Daily Archives: December 4, 2010

Swedes told to stay off the roads and stay at home due to harsh winter weather

thelocal.se | Dec 10, 2010

Snowfalls and a slew of road accidents in southern Sweden, has led to calls from the authorities for drivers to leave their cars at home.

“There are difficulties in traffic almost everywhere,” said Martin Carlsson at Skåne police.

The traffic situation in the county of Skåne in southern Sweden remained troublesome overnight as snowfalls continued.

Police reported a total of 40 traffic accidents during Wednesday and overnight, although none of the accidents are reported to be serious.

“There is limited access on minor roads and an accident involving a truck on the E6 motorway near Vellinge has brought traffic to a standstill,” said Martin Carlsson.

The Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) has recommended road-users to stay at home and the meteorological agency SMHI has issued a class one weather warning.

“Those who go out in the traffic are going to experience problems,” Tobbe Lundell at the administration told the Aftonbladet newspaper.

The snow is continuing to fall heavily in several parts of Skåne and SMHI estimates that around 10 centimetres has fallen in local areas.

Recent days have seen cold temperatures blanket the country, but it is in Skåne where most of the snow has fallen and more is expected as a new front of harsh winter weather pushes in from Germany during the day.

Sweden braces for record freeze

thelocal.se | Nov 30, 2010

By Peter Vinthagen Simpson

Stockholm is forecast to experience its coldest seasonal temperatures for over 100 years this week as winter weather takes hold of the country, according to the Swedish Meteorological Institute (SMHI).

Temperatures across the country are expected to drop to record lows for the first week of December, with the exception of the far north, with averages coming in 7-10 degrees Celsius below normal.

Stockholm registered -11 degrees Celsius at the weekend, the coldest November temperature since 1965 and the mercury is set to plunge further on Wednesday and Thursday, dropping as low as -15.

“It is far below average temperatures, which usually oscillate around zero at this time of the year,” said Alexandra Ohlsson, a meteorologist with SMHI.

Dalarna and Jämtland in northern Sweden will also be hit with the harsh weather. The Storsjön lake in the heart of Jämtland’s main city Östersund has already frozen over in most parts.

SMHI forecasted that in southern and central areas the cold will ease off somewhat come Friday. Northern Norrland will however drop to minus 14-17 degrees Celsius in the middle of the day.

The sub-zero temperatures are here to stay though, even in the south, Alexandra Ohlsson said.

“It looks like the sub-zero temperatures will persist,” she said.

With more snow on the way in from the Baltic Sea, the current high snow depth of eight decimetres, recorded in Tidaholm in western Sweden, is set to be exceeded.

Habo and Mullsjö are some of the most wintry white municipalities in southern and central Sweden, and warnings have been issued over the dangers associated with heavy snowfalls.

Emergency services in Jönköping county in central Sweden are urging people to check their roofs, especially split-level houses where deep pockets of heavy snow can form.

SMHI was reluctant to issue a forecast for Christmas and on whether the temperatures will remain low enough to keep away the slush that typifies the festive season in many parts of southern and central Sweden.

At least 60 dead in Europe as below zero cold and snow cause havoc

AFP | Dec 3, 2010

LONDON — A cold snap across Europe has claimed at least 60 lives, authorities said Friday, as snow disrupted transport in Britain and serious flooding forced thousands of people to be evacuated in the Balkans.

Seventeen people died from the cold in Central Europe in the past 24 hours, bringing the total this week to 45. A further 11 died in Russia, plus three in France and one in Germany, according to local authorities.

At least 30 people, mainly homeless men, have died in Poland in the past week, and temperatures dropped to minus 15 degrees Celsius (five degrees Fahrenheit) overnight.

Temperatures plunged to minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus four Fahrenheit) in Braemar, Scotland, while Britain struggled to get back to its feet after days of transport chaos caused by bad weather.

London’s Gatwick airport reopened on Friday after a two-day shutdown due to snow, but other airports including London Heathrow and Glasgow warned of more cancellations and delays.

Many trains were cancelled due to snow and travel by road was slow going, while around 2,000 schools remained closed.

Despite Gatwick finally clearing the runways, freezing fog meant flights would be limited and “delays and cancellations inevitable”, Europe’s eighth-busiest passenger airport said.

