Key wants rugby to go on
Prime Minister John Key said yesterday he wanted Rugby World Cup games to proceed in Christchurch this year, but local rugby officials had reservations following Tuesday’s devastating earthquake. Key said there had been no formal discussions on shifting games from Christchurch, but he believed holding them there would be a powerful symbol of the city’s resilience after two major earthquakes in the past six months. However, Canterbury Rugby Union chief executive Hamish Riach told Television New Zealand he had doubts about whether Christchurch would be able to host the matches during the September to October tournament. “Right now it doesn’t feel like we could host very much at all,” Riach said, but added that it was too early to make any decision.
Quake to cost NZ$11.5bn
The devastating earthquake that hit Christchurch could cost the insurance industry up to NZ$11.5 billion (US$8.6 billion), disaster modeling firm AIR Worldwide said yesterday. The US-based firm, which specializes in forecasting the cost of natural disasters and terror attacks, said widespread quake damage had largely shut the city’s business center and infrastructure had also been hit hard. It said the structural integrity of surviving buildings in Christchurch’s central business district would need to be carefully assessed after the city’s second major earthquake in six months. Roads and bridges in Christchurch had been damaged by liquefaction, when seismic tremors turn earth fluid, AIR said, adding that suburbs and surrounding towns had also been affected.
Posters cause red faces
Hundreds of posters decorating streets for a military holiday accidentally replaced Russian planes with Chinese fighter jets, an official admitted on Tuesday. Posters displayed in Saint Petersburg showed a plane against a national flag. However, instead of a Russian jet, it was in fact a Chinese Chengdu J-10. The slip, reproduced in around 250 posters, was an error by the designer, who was unfamiliar with military planes, said the head of the city’s media committee, Alexander Korennikov. “It was the designer’s fault. If you are not a specialist in military hardware, it is an easy thing to do,” he said. “The problem was that the images were printed and put up before being checked and agreed with the media committee.” The mistake was spotted at the end of last week and the posters were due to be removed by the end of Tuesday, on the eve of the holiday, Korennikov said.
King boosts benefits
King Abdullah yesterday ordered billions poured into a development fund that helps Saudis buy homes, get married and start businesses, state TV reported. The measure was one of several announced by the monarch, who returned home yesterday after a three-month absence during which he underwent medical treatment in the US. Abdullah ordered that 40 billion riyals (US$10.7 billion) be injected into the country’s development fund, Saudi television said. That nearly doubles the original budget of 47 billion riyals. Other new measures include a 15 percent cost of living adjustment for government workers and a year of unemployment assistance for youth.
Big fat weddings face axe
The government is considering proposals to limit the number of guests allowed at weddings to reduce food wastage, an official said on Tuesday. Indian weddings are famous for their extravagance and a wave of new money in the country has led to ever more lavish marriage celebrations, often involving multi-cuisine buffets and hundreds, or even thousands, of guests. “We are looking into the possibility of reintroducing the executive guest control order created in the early 1960s,” an official at the ministry of food and consumer affairs in New Delhi said. The rules limited the number of guests at weddings and other functions to deal with the scarcity of food, he said. “Today the issue is not scarcity, but food is still being wasted and maximum amount of food is wasted at weddings,” said the official, who declined to be named. Food minister K.V. Thomas calculated nearly 15 percent of all grain and vegetables in India was wasted through weddings and other social events, the Mail Today newspaper reported.
Groups slam live burials
Religious groups criticized the government yesterday for burying some animals alive to curb the country’s worst outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Under government guidelines, animals should be either killed or anesthetized before being buried. However, such rules have been frequently ignored with animals buried alive in many places as the disease swept much of the country, 35 Christian, Buddhist and other religious groups said in a joint statement. They released a video clip showing 1,900 pigs being buried alive near Seoul. The groups urged the government to cull animals more humanely and vowed to hold a joint memorial service for the beasts next week.
Lula under investigation
Prosecutors said on Tuesday they were opening a case against former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for administrative misconduct and were seeking to block his assets. Federal prosecutors asked a federal court to try Lula and former Social Security minister Amir Lando for allegedly using public assets for personal benefit from October to December 2004. Lula and Lando allegedly sent 10 million letters to older Brazilians to urge them to seek low-interest loans. Prosecutors, who claimed a loss of about 9.5 million reais (US$6 million) for the state in sending the letters, said there was no public interest in the scheme that amounted to political self-promotion by Lula and Lando. The deal also allegedly benefited a private bank offering the loans that was linked to a corruption scandal involving bribes to ruling party lawmakers that rocked Lula’s government in 2005 and 2006, prosecutors said.
Snake owner told to pay
A woman whose 90cm long snake slithered away from her in a Boston subway car and hid there for nearly a month has gotten a hefty cleaning bill. Transit officials want Allston, Massachusetts, resident Melissa Moorhouse to pay US$650 to cover the costs of disinfecting and sanitizing the Red Line train to protect passengers from germs such as salmonella that may have been left by a boa constrictor named Penelope. Moorhouse had traveled with the snake around her neck and lost it between stations on Jan. 6. The snake was spotted on the train earlier this month by a commuter. Moorhouse said she’d pay more attention the next time she takes the snake out in public.
Mobster gets new wardrobe
A New York mafia don will be dressed to kill when his long delayed death-penalty murder trial starts — thanks to a sartorially sympathetic judge. Vincent Basciano, a Cosa Nostra wise guy known for his impeccable haircuts, can look forward to an entire new wardrobe in the tradition of famously well-turned-out killers like “Dapper Don” John Gotti. Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis signed the unusual court order that: “five sets of clothing, including but not limited to, undershirts, socks, shoes, dress shirts, suit pants and suit jackets, be made available to Basciano prior to each court date in this case.” Basciano, known as “Vinny Gorgeous,” will want to avoid the fashion disaster at his last murder trial in 2007, when, the New York Post reported, he ran out of clean clothes and had to borrow a shirt from the judge. The former boss of the Bonanno crime family, Basciano was convicted in that trial and sentenced to life in prison. He faces execution in the new trial, where he is accused of murdering another mobster.
Dog snatchers shoot pastor
An evangelical pastor walking his two schnauzers was shot to death by a gunman who tried to steal the dogs, authorities said on Tuesday. Witnesses told police that the assailant got out of a car and tried to snatch the two schnauzer puppies from pastor Carlos Marroquin in the northern city of San Pedro Sula on Monday, Security Minister Oscar Alvarez said. Marroquin refused to hand over the dogs, and the gunman opened fire. Neighbors said the dogs then ran across the street to their home and the shooter fled in the vehicle. Police were looking for the gunman and a second person who drove the car. Schnauzers can sell for about US$500 in the country, where the minimum monthly salary is US$311.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies