EUROPE ““ (BBC) The head of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said that the eurozone needs to double its bailout fund to 1 trillion euros ($1.3 tn). Angelo Gurria said the eurozone must show investors they have the “firepower and by God”¦I’m going to use it.” But German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she would favor only a temporary increase to 700bn euros. Some fear that the fund could not cope with another bailout. So far, Greece, Republic of Ireland, and Portugal have been bailed out. Most recently, Greece was granted its second bailout of 130bn euros after passing some harsh austerity measures and forcing bondholders to write off half of its debts. But ““ despite some calming of financial markets over the past few months ““ some still fear that large countries like Spain and Italy will also need to be bailed out. “The mother of all firewalls should be in place, strong enough, broad enough, deep enough, tall enough,” Mr. Gurria said. The Bank of Spain on Tuesday confirmed that the Spanish economy had fallen back into recession. It contracted again in the first quarter of 2012, the central bank said, after shrinking 0.3% in the three months to December. The recession was blamed on a decline in private spending in January and February ““ down to levels not seen since 2010.
FRANCE ““ (BBC) A lawyer for Dominique Strauss-Kahn has predicted a French pimping case against him will collapse and said a libertine lifestyle was not a crime. Henri Leclerc told reporters that evidence against Mr. Strauss-Kahn was “hollow” after the former IMF chief was formally placed under investigation. Strauss-Kahn admits attending sex parties but denies he knew that prostitutes were there. Allies in the French Socialist Party have distanced themselves from him. He faces up to 20 years in prison if tried and convicted. Last May, he resigned from the IMF after being accused of attempting to rape hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo in New York. Those charges were later dropped. Ms. Diallo, 32, is now bringing up a civil case against him, which is due to start in New York this week. He has always denied any wrongdoing.
GERMANY ““ (BBC) Hundreds of flights have been cancelled at German airports as ground staff strike over demands for more pay. National airline Lufthansa said it had scrapped more than 400 flights scheduled for Tuesday, mostly at Germany’s biggest airport, Frankfurt. The walkout is part of wider industrial action by public sector employees ahead of further talks due later this week. Service workers’ union Verdi is demanding a 6.5% pay rise for its two million members. In earlier talks, the union rejected an offer of a 3.3% pay increase over 24 months from public sector employers. Further negotiations are scheduled to start on Wednesday. The union says public sector workers are undervalued and that their pay has been squeezed by national and local governments trying to keep spending down. The strike has also hit public transport, nursery schools, hospitals, and local government services in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Verdi head Frank Bsirske said the strikes were a warning and were called to accelerate talks. “It can’t continue like this, that we are always struggling with the prices for rent, for petrol, and for food and have less money in our pockets than the previous year,” he said.
RUSSIA ““ (BBC) Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has rebuked U.S. presidential hopeful Mitt Romney for saying Russia is the “number one geopolitical foe” of the United States. Mr. Romney made the comments while criticizing President Barack Obama for appearing to suggest a future deal with Russia on the issue of missile defense. Mr. Medvedev said Mr. Romney’s comments “smelled of Hollywood” and advised him to “use his head.” Moscow has long opposed U.S. plans for a missile defense system in Europe. In remarks caught by TV cameras on Monday during a summit in Seoul, Mr. Obama had appeared to suggest to Mr. Medvedev that he would have more “flexibility” on difficult issues such as missile defense after November’s presidential election. In an interview with CNN, Mr. Romney had called Mr. Obama’s remarks “alarming” and “troubling.” Mr. Romney also said: “If he’s planning on doing more and suggests to Russia that he has things he’s willing to do with them, he’s not willing to tell the American people – this is to Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe,” Mr. Romney said. In response, Mr. Medvedev said: “I recommend that all U.S. presidential candidates”¦do at least two things: that they use their head and consult their reason when they formulate their positions, and that they check the time ““ it is now 2012, not the mid-1970s.” Moscow is used to being singled out as “the wicked witch of the east” by American politicians, says the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg in Moscow. U.S. President Ronald Reagan once described the Soviet Union as “the evil empire.”
UNITED KINGDOM ““ (BBC) A student who admitted posting racially offensive comments on Twitter about footballer Fabrice Muamba has been jailed for 56
years days. Swansea University student Liam Stacey, 21, from Pontypridd, admitted inciting racial hatred over remarks about the Bolton Wanderers player, who collapsed during a FA Cup tie at Tottenham. A district judge in Swansea called the comments “vile and abhorrent.” Muamba, 23, who suffered a cardiac arrest, is still in intensive care. Sentencing Stacey at Swansea Magistrates’ Court, District Judge John Charles told him: “In my view, there is no alternative to an immediate prison sentence.” He added: “It was not the football world who was praying for [Muamba]”¦everybody was praying for his life.” Stacey broke down in tears as he was led away to begin his jail term. As he passed the public gallery, he was briefly embraced by friends and his parents. Stacey initially tried to “distance himself” from the tweets by claiming his account had been hacked, the court was told. He later tried to delete his page but was arrested the following day at his student house in Swansea. When interviewed by police, Stacey said he had been drinking since lunchtime on Saturday and was drunk when he made the comments. Stacey was initially released on bail pending sentence and was ordered not to use Twitter and other social networking sites. Jim Brisbane, chief crown prosecutor for CPS Cymru-Wales, said: “Racist language is inappropriate in any setting and through any media. We hope this case will serve as a warning to anyone who may think that comments made online are somehow beyond the law.” Muamba remains in intensive care in a London hospital where his condition is described as serious but stable.