Briefs, January 4, 2013

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2013, 6:04am

Australia runs hot while India chills

SYDNEY - Australia is facing its most wide-ranging heatwave in more than a decade as 80 per cent of the continent is hit by temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius. State emergency services have flagged the risk of huge fires that could threaten homes and farms, while power companies are bracing for increased demand for electricity. The extreme weather, caused by a mass of hot air, has spread east from Western Australia and is expected to affect the most populous states of Victoria and New South Wales over the next week. In India, New Delhi has suffered its coldest day in 44 years due to a cold snap across the country's north. The maximum on Wednesday was just 9.8 degrees, the lowest temperature since records began in 1969. Bloomberg, AFP


Swiss shooting raises questions on gun laws

DAILLON, Switzerland - A gunman with psychiatric and drug problems opened fire in a village in southern Switzerland, killing three women and injuring two men. The shooting raised questions about gun laws in Switzerland, where citizens are allowed to keep their weapons at home outside periods of mandatory military service. The gunman, 33, used a historic rifle known as a mousqueton and a hunting rifle. AFP


Argentina calls for return of Falklands

LONDON - Argentina's president wants Britain to relinquish control of the Falkland Islands. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner published an open letter in The Guardian newspaper urging Prime Minister David Cameron to honour UN resolutions that she claimed back her case for the return of the islands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas. "One hundred and eighty years ago on … January 3rd, in a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism, Argentina was forcibly stripped of the Malvinas Islands, which are situated 14,000 kilometres away from London," she said in the letter, copied to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. AP


France seeks curbs on new birth control pills

PARIS - A French watchdog has sharpened its attack on newer-generation contraceptive pills, demanding curbs on their use to help reduce the risk of dangerous blood clots. The National Drugs Safety Agency said doctors are over-prescribing so-called third-generation and fourth-generation birth-control pills, some of which are now the target of lawsuits and tighter guidelines in the US. Talks are being scheduled with medical associations over the pills, which are being taken by up to two million women in France, or roughly half of those taking oral contraceptives. "We are looking for a massive reduction in the consumption of these pills," agency chief Dominique Maraninchi said. AFP


Turkey's ex-military chief held over coup

ISTANBUL - Turkey's former military chief Ismail Hakki Karadayi has been arrested for his role in a 1997 coup that forced an Islamic-leaning government out of power. He is expected to testify before an Ankara court as part of an investigation launched in 2011 that led to the arrests of dozens of other military officers. Karadayi was the head of the military chiefs of staff in 1997, the last time Turkey's military was involved in changing the government when it forced prime minister Necmettin Erbakan to step down. AFP


'Doggie in the Window' singer dies, aged 85

LOS ANGELES - US singer Patti Page, famous for songs including The Tennessee Waltz and the novelty hit How Much is That Doggie in the Window, has died. She was 85. Page, who sold over 100 million records during her career and won a Grammy Award in 1999, was born in Oklahoma in 1927 and signed with Mercury Records at the age of 21. The singer, whose real name was Clara Ann Fowler, had her first major hit With My Eyes Wide Open I'm Dreamin' in 1950, followed by The Tennessee Waltz the following year. How Much is That Doggie in the Window shot to No 1 in 1952. AFP


'Too-hot photo' of Diana to be auctioned

WASHINGTON - A firm of auctioneers in Amherst, in the US state of New Hampshire, says it will offer for sale this month a photo of an apparently teenage Princess Diana that British tabloid the Daily Mirror deemed too hot to publish . The black-and-white image from the early 1980s shows Diana, possibly in a ski chalet, smiling at the camera as she lies in the lap of a like-aged but unidentified young man reading a book. By the window stands a bottle of Johnnie Walker whisky, but more intriguing are the words "not to be published" scrawled across the photo with the kind of grease pencil used by newspapers' picture editors at the time. On the back, the photo is dated February 26, 1981 - two days after Buckingham Palace announced the engagement of Prince Charles and the commoner then known as Diana Spencer. AFP


Starbucks to roll out US$1 reusable cup

NEW YORK - Starbucks is rolling out a US$1 reusable plastic cup at its cafes across Americia. The chain already gives customers a discount each time they bring in reusable cups for refills. Now it's hoping its new cups - which resemble its white paper cups - will increase the habit. The cups were tested in 600 shops in the Pacific Northwest and will be rolled out nationwide and in Canada. AP

Massachusetts town bans bottled wate

NEW YORK - The town of Concord, Massachusetts, has banned single-serving bottles of water. The ban is intended to encourage the use of tap water and curb the worldwide problem of plastic pollution. It only applies to "non-sparkling, unflavoured drinking water". Coke or other soft drinks are exempt. Jean Hill, an 84-year-old activist, thought up the ban, arguing that bottles fill garbage dumps, while consumers are lured into drinking water they could obtain for a tiny fraction of the cost at their own sink. AFP