World Briefs: NZ premier admits flag change vote a challenge

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he faces a challenge persuading New Zealanders to change the national flag in a referendum later this year.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he faces a challenge persuading New Zealanders to change the national flag in a referendum later this year.PHOTO: ST FILE
Megaupload's Kim Dotcom leaving court yesterday as he fights a US bid to extradite him from New Zealand.
Megaupload's Kim Dotcom leaving court yesterday as he fights a US bid to extradite him from New Zealand.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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".

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2015, with the headline '9,000 people left homeless by giant Chile earthquake Internet mogul's extradition hearing starts in NZ Russia arrests governor over organised crime NZ premier admits flag change vote a challenge WorldBriefs'. Print Edition | Subscribe