SWINE FLU: The head of the World Health Organization says the swine flu influenza
A-H1N1 epidemic could return "with a vengeance" despite the Mexican
government's insistence the disease has reached its peak and is
Margaret Chan told the Financial Times Monday the decline in mortality rates outside and within Mexico does not mean the outbreak is coming to an end. She said she hopes the virus "fizzles out" (fades away).
Chan said if the virus continues to spread, "it would be the biggest of all outbreaks the world has faced in the twenty-first century." Last week, WHO raised the alert level to five, indicating that a level six global pandemic could be imminent. Chan said in the newspaper interview she is not predicting a pandemic, but she is preparing for it.
FLU SDBR: ASIA: China has denied it is targeting Mexicans with swine flu quarantine measures. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement Monday the quarantine is not directed at Mexican citizens and that there is no discrimination. Ma said China understands Mexico's concern and values its friendly relations with the Latin American country, but he urged the Mexican government to maintain an "objective and calm" attitude on the issue.
LAOS-BRITAIN: A pregnant British woman, who faces death by firing squad in Laos if she is convicted of drug smuggling, could go on trial as early as Monday. The British-based legal charity Reprieve is helping 20-year-old Samantha Orobator. It said she has not had access to a lawyer yet. Reprieve lawyer Anna Morris told the media in Laos on Sunday she is due to meet with Orobator Tuesday. However, she expressed concern that the trial could start a day earlier. Prosecutors say Orobator, who was in Laos on vacation, was in possession of 680 grams of heroin when she was arrested at Wattay airport in August. Reprieve says Orobator became pregnant in the notoriously abusive Phonthong prison in December, four months after her arrest. The circumstances of her pregnancy are not clear.
INDONESIA-CORRUPTION: Indonesia's top anti-graft official is expected to make a statement to
police Monday after being named a suspect in the murder of a prominent
businessman. Antasari Azhar, the head of the Corruption Eradication Commission, said
Sunday he has been summoned to police questioning, not as a suspect but
as a witness assisting the investigation.
On Friday, Indonesia prosecutors issued a travel ban for Azhar, after naming him one of several suspects in Nasrudin Zulkarnaen's premeditated murder.
GATES-MIDEAST: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is headed to the Middle East to
reassure allies in the region that Washington's diplomatic approach to
Iran will not jeopardize long-standing ties with Arab states.
Gates is flying to Egypt Monday and will visit Saudi Arabia later this week. He told reporters on the flight that he hopes any U.S. outreach to Tehran will increase security throughout the region, not just for the U.S.