WASHINGTON: US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who has served under President Barack Obama since 2009, is stepping down, the White House said yesterday. Obama praised Chu for helping him “move America towards real energy independence,” in a statement announcing Chu’s departure. “As a Nobel Prize winning scientist, Steve brought to the Energy Department a unique understanding of both the urgent challenge presented by climate change and the tremendous opportunity that clean energy represents for our economy,” Obama noted. Chu is the latest of Obama’s cabinet to announce his departure, following in the footsteps of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defence Decretary Leon Panetta, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Labour Secretary Hilda Solis, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Russian rocket falls into sea
MOSCOW: A rocket carrying a communications satellite suffered engine trouble and plunged into the Pacific Ocean shortly after launch yesterday, Russian news agencies reported. The unsuccessful launch of the Intelsat-27 satellite was one of several setbacks for Russia’s space programme in recent years, including failed satellite launches and an unsuccessful mission to study the Mars moon Phobos. The Zenit-3SL rocket carrying the satellite suffered engine failure shortly after liftoff. Intelsat-27 was to provide services for media, government and other customers in the Americas and Europe.
Tough ex-New York mayor Ed Koch dies
NEW YORK: Ed Koch, the tough, fast-talking mayor of New York in the turbulent 1980s, died yesterday, aged 88. Koch had been facing heart and other health problems. The current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, praised Koch as a “tireless, fearless and guileless civic leader” for his role in rescuing New York from the brink of financial collapse. He ordered flags to be lowered to half-mast. Koch’s greatest success was in tough financial management during his three terms between 1978 and 1989. More than anything Koch is remembered for his rough and colourful New Yorker style. “How’m I doin’?” was his trademark greeting to voters.
Child hostage drama enters fourth day
WASHINGTON: A hostage drama involving a five-year-old boy dragged into its fourth day yesterday, with the abductor holding the child in an underground bunker in the southern US state of Alabama. The motive of the abduction in the town of Midland City remained unclear, said Kevin Cook, spokesman for the Alabama State Troopers. The hostage-taker has been identified in US media reports as Jimmy Lee Dykes, a 65-year-old retired trucker. Authorities say he stopped a school bus on Tuesday and demanded that several children be turned over to him. When the driver defended the kids, the assailant shot and killed him, and took away one boy.
Hitmen found guilty of killing boy
LONDON: Two British hitmen who stabbed to death an innocent schoolboy by mistake in what the prosecution described as an act of “staggering incompetence” were found guilty of murder yesterday. Ben Hope, 39, and Jason Richards, 38, were both heroin addicts who were paid £1,000 ($1,600) each to murder a middle-aged family man who owed money to a shady businessman in the Welsh capital Cardiff. But the pair — high on drugs and wearing balaclavas — went to the wrong house and murdered Aamir Siddiqi by mistake. The 17-year-old was brutally hacked down on the doorstep of his home, and when his desperate parents tried to save him, they were also attacked. The jury at Swansea Crown Court yesterday convicted them unanimously of all charges.
Bolshoi drops major ballet premiere
MOSCOW: Russia’s Bolshoi ballet yesterday postponed one of its most eagerly anticipated premieres of the year, a new version of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, after the acid attack on its artistic director Sergei Filin. The Bolshoi had invited the British choreographer Wayne McGregor to choreograph an entirely new ballet to Stravinsky’s iconic score which this year marks 100 years since its premiere by the Ballet Russes in Paris. The ballet was due to have premiered in late March in a festival of dance celebrating the 100th anniversary of the The Rite of Spring, the kind of innovative programming championed by Filin.