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Five more dead found on Costa Concordia The captain of wrecked Italian cruise liner the Costa Concordia has denied he abandoned ship despite audio evidence, as rescue divers found another five bodies, bringing the death toll to 11. A dramatic coastguard recording of ship-to-shore communications as the disaster unfolded showed that captain Francesco Schettino ignored an order to return to the vessel after it hit rocks and pitched on to its side on Friday. But Schettino, who was questioned by Italian prosecutors, denied he had left the Costa Concordia and said he had saved many lives as the boat was going down near the picturesque Tuscan island of Giglio. “The captain defended his role on the direction of the ship after the collision, which in the captain’s opinion saved hundreds if not thousands of lives,” his lawyer Bruno Leporatti said. “The captain specified that he did not abandon ship.” According to investigators, the flooded engine rooms would have made it impossible for Schettino to navigate the 114,500 tonne ship, which drifted closer to the tiny port on Giglio before capsizing. Schettino, 52, is accused by prosecutors of multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship before all the passengers were rescued. He is in custody awaiting trial but his lawyers said he will be released from prison and put under house arrest. “Get back on board now, for f***’s sake… You must tell us how many people, children, women and passengers are there,” an increasingly strident port official tells Schettino, according to the Livorno port authority recording. “What are you doing? Are you abandoning the rescue?” the official asks. A judge is due to rule at 1900 GMT on a prosection request to deny bail to Schettino, who was arrested along with his first officer, Ciro Ambrosio, on Saturday. The grilling of Schettino came as the bodies of another five people were discovered after the Italian navy used explosives to blow seven holes in the upturned hull of the Costa Concordia, bringing the death toll to 11. About two dozen people are still missing. “The five victims are a woman and four men, who could be passengers but we are not sure, they are between 50 and 60 years old,” said coastguard spokesman Filippo Marini. He said the victims had been wearing life jackets when found. Earlier, officials had said that 12 Germans, six Italians, four French, two Americans, one Hungarian, one Indian and one Peruvian were still unaccounted for. There were also reports of a missing five-year-old Italian girl. The dead identified so far include two French passengers, an Italian and a Spaniard and one Peruvian crew member. About 4,200 people were on board when the ship went down shortly after it had left a port near Rome at the start of a seven-day Mediterranean cruise, and survivors have spoken of scenes of chaos, confusion and panic on board. The Italian press reported Tuesday that as the vessel began to keel over, the crew initiated the evacuation procedure themselves — 15 minutes before Schettino eventually gave the command. But in his meeting with prosecutors, “the captain explained his behaviour, his decision, his choices during that phase of emergency”, the lawyer Leporatti told reporters outside the court in the provincial capital Grossetto. “There is no need for him to be in detention,” he added. Asked what caused the disaster, Leporatti replied: “He found a rock along his route.” Schettino has been widely criticised after reports emerged that he ordered an unauthorised sail-by close to the island, which was not on the cruise’s itinerary, to please a local crew member. “It was bravado, Schettino was showing off, clowning around, it was incredibly stupid. I would sentence him not once but 10 times,” said a former captain who worked with the ship’s owner, Costa Crociere. Costa Crociere, Europe’s largest cruise operator, said Monday that the accident occurred as a result of an “inexplicable” error by the captain and distanced themselves from the actions of their employee. A group of more than 70 Italian passengers have joined a class action suit against the owner, consumer rights association Codacons said Tuesday. Mario Palombo, a former captain of the doomed Costa Concordia with whom Schettino served as first mate for four years, told investigators that he was “too high-spirited and a dare devil”. As fears rose of an environmental disaster if the ship’s fuel tanks rupture and leak, Marini said crews had laid down absorbent booms after noticing “an iridescence” in the water off Giglio, a marine sanctuary and popular holiday spot. Forecasts say a storm is expected to lash the rocky island on Thursday, prompting concerns that the semi-submerged ship could sink entirely. Local officials are calling for strict curbs in the future on shipping routes in an area of outstanding natural beauty and the government is expected to declare a state of emergency there later this week. Dutch salvage company Smit began assessing the site on Tuesday and plans to begin pumping out the fuel from the Concordia’s tanks this week, although it said the operation would take at least three weeks. Officials said the giant ship itself could then be taken off Giglio in an unprecedented operation using massive floats.

