- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Mafia reportedly seeks green business

ROME | Italian police on Tuesday arrested mobsters, businessmen and local politicians who purportedly used corrupt practices and bribes to gain control of a project to build wind farms in Sicily.

Operation “Aeolus,” named after the ancient Greek god of winds, netted eight suspects, arrested in the Trapani area of western Sicily, as well as in Salerno on the Italian mainland and in the northern city of Trento.

Police in Trapani said the local Mafia bribed city officials in nearby Mazara del Vallo so the town would invest in wind farms to produce energy.

The project, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, was first devised in 2003 and later uncovered by an investigation that included wiretaps, police said in a statement.


Snake charmers want live snakes

CALCUTTA | Nearly 1,000 snake charmers held a protest in eastern India on Tuesday, playing their flutes as they marched through the streets, demanding the right to perform with live snakes.

Shows featuring cobras and other live snakes have been banned in India since 1991 though they are still a common sight, especially in tourist areas and in small villages.

There are about 800,000 snake charmers still in India, according to the Snake Charmers Federation of India.

The technique - playing a flute to charm the animal out of a basket - is often handed down from father to son, and charmers say their traditional way of life is threatened by the Wildlife Protection Act passed eight years ago.


Fine levied for nuclear leaks

LONDON | A British judged has fined the operator of a nuclear power plant $365,000 for allowing radioactive waste to seep into the ground over a 14-year period.

The judge also ordered Magnox Electric Ltd. on Tuesday to pay costs associated with the trial.

The company was previously convicted of breaking the law related to the disposal of radioactive waste while operating a nuclear-power station near Chelmsford, 50 miles northeast of London.

Jurors were told contaminated water leaked from the site between 1990 and 2004 and that the company failed to carry out the necessary inspections on a holding tank.


Torturer asks for forgiveness

PHNOM PENH | The chief of a prison where some 16,000 men, women and children were tortured before being killed appeared Tuesday before Cambodia’s genocide tribunal in its first trial over the Khmer Rouge reign of terror more than three decades ago.

Kaing Guek Eav - better known as Duch - is charged with crimes against humanity and is the first of five defendants scheduled for long-delayed trials by the U.N.-assisted court.

They were among a close-knit, ultra-communist clique that turned Cambodia into a vast slave-labor camp and charnel house in which 1.7 million or more died of starvation, disease and execution.

Duch, who headed the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh for the Khmer Rouge, is the only defendant to have expressed remorse for his actions, and on Tuesday he again voiced regret for what he did and sought forgiveness.


Rebellion simmers on French island

BASSE-TERRE | The French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe was on the verge of rebellion, a political leader said Tuesday after stone-throwing protesters set cars and buildings ablaze, forced the international airport to close and clashed with police.

Nearly four weeks of work stoppages and demonstrations for lower prices and higher pay have caused thousands of tourists to flee or cancel vacations on the normally tranquil island, prompting many hotels to close and cruise ships to head elsewhere.

“It is a political crisis, an institutional crisis, and we are on the brink of sedition,” Guadeloupe’s regional council president, Victorin Lurel, told France-Info radio.

From Paris, French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the protests had caused “degradation, devastation and confrontations” on Guadeloupe and its sister island, Martinique, where most shops and offices have been closed by the protests.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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