Mayor Michael Bloomberg told his drivers to stop letting his sports utility vehicles idle after the Associated Press reported it observed the vehicles with their engines running for long periods of time while parked throughout the city. Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said Thursday that after learning of the findings reported the previous day, the mayor "made it clear" to the police detail that drives him around the city that the administration "should set a better example." The city also said that "No Engine Idling" signs were installed at the mayor's request months ago in all the Chevrolet Suburbans that transport him. The signs went up earlier this year, around the time Bloomberg signed a bill strengthening the city's anti-idling law and promised a citywide crackdown on enforcing the 38-year-old regulation. The signs were apparently in place when the AP conducted spot checks over the past week and found the parked vehicles idling at least eight times for periods of 10 minutes to more than an hour. The city's three-minute idling limit — which Bloomberg recently shortened to one minute around schools — does not legally apply to the mayor's SUVs, which are classified as emergency vehicles. But Bloomberg has portrayed himself as a leader on climate change, an image he played up as he explored his viability as a 2008 presidential candidate. Bloomberg's Suburbans run on E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
Helicopter makes jail escape easy
Belgian authorities say three inmates made a dramatic escape from prison by helicopter. According to the prosecutor's office in Bruges, an accomplice hijacked a helicopter Thursday and forced its pilot to fly into the prison yard, where the men got inside. He says they flew to a field 12 miles from Bruges, near a highway where they stole a black Mercedes and got away. Police say they have found no trace of the car. One of the men was identified as Ashraf Sekkaki, a 26-year-old convicted bank robber who has been described as one of the most dangerous criminals in Belgium.
New Mozart songs due out on Aug. 2
The International Mozarteum Foundation said Thursday it has discovered two more works composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, portrait above. The previously unknown works are piano pieces composed by a young Mozart, the foundation announced. The works have long been in the foundation's possession, but only recently identified as Mozart compositions. Mozart, who was born in Salzburg, Austria, lived from 1756 to 1791. He played piano from an early age, began composing music when he was 5, and eventually created more than 600 works, ranging from operas to chamber music, choral pieces and piano concertos. The foundation declined to provide more details Thursday, saying specifics would be made public during a presentation on Aug. 2.
Law allows France to open Sundays
France's parliament has given final approval to a law allowing more businesses to stay open Sundays despite protest from labor unions. The approval caps months of often bitter debate over labor protections, economic growth and the day of rest. The law will allow businesses in Paris, Marseilles and Lille and specific tourist zones more flexibility to open Sundays. Conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy hopes it will boost the economy. Labor Minister Xavier Darcos said it offers consumers more freedom. Several members of their party opposed the law, joining leftists who say the measure threatens France's social model and worker rights.