January 31, 2013

Netanyahu cartoon sparks anger, Murdoch says sorry


Rupert Murdoch has apologized for a "grotesque, offensive" cartoon of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published in Britain's Sunday Times.
The cartoon by Gerald Scarfe depicts Netanyahu atop an incomplete brick wall with screaming Palestinians and body parts in the mortar. Netanyahu is holding what appears to be a bloody builder's trowel and the wall's mortar is colored red. The wording beneath reads: "Israeli Elections, Will Cementing Peace Continue?"
The cartoon was published on Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday and prompted complaints that it was anti-Semitic and insensitive.

January 30, 2013

Poland to send 20 'training instructors' to Mali


After a meeting with President Hollande in Paris, Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced that Poland would be sending 20 troops to take part in the EU training mission in Mali.
“Poland has no doubt that responsibility falls on the international community and the entire European Union for intervention and peacekeeping in the region, but France has taken on the most difficult task in this matter,” Prime Minister Tusk said on Monday.
Poland's president, Bronislaw Komorowski is expected to make the formal decision, Tuesday, on releasing troops for the mission in Mali, where soldiers from several EU countries will give security training to Malian troops as they fight off an Islamist anti-government insurgency in the north of the country.
French paratroopers took the ancient city of Timbuktu after ten months of insurgent occupation on Monday, securing its airport and main roads as thousands of residents greeted the troops, waving French and Mali flags, Reuters reports.

January 29, 2013

Horsemeat in burgers traced to Polish suppliers


Polish suppliers were responsible for the horsemeat in beefburgers scandal which hit supermarkets including Tesco, the Irish government has revealed.

Tests in recent days showed raw material imported by an Irish processing plant from Poland had up to 20% equine DNA. Products made for Tesco, Aldi, Lidl and Iceland were implicated in the initial scare this month caused by food standards checks late last year.

Other UK chains withdrew products made at Silvercrest, County Monaghan, and Dalepak Hambleton in north Yorkshire, both owned by the Irish-based ABP Food Group. Burger King also stopped using burgers made at Silvercrest, which suspended production more than a week ago and is now being deep cleaned.

More than 10m beefburgers are thought to have been removed from sale because of the scare, although authorities in the UK and Ireland have repeatedly said they posed no threat to human health.

January 26, 2013

West Bank account: Prankster inside E1 settlement sales secrets


Israelis willing to risk buying property in disputed area in the West Bank are being offered ‘amazing’ real estate deals. More property deals are likely to come if Benjamin Netanyahu claims victory in the elections in Israel.

­Netanyahu is seeking his third term in the office and has stressed that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are to be expanded by thousands of housing units.

UK-based Jewish filmmaker Nimrod Kamer went to the disputed E1 sector in the West Bank and found out that not only settlements are being expanded, but the real estate deals in the area are beneficial to Jewish people.

In his film, made exclusively for RT, Kamer pretends to be a real estate developer, who together with a rich UK investor goes to the E1 area to acquire land and property. The filmmaker explores the area and negotiates with locals to get him a better deal.

He also reveals the public mood. At one point in the film he talks with a Jewish woman who wants to sell an apartment, who asserts that the land is Jewish, while Palestinians are just renting it.

January 24, 2013

Belgium's future teachers show worrying gaps in general knowledge


A large number of Belgium's future secondary school teachers struggle with basic concepts of geography, politics and history, a study has revealed.

Among final-year teaching students involved in the study, one in three could not identify the United States on a map and almost half did not know where the Pacific Ocean was.

Shown a picture of Mao Zedong, two in three could not recognise the Chinese communist leader, with the most common response being that it was the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

