Catherine Hornby http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby Catherine Hornby's Profile Wed, 27 Nov 2013 18:00:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 Berlusconi expelled from Italian parliament over tax fraud http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/27/italy-berlusconi-idUSL5N0JC2ET20131127?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/11/27/berlusconi-expelled-from-italian-parliament-over-tax-fraud/#comments Wed, 27 Nov 2013 17:28:01 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/?p=457 ROME, Nov 27 (Reuters) – The Italian Senate expelled Silvio
Berlusconi over his tax fraud conviction on Wednesday, drawing a
defiant response from the veteran centre-right leader who vowed
to continue leading his party and fight on outside parliament.

The vote, after months of political wrangling, opens an
uncertain new phase in Italian politics, with the 77-year-old
media billionaire preparing to use all his extensive resources
to attack Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s coalition government.

“We are here on a bitter day, a day of mourning for
democracy,” Berlusconi told several thousand supporters from his
Forza Italia party in front of his residence in central Rome as
the Senate voted only a few hundred yards away.

Berlusconi, who has dominated politics in Italy for two
decades, has already pulled his party out of Letta’s coalition
after seven months in government, accusing leftwing opponents of
mounting a “coup d’etat” to eliminate him.

Stripped of his parliamentary immunity from arrest, he is
more vulnerable in a series of other cases, where he is accused
of offences including political bribery and paying for sex with
a minor.

However he no longer commands enough support in parliament
to bring down the government, which easily won a confidence vote
on the 2014 budget late on Tuesday with the support of around 30
dissidents who split off from Forza Italia this month.

Letta declared on Wednesday that his government was now
“stronger and more cohesive” after winning the budget vote and
said it would press on with its reform programme.

The Senate declared Berlusconi ineligible for parliament
after he was convicted of masterminding a complex system of
illegally inflated invoices to cut the tax bill for his Mediaset
television empire.

Under a law passed with Berlusconi’s support last year,
politicians convicted of serious criminal offences are
ineligible for parliament, but his expulsion had to be confirmed
by a full vote in the Senate.

The court sentenced him to four years in jail, commuted to a
year likely to be spent performing community service. He was
also banned from holding public office for two years, preventing
any immediate return to government.

Both Letta’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and former
comedian Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement
rejected a series of motions challenging the move.

VICTIM

In a characteristic piece of political theatre, Berlusconi
addressed a rally of supporters outside his Rome residence as
the vote was taking place, underlining that he will remain a
troublesome opponent to the government even outside parliament.

“I’m not going to be retiring to some convent,” he told
supporters. “We’re staying here!”

Much like Grillo, who does not sit in parliament but who
keeps up a steady stream of attacks in public meetings and on
his widely read blog, Berlusconi is almost certain to mount a
sustained campaign against the government in the run-up to the
European parliamentary elections in May.

The political battle over Berlusconi has already hampered
any serious overhaul of Italy’s stagnant economy, which is stuck
in a recession that has lasted more than two years, sending
youth unemployment over 40 percent.

The split on the centre-right may have removed the immediate
threat to Letta, who has won two confidence votes in parliament
since Berlusconi’s conviction, but the risk of further judicial
conflict over any of the other criminal trials and
investigations hanging over Berlusconi could inflame his
supporters still further.

Berlusconi joined Letta’s Democratic Party in an unlikely
coalition after the February election left no side able to form
a government on its own.

But relations were rocky from the start and were worsened by
rows over tax policy and tensions over Berlusconi’s tax fraud
conviction in August.

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/11/27/berlusconi-expelled-from-italian-parliament-over-tax-fraud/feed/ 0
Berlusconi breaks away from Italian government after party splits http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/11/16/uk-italy-berlusconi-elections-idUKBRE9AF08S20131116?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/11/16/berlusconi-breaks-away-from-italian-government-after-party-splits/#comments Sat, 16 Nov 2013 18:40:21 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/?p=455 ROME (Reuters) – Silvio Berlusconi, facing expulsion from parliament over a tax conviction and a revolt which split his centre-right party, said on Saturday he may no longer back Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta but would not be able to bring down the government.

