- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 31, 2009

ITALY

Berlusconi moves to block photos

ROME | Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is fighting back in a scandal feeding on his fondness for young women, with his attorney acknowledging Saturday the media mogul has moved to block publication of hundreds of photos taken of guests at his sumptuous Sardinian villa.

State television reported that among the photos were some taken last New Year’s Eve, with the guests including an 18-year-old Neapolitan woman at the heart of the political and personal scandal.

Corriere della Sera newspaper, without attribution, said that among the photos were some that showed young women topless or in bikinis in the gardens of the villa.

The 72-year-old prime minister’s wife, Veronica Lario, announced a few weeks ago that she was seeking a divorce, in part because of what she lamented was her husband’s infatuation with young women.

SOUTH AFRICA

Dozens of whales perish on shore

CAPE TOWN | Authorities shot dozens of exhausted whales that beached on a shore near South Africa’s storm-lashed southern tip Saturday, amid scenes of grief and despair from volunteers who had tried to save them.

Fifty-five false killer whales washed up on the shores of Kommetjie, near the Cape of Good Hope, in the early morning, prompting a massive all-day rescue effort. Hundreds of locals wearing wet suits or shorts braved high winds and rough waves to try to push the massive mammals from knee-deep water back into the open sea.

Cape Town authorities mobilized the police, fire brigade, navy, lifeboat services, disaster-management teams and expert divers as part of the rescue operation. They brought in six bulldozers to try to move the whales, which were about 10 feet long, back to sea. But the whales kept swimming back to shore and became increasingly stressed.

SAUDI ARABIA

Murder convict beheaded, crucified

RIYADH | Saudi authorities beheaded and crucified a man convicted of brutally slaying an 11-year-old boy and his father, the Interior Ministry announced.

According to the statement issued by the ministry Friday, shop owner Ahmed al-Anzi molested the boy and then strangled him with a length of rope. He then stabbed the boy’s father to death when the man came looking for his son.

Crucifying the headless body in a public place is a way to set an example, according to the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islam. Normally those convicted of rape, murder and drug trafficking in Saudi Arabia are just beheaded. London-based rights group Amnesty International criticized al-Anzi’s execution and crucifixion as “horrific.”

FRANCE

Lone gunman robs Paris jeweler

PARIS | A lone gunman robbed a chic Paris jewelry store Saturday, fleeing the Chopard shop on Place Vendome with up to $14 million of goods, police said.

Dressed in a suit, the man entered the prestigious boutique, pulled out a gun and forced staff to hand over about 15 pieces of jewelry.

Based in Switzerland, Chopard is known for adorning movie stars strutting on red carpets at high-profile events such as the Cannes film festival or Hollywood’s Academy Awards.

Police have noted a marked increase in robberies in recent years. In December, a gang of armed men stole gems worth $120 million from Harry Winston jewelers in Paris.

CHINA

Gas blast kills 30 at coal mine

BEIJING | The death toll from a gas explosion at a coal mine in southwestern China rose to 30 with the discovery of the bodies of the last five missing miners, state media reported on Sunday.

Fifty-nine other miners were injured in the explosion Saturday morning that ripped through the mine in the town of Anwen in the Chongqing region, the China News Service said.

The report also said three people “responsible” for the blast had been taken into custody, but gave no other details.

The cause of the accident was being investigated, it said.

China’s coal mines are notoriously dangerous. Official figures show that more than 3,200 workers died in coal mines last year, but independent observers say the actual figure could be much higher, as many accidents are covered up.

SRI LANKA

U.N. urged to release civilian death toll

COLOMBO | A leading human rights group has asked the United Nations to publicize its estimate of civilian deaths in the final weeks of Sri Lanka’s civil war, amid escalating reports over how many died.

Amnesty International said late Friday that it has received “consistent testimony” that both government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels killed thousands of civilians trapped in the war zone and called for an independent international investigation. The group did not say who had testified to the purported abuses.

The U.N. said earlier that 7,000 civilians were killed and 16,700 wounded from Jan. 20 through May 7. However, these estimates circulated among diplomats were not released publicly.

Amnesty cited an investigation published Friday in the British newspaper the Times of London, which said some 20,000 civilians were killed in the final phase of the war. The report cited unnamed U.N. sources.

Ex-Israeli president Katzir dies at 93

JERUSALEM | Ephraim Katzir, Israel’s fourth president and an internationally recognized biophysicist, died Saturday. He was 93.

Mr. Katzir’s 1973-1978 tenure spanned two seminal events in Israeli history: The 1973 Mideast war and the visit of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem in 1977. He left the presidency after one term to return to scientific research.

Born in Kiev in 1916, Mr. Katzir immigrated at age 6 with his family to British-ruled Palestine and studied biology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, receiving his Ph.D. in 1941, according to his official biography on the Foreign Ministry Web site.

He served in the Haganah, the underground Jewish defense organization, where he helped to set up a military research and development unit that developed explosives, propellants and other munitions. During the war that followed Israel’s independence in 1948, he was appointed head of the military’s science corps. He served as the Israeli military’s chief scientist from 1966 to 1968, the Web site said.

Mr. Katzir was a founder of Israel’s renowned Weizmann Institute of Science and headed its biophysics department, where his work on synthetic protein models deepened understanding of the genetic code and immune responses. He was awarded the Israel Prize, the country’s highest honor, in 1959 for his contribution to the natural sciences.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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