- - Sunday, November 28, 2010

SWITZERLAND

Swiss OK expulsion of foreign criminals

GENEVA | Switzerland endorsed Sunday a far-right push to automatically expel foreign residents convicted of certain crimes, to the dismay of critics who described it as a “dark day for human rights.”

The approval of the initiative in a referendum was an expression of insecurity, the justice minister said, stressing the government would examine how to implement the new rule without violating its international obligations.

In the vote, 52.9 percent were in favor of automatic expulsions and 47.1 percent were against, with the country’s German-speaking majority largely backing the proposal. Only six of the 26 cantons rejected the initiative.

The vote came exactly a year after Switzerland shocked the world by agreeing to ban the construction of new minarets, which was another proposal backed by the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP).

SPAIN

Government braced for new setback in vote

BARCELONA | Spain’s Socialist government, battered by fears of an Irish-style rescue of its troubled economy, braced for a new blow as voters went to the polls in regional elections in Catalonia on Sunday.

Polls indicate voters in what has traditionally been Spain’s economic powerhouse will kick out the Socialist-led coalition in favor of the center-right nationalist Convergence and Union (CiU) coalition.

Such an outcome would mark the end of seven years of Socialist government in the region and the return of the CiU, which held power for 23 years until 2003.

It also would be a new setback for the central government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, which is battling deep concerns on world financial markets that Spain could follow Greece and Ireland in seeking an EU bailout of its economy.

GERMANY

Jews elect 1st leader born after Holocaust

BERLIN | Germany’s Central Council of Jews said its board has elected 60-year-old businessman Dieter Graumann to be its new leader - making him the first president of the organization who is not a Holocaust survivor.

The board, meeting Sunday in Frankfurt, elected Mr. Graumann to represent the country’s estimated 200,000 Jews.

Mr. Graumann succeeds 78-year-old Charlotte Knobloch, who witnessed the Nazi destruction of the Munich synagogue in 1938 and survived Nazi Germany by hiding with a German family.

Ms. Knobloch did not seek a new term as the organization’s president.

Mr. Graumann, who has been the organization’s vice president since 2006, was born in Israel in 1950. His family returned to Germany two years later.

ITALY

Escort says premier invited her to house

ROME | A self-described escort said Sunday that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi personally invited her to two parties at his villas where young, foreign women were plentiful.

Nadia Macri, 28, told Sky TG24 on Sunday that she believed many of the women - Brazilians and Russians mostly - were minors, but didn’t know for sure since they didn’t talk among themselves.

Ms. Macri is the latest woman to recount evenings spent at Mr. Berlusconi’s villas - allegations that have fueled a political crisis that has brought the government to a no-confidence vote in two weeks.

Italian newspapers earlier this month published transcripts of Ms. Macri’s testimony to prosecutors in which she said Mr. Berlusconi paid her $13,000 for sexual favors at the parties.

Berlusconi attorney Niccolo Ghedini said Sunday that Ms. Macri’s comments were “devoid of any foundation” and had been disproved.