- - Tuesday, December 18, 2012

BEIJING — Chinese police have detained more than 500 people from a fringe Christian group for spreading rumors about the world’s impending end, state media reported Tuesday.

In western China’s Qinghai province alone, police arrested more than 400 members from the religious cult group, state-run China Central Television said.

Police seized leaflets, video discs, books and other apocalyptic materials in the recent arrests of more than 500 people across eight provinces and regions, from the prosperous east coast to less-developed western China, state media reports said.

The detentions were carried out in connection with a reported Mayan prophecy that Dec. 21, 2012, would be the end of the world.

Those detained are reported to be members of the group Almighty God, which is also called Eastern Lightning, after a phrase from the New Testament’s Gospel of Matthew.

Widely regarded as a heretical Christian sect, the group preaches that Jesus has reappeared as a woman in central China. The group has been accused of kidnapping and beating Christians to force conversions to the sect.

VENEZUELA

Brazilian official: Chavez improving after surgery

SAO PAULO — Brazil’s foreign minister says Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez seems to be improving after cancer surgery.

Brazil’s state-run news agency Agencia Brasil cited Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota as saying that Brazilian officials are monitoring Mr. Chavez’s health daily.

Mr. Patriota said the latest news about Mr. Chavez indicates “stabilization and even positive developments.”

Mr. Chavez underwent his fourth cancer-related surgery in Cuba last week. He has remained secretive about the exact nature of the cancer that he has been battling for more than 18 months.

The Brazilian official offered no more details regarding Mr. Chavez’s health. He said he is staying informed through conversations with Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro and Brazilian diplomats in Venezuela.

Calls to Brazil’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday weren’t returned.

SOUTH AFRICA

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