World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

Wed, Sep 30, 2009 - Page 7

■UNITED KINGDOM

Lennon’s inspiration dies

The woman who as a girl inspired The Beatles’ legendary song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds died aged 46 from an autoimmune disease, the charity that supported her announced on Monday. Lucy O’Donnell was at school with John Lennon’s son, Julian, when she was three and it was his picture of her in 1966 that inspired the classic song. According to various biographies of The Beatles and O’Donnell herself, the young Julian took the picture home to his father and explained: “It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds.” The song, which featured on 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, caused huge controversy at the time because of its psychedelic theme and supposed reference to the drug LSD though its initials — a charge always denied as pure coincidence by John Lennon. Julian Lennon and O’Donnell resumed their friendship in recent months after she became ill with lupus, the disease of the immune system that led to her death last Tuesday.

■BELGIUM

Hoisted by their own petard

Police say two burglary suspects were killed after the excessive explosives they were using to break into a bank’s safe blew up the whole building. The explosion in Dinant destroyed half a banking office and left the rest in ruins. Police say one of the men was buried underneath the rubble and the other died in the hospital on Saturday a few hours after the attempted heist. The automated teller machines and bank safe were not opened. Authorities say both the safe and ATMs have built-in security to destroy money and documents inside if they are opened illegally.

■AUSTRALIA

Puppy lust goes bad

A woman has been arrested for allegedly trying to steal a tiny chihuahua puppy at gunpoint, police said on Monday. The woman produced the working replica pistol after turning up at a Sydney house for an appointment to buy eight-week-old Diego for A$1,500 (US$1,300) on Sunday. “She said she didn’t want anyone to get hurt but we had all of our family from Newcastle there and there were kids around,” owner Ashleigh Johnson told reporters. The 26-year-old woman was subdued by people at the house, who included an off-duty policeman. She was later charged with armed robbery and possession of a prohibited weapon.

■MALAYSIA

‘Bruno’ banned

The government has banned the movie Bruno by Sacha Baron Cohen because it highlights gay life and has gay sex scenes, an official said yesterday. Bruno —following Baron Cohen’s hit Borat — is centered around the adventures of a flamboyant gay fashion journalist from Austria. An official from the Film Censorship Board said the movie was considered unacceptable because of its story line, offensive language, jokes and racy nature. She declined to be named, citing protocol. Gay sex, or “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” is punishable by up to 20 years in jail and whipping in the nation. Ukraine has also banned the film, and some Austrian officials have spoken out against it, but have not taken action.

■TAJIKISTAN

Beard ban for teachers

The government has banned school and university teachers under the age of 50 from wearing beards and limited beard length for older education staff. Under the new rules, teachers aged over 50, can wear “a tidy beard no more than 3 centimeters long.” The rules also prohibit teachers from wearing Western-style clothes such as jeans, mini skirts and T-shirts.

■VENEZUELA

Qaddafi goes shopping

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi took a break from railing against colonialism at a summit to go window shopping, buy jewelry and mingle with stunned tourists on Margarita Island. Wearing a loose, brown shirt and dark sunglasses, Qaddafi left most of his security guards behind at the Hilton Hotel to duck into luxury stores and stroll by the pool as tourists gawked at the North African leader who has forged strong ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. “I felt very nervous, and excited, seeing him in front of me,” said Mariela Cartaya, a 30-year-old tourist from the mainland. Qaddafi returned to the hotel with bags full of clothes and perfumes.

■GERMANY

‘German’ only: politician

Guido Westerwelle, who is widely expected to become foreign minister in the next administration, admonished a reporter who asked him a question in English on Monday, saying: “We’re in Germany here.” The head of the Free Democrats, who are poised to enter government in coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, was giving his first news conference since Sunday’s election when a BBC reporter asked whether he might be willing to respond to a question in English. “Would you please be so kind, this is a press conference in Germany,” Westerwelle replied in German. The reporter then asked Westerwelle if he could respond in German to a question in English, only to be rebuffed again. “In Great Britain people are expected to speak English and it is the same in Germany, people are expected to speak German,” Westerwelle answered.

■UKRAINE

Kiev drops hotel plan

Kiev authorities say they have scrapped a widely criticized plan to build a hotel near what experts say is a killing field in the Babi Yar massacre. Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky’s office said on Monday he had vetoed the decision taken by the Kiev city council earlier this month. Proponents had argued that the city needed more hotels to host the 2012 European soccer championship and develop tourism after the event. Jewish groups have condemned the plan, saying it disrespects the memory of the victims of one of the most tragic chapters of the Holocaust. More than 33,700 Jews were rounded up and shot at the edge of Kiev’s Babi Yar ravine over two days in late September 1941.

■UNITED STATES

Ex-Nazi grateful to captors

A former Nazi SS officer who was imprisoned in Scotland during World War II plans to leave the bulk of his estate, estimated at more than US$640,000, to villagers who befriended him, the Press and Journal in Aberdeen said. The newspaper identified the former prisoner as 84-year-old Heinrich Steinmeyer, who now lives in Delmenhorst, near Bremen in Germany. He was held at the Cultybraggan prisoner-of-war camp near the village of Comrie, about 80km northwest of Edinburgh. The newspaper quoted Steinmeyer as saying his captors were tough but fair, and he decided to stay in Scotland for a time after being released.

■UNITED STATES

Stanford injured in jail fight

Texas financier R. Allen Stanford has been returned to a lockup on Sunday after being hospitalized for treatment of a concussion following a jail fight. Court-appointed attorney Kent Schaffer said on Monday that Stanford was injured in a fight on Thursday with another inmate at the Joe Corley Detention Facility in Conroe, Texas. Stanford had “a concussion, two black eyes, a broken nose,” he said.