News in brief

169 mafia members arrested in Italy, Germany

Rome, January 10 (IANS): Some 169 suspected members of the Italian ‘Ndrangheta gang have been arrested in Italy and Germany as part of a joint operation, police said. German police arrested 11 of them in Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Hessen and North Rhine-Westphalia, the Federal Criminal Police Office said. The arrested were aged between 36-61, and were allegedly linked to the Farao-Marincola clan from the Calabrian town of Ciro, the Italian police said on Tuesday. They are one of the most powerful Calabrian mafias in northern Italy, with ramifications in Germany, Efe news reported. The group has been accused of attempted murder, extortion and money laundering, among other crimes. The criminal organisation managed to exert an influence on important Italian economic and business sectors, such as the production and sale of fish, wine and confectionery, waste collection and funeral services. It was capable of managing millions of euros, according to the police. Assets worth $59.64 million were seized during the police operation, which was coordinated by prosecutor Nicola Gratteri.


Brazilian police end strike after 20 days

Sao Paulo, January 10 (IANS): Police officers in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte ended a strike on Tuesday that kept them off the job for 20 days, forcing officials to deploy army troops in the region following a spike in violent crime. The officers agreed to return to duty after state officials promised to pay some of the salary arrears this week, Efe reported. The civil police went on strike on December 20, a day after military police officers walked off the job. On January 2, the military police decided on a gradual return to work once the strike was ruled illegal, while the civil force resolved to continue the stoppage. Each of Brazil’s 26 states has two police agencies, one military and one civil. While military police are responsible for maintaining public order, the civil force investigates crimes. Officers went on strike to demand payment of salary arrears and better working conditions. The strike prompted state officials to request the deployment of the army to maintain order, and some 2,800 soldiers have been on patrol in the principal cities of Rio Grande do Norte since last week. The army plans to continue patrolling cities in Rio Grande do Norte until January 12, but Governor Robinson Faria said on Monday evening that he hoped the soldiers would remain longer.


Japanese astronaut apologises for ‘fake news’ of height increase

TOKYO, January 10 (Reuters): Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, on a mission to the International Space Station, apologised on Wednesday for saying he had grown 9 cm (3.5 inches) while in space and expressing concern about whether he’d be safe on his return to Earth. Most astronauts “grow” during protracted space missions because their spines extend in the absence of gravity, but the gains are usually limited to a couple of centimeters (inches) maximum and disappear once they are back on the ground. The 41-year-old Kanai, who went to space last month for a nearly six-month mission, posted on Twitter on Monday that he had “a big announcement.” “My height’s been measured here in space and somehow, somehow, I’ve grown 9 cm! In only three weeks I’ve really shot up, something I haven’t seen since high school,” he tweeted. “This makes me a little worried that I might not be able to fit in the Soyuz seats for our return.” But a bit over a day later – and in the wake of a flurry of news stories – he apologised, saying that he’d measured himself after his captain raised questions about the apparent growth and he had stretched only 2 cm from his Earth-bound height. “This mis-measurement appears to have become a big deal, so I must apologise for this terrible fake news,” he tweeted, without explaining how the original miscalculation had occurred.