Fire razes shantytown
About 10,000 people lost their homes and one child was killed when a fire swept through one of the country’s largest shantytowns in Manila yesterday, arson investigator Catherine Albino said. The authorities had yet to determine the cause of the blaze that destroyed about 500 houses in the Bahay Toro slum, Albino said. Firemen battled for more than three hours before the blaze was brought under control.
Food needs being assessed
The UN said on Monday it had begun a new assessment of the impoverished country’s food needs. The country has reportedly asked the US and other nations to consider resuming food aid. US handouts were suspended in 2009 after monitors of its distribution were expelled. Last Thursday, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization began a joint mission to assess food needs in the country, said Bettina Luescher, the WFP’s spokeswoman in New York. WFP’s current food aid operation is only 20 percent funded, she said. It requires about US$4 million a month.
Smoking on way out
The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television is ordering makers of films and TV shows to limit the amount of smoking depicted on-screen, the latest effort to curb rampant tobacco use in the country with the largest number of smokers in the world. The order, viewed yesterday on its Web site, orders producers to minimize plot lines and scenes involving tobacco and show smoking only when necessary for artistic purposes or character development.
Air crash kills 14 people
A small commercial airliner crashed on Monday near the capital, killing all 14 people aboard, including a senior government official and a top union leader, authorities said. Two Americans and a Canadian were listed as passengers on the Central American Airlines’ flight to Toncontin airport in Tegucigalpa, said Melvin Duarte, spokesman for the Attorney General’s office. US and Canadian embassy officials said they would release details on the victims after notifying their families. The Let L-410 Turbolet crashed on Monday morning in the town of Las Mesitas, about 5km south of the airport. It was carrying two pilots and 12 passengers, including Assistant Secretary for Public Works Rodolfo Rovelo, United Workers Federation of Honduras leader Jose Israel Salinas and former economy secretary Carlos Chain, airline manager Felix Pacheco said.
Composer Shearing dies
British-born jazz pianist and composer George Shearing, known for his Lullaby of Birdland that paid tribute to Charlie Parker, died on Monday, his agent said. Manager Dale Sheets said Shearing “passed away in New York this morning at 1:05am of congestive heart failure.” He was 91. Shearing, who was blind from birth, emigrated to the US in 1947 and formed a jazz quintet that recorded numerous hits. He became a superstar of the jazz world a couple of years after he arrived in the US, although he was already hugely popular in England. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2007.
Berlusconi trial date set
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will go on trial for abuse of power and buying underage sex in April, a judge ruled yesterday. Judge Cristina Di Censa, the examining judge at the court in Milan, fixed the date for the first hearing in a fast-track trial for April 6. “We didn’t expect anything else,” Berlusconi’s lawyers said on hearing the news. Berlusconi will be tried by three female judges. Di Censa upheld requests by Milan magistrates to fast-track a trial against the 74-year-old leader on allegations he paid for sex with a nightclub dancer called “Ruby the Heart Stealer.”