“It is likely to take a few days before flight schedules return to normal,” it said.

Eurostar, which operates high-speed passenger trains linking London with Paris and Brussels, said it was running a revised timetable, with 17 services cancelled. It warned of delays through the weekend.

Britain’s Transport Secretary Philip Hammond has ordered a review of how transport operators have coped with the cold snap.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said there were “no major concerns” over supplies of food, petrol, diesel or gas despite the continued freezing conditions, even though there were warnings of shortages in some newspapers.

Police in Newcastle in the northeast of England reminded locals to wear a coat when they hit the pubs this weekend. “Geordies” are famed for their indifference to cold weather.

But police in Chatham, southeast of London, were not amused when a woman called the emergency services to report the theft of a snowman.

In Germany a man in his sixties was found dead in the snow outside a savings bank in Leipzig.

Authorities ordered all drivers to equip their vehicles with winter tyres from Saturday, or face a penalty of up to 80 euros (105 dollars).

In France road restrictions introduced after snowfall in some areas were affecting one important seasonal trade: Christmas trees.

“With routes blocked, we must shift the delivery schedule and isn’t due to improve in the next week,” said Frederic Naudet of the association representing natural Christmas tree producers.

Temperatures in Moscow hit a low of minus 24 degrees Celsius (minus 11 Fahrenheit), the lowest for the season in decades, weather authorities said.

In the remote Evenk region in Siberia, temperatures were a crisp minus 51 degrees Celsius (minus 60 Fahrenheit).

Meanwhile in the Western Balkans, flooding caused by rivers swollen through heavy rainfall forced thousands of people from their homes in Albania, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro on Friday, officials said.

More than 7,000 people were moved to safer areas in Albania, where Prime Minister Sali Berisha described the situation as “very serious”.

Thousands of houses were damaged and roads linking the capital Tirana to the north of the country were completely blocked, local authorities reported.

In Bosnia authorities declared a state of emergency after some 1,000 homes were flooded around the town of Bijeljina along the Drina river, the natural border between Bosnia and Serbia.

In Serbia, at least 1,400 people were evacuated from the town of Loznica. More than 3,000 more people were at risk from the flooding of the Drina in the area of Loznica, Serbia’s interior ministry said.

In Montenegro around 1,300 people were evacuated due to the “unprecedented” floods that hit the country, Interior Minister Ivan Brajovic said.

Prince Charles backs ‘Climategate’ scientists

Prince Charles: ‘Climate science has taken a battering of late’ Photo: PA

The Prince of Wales has given his support to the scientists involved in the “Climategate” saga, describing their treatment as “appalling”.

Telegraph | Dec 3, 2010

Prince Charles’s comments came as he opened the Science Museum’s new £4.5 million Atmosphere gallery which explores the science behind global warming.

The Prince is a well-known environmental campaigner who has been trying to publicise the threat the planet faces from climate change for many decades.

During his speech to the Science Museum’s senior staff and sponsors of the new exhibition space, the heir to the throne said ”climate science has taken a battering of late”.

For that reason in January he visited the University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences which has the prince as its patron and is home to the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) – the department at the centre of the Climategate row.

The Prince added: ”I wanted to discuss with them the appalling treatment they had endured during the so-called Climategate row because, as they reminded me, the University of East Anglia is not a campaigning NGO, nor an industry lobby group.

”It is an academic institution working to understand precisely and dispassionately what is happening to our world; to separate the facts from the fiction and build the sum of human knowledge on the one issue that could very well balloon into the cause of our downfall.”

The Climategate row was sparked when emails from CRU scientists were hacked and released online last year.

They were seized upon by climate change sceptics who claimed they showed researchers were manipulating and suppressing data to back up a theory of man-made global warming.

A number of reviews were launched into the affair but none found evidence of scientific malpractice.

Professor Chris Rapley, director of London’s Science Museum, took the prince on a tour of the modern exhibition space that features touch screen displays, games that educate while entertaining and star exhibits.

Amongst the prized displays was an original Keeling air sampling flask used by the American scientist Charles David Keeling who in 1958 began the longest continuous recordings of atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the world.

At the summit of a mountain in Hawaii he would hold his breath, open the flask’s stopper and collect air that was sent to the US for analysis.

The Prince of Wales peered at the bowling ball-sized object which was covered in a protective bandage and then looked at a nearby refrigerator holding Antarctic ice core samples dating back hundreds of years and containing bubbles of atmospheric air from the period studied by scientists.

In his speech to the guests Prof Rapley said: “Climate Change is a fascinating subject in its own right so it’s entirely appropriate that we chose to dedicate our new gallery to climate science.”

He added that after research the museum had found the knowledge of some of its visitors, almost three million a year, on global warming was “hazy” with “much confusion”.

Prof Rapley added: “The gallery provides an experience that is designed to be memorable and enjoyable, divided into five zones – four that deliver information on aspects of the climate system and a fifth one which provides insights into the opportunities offered by technological innovation to achieve a low carbon world.

“We also have specially commissioned interactive displays that the Science Museum is really expert at that allow visitors, through game play and interrogation, to inform themselves on basic topics of the climate system right through to how to protect London from flooding.”

Artist has camera surgically inserted so he can have ‘eyes at the back of his head’ for a year

Mr Bilal will wear a lens cap on the camera when he teaches at Tisch School of the Arts in New York after an uproar over privacy issues

A New York University professor has had a camera implanted in the back of his head – and it was done all in the name of art.

Daily Mail | Dec 3, 2010

Iraqi-born Wafaa Bilal had the procedure done at a piercing studio last month for a project commissioned by a museum in Qatar.

The camera will broadcast everything he ‘sees’ to the public and will be transmitted to Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in time for their December 30 opening.

The project, called The 3rd I, will take snap-shot photographs each minute of his everyday activities for one year, Mr Bilal said.

The waterproof camera will capture everything from him taking a shower, walking down the street, to even him having sex.

Mr Bilal shaved a square patch of hair before a titanium plate was inserted inside the back of his head.

A small camera was mounted on the base plate which connects magnetically.

He has a cable runs from the camera to a computer which he carries in a custom-made shoulder bag.

‘Yes it hurt a lot’, he said in response to whether the procedure carried out under local anaesthetic was painful.

‘I wanted to lose that subjectivity of knowingly taking photographs’, Mr Bilal said. ‘At the same time I wanted to capture everyday mundane images.

He says the project is ‘a comment on the inaccessibility of time, and the inability to capture memory and experience.’

After an uproar over privacy issues, Mr Bilal has agreed to conserve the privacy of his students at Tisch School of the Arts by wearing a lens cap on the camera when he’s on campus.

University spokesman John Beckman said: ‘We place a high value on his right to free expression in his creative work as an artist. But as a school of the arts, we also take seriously the privacy issues his project raises.

The Quatari museum’s curator Till Fellrath said: ‘He’s not really a photographer, he’s not really a video artist, he’s not really a performance artist.

‘Whatever artwork he creates, he doesn’t want people to just look at it, he wants them to participate in it.’

Having an ‘eye’ at the back of his head is not Mr Bilal’s first controversial project.

In 2008, he created an artwork called ‘Virtual Jihadi’ in which he added himself as a character in a video game, posing as a suicide bomber hunting George W Bush.

The exhibition was eventually shut down after a wave of protests.

In June this year Mr Bilal had the names of Iraqi cities tattooed on his back with dots to mark American and Iraqi casualties.

Mr Bilal believes his artwork has a deeper meaning than just to get attention.

He said: ‘I see myself as a mirror reflecting some of the social conditions that we ignore’.

Troops to occupy Brazilian slum through October 2011

A Coordination of Special Resources (CORE) policeman aims his gun in the Alemao slum of Rio de Janeiro on Monday.

Brazil, which will host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, is under increasing pressure to crack down on violent crime and clean up its slums.

CNN | Nov 30, 2010

By Mariano Castillo

(CNN) — The military operation to clear a Rio de Janeiro slum of drug traffickers will effectively turn into an occupation of the area at least through October of next year, Gov. Sergio Cabral said in a radio interview Tuesday.

Rio state Gov. Sergio Cabral said that at least 2,000 troops will remain at the Alemao slum — called a favela in Portuguese — to keep up the effort to pacify the area. He announced the move after meeting with Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president-elect, in the capital, Brasilia. Originally, he had requested the troops for only six months.

