Monthly Archives: October 2008

2 Jesuit Priests Beaten to Death in Moscow

The building at 19 Ulitsa Petrovka where the bodies of two priests were found.

Investigator Yury Sukharev told that there were glasses and open bottles of wine and absinthe in the kitchen.

St Petersburg Times | Oct 31, 2008

By Anna Malpas

MOSCOW — Two Jesuit priests were found beaten to death in an apartment just meters away from Moscow police headquarters, investigators said Wednesday.

Otto Messmer, 47, a Russian citizen and top Jesuit figure in Russia, and Victor Betancourt, a 42-year-old Ecuadorian citizen, were found dead with battered skulls at 10 p.m. Tuesday in an apartment at 19 Ulitsa Petrovka, investigators and Catholic officials said. Police headquarters is located at 38 Ulitsa Petrovka.

“They didn’t answer phone calls, so their fellow brothers in the order went to the apartment, where they found them dead,” said Igor Kovalevsky, general secretary of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia, RIA-Novosti reported.

The priests were believed to have been dead for about 24 hours before they were found, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

Investigators are exploring all possible motives for the killings, including the possibility of a quarrel, since “there were traces of a party in the room,” the statement said.

Investigator Yury Sukharev told that there were glasses and open bottles of wine and absinthe in the kitchen.

The door of the apartment was open when the bodies were found, but it was unclear whether any valuables had been stolen. The five-room apartment belongs to the Jesuits, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia said.

A spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office said she could give no more information than was in the Investigative Committee’s statement.

Early media reports said police were called to the apartment after a fight and that they were looking for a Latin American man who had fled the scene.

A police spokesman could not confirm the reports Wednesday.

The Catholic Church expressed hope that the perpetrators would be brought to justice. “The church hopes that the Russian law enforcement organs will be able to find the criminals and the court and society will give an objective legal and moral judgment of their misdeeds,” the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia said in the statement.

Both men carried out pastoral work at the St. Louis Catholic Church on Ulitsa Malaya Lubyanka, the statement said.

Messmer, whose title was Superior of the Russian Independent Region of the Society of Jesus, was born to an ethnic German family in Kazakhstan that kept its Catholic faith alive despite Soviet repression, the statement said. His brother, Bishop Nikolaus Messmer, is the Apostolic Administrator of Kyrgyzstan.

Betancourt had been working in Russia since 2001. This year, he began working at the St. Thomas Institute of Philosophy, Theology and History, a private Jesuit institution in Moscow.

The Jesuits have been active in Russia since 1992, when the Russian Independent Region of the Society of Jesus was officially registered.

A requiem mass for the two priests was held at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral on Wednesday evening.

China melamine scandal prompts mass chicken cull

Reuters | Oct 31, 2008

By Ian Ransom

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese farmers, hurt by a spreading melamine scandal, slaughtered tens of thousands of chickens, state media said on Friday, as authorities in Shanghai began checks on feed producers for local fisheries.

Shanghai’s Livestock Office would check more than 100 feed producers in the city, and promised tests for the city’s seafood products if any feed were found to contain melamine, the Shanghai Daily newspaper said on Friday.

Melamine is a compound used in making plastic chairs and other things, but is often added to food to cheat nutrition tests.

At least four children died and tens of thousands were made ill from drinking milk formula adulterated with melamine this year.

The melamine scandal has since spread to other dairy products, sweets and chocolate, prompting recalls of Chinese-made food around the world.

A rash of cases involving melamine-tainted eggs exported to Hong Kong and South Korea, and sold in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, have aroused fears of how prevalent the compound is in Chinese animal feed.

Melamine was banned in feed last year in the wake of a pet food scandal that was blamed for the deaths of dogs and cats in the United States last year, but has since been found in chicken feed used by major egg producers in northern China.

Public fears about food safety have seen egg prices plummet in local markets, and wholesalers refuse stock not carrying melamine inspection certificates.

Full Story

Arctic blast brings London earliest snow in 70 years

White night: the Millennium Bridge with its temporary trail of iced footprints last night

The Arctic has been experiencing very cold temperatures this year

Evening Standard | Oct 29, 2008

By Mark Prigg

IT is a sight not seen in the capital since 1934.