The 77-year-old billionaire’ s comments came after Friday’s defection of a group led by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, former secretary of his People of Freedom party, which defied Berlusconi and formed a group that has pledged to remain in Letta’s coalition government.

Speaking at a congress to rebrand People of Freedom (PDL) as Forza Italia, the name of his original political movement, Berlusconi said his impending expulsion from parliament, with the support of Letta’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD), meant the left-right coalition created in the wake of February’s deadlocked election could not continue.

“It’s very difficult to think you can remain allies in parliament and above all seated at the same table in cabinet with someone who wants to kill your leader politically,” Berlusconi said.

Despite calls of “Traitors!” from some in the crowd, Berlusconi maintained a conciliatory tone towards Alfano and his group, saying the break had “caused him a lot of pain” and it was unclear what direct effect the announcement would have on the stability of Letta’s government.

Alfano’s group, which includes 30 senators and 27 lower house deputies, should ensure enough support in parliament for Letta, who survived a confidence vote last month with the help of the PDL rebels, as Berlusconi himself acknowledged.

“At this moment, after the decision taken by 23 of our senators on October 2, we were not capable and we are not capable of bringing down the government,” Berlusconi said.

He said the break with Alfano and the other rebels was down to personal differences rather than deep policy disagreements and he considered the group as potential allies in future.

After weeks of tension in the centre-right between those pressing for a break with Letta and those determined to support the government, the split underlines the instability threatening Italy as it grapples with its worst postwar recession.

Berlusconi’s political future has been in the balance since he was convicted of tax fraud in August, opening the way for his expected expulsion from parliament. The Senate is due to vote on November 27 to confirm the step which the PD says it will support.

STRAIN

Alfano said he had been forced to take the “painful and bitter” step of breaking with Berlusconi because PDL hardliners were pushing for an early election, which he said was unjustifiable given the pain inflicted on many Italian families in the slump.

“We can’t say we’ll overthrow the government and we’ll have solved all our problems,” he said. He said all five centre-right ministers would remain in office and there was no threat to the stability of the government which would press ahead with reforms to the economy and the unwieldy electoral system, widely seen as a source of political instability.

“We are proposing a pact with Italy. Let’s see in 12 months whether the government has reached its objectives,” he said.

Reflecting the strain after weeks of tension, a tired-looking Berlusconi was assisted by his doctor at one point after showing signs of exhaustion on stage, but continued his address to about 600 delegates in a conference centre in Rome.

During his 90-minute address, Berlusconi criticised the justice system and Letta’s budget measures, and took a swipe at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, calling her support for austerity reforms “senseless”.

He also announced plans to set up “Forza Silvio!” clubs which he said would build support at local level around Italy.

He appeared shaken up emotionally and was accompanied from the stage at the end of his speech by his doctor.

Both he and Alfano were careful to play down any enmity, stressing their mutual respect. Alfano said he would vote against Berlusconi’s expulsion from parliament.

“The relationship I have always had with Silvio Berlusconi is one of very great closeness,” Alfano, 43, said, adding he hoped the “ties of affection” would remain.

(Reporting by Catherine Hornby and James Mackenzie; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/11/16/berlusconi-breaks-away-from-italian-government-after-party-splits/feed/ 0
Berlusconi breaks away from Italy government after party ruptures http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/16/us-italy-berlusconi-idUSBRE9AE15M20131116?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/11/16/berlusconi-breaks-away-from-italy-government-after-party-ruptures/#comments Sat, 16 Nov 2013 17:35:22 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/?p=452 ROME (Reuters) – Silvio Berlusconi said on Saturday his centre-right party had split from Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s ruling coalition but said he did not have the numbers to bring the government down.

His comments came after Friday’s defection of a group led by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, former secretary of his People of Freedom party, which defied Berlusconi and formed a separate group that has pledged to remain in the government.

Speaking at a congress to rebrand People of Freedom (PDL) as Forza Italia, the name of his original political movement, Berlusconi said his impending expulsion from parliament, with the support of Letta’s centre-left Democratic Party, meant the coalition could not continue.

