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World in Brief: 12/4/2014

Portugal has credit rating upgraded

GREECE: German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid a flying visit to Athens yesterday, but didn’t see any of the protests mounted against the austerity her country was instrumental in visiting on Greece.

Police banned protests across central Athens and threw a cordon around the whole area manned by some 5,000 police.

Opposition party Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said Ms Merkel would get no sense of the austerity measures she supported.

“I encourage her to visit a hospital and witness the third world conditions… or a school where teachers try to cope with underfed children,” he wrote.

ITALY: A longtime political ally, business associate and friend of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was declared a fugitive yesterday after fleeing the country before a final ruling on mafia collusion charges.

A Palermo court issued an arrest warrant this week for former senator Marcello Dell’Utri, who co-founded Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party in 1994, after prosecutors said they had evidence he might abscond before the verdict due next Tuesday.

GERMANY: A furniture chain apologised yesterday for selling mugs with Adolf Hitler’s face on them.

The ceramic cups feature an image of a nazi-era postage stamp with Hitler’s profile on it, postmarked with a swastika stamp.

The Zurbrueggen furniture chain apologised for the “terrible” mistake, which it blamed on “a stupid chain of unfortunate circumstances.”

No-one spotted the fuehrer’s face until 175 were sold

EUROPEAN UNION: The European Commission has announced sweeping new guidelines to curtail state support for the renewable energy industry which Brussels claims is harming the global market.

New guidelines released by the commission require the bloc’s 28 member states to gradually replace renewable energy subsidies with a competitive bidding process for allocating public support.

ECONOMY: Ratings agency Fitch upgraded its outlook for Portugal to “positive” yesterday, keeping the credit rating at BB+.

Fitch cited huge cuts agreed by Lisbon and the “recovering” economy of the country.

“Portugal is making good progress in reducing its budget deficit,” the ratings agency said.

However, the country’s unemployment rate remains above 15 per cent.

NETHERLANDS: There are now more Dutch prison guards and other jail staff than inmates, the Justice Ministry revealed yesterday.

Crime rates have fallen slightly in recent years but aren’t notably lower than in neighbouring countries.

In 2008, there were more than 15,000 inmates.

In March, there were just 9,710 remaining, compared with 9,914 guards.

BRAZIL: Squatters in Rio de Janeiro clashed with police yesterday after a court ordered that 5,000 people be evicted from abandoned buildings.

Police moved in to evict people from the buildings owned by a telecoms firm.

Some families left peacefully, but many others fought police and set fire to parts of the building, a bus and a police cruiser.

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