Londoners today woke up to the earliest snow cover for more than 70 years as a freezing blast of wind from the Arctic hit the capital.

Some areas of north London saw two inches of snow fall in two hours when temperatures hit zero.

Snow fell across much of the city from around 10pm, despite Met Office predictions that the city would escape the wintry showers that have swept across the north of England and Scotland leaving a thick covering.

In Brent, a heavy snow flurry caught residents by surprise as streets and cars were quickly covered in a white blanket. Graduate Charlotte Hussey, 21, said: “I was really excited and surprised, it was like Christmas had come early. I am going to go to the park today to build a snowman and go sledging.”

Amid the snowfall, a man was taken to hospital after his car skidded off the M25 near Enfield. The Renault rolled over before landing in a ditch.

The cold snap with its widespread frost and crisp air is being caused by air from the Arctic replacing the normal south-westerly Atlantic breezes. “What we saw was the back edge of a weather system being blown down from the Arctic catching London,” said Byron Chalcraft, a Met Office forecaster.

Smile: this boy took advantage of the early snowfall

“The Arctic has been experiencing very cold temperatures this year, so it was an unusually cold front. Some unusual wind patterns meant it was blown over Britain very quickly, meaning the temperatures stayed very low. It is certainly very, very unusual to see snow in London this early,” said Mr Chalcraft. “The last time there was October snow [in the South-East] was in 1974, but the last time we actually had snow cover in October [in London], which we did late last night, was in 1934.”

Forecasters had earlier said there was a chance that London could see “a couple of flakes” but some areas saw a couple of inches fall in two hours.

They said the worst had passed but warned temperatures are set to stay low for the week. Much of snow had melted by this morning, giving way to a bright, cold day with plenty of sunshine.


Alabama cold snap ties low temperature record

Tuscaloosa News | Oct 29, 2008

By Jamon Smith

TUSCALOOSA | The big chill that Tuscaloosa experienced Tuesday tied the record for the lowest Oct. 28 temperature ever recorded in the city.

The temperature dropped to a low of 28 degrees early Tuesday morning and was forecast to do the same Tuesday night.

The Tuscaloosa record was originally set on Oct. 28, 1957, said John Sirmon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham.

‘This is just kind of an early season surge of cold air,’ Sirmon said. ‘It’s not all that unusual, but the normal low for this time of the year is 47 degrees.’

The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued a freeze warning for central and West Alabama, effective from 1 to 9 a.m. today.

Sirmon said delicate plants and pets should be brought indoors overnight when the temperatures near the freezing mark.

‘We’re not expecting a hard freeze where you have to worry about pipes bursting, but plants need to be moved inside and any kind of standing water will freeze over,’ Sirmon said. ‘There should be frost on the ground in the morning.’

    Maj. Mark Smith, head of the Salvation Army of West Alabama, said the Salvation Army’s shelter has been full the last two nights because of the cold snap.

    ‘The shelter has been close to full for almost a year now,’ Smith said Tuesday. ‘But we were at full last night, and we’ll be full tonight, but we won’t turn anyone away. We will put cots in the hallway if we have to.’

    Despite the frosty chill, power bills haven’t shot up yet.

    Joseph Brown, external affairs manager for Alabama Power, said that late January is when people start turning the heat on.

    ‘I can’t see this little spike making a difference,’ Brown said. ‘Actually, at this time of year people are just turning off their air conditioners so our services are at the lowest.

    ‘A lot of people stall before they turn on their heat,’ he said.

    Temperatures throughout the rest of the week are expected to steadily warm up.

    The low for today is forecast to be 38 degrees with a high of 63 degrees. Thursday’s low is also forecast at 38 degrees with a high of 71 degrees. Friday’s low is forecast to be 41 degrees with a high of 72 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.


    Evidence of sunspot involvement in climate change compelling

    Engineering News | Oct 31, 2008

    Over the last few years, the evidence that sunspots on our sun are directly related to climate change on earth has been steadily increasing.

    I explained the exact proposed mechanism in some detail previously. Great work in this field is being carried out by Dr Henrik Svensmark and coworkers in Denmark and elsewhere.

