July 29, 2012
Airport staff reported the girl was left in tears after being abandoned at Katowice airport while the rest of her family boarded a flight to Greece.
Her parents had failed to notice that her passport had expired on May 25.
Although a grandmother arrived later to collect the girl, police are investigating whether the well being of the child was threatened when her parents left, and are also checking the family's background.
"There are reports that the girl was hysterical when her mother left, and we want to check this," said Rafal Biczysko, a police spokesman.
"We also want the family court to assess the care and upbringing of the child."
July 28, 2012
Turkey is directing the rebel fight against Bashar Assad, after setting up a secret base on its border with Syria, with help from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It devises tactics and supplies weapons for the uprising, according to Reuters sources.
It is unclear how long the base, described as the “nerve center” of the anti-Assad campaign has existed, and its location is given only as Adana, a city 60 miles from the border. Adana is home to Incirlik, a huge air base run jointly by Turkey and the United States, though it is not clear whether it was used for this operation.
"Three governments are supplying weapons: Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia," said the source, reportedly based in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
The source claims the base was set up at the request of Saudi deputy foreign minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud during his visit to Turkey, which was open to the idea. Turkey then took control of operations once the base was established.
“It's the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main coordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom."
Disunited and badly trained when the uprising against President Assad began 18 months ago, recently Syrian rebels have had a string of successes against the supposedly better-trained and better-equipped regular soldiers. They have held down large parts of the country and advanced on the capital Damascus earlier in July. An audacious suicide attack last week took out four of the most senior security officials in the Assad circle.
These successes may have been made possible by the steady flow of arms from the Adana location, most of which appear to have been purchased illegally to cover the sponsors’ trails.
"All weaponry is Russian. The obvious reason is that the Syrian rebels are trained to use Russian weapons, also because the Americans don't want their hands on it. All weapons are from the black market,” claims the source, which says arms are also obtained by looting loyalist weapons stores.
Ankara has enjoyed a difficult diplomatic relationship with Assad, whose family has been in charge in Syria for 40 years, and so immediately backed the uprising. At the same time, Ankara has staunchly denied arming the rebels. It has also condemned the suicide attack on ministers as an act of terrorism.
Meanwhile, the small but wealthy state of Qatar has already played a key part in helping topple the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya last year, and was widely suspected of being involved in the Syrian civil war.
Although the three countries involved have long been accused of arming the rebels, this is the first time specific information has emerged about a concrete center of operations.
July 27, 2012
London 2012 organisers have apologised and blamed human error for Wednesday's flag mix-up when South Korea's flag appeared alongside North Korea's women's football team on stadium screens as players warmed up before their opening match.
The team left the pitch in protest at the blunder and initially refused to play but the game with Colombia at Hampden Park, Glasgow, eventually kicked off more than an hour late after hurried corrections to the video rectified the spectacular mistake. On Thursday, North Korea's Olympic team accepted repeated apologies.
A six month old baby has died as a result of the heat. The baby girl's father, a member of the armed forces, had forgotten the child in his car when he drove to work at the army barracks in the Brussels borough of Evere.
The child was fastened in a child seat. The baby was going to the crèche at the military base, but the father forgot his baby daughter in the car. The car has tinted windows preventing anybody from noticing the baby from the outside.
When the father went to the crèche to pick up his daughter after work he realised he had forgotten her in his car. He alerted the emergency services, but the baby had already died as a result of the heat.
Brussels police are investigating the matter. The father risks charges of involuntary manslaughter.
July 26, 2012
Iran's UN envoy says it was Israel who plotted and staged the Bulgarian bus attack, buffing off allegations his country was behind the tragedy.
The suicide bomb attack on a bus in the Bulgarian city of Burgas on July 18 killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver and injured over 30 more.
Israel was quick to point the finger at Iran, accusing Tehran and its “Hezbollah proxy” of staging the bombing.
"It's amazing that just a few minutes after the terrorist attack, Israeli officials announced that Iran was behind it," Iran's UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee told in a UN Security Council debate on the Middle East on Wednesday. "We have never and will not engage in such a despicable attempt on innocent people."
