubon group
  • But bird strikes on Manhattan skyscrapers are a persistent problem for years, says NYC Audubon

NEW YORK: Hundreds of birds migrating through New York City this week died after crashing into the city’s glass towers, a mass casualty event spotlighted by a New York City Audubon volunteer’s tweets showing the World Trade Center littered with bird carcasses.
This week’s avian death toll was particularly high, but bird strikes on Manhattan skyscrapers are a persistent problem that NYC Audubon has documented for years, said Kaitlyn Parkins, the group’s associate director of conservation and science.
Stormy weather Monday night into Tuesday contributed to the deaths, she said.
“We had a big storm and sort of weird weather and lots of birds, and that’s sort of the perfect combination that can lead to bird-window collisions,” Parkins said.
“It seems that the storm might have brought the birds in lower than they would have otherwise have been, or just disoriented them,” Parkins added. “The effects of nocturnal light on birds is also quite strong, especially when it’s a cloudy night.”
Volunteers with NYC Audubon document bird deaths at high-risk spots during the spring and fall migrations.
Melissa Breyer, the volunteer who tweeted about finding nearly 300 birds on sidewalks surrounding the new World Trade Center towers, said the experience was “overwhelming.”
“As soon as I got to the buildings, the birds were everywhere on the sidewalk,” Breyer said. “Looking north, covered, south, covered, west, covered, the sidewalks were literally covered with birds.”
NYC Audubon wants the owners of the World Trade Center towers and other buildings to help reduce the number of bird strikes by dimming the lights at night and by treating glass to make it more visible to birds.
“Make it so that they can see it and recognize that it’s a solid barrier that they cannot fly through,” Parkins said.
Jordan Barowitz, a spokesperson for the Durst Organization, co-developer of One World Trade Center, said in an email, “The first 200 feet of One WTC are encased in glass fins that are non-reflective. This design was chosen because it greatly reduces bird strikes which mostly occur below 200 feet and are frequently caused by reflective glass.”
Dara McQuillan, a spokesperson for Silverstein Properties, the developer of three other trade center skyscrapers, said, “We care deeply for wild birds and protecting their habitat in the five boroughs. Understanding that artificial night-time lighting in general can attract and disorient migrating birds, we are actively encouraging our office tenants to turn off their lights at night and lower their blinds wherever possible, especially during the migratory season.”
It wasn’t the last flight for all the birds that crashed. Some survived.
A total of 77 birds were taken to the Wild Bird Fund’s rehab facility on the Upper West Side on Tuesday, the majority of them from the trade center area, director Ritamary McMahon said.
“We knew it was going to be a large migration coming in. They could tell from the radar,” said McMahon, who scheduled extra staff to care for an expected influx of injured birds.
The Wild Bird Fund staff members gave the birds food, fluids and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling.
Thirty birds recovered and were released in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on Wednesday, McMahon said.
“One of our staff took an Uber down to Prospect Park to release them so they wouldn’t face any more tall buildings on their travels,” she said.


