August 30, 2012

WW2 bomb detonates in Munich setting homes on fire

Approximately 2,500 residents had to be evacuated from the Schwabing district of Munich to allow the detonation of a WW2 bomb on Tuesday night.

Straw, which had been laid down to limit damage from the explosion caught light during the detonation, resulting in several small fires on the roofs of nearby houses.

The bomb was discovered on Monday night by building workers at the site of an old bar that was being demolished.

Munich police spokesman, Reinhold Bergmann said, "a detonation was necessary because the bomb disposal unit was not able to defuse the bomb, so that as a last resort we had to detonate the bomb where it was. The whole thing happened at 21:55 (8.55pm BST)."

August 21, 2012

Floor Plans of French Presidential Palace Stolen

The French government says thieves who broke into a vehicle at a Paris train station made off with a USB drive and discs containing floor plans for the French presidential palace, the country's main security agency and the Paris police department.

A building contractor doing work on the government buildings parked and briefly left his vehicle on Saturday. When he returned, the unencrypted electronic blueprints were gone, according to the Interior Ministry, whose floor plan was among those stolen.

In a statement, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday that the stolen documents weren't classified and that their disappearance put no one in danger.

August 20, 2012

Australian beachgoers drop their trousers for toilet protest

Twelve people, dressed in bowler hats and smart suits, carried their own toilets down to the beach, placing them in a line on the beach front before dropping their trousers and sitting.

The protesters said they were demanding public toilet facilities, of which there are currently none, in the local area.


August 19, 2012

Japanese activists land on disputed Senkaku islands

Six members of the group Gambare Nippon (Hang In There Japan) swam from boats moored off one of the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan but claimed by China as Diaoyu, just days after Japan deported pro-China activists who had sailed there from Hong Kong.

Group president Satoru Mizushima swam ashore with a rope, with five others following, clinging to the rope to get to the island.

The six said they were intending to climb to the highest point on the island to plant a Japanese flag.

The Japanese government, which controls the islands, had refused permission for any of the 150-strong party to land.

The voyage came as Beijing told Tokyo it had to immediately cease actions "harming" its territorial sovereignty.

Wildfires hit Greek holiday island

Ten water bombers and five helicopters were deployed as 50 fire-fighters and almost 80 army troops worked to contain the wildfire on the eastern island. They also used 17 fire engines and were backed by 40 volunteers.

Fanned by strong winds of up 40 miles per hour, the wildfire started in the early hours of Saturday in the island's south. The evacuation was carried out on the initiative of the villagers because of the heavy smoke that covered the area.

"The fire is close to inhabited areas but for the time being has not posed an immediate threat," a fire department spokesman told the AFP news agency.

Finland triumphs in mobile phone throwing championship

Contestants compete in three categories in the annual championships – the traditional over the shoulder style where the aim is to throw the phone as far as possible, the Freestyle category where contestants are judged on aesthetics and creativity and the junior category for children under the age of 12.

According to the organisers mobile phone throwing is a light and modern Finnish sport that combines the philosophy of recycling and a fun spirit.

Since the first competition of its kind was held in Savonlinna in 2000, its popularity has grown with national championships now taking place in a number of countries.

August 18, 2012

Australian Court OKs Logo Ban on Cigarette Packs

Australia's highest court on Wednesday upheld the world's toughest law on cigarette promotion, meaning tobacco companies will be prohibited from displaying their logos on cigarette packs that will instead feature images of cancer-riddled mouths, blinded eyeballs and sickly children.

The High Court rejected a challenge by tobacco companies who argued the value of their trademarks will be destroyed if they are no longer able to display their distinctive colors, brand designs and logos on packs of cigarettes.

Starting in December, packs will instead come in a uniformly drab shade of olive and feature dire health warnings and graphic photographs of smoking's health effects. The government, which has urged other countries to adopt similar rules, hopes the new packs will make smoking as unglamorous as possible.

August 17, 2012

Tiny Cook Islands a Squeeze for Hillary Clinton

The tiny Cook Islands are proving almost too small for Hillary Clinton.

The South Pacific island chain, home to just 10,000 people, is buzzing as it prepares for the expected visit of the U.S. secretary of state, the biggest dignitary to stop by since Queen Elizabeth II nearly four decades ago. Hosting such a high-profile guest and her entourage, however, is posing problems for a government that owns just three small SUVs and is scrambling to borrow cars from residents to create a proper motorcade.

Israel texts to warn of missile strikes

"The Home Front Command will today start conducting nationwide testing of the 'Personal Message' alert system, which will end on Thursday," said a statement indicating that SMS texts in Hebrew, Arabic, English and Russian would be sent to subscribers on Israel's three main networks: Cellcom, Pelephone and Orange.

The idea is that the SMS system could be used to warn the population of an imminent missile attack by Iran or Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, which could become a reality if Israel decides to mount a pre-emptive military strike on nuclear facilities in Iran.

