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In brief: Japan's trade minister quits after calling nuclear area 'a town of death'

Japan's trade minister resigned yesterday after just eight days in office and apologised repeatedly for calling the evacuated area around a stricken nuclear power plant "a town of death".

Yoshio Hachiro announced his departure at a news conference late last night and apologised multiple times. People affected by the March 11 disasters, political opponents and even members of the ruling Democrats had strongly criticised his remark.

Woman and baby die in 'arson attack'

A woman and her young son died in a suspected arson attack that left three other family members seriously hurt, British police said yesterday.

The 22-year-old and her 15-month-old child were killed in the blaze at a house in Chatham, Kent, around 2.30am.

Syrian forces kill 16 during assault

Syrian forces killed 16 people during an assault in the city of Homs, Al Arabiya television reported yesterday, citing unidentified activists.

Midnight raid wipes out 14 in family

Gunmen killed 14 members of an extended family in a midnight raid on a village in central Nigeria yesterday, witnesses said, continuing a two-week cycle of violence between Muslims and Christians in which at least 70 people have been killed.

Witnesses said the 14 people were all from one Christian family.

Italian demonstrators flex mussels

Demonstrators dumped mussel shells in front of Italy's parliament yesterday, accusing politicians of squeezing workers with austerity while clinging to their privileges like mussels cling to rocks.

The several hundred demonstrators were led by popular Italian comedian Beppe Grillo.

Power restored after major blackout

Power has been restored to millions of people in the US southwest and Mexico after a massive blackout caused by a single utility worker doing a minor repair job.

The Arizona Public Service worker was switching out a capacitor, which controls voltage levels.

Abandoned toddler suckles on cow

A Cambodian man says his young grandson has lived partly on milk he suckles directly from a cow since the boy's parents left their rural village of Koak Roka in search of work. Um Oeung says 20-month-old Tha Sophat started suckling the cow in July after he saw a calf do the same.

Notorious Philippine gang leader dies

The Philippines military says the leader of a notorious kidnapping gang has died after a long illness.

Tahir Alonto of the Pentagon Gang is said to have died early yesterday of complications from diabetes.

Russian director wins Venice prize

Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov won the Venice Film Festival's top prize, the Golden Lion, for his movie Faust, defeating submissions from Roman Polanski, David Cronenberg and George Clooney.

Two NASA spacecraft to study moon

A pair of spacecraft rocketed toward the moon yesterday on the first mission dedicated to measuring lunar gravity and determining what's inside Earth's orbiting companion -- all the way down to the core.

It will take close to four months for the spacecraft to reach the moon.

Sunday Independent