TURIN, Italy — Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke became the first Japanese man to win a world figure skating title on Thursday night and he did it with flair, attempting a rare quadruple flip.
Canada's Patrick Chan claimed the silver for a second straight year and France's Brian Joubert took the bronze, both vanquishing disappointing Olympic results.
Takahashi was the only men's medalist from the Vancouver Olympics to compete here, and the absence of Evan Lysacek and Evgeni Plushenko changed his emphasis.
Takahashi may have two-footed the landing of the quad flip, but it was enough to let everyone know he's back in the quad game.
"It was more of a challenge-based competition for me, and I really enjoyed that challenge," said Takahashi, who has been working to get his four-revolution jumps back into shape since missing last season after having knee surgery.
"It wasn't a perfect performance, but I enjoyed skating. As for the quad flip, I went off-balance a little bit before the takeoff," Takahashi added. "I'm not 100 percent satisfied with this win since not all members of the Vancouver Olympics skated. It's still a good step".
Takahiko Kozuka, fourth after the short program, dropped to 10th with a total of 216.73 points after he fell on a quad attempt and botched two triple axels.
"I thought I would be able to land a quad. After I missed it, I couldn't put it behind me the rest of my program," Kozuka said.
Skating last, Takahashi held up under extreme pressure. His energetic program included wonderfully expressive and whimsical footwork, and he did seven clean triple jumps, including a soaring triple axel.
His score for the free skate, 168.40, was his best of the season, and gave him a total of 257.70 — more than 10 points ahead of Chan.
When his score was posted, Takahashi saluted the cheering crowd — dozens of Japanese flags were waving — and pumped his fist.
"I am so happy. And I enjoyed it a lot. Thanks so much," said Takahashi, who earned the silver medal at the 2007 worlds. "I was able to perform my best here".
Chan didn't have his strongest performance, falling late in the program on a triple loop and fighting to hold the landing of a triple salchow. But with Joubert struggling, it was good enough to hold onto second place.
"This whole season has been quite a challenge. Today it's a silver medal, but I think it's more like a gold medal for the effort I put in this season," said Chan, a medal favorite who finished fifth at the Olympics.
Joubert, the 2007 world champion, had a dismal showing at the Olympics last month, and was determined to avenge that here. He opened with a quad toe loop-double toe combination and then a quad toe, but he couldn't keep up the momentum. He fell on a triple lutz and his footwork fizzled.
He was only fourth in the free, but that was enough to give him his fifth straight medal at the world championships.
"I am very proud, because after the Olympics I still wasn't sure that I could compete like before. Now I have my answer. I know I can fight again," said Joubert, who finished 16th in Vancouver.
And, now that Takahashi has raised the level in the quad with the flip, Joubert said he would work on the more difficult quad lutz.
U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott finished fifth and newcomer Adam Rippon, winner of the 2008 and '09 world junior titles, was sixth, ensuring the Americans will have three spots again at next year's world championships.
"I was expecting it to be a lot scarier than it was," said Rippon, who trains in Toronto alongside women's Olympic champion Kim Yu Na of South Korea.
Earlier Thursday, Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada extended their lead over Vancouver runners-up Meryl Davis and Charlie White, winning the original dance with a sultry, saucy flamenco. Virtue and Moir earned a season-best 70.27 points — almost two points higher than their Vancouver score.
They have 114.40 points heading into Friday's free dance. Davis and White, two-time U.S. champions who train with Virtue and Moir, have 112.54 points after scoring a season-best 69.29 for their colorful Bollywood-on-ice OD.
The Canadians and Americans are both hungry for a world title — something neither has achieved — after their Olympic success. Though Virtue and Moir lead Davis and White by almost two points, that can be made up in Friday's free dance.
"We feel we used the Olympic Games to help us grow as skaters and performers, and I think it helped us out there," White said.
In Turin, the job of hometown favorites falls to Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali of Italy, who remained third in the overall standings by finishing third in the original dance. They have 100.01 total points.
The women's short program is scheduled for Friday and the free skate on Saturday. Five Japanese women have become world champions, including Mao Asada in 2008 and Miki Ando in 2007. Both are competing here along with Kim.
Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang, starring Emma Thompson, is a bit like Mary Poppins with knobs on, making it perfect for adults and children alike
Cynical adults may snigger that Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang sounds like the porn version of this latest British pretender to Harry Potter.
But children and nostalgic grown-ups alike will adore this remarkable and enchanting second outing of writer/exec producer/star Emma Thompson’s magical time-travelling nanny.
She’s Mary Poppins with knobs on, or rather warts – since Nanny McPhee (‘Small c, big P,’ as the safely scary Thompson, pictured, repeatedly delivers with marvellously dry suggestiveness) starts out buck-tooth ugly but gets prettier the nicer her charges become.
In this case it’s a rambunctious brood whose daddy (Ewan McGregor) is missing in action in World War II and whose mummy (ever cool, wish-she-was-your-mate Maggie Gyllenhaal) is struggling to keep her shady estate agent brother-in-law (Rhys Ifans) from selling the farm from under her.
Grown-ups being pushed into cow poo, burping pets and synchronised-swimming piglets will delight the wee ones, while parents will enjoy a discerning cast including Bill Bailey and Maggie Smith.
Tear-jerking but never schmaltzy, as children’s movies go it’s truly supercali-fragilisticexpialidocious.
Delegates from right-wing populist parties from across Europe are descending on Germany this weekend for a conference looking into the possibility of an EU-wide minaret ban. The hosts, an anti-Muslim German group, hope to use the gathering as a springboard to success in local elections.
What could be more European than a castle? The Continent is dotted with them, often menacingly perched on forested hilltops overlooking rivers or ancient trading routes -- important bastions necessary for the defense of what developed into Europe's long and rich cultural tradition.
These days, of course, European castles tend to be little more than bucolic tourist attractions. But it is perhaps no accident that a small palace in western Germany's former industrial heart has been chosen to host a convention ostensibly aimed at defending European culture. The castle in question is the centuries-old Horst Palace, a Renaissance structure in the Ruhr Valley city of Gelsenkirchen. The gathering is called, pointedly, the Anti-Minaret Conference.
This Saturday, politicians representing right-wing conservative parties from across Europe will descend on the Horst Palace to discuss the dangers of Islam. Delegates from the Belgian nationalists Vlaams Belang will be there as will politicians from Geert Wilders's Dutch Party for Freedom, Pia Kjaersgaard's Danish People's Party and the Front National of Jean-Marie Le Pen. Others from Sweden, Austria and Eastern Europe are also on the invite list.
'Symbols of Radical Islam'
The hosts are a relatively new group of German right-wing conservatives called Pro-NRW (an abbreviation of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia) and the goal of the conference is clear: to follow in Switzerland's footsteps and ban minarets across Europe. And they want to use a provision of the European Union's new Lisbon Treaty to do it.
"I don't think that minarets are part of our heritage," conference attendee Filip Dewinter, floor leader for Vlaams Belang in the Flemish parliament, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "They are symbols of radical Islam. The question is whether Islam is a religion like Protestantism and Catholicism and for me it is not. It is a political system, it is a way of life and it is one that is not compatible with ours".
Pro-NRW and the other right-wing parties were galvanized when Swiss voters last November passed a ban on the construction of new minarets in the country. Since then, the Swiss People's Party (SVP), which launched the referendum, have become the darlings of the European right. Indeed, the SVP has loaned their controversial campaign poster, which depicts missile-like minarets jutting out of a Swiss flag behind an ominous, niqab-wearing Muslim woman, to Pro-NRW for its campaign in Germany. And anti-minaret movements on the Swiss model have sprung up around Europe.
Dewinter has recently taken a closer look at whether a provision in the new Lisbon Treaty allowing for citizens' initiatives could be used to push through a Europe-wide ban on the construction of minarets. On Saturday, delegates at the Anti-Minaret Conference will discuss whether to begin collecting the 1 million signatures such a path would require.
'A Very Powerful Weapon'
The hurdles to such a strategy are high. Even if the Lisbon Treaty provides for citizens' initiatives, the legal mechanism governing such a procedure has yet to be decided on. Indeed, with the European Commission first set to send its proposal for citizens' initiatives to the European Parliament for consideration next week, a final legal framework may not be complete before the end of the year, an EU spokesman said.
