EUROPE ““ (BBC) The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that “some optimism has returned” to the global economy and has predicted slightly faster growth. The IMF revised world economic growth for 2012 to 3.5%, up from its previous forecast of 3.3%. It also expects the UK to grow faster this year by 0.8% rather than 0.6%. However, the IMF noted another eurozone crisis was possible and that most major economies “still face major brakes on growth.” The eurozone recently agreed to a second multibillion euro bailout for Greece, making default less likely for the country, and has created a permanent rescue fund, hoping to contain a crisis that has dragged on for years. Separately, the US unemployment rate has fallen to 8.2%, the lowest rate since 2009, raising hopes for a recovery in the world’s largest economy. “With the passing of the crisis and some good news about the US economy, some optimism has returned,” the IMF said. But it added that the “risk of another crisis is still very much present.” As if to underline that point, Spain is the only eurozone country whose growth has been revised even lower for 2012. The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook came a day after the World Bank appointed a new president, the US’s Jim Yong Kim. By convention, the US has always held the top job at the World Bank since it was founded in 1944. The top job of its sister organization, the IMF, has also always gone to a European, but there has been much pressure from emerging economies to open the processes of both organizations to competition. The IMF is currently led by France’s Christine Legarde.
ITALY ““ (BBC) Thousands of fans at the Italian club Livorno have paid their last respects to football’s Piermario Morosini, who died on the pitch on Saturday. Players lined up as Morosini’s coffin was brought into the stadium and blessed by the bishop of Livorno. Fans then laid flowers and scarves on it before it completed a circuit in front of the packed stands. Morosini, 25, collapsed and died while playing for Livorno in a Serie B match against Pescara. Following the ceremony at Picchi stadium, Morosini’s body was taken to his home city of Bergamo, where the funeral will take place on Thursday. Several of his teammates, all wearing Morosini’s number-25 shirt, wept while the team song was played. The club has said it will retire the number 25 jersey and club legend Igor Protti said he has asked Livorno to dedicate a section of the stadium to Morosini. Initially, it was thought that Morosini died of cardiac arrest, but the post mortem was called after doubts emerged about the cause of death. Morosini joined Livorno from Serie A club Udinese in January. Udinese’s captain, Antonio di Natale, has said the club will provide lifelong financial support to Morosini’s severely disabled sister.
NORWAY ““ (BBC) Anders Behring Breivik, the man who killed 77 people in bomb and gun attacks in Norway last July, has boasted of his actions in a statement at his trial. “I have carried out the most spectacular and sophisticated attack on Europe since World War II,” Breivik told the court. Breivik said he would do it all again and asked to be acquitted. Although he admits to the bombing and attack on a youth camp, he has pleaded not guilty to terror and mass murder. “These acts are based on goodness, not evil,” he said, adding that he had toned down his rhetoric out of concern for the victims. As he closed his statement, Breivik said that he acted to defend Norway against immigration and multiculturalism. One of the questions at the very heart of this trial, which is expected to last 10 weeks, is Breivik’s mental state. He has already said that he does not recognize the court. Despite repeated interruptions from the judge to cut down his speech, Breivik insisted that he had more to say, although he agreed to limit his comments to Norway. Breivik’s comments have ranged from vehement criticisms of liberalism and multiculturalism to claims that he “supports the model in South Korea and Japan.” If the court decides Breivik is criminally insane, he will be committed to psychiatric care. If he is judged to be mentally stable, he will be jailed if found guilty. If jailed, he faces a sentence of 21 years, which could be extended to keep him behind bars for the rest of his life. The courtroom has been specially built for the trial to accommodate more than 200 people. Glass partitions have been put up to separate the victims and their families from Breivik.
POLAND ““ (BBC) A Warsaw court has jailed former Polish Sports Minister Tomasz Lipiec for three and a half years for corruption. Lipiec, 41, was also banned from public office for 10 years. A former Olympic race walker, he was appointed Sports Minister to step up the fight against corruption but was accused of taking bribes. Poland is co-hosting the Euro 2012 football championship with Ukraine but has been hit by a series of corruption cases, often involving football. Lipiec was caught up in two separate bribery investigations: one from his time as minister and another, earlier case when he was head of the Warsaw Sports and Recreation Center.
RUSSIA ““ (BBC) An ailing Russian politician who says he was cheated out of winning a mayoral race has vowed to continue his hunger strike despite talks in Moscow. Oleg Shein, who stood in Astrakhan, said he had spent the night examining video evidence of ballot-rigging with the head of the electoral commission. He emerged saying he was hopeful, but the commission chief’s office later said it would not review the result. Opposition leaders have backed Mr. Shein, who began fasting on March 16th. He says he has lost 26 pounds and is physically weak. On Saturday, hundreds of activists held a rally in the Caspian city, some of them flying in from Moscow and other parts of Russia. Mr. Shein’s hunger strike remains one of the most popular topics of discussion on Russian social media websites. After the winter rallies in Moscow, opponents of the newly elected president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, want to concentrate on provincial politics and local elections, analysts say. Kremlin supporters have accused Oleg Shein of using the situation for nothing more than self-promotion.
SWEDEN ““ (BBC) Sweden’s culture minister is facing calls to step down after she was photographed cutting a cake designed like an African tribal woman. The incident involving Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth happened at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm. According to Radio Sweden, the museum said the cake was supposed to highlight the issue of female circumcision. But the Association for African Swedes said it was a crude racist caricature and called for Ms. Liljeroth to resign. Kitimbwa Sabuni, a spokesperson for this group, told Swedish news agency TT, “To say that you did this for a good cause only makes the mockery of people who are victims of racism and of circumcision worse.” The artist behind the cake, Makode Linde, who is black but was born in Stockholm, said the work had been misunderstood. He told TT, “Considering the poor offering of art in Sweden that could be defined as African-Swedish, one would have hoped that the people in the National Association for African Swedes were more aware of the artwork that I do.” The news agency reported that Ms. Liljeroth had said she could “understand that this can feel provocative.” She added, “It was a bizarre situation. I was invited to speak at World Art Day about the freedom of art and the right to be provocative and then they asked me to cut up the cake,” the minister said. The cake was in the shape of the naked upper body of an African woman and was filled with a blood-red sponge. Mr. Linde painted his own face and took the place of the head.