Led by the nose: Meet the UAE’s coronavirus sniffer dogs

Updated 16 September 2021

Led by the nose: Meet the UAE’s coronavirus sniffer dogs

  • UAE has 38 sniffer dogs working at its airports

DUBAI: One year after completing one of the first studies into canine detection of COVID-19, the UAE now has 38 sniffer dogs working at its airports that can identify infected persons at a 98.2-percent success rate.
Dubai Police trained the cohort, which includes German Shepherds, Labradors, Cocker Spaniels and Border Collies, to recognize the scent of COVID-19 using samples of sweat from people with confirmed infections, collected by holding a swab in an armpit for a few minutes.
“A very small amount of that is then put into a jar — it has the scent of the patient — then we put the sample out for the dog to sniff ... When he gives us a sign, we give him a treat,” said First Lt. Nasser Al-Falasi of Dubai Police, supervisor of the program at the K9 training center in Dubai’s Awir region.
In the center’s large training hall, police handlers walk the dogs along a row of metal boxes, of which only one contains a positive sample.
The dogs sniff the samples and within seconds sit down to signal that they have found something.
Police trainer Fatima Al-Jasmi, who is on the COVID-19 detection team, guides an excited-looking black and white Border Collie through the exercises, getting it right every time.
“The training was a bit of a challenge, learning a new skill at an international standard, and then training the dog in that,” she said.
The study in Dubai, published in June in Communications Biology, part of the British scientific journal Nature, concluded with a 98.2 percent detection success rate. The study used sweat samples and PCR tests from 3,290 people to compare the dogs detection abilities.
Several other countries, including Finland, the US and France have been running their own dog training and trials of canine detection of COVID-19. ​
Falasi said the dogs currently carry out around 30-40 tests a day at airports. Bolt, a black and tan Belgian Malinois, was the first COVID-19 detection dog that he trained.
“He goes on assignments often. He has maybe done more than 1,000 COVID-19 tests,” Falasi said proudly.
The dogs are mainly used in airports across the UAE, but are ready to be used wherever required.
Dubai has received requests from around the world to share knowledge about how to train dogs to sniff out COVID-19, Dubai Police’s Maj. Salah Khalifa Al-Mazroui said.
Dubai Police also has dogs trained to sniff out drugs and explosives, skills put to use as the emirate of Dubai prepares to open the Dubai Expo2020 world fair exhibition site next month.


Cyprus recovers looted 18th century church doors from Japan

Updated 16 September 2021

Cyprus recovers looted 18th century church doors from Japan

  • Communications and Works Minister said the wooden doors were discovered at the Kanazawa Art College more than 20 years ago
  • The doors were stolen after the island’s ethnic split in 1974

NICOSIA, Cyprus: Cyprus’ Orthodox Church formally took charge Thursday of two ornately decorated 18th century doors stolen from a church in the ethnically divided island’s breakaway north and reclaimed from a Japanese art college after a long legal battle.
Communications and Works Minister Yiannis Karousos said the wooden doors — painted with religious scenes, carved and gilded — were discovered at the Kanazawa Art College more than 20 years ago and their return followed “long and intensive efforts.”
No information was provided on how the college acquired them.
The artifacts originally stood in the central gateway of the iconostasis — the ornately decorated screen that separates the sanctuary from the rest of an Orthodox church — of Saint Anastasios in Peristeronopigi village.
Built in 1775, the church sits atop a cave where the saint’s grave is preserved.
The doors were stolen after the island’s ethnic split in 1974, when Turkey invaded in response to a coup aimed at union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots declared independence in the north, that’s recognized only by Turkey.
In what Karousos called “cultural genocide,” hundreds of frescoes, mosaics and other religious works of art were looted from churches in the north after the invasion.
Since 1974, Cypriot government and church authorities have fought long legal battles in the United States, Europe and elsewhere to reclaim them.
Karousos said the doors’ repatriation sends the message to antiquities smugglers and “the international ring of crooks that however many years go by, (Cyprus) will hunt them down, because cultural genocide cannot be tolerated anywhere in the world.”


’Really alive’: France unveils wrapped Arc de Triomphe

Updated 16 September 2021

’Really alive’: France unveils wrapped Arc de Triomphe

  • The finishing touches are being put to the transformation of one of France's most iconic monuments
  • The imposing war memorial has been wrapped in 25,000 square metres of silver-blue recyclable polypropylene

