While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Feb 4

A Chinese surveillance balloon was detected lingering at high altitude over sensitive nuclear sites in the US this week. PHOTO: REUTERS

US-China spy balloon row: A brief history of spying with balloons

A Chinese balloon seen hovering over the US state of Montana this week has been described as an “intelligence-gathering” airship by the Pentagon and a stray civilian research airship by China.

Whatever its intended use, the balloon offers a reminder of how for more than a century, governments have used balloons for surveillance and observation, most often during times of war.

Mr Thomas Paone, curator for the lighter-than-air collection at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, which includes balloons, blimps and airships, said that while balloon technology has changed over that time, the mission of observation has been a constant.


Images of emaciated Iranian prisoner on hunger strike prompt outrage

Social media images purported to be of an emaciated jailed Iranian dissident on hunger strike have caused outrage online as supporters warned on Friday he risks death for protesting the compulsory wearing of the hijab.

Dr Farhad Meysami, 53, who has been in jail since 2018 for supporting women activists protesting against Iran’s headscarf policy, began his hunger strike on Oct 7, 2022, to protest recent government killings of demonstrators, the dissident’s lawyer said.

The images of Dr Meysami went viral on social media on the same day Iran released award-winning director Jafar Panahi on bail after seven months in jail. Panahi said the images of Dr Meysami reminded him of survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp.


Bird flu detected in mammals but risk to humans low: Experts

Experts have warned that the recent detection of bird flu in mammals including foxes, otters, minks, seals and even grizzly bears is concerning but emphasised that the virus would have to significantly mutate to spread between humans.

Since late 2021, Europe has been gripped by its worst-ever outbreak of bird flu, with North and South America also experiencing severe outbreaks.

This has led to the culling of tens of millions of domestic poultry worldwide, many with the H5N1 strain. The global outbreak is also responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of wild birds.


Paco Rabanne, who brought the space age to the catwalk, dies aged 88

Paco Rabanne, the Spanish-born designer best known for his metallic ensembles and space age designs of the 1960s, has died at the age of 88.

The eponymous label he exited more than two decades ago hailed him as “among the most seminal fashion figures of the 20th century”.

Rabanne dressed some of the most prominent stars of the 1960s, including French singer Francoise Hardy, whose outfits from the designer included a minidress made from gold plates and a metal link jumpsuit, as well as Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, who were pictured in matching silver outfits.


Ukraine wins EU pledges of support, no promise of fast-track accession 

The European Union offered strong support for Ukraine at a summit held in Kyiv as air raid sirens wailed on Friday, but set “no rigid timelines” for its accession to the wealthy bloc.

President Volodymyr Zelensky had hoped the EU would put Ukraine on a rapid road to membership. But he used the summit to step up calls for his allies to deliver long-range weapons to help repel Russian forces besieging the city of Bakhmut and occupying much of the Donbas region in the east of the country.

“If weapons (supplies) are quickened, specifically long-range weapons, we not only will not leave Bakhmut, but we will also begin to deoccupy Donbas, which has been occupied since 2014,” he told a joint news conference after the summit.


Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.