- - Sunday, December 9, 2012

OSLO — European leaders arriving in Norway to receive the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize said the EU needs more integration and authority to solve problems, including the bloc’s financial crisis.

Conceding that the European Union lacked sufficient powers to stop the Bosnia war in the 1990s, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Sunday it is “one of the most powerful arguments for a stronger European Union.”

Mr. Barroso was in Oslo with EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and the president of the EU Parliament, Martin Schulz, to receive this year’s award, granted to the European Union for fostering peace on a continent ravaged by war.


Lower house approves medical marijuana

PRAGUE — The lower house of Parliament has approved legislation that makes it legal in the Czech Republic to use marijuana for medical treatment.

The bill still needs to be approved by Parliament’s upper house.

The lawmakers agreed that marijuana would be imported and later grown locally by registered firms licensed for such activity, which currently is illegal.

Patients will need a prescription from a doctor to get the drug at pharmacies, and treatment will not be covered by health insurance. Patients would not be allowed to grow marijuana at home.

Medical marijuana use is legal in several European countries and parts of the United States. The drug is commonly used to relieve conditions such as chronic pain and cancer.


Russia threatens response to U.S. trade bill

MOSCOW — Moscow has strongly criticized U.S. legislation that calls for sanctions against Russian officials accused of human rights abuses and warned that it will respond in kind.

A leading anti-corruption crusader, however, hailed the bill as “pro-Russian.”

The legislation is primarily intended to end Cold War-era trade restrictions and was hailed by U.S. businesses worried about falling behind in the race to win shares of Russia’s more open market, but its human rights part has outraged President Vladimir Putin’s government.

The measure, dubbed the Magnitsky Act, is named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested by officials he accused of a $230-million tax fraud. He repeatedly was denied medical treatment and in 2009 died after almost a year in jail after being severely beaten by guards.

Russian rights groups accused the Kremlin of failing to prosecute those responsible, while independent media claimed that such tax frauds are widespread.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry responded to the U.S. Senate vote by calling it a “show in the theater of the absurd.”

It warned that Russia will respond to the new legislation in kind, adding that the U.S. will have to take the blame for the worsening of U.S.-Russian ties.


Dutch to send Turkey missile defense systems

THE HAGUE — Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said the government has approved a NATO request to send two batteries of Patriot missile defense systems to Turkey, following in Germany’s footsteps.

Parliament must sign off on Friday’s Cabinet decision, but Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s two-party coalition has a comfortable majority in the 150-seat lower house, so the vote is expected to be a formality.

The Dutch decision came a day after Germany agreed to send two Patriot batteries and troops to Turkey’s southern border with Syria at NATO’s request.

The Western alliance approved sending the weapons to prevent cross-border attacks against Turkey after mortar rounds and shells from Syria killed five Turks.

Mr. Timmermans said 130 Dutch troops will also be deployed to operate the Patriot systems.


More soldiers being mulled for Naples crime war

ROME — More Italian soldiers could be headed to Naples, which is reeling from a mob killing at a nursery school.

Interior Minister Annamaria Cancellieri visited the school Friday and told reporters that the government is deciding how many more troops to deploy.

On Wednesday, gunmen believed to be from the Camorra crime syndicate pursued a man into the school, fatally shooting him in the back and head. The man allegedly dealt drugs for a rival clan.

The school’s students were elsewhere in the facility practicing for a Christmas pageant, and none was hurt.

Crime turf wars in Naples have claimed some 400 lives since 2004. Over the years, hundreds of troops have been deployed to the southern region.


Britain sees decline in Christmas birds

LONDON — Just try finding a partridge in a pear tree in Britain these days.

Britain’s Royal Society for Protection of Birds says the two icons of the Christmas song — gray partridges and turtle doves — are in alarming decline.

It says authorities should act to prevent them from becoming just distant memories within the famed “Twelve Days of Christmas” song.

The society says the number of partridges has dropped 30 percent. Turtle doves are even worse off — with a 60 percent decline in numbers.

The society warns, at this rate, the dove will face extinction by the middle of the next decade.

Society spokesman Grahame Madge says that budget cuts by the British government and the European Union threaten farm programs that support wildlife such as the birds.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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