You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

Briefly: Anglican archbishop steps down

- - Sunday, December 30, 2012

LONDON — The archbishop of the Church of England is leaving office after a decade as the spiritual leader of the world's 80 million-strong Anglican Communion.

Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, will be replaced by 56-year-old former oil executive Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham.

The 10 years in which Archbishop Williams, 62, held office saw him struggling to maintain unity within the Anglican Communion amid bitter disagreements over female bishops and church teachings on gay relationships.

Archbishop Williams has been praised for engaging with church critics and atheists including Richard Dawkins, but he also has raised eyebrows with his opinions on controversial issues including the war in Iraq and Shariah law.

RUSSIA

Official acquitted in jail death case

MOSCOW — The only official charged with the death of a Russian whistleblowing lawyer walked free Friday after a Moscow court acquitted him of negligence in a case that has become a rallying point for human rights advocates and sparked escalating legislation in the U.S. and Russia.

Sergei Magnitsky died in jail in 2009 after his pancreatitis went untreated, and an investigation by Russia's presidential council on human rights concluded he was severely beaten and denied medical treatment. Prison doctor Dmitry Kratov was the only person to face trial in the case.

Judge Tatyana Neverova said she found no evidence that Dr. Kratov's negligence could have caused the lawyer's death.

ITALY

Confused election gets another twist

ROME — Italy's already chaotic election campaign has gotten a new twist with another big personality taking part: The country's respected national anti-Mafia prosecutor has joined ranks with the center-left Democratic Party, a big win for a party already ahead in the polls before February elections.

Prosecutor Pietro Grasso choked up as he recounted how his hand trembled a few days ago when he signed a letter asking to end his 43-year career fighting the mob.

He explained his "radical" decision to run for an as yet unknown office as wanting to leave a better country for his grandson.

GERMANY

Registry: Germans own 5.5 million firearms

BERLIN — Germany's new national firearms registry shows there are 5.5 million guns in legal circulation in the country.

That's an average of four weapons for each of the 1.4 million registered owners.

It is the first time reliable nationwide figures have been collected; previously such data were held by local authorities.

The registry provides a central national database to help police track the buyer and seller of each legally owned gun in Germany.

All European Union countries must have such a registry by 2015.

Interior Ministry spokesman Philipp Spauschus said Friday the registry would make a "concrete contribution to public safety."

Gun ownership rules in the nation of 82 million are far stricter than in the United States, and firearms must be securely stored out of reach of unauthorized persons.

FRANCE

Champagne loses fizz in Europe after tough year

PARIS — Europeans are finding fewer reasons to pop open a bottle of Champagne as another year of economic troubles and high unemployment saps the region's appetite for the finer things.

But while the latest industry figures show that sales might be on the wane in Europe, other markets, particularly Japan and the United States, are developing a taste for a glass of bubbly.

In what is certain to be bad news for the vineyards, France — Champagne's largest market — is drinking fewer bottles.

Sales of Champagne for the country were down 4.9 percent, and 5 percent elsewhere in the 27-country European Union, in the first nine months of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011, according to CIVC, the national association of growers and producers of the wine.

Nineteen months of rising unemployment and growing fears that the worst is yet to come have taken their toll on France — nearly 7 in 10 French are worried about their country's future, according to a recent poll.

"The French are pessimist by nature," said Antoine Chiquet, whose family has been producing Champagne for three generations and wine for eight. "We had a difficult election, we're in an economy where Europe's foundations are being questioned."

Nonetheless, the country managed to drink 175.7 million bottles of Champagne from Nov. 1, 2011, to Oct. 31, according to CIVC — enough for nearly 3 bottles a year for every man, woman and child but about 10 million bottles fewer than the previous year.

In contrast, the U.S. consumed enough sparkling wine for about 1.5 bottles per person in 2010, the latest figures available from the California-based Wine Institute.

But while the news out of France and Europe is bad, CIVC figures show export sales were up 3 percent in the first three quarters of the year. Top markets included the U.S., Japan and, to a lesser extent, China.

A total of 19.4 million bottles of Champagne went to the United States and 7.9 million went to Japan — the only two countries outside Europe in the top seven export markets.

From wire dispatches and staff reports