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The Dutch ambassador to Sudan swam across the Nile in Khartoum on Saturday in a stunt that began as a bet to win more "likes" for her embassy's Facebook page.

Clad in an bright orange swimsuit bearing the embassy logo, Ambassador Susan Blankhart swam several hundred metres (yards) across the Blue Nile with six other Dutch women and seven Sudanese women, cheered on by dozens of supporters on the riverbank.

"It was lovely, it was beautiful. I would recommend that everyone swims across the Nile," Blankhart said laughing, back on dry land after the crossing.

She had originally said that she would swim across the river if her embassy's Facebook page received more than 10,000 likes.

 

 

 

US literary great Ernest Hemingway's tender and joyful memoir of 1920s Paris, "A Moveable Feast", has enjoyed a surge in sales since last week's terror attacks in the French capital.

The author of such acclaimed novels as "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "The Old Man and the Sea" spent time in Paris as a young man honing his writing skills and chronicling the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I.

Copies of "A Moveable Feast" have been flying off bookshop shelves, say sales monitors.

Paperback versions are being deposited, along with flowers and candles, in front of bullet-ridden windows at one of the Paris bars targeted by the jihadist gunmen.

The book can also be found in front of the Bataclan concert hall, the epicentre of last Friday's slaughter which left 129 people dead and more than 350 injured.

During a minute of silence observed for the victims on Monday, many people could be seen head bowed with "A Moveable Feast" tucked under their arms.

The French version "Paris est une fête" -- which literally means "Paris is a Party" - was on Thursday right at the top of Amazon France's list of biographies in terms of sales, and second on the overall literature best-sellers list.

Normally bookshops will sell 10 copies of the Hemingway book per week, "now it's 500," a spokesman for the Folio publishers said.

An extra 15,000-copy print run of the book, which was published posthumously in 1964, is planned.

 

 

 

 

Troubled South Korean retail giant Lotte, already struggling with a prolonged founder-family feud, has seen its business woes deepen with the loss of the state licence for one of its biggest duty-free shops ahead of a key IPO.

The country's fifth-largest business group suffered its latest body-blow at the weekend when South Korea's customs agency awarded its concession to a rival bidder -- the heavy industries giant Doosan Co.

The licence covered a 10,990-square-metre (118,300 square foot) store in South Korea's tallest skyscraper -- the Lotte World Tower and Mall complex in downtown Seoul.

Lotte, which had held the licence for five years, had already invested 300 billion won ($255 million) in the store and the customs agency decision shattered its ambitions to grow it into the world's largest duty-free outlet over the next decade.

The setback was particularly badly timed given the preparations for an initial public offering of shares in Lotte's hotel unit, which runs the group's duty-free business.

The duty-free chain is the largest franchise of its kind in South Korea and the third-largest in the world, racking up sales of 4.2 trillion won last year.

 

 

Hotel Lotte vowed Saturday to push ahead with the listing, but analysts said the loss of the licence for the Lotte World store would be felt.

"Investors are concerned it will hurt Hotel Lotte's overall profits," said Park Jong-Dae, analyst at Hana Financial Securities.

"As a result, the company's valuation may fall when it goes public," he said, noting that duty-free shops accounted for more than 80 percent of Hotel Lotte's overall sales.

Founded in Tokyo in 1948 by Shin Kyuk-Ho, Lotte has a vast network of businesses including department stores, hotels and amusement parks in South Korea and Japan, with combined assets valued at more than $90 billion.

- A very public feud -

Many of South Korea's family-run conglomerates, or "chaebol", are known for their byzantine structure of shareholdings, but Lotte Group's cross-holdings dwarf the others in their number and complexity.

The confusion surrounding who controls what, and how, has become the backdrop to a monumental family feud pitting Shin and his first son Shin Dong-Joo in one corner against his second son -- the current group chairman Shin Dong-Bin -- in the other.

 

 

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that Syria could be weeks away from a "big transition", following on from international talks in Vienna at the weekend.

 

 

 

Public museums and other cultural venues in the Paris area will reopen Monday afternoon, three days after the terror attacks in the French capital, the culture ministry said.

The museums will reopen at 1:00 pm (1200 GMT) on Monday, shortly after the country observes a minute of silence, the ministry said in a statement Sunday.

Cinemas were also ordered to close following the attacks but most of them reopened Sunday after a 24-hour closure.

