Merkel’s CDU routed in Hamburg state election
Results from Hamburg’s regional election are widely expected to give a bloody nose to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling party.
Defeat in the German state is almost certain to make life harder for Merkel at a national level, handing the opposition control of the upper house parliament in Berlin.
Earlier, the leader of Hamburg’s Social Democrat party Olaf Scholz was all smiles as he urged voters to come out in large numbers in the hope of an outright majority. While victory appears certain he may be forced into a coalition with the Greens.
In contrast, Merkel’s Christian Democrat ally, Christoph Ahlhaus, appeared to be relying on the good weather to galvanise his support. Since taking over as mayor of Hamburg last year the CDU’s popularity has plunged.
The election in Hamburg is the first of seven regional tests for Merkel this year, with the opposition SPD riding high in nationwide polls.
Bolshoi web scandal
Russian media say the director of the Bolshoi ballet Gennady Yanin has resigned after erotic photos resembling him were posted on a website.
One paper said a vile smear campaign against the former dancer had achieved its objective.
Another report said he’d been thinking of leaving anyway.
The website containing the photos is no longer online.
Frankfurt gunman may have ‘Islamist links’
German prosecutors are investigating whether a gunman who killed two American soldiers at Frankfurt Airport had links to Islamist groups.
A 21-year-old Kosovar man confessed to the killings on Thursday after being arrested and questioned a day earlier.
Officials said there was evidence linking him to terror cells in Germany.
Police spokesman Armin Thiel said that security at Frankfurt airport had now been stepped up.
“We now have an increased number of patrols, both plain clothes officers and armed units with bullet-proof vests and machine guns,” Thiel said.
US and German authorities are refusing to rule out that this was a terrorist attack.
The suspect posted comments on his Facebook account describing non-Muslims as “infidels,” as well as links to a jihadist fighting song.
Honda recalls cars worldwide
Honda is recalling nearly 700,000 cars, the Freed, Fit and City models as they are known in Japan.
It has to fix a faulty engine spring which have been found to bend or break over time meaning the car cannot be started.
Honda said it had received over 100 complaints worldwide, mostly from its home market of Japan.
No accidents have been reported from the defect and fixing it will cost Honda 39 million euros in Japan alone, where about a fifth of the affected vehicles were sold.
About the same number are in the US and Canada and the rest throughout Asia.
This is the latest in a series of recalls by Japanese carmakers to correct minor problems.
In the last 12 months Honda alone has recalled more than four million vehicles for various problems including headlights, ignition systems and airbags.
Uncertainty remains in Egypt
Despite Egypt’s military rulers’ re-assurances, thousands of protesters refused to move from Tahrir Square on Sunday night. Uncertainty remains over how much influence the army will seek to impose on a corrupt regime that they are seen as having propped up for thirty years.
That executive was also supported by the police who staged a demonstration of their own outside the Interior Ministry.
They have not had much support from people in this uprising, with claims that they helped organise the pro-Mubarak supporters. But now they are claiming to have been victims of the former regime as well.
They say it was the high-ranking officers that used to get all the privileges, and they were left to starve or take money from the people.
Another said officer that “if they’re given a higher salary they won’t need to hold out their hand”.
It seems everyone in Egypt wants to see change. The demonstrators have heard conciliatory words from the military rulers so far, but not quite yet enough for all of them to return to their homes.
Pre-birth spina bifida breakthrough.
New research in the United States shows that babies with spina bifida recover better if they are operated on in the womb, rather than after they are born.
Spina bifida occurs when the spine does not develop properly, causing possible paralysis below the waist as well as neurological problems.
Foetal surgery has been carried out since 1997 but, until now, there has been no clear evidence that the benefits outweigh the risks, not just for the babies but for their mothers too.
Babies who have the operation in the womb are more likely to be able to walk without help, and less likely to need a drainage tube in their brains.
But the research did highlight some potential problems – 80 percent were born around a month early, and a third of the mothers suffered complications from the birth.
Malta welcomes Libya evacuees
The latest evacuees have arrived from Libya on board the British navy ship, the HMS Cumberland.
Most UK nationals who want to leave Libya have now done so, but other nationals are still trapped.
With concerns growing that the continuing violence is becoming a humanitarian crisis, there is speculation that international operations might change from evacuation into something more proactive.
A Chinese frigate is travelling through the Suez Canal to provide support and protection for ships evacuating Chinese nationals and more and more floating military hardware appears to be arriving.
Euronews reporter Miguel Sardo said: “After the catamarans and the ferries, military vessels are starting to have a bigger role in the rescue operation. In the next hours two frigates will arrive in Malta where there are already several foreign navy ships. Nevertheless, yesterday the prime minister of Malta assured the country wouldn’t become a military base.”
