Archive for ‘Europe’

May 2, 2011

Bin Laden killed in shootout with U.S. forces in Pakistan [News Report]

by Avinash Saxena

WORLD  U.S. officials  said bin Laden was found in a million-dollar compound in the upscale town of Abbottabad, 60 km (35 miles) north of the Pakistani capital Islamabad. A source familiar with the operation said bin Laden was shot in the head.

“Justice has been done,” President Barack Obama declared in a hastily called, late-night White House speech announcing the death of the elusive head of the militant Islamic group behind a series of deadly bombings across the world.

Leaders worldwide praised the killing as a dramatic success in the war against al Qaeda, although many analysts cautioned it was too soon to say bin Laden’s death would mark a turning point in the battle against a highly fractured network of militants.

Jubilant, flag-waving celebrations erupted in Washington and New York after Obama’s announcement. It was the biggest national security victory for the president since he took office in early 2009 and could give him a political boost as he seeks re-election in 2012.

Obama may now also find it easier to wind down the nearly decade-old war in Afghanistan, begun after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000.

But the operation could complicate relations with Pakistan, already frayed over U.S. drone strikes in the west of the country and the jailing of a CIA contractor accused of killing two Pakistani men.

A U.S. official said Pakistani authorities were told the details of the raid after it had taken place.

The revelation bin Laden was living in style in a mansion will also put Pakistani officials under pressure to explain how he could have been right under their noses. Residents in Abbottabad said a Pakistani military training academy is near the compound.

“For some time there will be a lot of tension between Washington and Islamabad because bin Laden seems to have been living here close to Islamabad,” said Imtiaz Gul, a Pakistani security analyst.

U.S. officials said American forces were led to the fortress-like three-story building in Abbottabad after more than four years tracking one of bin Laden’s most trusted couriers, whom U.S. officials said was identified by men captured after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

“Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden. They indicated he might be living with or protected by bin Laden,” a senior administration official said in a briefing for reporters in Washington.

Bin Laden was finally found after authorities discovered in August 2010 that the courier lived with his brother and their families in an unusual and extremely high-security building in Pakistan, officials said.

“When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw: an extraordinarily unique compound,” a senior administration official said.

“The bottom line of our collection and our analysis was that we had high confidence that the compound harbored a high-value terrorist target. The experts who worked this issue for years assessed that there was a strong probability that the terrorist who was hiding there was Osama bin Laden,” another administration official said.

Bin Laden and three adult men, including a son of bin Laden, were killed along with a woman who was used as a shield by a male combatant, officials said.

The New York Times said bin Laden’s body was taken to Afghanistan and then buried at sea.

RESIDENT WOKEN BY BLASTS, GUNFIRE

The operation took under 40 minutes. A U.S. helicopter was lost due to a mechanical problem and its crew and assault force safely evacuated, officials said. No Americans were harmed in the operation, Obama said.

“After midnight, a large number of commandos encircled the compound. Three helicopters were hovering overhead,” said Nasir Khan, a resident of the town.

“All of a sudden there was firing toward the helicopters from the ground. There was intense firing and then I saw one of the helicopters crash,” said Khan, who had watched the dramatic scene unfold from his rooftop.

Authorities said bin Laden’s hideaway, built in 2005, was about eight times larger than other homes in the area. It had security features including 12- to 18-foot walls topped with barbed wire, internal walls for extra privacy, and access controlled through two security gates.

It had no telephone or Internet connection.

“It is not a surprise that bin Laden was captured in an urban heartland,” said Sajjan Gohel of the Asia Pacific Foundation.

“Many of al-Qaeda’s senior leaders have been captured in Pakistani cities. It had become a myth that the al Qaeda leadership were hiding in caves in the tribal areas.”

POSSIBLE REPRISALS

Bin Laden’s death triggered a travel alert for Americans worldwide, the U.S. State Department said, warning of the potential for anti-American violence.

