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World Briefs

Presidential first

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias is suffering from the H1N1 virus, making him the first head of state known to have contracted swine flu.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Arias, 68, has a mild case of the virus which he tested positive for on, on Tuesday after feeling unwell at the weekend, the government said.

Mr Arias is at home and plans to do some work from there.

"Apart from the fever and a sore throat, I feel well and in good shape to carry out my work by telecommuting. I expect to return to all my duties on Monday," he said in a statement.

Mr Arias suffers from asthma. While the vast majority of swine flu cases have not been serious, infected people who have other medical conditions are most susceptible to complications.

"The tests... show that there is no other complication," Information Minister Mayi Antillon said. (Reuters)

Businessman shares lottery winnings

An Italian businessman has shared a third of his €963,000 lottery win with his employees as he had promised, La Repubblica daily reported yesterday. "If I win, we'll share it," Marco Colombo, 38, had shouted to his workers a few days before entering last Saturday's SuperEnalotto draw. The jackpot in the lottery climbed to more than €130 million.

On Monday the businessman, who runs a small metalworking business in the northern city of Turbigo, kept his promise and gave each of his five workers €70,000 even though his business is facing difficulties due to the economic crisis.

Lotto fever continued to sweep Italy yesterday as the jackpot for six winning numbers, which has not been won for seven months, reached €131.5 million, beating the previous European record of €126 million. (AFP)

Kelly Clarkson's doctored photo

Singer Kelly Clarkson says she's perfectly happy about her fluctuating weight.

So why did Self magazine, in which she made the remarks, retouch its cover photo of the "American Idol" champ to make her look much thinner than she is in real life?

"Only to make her look her personal best," says Self editor Lucy Danziger, adding that retouching is standard practice in the glossy magazine business.

Ms Clarkson's case is ironic because the singer talks about her weight in Self's September issue, which is called the Total Body Confidence Issue, yet the magazine radically altered her appearance on its cover.

"My happy weight changes. Sometimes I eat more; sometimes I play more. I'll be different sizes all the time. When people talk about my weight, I'm like, 'You seem to have a problem with it; I don't. I'm fine!' Ms Clarkson, 27, told Self.

It's not the first time that Ms Clarkson has been slimmed down for promotional reasons. (Reuters)

UK politicians 'on rations'

A British politician apologised yesterday after he was secretly filmed saying that lawmakers have been forced to "live on rations" after Parliament was shaken by a scandal over their expenses claims.

Alan Duncan, a senior member of the opposition Conservative Party, said, "The last thing people want to hear is an MP whingeing about his pay and conditions."

Mr Duncan made the comments in June to Heydon Prowse, an environmental campaigner. Mr Prowse was invited to Parliament for a drink with Mr Duncan after he dug a pound-shaped flower bed in the lawmaker's garden to protest about the expenses row.

Politicians outraged recession-hit voters by attempting to claim taxpayers' money for everything from pornographic films and manure to the cleaning of a country house's moat. (Reuters)

Stowaway mosquitoes threaten wildlife

The unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands is under threat from disease-carrying mosquitoes arriving on board growing numbers of aircraft and tourist boats.

Experts fear the spread of the southern house mosquito, or Culex quinquefasciatus, could have the same devastating effect in the Galapagos as in Hawaii during the late 19th century, when disease wiped out many indigenous birds.

The mosquito was first spotted in the Galapagos in the mid-1980s, but its presence then was considered a one-off. Now research by scientists has found the insects are, in fact, transported regularly by plane and are island-hopping on boats, spreading throughout the archipelago. Genetic tests also confirm they are able to survive and breed once they arrive at their new home.

The southern house mosquito is a carrier of diseases including avian malaria, avian pox and West Nile fever. Mosquitoes are the latest in a string of invaders - including rats, wild pigs, flies and invasive plants - that have colonised the Pacific islands. (Reuters)

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