"Such a terrorist operation could only be planned and carried out by the same regime whose short history is full of state terrorism operations and assassinations, aimed at implicating others for narrow political gains," added Khazaee. "I could provide … many examples showing that this regime killed its own citizens and innocent Jewish people during the last couple of decades.”
Israel's deputy UN ambassador Haim Waxman called the accusation by Iranian Ambassador "Appalling, but not surprising from the same government that says the 9/11 attack was a conspiracy theory and denies the Holocaust."
Iran has repeatedly blamed Mossad-trained terrorists for assassinations of the country’s top nuclear scientists and attacks on its nuclear research sites.
July 25, 2012
A Russian regional government has blocked access to news sites and social networks in its offices after discovering its civil servants were “hanging out” on the web instead of working.
“Access to regional news websites has been limited to almost all the employees of the government,” said Aleksandr Torba, deputy chairman of government in Russia’s westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad. The new restrictions, though, do not refer to the press-service and officials whose duty is to monitor news, he added.
The authors of the initiative believe that it will help to boost the quality and efficiency of the government’s work as the public servants reportedly spend up to 20 per cent of their office hours hanging out on the web.
Earlier, access to social networking services was blocked in the Kaliningrad regional government building.
“We immediately noticed a positive result of the decision,” Torba pointed out. Therefore, he said, a ban on using news portals has become another step on the way to improve officials’ work.
The politician observed that it was an uneasy decision to make, since web media outlets may take the move as an attempt by the leadership to limit rights of the employees.
However, Torba added, civil servants are free to use the internet at home, spending their own money, and get any kind of information they are interested in.
Police in Nigeria say a bomb hidden inside a wheelbarrow exploded near a beer garden in the north of the country, killing a 6-year-old boy and wounding 10 other people.
Sunday's explosion in Bauchi struck a local bar many gather at to enjoy beer, despite the state being ruled under Shariah law. Bauchi state police commissioner Mohammed Ladan said the blast killed the boy, who was near the bar.
Adamu Abubakar, a Red Cross official, said security forces had surrounded the area.
Bauchi has been previously struck by sectarian violence sweeping across Nigeria's north from a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram. However, the sect did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack.
July 24, 2012
Washington has proposed a "Do Not Track" mechanism that would give Internet users better control of their personal information. The measure has Internet firms facing off with privacy groups over how tough the rules should be.
The Obama administration is considering the creation of an agency that would set standards for Internet governance, and the "Do Not Track" option has been proposed with a deadline in order to push privacy advocates and corporations to the negotiating table.
The idea for such a mechanism has been floating around Washington since 2007.
Companies like Google and Facebook, where the collection of user data makes up a massive part of day-to-day business, are worried that legislation brought on by the proposal could result in significant profit losses. Targeted advertising would be severely limited, though data collection for other purposes would be able to continue.
To groups advocating for Internet users' privacy rights, the initiative is a big step in the right direction. Cutbacks on how corporations can use information harvested from individuals would mean consumers could spend as much time online – and on as many websites – as they want, without a corporate Big Brother taking notes on how to best make money off them.
Nearly a year on, stalemate continuesBut after 10 months of negotiations, there's no agreement in sight. Indeed, advocates and corporations have not even come to an agreement on what "Do Not Track" would mean.
And if they haven't reached a consensus by the end of the year, they could face the threat of legislation to enforce online privacy, putting Internet companies in a crisis over what to do next, as their business models require that users give up personal information.
"We want to reduce the profile, the data footprint of citizens who increasingly spend a lot of time online," Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told Reuters.
Industry at risk?Web companies say data collected for targeted advertising is what currently keeps the Internet afloat. Initially an additional source of cash for online companies, collecting user data and selling it to advertisers has become the Internet's primary source of revenue. In exchange, industry insiders say, consumers get to access online content and services for free.
"If you get rid of that, you kill the Internet. It's just that simple," said Linda Woolley, the executive vice president of government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association, as cited by Reuters.
Online advertising revenue in the US alone reached nearly $15 billion in the first half of 2011.