Thousands of people gathered outside the White House, waving American flags, cheering and chanting “USA, USA, USA.” Car drivers blew their horns in celebration and people streamed to Lafayette Park across from the street, as police vehicles with their lights flashing stood vigil.

“I’m down here to witness the history. My boyfriend is commissioning as a Marine next week. So I’m really proud of the troops,” Laura Vogler, a junior at American University in Washington, said outside the White House.

Similar celebrations erupted at New York’s Ground Zero, site of the World Trade Center twin towers felled by hijacked airplanes on September 11.

A market perception that the death of bin Laden reduced the security risks facing the United States lifted the dollar from a three-year low and raised stock index futures.

U.S. crude oil prices also fell. “Current oil prices are regarded by most analysts as carrying significant risk premium at current levels and good news on the geopolitical front has the potential to move prices back below $100,” said Ric Spooner, chief analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

However, some analysts said the market impact would be short lived.

Many Americans had given up hope of finding bin Laden after he vanished in the mountains of Afghanistan in late 2001.

Intelligence that originated last August provided the clues that eventually led to bin Laden’s trail, the president said. A U.S. official said Obama gave the final order to pursue the operation last Friday morning.

“The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of men, women and children,” Obama said.

CAPTURED DEAD

Former President George W. Bush, who vowed to bring bin Laden to justice “dead or alive” but never did, called the operation a “momentous achievement” after Obama called him with the news.

Martin Indyk, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, described bin Laden’s death as “a body blow” to al Qaeda at a time when its ideology was already being undercut by the popular revolutions in the Arab world.

Other experts were more cautious. “It changes little in terms of on-the-ground realities — by the time of his death bin Laden was not delivering operational or tactical orders to the numerous al Qaeda affiliates across the world,” said Rick Nelson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Statements of appreciation poured in from both sides of Washington’s political divide. Republican Senator John McCain declared, “I am overjoyed that we finally got the world’s top terrorist.”

India said the killing underlined its concern that “terrorists belonging to different organisations find sanctuary in Pakistan,” India’s home ministry said in New Delhi.

A U.S. official said that the retrieval of the body may help convince any doubters that bin Laden is really dead.

The United States is conducting DNA testing on bin Laden and used facial recognition techniques to help identify him, the official said.

The United States is ensuring that bin Laden’s body is being handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition, a U.S. official said.

Bin Laden had been the subject of a search since he eluded U.S. soldiers and Afghan militia forces in a large-scale assault on the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan in 2001.

The trail quickly went cold after he disappeared and many intelligence officials believed he had been hiding in Pakistan.

While in hiding, bin Laden had taunted the West and advocated his militant Islamist views in videotapes spirited from his hideaway.

Besides September 11, Washington has also linked bin Laden to a string of attacks — including the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 bombing of the warship USS Cole in Yemen. (Additional reporting by Jeff MasonPatricia ZengerleArshad MohammedAlister BullMissy RyanMark HosenballRichard CowanKristin RobertsAndrew Quinn and Tabassum Zakaria, Joanne Allen in Washington and Chris Allbritton in Islamabad; Writing by Steve Holland; editing by David Storey and Dean Yates)

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May 1, 2011

John Paul II beatified in Vatican ceremony

by Avinash Saxena

EUROPE  The BBC’s Duncan Kennedy, who is in Rome, said John Paul II’s coffin would be move to a more prominent place

The late Pope, John Paul II, has been officially beatified at a ceremony at the Vatican in front of hundreds of thousands of Catholic faithful.

Among those at St Peter’s Square is French nun Marie Simon-Pierre, who says she was cured of Parkinson’s Disease.

Her apparently miraculous cure is part of the case for the beatification, the last stage before sainthood.

It comes amid criticism of the Church for the speed of the beatification and the clerical child sex abuse scandal.

Much of the abuse occurred while John Paul II was Pope, from 1979-2005, and the Church has been criticised for not doing enough to punish those found responsible.