“It’s very difficult to think you can remain allies in parliament and above all seated at the same table in cabinet with someone who wants to kill your leader politically,” Berlusconi told a party meeting.

Alfano’s group, expected to include a couple of dozen lawmakers, should ensure enough support in parliament for Letta, who survived a confidence vote last month with the help of the PDL rebels.

“At this moment, after the decision taken by 23 of our senators on October 2, we were not capable and we are not capable of bringing down the government,” Berlusconi said.

The 77-year-old billionaire’s political future has been in the balance since he was convicted of tax fraud in August, opening the way for his expected expulsion from parliament. The Senate is due to vote on November 27 to confirm the step and the Democratic Party has said it will vote for expulsion.

Letta’s Democratic Party formed an awkward coalition with the PDL following an inconclusive national election in February that left neither able to form a government on its own.

Berlusconi said Alfano’s decision to form a new bloc had “caused him a lot of pain”, prompting members of his audience to yell “traitors”.

However, he struck a conciliatory note, urging supporters to avoid hostility towards the new grouping of his former political heir, whose tentative name will be the “New Centre Right”, stressing that they should be viewed as allies.

“This group, even if it seems like it is supporting the left, will have to necessarily be part of the centre-right coalition,” he said.

The billionaire politician, furious at a conviction he says was politically motivated, has been further aggravated by the rebellion, which has been the most serious threat to his authority since his entry into politics two decades ago.

The rift underscores the instability still threatening Italy, the euro zone’s third largest economy, despite an uneasy truce in the coalition following Berlusconi’s failed attempt to bring down Letta’s government last month.

(Reporting by Catherine Hornby and James Mackenzie; Editing by Alison Williams)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/11/16/berlusconi-breaks-away-from-italy-government-after-party-ruptures/feed/ 0
Global food prices rise in October after five months of falls http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/07/us-food-fao-idUSBRE9A60E520131107?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/11/07/global-food-prices-rise-in-october-after-five-months-of-falls/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2013 11:15:07 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/?p=450 ROME (Reuters) – Global food prices rose slightly in October after declining for the past five months, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday, forecasting more stability in markets as it raised its estimate for 2013/14 cereals output.

The rise in prices last month was fuelled by sugar costs, which increased due to concerns about harvest delays in Brazil. Prices of wheat and edible oils also strengthened, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said.

“Prices are settling around these levels,” FAO senior economist Abdolreza Abbassian told Reuters by telephone. “I do not see such sharp declines in prices in coming months as we have seen in the first half of the year,” he said.

FAO’s index measuring monthly price changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, averaged 205.8 points in October, up 1.3 percent from September and hitting its highest level since July.

Food prices surged during the summer of 2012 due to a major drought in the United States but prospects for a rebound in cereal production to record levels have weighed on prices this year.

In its biannual Food Outlook report published on Thursday, FAO said food markets were becoming more balanced and less price volatile than in recent years thanks to bigger supplies and a recovery in inventories.

FAO raised its forecast for world cereal output in 2013/14 to 2.498 billion metric tons (2.7536 billion tons), about 10 million metric tons higher than its estimate in October.

It increased its estimate for world wheat output in 2013/14 to 708.5 million metric tons from a previous forecast of 704.6 million metric tons.

World cereal stocks at the close of seasons ending in 2014 are now seen at 564 million metric tons, higher than a previous estimate of 559 million metric tons and up 13 percent from their opening levels.

FAO said it had revised its data for the food price index and had extended records back to 1961.

The revised index still shows a record peak was hit in February 2011, when high food prices helped drive the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

In the summer of 2012 the index began surging to levels close to another peak seen in 2008, when several poor countries experienced riots, some of them deadly.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/11/07/global-food-prices-rise-in-october-after-five-months-of-falls/feed/ 0
Global food prices rise in Oct after 5 months of falls http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/07/food-fao-idUSL5N0IS2C320131107?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/11/07/global-food-prices-rise-in-oct-after-5-months-of-falls/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2013 11:08:44 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/?p=448 ROME, Nov 7 (Reuters) – Global food prices rose slightly in
October after declining for the past five months, the United
Nations food agency said on Thursday, forecasting more stability
in markets as it raised its estimate for 2013/14 cereals output.