"If you have a business model that relies on spying on your customers, as people begin to understand that, there will be tremendous push back," said John Simpson, privacy project director at Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit organization.
Heavyweight Internet corporations claim the White House should ensure that the "Do Not Track" tool only allows Web users to control the type of advertising they receive, not to remove themselves from the system entirely.
Competing optionsThe industry's top "Do Not Track" proposal – put together by representatives from Google, Yahoo! and their consultants – would keep companies from using consumers' personal information for targeted advertising across multiple websites, if they activated the option.
However, there would be no limit on the continued collection of user data.
According to privacy advocates, that proposal is for all intents and purposes the same as the restrictions companies already face. And with the rules currently in place, Internet companies are known for misusing users' data, for example by placing codes inside a browser in order to trick anti-tracking software into allowing data to be taken.
Another example came last month, when the story broke that travel site Orbitz had used a collection tool allowing it to determine whether a visitor was on a Mac or a PC. Having seen a study showing Mac users to be on average wealthier than PC users, Orbitz targeted them with more expensive hotel rooms.
Meanwhile, privacy advocates led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla and Stanford University student Jonathan Mayer propose barring third parties, like companies with ads displayed on a page, from collecting information about a consumer if they choose the "Do Not Track" option. That proposal would have minor security-related exceptions.
And the advocates say their idea would not restrict companies that create direct relationships with their users – meaning the user logs in to access the site's service, for example Yelp or Foursquare – from collecting personal information that would be used to give recommendations to the user later on.
Countdown to legislationBut the clock is ticking, and if the industry and the advocates are unable to reach a resolution soon, privacy groups will push for new laws to be put on the books, Chester told Reuters.
"If we can't get a reasonable agreement very soon, consumer groups are going to go to the [Federal Trade Commission] and the European Union and Congress and say Do Not Track is dead on arrival and we need legislation and regulation," he said.
July 23, 2012
The European Union's plans to inspect aircraft and ships for violations of the arms embargo imposed on Syria cannot be applied to Russian planes and ships, said the director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technology.
"Only aircraft and ships of the European Union are subject to this requirement,” Roman Pukhov told Interfax-AVN on Friday. “The EU has no international legal right to inspect aircraft and ships belonging to countries that are not its members, including Russia."
Pukhov’s comments followed media reports saying that the EU plans to adopt a resolution in Brussels on Monday that gives officials the right to inspect aircraft and ships suspected of violating the arms embargo imposed on Syria.
"Such a scenario is impossible in terms of law and in the military-technical context,” he noted. “It is absolutely impossible to imagine EU servicemen boarding Russian ships."
Russian-Syrian military-technical cooperation is continuing in strict compliance with international law, he said.
"Syria is not under UN Security Council sanctions,” Pushkov reiterated. “Therefore arms deliveries to the Syrian authorities are not banned."
Russia in the meantime will delay its controversial shipment of three attack helicopters and an air defense system to Syria until security is restored in the country, an anonymous military source told the Interfax news agency on Friday.
The decision not to send the military hardware was based upon a recent spike of violence in the country.
"The decision to delay the Syrian delivery timeframe is based on the escalating military and political situation in the country and the act of terror in which several senior Syrian officials were killed and injured," the unnamed military source revealed.
"In these conditions, the authorities are not able to guarantee the safe reception of the helicopters."
The source added that Russia still intended to complete delivery of the military equipment even though its initial attempt was exposed by the US State Department. The delivery was further delayed in June when the British insurer cancelled its coverage of the transport ship.
"The helicopters and aid defense equipment will be delivered to Syria after the situation there normalizes," according to the source.
The three helicopters had undergone an upgrade in Kaliningrad under a contract with Syria that was signed in 2008, long before civil unrest broke out in the country.
The Bayreuth opera festival says bass-baritone Samuel Youn has stepped in to take the lead role in "The Flying Dutchman," the annual event's opening production, after Evgeny Nikitin withdrew when it emerged he once had Nazi-related symbols tattooed on his body.
The festival on Sunday listed Youn, who studied in Seoul, Milan and Cologne and has previously performed at Bayreuth, as the lead performer in the production, which opens Wednesday. Youn already had been foreseen as a backup in case Nikitin fell ill.
