World and Nation

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Indian Prime Minister Decries Abortions of Female Fetuses

The Indian prime minister described the widespread practice of aborting female fetuses as a “national shame” Monday, and called for stricter enforcement of laws devised to prevent doctors from helping parents to avoid the birth of unwanted daughters.

In his first speech on the subject, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh highlighted an “alarming” decline in the number of girls for every 1,000 boys in India, slipping to 927 in 2001 from 962 in 1981, according to the latest census figures. “This indicates that growing economic prosperity and education levels have not led to a corresponding mitigation in this acute problem,” he said.

“No nation, no society, no community can hold its head high and claim to be part of the civilized world if it condones the practice of discriminating against one half of humanity represented by women,” Singh said, giving an inaugural speech at a national conference dedicating to “saving the girl child,” which brought together politicians, doctors and advocates.

Describing the abortion of female fetuses as “inhuman, uncivilized and reprehensible,” he said the government had a responsibility to crack down on the large numbers of Indian doctors who illegally disclosed the sex of the fetus to the parents, and then arranged abortions of unwanted girls.

Over past three decades, the increasing availability of ultrasound equipment has assisted India’s cultural preference for sons and distorted the sex ratio across the nation.

Rome Elects First Rightist Mayor in Decades

Two weeks after sweeping national elections, Italy’s center-right parties confirmed that they had captured the mood of the country by winning runoff votes Sunday and Monday in several cities. In a closely watched race, Rome elected its first rightist mayor since World War II.

Promising to crack down on crime in Rome, the victor, Gianni Alemanno, who ran with the conservative People of Freedom party, took nearly 54 percent of the vote. Alemanno defeated Francesco Rutelli, who had served as mayor from 1993 to 2001.

The result represented a double blow to the departing mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, who left city politics to become the leader of the newly formed Democratic Party. The party lost the April 13-14 national elections to the center-right coalition, led by Silvio Berlusconi.

“It’s a result we built up over time,” said Alemanno, a former environment minister, who began his political career with the youth section of the Italian Social Movement, a neo-Fascist party formed by Mussolini supporters after the war.

The focus of the hard-fought campaign in Rome shifted to citizens’ safety after a woman was raped — allegedly by an immigrant — 10 days before the vote. The attack shocked the capital and recalled an attack in Rome last fall in which a Romanian immigrant was arrested in the fatal beating of Giovanna Reggiani, a 47-year-old woman.

Building a Candy Empire: Mars Offers $23 Billion for Wrigley

Against all odds, the chewing-gum aisle at the grocery store became a hotbed of creativity in recent years, as companies battled to find new ways to sell an immutable product, often by trying new combinations of coatings, fillings and packaging.

Now that thinking appears to have spread to broader strategy discussions in the boardrooms of candy companies.

On Monday, Mars, the privately held maker of Snickers and M&Ms, said that it would buy Wrigley, the famous chewing-gum company, for $23 billion. Analysts expect the companies to become a potent new marketing force as they try to appeal to a rapidly growing consumer market in countries like China, India and Russia.

The $80-a-share buyout will create the world’s largest confectionery company. It will be owned by the Mars family, which is known for its devotion to privacy and its phenomenal wealth.

While Bill Wrigley Jr., one of the largest shareholders in the company that bears his family name, was not looking to sell, he said in a Monday news conference, “The Mars family approached us with a compelling, all-cash offer.”

“We must respect the past,” he later added, “but at all times do what is right for the future.”

Supposed Hendrix Sex Tape To Be Released

In a twist on the recent string of sex tapes of Hollywood’s young stars, Vivid Entertainment plans to release what it says is a film from the vaults of classic rock: a sex film supposedly of Jimi Hendrix.

The film shows a naked man who resembles Hendrix, the guitar legend who died in 1970, wearing a bandanna in his Afro, having sex with two brunettes in a dimly lighted bedroom. His full face appears on screen for only a few seconds, with his eyes closed. In other portions there are flashes of his profile. But his hands, bedecked with rings, roam large on the screen at times. The film has no audio.

Vivid, a large maker of pornographic movies that is releasing the film this week, has created a 45-minute DVD, called “Jimi Hendrix the Sex Tape,” that combines 11 minutes of sex footage with a retrospective of Hendrix’s career in the 1960s (but with none of his music included). The company, which has also released tapes of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, Kim Kardashian and others, will sell it for $39.95 in stores and over the Internet, and will also offer the film for downloading.

But the identity of the man in the film, which has circulated among Hendrix aficionados for years, is fiercely disputed by experts and former associates. And the DVD arrives on the heels of a string of hoaxes involving star look-alikes and one other dead superstar.