Spain returns treasure trove
Spain on Monday returned almost 700 pieces of pre-Columbian art that it had seized more than a decade ago in a drug bust. The catalog of museum-worthy artifacts includes vases decorated with human faces, ceramic bowls decorated with geometric designs in ochre tones, musical instruments, necklaces and even small figures of people dating from 1400 BC up to the 16th century. “Recovering for our nation these 691 archeological treasures has a value that is really difficult to put any price on,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Maria Angela Holguin said at a briefing, presenting 50 of the remarkable pieces. The artifacts — from Calima, Narino, San Agustin, Quimbaya, Sinu and other groups — had been spirited out of Colombia in 2001 before being seized from drug traffickers by Spanish authorities in 2003.
Four miners remain trapped
At least four miners are believed to remain trapped in a wildcat gold mine near Bonanza, about 420km northeast of Managua. Officials say rescue work remains dangerous and difficult in the water-logged work site. It was unclear exactly how many miners were missing because the workers were freelancers As many as eight men were feared missing. Rescue squad commander Javier Amaya said on Monday that oxygen levels in the partly collapsed mine remained good, but that their efforts were hampered by water and humidity. The miners have been trapped since Thursday last week when a landslide blocked the mine entrance.
Eight die in building blast
The death toll in the partial collapse of a four-story apartment building in a Paris suburb has risen to eight after emergency crews pulled the bodies of a man and a woman from the rubble. Fire department spokesman Gabriel Plus said the bodies were found on Monday in Rosny-sous-Bois, a town northeast of the capital. Officials said there was no longer any danger in the neighborhood after an explosion sheared off part of the building on Sunday. French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve said a gas leak was believed to be the cause of the explosion.
Space sex test geckos dead
Five geckos sent into orbit to test the effect of weightlessness on the small lizards’ sex lives have all died, the Russian space agency said on Monday. The Foton-M4 satellite on which the geckos spent the past month and a half returned to Earth as planned on Monday and the various species traveling aboard were removed. Interfax news agency later quoted an expert who worked on the mission as saying “that according to preliminary data it is becoming clear that the geckos froze” after their heating system failed. However, the fruit flies that were also traveling on the satellite survived and had reproduced, the space agency said.
Minister quits over exams
Leon Nzouba has resigned as education minister due to a scandal after hundreds of students failed the nation’s high-school exams, government spokeswoman Denise Mekamne said. Nzouba was heavily criticized for his handling of a dispute involving 900 students who were deemed to have failed their exams, but who challenged their grades. The students claim to have been penalized by recent reforms, meaning their marks obtained during previous years no longer count toward the final exam result. Nzouba initially awarded the students with the qualification following protests, before changing his mind.