Income boosts UK January public finances
Strong income tax receipts helped Britain to a bigger-than-expected surplus in its public finances in January.
It was the first surplus in two years and puts the UK government on track to meet its borrowing target for the current financial year
However, economists said it will be difficult for the government to reduce borrowing to meet its targets for the new financial year starting in April.
The UK Office for National Statistics said that on the public sector net borrowing measure including financial sector interventions, Britain ran a surplus of 5.252 billion pounds (6.52 billion euros) in January, a month when many annual and quarterly tax payments are due from companies and individuals.
This was well above economists’ forecasts of an increase to 700 million pounds from January 2010’s meagre surplus of just 95 million pounds
A British Treasury spokesman acknowledged the size of the task ahead. He said: “It will take more than one month in surplus to deal with borrowing of almost 150 billion pounds for the financial year.”
“The Government is determined to stay the course to deal with this unsustainable borrowing, and keep Britain out of the financial danger zone,” the spokesman added.
Bahrain – a country divided.
Shi’ite protestors in Bahrain are not just calling for an end to the dynasty that has ruled the country for over 200 years. They are also demanding an end to what they say is a system of apartheid, in which Shi’ites Muslims are actively discriminated against by the Sunni rulers. Shi’ites make up 70% of the population of Bahrain.
In the poorer neighbourhoods of Bahrain, where most Shi’ites live, it is the perceived discrimination that causes the most anger against the regime. They claim even foreigners are favoured over Shi’ites.
“They bring people in to work from abroad” say this Shi’ite resident. “They give them passports and housing and we are still in the same situation.”
As unrest spreads throughout the arab world, shi’ites in Bahrain are watching developments closely, hoping any new form of government will result in a more equal society.
Unemployed graduate Zina Mahmoud is a Shi’ite.
“It’s been six years since I graduated from education. How do you explain that I never found a job anywhere?”
It is the glitzy skyscrapers that Bahrain presents to the world, but they mask the undercurrent of a country ruled by an unelected dynasty, and built on a two-tier society.
Cricket world gears up for World Cup
The world will always need more cricket.?�Thankfully?�the sport’s?�showpiece event, the ICC World Cup, is about to get under way.?�While the tournament will go almost completely unnoticed in non-cricketing nations, there are – mainly thanks to India’s massive population?�- billions of people who will be following the action.?�The World Cup will bring together 14 teams who will battle it out in the one-day format of the game. It is being held this time round in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.?�The opening ceremony will be staged in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, later on Thursday, with the final being played in Mumbai on April 2.?�Here is a run-down of the countries taking part and their chances of success.?�INDIA?�The co-hosts and favourites. They will benefit not just from a fanatical home support but also familiarity with dry pitches that favour spin bowlers, of which they have plenty. And they certainly have the batting talent. In Sachin Tendulkar they have the world’s greatest run-scorer and boast several other swashbuckling?�batsmen capable of scoring plenty of runs fast. India are the world’s top ranked?�team in the longer, Test match format but also a strong one-day side too.?�On the downside, expectations are sky high and that?�can?�often be a distraction?�in tournament sport.?�Typical bookmakers’ odds: 11/4?�?�?�SRI LANKA?�There was a time not so long ago when Sri Lanka were minnows in international cricket. That changed dramatically when the team thrashed its way to World Cup glory in 1996. Since then Sri Lanka has consolidated its place among the world’s top cricketing powers. They are usually a pleasure to watch and, with India, are the joint World No.2 in the one-day rankings. Their batsmen are certainly capable of ripping bowling attacks apart and their talismanic spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan has taken more batsmen’s scalps than any other player in both Test and one day cricket. Approaching his 39th birthday however, some believe he may be past his best.?�Typical bookmakers’ odds: 4/1?�?�AUSTRALIA?�Australia have won the last three World Cups and although a sustained period of world dominance in all forms of cricket have ended in recent years, they?�remain the world’s top-ranked one-day side. Mentally, they are strong and recently overcame crushing disappointment in the Ashes Test series to hammer England 6-1 in the one-dayers. Australia will need key players such as captain Ricky Ponting to step up to the mark though and their spin options are limited, which could be a problem on the subcontinent.?�Typical bookmakers’ odds: 5/1?�?�SOUTH AFRICA?�Usually a solid Test match team, the South Africans have a record of under-achieving in?�world cups. The batting line-up includes?�players of real pedigree like captain Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers.?