January 20, 2013

Russia-US spar over “seized” Jewish documents


The Foreign Ministry has expressed outrage after a US court imposes a fine on Russia for its refusal to comply with a 2010 court order to return a collection of religious documents to a prominent US-based Jewish organization.
­The move comes shortly after the Magnitsky Act, which saw US legislators attempting to exert pressure on Russia’s judicial system. A court in Washington is now attempting to penalize Russia for its possession of a collection of books, manuscripts and other Judaic documents.
According to the ruling, Russia would be required to pay $50,000 a day to Chabad Lubavitch, an Orthodox Jewish movement headquartered in New York City, until it releases the Schneerson Library, of which the Jewish group claims rightful ownership.
"It is outrageous that a Washington court has taken this unprecedented step fraught with most serious consequences as the imposition of a fine on a sovereign state," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
The ministry statement slammed the US ruling as “exterritorial in nature,” and a violation of international law. Russia considers the ruling to be legally null and void, the statement added.
Meanwhile, the US Justice Department also spoke out against the decision, arguing the court cannot introduce sanctions of this type against Russia, and that such a move would further damage US-Russian relations.
Chabad Lubavitch claimed the Schneerson collection – which includes 12,000 books and 50,000 rare documents gathered since the 18th century by Rabbi Joseph I. Schneersohn and his descendants in the Russian city of Smolensk – was illegally seized during a wave of Soviet nationalization projects.
"The Schneerson Library has never belonged to the Chabad; it never left Russia, and was nationalized because there were no legal heirs in the Schneerson family,” the ministry said. “The 'return' of these books to the US is therefore not an issue in principle."
Due to the controversial question regarding the ownership rights of the Schneerson Collection, Russian museums are hesitant to travel to the United States with any exhibitions for fear of them being held hostage in the court standoff.
Meanwhile, the head of Russia's Jewish Congress has said that Russia should be compensated by the Americans “50,000 dollars plus one dollar a day” for saving the collection from the Nazis and handing the massive collection of documents over to the National Library, where “they are kept carefully and remain available to the general public,” Zinovy Kogan told Itar-Tass in an interview on Thursday.
We should be grateful (to Russia) for the rescued books, he added.
The rabbi also challenged claims on the collection by the Chabad Lubavitch movement, reminding that the books were written “long before the emergence of the Chabad Lubavitch movement.”
Why should the books be given away to them, he asked.
"It does not matter where the books are kept. What is really important is they are available to the public. The books that are kept at the Eastern Section of the Russian State Library are available. Everyone is free to order and have a copy. No problem. Books are not to be treated as idols. Books will be books. They are not to be kissed and worshiped, they are to be read and studied," Kogan said.
The Russian State Library in the 1990s agreed to give 70 books from the Schneerson archive to the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Russia. They are now stored at the library of the Moscow Jewish Community Center in the Maryina Roshcha neighborhood.
Yitzhak Schneerson died in 1950. He left behind no instructions regarding the future of his vast library.

Foreigners permitted to carry phones in North Korea

NK News on the policy change

Due to a recent policy change, it is now legal for tourists to carry mobile phones in North Korea, reports NK News. Previously such devices have been confiscated on arrival to be returned upon departure from the isolated republic. The North Korean public on the other hand are allowed to use phones but are not allowed to use them to talk to foreigners. Despite the new policy, tourists will still find it difficult to communicate with the outside world as they will need North Korean SIM cards to do so, which are not for sale to foreigners.

January 19, 2013

Bulgaria grant to Payner pop channel prompts EU concern


The European Commission has asked Bulgaria for an explanation after it awarded an EU grant of 1m euros (£0.8m; $1.3m) to a music broadcaster.
Payner Media, which uses often sexually explicit images to promote Bulgarian pop music, was awarded regional development funding.
News of the grant, which has still to be paid, sparked protests in the Bulgarian arts world.
Brussels said it wanted to know if grant scheme rules had been followed.

January 17, 2013

Prince Albert II of Monaco criticises Grace Kelly film


The prince and his sisters released a statement after producers told a French magazine the Palace had supported the film, starring Nicole Kidman.
The Palace said the film contained "major historical untruths and a series of purely fictional scenes".
The film, titled Grace of Monaco, is due for release next year.
"The Princely family wishes to emphasise that this film is by no means a biopic," the statement said.
"It recounts one rewritten and needlessly 'glamorised' page in the history of the Principality of Monaco and its family."
The film follows the High Society actress in 1962 after she married Prince Rainier III, becoming Princess Grace.

Bringing in the bullion: Germany to repatriate gold from US and France


Germany’s central bank is set to reclaim some of its vast gold reserves held in the US and France, a German daily reported. The move follows an audit criticizing Bundesbank for mismanagement, stating the funds had never been “verified physically.”

Bundesbank voiced plans to withdraw its entire 450-ton store of gold bullion from the Bank of France in Paris, and a portion of the 1,500 tons currently held by the New York Federal Reserve, Handelsblatt reported.

The German government refrained from commenting on the reports ahead of its presentation of a new plan for the management of its gold reserves on Wednesday. Germany boasts the world’s second-largest bullion reserves at 270,000 gold bars ($177.5 billion), second only to the US.

January 15, 2013

GPS failure leaves Belgian woman in Zagreb two days later


After being reported missing to police by her son last week, Sabine Moreau claimed that she had "distractedly" driven to Croatia after entering a Brussels address into her Satnav.

She had intended to travel from her home town of Solre-sur-Sambre to pick up a friend in Belgium's capital and absent-mindedly noticed that her GPS was sending her on a strange route

"I saw all kinds of traffic pass. First in French, then in Germany - Cologne, Aachen, Frankfurt ... But I asked myself no questions," she said.

"I was just distracted, so I kept my foot down."

Mrs Moreau refuelled twice on her epic journey, caused a minor accident and slept a few hours behind the wheel on the side of the road.

