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Sarkozy announces stimulus plan

Facing a drastic slowdown, France announced a $33 billion economic stimulus plan Thursday, including cash payments to the poor, a bigger rebate on new car purchases and a speedup in high-cost public works projects.

The effort, outlined by President Nicolas Sarkozy, was the latest in a series of programs undertaken by European governments to mitigate economic fallout from the financial crisis that migrated across the Atlantic in September.

The European Central Bank, with the same objective in mind, announced in Frankfurt, Germany, that its prime interest rate would be shaved by three-quarters of a percentage point to 2.5 percent, the second cut since the crisis erupted. Simultaneously, the Bank of England announced a full percentage point cut in its interest rate, pushing it down to 2 percent.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Cruise ship grounds in the Antarctic

A cruise ship carrying 122 people is taking on water after running aground in the Antarctic on Thursday but is in no danger of sinking, the Argentine Navy said.

The Panamanian-flagged Ushuaia – with 89 passengers and 33 Argentine crew members – sent out an alarm around midday after it suffered two cracks and started leaking fuel and taking on water, the Navy said in a statement.

A Chilean navy ship was on its way to help the Ushuaia and rescue its passengers. It was expected to arrive today.


DNA, fingerprint storage struck down

Europe’s top human rights court Thursday struck down a British law that allows the government to store DNA and fingerprints from people with no criminal record – a landmark decision that could force Britain to destroy nearly 1 million samples on its database.

The case originated when British police refused to destroy DNA samples of two Britons whose criminal cases were dropped. Seventeen judges on the European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously that keeping DNA samples and fingerprints was in violation of people’s right to a private life – a protection under the Human Rights Convention to which the United Kingdom is a signatory.

Britain cannot appeal the ruling. It has until March to submit plans for destroying samples or to make a case for why some should be kept.

Many European countries allow for temporary storage of DNA in sex crimes but samples are usually destroyed after the cases are closed.

From wire reports


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