Briefs, October 30, 2012

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 October, 2012, 4:05am

Inquiry launched into BBC culture, practices

LONDON - An investigation into the BBC's culture and practices has got under way, with the corporation reeling from allegations of child sex abuse perpetrated by one of its biggest stars. The inquiry began a year to the day since the death of Jimmy Savile, the eccentric presenter now considered one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders. Janet Smith, a former Court of Appeal judge, is heading an independent review into the BBC's culture and practices during the decades that Savile worked for the broadcaster. Her investigation will also examine whether the BBC's child-protection and whistle-blowing policies are fit for purpose. AFP

Coptic Christians vote for new pope in Egypt

CAIRO - Egypt's Coptic Christians were voting for a new leader to succeed Pope Shenouda III, who died in March leaving behind a community anxious about its status under an Islamist-led government. More than 1,000 eligible voters lined up in Cairo's St Mark's Cathedral, seat of the Coptic papacy, to choose from among the five candidates - two bishops and three monks. The names of the top three vote-getters will then be written on separate pieces of paper and placed in a box on the altar of the cathedral. On Sunday, a child will be blindfolded and asked to choose one of the papers. AFP

'Faulty' breast implant boss freed from jail

MARSEILLE - A French judge has ordered the release of the founder of breast implant firm PIP - which sparked a global health scare over potentially faulty products - after eight months in preventive detention. Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) boss Jean-Claude Mas, 73, who is due to go on trial in April, will have his movements restricted and is barred from meeting Claude Couty, his former right-hand man at the company. PIP closed in 2010 after it was revealed to have been using substandard industrial-grade silicone gel. AFP

Netherlands' coalition deal heralds austerity

THE HAGUE - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberal Party and the Labour Party have reached a coalition deal, paving the way for a pro-austerity, pro-European government to be sworn in as early as next week. Rutte, whose Liberals won the most seats in the September 12 election, will remain prime minister. The Labour Party's Jeroen Dijsselbloem is tipped to replace Jan Kees de Jager as the new finance minister. Under Rutte and De Jager - whose Christian Democrat party lost badly in the election - the Netherlands has been at the forefront of calls for tight fiscal policies to tackle the euro zone's debt crisis. Reuters

Drone 'gave Iran details on secret sites'

TEHRAN - Iran is in possession of data transmitted by an unmanned Hezbollah drone that flew over "restricted" sites and bases in Israel this month, an Iranian official said. The drone "transmitted live data, photographing sensitive Israeli bases", Esmaeel Kosari, chair of the Iranian parliament's defence commission, told Iran's Arabic-language Al-Alam television. Israel's air force on October 6 shot down the unarmed drone over the Negev desert after it entered the country's airspace from the Mediterranean Sea. Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah boasted on October 11 that his Shiite group sent the drone over Israel, saying the device was "Iranian built and assembled in Lebanon". AFP

Ruling party claims Sao Paulo mayoralty

SAO PAULO - The Brazilian ruling party candidate easily won the mayoral race in Sao Paulo, South America's biggest city, in a second-round vote, outpacing an experienced opposition rival. Workers' Party candidate and former education minister Fernando Haddad won more than 55 per cent of the vote in the city, a traditional stronghold for the top opposition party. Haddad began the race months ago, polling just 2 per cent. But he eased into office on the back of support from popular former president Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva and Brazil's current leader Dilma Rousseff. AP

Gaza militants hit back after Israeli air raids

JERUSALEM - Gaza militants fired 11 rockets over the border after two late-night Israeli air raids, ending several days of calm after a truce took effect, the military said. An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, which went into force last Thursday, was aimed at ending 72 hours of bloodshed which killed eight militants, and saw armed groups firing more than 100 rockets at Israel, severely wounding two. The latest rocket fire came after the Israeli air force carried out two raids in northern and southern Gaza. No one was injured. AFP

Australians continue to pile on the kilos

SYDNEY - Two-thirds of Australia's adult population are overweight or obese, a study found, with rates continuing to climb despite a drop in smoking and drinking. The Australian Bureau of Statistics said people were continuing to pile on the kilos despite other findings indicating a switch to healthier habits. The study found 63.4 per cent of people are now classified as overweight or obese - an increase of more than 2 percentage points from four years ago. The figure compares to 56.3 per cent in 1995 and 61.2 per cent in 2007-08. AFP

Annual haj pilgrimage ends without incident

MECCA - Muslim pilgrims completed their final haj rituals in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca as the annual pilgrimage came to a close without any major incidents. Authorities congratulated the pilgrims, who officially numbered 3.1 million, on a successful haj season, despite many having entered holy sites without proper permits. Last year, nearly three million Muslim pilgrims went on the haj, one of the five pillars of Islam which must be performed at least once in a lifetime by all Muslims able to do so. AFP