Even then, such an initiative would only require the Commission to take a closer look at a given issue. Should the commissioners determine that an initiative falls under the jurisdiction of European nation-states or violates EU human rights guidelines, no further action would be taken.
Nevertheless, Dewinter seems invigorated by the possibility of putting a minaret ban on the European agenda. "Brussels is afraid of such a referendum and they know it would be a very powerful weapon in the hands of right-wing conservative parties," he says. "The collection of the signatures will be a political campaign in itself".
Still, the planners of this weekend's conference have greater ambitions than merely discussing the possibility of a European-wide minaret ban. Pro-NRW, an outgrowth of the anti-Muslim group Pro-Cologne, is seeking to establish a political foothold in Germany ahead of important state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia in May. The group is testing the waters to determine if the kind of populist, Islamophobia that groups in the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and elsewhere have tapped into exists in Germany as well.
"The Islamization of our cities is continuing and there is broad fear among the populace," Pro-NRW head Markus Beisicht told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "If we do well in the elections, 2.5 percent of the vote or better, we will become a new brand name in Germany. There is a huge vacuum between the (far-right extremist) NPD and the (center-left) Christian Democrats and we want to fill it".
'Attacking Its Weakest Victim'
There is some evidence that he is right. A SPIEGEL survey last December found that, were a minaret referendum held in Germany, 44 percent would vote in favor of a ban while 45 percent would not. On the other hand, the majority of Germany's 4-million strong Muslim population has Turkish roots and has tended not to produce the kind of radicalism that has thrown a negative light on Islam elsewhere in Europe.
That, though, has not stopped Pro-NRW from depicting Muslims as being violence-prone and aggressive. In addition to Saturday's conference, the group is staging vigils in front of mosques throughout the region, beginning on Friday. A planned march is to end in front of the huge Merkez Mosque in Duisburg.
Police, though, are bracing for counter-demonstrations, with leftist groups having indicated ahead of the conference that they planned to disrupt it. Local politicians are likewise unimpressed. North Rhine-Westphalia's interior minister, Ingo Wolf of the Free Democratic Party, has described the "Pro NRW" gathering as "dangerous for our democracy." Cloaked as a legitimate movement, he said the right-wing group was fomenting fear of foreigners with its "anti-democratic and xenophobic ideology".
Sigmar Gabriel, the head of Germany's center-left Social Democrats, spent Friday touring mosques in the Ruhr region in order to counter the intolerant message sent by the anti-minaret meeting. "The truth is that anyone who wants to ban minarets and compares Islam with terrorism is motivated by xenophobia".
Beisicht is careful to insist that he and his allies have nothing in common with neo-Nazis, and he even tries to strike a moderate tone on occasion. "Religious freedom also applies to Muslims," he says, before insisting that minarets were a symbol of aggression.
Ahead of Saturday's conference, however, his European allies were not in such an accommodating mood. "Islam is a predator and it is attacking its weakest victim," Dewinter says. "Europe is that weakest victim. We have a problem with our demography; we have a problem with our identity; we are embracing multi-culturalism. We are very weak and Islam knows that -- and it is going on the attack".
An Indonesian man suspected of being the leader of a human smuggling ring was nabbed by the Malaysian authorities on Wednesday morning and will be handed over to Singapore early next week.
The 41-year-old, known only as "Botak", allegedly smuggled illegal immigrants by boat through the Straits of Johor - a trip of between 400m and 600m that takes about a minute.
The police believe he dropped them off at places in the north-eastern part of Singapore, including Pulau Ubin and Punggol Barat. Each illegal immigrant is believed to pay smugglers between $500 and $2,000 to enter the country.
Singapore had issued a warrant of arrest for the man, who is also a Malaysian permanent resident. He will be charged with five counts of abetting illegal immigrants to enter Singapore unlawfully.
He is the second syndicate leader to be caught this year.
"With the arrest of Botak, the police Coast Guard has neutralised seven syndicate leaders or key members involved in illegal human smuggling activities in the last 18 months," said Mr Sam Tee, deputy commander, Police Coast Guard.
