...where failure is documented
How the Vatican built a secret property empire using Mussolini's millions
by David Leigh, Jean François Tanda and Jessica Benhamou
Monday, 21 January 2013
Behind Pope Benedict XVI is a porfolio of property that includes commercial premises on London's New Bond Street. Photograph: Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis
Few passing London tourists would ever guess that the premises of Bulgari, the upmarket jewellers in New Bond Street, had anything to do with the pope.
Nor indeed the nearby headquarters of the wealthy investment bank Altium Capital, on the corner of St James's Square and Pall Mall. But these office blocks in one of London's most expensive districts are part of a surprising secret commercial property empire owned by the Vatican.
Behind a disguised offshore company structure, the church's international portfolio has been built up over the years, using cash originally handed over by Mussolini in return for papal recognition of the Italian fascist regime in 1929. Since then the international value of Mussolini's nest-egg has mounted until it now exceeds £500m. In 2006, at the height of the recent property bubble, the Vatican spent £15m of those funds to buy 30 St James's Square. Other UK properties are at 168 New Bond Street and in the city of Coventry. It also owns blocks of flats in Paris and Switzerland.
As Andean condors decline, tradition draws critics
By Mitra Taj
January 21, 2013
An man performs a pass to a bull with an Andean condor strapped on its back during a traditional festivity known as 'Yawar Fiesta' in the village of Coyllurqui in Cotabambas province, Apurimac, July 29, 2008. REUTERS/Nicolas Villaume
(Reuters) - Strapping a giant condor to the back of a raging bull is a central part of an Andean festival celebrated in Peru but some people worried about the endangered vulture's future say it is time to ban the tradition.
A bill introduced to Congress this month aims to slow what scientists and ecologists describe as a worrisome drop-off in Peru's population of the Andean Condor, one of the world's biggest flying birds.
Condors, which use their 10-foot (3-meter) wingspan to ride rising warm air currents for hours without stopping, have been a prominent part of culture in the Andes for millennia. The bill, presented by a legislator and backed by local officials in a province famous for its condors, would start a conservation program, declare the condor a national treasure and set jail sentences of 3-5 years for capturing or killing the birds. It specifically targets the traditional "yawar" festival although there are no definitive statistics or scientific evidence on whether condors are hurt by the celebrations.
Tasty but no longer sustainable: fear over mackerel overfishing
by Martin Hickman
Monday, 21 January 2013
The mackerel fish has joined the likes of North Sea turbot and most sea bass on the “caution” list of species people should buy only occasionally. Alamy
For years, chefs extolled it as a perfect example of a cheap, tasty and, crucially, sustainable fish which could be eaten with a clear conscience.
Now the public have been warned not to buy too much mackerel because of fears it is being overfished in a rerun of the 1970s Cod Wars between Britain and Iceland.
In the latest annual update to its Fish to Eat guide, seen as the go-to guide for the ethical fish eater, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has removed mackerel from its list of abundant species that are being responsibly harvested. Instead, mackerel – once the quintessentially ample, inexpensive fish – has joined the likes of North Sea turbot and most sea bass on the “caution” list of species people should buy only occasionally.
Greece needs more European money to help with debts, says IMF
18 January 2013
Protesters clash with riot police officers during a 24-hour nationwide general strike on October 18, 2012 in Athens, Greece. Photo: Getty Images
Greece will need additional help from its European partners as soon as next year to bring its huge debt under control, a senior IMF official has said.
"There is a gap according to our preliminary projections for 2015-2016" of up to "€9.5bn," Poul Thomsen, the IMF's mission chief for Greece, told a conference call. The EU and IMF have committed a total of €240bn in rescue loans to Greece since 2010, but with its economy entering a sixth year of recession it is still having trouble making budget ends meet, AFP reported. "The IMF's policy is that the programme needs to be fully financed for the 12 months ahead... What is key is that the Europeans know there is a gap and they'll have to fill it," he said.
Meanwhile, an IMF report into Greece has concluded that "the rich and self-employed have continued to evade taxes on an astonishing scale and bloated and unproductive state sectors have seen only limited cuts". "Moreover, labour has shouldered too much of the burden as lower wages have not resulted in lower prices, because of failure to liberalize closed professions and dismantle barriers to competition. While the economy is now re-balancing apace, this is happening mainly through recessionary channels, rather than through productivity boosting reforms. Meanwhile, the mounting sense of social unfairness is undermining support for the program," the report added. "The new government acknowledges that the program will fail unless it overcomes these entrenched vested interests."
6 leaking tanks are Hanford nuke site's latest woe
23 February 2013
By SHANNON DININNY
YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) -- Federal and state officials say six underground tanks holding a brew of radioactive and toxic waste are leaking at the country's most contaminated nuclear site in south-central Washington, raising concerns about delays for emptying the aging tanks.
The leaking materials at Hanford Nuclear Reservation pose no immediate risk to public safety or the environment because it would take perhaps years for the chemicals to reach groundwater, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday.
But the news has renewed discussion over delays for emptying the tanks, which were installed decades ago and are long past their intended 20-year life span. "None of these tanks would be acceptable for use today. They are all beyond their design life. None of them should be in service," said Tom Carpenter of Hanford Challenge, a Hanford watchdog group. "And yet, they're holding two-thirds of the nation's high-level nuclear waste."
