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|May 8-14, 2008
Prayer requests by e-mail
MOSCOW — Russian Orthodox monasteries have begun exploiting modern technology and are now accepting requests for prayers for the living and the dead by e-mail or through mobile phone text messages, a respected Russian daily said.
Izvestia wrote that one such monastery, northern Russia’s Valaam Monastery, charges 150 rubles ($6) for a “sorokoust,” a prayer for the living or the dead by a priest in church each morning for 40 days in a row. The paper specified that the monastery used the WebMoney payment system.
Another monastery in the Vladimir region receives donations via text messages.
However, the Russian Orthodox Church did not rule out that believers could fall victim to fraud. “It seems to me it is better to personally visit a church or help those you know,” said priest Mikhail Prokopenko, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate, the Russian Church’s governing body.
However, Alexei Osipov, a professor at the Moscow Theological Academy, said it would be “sad if people treat the Church as a common service center,” noting however that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with monks using the Internet.
Medvedev to get Yeltsin’s residence
MOSCOW — Russian president-elect Dmitry Medvedev could occupy the country residence that formerly accommodated Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, a respected Russian daily said.
Izvestia said reconstruction is being hastily finished at the country house in Gorki-9, on the highway colloquially known as Rublyovka, 18 km (11 miles) west of Moscow. The residence is apparently being prepared for Medvedev, who was sworn into office on May 7.
Gorki is outfitted with all the attributes of a presidential residence, such as a helicopter pad and advanced security technology. Receiving foreign officials in their country homes has long been used as a sign of good relations by Russian and Soviet leaders.
Japanese vessels seized over poaching
YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, Russia — A court in Russia’s far east ruled to confiscate four Japanese fishing vessels detained late last year for illegally fishing in Russia’s waters.
On Dec. 13, Russian border guards detained four Japanese fishing vessels for poaching near Russia’s South Kuril Islands, a former Japanese territory.
On Jan. 16, a Russian court found the four captains guilty of border violations and fined them each 100,000 rubles ($4,117).
Confrontations over poaching between Russian authorities and Japanese fishing vessels are frequent in Russia’s Pacific waters. In August 2006, a Japanese fisherman was shot and killed near the Kuril Islands when Russian border guards opened fire on his boat after it refused to stop.
Russia and Japan have contested the ownership of the Kuril Islands since the end of WWII. As a result of the dispute, the two countries have never signed a formal peace treaty.
Three dead babies found in freezer
BERLIN — Three dead babies have been found stuffed in a freezer of a large family home in the town of Wenden in northwestern Germany, local TV said.
Their 44-year-old mother, whose name has not been disclosed, was arrested on suspicion of killing the newborn babies, presumably in the late 1980s as one of the bodies was wrapped in a newspaper dated 1988.
The woman is married to a 47 year-old electrician and has two sons, aged 18 and 22, and a 24-year-old daughter. Neighbors describe the family as reserved, but friendly in television interviews.
The mother was driven to the police station by her family after two of her children came across the gruesome findings while looking for something to eat in the basement fridge.
The forensic team ruled out the possibility that the babies were stillborn, but it is still unclear whether they were breathing when put into the freezer. Autopsies to establish the cause of death will be carried out as soon as the bodies are thawed.
According to preliminary reports, the woman was able to easily conceal the three pregnancies from her family as she was overweight. She subsequently delivered the babies in the bathroom of her home and put them in plastic bags so that they suffocated.
“The crime is basically solved,” the Deutsche Press Agency cited a prosecutor as saying.
The mother, who says she feels “deeply guilty,” is currently undergoing psychiatric care and will be questioned later.
Luxury liner is evacuated
RIGA, Latvia — A luxurious cruise liner, which ran aground in the Baltic Sea’s Irben Strait on May 4 with 984 people on board is being evacuated, the press service of the Latvian coastguard said.
Four tugs were used to try and pull the Mona Lisa free from a sandbank and a number of other measures also proved unsuccessful prompting a decision to evacuate the ship’s 657 passengers.
The passengers, mainly elderly Germans, are to be ferried to the port of Ventspils by Latvian naval vessels. There are no reports of any casualties.