Police in Rome estimated that one million people had come to the city for the event, including large numbers of pilgrims from the late Pope’s native Poland.

St Peter’s Square, in the Vatican, was packed, with the faithful waving banners and flags as Pope Benedict XVI declared his predecessor blessed, or beatified.

Rome has not seen crowds of this size since the death of Pope John Paul II six years ago when some three million pilgrims converged on the Italian capital, says the BBC’s Vatican correspondent David Willey.

Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe was among those attending the beatification.

A Roman Catholic, he was given special permission by the EU to fly to Italy despite being the subject of a travel ban.

The presidents of Poland and Mexico are also among some 90 heads of state and other dignitaries attending the beatification.

Giant screen

St Peter’s Square was transformed for the occasion with a giant video screen showing Pope John Paul II’s life story and a massive photograph hung from the white colonnades.

The late pontiff’s coffin was exhumed from the crypt below St Peter’s Basilica to be placed in front of the altar.

After the Mass, it will be moved to a different part of the basilica.

Some have questioned the Church’s speed in beatifying the late Pope, just six years after his death.

Others have criticised John Paul II’s handling of the Church’s child sex abuse scandal.

“This sprint to sainthood is to deflect examinations into JPII’s unedifying record on clerical child abuse – and, with it, Benedict’s own role,” said Keith Porteous Wood of Britain’s National Secular Society.

Although John Paul II will be remembered as one of the great Popes of modern times, says our Vatican correspondent, the sex abuse scandal is the unspoken footnote of history.

The Vatican says he could not have been expected to do something about events he knew nothing of, but it is unlikely he was completely unaware of the growing scandal, our correspondent says.

‘I was cured’

Beatification, or declaring a person to be “blessed”, is the necessary prelude to full sainthood.

For this to happen, the Vatican must declare the person to have performed a miracle.

In John Paul II’s case, Sister Marie, 49, said she and her fellow nuns had prayed for the intercession of the Pope after his death to cure her from Parkinson’s Disease.

Her sudden cure had no logical medical explanation and she later resumed her work as a maternity nurse, the Vatican says.

Appearing at a vigil on Saturday, she told the crowd: “I was cured on the night between June 2 and June 3, 2005.

“I woke up at four in the morning and felt that something had changed in me.”

If the late Pope is declared to have performed another miracle he will be eligible for canonisation as a saint.

The vigil had the feel of a youth festival, correspondents say, with groups of young people dancing and singing. Many carried backpacks and sleeping bags in preparation for a night to be spent outdoors.

“It’s true that nowadays most of the young don’t care about religion, but John Paul showed us love, and love is all we need,” said Matea Sarlija, a 21-year-old Croat, who had spent 10 hours on a bus to arrive in Rome for the vigil.

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April 25, 2011

WTF PS3?! [Video-Today]

by Avinash Saxena
April 24, 2011

SportsMoney Special Report: Most Valuable Soccer Teams [News Report]

by Avinash Saxena

Our annual valuations of the world’s richest soccer clubs are out and the results are impressive.

The enterprise value of the average top 20 club is now $640 million, 1.3% more than a year ago (while that may not seem like a great gain, keep in mind that our figures are in U.S. dollars and the value of the dollar  appreciated significantly against both the Euro and British pound from the end of 2008-09 season to the end of the 2009-10 season). Meanwhile, operating income increased to an average of $40 million, 25% higher than last year. Only three clubs (Manchester City, Olympique Lyonnais, Atletico de Madrid) lost money.

Full List: The World’s Most Valuable Soccer Teams

England’s Manchester United, owned by the Glazer family and the greatest global brand in team sports with over 330 million supporters worldwide, remains the most valuable soccer club, worth $1.9 billion. The Red Devils commercial revenue of $122 million for the 2009-10 season increased 16% in local currency, more than any other  club. With operating income of $148 million they also hold the distinction of the most profitable professional sports team in the world.