The rise in prices last month was fuelled by sugar costs,
which increased due to concerns about harvest delays in Brazil.
Prices of wheat and edible oils also strengthened, the Food and
Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said.

“Prices are settling around these levels,” FAO senior
economist Abdolreza Abbassian told Reuters by telephone. “I do
not see such sharp declines in prices in coming months as we
have seen in the first half of the year,” he said.

FAO’s index measuring monthly price changes for a basket of
cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, averaged 205.8 points
in October, up 1.3 percent from September and hitting its
highest level since July.

Food prices surged during the summer of 2012 due to a major
drought in the United States but prospects for a rebound in
cereal production to record levels have weighed on prices this
year.

In its biannual Food Outlook report published on Thursday,
FAO said food markets were becoming more balanced and less price
volatile than in recent years thanks to bigger supplies and a
recovery in inventories.

FAO raised its forecast for world cereal output in 2013/14
to 2.498 billion tonnes, about 10 million tonnes higher than its
estimate in October.

It increased its estimate for world wheat output in 2013/14
to 708.5 million tonnes from a previous forecast of 704.6
million tonnes.

World cereal stocks at the close of seasons ending in 2014
are now seen at 564 million tonnes, higher than a previous
estimate of 559 million tonnes and up 13 percent from their
opening levels.

FAO said it had revised its data for the food price index
and had extended records back to 1961.

The revised index still shows a record peak was hit in
February 2011, when high food prices helped drive the Arab
Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

In the summer of 2012 the index began surging to levels
close to another peak seen in 2008, when several poor countries
experienced riots, some of them deadly.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/11/07/global-food-prices-rise-in-oct-after-5-months-of-falls/feed/ 0
Italian protests against Letta government disrupt transport http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/18/us-italy-protests-idUSBRE99H0B120131018?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/10/18/italian-protests-against-letta-government-disrupt-transport/#comments Fri, 18 Oct 2013 11:14:35 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/?p=446 ROME (Reuters) – Civil servants, hospital staff and transport workers went on strike on Friday in protest against Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s government, causing disruptions in Rome and across the country.

The strikes, organized by the far left Cobas union, are the first in two days of planned protests and could test the unity of Letta’s uneasy left-right coalition just weeks after he survived a confidence vote in parliament.

Letta’s 2014 budget, unveiled on Tuesday, has become a focal point of discontent, with unions complaining about freezes on public sector salaries and what they say is an insufficient easing of the tax burden on workers.

“With this budget the government is continuing to hurt a country which is already on its knees,” said Cobas spokesman Piero Bernocchi as he prepared to join a rally in central Rome.

“Even after austerity has proven to be disastrous, with debt rising, the economy crumbling and unemployment soaring they still continue with these policies,” he said.

More than 100 flights were cancelled at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, 80 percent of buses were not running in the capital and rail and underground services were disrupted in other cities.

“We are tired, we are fed-up, we can’t live in this way. They are continuing to cut and ask for enormous sacrifices. Enough is enough!,” said protester Aida Utaggio, waving a banner at the start of the march in Rome.

Italy has been in recession since mid-2011, a slump which was worsened by the tax hikes and spending cuts adopted by former Prime Minister Mario Monti at the height of the euro zone debt crisis.

Letta had built up expectations the budget would reverse years of austerity with a cut in payroll taxes, but was unable to deliver due to disagreements in the government over how to fund them.

The result was only a marginal adjustment of tax rates and, while the package involved no net fiscal tightening, it continued unpopular policies like salary and hiring freezes and blocks on inflation adjustments for pensions.

MORE PROTESTS LOOM

Letta took office in April after an inconclusive February election but his unpopular government, combining his Democratic Party (PD) with its traditional center-right rival the People of Freedom (PDL), has been riven by internal disputes which have prevented the reforms needed to help the economy recover.