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Lawyers blame Mubarak, police for deaths The ailing, 83-year-old Mubarak lay on a stretcher in the defendants’ cage at the trial in which the prosecution has called for him to be hanged for the killing of hundreds of demonstrators in the January-February 2011 revolt. Sameh Ashour, lead counsel for victims’ families in the Cairo trial, submitted official documents which he said showed that 160 police officers had been armed with automatic weapons and 4,800 live rounds. The lawyer also showed a report from the Central Security Forces that four units, each made up of 50 policemen, had been supplied with automatic weapons and ammunition. A speech by Mubarak on January 28, three days after the outbreak of the unrest, amounted to “implicit recognition of the use of force against demonstrators,” according to Ashour. Mubarak said he had given instructions for police “to protect the demonstrations… before they turn into riots.” Lawyers for civil plaintiffs have until Tuesday to present their case before the defence takes its turn, after the prosecution last week urged the court to sentence the fallen strongman to hang. “The law punishes premeditated murder with execution. The prosecution demands the maximum punishment,” Mustafa Khater told the presiding judge, Ahmed Refaat. Mubarak, detained in a military hospital where he is being treated for a heart condition, is on trial along with seven former security chiefs. The defence is to argue their innocence. Chief prosecutor Mustafa Suleiman told the court that Mubarak must have ordered police to open fire on protesters during the 18-day uprising that ended his three-decade rule on February 11, leaving more than 850 dead. Essam el-Batawy, a defence lawyer, told AFP the prosecution’s closing arguments were based, in part, on statements from witnesses they had questioned during their investigation who had not taken the stand. “They used partial quotes from their testimony,” he said. “We will insist on listening to these witnesses in court,” saying they will be called to testify. Mubarak went to trial on August 3, after protesters stepped up demonstrations calling on the ruling military to try him and other former regime officials. None of the police witnesses summoned by the prosecution has directly implicated Mubarak. The country’s military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s defence minister for two decades, testified behind closed doors, but lawyers said he did not incriminate the ousted leader.

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Quebec to start emissions trading The province of Quebec has announced it will start a carbon emissions cap-and-trade system in 2012, days after Canada became the only country to ratify and then withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. Starting in January, emitters in Quebec will be able to buy and sell greenhouse gas emission allowances on a local market during an initial trial run that could eventually lead to a continental cap and trade system, said a statement. The following year caps will be imposed on 75 big industrial polluters in the Canadian province whose annual carbon dioxide emissions exceed 24,999 tons of CO2 equivalent. And in 2015, fuel distributors and importers who exceed the annual threshold will also be subject to the capping. “Quebec thus officially steps to the starting line, next to California,” Quebec Environment Minister Pierre Arcand said in a statement, pointing to the US state’s similar plan for a carbon market. Both are based on regulations established under the Western Climate Initiative – a collaboration of 11 US states and Canadian provinces to curb emissions of the gases blamed for damaging Earth’s fragile climate. The initiative was launched in 2007 amid frustrations with Ottawa and Washington’s inaction on climate change. However, only California, Quebec and the Canadian provinces of Ontario, British Columbia and Manitoba remain committed to a cap-and-trade system as part of the group’s efforts to cut regional CO2 emissions. The second step in Quebec’s program is to reach agreements with those four WCI partners to link their respective cap and trade systems together. Quebec is Canada’s second most populated province with eight million mostly French-speaking residents. It set an emissions reduction target for itself of 20 per cent by 2020 based on 1990 levels despite Canada’s withdrawal this week from the Kyoto Protocol, the only global treaty that sets down targeted curbs in global emissions. Canada agreed under 1997 protocol to reduce CO2 emissions to 6.0 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012, but its emissions have instead increased sharply. Pulling out of Kyoto now allows Canada to avoid paying penalties of up to $C14 billion ($A13.7 billion) for missing its targets. Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent on Monday also cited major impacts on Canada’s economy that will be avoided by withdrawing from the treaty. Quebec’s move was harshly criticised by local businesses but was welcomed by environmentalist activists.