�Among the bowlers are?�the world’s current No.1, Dale Steyn,?�and Imran Tahir, previously a Pakistan player who now qualifies under residency rules. His leg-spin could?�be a useful weapon to complement an?�attack that otherwise relies on?�fast bowlers.?�?�Typical bookmakers’ odds: 5/1?�?�ENGLAND?�England have developed into an efficient Test match team but their one-day record has been disappointing. The 6-1?�drubbing at the hands of the Australians may play on their minds, while a?�long winter tour?�Down Under has taken?�its toll physically and robbed them of the sometimes-devastating batting qualities of Eoin Morgan, who will miss the tournament through injury. Much will depend on the form of flamboyant batsman Kevin Pietersen and the spin bowling of Graeme Swann. A good collective spirit is one thing the English have going for them, especially in a nail-biting finish. Preparation though has not been ideal.?�Typical bookmakers’ odds: 8/1?�?�PAKISTAN?�Chaotic and?�inconsistent, Pakistan are something of an enigma. They are just as capable of thrashing top sides as they are of capitulating to drunk Sunday pub leaguers. They are missing some?�top?�players who have been suspended for alleged match-fixing but there always seems to be someone in reserve for Pakistan. Captain Shahid Afridi bats beautifully and also bowls, while Umar Gul’s ability to swing the ball and test the batsmen’s toes?�can also?�be deadly late in the match.?�Depending on wind direction, solar storms and?�the alignment of the planets, Pakistan could either gel and win the tournament or?�have a collective brawl in the team bus and lose every match. Either way, it will be worth watching.?�Typical bookmakers’ odds: 8/1?�?�NEW ZEALAND?�The Kiwis have been in awful form recently, which hasn’t been helped by constant changes to the team. There are several strong batsmen who can punish wayward bowlers but New Zealand’s hopes rest largely on the shoulders of captain Daniel Vettori and his spin bowling.?�In nine world cups,?�the Kiwis have been semi-finalists five times. They would do well to make it six from ten.?�Typical?�bookmakers’ odds: 20/1?�?�WEST INDIES?�The West Indies current team is a pale shadow of the side that once struck fear into all other cricketing nations. Twice winners of this tournament?�in the?�glory days of the 1970s,?�they may be lucky just to escape the first round group stage, with Bangladesh?�in particular?�smelling blood, particularly on home?�soil.?�A lack of balance means that much will be asked of a promising batting top six, as the bowlers lack experience and may struggle to skittle opponents out cheaply.?�Typical bookmakers’ odds:?�22/1?�?�BANGLADESH?�As one of the host countries, Bangladesh will have high hopes despite?�not being recognised among the cricket world’s traditional ‘elite’.?�They have at least one world class player in both the batting and bowling departments – Tamim Iqbal and Abdur Razzaq respectively – and will be?�looking to?�put the squeeze on?�the West Indies and England to finish in the top four of their group and move into the second round.?�The Tigers probably don’t have the strength in depth to get much further though.?�Typical bookmakers’ odds: 40/1?�?�ZIMBABWE?�Zimbabwe’s political strife has reflected on the national cricket team. They will be reinstated to Test status only after the World Cup. Most of the country’s top players quit the game at the beginning of the century in protest at Robert Mugabe’s regime. That prompted the loss of Test status. The bowling attack has plenty of spin and the team?�may look to frustrate rather than outplay their opposition. Progressing from the group stage would be seen as a success.?�Typical bookmakers’ odds: 250/1?�?�IRELAND?�This is only Ireland’s second cricket world cup. At the first in 2007 they sprang the surprise of the tournament by beating Pakistan and making it to round two. Since then they have made steady if not spectacular progress, and have gone from having three full-time professionals to thirteen. They have some handy players plying their trade in the English county circuit but are still punching above their weight on the world stage. Reaching the second round again would be an achievement.?�Typical bookmakers’ odds: 500/1?�?�CANADA?�The Canadians, or?�to be precise?�mostly Indian and Pakistani expats who qualify for Canada, are rank outsiders, having won just one?�out of 12 World Cup matches (Bangladesh in 2003). To win one more in this tournament will be their realistic objective.?�Typical bookmakers’ odds: 2000/1?�?�KENYA?�Kenya made the semi-finals of the 2003 World Cup but the standard of Kenyan cricket has been in freefall since. This?�is another team that will regard winning a game as a success. They might overcome Canada. ?�Typical bookmakers’ odds: 2000/1?�?�HOLLAND?�Underdogs, but with a couple of players who might surprise better but complacent opponents. Ryan ten Doeschate bats and bowls extremely well at times and if he can get a little support from other capable team-mates such as batsman Alexei Kervezee, the Dutch could?�add to their total haul of two?�World Cup match wins (from 14).?�Typical bookmakers’ odds: 2000/1?�?�——————————————————————————————?�A total of 49 matches will be played in the World Cup. euronews will provide a weekly round-up of?�news and scores.?�?�?�?�?�?�?�?�?�?�?