Daily Archives: December 2, 2010

Bitter cold kills eight, halts air traffic in Europe


A motorist drives through heavy snow in Manchester, northern England, December 1, 2010. The snow and freezing temperatures continued to cause major problems for road, rail and air services on Wednesday. PHIL NOBLE/REUTERS

Associated Press | Dec 1, 2010

by Frank Jordans

GENEVA—Heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures swept across Europe, killing at least eight homeless people in Poland, closing major airports in Britain and Switzerland and causing hundreds of highway accidents.

Gatwick, London’s second largest airport, and Geneva, a major hub for low-cost carrier Easyjet, were forced to shut down Wednesday as staff struggled to clear runways of snow. Edinburgh airport in Scotland, and Chambery and Grenoble in southeastern France also were closed.

Eurocontrol, the central air control agency, reported severe flight delays in Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna and Prague.

In Poland, police said eight men died Tuesday night after a bitter cold front roared in, with temperatures falling to around -20 Celsius. Police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski said the men, from different parts of the country, had been drinking.

Winter weather caused some 2,000 accidents on German roads Tuesday, officials said.

Police in northern Austria said a 69-year-old retiree froze to death overnight when he slipped on a snow-covered bridge on his way home from a funeral and lost consciousness.

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Officials at Gatwick, south of London, said the airport would remain closed until early Thursday, stranding about 600 flights that were expected to leave Wednesday. Extra staff were working “around the clock” to clear the runways, and passengers were advised to check with their airline or Gatwick’s website for updates.

Gatwick was under five to six inches of snow Wednesday morning and has seen continuous snowfall throughout the day, said spokeswoman Andrea Hopkins, adding that she was unable to provide a current estimate.

Geneva’s airport will be closed until at least 6 p.m. Wednesday, a spokesman said. The city has seen 25 centimetres of fresh snow in the past 24 hours.

Zurich, Switzerland’s biggest airport, reported delays and cancellations on the day many VIPs, including former U.S. president Bill Clinton and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, were travelling to FIFA’s headquarters to push their countries’ bids to host the 2018 and 2022 football World Cups.

Airport spokeswoman Sonja Zoechling said officials anticipate heavy snowfall there Wednesday afternoon but expected to keep flights going. Still, the presence of so many private jets in Zurich meant the airport had to turn down requests Wednesday for diverted landings.

Some 60 flights were cancelled at Frankfurt airport, Germany’s largest, since planes were not able to fly in Tuesday, but there were no weather delays Wednesday.

Swiss weather agency Meteosuisse forecast more snow throughout the day as a low-pressure front centred over western Europe moves slowly eastward.

“We’ve got unusually cold air over large parts of the eastern Atlantic, and where that meets warm air coming for example from the Mediterranean you have a lot of snow,” said meteorologist Heinz Maurer.

He predicted that snowfall would ease in central Europe by Thursday, but nights will remain extremely cold.

La Brevine, in northwestern Switzerland, recorded temperatures of -31 C overnight, Maurer said.

Even the undersea Channel Tunnel was hit with travel delays due to the snow. Six Eurostar trains to and from London were cancelled and delays on other services were expected.

In Ireland, flights from Dublin airport were temporarily suspended early Wednesday while thick snow and ice was cleared from a main runway. With many schools closed and minor roads impassable due to snow, authorities urged drivers to stay home unless absolutely necessary. Grocery chain Tesco said the cold snap had seen a rise in sales of whisky — often served warm in winter — and hot chocolate.

Nine regions in northwest and southeast France were put on a weather alert, warning of snow and ice until Thursday morning. SNCF, France’s national railway, said traffic on the main southeast routes had been affected by heavy snow, but 80 per cent of its high-speed trains were still running.

In Poland, police were carrying out patrols to find homeless people and get them into shelters. The bad weather was also blamed for a collision between a tram and a car that killed one person in Szczecin.

Further south, some 300 people were evacuated from their homes in the northern part of Montenegro because of heavy rains. Authorities in the town of Berane said dozens of homes and roads were flooded and more evacuations were likely.

Neighbouring Albania declared a state of emergency due to widespread flooding in Shkodra district, 120 kilometres northwest of the capital, Tirana, along the Drini River delta.