Nikitin, who is from Russia, withdrew from the festival dedicated to composer Richard Wagner's work on Saturday. He said getting the tattoos years ago was a serious mistake and that he was "not aware of the extent of the confusion and hurt that these symbols would cause."
July 22, 2012
VIENNA - Authorities say flood waters in southeastern Austria appear to have peaked after persistent rain led to mudslides which left one man dead.
On Saturday, rescue workers recovered the body of a man buried by a mudslide in the village of Thoerl the previous evening. The village of St. Lorenzen, also in Styria province, was hit early Saturday by a mudslide that swept away garages and cars.
In the state capital, Graz, authorities closed bridges and warned people to stay away from the banks of the swollen Mur river. However, city authorities said Sunday the situation was stable. The Mur flooded buildings in Deutschfeistritz, near Graz, Saturday night.
Germany has emerged as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the European financial crisis.
While other countries in 17-country group that use the euro have battled against investor fears that their economies are buckling under the pressure of too much debt, Germany has managed to save tens of billions of euros thanks to its reputation as a safe place for investments.
The bond markets have demanded that countries such as Italy and Spain pay prohibitively high borrowing costs rates to sell their debt amid worries over their sluggish economies and creaking government finances. Such high interest rates will burden these countries' state coffers for years to come.
Financially healthy Germany, meanwhile, has secured billions of euros in debt at record low — sometimes negative — interest rates.
In each case, the Home Office accepted their argument that deporting them would breach their human rights rather than asking a judge to decide. The number has increased fivefold in four years, throwing into doubt the commitment of Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to deporting foreign criminals.
They were allowed to stay despite Damian Green, the immigration minister, telling the Commons last December that the Government was "doing everything in our power to increase the number and speed of removals".
The figures, disclosed to The Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act, show that there were 56 such cases in 2008, rising to 80 in 2009, 217 in 2010 and 250 in 2011 and that:
• In 2011, at least one terrorist – and possibly up to four – was allowed to stay, as well as up to eight killers and rapists. Also among the total were 20 robbers and up to eight paedophiles, plus as many as four people convicted of firearms offences.
• In 2010, the Home Office conceded in the cases of up to four murderers and up to four people convicted of manslaughter, as well as up to four rapists, up to eight paedophiles and 43 people convicted of violent crime or robbery.
July 21, 2012
Prices for corn and soybeans jumped again as forecasts call for more blistering heat in crop-growing regions across the U.S.
Corn for September delivery jumped 16.75 cents to settle $8.245 a bushel, the second straight day of record highs. August soybeans settled at $17.575 a bushel, up 23.75 cents and the third straight record-setting day.
Crop prices have been soaring since late June as hot weather blankets the Midwest and other growing regions.
John Sanow, a commodities analyst at Telvent DTN, says there doesn't appear to be relief in sight for the crops. He said forecasts are calling for scattered chances of rain, but nothing that would have a big impact.
"It's really too late for corn at this point," Sanow said.
An explosion and fire has shut down twin pipelines that carry oil from Iraq to the Mediterranean, an official said Saturday. No one was hurt in the blast.
The explosion late Friday hit a section of a pipeline that carries oil from the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, near the southeastern town of Midyat, said an Energy Ministry official. A second line that runs parallel was not damaged, but was also shut down as a precaution, the official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of government rules, said the cause of the blast was under investigation but was most likely the result of sabotage.
Kurdish rebels, fighting for autonomy in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast, have bombed the pipeline before, cutting oil flows from Iraq for days.
The official said firefighters were still trying to extinguish the blaze and repairs would begin as soon as the fire is put out. It was not clear when oil flows to Ceyhan would resume.
With the days and weeks of the Syrian government appearing numbered, the Central Intelligence Agency is scrambling to get a handle on the locations of the country's chemical and biological weapons, while assessing the composition, loyalties, and background of the rebel groups poised to take power in the event President Bashar al-Assad falls.
