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Cash earmarked for Japan’s tsunami reconstruction ‘misspent’ according to government audit

Cash earmarked for tsunami reconstruction work was diverted to unrelated projects, a Japanese government audit showed as residents of the devastated northeast voiced frustration over the slow pace of rebuilding. Parts of the 14.9 trillion yen ($187 billion) were used to fund an array of unconnected works, including road-building on…

China’s Communist Party prepares for power handover

China’s political elite are expected to oust disgraced figure Bo Xilai and jostle for leadership roles in their last formal meeting which opened Thursday ahead of next week’s landmark power handover. The Communist Party’s Central Committee convened behind closed doors, state media said, with 500 senior members to debate key…

Canada lawmakers ban masks at protests

OTTAWA — Parliament passed a ban on wearing masks at riots that punishes violations with up to 10 years behind bars in a bid to crack down on radical groups. The measure, adopted 153 to 126 on the Halloween holiday that sees revelers walk the streets in masks and costumed,…

Chinese heroin demand doubles poppy cultivation in Southeast Asia

Opium cultivation in Southeast Asia has doubled over the last six years as growing demand for heroin in China and the rest of Asia lures more farmers to grow poppies, the UN said Wednesday. Opiate users in East Asia and the Pacific now account for about a quarter of the…

Japan sees record low number of sumo wrestler applicants after hazing, drug and betting scandals

Japan’s tradition-steeped sport of sumo was wringing its collective hands on Wednesday after receiving a record-low number of applications from would-be wrestlers. Just one youngster put his name forward before the season-ending tournament in Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, with one established wrestler saying he understood why so few people wanted to…

Sistine Chapel may limit visitors to prevent further fresco damage

As the Sistine Chapel celebrates its 500th anniversary, the Vatican has said it may have to limit the huge numbers of visitors because pollution is damaging Michelangelo’s frescoes. The scenes, including the moment in which God gives life to Adam with the touch of his finger, are being damaged by…

Iran insists it obtained drone images of Israel

Iran insisted on Wednesday that it had obtained images of sensitive areas of Israel from a Hezbollah drone before it was shot down, despite the Jewish state questioning if the aircraft carried a camera. “The fact that we have obtained the images of many areas that are important for us…

First Asian ‘Angry Birds’ theme park set to open near Shanghai

The company behind “Angry Birds” said Wednesday it would open its first theme park in Asia next year at a site near Shanghai as it builds on the brand of the hugely popular game. “Angry Birds Land” will be located in Haining city in China’s Zhejiang province, next to the…

WWF opens investigation into dark underbelly of illegal tuna trade

Thousands of tonnes of Atlantic bluefin tuna traded through Panama over a decade were never reported to the global body tasked with protecting the threatened fish, green group WWF claimed Wednesday. Some 14,300 tonnes of processed bluefin traded over the period 2000 to 2010, a figure obtained from official trade…

Authorities hunt for missing spare keys to 180 cells at Belgium’s Leuven prison

Spare keys to 180 cells in Belgium’s Leuven prison went missing a week ago, raising fears one of the inmates may have laid hands on them, the daily Het Laatste Nieuws said Wednesday. Staff have been quietly on the lookout for the prison chaplain’s keys since last Thursday, one being…

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