World News Quick Take

Agencies

Wed, Oct 10, 2012 - Page 7

SINGAPORE

Official sacked for outburst

An ethnic Chinese trade union executive was sacked after she posted expletives-laden comments about Malay weddings on Facebook, remarks so offensive they prompted the prime minister and other politicians to complain. Amy Cheong, until Monday an assistant director at the National Trades Unions Congress, had asked how many (expletive) days Malay weddings went on for at the foot of public housing blocks. “[Expletive]!!!! Pay for a real wedding u [expletive], maybe then the divorce rate wont be so high! How can society allow ppl to get married for 50 bucks?” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) said on Facebook he was shocked to hear of the outrage, illustrating how racial tension remains a key concern in the city-state. “The comments were just wrong and totally unacceptable,” he said. Law Minister K. Shanmugam agreed. “Her comments reflect a deep seated racist attitude, coupled with contempt for those who are less well off, or who wish to spend less,” he said on his Facebook page. “There are deep fault lines in our society, based on race-religion.” The National Trades Unions Congress is an umbrella trade union affiliated to the ruling People’s Action Party and it is headed by Lim Swee Say, a minister without portfolio in the Cabinet. Lim announced Cheong’s sacking on Monday. Ethnic Chinese make up about three-quarters of Singapore’s resident population, with Malays making up another 13 percent and Indians 9 percent.

POLAND

Giraffe dies during surgery

Tofik, a male giraffe who won sympathy in Poland after he lost his two female companions in the wake of an attack by hoodlums near their zoo enclosure, has died during surgery for digestive problems, zoo officials said on Monday. The five-year-old Rothschild giraffe died on Sunday, said Magdalena Janiszewska, the head of the zoo in Lodz. His stomach condition is believed to not be related to the attack. The loss is particularly poignant for the zoo. Two female giraffes that were with Tofik in his enclosure during the May attack died of complications because of stress. “It is a very bad year for us,” Janiszewska said. “It is hard not to talk of bad luck.” The endangered animals earned widespread media attention and compassion in Poland after hooligans tossed garbage cans and benches near their enclosure — frightening the normally skittish animals. After Tofik was left alone, zoo officials brought in three other giraffes to mate with him and keep him company, hoping that it would help his recovery. They had been doing well until he fell ill.

FRANCE

Villagers march to Paris

Laguiole in the Midi-Pyrenees is known for the manufacture of France’s most famous knives, of the same name, a matter of pride for the village’s 1,200 residents. Now they are engaged in a bitter battle over the rights to the name. The row has pitted tradition against trademark, and seen the Laguiolais tear down their village sign and march to Paris. “Our name no longer belongs to us, so what do you want us to do with this sign?” Mayor Vincent Alazard asked a crowd of cheering protesters. Villagers are furious after losing a court battle to reclaim the Laguiole name from a company based in the Paris region which has registered it as a trademark. They have accused the firm of stealing their heritage and, worse, applying the name to cheap products from China. They want the government to introduce rules for regional products similar to the appellation controlee regulations that apply to French wines.

UNITED KINGDOM

Art attack suspect arrested

Police on Monday arrested a 26-year-old man suspected of defacing a mural by US artist Mark Rothko at London’s Tate Modern gallery. The gallery shut for a short time on Sunday after the damage was found on the corner of one of Rothko’s Seagram murals. Sussex police arrested a man in Worthing, southern England, on Monday evening on suspicion of criminal damage and the suspect was in custody at a Sussex police station, a Metropolitan Police statement said. Earlier on Monday, Russian Vladimir Umanets had claimed responsibility for writing on the painting. “I believe that from everything bad there’s always a good outcome so I’m prepared for that, but obviously I don’t want to spend a few months, even a few weeks, in jail, but I do strongly believe in what I am doing, I have dedicated my life to this,” he told the Daily Telegraph. The graffiti appeared to read: “Vladimir Umanets, A Potential Piece of Yellowism.” “Some people think I’m crazy or a vandal, but my intention was not to destroy or decrease the value, or to go crazy,” he said. “I am not a vandal.” Umanets is a founder of “Yellowism,” which he calls “neither art, nor anti-art” on the movement’s Web site. “It’s an element of contemporary visual culture. It’s not an artistic movement,” he said.

UNITED KINGDOM

Couple’s cannabis plant error

Police say an elderly couple unwittingly grew a monstrous cannabis plant in their yard after buying what they thought was an innocuous green bush at a flea market. Police in Bedford, a commuter town 90km from central London, posted a picture of a luxuriant cannabis plant growing as tall as the fence in what appeared to be someone’s back yard. In a message posted to Twitter on Friday the force said the plant had been “seized today.” “Elderly couple bought shrub at car boot sale, tended carefully-biggest cannabis plant we had seen!!” the message said.

UNITED STATES

Mars probe makes first scoop

NASA officials say the Curiosity rover has made its first scoop of the surface of Mars and has detected a bright object on the ground. Officials said in a news release on Monday that they suspect the object might be a part of the six-wheeled rover, but they will not sample or scoop any more until they figure out what it is. The Curiosity has already beamed back pictures of bedrock that suggest a fast-moving stream once flowed on the planet. The rover landed on Aug. 5 and is on a two-year, US$2.5 billion mission to study whether microbial life could have existed on Mars in the past. Today’s Mars is a frozen desert, but previous geological studies suggest it was once warmer and wetter.

UNITED STATES

Tomatoes reduce stroke risk

Eating tomatoes can dramatically reduce the risk of having a stroke, according to a new study out on Monday that provided more support for diets rich in fruits and vegetables. The key factor appears to be the powerful antioxident lycopene, according to the Finnish study published in the Neurology journal. The research — based on data from more than 1,000 middle-aged men, followed for an average of 12 years — indicates that people with the highest levels of lycopene in their blood have a 55 percent lower chance of suffering a stroke. “This study adds to the evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke,” said study author Jouni Karppi, of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio.