- The Washington Times - Monday, January 26, 2009

FRANCE

Recovery begins after killer storm

PARIS | French authorities deployed 10,000 cleanup and recovery workers and Spain let evacuated villagers return home Sunday - a day after deadly storms pounded southwest France and northeast Spain.

Authorities in Spain reported at least 12 deaths linked to the storm, including four children crushed as a sports facility buckled in high winds in Barcelona. In France, at least six people died - including a couple who died of carbon-monoxide poisoning from a generator they had turned on overnight in a power outage in the Dordogne region, officials said.

Chain saws buzzed and clearing crews fanned out on both sides of the French-Spanish border as workers cut through felled trees on homes, power lines, rail tracks and roadways and took away debris Sunday.

“The issue today is to restore electricity as quickly as possible,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters at a crisis response center in Bordeaux, adding that 10,000 people including rescue teams, state officials, civil security workers and others had been deployed in France.

BELGIUM

Thousands mourn after school killings

DENDERMONDE | About 6,000 people marched silently through this northwest Belgian town Sunday, laying hundreds of bouquets and stuffed animals outside the day care center where a man with a knife killed two babies and a caregiver.

Dendermonde Mayor Piet Buyse said the center would not reopen.

Police are still questioning a 20-year-old man who they believe carried out the rampage Friday morning at the nursery, Authorities say he is refusing to cooperate.

The man has been charged with three counts of murder and 12 counts of attempted murder. He was carrying a backpack of weapons and the addresses of three other day care centers when he was apprehended, police said.

RUSSIA

Orthodox elders to pick leader

MOSCOW | Senior members of the Russian Orthodox Church on Sunday began the process of selecting a new leader after the death last month of Patriarch Alexy II.

Church leaders are to make a short-list of the dozens of possible candidates in a secret ballot at Christ the Savior’s Cathedral. They will make a final choice by Thursday before a weekend enthronement.

It will be the first election of a patriarch since the Soviet breakup and comes as the church is enjoying unprecedented popularity and close ties to the Kremlin.

Alexy II died Dec. 5 at age 79. He became patriarch in 1990, just before the demise of the officially atheist Soviet Union.

ITALY

Rape comment draws criticism

ROME | Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is being criticized for suggesting that Italy’s women are so beautiful they need military escorts to avoid rape.

Mr. Berlusconi made the comments Sunday, responding to questions about a proposal to deploy 300,000 soldiers in the streets to fight crime. A series of violent crimes, including a rape in Rome on New Year’s Eve and another outside the capital this week, prompted the proposal.

But Mr. Berlusconi said even with added police, such crimes can happen, and that “We would need so many soldiers because our women are so beautiful.”

Opposition lawmaker Giovanna Melandri said Mr. Berlusconi’s comments were “profoundly offensive.” Mr. Berlusconi said he was complimenting women.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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