Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 28 September 2008





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In Brief

Japan's PM Fukuda resigns; Aso in the wings

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has formally resigned, making way for Taro Aso, the newly elected leader of the ruling party, to fill the post.

A special parliamentary session was under way Wednesday to vote for a new prime minister, widely expected to be Aso, an outspoken politician and a former foreign minister chosen Monday as the Liberal Democratic Party's leader. The party holds the majority in the lower house of Parliament.

Fukuda announced his resignation on September 1 after being in office for less than a year. Fukuda and his entire cabinet stepped down on Tuesday, his office confirmed.

Even though a record five candidates ran for the top spot -- including, for the first time, a woman -- the other four candidates united around Aso in the waning days of the campaign, as polls showed he would win handily.


Riots as Maoist governments cut sacrifice subsidy

Last week the finance minister, presenting the national budget, announced that a £100 allowance to buy sacrificial goats and buffalos would be withdrawn.

The animals are decapitated at the culmination of the Indra Jatra festival, when Kathmandu receives the blessing of its "living goddess" - a young girl regarded as an incarnation of the goddess Teleju.

"The Maoist government is trying to stamp out cultural and religious festivals," said Rajan Maharajan, one of the living goddess's guardians. "It's their first step towards a cultural revolution."


Venezuela airline interested in Alitalia

Venezuelan airline Aserca is believed to be making an offer for distressed Italian national flag carrier Alitalia.

Ascera has said it will make details of its plan available within days.

Alitalia sent out an SOS on Monday, publishing a final appeal on its website for investors to take over the near-bankrupt company.

It was feared the airline, which is 49.9 percent state-owned, could have been grounded by Thursday, without a credible cost-reduction plan in the pipeline.- Australian Herald

Myanmar's democracy veteran freed

One of Burma's most prominent political detainees, Win Tin, has been freed after 19 years in detention.

He was reportedly one of 9,000 prisoners amnestied by the Burmese military in a gesture of what state media describe as "loving kindness".

"I will keep fighting until the emergence of democracy in this country," he said after his release.

Now 79 years old, Win Tin was among the founders of the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi.


S Korea slams high tuition costs

President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea has called for measures to reduce the financial burden of private tuition.

Latest estimates suggest South Korean households spend an average of $600 (£323) a month on private lessons.

Figures from 2006 show expenses with extra-curricular tuition approaching $30bn (£16bn), nearly 4% of annual GDP.

South Korea has a fiercely competitive academic system. About half the money used for private tuition is spent on improving English language skills.

Although South Korea scores highly in most science-related subjects, its students tend to lack fluency in English.

They spend more time in school than their counterparts in any other developed country.


Brown Urges Party Unity

MANCHESTER, England - Prime Minister Gordon Brown swatted aside all talk of high-level plotting and imminent Labor Party putsches against him on Tuesday, declaring that the last thing a country in economic turmoil needed was a government riven by internal squabbling.

In an uncharacteristically personal speech to the annual Labor conference here, Mr. Brown sought to present himself as having the experience and knowledge to lead Britain through turbulent times. "My unwavering focus is taking this country through the challenging economic circumstances we face," he said.



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