NZ premier admits flag change vote a challenge
WELLINGTON • Prime Minister John Key conceded yesterday he faces a challenge persuading New Zealanders to change the national flag in a referendum later this year, after an opinion poll found overwhelming support for the existing flag.
A government committee this month unveiled four potential designs - three incorporating the silver fern leaf that is an informal national emblem, and one depicting a spiralling black-and-white koru, or fern frond, a traditional Maori symbol of new life and creation.
The referendum winner goes head-to-head against the existing flag in a second vote in March.
9,000 people left homeless by giant Chile earthquake
SANTIAGO • More than 9,000 people were left homeless after a powerful 8.3-magnitude earthquake hit northern and central Chile last week, officials said on Sunday, dramatically increasing previous estimates.
The death toll from the Sept 16 quake remained at 13, with four still missing, said Deputy Interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy.
The number of people left homeless, however, jumped drastically from 3,500, as officials scour remote towns in the Coquimbo region, more than 260km north of Santiago, where the quake epicentre was located.
In February 2010, an 8.8-magnitude quake and tsunami left 500 people dead.
Internet mogul's extradition hearing starts in NZ
AUCKLAND • Kim Dotcom's extradition hearing opened yesterday with the Internet mogul confident that he can avoid being sent to the United States to face online piracy charges.
The US authorities allege his now-defunct Megaupload empire promoted online theft on a grand scale, netting more than US$175 million (S$246 million) in criminal proceeds and costing copyright owners US$500 million by offering pirated films, music and software.
Dotcom claims charges against him, including fraud, racketeering and money laundering, show Washington is pursuing him at the request of the US entertainment industry with a case that could set a precedent that affects all Internet users.
Russia arrests governor over organised crime
MOSCOW • Detectives have arrested the governor of Russia's oil-rich Komi region, over allegations he was involved in running an organised crime group.
Vyacheslav Gaizer and his deputy, Alexei Chernov, are also accused of fraud. Another 13 people have been detained, Russia's Investigative Committee said on Sunday.
Investigators confiscated jewellery, watches and documents legalising the seizure of assets worth more than 1 billion roubles (S$21 million), said the committee.
Lukoil PJSC, Russia's second-largest crude producer, in February signed an agreement with Gaizer lasting until 2019 "to develop the fuel and energy complex in the region" and "improve its financial and economic situation".