News in Europe for December 20, 2011

EUROPE ““ (CNN) There is a good chance France and other euro area governments will have their credit ratings downgraded in the near future. This downgrade would mark another low point in Europe’s long-running debt crisis, but it may not shock the markets. “The downgrades are likely to come sooner rather than later,” said Ewen Cameron Watt, chief investment strategist for the BlackRock Investment Insititute. “But we believe bond markets have largely factored them in for countries such as France, Italy, and Spain.” Credit rating agencies’ warnings or downgrades were behind six major drops in the stock market this year, notes Christian Schulz, a senior economist at Berenberg Bank.
EUROPE ““ (BBC) Police in 22 European countries have arrested 112 suspects in an online child pornography investigation, Europe’s police agency, Europol, says. The suspects allegedly shared videos of children and babies being sexually abused and raped, Europol director Rob Wainwright said. Nineteen men face charges in Denmark, where police seized dozens of computers and thousands of hours of video images. Denmark’s chief of police said it was a huge amount of evidence to examine. The investigation, named Operation Icarus, was ongoing and more arrests were expected, said Mr. Wainwright. “So far, in 22 countries we have identified 269 suspects with 112 arrests,” he said.

CZECH REPUBLIC ““ (BBC) Tributes have been flooding in from around the world following the death of the Czech Republic’s first President, Vaclav Havel. The former dissident playwright, who was 75, died on Sunday morning after a long period of bad health. U.S. President Barack Obama said Mr. Havel had “helped to unleash tides of history that led to a democratic Europe.” On Monday, Mr. Havel’s coffin is being taken from his country cottage to the capital, Prague. The BBC understands that his coffin will lie in state from Wednesday and a state funeral is expected on Friday. The Czech Republic is observing a week of mourning and hundreds of candles have been lit in Wenceslas Square, once the focal point of the “Velvet Revolution” that overthrew the country’s communist regime. Havel died at his country home comforted by his wife Dagmar and several nuns, his secretary said.

THE NETHERLANDS ““ (BBC) Tens of thousands of children have suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions since 1945, a report says. The report said Catholic officials had failed to tackle the widespread abuse at schools, seminaries, and orphanages. The report also found that one in five children who attended an institution suffered abuse ““ regardless of whether it was Catholic. Most Of the cases involved mild to moderate abuse, such as touching, but the report estimated that there were “several thousand” instances of rape. “The problem of sexual abuse was known in the orders and dioceses of the Dutch Catholic Church,” the commission says, according to news agency AFP, “but the appropriate actions were not undertaken.”

RUSSIA ““ (BBC) Russia has finally joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) at a ceremony in Switzerland on Friday, after 18 years of negotiating its membership. The Swiss brokered a deal between Russia and Georgia earlier this year that removed the last obstacle to Russia’s accession. Georgia had tried to block Russia’s WTO entry since the two countries fought a short war in 2008. Russia was by the first biggest economy yet to join the global trade body. It is also the last member of the Group of 20 major economies to join, after China gained membership in 2001. “This result of long and complex talks is good both for Russia and for our future partners,” President Dmitry Medvedev said in a message to a WTO ministerial meeting in Geneva that formally approved Russia’s membership. The White House reported that U.S. President Barack Obama called President Medvedev to congratulate him on Russia’s admission.

RUSSIA ““ (BBC) At least four people have died and about 50 are missing after an oil drilling rig sank in freezing seas in the Russian far east. The Kolskaya rig was being towed some 200 km (125 miles) off Sakhalin Island when it capsized in a fierce storm. Fourteen people have been rescued alive, but it is feared the rig overturned before the rest of the 67 people on board could escape onto life rafts. Rescue efforts have been hampered by poor weather conditions. An investigation has been launched to decide whether any safety regulations were violated transporting the Kolskaya in bad weather.

SPAIN ““ (BBC) Barcelona were crowned FIFA Club World Cup winners when they beat Brazilian side Santos 4-0 in Japan. The win capped a remarkable year for the Spanish side in which they also won the La Liga title, the Champions League, and the Spanish Super Cup. The win confirms Barcelona’s standing as the best club team in the world. “We played a complete game,” said captain Carles Puyol. “It was a good game, an intense game, and we’re very happy with the result.” The match had been billed as a showdown between Messi, widely acknowledged as the best player in the world, and 19-year-old Brazilian star Neymar, who has been linked with a transfer to both Barca and Real Madrid. But it was no contest ““ with Messi the star of the match and named the tournament’s most valuable player ““ as Barcelona won the competition for the second time in three seasons. “Barcelona deserved to win. They are the best team in the world and we learned an important lesson,” said Neymar.

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Caitlin

25 years old. Proud Michigander. Lover of Scandinavia, feminism, the Detroit Tigers, and perusing unaffordable real estate. Du har. Du vil. Du burde.

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