Near-miracle in Thailand
Divers in northern Thailand rescued a group of 12 boys and their football coach from flooded caves, 17 days after they got trapped underground. Their plight and the massive, dangerous three-day-long operation to free them gripped the world’s attention. The group got trapped on 23 June after heavy rains flooded their way back out. They were found by British divers last week, huddled in darkness on a ledge amid fears they could be forced to stay there for months until water receded. There were cheers as a daring rescue operation involved dozens of divers and hundreds of other rescue workers came to an end on Tuesday evening (July 10). In an indication of how dangerous the journey out was, a former Thai navy diver died in the caves on Friday. Saman Gunan was returning from a mission to provide the group with air tanks when he ran out of oxygen.
Nawaz Sharif sentenced to 10 years on graft charges
Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison by a corruption court in Islamabad on July 6, lawyers said, dealing a serious blow to his party’s troubled campaign ahead of July 25 elections. The verdict, a potentially significant boost for the main opposition party led by former World Cup cricketer Imran Khan, immediately raised questions over whether Sharif will return to Pakistan from London, where his wife is receiving cancer treatment. Pakistan has no extradition treaty with the UK. Lawyers said Sharif had also been fined eight million pounds ($10 million) and that the court had ordered the federal government to confiscate the high-end properties in London’s exclusive Mayfair neighbourhood. The corruption controversy erupted with the publication in 2016 of 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca documenting the offshore dealings of many of the world’s rich and powerful.
Flooding in Japan: Death toll hits 81, 58 missing
The death toll from torrential rain and landslides in western Japan rose to 81 people on July 8, with dozens still missing after more than 2,000, temporarily stranded in the city of Kurashiki, were rescued. Evacuation orders were in place for nearly 2 million people and landslide warnings were issued in many prefectures. In hard-hit western Japan, emergency services and military personnel used helicopters and boats to rescue people from swollen rivers and buildings, including a hospital. Scores of staff and patients, some still in their pajamas, were rescued from the isolated Mabi Memorial Hospital in boats rowed by members of Japan’s Self Defence Forces. Japan’s government set up an emergency management centre at the prime minister’s office and some 54,000 rescuers from the military, police and fire departments were dispatched across a wide swath of western and southwestern Japan.
New literature prize launched in protest
More than 100 Swedish intellectuals have joined forces to form a new prize-giving body in protest after the Swedish Academy, which selects Nobel laureates, was plunged into crisis over its long-standing ties to a man accused of assaulting several women. The alternative honour serves to denounce “bias, arrogance and sexism”, according to its founders The New Academy, whose members include authors, artists and journalists. As the #MeToo movement has made waves globally, the Swedish Academy descended into turmoil in November when local media published the testimonies of 18 women claiming to have been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed by an influential French cultural figure who has long been connected to the institution. The revelations led the Academy to announce in May there will be no Nobel Literature Prize this year, as disagreements on how to deal with the scandal sowed deep discord among its 18 members and prompted six to quit -- including the first woman permanent secretary Sara Danius.