    Briefly, the mechanism is that cosmic rays impact on the earth from deep space. These cosmic rays penetrate our atmosphere and lead to the formation of cloud cover. The cosmic rays nucleate sites in the atmosphere, from which clouds form from the natural water vapour.

    If one puts a spoonful of coffee powder into a cup of microwaved water, the water forms bubbles of foam on the coffee grains. This is basically the same principle as the cosmic rays forming clouds in the atmosphere.

    The earth’s magnetic field, which acts as a shielding, is altered by the sun’s activity, which, in turn, is indicated by means of the number of sunspots. As the earth’s magnetic shield varies, so the cloud cover varies. Few sunspots mean a weaker earth shield, which means more cosmic rays, which mean more clouds, which mean a cooling earth.

    The correlation for this effect, going back thousands of years, is good, remarkably so. Scientifically, this looks believable, and it is consistent with the theory and observation.

    In contrast, the argument that man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) is causing warming does not fit the facts at all. Firstly, there was no indus- trial CO2 produced in vast quanti- ties when the Roman Warming period occurred, or when the Medieval Warming period occurred. Both are well documented in various archives, such as the historical and archaeological.

    But there is more – global warming is extremely complex, and it is really naïve to believe that a relatively simple theory will explain it satisfactorily. It is far too simple just to say: CO2 traps heat and, therefore, more CO2 means more heat, and so we have global warming.

    As the makers of heat-seeking missiles know very well, the CO2 in the atmosphere has ‘windows’ in it. This means that certain ‘heat frequencies’ pass through the atmosphere easily but other frequencies are trapped. It is these windows that the missile uses to hunt its prey. As a consequence, there are ‘frequency bands’ related to the CO2 cover of the earth. In various ‘bands’, the infrared passes through easily, or not so easily.

    Further, CO2 can trap incoming heat from space and outgoing heat being radiated from the earth. The frequency bands linked to the CO2 also become saturated – they cannot just keep sucking up more and more heat. Essentially, this CO2 argument is very complex.

    Over the last century, the temperature changes in our planet’s atmosphere, let alone ground and sea, just do not match the atmospheric CO2 concentration at all. This is cause for warning bells that, perhaps, this whole CO2 argument is not correct.

    In comparison, the cosmic ray and sunspot information match well. However, as I have said, this whole atmospheric temperature issue is very complex, and no capable scientist in the field is going to say otherwise.

    Right now, we have been experi- encing a rather long period of sunspot inactivity on our sun, some 200 days plus. This has happened before.

    Formal sun- spot data collection started in 1749 and has been monitored ever since. But long before that date, sunspots were known and informal measurements were taken. It is, therefore, known that the Little Ice Age, which took place from the midseventeenth century to the eighteenth century, was preceded and paralleled by a period of some 50 years with a virtual absence of sunspots, according to informal records.

    In more recent times, we have had relatively long periods without sunspots. This year, we passed the mark of 200 days without sunspots, which is unusual. In fact, the sun has been blanker now than in any other year since 1954, when it was spotless for 241 days, and this year is now being called the sun’s quietest year of the space age.

    The sun was also very quiet in 1913, so runs of 200-plus spotless days are rare, but not that rare. As I have already said, the global warming and cooling issue is complex, and so a run of 200-plus days without sunspots cannot be compared to a 50-year quiet period during the Little Ice Age, but it is cause for some scientific thinking.

    Further, a cooling that could be initiated by a lack of sunspots will induce other climatic effects that will either favour warming or cooling. The jury is still out on exactly what happens, but the evidence for sunspot involvement in climate change is just too compelling for it to be brushed aside by those who want to cling to the simplistic idea that man-made CO2 is the only factor.

    How Jewish is Nathaniel Rothschild?

    Is he too Blue to be Jewish?

    Jewish Chronicle | Oct 30, 2008

    Nathaniel is at the centre of a row involving George Osborne, whom he alleged requested illegal donations to the Conservative party. But is this one of the Jewish Rothschilds?

