American pop singerdies in airplane crash
BERLIN -- Melanie Thornton, an American pop singer who made a name for herself in Germany, died in an airliner crash in Switzerland. She was 33.
Thornton was traveling Saturday from Berlin to Zurich, Switzerland, for a live performance when the Crossair Jumbolino Avro RJ-100 went down in a wooded area near Zurich's airport, killing 24 people, officials said.
"Melanie's death is a shock for all of us," George Glueck, head of her Berlin-based record company X-cell Records, said in a release today. "We have lost more than just a great artist. The many years of working together made her a real friend."
A native of Charleston, S.C., and former Atlanta resident, Thornton attracted a following in Germany in the 1990s as part of the duo La Bouche.
She had her first hit album as a solo act there last year. "Ready to Fly" reached No. 18 on German pop charts.
Her new single "Wonderful Dream -- Holidays are Coming" was scheduled for release today.
On her Web site, Thornton said she performed with small U.S. bands before moving to Germany. Her career took off when she and Lane McCray began singing as the duo La Bouche, which had hits with songs "Sweet Dreams" and "Be My Lover."
Philippine Muslims voteamid fears of violence
ISABELA, Philippines -- Soldiers outnumbered voters at many polling stations today as the Philippines' southern Muslim region chose a replacement for its renegade governor amid fears of rebel violence.
Rebels who oppose the vote fired on police posts, bombed a polling station and fired a mortar into a town on the eve of the elections. But authorities reported no violence as voters trickled to the polls today.
Some large precincts in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao reported turnout as low as 30 percent amid rumors of more planned attacks. Thousands of troops and police were deployed as a precaution.
Voters were choosing a successor to Gov. Nur Misuari, who was arrested over the weekend on charges of inciting an armed rebellion against the central government.
Elections officials could not immediately say how many of the 1.1 million eligible voters went to the polls. Official results are not expected for days as soldiers transport ballots from remote islands, mountains and jungles for hand counting at central stations.
In New Zealand, 'Hoho ho!' is a no, no, no
WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- It's not a clause in their contracts -- yet -- but a recruiting agency is asking the Santas they hire to work in malls not to yell "Ho ho ho!" because it scares children.
"We're trying to divert them off going 'ho ho ho!' ... for some children it can seem a bit ferocious," said Sian Barber of Westaff Recruitment.
"I think the Santas [can still] use 'ho ho ho!' generally when entering a shopping mall, but in a one-on-one with a child, it's a wee bit intimidating," she added.
In this new, sensitive age, Santas are being taught "Santa patter" for talking to children the right way, and being selected based on their ability to listen and show patience, warmth and understanding.
It's important to approach the children with a friendly greeting, like '"hello, haven't seen you for a long time,' or 'lovely of you to visit,' those sorts of things," Barber said.
A spokesman for leading department store Kirkcaldie and Stains said few Santas use the phrase when they have a child sitting on their knee.
But it's "an essential signoff when Santa is off to feed the reindeer," said operations manager Rod Spencer.
Recovery effort ends
HONOLULU -- A Japanese training fishing vessel sunk by a U.S. submarine settled into its final resting place Sunday as a short ceremony was held for the nine men and teen-age boys killed in the accident.
The $60 million recovery operation came to an end 12 miles south of Barbers Point on Oahu as the Ehime Maru was allowed to sink in more than 6,000 feet of water.
Representatives of the families of three of those killed Feb. 9 witnessed the event from the Japanese submarine rescue ship JDS Chihaya. The USS Salvor, a Pearl Harbor-based rescue and salvage ship that participated in the recovery effort, stood by as a mark of respect.
The 830-ton Ehime Maru has remained submerged since Feb. 9, when it was hit by the USS Greeneville while the submarine was demonstrating a rapid-surfacing drill off Diamond Head. The nine victims went down with the vessel, and 26 people were rescued.