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Friday, February 8, 2013

Leaders Agree to First-Ever Cut to EU Budget

European Union (EU) leaders agreed on Friday to cut the bloc’s budget for the first time in its six-decade history. The deal was reached during marathon talks in Brussels and the agreement on 2014-2020 budget was heralded by European Council President Herman von Rompuy as “worth waiting for”. The new budget stands at €908 billion, less than the €1 trillion proposed originally. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who had campaigned fiercely for budget cuts, lauded the agreement as “a good deal for Britain”, adding that “the British public can be proud that we have cut the seven-year credit card limit for the EU for the first time ever”. French President François Hollande said it was “a good compromise”, but former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said the cuts were “unthinkable” at a time where much of Europe was in recession.

Clashes Reported as Tunisia Buries Main Opposition Figure

Thousands gathered in Tunisia’s capital Tunis for the funeral procession of slain opposition politician Shokri Belaid, with clashes reported outside the cemetery where his burial was held. Witnesses said police fired teargas at those congregating outside the cemetery on Friday, while hours earlier shots were fired by authorities attempting to disperse youths who were vandalising cars in the same area. Belaid was buried in the early afternoon on Friday amidst chants of “Allah Akhbar!” (God is great). Shokri Belaid was a fierce critic of the Ben Ali regime, overthrown in the revolution of 2011. He became a leader of the Popular Front, an organisation of 12 opposition parties who were opposed to the policies of the Islamist government that took power after the overthrown of Ben Ali. He was shot dead outside his home in Tunis on Wednesday by a gunman who escaped on a motorcycle.

Frozen Beef Lasagna Found to Contain 100% Horse Meat

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has ordered British companies to test all of their processed beef products after a brand of frozen lasagna made and sold by Findus was found to contain 100% horse meat. Another 18 products of beef-based lasagna products sold by Findus were tested by the FSA and 11 of them were found to contain at least 60% horse meat. Findus said it was aware of the presence of meat from horses in its products two days before the findings were published, but added it did not instruct shops to remove products from shelves because of a problem with logistics. The chief executive of the FSA, Catherine Brown, said that the presence of horse meat in the product seemed to be deliberate fraud or criminal activity and not simply a mistaken contamination. Companies have until next Friday to comply with the FSA’s orders.

U.K. Asylum Seeker Says He Was Assaulted During Deportation

An asylum seeker from Cameroon has claimed he was assaulted by private security guards on a plane at London’s Heathrow airport last month. Marius Betondi claimed he suffered injuries to his eyes and face as he was placed on a flight out of the U.K. He said he was handcuffed and put on his seat by five security guards, but was beaten when he started complaining of being in pain. “When I started screaming out they started punching me, punching my face”, he told the BBC. He says his nose and face started bleeding and at one point he feared he would suffocate as staff tried to place him under a row of seats. Immigration authorities claimed he caused the injuries himself and that he had been placed in handcuffs because of his behaviour on previous removal attempts. He had sought asylum in the U.K. on the grounds that he faced persecution in Cameroon for being gay, but the U.K. Border Agency did not believe his claims and rejected his application.

Israeli Football Club Suffers Arson Attack After Recruiting Muslims

The offices of Israeli football team Beitar Jerusalem were burned on Friday by what police suspect was an arson attack by fans who were protesting the team’s recent recruitment of two Muslim players from Chechnya. In anticipation of their arrival, some fans had unfurled a banner at an earlier game saying “Beitar Pure Forever”. The club has been linked to racism and violence for years and has never recruited an Arab player since its foundation in 1936. Its fans stormed a local mall last spring chanting “Death to Arabs” and beat up several Arab employees. The section of the club’s offices torched included the team’s trophies, older jerseys, championship pennants, photographs and books. A team spokesman said that it was “not damage by money, it’s damage by emotion”. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud party has historic ties to the club, said that the act was “shameful” and that Israel “cannot accept such racist behaviour”. He added that “the Jewish people, who suffered excommunications and expulsions, need to represent a light unto the nations”.

Weekend Read: Burning Down The House of S&P

Credit rating agencies, like Standard and Poor’s, are being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for certifying risky financial products as safe investments. Was it an honest mistake or fraud on a grand scale? In The New Yorker.

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