DETROIT — General Motors Co. will bring back 600 laid-off auto workers and add equipment at two Canadian factories in an effort make more midsize crossover vehicles that have been selling well in both the U.S. and Canada.
The company announced Friday that it will add equipment and reconfigure the body-making shop at its factory in Ingersoll, Ontario, where it makes the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain crossovers.
It also will put hundreds of workers back on the clock at a factory in Oshawa, Ontario, and add equipment to the plant so it can make Equinoxes in addition to its current product, the Chevrolet Impala full-size sedan.
GM has been struggling to meet demand for the two crossovers, which are like small sport utility vehicles but built on car underpinnings. When equipped with a four-cylinder engine, the vehicles can get up to 32 mpg on the highway.
So far this year, GM has sold 17,574 Equinoxes and 8,091 Terrains. Equinox sales are up 98 percent from last year, while the Terrain is a newer vehicle and few had been built at this time last year.
Dealers have complained that they can't get enough of the vehicles because they sell as soon as they come off the truck.
Under the plan, which is scheduled to begin in October, the expanded body shop at the Ingersoll plant will crank out more Equinox bodies than the factory can use, even though it is now working around the clock.
The bodies, which are the shell of the vehicle and include the frame, will then be trucked 130 miles east to Ingersoll, near Toronto, where three shifts of workers will paint and assemble the crossovers on the same assembly line that now makes the Impala, said GM of Canada spokeswoman Jennifer Wright.
In addition to recalling the laid-off workers, GM will hire 70 new people for the Ingersoll plant, Wright said.
GM, which for years had produced more vehicles than it could sell in North America, has been leery of reopening factories to meet additional demand for some of its hotter-selling products. GM was forced to sell automobiles at big discounts due to overproduction, which led to broadening losses.
Factory overcapacity was one of the main reasons GM was forced into bankruptcy protection last year.
GM closed factories and shed debt during its stay in bankruptcy protection, and now says it has a good chance of turning a profit this year.
But Mark Reuss, GM's North American president, said in a statement that the plan for the two Canadian plants "allows us to meet customer demand for hot products while avoiding a potential production overcapacity".
GM wouldn't say how much money it is spending to add equipment at the two plants, nor would it say how many additional Equinoxes it will be able to produce when both plants are up and running.
MONTREAL - A Bloc Quebecois MP went from a lawmaker to a law enforcer this week, giving police a tip that led to the seizure of more than 15,000 cannabis plants in the same building where she has her riding office.
Maria Mourani, who represents the Montreal-area Ahuntsic riding, says workers in her riding office noticed a strange odour coming from the upper floors of the building for several days.
At first the smell was dismissed as the result of humidity in the old building but workers then began to think it was there to mask something else.
Montreal police investigated and seized 15,500 cannabis plants, the largest taken in an anti-street gang operation dubbed Operation Neon.
Police seized a total of 23,086 cannabis plants and 55 kilograms of marijuana and arrested 13 members of an Asian organized crime gang during raids this week.
Ironically, Mourani, who is the Bloc's spokeswoman on public safety issues, is widely known as an expert on street gangs.
Those arrested face charges of cultivating cannabis and possessing drugs for the purpose of trafficking.
ASIR: The murder of an elderly woman that shocked residents of a small village near Asir, led police to a gang that had terrorized the area and was believed to have committed more than 50 crimes. The gang of eight was comprised of men who snuck into the Kingdom from Yemen.
The criminals broke into the home of an elderly couple in Al-Marba village, 35 kilometers from Asir, tied up the husband and killed the wife after she resisted. They stole all the valuables from the house, including cell phones.
The terrible crime mobilized authorities to search for the suspects. Police deployed several trackers in the surrounding mountains and valleys. The eight men were later found 15 kilometers away from the scene of the crime with the stolen goods.
The role of the Asir police did not end by arresting the criminals and bringing them to justice. They learned the details of how the crime was done and compiled a list of similar offenses. Asir police interrogated the suspects for many days and found contradictions in their statements. The group eventually confessed to more than 54 other crimes they committed in Asir and three other areas.