Susanna Camusso, secretary of Italy’s biggest trade union CGIL, told Italian Radio 24 on Friday that the three main unions – the CGIL, CISL and UIL – were working towards a national general strike against the budget.

The budget has also been attacked by employers, the media, and senior politicians in Letta’s coalition, who have virtually disowned the package.

This raises the risk it may be completely overhauled during its passage through parliament and that a new political crisis may not be far away after PDL leader Silvio Berlusconi came close to toppling Letta earlier this month.

Rome is gearing up for further protests on Saturday when leftist and anarchist groups will march in the capital. Some are planning to camp overnight in the square in front of St. John’s Basilica, a traditional site for union rallies.

Thousands of police will be stationed in the center in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the violence seen at similar protests in October 2011, when several people were injured as protesters rioted, smashed windows and set fire to cars.

(Additional reporting by Cristiano Corvino, Editing by Gavin Jones and Angus MacSwan)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/10/18/italian-protests-against-letta-government-disrupt-transport/feed/ 0
Amanda Knox says she is paying for Italian police mistakes http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/15/us-italy-knox-idUSBRE99E0WI20131015?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/10/15/amanda-knox-says-she-is-paying-for-italian-police-mistakes/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 19:42:01 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/?p=444 ROME (Reuters) – Amanda Knox, the American student facing retrial for the murder of her British roommate in 2007, said on Tuesday she was paying for Italian police errors but was confident the court reviewing the case would find her innocent.

Knox and her Italian boyfriend at the time of the murder, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted in 2009 of killing 21-year-old Leeds University student Meredith Kercher in what was described as a drug-fuelled sexual assault.

After winning an appeal in 2011 quashing the guilty verdict, both were freed from prison. But the case is being tried again in Florence after Italy’s supreme court overturned the acquittals in March, citing “contradictions and inconsistencies”.

Knox said in an interview due to be aired on Italian state RAI television on Tuesday night the case was taking so long to conclude because of a botched police investigation.

“I think I am paying for the mistakes of the police, of the investigators who don’t want to admit that they are wrong,” she said during a prerecorded Skype interview with RAI’s Porta a Porta program.

The judge in the case has ordered a new test on the presumed murder weapon, a kitchen knife found in Sollecito’s house, to examine a DNA trace that was not previously checked because experts said it was too small to produce reliable results.

“NO FEMME FATALE”

“I hope that this new trial will find me innocent and will look at these facts … let’s look at this all in full, but let’s find my innocence,” Knox said.

Kercher was found with more than 40 wounds, including a deep gash in the throat, in the apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia, a picturesque town in the central Umbria region that attracts students from around the world.

Prosecutors had said that Kercher was held down and stabbed after she resisted attempts by Knox, Sollecito and a third man, Ivorian Rudy Guede, to involve her in an orgy in the apartment the two women shared in the town.

However their case was weakened by forensic experts who undermined the credibility of DNA evidence provided by police and made strong criticisms of their first-response procedures at the scene of the killing.

Knox, who was portrayed as a sex-obsessed “she-devil” by prosecutors, told Porta a Porta she was just a normal person and the image of her they had presented was false.

“I am not the femme fatale criminal fantasy they describe. This person does not exist. They put a mask on me, they put evil on me, but they didn’t try to see who I really was,” she said.

Knox reaffirmed she would not be returning to Italy to attend the retrial, because she had already been “wrongfully imprisoned”. Sollecito’s father Francesco said his son was planning to be in court at a hearing on November 6.

(Reporting by Catherine Hornby; editing by Andrew Roche)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/10/15/amanda-knox-says-she-is-paying-for-italian-police-mistakes/feed/ 0
Global food prices fall to 3-year low, FAO trims crop forecasts http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/03/us-food-fao-idUSBRE9920EN20131003?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/10/03/global-food-prices-fall-to-3-year-low-fao-trims-crop-forecasts/#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 11:30:49 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/?p=441 ROME (Reuters) – Global food prices are not expected to fall much further after dipping to their lowest level in three years in September, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday, trimming its estimate for 2013/14 world cereals production.

