Schnapps sickens shoppers
Police on Saturday warned Christmas market goers in Berlin to be on their guard after seven people were taken ill after accepting spiked drinks. The seven who suffered symptoms ranging from vomiting and convulsions to loss of consciousness said they were offered a glass of schnapps by a man in his 40s who asked them to join him in a toast to mark the birth of his child. The victims were approached at three different markets in Berlin on Wednesday and on Thursday. Some required hospital treatment, police added.
Hundreds of right-wing extremists where pelted with bottles, eggs and firecrackers as they marched through Stockholm on Saturday. Three people were injured and at least six people detained as riot police tried to keep angry counter-demonstrators away from the procession, police spokesperson Anders Gillander said. Parts of the downtown area were sealed off during the protests, which coincided with the annual Nobel Prize ceremony. Ultranationalist groups opposed to immigration have staged similar marches in previous years in a Stockholm suburb where a skinhead was killed 10 years ago. Police said about 400 people participated in the march and about as many counter--demonstrators, including far-left activists, showed up trying to stop it.
Man fakes mother’s obit
Authorities said a man published a fake obituary for his mother in a ploy to get paid bereavement time off from work. Relatives called the Jeffersonian Democrat newspaper in Pennsylvania after the obit appeared to say the woman was actually alive and well. The woman herself then visited the paper. Police charged 45-year-old Scott Bennett on Tuesday with disorderly conduct. Newspaper editor Randy Bartley said he accepted the obituary in good faith after being unable to confirm the funeral arrangements at press time. He told the Derrick newspaper on Friday that the woman was very understanding. Police chief Ken Dworek said Bennett wrote up the memorial notice because he did not want to get fired for taking time off.
First class pilferer caught
A man who sold objects stolen from first class flights on the Internet has been arrested in the airport on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion, police said on Saturday. The 28-year-old photographer, based in Canada, would travel first class on Air France and other carriers and disembark with a stash of airline napkins, glasses, plates, blankets and anything else he thought he could sell online, according to police. A complaint from Air France alerted the authorities to the practice and led to the first class pilferer’s arrest on Friday. He is alleged to have made about 10,000 euros (US$13,000) from selling on his ill-gotten gains from Air France alone over the past three years. The suspect admitted his offenses and has been allowed to remain free pending his court appearance, a judicial source said. However, he must stay on the island where he will be tried. His online selling was the key to his capture, as he was identified through his Internet protocol address. The virtual search became a very real search as he was discovered with more stolen airline goods in his baggage on Reunion after leaving an Air France flight.
DMZ tree to go up again
Seoul says it will allow Christians to light a second Christmas tree-shaped tower near the tense Demititarilzed Zone (DMZ) border with North Korea despite strong opposition from Pyongyang. The government allowed a Christian group to light a massive steel Christmas tree near the border last year for the first time in seven years as tensions flared in the wake of two deadly attacks blamed on the North. That tree is to be lit again this month. North Korea’s government Web site warned yesterday that lighting the tree was a form of psychological warfare and would trigger an “unexpected consequence.” The Defense Ministry said yesterday it would help Christians light a second Christmas tree near the border as well. It said it would bolster security near the two trees.
Lazy bureaucrats fired
Five bureaucrats have been suspended from their posts after dozing off or reading newspapers at a meeting aimed at instilling discipline in government work, state press said on Friday. The five officials, all leaders at local tax bureaus in Shanxi Province, were ousted from their posts after slacking off at a meeting on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency said. The meeting was aimed at curbing bad work practices, including unexplained absences and playing games or engaging in recreational activities at work, the report said. Shanxi Province has a history of lazy officials, with more than 300 bureaucrats punished last year after being caught gambling, visiting karaoke bars, massage parlors or tea houses during work hours, the China Daily reported.
Tehran keeping drone
A senior commander of the elite Revolutionary Guard said Tehran would not return a US surveillance drone captured by the armed forces. Deputy head of the guard, General Hossein Salami, said yesterday in remarks broadcast on state television that the violation of the country’s airspace by the US drone was a “hostile act” and warned of a “bigger” response. However, he didn’t elaborate on what Tehran might do. Television broadcast video on Thursday of military officials inspecting what it identified as the RQ-170 Sentinel drone, and offered the first evidence that Tehran had captured the aircraft. State radio has said the unmanned aircraft was detected over the eastern town of Kashmar, 225km from the border with Afghanistan. US officials have acknowledged losing the drone.
Early man knew their plants
Prehistoric people who lived in what today is Kwazulu-Natal Province discovered certain plants’ medicinal properties and made bedding and mats from insect-repelling leaves, researchers said on Friday. An international team, led by Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, discovered several fossilized beds in a well-known rock shelter on a cliff in Sibudu in in the province. The evidence is believed to be 77,000 years old, pre-dating by 50,000 years previous discoveries of preserved bedding. “Sibudu yielded the earliest evidence in the world for plant bedding and the use of medicinal plants,” said team leader Lyn Wadley, whose results were published on Friday in the journal Science. The fossilized bedding evidence consists of a layer of sedge stems and leaves, topped with a thin layer of river wild-quince leaves, which contained insecticidal and mosquito-repelling chemicals.