Bars win smoking exemption
Germany's highest court ruled yesterday that small bars and restaurants should be exempted from regional smoking bans.
The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe said the bans were unconstitutional because they "seriously interfered" with the livelihoods of these businesses.
Smoking bans came into effect individually in most of Germany's 16 federal states at in January even if many bars and restaurants in Berlin have flouted their regional ban.
The fact that the laws allow bars and restaurants to create closed-off smoking areas in effect put small establishments that lacked the space for these at an unfair disadvantage, the court said. The ruling upheld a complaint by the owners of two small bars in Berlin and a nightclub operator in Baden-Wuerttemberg, who argued that the legislation had put their businesses at risk.
Presiding judge Hans-Juergen Papier said the rules must be redrawn by the end of 2009 and that, until then, smoking must be allowed in bars and restaurants of less than 75 sq metres.
As most of Germany's regional states have smoking laws similar to those of Berlin and Baden-Wuerttemberg, the ruling is likely to set a precedent for the other states.
Priest's body found at sea
The body of a Brazilian priest who floated out over the ocean suspended by hundreds of helium-filled party balloons, has been found off the coast of southeastern Brazil, police have confirmed.
The corpse of Father Adelir Antonio de Carli was spotted at sea near Macae, three months after he disappeared while flying a contraption buoyed by balloons over the Atlantic Ocean in a fund-raising stunt.
"We were almost certain that it was the priest due to various elements, such as the clothes and material used in the balloon trip," Macae's chief of police, said. "The DNA only confirmed our suspicions."
The priest disappeared on April 20 after he called friends from his mobile phone to say he was about to crash into the ocean. He staged the stunt to help raise money for a chapel for truckers in his highway parish.
Tough new controls for foreign students
Foreign students planning to study in Britain will have to supply their fingerprints under new rules introduced by the Home Office.
Universities and colleges recruiting overseas students for courses longer than six months must have a licence and if any institution fails to comply, it faces being blacklisted.
They must keep detailed records of their overseas students, telling the Home Office if they miss 10 lectures in a row or defer their studies.
Visiting students will also be required to be sponsored by a licensed institution and provide proof they can financially support themselves and their families.
"All those who come to Britain must play by the rules," said Border and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne.
Oil costly? Dress warmly!
Labelled Germany's "rambo" senator for his outspoken comments, Berlin's finance minister yesterday sparked anger for suggesting people should wear a jumper in the face of rising heating costs.
Thilo Sarrazin, 63, has built a reputation with what some media call an "unwavering political incorrectness" in past months, criticising unemployed people for being greedy and lazy and calling civil servants "pale and smelly".
Yesterday, several trade union officials and welfare associations called for his resignation, saying Mr Sarrazin was mocking poor people's misery in the face of soaring energy costs.
Social Democrat (SPD) Sarrazin had told Rheinische Post daily: "If energy costs are as high as rents, people will consider whether they're not able to live reasonably well at room temperatures... with a warm sweater on."
Mr Sarrazin's SPD, which shares power with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) at federal level, rules in a coalition with the far-left Left Party in the city of Berlin.
Power pylons bombed for cash
Colombian police have arrested employees of a maintenance company for paying leftist rebels to blow up 215 electricity pylons near Cali so the company could win contracts to repair them. Police were hunting for more four employees suspected of being part of the scam with members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the Farc.
The attacks for hire were unusual even by the standards of the Farc, which started out four decades ago as a Marxist peasant army but has since branched out into extortion and cocaine smuggling.