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France lawmakers defend foie gras

Paris Foie gras is a travesty for some, a delicacy for others. But for French lawmakers it is part of France’s cultural heritage, to be protected like a great work of art.

Lower house deputies approved a draft law on Tuesday that declares foie gras “part of the cultural and gastronomic patrimony, protected in France.” The measure, an amendment to a sweeping bill to overall agricultural policy, was passed unanimously on Monday. The entire draft law passed 376-150 on Tuesday.

Animal protection groups, and even some governments, oppose the forced-feeding of ducks and geese needed to make the gourmet product that is a specialty of southwest France. The lawmakers did not shy away from telling it like it is, defining foie gras in the amendment as “the liver of a duck or a goose specially fattened by force-feeding.”

“Foie gras is an emblematic element of our gastronomy and our culture,” read an accompanying explanation of the amendment.

The move comes amid growing criticism of the method used to obtain foie gras – stuffing the duck or goose for a 10-day period to fatten the liver and create the unctuous pate.

IRA may be giving up some illegal activities

Dublin, Ireland The Irish Republican Army has halted many of its underground activities – including bank robberies and vigilante attacks – and is broadly observing its July 28 peace declaration, two government officials who have read a confidential report told the Associated Press.

The assessment offers no firm conclusions, however, on whether the group has ended involvement in criminal rackets, which has emerged as a major new stumbling block in Northern Ireland’s peace process.

The report from the Independent Monitoring Commission, a panel formed by the British and Irish governments to assess the activities of the IRA and other outlawed groups, is to be published today.

The experts, who include a former CIA deputy director and an ex-commander of London’s Scotland Yard, reached broadly positive conclusions about the IRA’s recent activity, according to the officials.

Chinese skyscraper losing hole on top

Shanghai, China The Japanese builders of a Shanghai skyscraper that is to be one of the world’s tallest have scrapped plans for a round hole through its upper floors after Chinese complaints that it looked like Japan’s “rising sun” flag.

The newest design for the 101-story, 1,614-foot-tall Shanghai World Financial Center shown to journalists on Tuesday showed the circular hole replaced by a four-sided slot.

Its developer, the Mori Building Co. of Tokyo, acknowledged receiving complaints but said the change was made for technical reasons.

The developer’s president Minor Mori explained the change by saying that during lengthy planning delays in the 11-year-old project, he began to think the original design had “lost its freshness.”

Construction of the slender, wedge-shaped building began in the mid-1990s and is due for completion in 2008. The original design called for a 164-foot-high circular hole through the tower’s peak to reduce wind pressure on the structure and give it a distinctive profile.

But Chinese critics said the hole resembled Japan’s “rising sun” flag, an image associated in China with Tokyo’s brutal conquest of much of China during the 1930s and ‘40s.


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