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Assange runs for Australia Senate as ‘libertarian’

News4u - News Desk : WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday vowed to be a “libertarian” and campaign for more openness in government if he is successful in gaining a seat in the Australian Senate.

Assange, who is on bail awaiting a British court decision on his appeal against extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations, announced his plan to run for the upper house of parliament earlier this month.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian citizen said he would be a “fierce defender of free media”.

Assange, who set up the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, also vowed to use parliamentary privilege to break court suppression orders and other “excessive constraints” on free access to information.

The Australian government has previously blasted WikiLeaks, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard describing its release of US diplomatic cables as “grossly irresponsible”.

Assange told the Herald the attacks by Gillard directly contributed to his decision to embark on a Senate campaign.

He said there were “many things wrong” with Australian politics, especially “increasing levels of cronyism” and “the betrayal of the rights and interests of people by political insiders, operating in their own interests”.

WikiLeaks has said it will also field a candidate to run directly against Gillard in her lower house electorate of Lalor, in Victoria state, in elections due in 2013.

Each of Australia’s states is represented by 12 senators who serve six-year terms, with half-senate elections for some 40 vacancies generally held at the same time as national polls for the lower House of Representatives.

The “state Julian will run for will be announced at the appropriate time”, WikiLeaks said this month.

He has several options, having lived in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

The Herald said he was considering “all possibilities”, including standing as an independent, seeking an alliance with a party, or establishing his own party devoted to advancing open government.

Assange strongly denies the sexual assault claims against him, saying they are politically motivated and linked to the activities of WikiLeaks, which has published thousands of confidential documents on the Internet.

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Scandal-hit German president faces resignation calls

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German President Christian Wulff, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, faced resignation calls on Tuesday over a home loan scandal and allegations he tried to hush up the story.


Wulff, 52, has been hit by accusations that he intervened to try to stop revelations by the mass circulation newspaper Bild last month over a personal loan he received from the wife of a tycoon friend.

He left a furious message on the voicemail of Bild’s powerful editor Kai Diekmann threatening legal action and also reportedly contacted the chief executive of Bild’s publishing house Axel Springer and its main shareholder.

Amid rising anger in the country at a perceived attack on the freedom of the press, the Financial Times Deutschland said he should step down from his office.

“On its own, it could perhaps be dismissed as a trifling matter, but there have been so many such trifles for Christian Wulff recently that it is becoming a worrying and slowly unbearable whole,” the paper wrote.

“Everything taken together, it’s slowly becoming too much … his credibility has been hit by this plethora of mistakes. A man who is dragging around such a burden can no longer remain president,” the FTD said.

The influential Sueddeutsche Zeitung chimed in, saying in an editorial, “This abuse of press freedom demonstrates that the job of president is too big for Wulff.”

Merkel has thus far defended Wulff, but the Weser-Kurier regional daily said, “At some stage, the chancellor will have to make the cold calculation that his presence in the office is harming her and the country more than a second resignation.”

Germany was rocked in May 2010 when then president Horst Koehler resigned suddenly, after appearing to suggest German troops abroad were defending Berlin’s economic interests.

Merkel invested a great deal of political capital to push through Wulff’s subsequent election, which turned into a debacle for her, as members of her own coalition broke ranks and refused to vote for him in parliament.

Wulff’s spokeswoman said on Monday the president valued the freedom of the media highly and had sought to be transparent.


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E coli death toll rises to 48 in Germany

News4u - News Desk : BERLIN: The death toll from an outbreak of a killer strain of E coli bacteria centred in Germany rose to at least 48 today, health authorities said.

All but one of the fatalities from enterohaemorrhagic E coli (EHEC) have been in Germany, with the other being a woman inSweden who had just returned from Germany.

The outbreak, blamed on organic vegetable sprouts grown in northern Germany, has left 3,901 people ill in Germany, 838 of them seriously, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said.

