- - Wednesday, January 19, 2011

EGYPT

Arab League chief: Tunisia is dire warning

CAIRO | The head of the Arab League told the region’s leaders Wednesday the upheaval in Tunisia is linked to deteriorating economic conditions throughout the Arab world, warning them that their people’s anger has reached unprecedented heights.

In impassioned remarks, Amr Moussa told an Arab economic summit in Egypt that “the Arab soul is broken by poverty, unemployment and general recession.”

“This is in the mind of all of us,” Mr. Moussa said in his opening address to the 20 Arab leaders and other representatives of Arab League members gathered in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik.

The summit is the first top-level Arab meeting since protests fueled by joblessness and other economic woes in Tunisia forced President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee.

BRAZIL

Rains flood Sao Paulo; Rio death toll rises

SAO PAULO | Brazilian officials put Sao Paulo on alert Wednesday as heavy rains hit the metropolis.

In Rio state, meanwhile, deaths from last week’s mudslides rose to 727.

Rains falling in Sao Paulo flooded major highways, a day after downpours stranded motorists, forcing them to be rescued by helicopter from atop their vehicles.

One woman died when her house collapsed in the Tuesday rains.

The mayor’s office issued flood alerts for much of the city, but no new deaths were reported Wednesday.

In towns north of Rio de Janeiro where the deadly mudslides hit last week, a break in the rain allowed rescuers to step up delivery of supplies to isolated areas. They also recovered bodies, pushing up the death toll.

HUNGARY

Prime minister to EU: Stop meddling

STRASBOURG, France | The Hungarian prime minister told European Union politicians Wednesday not to meddle in Hungarian politics while his country holds the EU’s presidency, warning that the entire EU would suffer.

But many legislators at the European Parliament did exactly that, accusing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban of undermining democratic ideals in an EU nation and starting to become, as one lawmaker put it, a “European Chavez” - a reference to Venezuela’s mercurial leader, Hugo Chavez.

It was a raucous and rather unpromising start to the Eastern European nation’s six-month EU presidency. Coming in for particular criticism were Hungary’s new media law, which was criticized as stifling free expression, and Mr. Orban himself, who was accused of trying to undermine democratic ideals in a European Union nation.

VENEZUELA

Work set to begin on undersea cable

CARACAS | A specialized ship has arrived in Venezuela carrying enough fiber-optic cable to connect the South American country to Cuba, and will soon begin laying the cable along the sea floor to establish a link expected to dramatically improve telephone and Internet service for Cubans.

The French-flagged ship Ile de Batz was anchored on the Venezuelan coast and will begin rolling out the cable across the Caribbean Sea in the coming days, said Jose Ignacio Quintero, a manager for Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent SA, which is carrying out the project.

He said in a telephone interview Tuesday that the ship brought the cable from the French port of Calais, and reached Venezuela on Sunday. He said the cable is scheduled to be functional in July, spanning about 1,000 miles from Camuri in Venezuela to Siboney in eastern Cuba.

Cuba is the only nation in the Western Hemisphere that is not linked to the outside world by optical fiber. Instead, it relies on slow, expensive satellite links because the U.S. government’s embargo has prevented most trade between the island and the United States and has made companies in other countries shy away from doing business with Cuba.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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