Briefs, October 8, 2012

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 4:39am

Venezuelans go to polls in tough test for Chavez

CARACAS - Venezuelans were voting yesterday in the toughest election President Hugo Chavez has faced during almost 14 years in power after fresh-faced rival Henrique Capriles electrified the country's opposition. Chavez, 58, retains a loyal following among the country's poor, who have propelled him to easy victories in past elections, but Capriles, 40, has narrowed the gap in opinion polls after an energetic door-to-door national campaign. Weakened by a bout with cancer, the president stepped up his campaign last week, even dancing in the rain at a rally in the capital Caracas as he pleaded for another six-year term to seal his oil-funded socialist revolution. AFP


Putin supporters go to heights to mark 60th

MOSCOW - Supporters planted President Vladimir Putin's portrait on a mountain peak as Russia marked his 60th birthday with adulation worthy of the Soviet era, but some mocking protesters portrayed him as a pensioner fit for retirement. The ruling party's loyal Young Guard movement was to unfurl a banner on a bridge in southern Russia that they say symbolises Putin's role in uniting the Asian and European parts of a giant country. Anti-Putin activists say the president won a third Kremlin term by rigging March elections and ridiculed the birthday festivities as a personality cult. Reuters


Paris boosts security at Jewish sites after scare

PARIS - France was tightening security at Jewish religious sites after blank cartridges were fired at a synagogue west of Paris. French President Francois Hollande met leaders of the country's Jewish community amid renewed concerns about anti-Semitism in the country. He said authorities would increase security at Jewish religious sites so they would not be subject to the kind of attack that targeted a synagogue in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil. A representative of the synagogue said about eight blank cartridges were fired at the building and services were cancelled. No one was injured in the incident. AP


13 killed as military plane crashes in Sudan

KHARTOUM - Thirteen Sudanese military personnel were killed and nine others injured when their transport plane crashed west of Khartoum on its way to Darfur, state media reported. It is the worst toll in a series of Sudanese military aviation incidents since early 2011. Meanwhile Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir ordered border crossings with South Sudan reopened, official radio said, after a deal eased tensions. AFP


Age limit lowered for Mormon missionaries

SALT LAKE CITY - Mormon leaders lowered the age requirements for full-time missionaries in a change that could swell the ranks of the church's messengers around the world. All 18-year-old men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will now be allowed to serve missions and women can do so at the age of 19, Thomas Monson, the church's president, told members at a conference in Salt Lake City. The previous age requirements for serving as Mormon missionaries was 19 for men and 21 for women. Reuters


Skipper killed in mock pirate cannon blast

ATHENS - A small replica cannon blew up on a mock pirate ship off the southern Aegean island of Kos, killing the boat's captain and injuring five passengers, Greek coastguard officials said. The cannon had been loaded with explosive powder, such as that found in fireworks. Two Dutch passengers, a Belgian and two German children were hurt, a coastguard official said. The 15-metre ship was carrying 26 passengers at the time. Reuters


Exiled prince laid to rest in mausoleum

BELGRADE - Prince Paul of Yugoslavia was laid to rest in a royal mausoleum in a ceremony attended by his Dynasty actress granddaughter Catherine Oxenberg after a long-awaited political rehabilitation of the ousted royal. Oxenberg was among family members who travelled to Oplenac in central Serbia for the ceremony for Prince Paul, who died in Paris in 1976 aged 83, his wife and son. The royal family fled Yugoslavia in 1941 during the second world war, after which the new communist government banned the return of the royal family. The remains had earlier been exhumed from a cemetery in Lausanne, Switzerland. AFP


Political newcomer appointed as PM

MOGADISHU - Somalia's president appointed a little-known businessman as prime minister as his administration sought to rebuild stability after more than two decades of anarchy and war. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud picked Abdi Farah Shirdon Said after taking office only last month. Al-Qaeda linked Shebab insurgents said they rejected the new prime minister, calling him "yet another apostate appointment by foreign powers". AFP