 

 

 

French President Francois Hollande said Sunday he wanted the state of emergency declared after the Paris attacks to last three months, parliamentary sources told AFP, a move that would cover the upcoming UN climate conference.

"He told us he wanted the state of emergency to last three months," one of the sources said.

 

 

 

Germany's second biggest energy company, RWE, saw profits from its core coal and gas business plummet again in the first nine months of the year, it said Thursday.

In Frankfurt, shares in RWE tanked over 8 percent to 11.44 euros after it said 2015 profits would "only just" meet the company's forecast range of 1.1-1.3 billion euros.

Like other German power giants, RWE has been hit by rock-bottom wholesale prices as it competes against subsidised renewables like wind and solar power.

RWE, Germany's largest electricity producer, however saw its net profit boosted to 1.94 billion euros ($2.08 billion), against 994 million a year ago, by the sale of oil and gas exploration division RWE Dea.

The sale allowed the RWE Group to reduce its huge debt to 25.8 billion euros on September 30.

However, data reflecting the utility's ongoing business operations again looked bleak.

 

 

 

 

Slovenia began erecting razor wire along the border with fellow EU member Croatia on Wednesday in a move the government says will help it better manage a record influx of migrants.

Slovenia last month suddenly found itself on the Balkans route taken by thousands of migrants heading to northern Europe after Hungary sealed its borders with Croatia and Serbia.

More than 180,000 passing have passed through the small EU member state of two million people since mid-October, all but a handful heading for Austria and beyond.

"We have started erecting technical obstacles on the southern border in two areas," Interior Ministry spokesman Bostjan Sefic said at a news conference in Ljubljana.

He said the barriers near the towns of Brezice and Razkrizje would initially remain in place for six months.

In total, Ljubljana plans to fence off 80 kilometres (50 miles) of its 670-kilometre frontier with Croatia, Austria's chancellery said Wednesday after a meeting with Slovenian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec in Vienna.

 

 

 

 

A spectacular pink diamond, the largest of its kind to ever appear at auction, goes under the hammer in Geneva on Tuesday, with an expected sale price of more than $23 million (21.4 million euros).

The precious jewel's anticipated sale by Christie's is part of a week of auctions that could see another coloured gemstone set a new world record.

That stone, a 12.03-carat blue diamond described by experts as flawless, is being sold by rival auction house Sotheby's on Wednesday, possibly fetching a record $55 million.

"Coloured diamonds...have seen sustained growth during the last few years. Partly because of their great rarity, but equally because of their beauty," said David Bennett, head of Sotheby's international jewellery division.

Christie's 16.08-carat pink diamond is the largest cushion-shaped stone classified in the elite "fancy vivid" category to come to auction.

Rahul Kadakia, the International Head of Jewellery at Christie's, told AFP that the stone dubbed "In the Pink" could end up selling for more than $30 million.

He noted that the record price per carat for a pink diamond was set in December 2009 by Christie's in Hong Kong, when a five-carat stone sold for more than $10 million.

If In the Pink, owned by an American family for the past 15 years, matches that mark, it could fetch more than $32 million he said.

The jewel, he added, has been priced "well below what it is actually worth."

 

 

 

 

Cowboy-hat wearing Wellington Jighere from Nigeria crushed his English opponent 4 - 0 at the World Scrabble Championship in Australia to become first African to bag the word game's global title.

Jighere was among more than 120 competitors who travelled to Perth for the World English-language Scrabble Players' Association Championship, which culminated in Sunday's best-of-seven final against England's Lewis Mackay.

"He had to battle for four days to emerge on top but once he got there -- maybe he was a little fresher, or got a bit of luck -- everything fell into place for him and he won four-nil," Adam Kretschmer, one of the organisers of the event, told AFP of Jighere's effort.

The Nigerian used such high-scoring words as "fahlores", "avouched" and "mentored" as he puzzled his way to victory.

"It is the first time that an African has won in these world championships," Jighere told The Guardian after the win.

But he conceded that: "Nigel is still the master. It just happens that today was my day."

It was a reference to New Zealander Nigel Richards who dominates English-language Scrabble, with three world championships, five North American titles and 11 wins at the prestigious King's Cup in Thailand, sponsored by the Thai royal family.

Richards stunned the francophone world in July when he also won the game's French version even though he doesn't speak the language and only spent nine weeks studying the official Scrabble dictionary.