Obama administration officials tell The Daily Beast that the CIA has sent officers to the region to assess Syria’s weapons program. One major task for the CIA right now is to work with military defectors to find out as much information on Syria’s weapons of mass destruction, according to one U.S. official with access to Syrian intelligence. Another focus will be to sort through reams of intercepted phone calls and emails, satellite images, and other collected intelligence to find the exact locations of the Syrian weapons, this official said.
This task has become more urgent in recent days. Last week, The Wall Street Journal reportedthat the Syrian military was moving its chemical weapons out of storage. On July 17, Nawaf Fares, Syria’s ex-ambassador to Iraq, told the BBCthe regime would not hesitate to use chemical weapons against the rebel fighters. On Wednesday, a bomb killed the Syrian defense minister and the brother-in-law of President al-Assad in Damascus. The blow to the al-Assad cabinet raised the prospect that the Syrian regime may be on its last legs.
Giuseppe Mandara, whose mozzarella is sold by British supermarkets and UK-based online food suppliers, was also accused of producing batches contaminated with ceramic shards from a faulty machine.
Investigators said his Mandara Group had received significant injections of cash from the Camorra mafia, the organised crime group based in Campania, the region where mozzarella is produced.
Police seized assets worth more than £78 million, including the company.
They said the 56 year-old, who once described himself as the “Armani of mozzarella”, had struck up a secret commercial relationship with the Casalesi clan of the Camorra in the 1980s after he ran into financial difficulties.
The clan is based in and around the town of Casal di Principe, at the heart of a region famous for its mozzarella, which is produced from the milk of domesticated buffalo.
Against a backdrop of lengthening food queues, Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam, the head of Iran's law enforcement forces, has warned that films depicting scenes of chicken dinners could provoke the underprivileged classes to attack the rich.
"They show chicken being eaten in movies while somebody might not be able to buy it," Mr Ahmadi-Moghaddam, brother-in-law of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told a law enforcement officers conference in Tehran.
"Films are now the windows of society and some people observing this class gap might say that we will take knives and take our rights from the rich. IRIB [Iran's state broadcaster] should not be the shop window for showing all which is not accessible."
July 20, 2012
Germany's parliament on Thursday approved up to 100 billion euros in aid to Spanish banks, to be paid by the euro backstop fund EFSF. But despite supporting the measure, the opposition in Berlin is losing its patience with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's euro bailout policies.
Thursday's vote took place during parliament's traditional summer recess, but members of parliament were called back to Berlin in a rare move. On June 29, Bundestag President Norbert Lammert of Merkel's conservatives admonished parliamentarians heading out on their holidays: "Don't swim too far out and make sure your carry-on baggage is within close reach."
At least 20 people have been hurt in an attack on a movie theatre in Colorado, during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises.
NBC reports tear gas reportedly went off in the Aurora Century 16 cinemas following the gunfire.
More to come
NBC reports tear gas reportedly went off in the Aurora Century 16 cinemas following the gunfire.
More to come
July 19, 2012
THE US fears Australia's credibility as a military ally is at risk because of the big spending cuts announced in the federal budget.
US officials have raised their concern privately with Australian counterparts at multiple levels in recent weeks in Washington and in Canberra.
The cuts announced by the Gillard government in May would reduce Australia's defence budget from the equivalent of 1.8 per cent of GDP last year to 1.56 per cent.
This is the smallest since 1938, the eve of World War II, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said.
The US is also cutting its defence spending, but this year will nonetheless spend the equivalent of 3.5 per cent of GDP.
Concern has been registered by the Obama administration, and a former top official of the Bush administration has accused Australia of seeking a "free ride" on the US, marking it as a bipartisan complaint about the cuts to Australian defence.
"Australia's defence budget is inadequate," said Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state in the Bush administration.
European plans call for expediting north-south train traffic with new railway tunnels in the Brenner and Gotthard passes. But Germany could be creating a bottleneck in both projects because it hasn't made much progress on access lines -- and doesn't have any money set aside to do so.
In a repeat of an embarrassing incident when Baroness Ashton did not know how to recognise Serbia's President, Mr Van Rompuy was caught on microphone during a press conference leaning across to Atifete Jahjaga, Kosovo's leader, to ask her name.
”What's your name, dear?,” the president of the European Council asked the Kosovan leader, after talks on Wednesday.