The highest grossing club remains Spain’s Real Madrid, whose $537 million in revenue is second across all sports to only Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees. Los Blancos’ matchday revenue broadcasting revenue of $158 million in the most in soccer and their broadcasting revenue of $194 million lags only rival Barcelona ($218 million). Valued at $1.5 billion, Real Madrid placed second.

Although our valuations are based on applying multiples to a club’s revenues for the 2009-10 season, we adjust our multiples to reflect material events. A case in point is French club Olympique Lyonnais. We adjusted their value upward 7.5%, to $358 million, in part to reflect a privately financed new stadium expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

Chelsea, owned by billionaire Roman Abramovich, had the biggest jump in operating profits, landing $37 million in the black after losing $73 million the previous year. The Blues are the most leveraged team on our list, with $889 million of debt and have depended on Abramovich’s deep pockets for financing . Chelsea is worth $658 million, good enough to be ranked seventh.

Despite losing $82 million during the 2009-10 season, Manchester City rose 13% in value, to 291 million. The club’s owner, Sheikh mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan has poured an estimated $480 million of his personal wealth into the club since buying it in 2008, much of it to improve the club’s roster. Manchester City posted a fifth place finish in the Barclays Premier League during 2009-10, is currently fourth this season, and are poised to qualify for the lucrative Champions League next season.

One newcomer to this year’s list: Atletico de Madrid, worth $275 million. Atletico made it on to our list by dint of higher revenue from its performance in the UEFA Champions League, where they made it to the group stage, and capturing both the UEFA Europa League and the UEFA European Super Cup titles.

April 23, 2011

Windsor Wealth: How Rich Is The British Royal Family? [Gallery]

by Avinash Saxena

Britain’s Royal family is just days away from throwing its most memorable wedding in 30 years.

Prince William and his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton will marry at 11 a.m. on April 29 at Westminster Abbey.  Two choirs, one orchestra and two fanfare teams will perform the music at the service, which will be followed by a procession through London.

The wedding party will arrive at Buckingham Palace, the site of the  reception to be hosted by his grandmother, The Queen. Guests are expected to include Prince Albert of Monaco and his fiancé, South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock and professional soccer player David Beckham and his wife Victoria.

The bride’s parents, the Middletons, will make a “private contribution,” but the Royal Family will pay for nearly all of the celebration. The festivities are expected to cost a reported $30 million; a huge sum, to be sure, but likely less than half the estimated cost, adjusted for inflation, of  Princess Diana’s and Prince Charles’ 1981 wedding, also paid for by the Royal Family. (The Government and other bodies will pay for costs that are consequential to the wedding like extra security.)

These monied monarchs can well afford it. Queen Elizabeth, 85, has an estimated personal net worth of $500 million that comes from property holdings including Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands, stud farms, a fruit farm and marine land throughout the U.K.; extensive art and fine jewelry; and one of the world’s largest stamp collections built by her grandfather.

Not included are those assets belonging to the Crown Estate, which she gets to enjoy as Queen, such as $10 billion worth of real estate, Buckingham Palace (estimated to be worth another $5 billion), the Royal Art collection, and unmarked swans on stretches of the Thames.  The Crown has claimed ownership of these birds since the 12th century when swan meat was considered a delicacy; they are no longer eaten. The Queen also receives an annual government stipend of $12.9 million.

Because most of her wealth is tied to her position and not hers personally – in otherwords, she could never sell the royal assets – she is not included among the World’s Billionaires but did appear among theWorld’s Richest Royals in our most recent rankings.

As heir to the throne, Prince Charles, 62, got $28 million stipend last year from Duchy of Cornwall Estate. He spends well over half of aftertax income on official duties and charitable activities. Paid more than $10 million last year on salaries of 150 staffers.