Julian Assange: Ecuador grants Wikileaks founder asylum

Ecuador has granted asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange two months after he took refuge in its London embassy while fighting extradition from the UK.

It said his human rights might be violated if he is sent to Sweden to be questioned over sex assault claims.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK would not allow Mr Assange safe passage out of the country and the move was also criticised by Stockholm.

Ecuador said it would seek to negotiate arrangements for Mr Assange to leave.

August 16, 2012

One of Hungary’s leading anti-Jewish far-rightists is revealed to be Jewish

As a rising star in Hungary's far-right Jobbik Party, Csanad Szegedi was notorious for his incendiary comments on Jews: He accused them of "buying up" the country, railed about the "Jewishness" of the political elite and claimed Jews were desecrating national symbols.

Then came a revelation that knocked him off his perch as ultra-nationalist standard-bearer: Szegedi himself is a Jew.

Following weeks of Internet rumors, Szegedi acknowledged in June that his grandparents on his mother's side were Jews - making him one too under Jewish law, even though he doesn't practice the faith. His grandmother was an Auschwitz survivor and his grandfather a veteran of forced labor camps.

Since then, the 30-year-old has become a pariah in Jobbik, and his political career is on the brink of collapse. He declined to be interviewed for this story.

August 12, 2012

Death Toll in Iran Quake Raised to at Least 250

Iranian state television has raised the toll from Saturdays' twin earthquakes to over 250 dead and at least 2,000 injured.

Images broadcast on the main news channel showed dozens of families of sleeping outdoors in parks, with blankets laid out on the ground. Some were crying, others shivering from chilly weather in the mountainous region hit by the quake in the northwestern part of the country.

TV also showed many people evacuated by rescue teams on stretchers to hospitals and clinics. Other images showed the injured in hospital beds.

U.S. in first effort to clean up Agent Orange in Vietnam

The United States has pitched in for the first time to clean up part of the toxic legacy left by the millions of gallons of the chemical compound code named Agent Orange that it dumped on Vietnam during the war there in the 1960s and '70s.

The U.S. military used Agent Orange, also known as dioxin, to kill trees and plants that blocked visibility from the air during the Vietnam War. But the chemical, which can cause cancer and birth defects, also harmed humans and left areas of Vietnam contaminated.

In an effort to start addressing this noxious remnant of the war, the U.S. and Vietnamese governments, along with partnering organizations, are treating a contaminated zone at the airport of the central Vietnamese city of Danang.

Workers will dig up soil, stockpile it, and treat it using high temperatures that break down the dioxin.

August 11, 2012

Frédéric Bourdin, the Frenchman who persuaded an American family that he was their lost son

'It’s rare,’ Bart Layton, the director of The Imposter, said, 'to happen upon a story that if it were a work of fiction would feel far-fetched.’

The Imposter is just such a story – and it is one of the most astonishing documentary films that you will see this, or any other, year. It begins with a 13-year-old American boy, Nicholas Barclay, who in 1994 disappeared near his home in San Antonio, Texas.

Three and a half years later, he turned up in Linares, Spain, telling how he had been abducted on the streets of his home town, flown to Europe, and then systematically abused by a paedophile ring before finally making good his escape. Traumatised by his ordeal, Nicholas, then 16, was collected by his sister and flown back to America, and into the welcoming bosom of his family.

But the boy was not Nicholas. Nor was he 16. In fact he was a 23-year-old Frenchman, Frédéric Bourdin, who had a long history of masquerading under false names and identities. So persuasive had Bourdin been that he had fooled the Spanish authorities, the US consulate, the FBI and – incredibly – Nicholas Barclay’s own family.

Bel's 'mentally ill holidays' promotion backfires

The company was offering a gift of ink stamps in packets of Mini Babybel cheeses with the logo – “Mentally Ill Holidays” — Des Vacances de Malade Mental.

Bel said French teenagers use the term “mentally ill” as a synonym of amazing and the slogan was meant to be humorous.

French parents and shoppers didn't see the funny side. They attacked the campaign as offensive and threatened a mass boycott of its products, which include Boursin soft cheese.

Bel was forced to issue a public apology.

August 10, 2012

70 sect members found living underground in Russia

A reclusive sect that literally went underground to stop contact with the outside world kept 27 children in dark and unheated cells, many of them for more than a decade, prosecutors said Wednesday. The children have been freed and the parents charged with child abuse.

Some of the children, aged between 1 and 17, have never seen daylight, health officials said. The sect's 83-year-old founder Faizrakhman Satarov, who declared himself a Muslim prophet in contradiction with the principles of Islam, has also been charged with negligence, Irina Petrova, deputy prosecutor in the provincial capital of Kazan, told The Associated Press.