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron was set to unveil a strange and spectacular sight in Paris on Thursday, the entire 50-meter-high Arc de Triomphe wrapped in fabric, fulfilling the long-held dream of late artist Christo.
After weeks of preparation, the finishing touches are being put to the transformation of one of France’s most iconic monuments ahead of its opening to the public this weekend.
At a press conference earlier in the day, Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot called it “a posthumous testament to an artistic genius” and “a wonderful gift to Parisians, to the French, and to all art-lovers.”
The imposing war memorial has been wrapped in 25,000 square meters (270,000 square feet) of silver-blue recyclable polypropylene.
It is the signature of Christo, the Bulgarian-born artist who died last year, who had dreamt of sheathing the monument since renting a nearby apartment in the 1960s.
Despite completing other major public works during his lifetime, including wrapping the oldest bridge in Paris in 1985 and the German parliament in 1995, the Arc de Triomphe project never materialized before his death.
The completion of his vision — and that of his co-designer and wife Jeanne-Claude — has been overseen by his nephew Vladimir Javacheff in coordination with the Pompidou museum and French authorities.
“Christo always said the hardest part is getting the permissions,” Javacheff told reporters with a smile.
“When you realize that this is really alive, for me and for my team, when you realize this fragility, this beauty, it is quite amazing.”
Protective barriers will be removed on Saturday, allowing the public to get up close to the transformed monument.
The wrapping will then stay in place until October 3.
Not everyone has welcomed the project.
Architect Carlo Ratti, a friend of Christo, wrote last week that it was wrong to waste so much fabric at a time when the fashion industry was responsible for such high levels of carbon emissions.
Javacheff countered that the entire fabric is recyclable, along with half the metal used for scaffolding.
For Christo, who left sketches and photo montages of his plans, the vision was that the Arc would become “like a living object stimulated by the wind and reflecting the light.”
The monument, which was built by Napoleon to commemorate fallen soldiers during his military campaigns, has recently been restored after being defaced by anti-government “yellow vest” protesters in December 2018.
Born in 1935, Christo left his home country in 1957, living in several countries before arriving in Paris, where he met his future wife Jeanne-Claude.
He died of natural causes at his home in New York in May last year.


Beach boy no more: COVID-19 forces Australian fugitive to give up seaside life

Updated 15 September 2021

Beach boy no more: COVID-19 forces Australian fugitive to give up seaside life

  • Darko Desic spent his entire time at large at Sydney’s northern beaches while at large
  • But he decided to go back to prison because the lockdown made him jobless and homeless

CANBERRA, Australia: A 64-year-old fugitive walked into a Sydney police station to give himself up almost 30 years after he used a hacksaw blade and bolt cutters to escape from prison, police said on Wednesday.
Darko Desic decided to go back to prison because Sydney’s COVID-19 lockdown made him jobless and homeless, media reported.
Desic surrendered at Dee Why Police Station at Sydney’s fashionable northern beaches on Sunday morning and was denied bail when he appeared in a downtown court on Tuesday charged with escaping from lawful custody in 1992, a police statement said. The charge carries a potential seven-year prison sentence.
Sydney’s lockdown, which began in June, had cost Desic his cash-in-hand work as a laborer and handyman, unnamed police sources told Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph and Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“He slept on the beach on Saturday night and said: ‘Stuff it, I’ll go back to prison where there’s a roof over my head,’” a source told the newspaper.
Desic was 35 when he escaped from a century-old prison in Grafton, 620 kilometers north of Sydney, over the night of July 31-Aug. 1, 1992.
Police allege he used tools including a hacksaw blade and bolt cutters to cut through his cell window bars and a perimeter fence.
He had served 13 months of a three-and-a-half-year sentence for growing marijuana.
Born in the former Yugoslavia, Desic told police he escaped because he thought he would be deported once he had served his sentence, the newspaper reported. He feared he would be punished for failing to do his compulsory military service in his former country, which has since broken into several nations.
Desic told police that he had spent his entire time at large at Sydney’s northern beaches in the suburb of Avalon, and according to the newspaper, had never come to the attention of police in that time.
Desic maintained a low profile but was once mentioned on “Australia’s Most Wanted,” a true crime TV program that ran for a decade until 1999, after someone reported seeing him at Nowra, 190 kilometers south of Sydney.