The World Health Organisation said on its website on Monday that 3,043 people have become sick in 16 countries, 877 of them seriously with kidney complaint haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS). AFP


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At least 39 dead from killer E. Coli outbreak: Germany

News4u - News Desk : At least 39 people have died from an outbreak in Germany of a killer strain of E coli bacteria but the rate of new infections continues to drop, authorities said today.

The national health centre, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), added one fatality to its daily report on the enterohaemorrhagic E coli (EHEC) contamination, which emerged in early May.

It said the confirmed death toll in Germany itself had risen to 38, in addition to a woman in Sweden who is believed to have been infected during a visit to Germany days before she died.

But the number of new infections “is at a significantly lower level than before”, the RKI said.

German authorities on Friday identified locally grown vegetable sprouts as the source of the outbreak and lifted a warning against eating raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. AFP


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German health authorities trace the origin of E coli epidemic

News4u-News Desk- Health authorities in Germany have achieved a breakthrough in their search for the origin of the deadly E coli epidemic that killed 31 people to contaminated bean sprouts.

Laboratory tests of bean sprouts left over by two women in a family near Bonn, who fell ill after consuming the vegetable, showed that it was tainted with the highly virulent strain, which causes the life-threatening haemolytic uramic syndrome (HUS).
The package of bean sprouts taken from the waste bin of the family was traced to the farm in Uelzen, in the state of Lower Saxony, which has been already under investigation for more than a week as a potential source of the outbreak.
Johannes Rummel, the NRW Minister for consumer affairs, said for the first time since the outbreak of the deadly infection over a month ago, investigators succeeded in establishing scientifically a link between the farm and bean sprouts contaminated with the bacteria.
When the mother and daughter in a family developed symptoms of E coli infection after eating bean sprouts in mid-May, the father took the left-over package of the vegetable from the waste bin and handed over to the health authorities.
Laboratory tests confirmed that it was contaminated with the lethal bacteria, which has so far claimed 31 lives and infected more than 2,000 people, 722 of them with HUS.
The two women are in a very acute condition and therefore they cannot be questioned about where they bought the bean sprouts package, Rummel said.


The father, who did not eat the vegetable, has so far developed no symptoms of E coli infection, he said.
The discovery of the E coli-tainted bean sprouts “confirms out current warnings” against consuming the vegetable, the Minister said.
The farm in Uelzen came under the suspicion of health officials after they discovered that its supply routes were linked to all main centres of E coli outbreak in northern Germany, the epicentre of the epidemic.
However, tests of nearly a hundred bean sprouts samples taken from the farm so far have been negative, according to the health Ministry in Lower Saxony.
Earlier, the Robert Koch Institute, Germanys national disease prevention and control centre, announced that investigators have narrowed down their search for the source of the killer bacteria to bean sprouts, even though they did not have any scientific evidence.
The Robert Koch Institute and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment lifted their warnings against cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce as potential carriers of the bacteria and said those vegetables can be consumed without any apprehension.
Even though the farm in Uelzen was suspected of being a source of the worst E coli outbreak in Germany for more than 60 years, this was the first time a link between bean sprouts tainted with the bacteria and the farm was scientifically proved.


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Germany recognises rebels as fighting rages in Libya

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Germany on Monday gave official recognition to Libya’s rebels, amid a surge in fighting across the country and as strongman Muammar Gaddafi said over a chess game he would not step down.


Mikhail Margelov, the special envoy of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, said in Moscow meanwhile he would visit Tripoli next week to hold talks on the Libya conflict.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said after meeting rebel leaders in their capital Benghazi that Germany recognises their National Transitional Council as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Libyan people.

“We want a free Libya, in peace and democracy without Gaddafi,” he added.

Germany becomes the 13th nation to recognise the NTC as “sole legitimate representative,” after Australia, Britain, France, Gambia, Italy, Jordan, Malta, Qatar, Senegal, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Berlin abstained from a UN Security Council resolution vote on 17th March backing intervention in Libya and chose not to join the NATO-led air war in support of the rebels.

But German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere said last week his country would be ready to consider sending peacekeeping troops to Libya if and when strongman Gaddafi falls from power.