    For: The Honourable Nathaniel Philip Victor James Rothschild, known as Nat, is the 35-year-old scion of wealthy Jewish banking family the Rothschilds. His father, Jacob Rothschild, is the fourth Baron Rothschild, who follows the financial family’s charitable interests in Israel and is the chairman of Yad Hanadiv, the family foundation which gave the Knesset and the Supreme Court buildings to Israel. Nat is director of the Rothschild Foundation, which aims to support and strengthen Jewish life in Europe. He has been linked with Hollywood’s haimishe princess Natalie Portman, and says he would like to meet a nice Jewish girl. Now, could this be the ultimate 100% man?

    Against: Oy, if only. It’s not that bankers have suddenly become less-than-eligible son-in-law material. It’s that Nat’s mother, the Canadian Serena Mary Dunn, is not Jewish. Plus, educated at Eton, Nat went on at Oxford to become a member of the distinctly Waspish Bullingdon Club, famous for its drinking binges – and we’re not talking Palwin. And far from being obviously neurotic, Mr Rothschild had a distinctly unstereotypical reputation as a playboy. He also married Annabelle Neilson in Las Vegas, without the help of a rabbi.

    Verdict: His blood is too blue to be Jewish.

    So we say he is 48% Jewish


    Nathaniel Philip Rothschild


    The Honourable Nathaniel Philip Victor James Rothschild, known as Nat, (born 12 July 1971) is a British financier who is Co-Chairman of Atticus Capital LP, a 2004 Young Global Leader, and a member of the prominent Rothschild banking family of England.

    Nathaniel Philip Rothschild is the youngest of four children and only son of Jacob Rothschild, 4th Baron Rothschild and Serena Mary Dunn, whose grandfather was the Canadian financier and industrialist, Sir James Dunn. As the son of a baron, he is entitled to be styled “The Honourable”.[1] He was educated at Colet Court (in the same year as George Osborne), Eton College and Wadham College, Oxford. Rothschild was a member of the Bullingdon Club as an undergraduate, at the same time as George Osborne now the Conservative Party shadow chancellor.[2]

    Rothschild began his career in 1994 at Lazard Brothers Asset Management in London, before joining Gleacher Partners, the New York-based mergers and acquisitions (M&A) advisory firm founded by Eric Gleacher, former head of M&A at Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers.

    Rothschild is the co-chairman of Atticus Capital LP, an international investment management firm established in 1995, that has offices in New York and London. He is also a director of RIT Capital Partners plc, and a director of The Rothschild Foundation. In 2006, he was appointed chairman of Trigranit, a Hungarian developer of which he is a major shareholder.

    Rothschild is a member of the Belfer Center‘s International Council at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and the International Advisory Council of the Brookings Institution. He is also a member of the International Advisory Board of the Barrick Gold Corporation. He was nominated as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum in 2005.

    Spain’s Zapatero calls for ‘New Financial World Order’

    Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero joined calls for a new financial world order with stronger mechanisms for control.

    Earth Times | Oct 30, 2008

    San Salvador, El Salvador – Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Thursday joined calls for a “new financial world order” with stronger mechanisms for control and transparency. At the Iberian American Summit in San Salvador, the centre-left Rodriguez Zapatero criticized the “myth of deregulation” which according to him put speculation and greed, and the unbounded craving for greater benefits, above the productive economy.

    He demanded a redefinition of the role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), giving emerging and developing countries a greater say, so that international financial institutions “reflect the current geopolitical reality.”

    Rodriguez Zapatero praised the progress made by Latin America in recent years, and stressed that Spain will not cut down development aid at timed of crisis.

    “At a time in which the economic outlook is complex and difficult, commitment in the field of cooperation for development acquires even greater value, it must continue to be a priority,” he said.

    The Spanish prime minister noted that 40 per cent of his country’s aid goes to Latin America.

    Spain’s King Juan Carlos, in turn, focused on the summit’s motto, “Youth and Development,” and underlined the importance of creating conditions for the full development of Latin America’s young people.

    “If we do not achieve that, we will be committing the fate of our children and not abiding by our responsibilities,” he added.

    The 18th Iberian American Summit brings together the heads of state and government of Latin America, Spain and Portugal, with the exceptions of Venezuela, Uruguay and Cuba.

    It opened Wednesday with a dinner, while debate started Thursday.

    Iberian American summits have been held annually since 1991 to bring together Latin American nations with Spain and Portugal.