Ms Jahjaga patiently explained, “Jah-Jah... ga-ga” twice before Mr Van Rompuy is able to get her name right. Sources have defended Mr Van Rompuy insisting that Europe's most senior official actually said, “How do I pronounce your name, dear?”.
Last month, Lady Ashton, the EU's foreign minister was ridiculed after footage showing her and one of her most senior diplomats panicking before a crucial meeting with Serbia's president because they do not know what he looks like became an internet hit.
Last month, Lady Ashton, the EU's foreign minister was ridiculed after footage showing her and one of her most senior diplomats panicking before a crucial meeting with Serbia's president because they do not know what he looks like became an internet hit.
July 18, 2012
Two elected officials in Jamaica have been accused of participating in a multimillion dollar lottery scam that has targeted elderly Americans.
Police Superintendent Leon Clunis says officers arrested Kingston Deputy Mayor Michael Troupe and St. James Councilor Sylvan Reid.
Clunis said that Troupe's two sons also were arrested in an early Wednesday raid at the men's homes where police seized more than $13,000 and two guns.
The men have not been charged and do not yet have attorneys.
Officials estimate that the lottery scam generate about $300 million a year, up from about $30 million three years ago.
Jamaica police so far have detained 142 people in connection with the scam, but only 19 have been charged.
For most of last week, there had only been one topic of discussion in Schwandorf, Germany: "Klausi" the crocodile, the first big story of the country's annual silly season of slow summer news.
Two visitors to the Bavarian city's local lake, Klauensee, claimed to have spotted a crocodile in the water. After deploying dozens of searchers, including a dramatic night-time boat operation with more than 70 police, fire fighters and aid workers, officials in the town now believe they have spotted the missing reptile. But Klausi the crocodile, it turns out, is actually just a beaver.
After viewing images captured by cameras planted on the lakefront, officials were unable to spot any crocodile, city spokesman Lothar Mulzar said, noting that the file on "Klausi" has now been shut. Officials believe the headline-attracting creature is no more than an overgrown rodent, he added.
The two witnesses claimed they had seen a one-meter-long creature with a long tail and claws. After multiple searches failed to turn up the alleged crocodile, four cameras used to track wildlife were set up along the shore. Officials ultimately analyzed some 3,700 pictures before calling it a day. "There were foxes, Grey Heron, dogs running freely and broken branches, but no crocodile," Mulzer told reporters. The city has since reopened the lake for swimming.
Last week's circus was the third alleged sighting of a crocodile in the area in the past five years. As with last week's search, the others also failed to turn up any scaly reptiles.
Bavaria, Germany's richest state, is tired of paying billions each year to the country's poorer states. On Tuesday, the state's governor announced it planned to challenge Germany's complicated transfer system in court. Editorialists at German newspapers seem to agree on only one thing about the development: It's pre-election populism.
July 17, 2012
A Japanese schoolgirl was in intensive care on Tuesday after being speared in the head by a javelin while taking part in track and field training, an official said.
The 2.6 metre javelin became lodged in the 15-year-old's head after being thrown by a student on campus at Fukuyama Heisei University in western Hiroshima prefecture on Monday, the university official said.
The girl was training at the university with a group of fellow high school students when the accident happened.
Rescuers cut the shaft off the 800-gram javelin before taking her to hospital.
“She will have to stay in the intensive care unit for about two weeks,” said the official, adding the injury was not thought to be life-threatening. - AFP
A freak wave of summer tornadoes has struck northern and western Poland, killing at least one person and injuring another 10 people.
An area around Bory Tucholskie forest, a national park and popular tourist destination, was hit by a twister between 800 and 1,000 meters (875-1,100 yards) wide. More than 400 hectares (nearly 1,000 acres) of woodland were flattened in the area, authorities said, and more than 100 houses destroyed.
Power lines were downed and roads were closed as hundreds of firefighters worked to clear away fallen trees. Some trains had to make detours after debris fell onto tracks.
Firefighter Mieczyslaw Torlop told the TVN station that one man was killed in the village of Wycinki after being crushed by his house, which collapsed.
