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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…

Protests begin outside Parliament after Portugal passes austerity budget

The Portuguese parliament adopted on Wednesday a 2013 austerity budget that includes draconian tax increases required by international creditors, in the teeth of swelling street protests. The country’s ruling centre-right coalition had the votes to push the budget through despite opposition from the Socialist and extreme left parties. Several thousand…

Two NATO troops killed in Afghan insider attack

KABUL — Two soldiers in the NATO-led coalition fighting insurgents in Afghanistan were shot dead Tuesday by a man in an Afghan police uniform, the alliance’s International Security Assistance Force said. It is the latest in a series of insider attacks that have seriously undermined trust between NATO forces and…

Libya assembly stormed in new blow to forming government

TRIPOLI — Protesters stormed Libya’s national assembly on Tuesday derailing a vote on a cabinet line-up in a new blow to efforts to form a government after a landmark July election. As he adjourned the session amid chaotic scenes, assembly president Mohammed Megaryef angrily denounced a situation he said was…

Czech hockey fans hurl racist insults at NHL player

The Czech Ice Hockey Association said Tuesday it had fined top-flight Pirati Chomutov after its fans showered racist insults on black NHL player Wayne Simmonds during a game. Canada’s Simmonds, the Philadelphia Flyers’ right wing, joined another Czech top-flight side Bili Tygri Liberec amid the NHL lock-out sparked by failed…

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