No members of the sect, who call themselves "muammin" after the Arabic term that means "believers," have been arrested, she said.

The children were discovered last week when police searched the sect grounds as part of a probe into the recent killing of a top Tatarstan Muslim cleric, an attack local officials blame on radical Islamist groups that have mushroomed in the oil-rich, Volga River province.

Olympics beach volleyball: Germany shock Brazil to win gold

Brink and Reckermann clinched the first set 23-21, before Brazil's reigning world champions won 21-16 in the second to take the match to a deciding set.

The Germans blew three gold medal points before clinching the final set 16-14 to condemn Brazil to silver.

Latvia beat Netherlands to earn bronze.

Brink and Reckermann's triumph helped Germany become the first European country to win Olympic gold in the event.

August 9, 2012

Italian Hitler wine bottles 'offensive'

Michael Hirsch, a lawyer from Philadelphia, complained to local media after he found a supermarket near his hotel was stocking wine bottles with Hitler in various poses and another bottle featuring an image of Pope John Paul II.

"It is very shocking and startling to us," Mr Hirsch told The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday. "We would think of it as neo-Nazism It makes you wonder about the sympathies of the local people."

One bottle features Hitler with his arm raised in the Nazi, another is labelled 'Mein Kampf" and another was labelled "Ein volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer" (one people, one empire, one Fuhrer), Mr Hirsch said.

Local prosecutors said they have opened an inquiry into the sale of the wine bottles.

Belgium's Gijs Van Hoecke sent home from London 2012 after drunken night out

The pictures show Van Hoecke, who came 15th in the men's omnium on Sunday, with his eyes closed being carried by two others, including team mate Jonathan Dufrasne, with his trousers and shirt covered in liquid.

"The Belgian Olympic Committee and the Royal Cycling Federation deplore this incident, which fortunately did not affect life in the Olympic Village and athletes trying to rest ahead of their competition," the sporting body said in a statement.

Van Hoecke, 20, had been sent home immediately, the statement said.

Belgian daily newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws said Van Hoecke regretted the incident.

"I made a big mistake. I'm happy my parents didn't tell me off. They understand that I needed this," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

August 8, 2012

Belarus pulls embassy staff from Sweden over toy bear drop

Though a foreign ministry statement said Belarus was not severing relations with the Nordic country, the move marked an escalation in the dispute and looked certain to worsen the already strained ties with the European Union.

Belarus expelled Sweden's ambassador on August 3 following the July 4 escapade in which about 800 toy bears bearing pro-democracy messages were parachuted into the hardline former Soviet republic from a light aircraft chartered by a Swedish public relations firm.

The incident was a humiliation for President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994 and is on poor terms with the West because of his harsh policies towards the political opposition.

The Belarussian ambassador to Stockholm was also withdrawn.

The foreign ministry said Minsk was pulling out its remaining embassy staff because Sweden had aggravated the situation by expelling two more diplomats and had refused to allow a new Belarussian ambassador to take up his post.


Lukashenko subsequently sacked his air defense chief and head of the border guards and reprimanded the state security agency for lapses in vigilance. He told the incoming border guards chief not to hesitate to use weapons to stop any future air intrusions from abroad.

August 7, 2012

Polish president accuses Obama of betraying Poland

Reflecting Warsaw's long-standing anger over the 2009 cancellation of a controversial Bush-era anti-ballistic missile system President Bronislaw Komorowski said Poland should build its own missile shield to ensure national defence.

"Our mistake was that by accepting the American offer of a shield we failed to take into account the political risk associated with a change of president," said Mr Komorowski in a magazine interview. "We paid a high political price. We do not want to make the same mistake again. We must have a missile system as an element of our defences."


August 5, 2012

Chick-fil-A Has 'Record-Setting' Sales on Appreciation Day

Chick-fil-A posted "record-setting" sales on Wednesday as thousands of people swarmed the chicken chain for Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day after the chain's chief made anti-gay comments.

"While we don't release exact sales numbers, we can confirm reports that it was a record-setting day," Steve Robinson, Chick-fil-A's executive vice president of marketing, said in a statement.

At least one location had to close early after nearly selling out of chicken. At others, lines snaked around buildings and patrons waited upwards of two hours to snag their chicken sandwiches and show their support for Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy's comments supporting traditional marriage.


August 2, 2012

Chile Bans Marketing of Toys in Children's Food

McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and other fast-food companies are being accused in Chile of violating the country's new law against including toys with children's meals.

These and other companies are knowingly endangering the health of children by marketing kids' meals with toys more than a month after the law took effect on June 7, Sen. Giudo Gerardi said as he filed a formal complaint Wednesday seeking a health ministry investigation.

Gerardi said he's also targeting the makers of cereal, popsicles and other products that are sold with toys, crayons or stickers as a way to attract children, as well as the markets where these foods are sold.