The Mona Lisa is registered in the Bahamas. It has a crew of 327 and was on route from Poland’s Gdansk to Latvia’s Riga, when it ran aground 18 km (11 miles) off the coast of Latvia.
Home of world’s oldest bishop burgled
ROME — The home of Antonio Rosario Mennonna, the world’s oldest bishop who turns 102 on May 27, has been burgled, his nephew told journalists in Italy.
Mennonna’s nephew said he decided not to tell his uncle about the burglary because of his advanced age.
Among the stolen items thieves took a crucifix, a 90th birthday gift from the late pope John Paul II and a number of valuables made from gold.
Investigators suspect that the valuables were stolen by two Romanians, who were looking after the elderly man.
Born in Muro Lucano, Antonio Rosario Mennonna was ordained to the priesthood on Aug. 12, 1928. On Jan. 5, 1955, Pope Pius XII appointed him Bishop of Muro Lucano.
Thailand blast injures 12
JAKARTA — At least 12 people were injured in an explosion during an annual charity event in south Thailand, the Nation news agency reported.
The blast went off late on Sunday, May 4, at a Red Crescent fair in a park in the southern province of Narathiwat’s Mung District.
The bomb was hidden in a garbage bin near a stage where concerts were taking place, the agency said. The device is believed to have been detonated remotely with the use of a digital watch.
Up to four terrorist organizations are active in the south of Thailand. They are aiming to establish an independent Islamic state and are thought to have a combined total of several thousand fighters.
At least 16 dead in party boat disaster
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — At least 16 people have died and 30 others are missing after an overcrowded boat capsized in the north-western Brazilian state of Amazonas, local officials said.
The wooden ferry, which was carrying at least 80 passengers, most of them young people returning from a party, sank after a rainstorm in the Solimoes River early on Sunday, May 4. The boat had a capacity of 50 people, officials said.
Rescuers have so far recovered 16 bodies, and a search for the others is under way. Local officials and witnesses claimed some of the passengers managed to swim to the river bank.
Olmert questioned by police
TEL AVIV — Israeli investigators have questioned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at his home in Jerusalem over corruption allegations, local media reported.
Olmert, who has been linked with three separate probes involving real estate deals and political appointments, has been accused of taking bribes from an unnamed U.S. businessman, the Ynet news agency said.
According to Ynet, an Israeli-based U.S. businessman handed over large cash bribes to Olmert in Israel and abroad. The businessman is reported to be cooperating with investigators.
All the corruption cases are believed to have taken place before Olmert became prime minister in 2006. The interview, which lasted for around 90 minutes, was held after Israel’s attorney general gave police permission to question the premier over a 48-hour period.
In an official statement Olmert’s office said the prime minister agreed to “cooperate fully with law enforcement officials, as he has done in the past.”
“He is convinced that as the truth will emerge in the framework of the police investigation, the suspicions against him will dissipate,” the statement said.
In October last year, the prime minister was questioned in connection with the investigation over political appointments at a state-run enterprise and real estate purchases involving a house in Jerusalem bought at a below-market price in exchange for granting planning permission.
Olmert has also been accused of trying to influence the privatization of the Leumi bank in favor of a friend.
Last year, another famous Israeli politician, ex-president Moshe Katsav was forced to resign after a rape and sexual harassment scandal involving several women.
World’s longest cross-sea bridge open
BEIJING — The world’s longest cross-sea bridge has opened in eastern China, the country’s Xinhua news agency reported.
The 22-mile bridge, linking Shanghai with the busy port Ningbo in the Zhejiang Province, was open to traffic on Thursday and will reduce the trip between the two cities by 75 miles.
Thousands of people gathered for the opening ceremony, which was broadcast live across the country.
“The bridge has become famous and is expected to attract many visitors,” the agency quoted Jin Jianming, deputy chief in charge of the construction project, as saying.
The cable-stayed structure was built at a cost of $1.69 billion partially funded by private investment.
About 2.5 million tons of concrete and 800,000 tons of steel were used to build the bridge. The work started in 2003 and was completed in June last year.
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