Gaddafi, however, remains adamant he will not step down, according to the head of the World Chess Federation Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who said that during a game of chess in Tripoli on Sunday the strongman insisted he had no position of power to relinquish.

“I am neither premier nor president nor king. I do not hold any post in Libya and therefore I have no position which I should give up,” Ilyumzhinov quoted Gaddafi as telling him during a two-hour meeting and the chess game.



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Killer cucumber bacteria spreads;11 dead in Germany

News4u - News Desk : Berlin, Germany today called crisis talks amid warnings that an outbreak of a highly virulent strain of bacteria found on imported cucumbers has already killed 11 and is spreading.
More than two weeks after the food poisoning outbreak was first reported in the north of the country, the number of confirmed or suspected cases has reached 1,200, according to media reports.

There was no immediate official confirmation of the figure, but the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has described the outbreak of potentially deadly strain of E coli as “one of the largest worldwide and the largest ever reported in Germany”.

Authorities warned against eating raw vegetables after traces of the bacteria were found on organic cucumbers from Spain last week. But confusion reigned on the source of the outbreak.. AFP

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Germany won’t funnel oil money from India to Iran

News4u-News Desk- Berlin, (AP) A plan for India to funnel oil payments to Iran through Germany’s central bank at a time when Tehran faces international sanctions has been scrapped, a German government official said today.

The deal, which reportedly would have been worth up to USD 13 billion a year, has not been forbidden by the German chancellery, but the government did hold talks about it with the Indian government, the official said.

The arrangement required Berlin’s approval due to tight financial controls amid international sanctions against Iran, whose government is suspected of developing nuclear weapons.

“The Indian counterparts came forward saying they wanted to use other means of payment from now on,” the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.


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German man confesses to 350 counts of sexual abuse

News4u-News Desk- BERLIN: A German man has confessed to 350 counts of sexually abusing his children and forcing his daughter and stepdaughter into prostitution.

Confessions are common in German trials and the news agency DAPD quoted prosecutors as accusing the man, identified only as Detlef S, of a “tactical manoeuver” to get a shorter sentence.

Prosecutors are recommending a prison sentence of 14 years and six months and want the court to order the 48-year-old defendant to remain in detention beyond that to prevent him from offending again.

The defence is asking for 9 1/2 years in prison after reading the man’s confession to 350 counts of sexual abuse in the Koblenz state court.

The defendant previously admitted fathering eight children with his stepdaughter. A verdict and sentence is expected on Tuesday.AFP


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Green Party makes impressive gains in German state election

News4u - News Desk : Germany’s anti-atom Green Party has made impressive gains in a state election, benefiting from a growing public concern about reactor safety in the wake of the nuclear disaster in Japan.


The Green Party, which has been at the forefront nation-wide protest campaigns against the federal government’s decision at the end of last year to extend the lifespan of the country’s 17 nuclear reactors, emerged as the main winner of the election in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, in easternGermany.


It succeeded in returning to the state parliament inMagdeburg after 13 years by polling 7.3 per cent of the votes, more than double the votes secured at the last election in 2006, according to provisional official results.


Election analysts said a public debate about the future of nuclear energy in this country sparked off by the crisis at theFukushima reactor complex crippled by earthquake and tsunami, boosted the voter support for the Green Party.


Business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), which until now did not take public concern about nuclear energy seriously, was punished by the voters by denying it the minimum five per cent votes needed to enter the parliament. Right extremist party NPD, which campaigned on anti-foreigner themes, also failed to cross the five per cent hurdle.


The outcome of Sunday’s election is unlikely to change the balance of power in the state and present indications are that a new edition of the present “grand coalition” between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) will rule the state for the next five years.


The CDU suffered a decline in its popularity and polled 32.5 per cent of the votes, around 4 per cent less than in the last election, but defended its position as the largest party in the state. The SPD secured 21.5 per cent, nearly the same level as in 2006 and the two parties together have a comfortable majority to continue their “grand coalition”.


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