MASNAA, Lebanon

Mandatory visas may stem flow of refugees from Syria

For the first time Monday, Syrians were required to obtain visas to enter Lebanon in an effort to stem the flow of refugees from the war-torn country,.

During nearly four years of fighting, more than 3 million Syrians have fled, mostly across the border to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

The Lebanese government estimates that there are about 1.5 million Syrians living in the country with a population of about 4 million. About 1.1 million Syrians have registered with the United Nations refugee agency there.


Mayor’s wife will face organized crime charge

The wife of a mayor whose police turned 43 students over to a drug gang that allegedly killed them has been charged with organized crime and money laundering.

Maria de los Angeles Pineda’s husband is former Iguala mayor Jose Luis Abarca. Her brothers were leading members of the Guerreros Unidos drug gang.

The students disappeared Sept. 26 in Iguala, Guerrero. Abarca and Pineda were arrested Nov. 4 in Mexico City.


British zookeepers conduct annual census of animals

Zookeepers are coaxing, corralling and counting creatures as the London Zoo begins the annual census of its 17,000 residents.

The zoo is home to more than 750 species, from red-kneed spiders to Sumatran tigers, and all must be accounted for under the license terms for British zoos.

New arrivals this year include 10 young Humboldt penguins, three tiger cubs and six baby Philippine crocodiles – the first ever bred in Britain.


At least nine choke to death on New Year’s rice cakes

At least nine people have reportedly choked to death on New Year’s rice cakes in Japan, and officials are urging people to chew slowly on the treats.

Sticky rice cakes, or “mochi,” are an essential part of the Japanese New Year’s holiday menu. But the glutinous mochi, grilled or cooked in broth or with sweet beans, can get stuck in people’s throats, blocking breathing.

The Yomiuri newspaper reported Friday that at least 128 people were rushed to hospitals after choking on mochi, with nine dying.

The department advised people to cut mochi in small pieces, chew slowly and learn first aid.

In addition to three Tokyo deaths, three people died in Chiba prefecture, while one each died in Osaka, Aomori and Nagasaki prefectures, the Yomiuri reported. In the Nagasaki case, an 80-year-old-man choked on a mochi that was in sweet bean soup served for free at a Shinto shrine.

—From news service reports