Briefs, November 17, 2012

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 November, 2012, 2:22am

Two dead in oil rig fire in Gulf of Mexico

WASHINGTON - An oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast caught fire, killing at least two people, the Coast Guard said. Four others were airlifted to hospital and two workers are "missing and possibly overboard," petty officer Ryan Tippets told CNN. There was no immediate news on whether any oil was spilling from the burning platform, which is in relatively shallow water about 40 kilometres south of the beach town of Grand Isle. AFP

Hezbollah operative freed by Iraqi officials

BAGHDAD - Suspected Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq was freed by Iraqi authorities and flew to Lebanon after an Iraqi court acquitted him of involvement in the killing of five US soldiers, his lawyer said. The move was likely to anger the United States, which handed Daqduq over to Iraqi custody last December after failing to convince Baghdad to extradite him over his role in a 2007 kidnapping that ended in the killing of the soldiers. Earlier this year, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told Reuters he had received assurances from Iraq it would not release Daqduq. Reuters

Syrian opposition gets cautious UK welcome

LONDON - Britain welcomed the new Syrian opposition to London but said it needed to know more about their plans before joining France in recognising them as the main voice against Bashar al-Assad's regime. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the opposition had taken a "very big step forward" by uniting and said Britain would decide whether to recognise it as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. AFP

Ikea regrets use of East German forced Labour

BERLIN - Swedish furniture giant Ikea expressed regret that it benefited from the use of forced prison labour by some of its suppliers in communist East Germany more than two decades ago. The company released an independent report showing that East German prisoners, among them many political dissidents, were involved in the manufacture of goods that were supplied to Ikea 25 to 30 years ago. The report concluded that Ikea managers were aware of the possibility that prisoners would be used in the manufacture of its goods. AP

Magazine's 'time bomb' charge angers France

PARIS - French officials angrily rejected a charge by Britain's The Economist weekly that France was the "time bomb at the heart of Europe" and a danger to the euro single currency, accusing the magazine of sensationalism. The Economist's front cover showed seven loaves of baguette bound together by a French tricolour with a lit fuse in the centre. Its cover story raised concerns that President Francois Hollande's economic reforms are not ambitious enough. "It is the Charlie Hebdo of the City," Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said, drawing an analogy with a French satirical weekly which drew criticism for publishing cartoons depicting a naked Prophet Mohammed. Reuters

Gargoyles offered for adoption in Milan

ROME - Milan's cathedral has launched a campaign to adopt its gargoyles to help it raise the €25 million (HK$247 million) needed to clean up the monument as culture budgets take a hit from the crisis. A total of 135 gargoyles are up for adoption, and donors who put up more than €100,000 will have their name engraved under the gargoyle. The pink marble Gothic cathedral is a much-loved symbol of the city but has to be cleaned up regularly because of pollution. AFP

Greek journalist to stand trial again

ATHENS - A Greek journalist who published the names of more than 2,000 Greeks with Swiss bank accounts will stand trial again after a prosecutor appealed against a decision to acquit him of breaking privacy laws. The speedy arrest, trial and acquittal of magazine editor Costas Vaxevanis for publishing the so-called Lagarde list had aroused international concern. French authorities gave Greece the list in 2010. It contains the names of 2,059 Greek account holders at HSBC in Switzerland to be probed for possible tax evasion. Reuters

Early Hitchcock feature found, released online

LOS ANGELES - The earliest known surviving feature in which Alfred Hitchcock is credited was released online after sitting under the noses of archivists for decades. The recovered parts of 1924's The White Shadow, in which Hitchcock served as an assistant director, will be streamed for free for the next two months at the US National Film Preservation Foundation's website, the nonprofit group said. The White Shadow is a British melodrama directed by Graham Cutts and was a financial flop. The New Zealand Film Archive found the film in its collection last year. Reuters