World briefs: Hospital fire kills 37 in Russia

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MOSCOW -- A pre-dawn fire swept through a Russian psychiatric hospital Friday, killing 37 people, officials said. Authorities had long warned that the mostly wooden building dating to the 19th century was unsafe.

It was the second such deadly blaze in less than five months, underlining the widespread neglect of fire safety standards in Russia.

The fire in the one-story hospital in the village of Luka, about 280 miles northwest of Moscow, erupted around 3 a.m. and quickly engulfed the structure, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

The ministry said rescuers so far have recovered 26 bodies. The Investigative Committee did not explain how it confirmed the other deaths.

The agency added that the blaze was apparently inadvertently sparked by a patient, but the hospital's chief doctor insisted the fire was a deliberate arson. State Rossiya 24 television reported that a witness said a smoking patient caused the fire.

Storms flank Mexico

MIAMI -- Tropical Storm Ingrid drenched southern Mexico from the Gulf Coast on Friday as Tropical Storm Manuel formed in the Pacific, threatening even more rain.

The two systems will probably bring at least 15 inches of rain throughout southern Mexico, with 25 inches possible in some areas, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami. Tropical storm warnings were posted on both coasts.

"These rains are likely to result in life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, especially in mountainous terrain," the center said.

Aquino warns rebels

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines -- Philippine officials say they are negotiating with Muslim rebels holding more than 100 civilians hostage on ending the five-day standoff.

At the same time, President Benigno Aquino III has again warned the guerrillas that his government won't hesitate to use force.

Mr. Aquino on Friday visited troops and some of the 15,000 displaced people in southern Zamboanga city, where about 200 fighters from a Muslim rebel faction seized several coastal communities and used residents there as human shields. About a dozen people have died so far as troops sealed off the area and exchanged fire with the rebels.

Chinese billionaire arrested

BEIJING -- A Chinese billionaire venture capitalist who has strongly advocated more liberal political and social policies was detained Friday by Beijing police officers, friends of the businessman said.

Wang Gongquan, 51, is a close friend of Xu Zhiyong, a lawyer who was arrested in August on a charge of "assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place." Mr. Wang was detained on the same charge. The warrant indicated that Mr. Wang had been detained by officers from the traffic safety bureau of the Beijing Police Department.

$1 million for Bond vehicle

LONDON -- James Bond's submersible Lotus, used in the 1977 film "The Spy Who Loved Me," has been sold at auction for nearly $1 million.

There were eight different versions of the Lotus used in the film starring Roger Moore and Barbara Bach, and the one sold was used only for the underwater scenes. Although equipped with fins and propellers, it did not have wheels.

It's unclear why the price was soft, given the boom in collectible cars and its status as an especially famous car from the silver screen. But auction experts said that because the Lotus was not a functional car, it may not have been as attractive to buyers.

-- Compiled from news services



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