The decline in prices last month was driven by a sharp fall in the cost of grains, while dairy, meat and sugar prices all rose, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

Food prices surged during the summer of 2012 due to a major drought in the United States but prospects for a rebound in cereal supplies to record levels have reversed the price trend this year.

The FAO’s index measuring monthly price changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, averaged 199.1 points in September, down about 1 percent from 201.4 points in August.

The index has fallen for five consecutive months and has reached its lowest level since September 2010.

“There is still some room for prices to go down but not significantly,” said FAO senior economist Abdolreza Abbassian. “Anything that happens now on the negative side could push up prices again,” he said.

FAO is due to hold a second ministerial meeting to discuss food price volatility at its Rome headquarters on October 7, with 40 ministers expected to attend.

Its first meeting last year was organized to tackle the third spike in grain prices in four years. Even though prices have fallen from their peaks, FAO said it wanted to hold another meeting as markets were still vulnerable to supply shocks.

The agency said it had slightly trimmed its forecast for world cereal output in 2013/14 to 2.489 billion tons, 3 million tons lower than a previous estimate, but still 8 percent higher than production in 2012.

It cut its forecast for world wheat output to 704.6 million tons from 709.8 million, mainly due to poorer prospects for the South American crop. Excessive moisture is also hampering the harvest in the Black Sea region and affecting planting for 2014, Abbassian said.

He added that exportable supplies in major wheat exporters were tighter compared with last year, so any production problems could have a strong impact on international prices.

World cereals stocks at the close of seasons ending in 2014 are now seen at about 559 million tons, down 2 percent from a previous estimate in September, though still 12 percent above their opening levels.

FAO’s price index hit a record peak of 237.9 points in February 2011, when high food prices helped drive the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

In the summer of 2012 the index began surging to levels close to another peak seen in 2008, in which year there were riots, some deadly, in several poor countries.

(Editing by David Cowell and James Jukwey)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/10/03/global-food-prices-fall-to-3-year-low-fao-trims-crop-forecasts/feed/ 0
Global food prices fall in Sept, FAO trims crop forecasts http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/03/food-fao-idUSL6N0HT12H20131003?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/10/03/global-food-prices-fall-in-sept-fao-trims-crop-forecasts/#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 10:19:38 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/?p=438 ROME, Oct 3 (Reuters) – Global food prices are not expected
to fall much further after their fifth consecutive monthly
decline in September, the United Nations food agency said on
Thursday, trimming its estimate for 2013/14 world cereals
production.

The decline in prices last month was driven by a sharp fall
in the cost of grains, while dairy, meat and sugar prices all
rose, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said.

Food prices surged during the summer of 2012 due to a major
drought in the United States but prospects for a rebound in
cereal supplies to record levels have reversed the price trend
this year.

The FAO’s price index, which measures monthly price changes
for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar,
averaged 199.1 points in September, down about 1 percent from
201.4 in August.

“There is still some room for prices to go down but not
significantly,” said FAO senior economist Abdolreza Abbassian.
“Anything that happens now on the negative side could push up
prices again,” he said.

FAO is due to hold a second ministerial meeting to discuss
food price volatility at its Rome headquarters on Oct. 7, with
40 ministers expected to attend.

Its first meeting last year was organised to tackle the
third spike in grain prices in four years. Even though prices
have fallen from their peaks, FAO said it wanted to hold another
meeting as markets were still vulnerable to supply shocks.

The agency said it had slightly trimmed its forecast for
world cereal output in 2013/14 to 2.489 billion tonnes, 3
million tonnes lower than a previous estimate, but still 8
percent higher than production in 2012.

It cut its forecast for world wheat output to 704.6 million
tonnes from 709.8 million, mainly due to poorer prospects for
the South American crop. Excessive moisture is also hampering
the harvest in the Black Sea region and affecting planting for
2014, Abbassian said.

He added that exportable supplies in major wheat exporters
were tighter compared with last year, so any production problems
could have a strong impact on international prices.