Austrian ex-MEP Ernst Strasser jailed for bribe-taking


The conservative Austrian People's Party MP, was exposed by reporters from the UK's Sunday Times, who secretly filmed him while posing as lobbyists.
They showed him being offered a 100,000-euro (£81,000; $130,000) annual payment in exchange for influencing EU legislation in the European Parliament.
Strasser, 56, denied any wrongdoing.
He said he had guessed that the "lobbyists" were fake, but had played along with the ruse in order to find out what was actually motivating the pair, who dined with him before the Sunday Times expose in March 2011.
Presiding Judge Georg Olschak said he did not believe Strasser's defence that he thought the journalists were US secret agents whom the politician had wanted to expose.
"That is probably one of the most outlandish things I have heard in my 20-year career," said Judge Olschak.
"You won't find a single court in Austria to believe that argument."

January 14, 2013

Germany: Robbers Dig 100-Foot Tunnel to Raid Bank


German police say robbers dug a 30-meter (100-foot) tunnel into the safe deposit room of a Berlin bank and escaped with their haul, setting a fire as they left to cover their tracks.
Berlin police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf says the tunnel led from an underground garage into the bank's safe deposit room.
Neuendorf told The Associated Press Monday that the tunnel was "very professional" and must have taken weeks or even months to complete. It was elaborately constructed and even had ceiling supports.
Police were alerted to the break-in early Monday when a security guard noticed smoke coming from the deposit room.
He says police are still trying to determine what valuables were stolen from the deposit boxes.

January 13, 2013

France news synopsis

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the French capital on Sunday to voice their opposition to President Fran├žois Hollande’s controversial “marriage for all” bill, which seeks to extend equal rights to same-sex couples.

Three Kurdish female activists were found shot dead early Thursday inside a Kurdish institute in the heart of Paris. The victims included one of the founders of outlawed militant group the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).

Air strikes in Mali entered a third day as French forces targeted the northern city of Gao, which is held by regional al Qaeda-linked militant group MUJAO. Soldiers led by the West African bloc ECOWAS are expected in Mali as early as Sunday.

January 12, 2013

Beijing air pollution soars to hazard level


Air pollution in the Chinese capital Beijing has reached levels judged as hazardous to human health.
Readings from both official and unofficial monitoring stations suggested that Saturday's pollution has soared past danger levels outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The air tastes of coal dust and car fumes, two of the main sources of pollution, says a BBC correspondent.
WHO guidelines say average concentrations of the tiniest pollution particles - called PM2.5 - should be no more than 25 microgrammes per cubic metre.
Air is unhealthy above 100 microgrammes. At 300, all children and elderly people should remain indoors.
Official Beijing city readings on Saturday suggested pollution levels over 400. Unofficial reading from a monitor at the US embassy recorded 800.

Danish supermarket chain draws line on Polish products due to backlash


Danish supermarket chain Netto has dropped plans to bring in more Polish products amid a public backlash that was joined by Denmark's agriculture minister herself
Minister Mette Gjerskov wrote on her Twitter account that Polish products meant “more pesticides, bad animal husbandry and less pay.
“You choose!” she added.
The Netto chain had claimed that by upping its stock of Polish products, customers would have lower costs.
But the intense customer backlash has prompted a very different outcome, with certain Polish items, including all fresh meat products, being cut entirely from stock.

January 11, 2013

Greek goddess Europa to feature on five-euro notes


The series of euro notes will be the second since the single currency's launch in 1999 amid a lingering debt crisis and controversy over draconian European Union austerity measures that have been imposed on Greece.

The "Europa" series, portraying the goddess on new security holograms and watermarks, will be phased in across the eurozone's 17 member countries over several years, starting with a new five-euro note in May.

The image of Europa to be used on euro notes is taken from 2000-year old vase in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The new notes will circulate in parallel with old ones as legal tender and the ECB has not yet set a termination date for the first series.

The ancient Greek goddess will become the face of the euro at a time when soaring unemployment has reached a record high and uncertainty over the single currency's future continues.

Last year, Greece came close to exiting the euro and triggering an economic crash that threatened to engulf the whole of Europe in the worst crisis for over 80 years.

January 10, 2013

Greece unemployment hits highest rate in European Union


The latest unemployment rate for Greece has risen to 26.8%, the highest figure recorded in the European Union (EU).
The official Greek data for October sees Greece overtake Spain as the country with the highest unemployment rate in Europe.
The Greek economy remains mired in recession and the government is in the process of imposing significant austerity measures.
Athens is cutting spending to meet the terms of its financial bailouts.
So far, the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission have pledged a total of 240bn euros ($315bn; £196bn) in rescue loans, of which Greece has received more than two thirds.

