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2007 was safe year to fly

THURSDAY, JAN. 3, 2008

Aviation is becoming safer every year and 2007 saw the lowest number of crashes in 44 years, an independent watchdog group said Wednesday.

But the Geneva-based Aircraft Crashes Record Office said some countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia and Colombia, were slower to improve airline safety.

There were 136 serious accidents in 2007, the fewest since 1963, ACRO said. It said 965 people died in crashes last year – a 25 percent drop from the previous year.

Most crashes involved small, propeller-powered planes, ACRO said. Larger jets accounted for only a quarter of accidents, but carried the highest fatality figures because of the greater number of passengers.

Nairobi, Kenya

Opposition plans park rally today

The opposition party pressed ahead Wednesday with plans to hold a banned “million-man march” today in Kenya’s capital to protest a disputed presidential election, raising fears of a new surge of violence.

Truckloads of paramilitary police arrived late Wednesday to blockade Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, the site of the planned rally.

Opposition protesters, mainly from the Luo tribe, have unleashed days of fierce tribal violence against members of the dominant Kikuyu tribe, which supported President Mwai Kibaki in last week’s elections. Tribal fighting with machetes, rocks and clubs has broken out in Kenya’s slums and other areas.

The march comes amid intense international pressure on Kibaki, who was declared the winner of the election and sworn in to a new five-year term Sunday, and rival Raila Odinga to reach a political accommodation.

With the post-election death toll edging toward 300, the international community has called on both sides to restrain their supporters. Today’s rally could lead to pitched battles between police and opposition supporters from the Kibera slum area if protesters try to break through police lines to get to Uhuru Park.

Brisbane, Australia

Snake survives golf ball surgery

A snake was saved by surgery in Australia after mistaking four golf balls for chicken eggs, a veterinarian said Wednesday.

A couple had placed the balls in their chicken coop in New South Wales state to encourage their hen to nest, the Australian Associated Press reported.

The balls disappeared, and the couple found a lumpy-looking carpet python nearby.

They took the 32-inch nonvenomous snake to the nearby Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where senior veterinarian Michael Pyne operated to remove the balls from the snake’s intestine.

“Those golf balls weren’t moving any further. They were stuck where they were,” Pyne said. “If it hadn’t been found, it would have died for sure.”


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