Bird Flu — The World Health Organization (WHO) said the strain of bird flu found in humans for the first time in eastern China is not a cause for panic, notes Reuters. The H7N9 flu strain has infected 21 and killed six others so far in China, where the government has culled tens of thousands of birds to contain the outbreak. “So far, we really only have sporadic cases of a rare disease, and perhaps it will remain that way. So this is not a time for over-reaction or panic,” said Michael O’Leary, the WHO’s representative to China.
Shortage of Priests — The Catholic Church in Western Europe and the U.S. has been coping with a severe shortage of clergy in the last few decades, attracting priests from the developing world to fill the void, reports the New York Times. Priesthood is still an appealing vocation in Africa, Asia and Latin America, prompting bishops from Europe and the U.S. to “recruit priests from the global south in ad hoc arrangements with local bishops and religious orders, usually without any involvement from the Vatican,” writes the Times. The church, especially in France, has tried to attract young people to the priesthood, but “for many priests, the fundamental problem is the church’s struggle to define itself for a new generation in a secular country and amid a de-Christianizing trend in Western Europe,” said the paper.
Portuguese Austerity — Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho plans to make more cuts in health and education spending rather than raising taxes again to meet tough budget targets set by international lenders, reports the Guardian. The plans come after the constitutional court rejected Passos Coelho’s former budget measures on Friday. Ever since he and the conservative Social Democrats took power in March 2011, Lisbon has “imposed stringent and unpopular spending cuts totaling €13 billion ($16.9 billion) – about 8% of Portugal’s economic output – which have led to widespread protests,” writes the paper.
Spain’s Unpopular King – King Juan Carlos of Spain’s popularity among his subjects has fallen dramatically, reports the Scotsman. A poll carried out for the Spanish newspaper El Pais asked 2,400 people how they rated certain institutions. It showed that 53% disapproved of the 75-year-old king, against an approval rating of 42%, giving him an overall approval-versus-disapproval rating of -11: his first negative rating in history. Juan Carlos’ drop in popularity comes after a series of high-profile controversies, including a corruption and money-laundering scandal involving his son-in-law. The king’s rating could have been even worse – the poll was carried out before his youngest daughter, Cristina, received a court summons last week in connection with the case.
Huawei Security Concerns – The Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei has said it does not pose a security threat to the U.S., amid concerns from foreign governments that it aids intelligence agencies, reports Bloomberg. As the company released its annual report Monday, Deputy Chairman Guo Ping said, “There has never been any incident of our product threatening cyber security or network security.” Fears over the technology giant — featured in the latest issue of TIME — have grown after American intelligence agencies and security companies traced web attacks to China.
Israel Hacking — The activist group Anonymous has targeted Israeli government websites in the latest round of an ongoing cyberwar between Israeli and pro-Palestinian hackers, reports the Guardian. The attacks reportedly targeted sites including the stock market website and the finance ministry website (Officials said they caused little disruption). The attacks followed warnings made in the name of Anonymous that it was launching a huge hacking assault in protest against Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. Hackers have tried to topple Israeli sites before, notes the Guardian. Israel said that during fighting last year in Gaza, protesters barraged Israel with more than 60 million hacking attempts.