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World in brief: 13th December 2014

Arsonists attack refugee housing

Germany: Security at asylum sites in Bavaria was stepped up yesterday after fires broke out at three empty buildings earmarked to house asylum-seekers.

Anti-foreigner slogans and swastikas were painted at one site.The fires broke out late on Thursday evening in Vorra, in southern Germany, and police said they were treating it as arson.

A spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned any potential racist motives for the attacks as “abhorrent.”

Kiwi arrested over psychedelic Buddha

Myanmar: A New Zealander bar manager has been arrested for insulting Buddhism after posting an online advertisement showing a psychedelic image of Buddha wearing headphones, police said yesterday. The offence carries a penalty of up to two years in prison.

Police arrested Philip Blackwood on Wednesday along with two Myanmar nationals.

Orban’s latest drug test plan

Hungary: Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has vowed to remake the country into a “non-liberal” state, now wants mandatory drug testing for journalists and politicians. A member of his ruling Fidesz party earlier had suggested mandatory annual drug tests for 12 to 18-year-olds, but that plan has apparently been dropped.

Mr Orban said yesterday that drug tests are needed to fight the “drug mafia.”

Tamas Kardos of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union said it could be a bid to intimidate journalists.

Second attempt to take back pay rises

Guam: Senator Michael San Nicolas said yesterday he will try again to repeal pay rises for officials.

Mr San Nicolas has reintroduced a Bill to repeal salary increases for the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet members and senators.

Senators’ pay is due to rise by nearly 40 per cent to £55,000. The governor and lieutenants governor will be paid £83,000 and £70,000.

Court upholds ban on Snowden visit

Germany: The country’s highest court has thrown out a bid to allow former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden to go to Berlin to testify. The opposition Greens and Left Party wanted a parliamentary panel investigating NSA activities to hear Mr Snowden in person. However, the government doesn’t want to allow Snowden into the country.

The Federal Constitutional Court rejected as legally inadmissible a suit by the two opposition parties against the government’s stance yesterday.

Prison drugs death toll rises

Venezuela: The death toll from a mass overdose at a prison in November rose to 48 on Thursday, up from 35.

Authorities say a group of violent inmates raided the infirmary of the prison in western Venezuela in late November and guzzled down a deadly mix of pure alcohol with drugs used to treat diabetes, epilepsy and high blood pressure.

Human rights groups have questioned the story. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights urged the government yesterday to investigate further.

Congress passes ban on circus animals

Mexico: Congress has passed legislation to ban the use of animals in circuses across the country.

The lower chamber’s vote on Thursday followed one earlier in the week by the Senate and came six months after Mexico City passed a similar ban that is to go into effect next year.

Six states have also adopted bans.

Seal slaughter subsidy axed

Norway: Parliament has voted to scrap a controversial subsidy for seal hunting, potentially spelling the end of the much-criticised activity.

Most MPs voted to remove a £1 million subsidy — which has made up 80 per cent of seal hunters’ revenue in the past — from the 2015 Budget.

“We fear that the hunt will actually disappear along with the subsidies,” a fisheries committee spokesman said.

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