January 9, 2013

France Affirms Nuclear Arms Despite Military Cuts


France's president says the country will maintain its costly nuclear arsenal despite looming military budget cuts, saying the weapons are essential for national defense.
President Francois Hollande said Wednesday that global security threats have made nuclear weapons essential for France, which is the only country in continental Europe to have them.
The statement came in Hollande's annual New Year's greeting to soldiers. The president says "it's a deterrent force that allows us protection against all threats and allows us to play a strong role on the world stage."
France's military is facing a tighter budget in coming years, and has already pulled its soldiers from the costly and unpopular war in Afghanistan.

January 8, 2013

Polish city to take legal action against The Sun tabloid?


The mayor of Lodz is considering legal action against British tabloid The Sun, after it described the central Polish city as being full of “drunks, loan sharks and pawnbrokers”.

“Today I am sending the editor-in-chief of The Sun a letter inviting him to see with his own eyes how much his subordinate was mistaken as to the actual quality of our beloved city,” Mayor Hanna Zdanowska said on Monday after the Sunday edition of the tabloid wrote an extensive article detailing what they claim is the decline of the once prosperous industrial city.

The mayor added that she has instructed lawyers at the Town Hall to look at possibilities of taking action against the Murdoch-owned newspaper for misrepresenting the city and harming its image abroad.

She has also asked the Polish Foreign Ministry to intervene.

January 7, 2013

David Cameron says UK should 'ask for change on Europe'


Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, he said voters would be offered "real choice" on this at the next election.
"People should be in no doubt that the Conservatives will be offering at the next election a real choice and a real way of giving consent to that choice," he said.
"What's happening in Europe right now is massive change being driven by the existence of the euro.
The countries of the euro, they've got to change to make their currency work - the need to integrate more, they need to make changes to all their systems more."

No cards in Vatican: Holy state turns ‘cash only’


If a trip to Vatican is on your to do list, you’ll need plenty of cash for all the tickets, souvenirs and food. The world’s tiniest state has suspended all bank cards payments and emptied ATMs after it failed to comply with EU money laundering legislation

­Even the Vatican’s most visited landmarks and sights, like the world’s famous Vatican museum, are obliged to accept cash only. The measure also places restrictions on the pharmacy, the post office and a few shops.

It would not be such a problem for scores of tourists, if only they could take cash from ATMs. However, ‘hole in the wall’ machines have been emptied.

“A lot of tourists don’t have cash on them, so they have to get euros and don’t know where to get them,” an American tourist Fluger William Hunter, who was standing in line for the Vatican Museum, was quoted by media.

The ‘cash only’ rule came into force on January 1st and will be maintained until further notice after the Bank of Italy pulled its authorization of Deutsche Bank Italia, which has handled bank card transactions in the Vatican for 15 years.

The people of the Falklands are British' says Foreign Office as David Cameron rebuffs Argentina over 'colonialism' attack

submitted by anonymous.


David Cameron has rebuffed a renewed demand by Argentina to hand back the Falklands, insisting the islands’ residents had his “100 per cent backing” in their determination to remain British.

He hit back after the Argentinian president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, denounced British “colonialism” and said the United Kingdom should start talks on the Falklands’ sovereignty.
Mr Cameron retorted that she should listen to the result of a referendum to be held on the islands this year.
He said: “The future of the Falkland Islands should be determined by the Falkland Islanders themselves, the people who live there.
“Whenever they have been asked their opinion, they say they want to maintain their current status with the United Kingdom.”

January 6, 2013

Italy: Russian tourists die in snowmobile accident


The incident took place on a black run on Friday night near Trentino.
Italian media reports suggested the four women and two men were killed when they were thrown into a deep ditch.
It said the accident occurred late on Friday on a run which was unlit and normally closed at night.
The accident took place in at 2,000m (6,500ft) above sea level on the slopes of Mount Cermis, in the Fiemme Valley.
Investigators think that as the group returned to their hotel in the dark, they took a wrong turning, heading down an unlit and difficult black piste, instead of the easier and illuminated slope that they should have taken.
Their snowmobile then appears to have crashed through protective netting, before plunging a further 100 metres.

January 5, 2013

German solar power installations at record high in 2012

Reuters on the German solar power

German solar power capacity grew by more than 7.6 gigawatt (GW) in 2012, which greatly exceeds the 2.5-3.5 GW increase German authorities would prefer over a year. This has forced the government to decrease subsidies on solar power, causing new installations to drop significantly during the fourth quarter of 2012. Businesses and politicians have raised concerns that the fast expansion of subsidised renewable energy might add to consumer costs and become a threat to economic growth, green energy production methods being more expensive than conventional ones. The German Environment Ministry expects an increase of 3.5-4 GW in 2013.