Hydroelectric power generated from the river covers the bulk of Albania’s energy needs. Prime Minister Sali Berisha says the flooding has resulted in an increase of energy output.

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Sarah Palin: hunt WikiLeaks founder like al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders


Sarah Palin addresses the Republican National Convention  Photo: AFP/GETTY

The founder of WikiLeaks should be hunted down just like al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, according to Sarah Palin.

Telegraph | Dec 1, 2010

Julian Assange was branded “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands” by the prominent Republican, who asked why he has not yet been caught by the authorities.

She accused the Obama administration of “incompetence” and a “strange lack of urgency” in not stopping the release of 250,000 leaked diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks, given that it had already published sensitive information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The former Governor of Alaska and vice-presidential nominee suggested that “cyber tools” should be used to shut down the whistle-blowing website permanently. It has twice been the subject of targeted attacks by hackers to bring it offline this week.

Mr Assange, a 39 year-old Australian former computer hacker who set up WikiLeaks in 2006, has kept out of public view since the release of the first leaked American diplomatic cables on Sunday. He has denied he has blood on his hands. Mr Assange is the subject of an international arrest warrant over allegations of rape in Sweden.

Writing on her Facebook page on Monday, Mrs Palin questioned why the US authorities were not looking for him in the same way that it had hunted suspected terrorists.

“The latest round of publications of leaked classified U.S. documents through the shady organization called Wikileaks raises serious questions about the Obama administration’s incompetent handling of this whole fiasco.

“First and foremost, what steps were taken to stop Wikileaks director Julian Assange from distributing this highly sensitive classified material especially after he had already published material not once but twice in the previous months?

“He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders?”

She went on: “What if any diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on NATO, EU, and other allies to disrupt Wikileaks’ technical infrastructure? Did we use all the cyber tools at our disposal to permanently dismantle Wikileaks? Were individuals working for Wikileaks on these document leaks investigated? Shouldn’t they at least have had their financial assets frozen just as we do to individuals who provide material support for terrorist organizations?”

Mrs Palin, who is tipped to run for President in 2012, also said that “serious questions” had to be asked about how the “highly sensitive” memos from diplomats and intelligence officers could have been uploaded onto a computer memory stick and given to WikiLeaks from a supposedly secure US defence department network known as Siprnet. The prime suspect is Bradley Manning, a young private in the US Army who is now being held ahead of a court-martial.

Mrs Palin asked why the White House had not issued orders to tighten security back in July, when WikiLeaks released thousands of classified military documents on Afghanistan.

“What explains this strange lack of urgency on their part?”

Mrs Palin concluded: “We are at war. American soldiers are in Afghanistan fighting to protect our freedoms. They are serious about keeping America safe. It would be great if they could count on their government being equally serious about that vital task.”

Rick Santorum, another prominent conservative, agreed with her, saying: “We haven’t gone after this guy, we haven’t tried to prosecute him, we haven’t gotten our allies to go out and lock this guy up and bring him up on terrorism charges.”

The Obama administration has said that it “deeply regrets” the leaking of the embarrassing cables that have disclosed exactly what American diplomats think of foreign leaders and promised to take “aggressive steps” against those who “stole” them.

Rothschild setting up one of the world’s largest coal producers to feed Chinese demand

A member of the Rothschild lineage that helped bankroll Britain’s war against Napoleonic France, he’s leading a $3 billion takeover that will create the biggest exporter of coal to China.

Rothschild Plays Strongest Suit With Coal Mining Deal

Bloomberg | Dec 1, 2010

By Jesse Riseborough and Simon Casey

Nat Rothschild plans to create a global mining company by leveraging his name, hedge-fund experience and a personal network that reads like a Who’s Who of the commodities world. Source: Finsbury Ltd. via Bloomberg

One of the most successful trades at Atticus Capital LP, where Nathaniel Rothschild was co-chairman, was an investment in U.S. mining company Phelps Dodge Corp. The future 5th Baron Rothschild says he now plans to build one of the world’s largest coal producers.

A member of the Rothschild lineage that helped bankroll Britain’s war against Napoleonic France, he’s leading a $3 billion takeover that will create the biggest exporter of coal to China.

