Palestinian police get training in riot control

JERICHO, West Bank (AP) – Palestinian police officers in riot gear trained under the desert sun Tuesday as part of a European Union-sponsored public order course begun after a deadly clash between police and demonstrators last fall.

Palestinian instructors barked commands at a squad of men who stamped their boots and rapped their clubs on their shields as they advanced on an imaginary demonstration – a tactic designed to intimidate without bloodshed.

Next week, the 64 graduates of the 12-day course will report for duty in their hometown of Jenin, an unruly hotbed of militants and heavily armed gangs.

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French fishermens’ fuel strikes set to go Europe-wide

Fishermen across western and southern Europe are threatening an open-ended strike from Wednesday in protest at rising fuel costs. Several ports in France have remained blocked for more than a week despite a government aid deal, and fishermen in the Spanish region of Catalonia began strike action yesterday.

Their colleagues across Spain, Portugal and Italy plan to join them tomorrow. The industry has seen marine diesel prices almost double in six months. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said he’ll look for a cap in fuel sales tax across the EU. He told a French radio station this morning: “I will ask our European partners: if the price of oil continues to rise, shouldn’t we suspend the VAT tax part of oil prices?” For that to happen, all 27 EU members would need to agree.

However the European Commission has responded negatively to Sarkozy’s proposal, saying modifying tax levels on oil products to fight inflation would be sending a bad message to oil producing countries.

The French haulage industry has joined the fishermens’ protest, leading to some fuel depot blockades and fears of petrol shortages.

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U.S. rice farmers want class action against Bayer

KANSAS CITY, Mo., May 23 (Reuters) – Germany’s Bayer AG (BAYG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) is battling to keep thousands of U.S. rice farmers from becoming part of a massive class-action lawsuit over the contamination of commercial rice supplies by a Bayer biotech rice not approved for human consumption.

In hearings this week in federal court in St. Louis, Missouri, lawyers representing rice farmers said about 7,000 long-grain producers in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas should be allowed to seek unspecified damages against Bayer for contamination that was uncovered in August 2006.

Farmers suffered extensive losses, both from a plunge in rice prices, and in a drop in export business as Japan and the European Union moved to restrict U.S. rice from crossing their borders.

Many farmers also were not able to plant a crop the following year because of seed shortages tied to the contamination, and had to undertake costly clean-up efforts, according to plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Bayer is fighting the class-action move, and both sides are now awaiting a ruling from U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry .

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UN secretary-general calls food price rise a global crisis

VIENNA, Austria – A sharp rise in food prices has developed into a global crisis, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday.

Ban said the U.N and all members of the international community were very concerned and immediate action was needed.

He spoke to reporters at U.N. offices in Austria, where he was meeting with the nation’s top leaders for talks on how the United Nations and European Union can forge closer ties.

“This steeply rising price of food — it has developed into a real global crisis,” Ban said, adding that the World Food Program has made an urgent appeal for additional $755 million.

“The United Nations is very much concerned, as (are) all other members of the international community,” Ban said. “We must take immediate action in a concerted way.”

Ban urged leaders of the international community to sit down together on an “urgent basis” to discuss how to improve economic distribution systems and promote the production of agricultural products.

An estimated 40 percent increase in food prices since last year has sparked violent protests in the Caribbean, Africa and South Asia.

On Thursday, U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization chief Jacques Diouf said immediate efforts should focus on helping farmers in developing countries grow more crops.

Josette Sheeran, the World Food Program’s executive director, has likened the price increases to a “silent tsunami,” and said requests for food aid are coming in from countries unable to cope with the rising prices.

She noted that the price of rice has more than doubled since March. The World Bank estimates that food prices have increased by 83 percent in three years.

By VERONIKA OLEKSYN, Associated Press WriterFri Apr 25, 12:44 PM ET

Source: AP

Face scans for air passengers to begin in UK this summer

Officials say automatic screening more accurate than checks by humans.

A face recognition system will scan faces and match them to biometric chips on passports. Photograph: Image Source/Getty

Airline passengers are to be screened with facial recognition technology rather than checks by passport officers, in an attempt to improve security and ease congestion, the Guardian can reveal.

From summer, unmanned clearance gates will be phased in to scan passengers’ faces and match the image to the record on the computer chip in their biometric passports.

Border security officials believe the machines can do a better job than humans of screening passports and preventing identity fraud. The pilot project will be open to UK and EU citizens holding new biometric passports.

But there is concern that passengers will react badly to being rejected by an automated gate. To ensure no one on a police watch list is incorrectly let through, the technology will err on the side of caution and is likely to generate a small number of “false negatives” – innocent passengers rejected because the machines cannot match their appearance to the records.

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The Collapsing Dollar – Authorities lose patience

Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU’s ‘Mr Euro’, has given the clearest warning to date that the world authorities may take action to halt the collapse of the dollar and undercut commodity speculation by hedge funds.


Jean-Claude Juncker, who is calling for Washington to
take steps to halt the slide of the dollar

Momentum traders have blithely ignored last week’s accord by the G7 powers, which described “sharp fluctuations in major currencies” as a threat to economic and financial stability. The euro has surged to fresh records this week, touching $1.5982 against the dollar and £0.8098 against sterling yesterday.

“I don’t have the impression that financial markets and other actors have correctly and entirely understood the message of the G7 meeting,” he said.

Mr Juncker, who doubles as Luxembourg premier and chair of eurozone financiers, told the Luxembourg press that he had been invited to the White House last week just before the G7 at the urgent request of President George Bush. The two leaders discussed the dangers of rising “protectionism” in Europe. Mr Juncker warned that matters could get out of hand unless America took steps to halt the slide in the dollar.

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Sarkozy and Merkel draft agreement detailing role of nations on EU’s southern border

BRUSSELS: President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany will end months of wrangling Thursday by presenting a joint plan to strengthen Europe’s ties with countries on its southern borders.

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