Briefs, January 11, 2013

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 January, 2013, 6:42am


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Firefighters face fresh heatwave in Australia

SYDNEY - Firefighters were battling to contain 17 blazes burning out of control in Australia's most-populous state before hot weather returned today, as authorities pledged disaster relief for affected areas. "Now is not the time to relax," New South Wales premier Barry O'Farrell said. "We need the public to remain alert." The state government yesterday offered natural disaster relief to 37 fire-ravaged areas. Bloomberg


Court clears ailing Chavez to continue rule

CARACAS - With President Hugo Chavez ailing and absent, Venezuela's leftist government launched a new presidential term with a display of popular support on the day he was to be inaugurated. The Supreme Court cleared the cancer-stricken president to indefinitely postpone his re-inauguration and said his administration could remain in office until he was well enough to take the oath. AFP


Notorious Somali pirate leader retires

MOGADISHU - One of Somalia's most notorious pirate leaders who terrorised vast areas of the Indian Ocean, generating multi-million-dollar ransoms, has announced his retirement. "After being in piracy for eight years, I have decided to renounce and quit, and from today on I will not be involved in this gang activity," Mohamed Abdi Hassan, known as "Afweyne" or "Big Mouth", said. Afweyne did not provide a reason for quitting, but said he had also been working to persuade other pirates to quit sea banditry. AFP


Middle East hit by floods and snow

BEIRUT - The worst storms in a decade left large areas of Israel and Jordan under snow and parts of Lebanon blacked out, bringing misery to a region accustomed to temperate climates. Freezing temperatures and floods since Sunday across the region have claimed at least 11 lives and exacerbated the plight of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees huddled in tent camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. AFP


Zambia moves to save big cats for tourists

LUSAKA - Zambia has banned the hunting of lions and other big cats such as leopards, seeing more value in game-viewing tourism than blood sport. Tourism Minister Sylvia Masebo said big cat numbers were also too low for sustainable hunting. "Tourists come to Zambia to see the lion and if we lose the lion we will be killing our tourism industry," she said. Reuters


One's granddaughter may be a princess

LONDON - Britain's Queen Elizabeth has announced that if Prince William and pregnant wife Kate have a daughter, she will officially hold the title of princess, updating rules introduced almost a century ago. Under a proclamation from King George V in 1917, the eldest son of William and Kate would have been called a prince but a girl would have the title "Lady" and would not have been known as "Her Royal Highness". Reuters

Orphan issues plea to Putin over US adoption

MOSCOW - An orphan with a debilitating genetic disease has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for the right to live with his prospective adoptive family in the United States. The letter from 14-year-old Maxim came two weeks after Putin signed into law a bill banning all US adoptions. "Put everything under strict control but do not deprive children of their right to obtain a family," the boy wrote. Up to 20,000 people are expected to protest in Moscow on Sunday. AFP

BBC broadcaster Marr recovering after stroke

LONDON -BBC broadcaster Andrew Marr has suffered a stroke and is recovering in hospital. Marr, 53, hosts a Sunday morning show frequented by top British politicians and commentators, as well as a radio show. Marr was editor of The Independent before joining the BBC in 2000. AP