Lunch lady slammed for food that is 'too good'
6 October 2012
A talented head cook at a school in central Sweden has been told to stop baking fresh bread and to cut back on her wide-ranging veggie buffets because it was unfair that students at other schools didn't have access to the unusually tasty offerings.
Annica Eriksson, a lunch lady at school in Falun, was told that her cooking is just too good. Pupils at the school have become accustomed to feasting on newly baked bread and an assortment of 15 vegetables at lunchtime, but now the good times are over. The municipality has ordered Eriksson to bring it down a notch since other schools do not receive the same calibre of food - and that is "unfair".
Moreover, the food on offer at the school doesn't comply with the directives of a local healthy diet scheme which was initiated in 2011, according to the municipality. "A menu has been developed... It is about making a collective effort on quality, to improve school meals overall and to try and ensure everyone does the same," Katarina Lindberg, head of the unit responsible for the school diet scheme, told the local Falukuriren newspaper.
Julian Assange: Senate my ticket to freedom
Monday, 18 February 2013
Julian Assange, shown at the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he received asylum, has said winning a Senate seat in Australia would stop the US and Britain pursuing him. Photograph: Sang Tan/AP
CANBERRA (AP) - The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has told an Australian news website that his bid to become an Australian senator will serve as a defence against potential criminal prosecution in the United States and Britain.
Assange spoke to the Conversation website at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he was granted asylum in June to avoid extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations. If he were to win a Senate seat at elections on 24 September, Assange told the website, the US department of justice would drop its espionage investigation rather than risk a diplomatic row. The British government would follow suit otherwise "the political costs of the current standoff will be higher still", Assange said.
Assange supporters have enrolled him to vote in the state of Victoria. Electoral enrolment is necessary to be nominated as a candidate. Nominations for the Senate are likely to close on 22 August and if Assange were elected his six-year term of office would begin on 1 July 2014. Australians living overseas can enrol to vote and run as a Senate candidate if they left Australia within the past three years and intend to return within six years of their date of departure. Assange said he was last in Australia in June 2010.
German efficiency in doubt after airport debacle
By Erik Kirschbaum
January 11, 2013
(Reuters) - Germans take pride in their engineering and organisational skills but their country's reputation for efficiency has been exploded by a farcical series of delays in building Berlin's new international airport.
Although the postponements in opening what is ostensibly a completed marvel of architecture have drawn the most attention, Germany's stifling bureaucracy, red tape and planning rules have also blighted dozens more big projects.
The embarrassing and expensive delays in multi-billion euro projects such as Berlin's airport, Hamburg's new opera house, Germany's BND spy agency headquarters, Cologne's underground, Stuttgart's train station, and thousands of kilometers of overhead power grid are no laughing matter for a country whose reputation for engineering excellence is a major selling point.
Almost half of the world's food thrown away, report finds
by Rebecca Smithers
Thursday 10 January 2013
Between 30% and 50% or 1.2-2bn tonnes of food produced around the world never makes it on to a plate. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian
As much as half of all the food produced in the world – equivalent to 2bn tonnes – ends up as waste every year, engineers warned in a report published on Thursday.
The UK's Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) blames the "staggering" new figures in its analysis on unnecessarily strict sell-by dates, buy-one-get-one free and Western consumer demand for cosmetically perfect food, along with "poor engineering and agricultural practices", inadequate infrastructure and poor storage facilities.
In the face of United Nations predictions that there could be about an extra 3 billion people to feed by the end of the century and growing pressure on the resources needed to produce food, including land, water and energy, the IMechE is calling for urgent action to tackle this waste.
Their report, Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not, found that between 30% and 50% or 1.2-2bn tonnes of food produced around the world never makes it on to a plate. In the UK as much as 30% of vegetable crops are not harvested due to their failure to meet retailers' exacting standards on physical appearance, it says, while up to half of the food that is bought in Europe and the US is thrown away by consumers.
100,000 assaults. 1,000 rapists sentenced. Shockingly low conviction rates revealed
by Nigel Morris
Thursday, 10 January 2013
A woman holds a banner in a London protest against the police and courts. JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/GettyImages
Fewer than one rape victim in 30 can expect to see her or his attacker brought to justice, shocking new statistics reveal.
Only 1,070 rapists are convicted every year despite up to 95,000 people – the vast majority of them women – suffering the trauma of rape – according to the new research by Britain's Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics.
The figures have reignited controversy over the stubbornly low conviction rates for sex crimes, as well as the difficulties in persuading victims to go to police in the first place. Although 90 per cent of rape victims said they knew the identity of their attacker, just 15 per cent went to the police, telling researchers it was “too embarrassing”, “too trivial” or a “private/family matter”. Between 60,000 and 95,000 people are estimated to be raped each year.
About one woman in 200 told researchers she had fallen victim in the previous 12 months, suggesting that between 54,000 and 85,000 women were raped over the year. Several thousand men are also raped every year. An average of 15,670 rapes are reported annually to police, less than one-quarter of which result in a suspect being identified. Many of those are not brought to court as hundreds of women drop out at this point as they cannot face the ordeal of giving evidence against their attacker.