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Andy Schleck wins stage 18 France in spectacular fashion on Thursday when a bold attack earned him an impressive win in the 18th stage. The Luxembourg rider, runner-up in the last two editions of the Tour, jumped from the pack in the penultimate climb of the stage, a 200.5-km effort from Pinerolo, Italy. The Leopard-Trek rider took the day’s laurels ahead of his brother Frank, who finished 2:07 behind, according to provisional results. Australian Cadel Evans finished third eight seconds further back as he managed to salvage his chances thanks to a terrific effort in the final ascent that dealt a fatal blow to Spain’s three-times champion Alberto Contador. France’s Thomas Voeckler retained the yellow jersey as he ended the stage in fifth place and leads Andy Schleck by 15 seconds with two competitive stages left. Frank Schleck lies third 1:08 off the pace with Evans in fourth place four seconds further back. Schleck attacked with 60 km left in the ascent to the Col d’Izoard, building a three-minute lead over the favourites’ group after joining a few breakaway riders. With the help of team mate Maxime Monfort, Schleck’s lead grew to 3:45 in the valley leading to the foot of the Col du Galibier, despite strong headwinds. The gap increased to 4:30 in the first slopes of the 22.8-km ascent to the Col du Galibier at an average gradient of 4.9 percent. Contador, who suffered from knee pains again, was unable to up the pace in the final climb as the favourites played a waiting game that cost them dearly. Evans finally decided to take the matter into his own hands as he accelerated with nine kilometres remaining. Schleck’s lead dropped but an exhausted Contador eventually crossed the line with a 3:49 deficit.

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‘Considerable’ risks to Spain economy: IMF The IMF warns of ‘considerable’ risks to Spain’s battered economy, saying the authorities had responded robustly to the serious challenges but repairs were incomplete. Spain faced grave economic risks if it failed to crack down harder on spending, shake up the financial sector and loosen up the labour market, the International Monetary Fund said. The Fund issued the warning two days after about 200,000 Spaniards took the streets to protest austerity measures and unemployment, and as markets showed deep concern about euro zone sovereign debt strains. “The repair of the economy is incomplete and the risks are considerable,” the Washington-based IMF said in a report summarising a review of Spain’s economy by its analysts. “Downside risks dominate,” it said. In the short term, investor fears about sovereign risk in the euro zone could grow, raising the costs for Spain to borrow money from the financial markets, it said. In the medium term, Spain risked a long, slow recovery and stubbornly high unemployment. “In this scenario, domestic headwinds could intensify, creating a downward cycle of falling house prices, slower bank balance sheet repair, and faster household and corporate deleveraging. Combined with potentially unresponsive labor costs, this could undermine employment growth.” Spain’s economic crisis, triggered by the 2008 property bubble collapse and the international financial crisis, sent the unemployment rate soaring to 21.29 percent in the first quarter of 2011. The government and central bank had pushed through a “strong and wide-ranging policy response” over the past year, helping to rebalance the economy, the IMF said. Spain managed to cut the annual public deficit from 11.1 percent of annual gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009 to 9.2 percent of GDP in 2010, the Fund noted. But Madrid would likely have to take “additional measures” to meet its medium-term targets of cutting deficits further, and eventually dipping below the European Union’s agreed 3.0-percent ceiling. The IMF said its own forecasts for growth of 1.5-2.0 percent in the medium term were less optimistic than Spain’s, meaning the authorities would have to find an extra two percent of GDP in savings through 2014. Spain’s government agreed on June 10 to back a bill loosening up the collective bargaining system, part of a slew of hotly debated labour reforms that include cutting the cost of firing workers. The government has also enacted measures to strengthen bank balance sheets, cut state spending, raise the retirement age and sell off state assets including the national lottery.

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