World News Quick Take

Agencies

Thu, Dec 18, 2014 - Page 7

GREECE

Snap elections possible

Lawmakers were set to vote from yesterday for a new president in a ballot that would lead to snap general elections if they fail — putting on the line years of efforts to turn around an economy in crisis. The government brought forward the indirect election from February, when it is likely to be locked in delicate negotiations with the cash-starved nations’s creditors, the EU and the IMF. The administration headed by conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has little chance of mustering the 200 votes it needs in the first and second rounds to elect its candidate to the largely ceremonial post, former EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas. If no majority emerges for a name in the third or final round on Dec. 29, when 180 MPs’ votes are needed, early elections have to be called.

UNITED STATES

Cosby escapes charges

Los Angeles prosecutors on Tuesday declined to file any charges against Bill Cosby after a woman claimed the comedian molested her around 1974. The rejection of a child sexual abuse charge by prosecutors came roughly 10 days after the woman, Judy Huth, met with Los Angeles police detectives. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office rejected filing a misdemeanor charge of annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18 because the statute of limitations had passed. Days before Huth spoke to police, she accused Cosby in a civil lawsuit of forcing her to perform a sex act on him in a bedroom of the Playboy Mansion when she was 15 years old. Cosby’s attorney said that Huth attempted to extort US$250,000 from the comedian before she sued.

VATICAN CITY

New tone taken on US nuns

An unprecedented Vatican investigation of US women’s religious orders that alarmed Roman Catholic sisters when the inquiry began years ago ended on Tuesday with a report signaling a softer approach under Pope Francis. The report praised sisters for their work caring for the poor and promised to value their “feminine genius” more, while gently suggesting ways to serve the church faithfully and survive amid a steep drop in their numbers. There was no direct critique of the nuns, nor any demand for them to change — only requests that they ensure their ministries remain “in harmony with Catholic teaching.” The laudatory language contrasted sharply with the atmosphere in which the review started under Pope Benedict XVI. Cardinal Franc Rode, who in 2008 initiated the nationwide study when he led the Vatican office that oversees religious orders, said there was concern about “a certain secular mentality that has spread in these religious families and, perhaps, also a certain ‘feminist’ spirit.”

UNITED STATES

Chinese man pleads guilty

A Chinese man on a student visa pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiring to export illegally to China high-tech sensors used by the defense industry, a federal prosecutor in New Mexico said. Cai Wentong, 30, is set to serve 18 months in prison after he and a cousin traveled to New Mexico in December last year where they obtained one of the sensors from US Department of Homeland Security undercover agents. Cai was a graduate student at Iowa State University at the time, studying microbiology, and officials said his 29-year-old cousin Cai Bo worked for a technology company in China. Days after they met the agents, Cai Bo was arrested in Los Angeles as he prepared to board a flight to China with the sensor concealed in a computer speaker in his luggage.

CHINA

Ex-Nanjing mayor indicted

A former Nanjing mayor was indicted yesterday on corruption charges amid a widening antigraft crackdown. Ji Jianye (季建業) faces charges of using his Chinese Communist Party and government positions to take massive bribes in return for favors, the state prosecutors’ office said in a statement. His former position is equivalent to that of a vice minister, making him one of the highest-ranking officials to be pulled in by the anti-corruption drive launched after President Xi Jinping (習近平) was installed as party boss two years ago.

PHILIPPINES

Navy purchases announced

The country aims to buy two frigates, two helicopters and three gunboats for deployment in the South China Sea, where a territorial dispute with China has lent urgency to the need to bolster forces, a navy officer said yesterday. The confrontation between the country and China has been particularly tense since June 2012, when China seized a rocky outcrop known as the Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island, 黃岩島), which is believed to be rich in oil and natural gas, as well as fisheries resources. “The events in the West Philippine Sea actually gave some urgency on the acquisition,” Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad, head of the navy’s weapons system, told reporters. The country has embarked on a 15-year, 90 billion peso (US$2 billion) modernization program to improve its capability to defend its maritime borders. The procurement list announced yesterday will be bought with 39 billon pesos from that budget.

UNITED NATIONS

US backs UN rights meeting

US Ambassador Samantha Power says the US fully supports the Security Council’s first-ever meeting on Monday on human rights violations in North Korea, which she calls “among the worst in the world.” Power said in a statement on Tuesday that the council will address “the profound impact this man-made tragedy has on regional and international peace and security.” A commission of inquiry early this year reported widespread rights abuses in the country and warned that leader Kim Jong-un could be held accountable. A draft General Assembly resolution calls on the Security Council to refer the North’s rights situation to the International Criminal Court.

JAPAN

McDonald’s rations fries

Only small fries with that? McDonald’s has begun limiting the serving size of fries in the country as stocks of spuds run short due to labor disruptions on the US west coast. McDonald’s began rationing its fries yesterday morning. It said prolonged labor negotiations with US port workers have made it difficult to meet demand despite an emergency airlift of 907 tonnes of spuds and an extra shipment from the US east coast by sea. Frozen french fries — ready for the deep-fryer — are a leading US export. The powerful dockworkers union and multinational shipping lines have been negotiating a new contract for about 20,000 west coast workers. In the meantime, labor disruptions have slowed shipments and driven costs higher. Local consumers devour more than 272,100 tonnes of french fries a year, mostly at fast-food restaurants, and largely sourced from imports of frozen, processed potatoes from the US, according to US figures. Shipments this month are expected to be just over half the normal level, local newspapers reported. However, demand is rising as convenience stores are increasingly also selling fries. McDonald’s has 3,100 outlets in in the nation. It cut prices for set meals to compensate for including only small fries.