Rothschild is leveraging his name, more than a decade of hedge-fund experience and a network that reads like a Who’s Who of commodities. He’s friends with Ivan Glasenberg, head of the biggest commodity trader Glencore International AG; advises Russian aluminum billionaire Oleg Deripaska; and is on the board of Peter Munk’s Barrick Gold Corp., the largest gold miner.

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“There’s no global coal company today,” Rothschild, 39, says in an interview. “There’s not a Barrick Gold in coal. That’s where the opportunity is.”

Rothschild — who likes to be called Nat — had been searching for a natural-resources acquisition since Vallar Plc, the investment company he founded, raised 707 million pounds ($1.1 billion) in an initial public offering in London in July. The transaction announced Nov. 16 will combine Vallar, 25 percent of Indonesian coal producer PT Bumi Resources and 75 percent of PT Berau Coal Energy.

“My plate is pretty full,” says Rothschild. “The only slight kind of stress is on my travel schedule and my social life, which is non-existent.”

Atticus Career

Rothschild has “the nerve to call up anyone and what’s interesting is he’s taken seriously,” says Michael Rawlinson, a banker who met Rothschild in New York in the 1990s and is now head of resources at Liberum Capital Ltd. in London. “Ivan Glasenberg or Oleg Deripaska, they’ve come from nothing,” he says, “they are not impressed by posh blokes.”

Before setting up Vallar, Rothschild worked at hedge-fund firm Atticus Capital LP in New York, which generated almost $7 billion for investors. Most of the Atticus funds were wound up last year after founder Timothy Barakett decided to spend more time with his family.

Rothschild says his work at Atticus “immersed” him in commodities, which became his “strongest suit.” He also got to know some of the industry’s most influential people.

“He has an unparalleled range of contacts,” says Munk, Barrick’s founder and chairman. “Certainly being a Rothschild does help, but opening a door, if you’re an idiot, it’s a single event. He has shown a talent.”

Eton, Oxford

Rothschild, whose main residence is in Klosters, Switzerland, is the only son of U.K. financier Lord Jacob Rothschild, the 4th Baron Rothschild, a former banker and modern art collector.

He attended Eton, the English private school that counts 19 British prime ministers as former pupils, and is dating Princess Florence von Preussen, the great-great-granddaughter of the last German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II, according to the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

After studying history at Oxford University, Rothschild joined Lazard Ltd., having been introduced to the world of finance during trips with his father to New York to meet the business elite.

“I was exposed at a very, very early age to a lot of these big Wall Street tycoons,” he says.

Dinner With Deripaska

On one visit, father and son met Eric Gleacher, whose investment bank Gleacher & Co. was two floors below the Rothschild family office on Madison Avenue. Gleacher offered Rothschild a job as an analyst, and it was there that he met Harvard Business School graduate Barakett. Rothschild joined him the following year as Atticus’s second employee.

The hedge fund, named after Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, was an activist shareholder, pressing copper producer Phelps Dodge to return cash to shareholders and find a buyer. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.’s 2007 acquisition of Phelps returned a $520 million gain, Rothschild says.

While at Atticus, Rothschild established his relationship with Deripaska. They first met in Paris in 2002 at a meeting where “the average age was considerably older than our average ages,” he says. “We ended up going out and having dinner.”

Rothschild chairs the board of EN+ Group Ltd., the holding company through which Deripaska controls assets including Moscow-based United Co. Rusal, the largest aluminum maker.

Los Angeles Meeting

Since the Vallar IPO, he says he’s looked at potential deals with OAO Polyus Gold, Russia’s largest producer of the precious metal, and Moscow-based iron-ore miner OAO Metalloinvest.

It was in Los Angeles in October that he met for the first time with Nirwan Bakrie, one of the Bakrie family, which controls Bumi, Indonesia’s largest coal producer. The three-way merger will create a “resources champion” in Indonesia, according to Vallar. The country is the world’s biggest exporter of power-station coal.

“Indonesia is a sleeping giant,” Rothschild says. “One scratches one’s head to think why isn’t there a mining champion out there already and hopefully we are in the process of showcasing one in the years ahead.”

The new company, Bumi Plc, will trade in London using Vallar’s listing there, and plans to almost double coal production from mines in Indonesia to 140 million metric tons a year by 2013.

“To be able to do an IPO without having any assets, he has to be somebody,” Indra Bakrie, who will be Bumi Plc’s chairman, says of Rothschild. “I wish I could do that.”