World cereals stocks at the close of seasons ending in 2014
are now seen at about 559 million tonnes, down 2 percent from a
previous estimate in September, though still 12 percent above
their opening levels.

FAO’s price index hit a record peak of 237.9 points in
February 2011, when high food prices helped drive the Arab
Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

In the summer of 2012 the index began surging to levels
close to another peak seen in 2008, in which year there were
riots, some deadly, in several poor countries.

(Editing by David Cowell)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/10/03/global-food-prices-fall-in-sept-fao-trims-crop-forecasts/feed/ 0
Italian judge orders new DNA tests on knife in Knox retrial http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/01/us-italy-knox-idUSBRE98S0HN20131001?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11563 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/10/01/italian-judge-orders-new-dna-tests-on-knife-in-knox-retrial/#comments Tue, 01 Oct 2013 00:31:54 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/?p=435 FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters) – An Italian judge presiding over the retrial of American student Amanda Knox on Monday ordered new DNA tests on the knife that prosecutors say was used to kill her British roommate in 2007.

Knox and her Italian ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were found guilty in 2009 of murdering 21-year-old Meredith Kercher. They were acquitted on appeal in 2011 but the acquittal was later quashed by Italy’s supreme court.

Neither appeared in court on Monday for the first hearing in the retrial. Knox, now back home in Seattle, has said she will not be returning to Italy.

Judge Alessandro Nencini will also hear new testimony from jailed Naples mafia member Luciano Aviello, who previously said his brother killed Kercher. He is due to appear in court on Friday.

The new checks on the presumed murder weapon – a kitchen knife found in Sollecito’s house – will examine a trace that was not previously tested because experts said it was too small to produce reliable results.

The court will also assess photographs of Sollecito’s nail-bitten fingers which the defense have presented.

The supreme court overturned the acquittal of Knox and Sollecito in March, citing “contradictions and inconsistencies” and paving the way for the retrial.

Kercher was found with more than 40 wounds, including a deep gash in the throat, in the apartment she shared with Knox in Perugia, a picturesque town in the central Umbria region that attracts students from around the world.

Knox, 26, has denied involvement in the killing. She told U.S. television this month that “common sense” told her not to return to Italy. She is not obliged to attend the hearing and can be represented by her lawyers, who said she is watching the retrial closely from home in Seattle.

Sollecito, 29, who has also protested his innocence, plans to attend some of the hearings, his father Francesco said, adding he was confident his son’s innocence would be confirmed.

“Deeper examination can only demonstrate what we already know, that Raffaele Sollecito has nothing to do with what that poor girl had to suffer,” he told reporters.

KERCHER LETTER

The judge rejected requests from the defense team to test semen stains found on a pillow at the crime scene and a re-examination of call logs on Kercher’s mobile phones.

Francesco Maresca, a lawyer for the Kercher family, said there was sufficient evidence against Knox and Sollecito and the supreme court’s decision to throw out their acquittals had reinforced his view.

“We have always maintained that they are guilty and that they were present at the crime scene,” he told reporters.

Knox has said she wants to visit Kercher’s grave in England, but the Leeds University student’s family said in a statement at the weekend this was Meredith’s “safe place” and they hoped “that is respected by all”.

Maresca handed the judge a letter from Kercher’s family excusing their absence in court on Monday, citing health problems. Her family have welcomed the new trial.

“Nothing will ever bring our beautiful Meredith back … but we need to know what happened and she at least deserves the dignity of truth,” they wrote in the letter.

If found guilty, Knox could appeal again to Italy’s supreme court. If that failed, Italy could request her extradition.

When explaining its decision to overturn the acquittals, the supreme court said the appeals hearing had failed to take all the evidence into consideration. It said the one person still in jail for the murder, Ivory Coast-born Rudy Guede, who is serving a 16-year sentence, was unlikely to have committed the crime alone.

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/catherine-hornby/2013/10/01/italian-judge-orders-new-dna-tests-on-knife-in-knox-retrial/feed/ 0