Princess Diana reportedly left both Prince William, 28, and Prince Harry, 26, $10 million after taxes. They apparently started receiving annual dividends at age 25, estimated at $450,000 a year. They get the full sums when each turns 30. Prince William also earns between $68,000 and $74,000 a year as a flight lieutenant with the Royal Air Force while Prince Harry receives between $50,000 and $53,000 as a helicopter pilot for the Army Air Corps. Prince William and Kate will eventually live in an eco friendly house built by Prince Charles in Herefordshire.  Both princes have Ducati Superbikes that they sometimes ride for charity. Prince Harry is also a keen polo player.

April 17, 2011

Microsoft Targets Groupon With Swedish Deal Site [News Report]

by Avinash Saxena

The company has partnered with Swedish business directory Lokaldelen to launch the similarly named Lokaldealen (which actually translates to “The Deal Shrine”).

Microsoft will be marketing the new deal site, which bears all the hallmarks of a Groupon clone, on its Yahoo portal and its display ad network on Hotmail and Live, according to a blog post from Sweden’s AllaDeals.com, a daily deals aggregator.

So far 13 people have signed up to today’s Lokaldealen deal, or “Dagens deal”: 30 pieces of sushi at a restaurant in Stockholm, for 140 kronor ($22.47), instead of 285 kronor ($45.75).  Local Swedes had 14 and a half hours left at the time of writing to participate.

Sweden is essentially a testbed for Microsoft. If Lokaldealen is successful, it will roll its service out to the rest of Europe. But it must initially lock horns with Groupon, which is the dominant local deals site in Sweden.

Locakdealen is currently active in three of Sweden’s largest cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo and already has a sales force of 300 people dotted around 12 districts in the country, according to business newspaper Dagens Industri.

April 10, 2011

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s update on the potential shutdown [Video-Today]

by Avinash Saxena
April 10, 2011

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's update on the potential shutdown [Video-Today]

by Avinash Saxena
April 7, 2011

Forget Portugal, Says Roubini — Worry About Spain [News Report]

by Avinash Saxena

As Greece and Ireland flounder in Europe, many analysts are turning their gaze to Portugal, the PIIG nati

Flags of Europe, Andalusia and Spain in Granad...

on deemed most likely to follow suit. Economist Nouriel Roubini isn’t worried about Europe’s twelfth most populous country, however; he’s more concerned with Portugal’s larger next door neighbor, Spain.

“I think the big question is not Portugal — that is too small — but rather whether the contagion could spread, over time, to Spain, a country that is on one side too big to fail, but from the other side too big to be saved,”

he said late last week on Bloomberg’s The Pulse.

Citing fundamental risks in unemployment, housing, Spain’s financial system and the country’s ability to compete with its EU counterparts, Roubini pinpointed the nation as a situation worth attention as barometer of the spread of European contagion.

Spain will have to make hard choices in order to shield itself from contagion, according to Roubini, including accelerated structural reform and enforcing fiscal austerity.

“There have been reforms that go in the right direction, but much more radical reforms need to be done to stabilize the economic, financial and fiscal conditions of Spain,” said Roubini.

Roubini also touched on the potential for a rate hike by the European Central Bank. He believes the ECB could raise rates by as much as three times over the course of 2011, to 1.75%.

“I understand the logic of the ECB decision,” Roubini admitted before going on to outline the risk of a rate hike. “You have five countries in the periphery where there is almost no growth or contraction, where you have severe banking problems, where you have had a loss of competitiveness, where there is a need to restore economic growth. And I fear that an early hike is going to increase the growth fragility, the worsening of competitiveness…the financial fragility both of the banking system and of the government.”

The Governing Council of the ECB meets tomorrow to determine monetary policy, with many expecting a rate increase of at least .25% to be announced. The increase would be the first rate hike in three years.

 

 

 

 

April 5, 2011

Pato e Barbara, tenera è la notte dopo la partita [Video-Today]

by Avinash Saxena
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