Pandas arrive in Toronto
Two giant pandas arrived in Toronto from China on Monday at the start of a 10-year loan to two zoos. Speaking as the pandas arrived, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Junsai (章均賽) said that when he started his posting two years ago, he was greeted only by Ottawa’s director of protocol, but Er Shun and Da Mao merited a personal welcome from Prime Minister Stephen Harper. FedEx Corp, which flew the pandas, will fly in 600kg to 900kg of bamboo each week from the Memphis Zoo in Tennessee because “pandas are picky eaters,” it said.
Asiana staff win skirt battle
Female flight attendants with Asiana Airlines yesterday won a long-running battle to overturn a skirts-only dress code after the national human rights commission ruled it discriminatory. Starting from early next month, Asiana’s female flight attendants will be allowed to wear trousers for the first time since the company came into existence 25 years ago, an airline statement said. The decision came after the national rights watchdog, responding to an appeal lodged by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, ruled the existing dress code was “gender discriminatory.” Asiana has a 10-page dress code for female attendants, which covers everything from earring size to hair color and eye make-up.
City tries cardboard cops
Bangalore police are trying a new way to reduce traffic offences — using cardboard cops to scare drivers into believing the long arm of the law is watching them. Road deaths have surged in India despite a low rate of car ownership with a lethal combination of poor law enforcement, untrained drivers and bad roads making the country one of the world’s leading centers of road deaths. Many Indian drivers will only obey traffic rules if they think law enforcers will reach out and apprehend them “and we can’t be omnipresent,” additional Bangalore police commissioner M.A. Saleem said on Monday. “Drivers in Indian cities violate traffic rules when there are no cops around — they jump traffic lights and go the wrong way on one-way streets,” he said. “These cutout cops are very effective and they can be on the job seven days a week,” Saleem added.
Cigarettes deemed kosher
Observant Jews craving a smoke during the week-long Passover holiday that started at sundown on Monday can now enjoy a rabbi-approved puff. It’s the first time cigarettes have joined the long list of goods stringently checked to ensure they comply with Passover rules on what items are allowed, or kosher for the holiday — meaning they have not come in contact with grains or other forbidden ingredients. The stamp of approval came from the Beit Yosef private rabbinic group, which certifies foods as compliant with Jewish dietary restrictions. Last month, Beit Yosef approved three local cigarette brands for smoking during Passover. The chief rabbinate in Israel, however, disapproved of the measure, saying cigarettes are life-threatening and should not be approved by rabbis. “Poison is not kosher. For all days of the year, not just Passover,” chief rabbinate spokesman Ziv Maor said.
No honor for Chavez
The city of Paris on Monday made anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela an honorary citizen, but refused to grant an honor to Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez. Mandela was “an emblematic and historic human rights figure,” deputy mayor Pierre Schapira said in a speech to a meeting of the city council that bestowed the title on the Nobel peace prize winner. However, the council refused a request from communist councillors for a place in Paris to be named after Chavez. Schapira said that the mayor of the Venezuelan capital Caracas had been stripped of any real power because he was an opponent of Chavez, who died earlier this month. He said poverty had declined and access to education improved in the Latin American state under Chavez, but that it was too early to agree on his legacy.
Elderly couple conned
An elderly couple has been swindled out of more than US$420,000 by a woman pretending to be their granddaughter, in one of the largest such scams on record in the country, police said on Monday. The couple, in their 70s, received a call last month from a woman posing as their granddaughter and claiming she was in financial difficulty, Zurich police said in a statement. Over several weeks, the woman convinced the couple to hand over a total of 400,000 Swiss francs to a friend of hers, police said. The couple did not realize they had been duped until the middle of this month, when they contacted their granddaughter to ask why they hadn’t heard back from her, only to find out she had never asked them for any money. The couple then reported the scam to the police. Zurich police spokeswoman Judith Hoedl said these types of grandparent scams or emergency scams have long been a problem in the Swiss financial capital. “There were more of these cases 10 years ago ... The situation has improved some since we have tried to warn people of the danger,” she said.
Child abuser sentenced
A Togolese man who was convicted of forcing children to work as slaves at his Michigan home has been sentenced to 11 years in federal prison. US District Court Judge Arthur Tarnow also on Monday ordered Jean-Claude Toviave to pay two of the children US$60,000 each. Four victims last fall told jurors that Toviave forced them to perform household duties for nearly five years until January 2011 at the home in Ypsilanti. The four children emigrated from Togo in 2006 with fraudulent papers. They said Toviave beat them if they did not follow his orders. One says he prayed for freedom or death. Two of the victims were in the Detroit courtroom to hear the sentence.
Man killed in swing stunt
A 22-year-old man was killed trying to swing through the opening of a 33m tall sandstone arch in a stunt made so popular on YouTube that Utah authorities recently banned the activity by commercial outfitters. Kyle Lee Stocking left too much slack in the rope he was using, and it sent him crashing into the sandstone base of Corona Arch near Moab, Grand County sheriff’s officials said. He died on Sunday afternoon. Videos have bolstered the activity, which involves swinging wildly from ropes through arch and canyon openings. “People aren’t accepting nature for what it is. They have to put an element of excitement into it,” said John Weisheit, of Living Rivers, a local environmental group. “People see it on YouTube and then say, ‘That looks like fun.’”