- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Zealand

WELLINGTON — A convention center, sports stadium and performing-arts complex are among the big projects planned for a new-look downtown Christchurch after the New Zealand city was reduced to rubble by an earthquake last year.

Essentially given a blank slate, government planners on Monday unveiled a blueprint for the city that replaces office towers with green spaces, urban apartments and innovation “hubs” they say will give the city the feel of a college campus.

Under the plan, the city will be smaller, the buildings lower in height and constructed to higher earthquake standards.

The plan has been eagerly awaited. It has been nearly 18 months since the magnitude-6.1 quake struck, killing 185 people and irreparably damaging 1,400 downtown buildings including the century-old Anglican cathedral in the city center.

INDIA

Yoga guru leads rally against corruption

NEW DELHI — Indians shouted patriotic slogans and listened to a rousing speech from a charismatic yoga guru who began fasting Thursday to pressure the government to bring back billions of ill-gotten gains — so-called black money — that citizens have stashed in foreign banks.

Supporters of Baba Ramdev jammed traffic across New Delhi as they walked to the sprawling Ramlila fairgrounds and buses from nearby states converged on the capital.

About 20,000 people pledged their support for Mr. Ramdev’s campaign to wipe out tax evasion and endemic corruption in India.

The government on Thursday said a committee was working on a draft of an ombudsman bill that would be placed before Parliament next month. India’s Finance Ministry is tightening laws to curb the generation of black money and its illegal transfer abroad.

PHILIPPINES

Philippine troops assault breakaway rebel lairs

MANILA — Hundreds of troops, backed by assault helicopters, launched offensives on two strongholds of a breakaway Muslim guerrilla group in southern Philippines after they attacked at least 14 military camps and outposts, officials said Thursday.

The brazen attacks since Sunday left at least four soldiers dead, including one who was beheaded, while at least two rebels were killed in the counteroffensive, according to the government.

But a regional army spokesman, Col. Prudencio Asto, said the rebel death toll had reached 15 by Thursday, citing intelligence reports. This could not be independently confirmed.

The rebel group broke off last year from the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is involved in peace talks with the government.

JAPAN

Nagasaki marks anniversary of atomic-bomb attack

TOKYO — Japanese officials pledged Thursday to seek a society less reliant on nuclear energy as the country marked the 67th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

About 6,000 people gathered at a peace park near the epicenter of the 1945 blast, including students and the mayor of one of the towns most affected by last year’s nuclear disaster.

Almost a year and half after the world’s second worst accident at a nuclear power plant, concerns about the safety of nuclear energy and radiation effects persist.

Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which was struck by a tsunami in March 2010, has revealed the risk of nuclear technology.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports