World briefs: Hypnotist Lewis is dead

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SYDNEY -- American hypnotist Scott Lewis has fallen to his death from an apartment building in Sydney, Australian news reports said Saturday.

Mr. Lewis, 50, who was to perform in a series of shows at Sydney's Opera House, is believed to have fallen from his 11th-floor apartment to a fourth-floor balcony. The discovery of his body was made after he failed to board a charter bus scheduled to take him and fellow performers to the Opera House for a matinee performance.

Financier fights extradition

ROME -- A lawyer for Florian Homm, a German financier wanted by U.S. authorities, says he will appeal to the Italian Ministry of Justice in a last-ditch attempt to prevent the former hedge fund manager from being extradited to Los Angeles to face charges of securities fraud.

On Friday, Italy's highest court cleared the way for Mr. Homm, 54, to be sent to Los Angeles for trial on federal charges that he defrauded investors of at least $200 million.

Mr. Homm was arrested on U.S. charges in Italy last year after five years in hiding. His lawyers argued that he has multiple sclerosis and is not healthy enough to withstand the stress of extradition and trial.

Fire destroys 'Shangri-La'

HONG KONG -- Fire blazed through an ancient Tibetan neighborhood in southwestern China on Saturday, destroying hundreds of wooden homes and shops that have drawn tourists to an area that has cast itself as the inspiration for mythic Shangri-La.

Chinese television news said that the fire in Dukezong in Shangri-La county, Yunnan province, had broken out in the early hours. There were no immediate reports of deaths or serious injuries.

Iran shuns Syria talks

WASHINGTON -- Iran will not participate in peace talks on Syria that are to be held this month in Switzerland, a senior State Department official said Friday.

Iran, a staunch supporter of Syria's President Bashar Assad, has been sending arms and members of its paramilitary Quds Force to help in his government's military campaign against the opposition.

Canadian dollar weakens

TORONTO -- The Canadian dollar lost the most in a week since June as increasing evidence that the economy is faltering added to speculation the Bank of Canada will signal it may cut interest rates this year.

The loonie, as Canada's currency is known for the image of the aquatic bird on the C$1 coin, depreciated 2.4 percent to C$1.0892 per U.S. dollar last week. One Canadian dollar buys 91.81 U.S. cents.

U.S.-Somalia operation

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. military secretly sent a small team of advisers to Somalia last month to assist with operations against militants.

It was the first time U.S. troops have been stationed there since two helicopters were shot down and 18 American soldiers were killed in 1993.

Abbas hardens on capital

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent a defiant message to Israel's leadership and U.S. mediators Saturday, telling cheering supporters that the Palestinians "won't kneel" and won't drop demands for a capital in east Jerusalem.

Mr. Abbas' unusually fiery speech highlighted the wide gaps between him and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the outlines of a peace deal.


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