- The Washington Times - Monday, August 31, 2009

FRANCE

Gourmets eat endangered birds

MONT DE MARSAN | Activists staged a commando operation Sunday to denounce the capture of a rare, tiny songbird that is roasted and eaten whole by French gourmets in defiance of a 10-year ban.

For centuries afficionados have viewed the Ortolan Bunting — a bird about the size of a thumb that is prepared by being drowned in Armagnac, plucked, roasted and eaten whole, bones and all — as the ultimate culinary delicacy.

Now a protected species, it has been illegal to hunt, sell or eat the bird in France since 1999.

France’s Bird Protection League sent a seven-strong squad of activists at dawn Sunday to search out and destroy traps laid for the Ortolan in the Landes region of southwestern France, where most of the birds are hunted.

RUSSIA

Slain Russian activist mourned

KOSHKELDY | A leading Russian human rights activist has visited the grave of her slain colleague Natalya Estemirova and expressed doubt that her killers will be brought to justice.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva spoke with Ms. Estemirova’s relatives and wept by her grave in a village in war-scarred Chechnya on Sunday.

Ms. Estemirova’s reports on suspected rights abuses in Chechnya made her unpopular with the region’s strongman leader and his government. She was abducted outside her home July 15 and found dead of gunshot wounds later that day.

The slayings of many Russians who have challenged or criticized the government have gone unsolved.

GERMANY

Merkel party suffers losses

BERLIN | German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party suffered losses in regional elections Sunday, exit polls showed, a disappointment for her conservatives one month before she seeks re-election in a federal vote.

In the state of Saarland, on the French border, and in Thuringia, in the ex-communist east, Christian Democrat leaders who have ruled for a decade saw their support slump by over 10 points compared with 2004 to 34.5 percent and 32.5 percent, respectively.

They could both be unseated by leftist coalitions. In a third regional vote in the eastern state of Saxony, Mrs. Merkel’s party looked poised to retain power, most likely in a coalition with the business-friendly Free Democrats.

POLAND

Stunt pilots die during air show

WARSAW | Two Belarusian pilots died Sunday when an air force fighter jet crashed in Poland as it took part in an aerial acrobatics display, the air show’s organizers said.

Polish television showed pictures of smoke rising about 300 feet from the site of the crashed jet into the air near Radom airport, where the air show took place.

BELGIUM

Royal buggies crash when bee stings horse

BRUSSELS | Four people were hurt Sunday at Belgium’s royal palace when two horse-drawn carriages collided after one horse was stung by an insect, a palace spokesman said.

The driver was unable to control the horse and ran into the back of a carriage his team was following as part of events to mark the royal couple’s golden wedding anniversary, spokesman Pierre Emanuel De Bauw said.

No member of the royal family was involved in the incident.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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