New PLA leader quietly installed
BEIJING — China has named a new chief of general staff for its military, a commander once tasked with making war preparations against Taiwan, the Defense Ministry said yesterday.
Chen Bingde was promoted as the People’s Liberation Army’s head of day-to-day operations in the past six weeks, in a transfer that was unusually quiet even for an institution as secretive as China’s military.
Gen. Chen, who had been head of the PLA department overseeing weapons development, replaces Gen. Liang Guanglie, whose new job was not clear but who, at age 65, reached the retirement age for all but the most senior officials.
Putin announces Cabinet changes
MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin yesterday announced a new government lineup in which Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, a key government liberal, won the additional post of deputy prime minister.
Another government liberal, Economy Minister German Gref, lost his job.
Putin allies and first deputy prime ministers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, as well as deputy prime ministers Alexander Zhukov and Sergei Naryshkin, kept their jobs. But Vladimir Yakovlev was replaced as regional development minister by Dmitry Kozak, another close ally of Mr. Putin.
Mugabe has backing over EU summit
MAPUTO — Southern African nations yesterday lined up behind Robert Mugabe in a dispute over whether the Zimbabwean president would be invited to an EU-Africa summit in December, saying they would boycott the event if he was banned.
The meeting in Lisbon would be the first in seven years. Plans for an EU-Africa summit in 2003 were put on hold after Britain and other states in the European Union refused to attend if Mr. Mugabe did.
They accuse Mr. Mugabe of rights abuses and rigging elections.
Olmert is subject of criminal probe
JERUSALEM — The prosecutor’s office ordered police to begin a criminal investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert‘s purchase of a Jerusalem home at well below market value, the Justice Ministry said yesterday.
Israel’s state comptroller has investigated claims that Mr. Olmert bought the house from a Jerusalem developer at $325,000 below market value, raising suspicions of fraud and bribery.
Mr. Olmert declared his innocence and insisted the price he paid was fair.
Ambulances upsized for heavy patients
AMSTERDAM — Robust ambulances are being introduced to hoist heavy patients in the northern part of the Netherlands, Dutch news agency ANP-Reuters said.
For patients weighing more than 220 pounds, the city of Assen will deploy ambulances with lifts to ease the burden on staff, emergency services director Tjerk Hiddes said.
The Dutch are among the tallest people in the world and obesity rates in the country are rising.Doctors have complained that some hospital beds and operating tables could buckle under the strain of heavy patients.
From wire dispatches and staff reports