July 16, 2012
Shortly before going on vacation, Norbert Walter-Borjans once again took care of a matter concerning no small sum of money -- in this case, an additional €1 billion ($1.2 billion) for the cash-strapped bank WestLB, which is partly owned by the western German state of North-Rhine Westphalia. The money boosts the state's total budget to €58.8 billion.
Though large, such sums are all in a day's work for the finance minister of Germany's most populous state. In comparison, a payment authorization recently submitted for his signature seems quite modest. In this case, the payment in question was €3.5 million in exchange for what the source promised would be something the minister had gladly purchased a number of times in the past: a CD containing data on German tax evaders.
The minister signed the form. It wasn't his first purchase of such a CD, nor is it likely to be the last, as state investigators are currently weighing whether to buy two more such data packets, both containing information on Swiss bank accounts. Indeed, when he returns from vacation, Walter-Borjans may well be signing his name on another payment authorization worth several million euros.
Tour de France officials have asked French police to investigate after tacks punctured the tyres of several riders on stage 14 of the race.
Speaking on French TV, race director Jean-Francois Pecheux said any search for who was responsible for scattering the tacks on the course would be "difficult" as thousands of people lined the roadside during the stage's Mur de Peguere climb.
"It was obviously done on purpose. We have the tacks but we don't know who spread them," Pescheux added.
The stage's eventual winner Luis Leon Sanchez and other breakaway riders were minutes ahead of the peloton and were spared the apparent sabotage on the route between Limoux and Foix.
At the summit of the Mur de Peguere - the second of two category one climbs on the day's route - Tour leader Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Cadel Evans were among those to suffer punctures.
Evans was standing by the road for several minutes as his BMC team car was already speeding down the descent and teammate Tejay Van Garderen passed without noticing him.
At the end of the stage, Wiggins said: "What can you do? It's something we can't control. There's nothing stopping more of that sort of stuff happening.
"It's sad. Those are the type of things we have to put up with as cyclists.
Thousands of people in southern Japan remained cut off Sunday by floods and mudslides triggered by torrential rains that have killed at least 26 people, local authorities said.
Evacuation orders issued a day earlier for a quarter of a million people were lifted in most areas Sunday as the rains subsided, allowing many people to return home.
But thousands remained cut off by landslides or fallen trees that blocked roads in mountainous areas.
More than 3,000 people were left stranded in Yame, in Fukuoka Prefecture in southwestern Japan, where roads were cut off to seven districts, the Kyodo news agency reported, citing local authorities. The Japanese military airlifted food by helicopters to stranded districts.
July 15, 2012
A YOUNG Spaniard and another mountaineer were found frozen to death on the Mont Blanc range on the Franco-Italian border at an altitude of some 4400 metres, ANSA news agency reported.
The other victim was a woman, thought to be of east European origin, it said.
The bodies were found near the Dome de Gouter on a mountain marking the border near a path most climbers use to get to the French side of the range.
Authorities say a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims has skidded off a highway in southern Nepal, killing at least 35 people.
Police official Gyan Bikram Shah says the bus was crowded and some people were even riding on the roof.
The roads were slippery because of rainfall, and the driver lost control on Sunday.
Shah said rescuers have recovered 35 bodies. No further details were available.
Marine biologists and veterinarians say the bodies of more than 500 penguins have washed up on beaches in southern Brazil over the past week.
They tell the G1 online news site that the Center of Coastal and Marine Studies is investigating what caused the deaths of the 512 penguins found on beaches of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. The cause of death should be known in about 30 days.
Calls to the center on Saturday went unanswered.
Biologists at the center told G1 the penguins were migrating north from Argentina in search of food in warmer waters. They say the birds appeared well-fed, unhurt and without oil stains.
Authorities in the Dominican Republic say a Swiss businessman who imported wines into the Caribbean country has been found dead from a gunshot wound in a leg.
A police statement Saturday says officers found 61-year-old Stahli Roland Eugen at his home on a farm near the eastern city of El Seibo.
They say he had just returned from a trip to New York and someone broke into the house through the bathroom window.
Police say they do not have a motive but are questioning 10 people about the killing.
