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Thailand prime minister tells news to talk to cardboard cutout; Rome’s sad Christmas tree recycled; more in world news

Thailand

Don’t let Trump get any ideas

The prime minister evaded journalists’ questions Monday by bringing out a life-sized cardboard cutout of himself. "If you want to ask any questions on politics or conflict," he told the Government House press pack, "ask this guy." Prayuth Chan-ocha then turned on his heel and walked off to bemused looks and awkward laughter from journalists before anyone could ask him about a number of pressing political issues. It isn’t the first time Prayuth — a general who seized power in a bloodless coup in 2014 — has dumbfounded the media. He has fondled the ear of a sound technician for several minutes during a news conference, flung a banana peel at cameramen, and threatened, with gruff humor, to execute any journalist who criticized his government. When it took power, his government packed with military leaders enjoyed considerable public support for ending a prolonged period of often-violent street politics. But as the junta’s rule has stretched on, criticism of its often-repressive policies and lack of transparency has grown markedly.

Italy

Recycling Rome’s
sad Christmas tree

Rome’s pathetic Christmas tree, so droopy and dried out that residents nicknamed it "The Mangy One," will be carved up and turned into souvenirs and a lactation hut for mothers and babies, officials said Tuesday. In giving a new life, Rome’s cabinet moved to close an embarrassing chapter in which the tree came to symbolize the degradation and dysfunction under Mayor Virginia Raggi and the years of neglect and corruption before her. Raggi insisted the tree captured the hearts of Romans and visitors alike, and that its future life would show Rome as a model of recycling. Workers started taking down ornaments Tuesday, only to put them back after getting word that a formal farewell ceremony was planned for today.

Pakistan

Police kill 2 people protesting slaying

Hundreds of protesters, enraged over the killing of a young girl, clashed with police in the city of Kasur on Wednesday after surrounding the office of a senior district official and demanding justice. At least two people were killed when police opened fire on protesters to safeguard public property, officials said. Protesters said they were outraged over the police’s inability to stop a series of child killings. Police say at least 12 children have been killed within a radius of about a mile in the past two years in Kasur. The violence came a day after the body of Zainab Amin was found on a pile of garbage near a busy road. Muhammad Amin said his daughter was around 7 and also accused police of not cooperating. News of the killing, and unconfirmed reports that the girl had been raped, swept through news and social media, and nationally known politicians demanded her killer be found. The chief minister of Punjab province on Wednesday ordered a high-level inquiry.

France

Thieves hit Ritz Hotel

Armed thieves entered the luxury Ritz Hotel in Paris and stole valuable jewels and other goods, worth at least $5.4 million, from a hotel boutique Wednesday, officials said, carrying out a brazen heist in one of the world’s most prestigious neighborhoods. Three suspects were quickly arrested, but at least two others got away, according to a police official. No one was injured. The stolen items hadn’t been recovered by nightfall, said an official familiar with the investigation. Police could not confirm the sum or reports that the thieves had hatchets. — tbt* wires

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Thailand prime minister tells news to talk to cardboard cutout; Rome’s sad Christmas tree recycled; more in world news