Rousseff offered her support for the security work being carried out in Rio, Cabral said. The troops are needed so that the government doesn’t have to delay future operations in other communities overrun by drug traffickers, he said.


Armored vehicles roll into Rio de Janeiro slum

The troops will remain until a police unit and station are installed in Alemao, slated for the middle of next year.

Brazil, which will host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, is under increasing pressure to crack down on violent crime and clean up its slums.

Over the weekend, armored vehicles followed by police trucks rolled into the favela to restore order.

The police to be placed are known as Pacifying Police Units, a special force designed to live and work in the favelas they protect. Such units are already in operations in some favelas, but this most recent operation is the most ambitious to date.

Authorities have been trying to dislodge traffickers from their hiding places for two years, but the operation in Alemao is the first time the government has tried to regain territory run by the criminals in earnest, said Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Institute for Scholars.

At the outset, the events appear to be a victory for the government, but winning over the locals, who were living under the rule and services of the traffickers, will be a challenge.

“This is just the beginning. [Police] will have to work with people to convince them that you will not abuse their rights,” Sotero said. That is the goal of the Pacifying Police.

Reaction inside and outside Brazil to the success of the current operation has been positive, with speculation that the country is trying to clean up its streets before the World Cup and Olympics come to town.

Sotero, however, suggests that it is domestic pressure that is leading to police work.

As a whole, Brazil’s economy is growing, and so is the middle class. As people find themselves in better situations, they also begin to demand better quality of life, Sotero said. People want things like better education and security.

“This, I think, is what created the pressure to try to find new solutions for a very old problem,” he said.

The slums became dangerous places during a period when the city and state of Rio had poor government, something that was exploited during the drug boom in the 1980s, Sotero said.

Conversely, one of the factors behind the efficient action today is the fact that the local and state leaders are from the same political party and are allies with the federal government, said Thomas Trebat, executive director of the Institute of Latin American Studies at Columbia University.

While Brazil as a whole is doing well, economic and social indicators in the city of Rio have lagged, Trebat said. This is significant because Rio is often seen as a representation of Brazil as a whole.

“This isn’t Las Vegas. What happens here doesn’t stay here,” he said.

The perception is that “if this iconic city is undergoing social chaos, how can it be that Brazil is a BRIC?” Trebat said, referring to the designation given to rapidly rising countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The World Cup and Olympics may be an impetus for acting now, but the pressure comes from Rio’s need to reflect the better side of Brazil, he said.

Whatever the reason for the incursion and occupation of Alemao, residents there are optimistic about the future.

“We have already weathered many difficult situations here, but thank God things improved,” said Jose Maria Pereira, a retiree.

Dilsa Maria, a maid, said, “We lived a very repressed life. Now we have more freedom. We can come and go. This is important not just for me but for everyone here.”

Top Government official ‘subtly fondled five women on trains in string of sex attacks’

A top government official has appeared in court accused of sexually assaulting five women on trains.

Daily Mail | Dec 3, 2010

Nicholas Shaw is accused of touching and 'squeezing' women on his commute

Nicholas Shaw is assistant director of criminal investigations for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in charge of the North West. He is also deputy head for the west of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

He is accused of touching and ‘squeezing’ women on the Glossop to Piccadilly train as he commuted between his home in Broadbottom, Hyde, and his office at Ralli Quays in Salford.

The 55-year-old denies all the sexual assault charges.

Mr Shaw handed himself in last April after seeing his picture in the press and reading he was ‘wanted’ by British Transport Police.

The prosecution at Manchester Crown Court has alleged that he ‘made it his business’ to get close to women passengers before ‘subtly’ fondling them.

Mr Shaw said: ‘When I saw the newspaper article I was shocked and I was angry. I couldn’t believe that anyone had said that about me.

‘I know 100 per cent that I didn’t assault any woman.’

One of the alleged victims claims Mr Shaw pressed on her thigh for up to 25 minutes as he sat next to her on the train.

Another told the jury that Mr Shaw ‘squeezed’ her right buttock.

Mr Shaw was suspended from his position two days after the article was published.

He told the jury: ‘What concerns me is that I made one or more of these women uncomfortable without knowing it. And that churns my stomach, frankly. It’s against what I believe in.’

The case continues.