Earlier this week, Greek leaders suggested they would ask for more time to hit austerity targets demanded by their creditors. Germany, though, is opposed, according to Friday media reports. IMF head Christine Lagarde also said it is "premature to discuss extension."
The U.S. Olympic Committee said Friday that the uniforms for the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games will be made in the United States.
The news came after it was revealed that American athletes at this year's games are going to be wearing clothing manufactured in China -- a fact that sparked outrage from some lawmakers and human rights activists.
Ralph Lauren and the USOC were bombarded on Facebook and Twitter by critics who demanded the fashion design company manufacture new uniforms in the United States.
From our readers: Forget uniforms, U.S. Olmypians should 'go naked'
July 14, 2012
Paris (CNN) -- Three Americans died when a private jet crashed at a small airport in the south of France, a local official said Friday.
Two men, ages 24 and 51, and a 30-year-old woman were on board the plane when it crashed at Castellet airport, said Didier Couve, a spokesman for the Prefecture of the Var department.
A spokeswoman for the airport said emergency services are on site.
The plane crashed at the end of the runway, she said.
Authorities have arrested 29 people accused of being part of a cannibal cult in Papua New Guinea's jungle interior and charged them with the murders of seven suspected witch doctors, police said on Friday.
Madang Police Commander Anthony Wagambie confirmed a report in The National newspaper that said the cult members allegedly ate their victims' brains raw and made soup from their penises.
"They don't think they've done anything wrong; they admit what they've done openly," Wagambie told The Associated Press by telephone.
He said the killers believed that their victims practised "sanguma," or sorcery, and that they had been extorting money as well as demanding sex from poor villagers for their supernatural services.
By eating witch doctors' organs, the cult members believed they would attain supernatural powers and literally become bullet-proof, he said.
"It's prevalent cult activity," Wagambie said. He said he believes there could be between 700 and 1,000 cult members in several villages in Papua New Guinea's remote northeast interior. All of them might have eaten human flesh, he said.
SALT LAKE CITY — The father of a 28-year-old autistic man who barely survived three weeks in remote southern Utah says his son was an experienced mountaineer but was out of his element in the harsh desert.
John LaFever said Friday that his son William made one crucial mistake: setting off for a 150-mile journey along the wild Escalante River without food or equipment that was apparently stolen before his trip got under way.
"He didn't realize how arduous his journey would be," LaFever told The Associated Press. "We didn't know what he was heading into, either. Thank God he's alive."
Authorities say William LaFever, of Colorado Springs, Colo., apparently didn't realize the distance involved with his plan to hike from Boulder, Utah, to Page, Ariz.
William LaFever is being treated for starvation and dehydration at Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, his father said.
"He started out this journey with everything he needed to survive – but it got stolen from him," John LaFever said. "He thought he could do this on his own without any supplies or equipment, which was a bad decision."
The man has spent a lot of time backpacking in the Colorado mountains and "never had any problems at all," John LaFever said. Utah's twisting, arid canyons turned out to be "totally different."
He traveled about 50 miles over at least three weeks before he was found Thursday by a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter.
Cheeky exchange: Man passes fake 1,000 euro note - complete with naked women - at bureau de change in Czech Republic
It takes all sorts, or so the saying goes, but it seems incredible that anyone would even try to get away with a fraud as unlikely as this.
But one foolhardy man walked into a bureau de chance in the Czech town of Rumburk and asked how much money in Czech korunas he would get for a 1,000 euro banknote.
The cashier told him it was worth 24,000 korunas (943 euros / £740) and the exchange was made.
Sounds straightforward, but the euro 'banknote' in question was covered in pictures of naked women and one of its '€' logos spelled out '€ros', the Greek god of love.
The stars on the EU flag had even been replaced by love hearts.
As if that wasn't enough to convince the cashier of its somewhat dubious legal tender, there isn't even a 1,000 euro banknote anyway.
The unfortunate cashier only found out his mistake when he took a load of currency into his local bank and was informed of the note's comedy origin.
The bank notified the authorities and the perpetrator was arrested and is now facing up to two years in prison on fraud charges.