Police later released details of the crime. The gang stormed into the home of the elderly couple. They murdered the 70-year-old woman because she resisted and beat up the husband knocking him unconscious. They tied the old man up, stole SR1,000 and gold from the old woman and a personal weapon. The old man managed to untie himself and crawled to a neighbor’s house from where he called for help.
Laheq Ahmad, the old man who survived the terrible crime, said: “I have been living in this house with my wife for many years. We only have goats and camels. On the day of the terrible crime, my wife and I slept outside because of the hot weather. Around midnight the gang broke into my house and before I knew what was happening, they tied me up and started beating me, asking where I was hiding the money. I was knocked unconscious and when I woke up, I found my wife murdered”.
Laheq said that he wants to see this gang executed for their crimes. He said that he is living an empty life after his wife was murdered. The same gang committed another crime in Fifa when they stormed into an old man’s home inside his farm, tied the old man up and strangled him to death before stealing what was inside the house. The body was discovered a week later when a relative visited the old man’s house only to find him murdered.
The gang confessed during investigation to other crimes that happened in areas outside Asir.
In Qana, they murdered another old man by breaking into his house and beating him to death. In Al-Raq’a village, in the south, they also confessed to a double murder where they murdered a husband and wife. They also committed a double murder in another village called Al-Najdeen. They also confessed to killing a Saudi man named Zaher Al-Ammari and stealing SR50,000 from him.
In Al-Darb, the gang attacked a shepherd while he was praying, beating him up severely and stealing his money. The man was left to die but he was later rescued by others who took him to hospital for treatment. In an area outside Jazan, the gang confessed to beating up an elderly couple and stealing more than SR1,000. The gang also confessed to killing an elderly woman in Al-Namas more than one year ago by striking her on the head with a blunt object. In Tathleeth the gang murdered an old man and his wife three years ago. The couple was living in an isolated house away from the village.
Police revealed that the gang was targeting only the elderly. The gang also targeted villages and isolated homes away from the villages. The gang did not care about the value of what they stole as sometimes they murdered couples for less then a thousand riyals and for items that had little or no value.
Asir police recently concluded their investigation into the gang and their methods of crime in a 1,000-page report that was handed over to the Interior Ministry.
Head of Asir police Gen. Obaid Al-Khamash said that intruders who sneak into the country are ticking bombs that pose a great danger. He said they are responsible for many thefts and murders. He also said that they smuggle drugs. Brig. Gen. Saad Bin Ziyad, head of the Passport Department in Asir, said citizens should not harbor or employ illegal immigrants.
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner met with her Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales and signed a deal that expands until 2026 the current gas-sharing bilateral agreement, which is expected to supply the Argentine Northeast.
After signing the agreement in Sucre, the Argentine Head of State highlighted the importance of the deal and the need of "sharing" the natural resources and "besides to pay fair prices for them".
Referring to these kinds of deals, she said that "they help to keep the fraternity between the South American people".
Bolivia and Argentina signed an addendum to the current contract that both countries agreed to in 2006, in which they established mutual guarantees of gas shipment, payments and investments.
Through this new agreement, Bolivia promised to expand its gas shipment to Argentina from the current daily five million square metres to some 27.7 million, which are expected to supply the future gas pipeline in the Argentine Northeast.
Besides, both presidents launched the project of the construction of the new gas pipeline "Juana Azurduy," of almost 50 kilometres, from which 20 will join the Bolivian production fields to the Argentine borders, and the other 30 kilometres will lead to Salta's pipeline system.
The ceremony, in which the Bolivian Vice-President Álvaro García Linera and the Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana were also present, has been held at the Polo-gymnasium located in Sucre City.
Fernández de Kirchner's plane landed in Sucre, where she was met by the Bolivian Foreign Minister, David Choquehuanca. Before entering the presidential motorcade, she told the media she was "happy" to visit Bolivia since they were going to sign the great energy deals and because she could pay tribute to Juana Azurduy de Padilla, seen as a heroine by both countries after she fought in the independence wars against Spain.
After leaving the airport, Fernández de Kirchner was taken to the Liberty House, were Bolivia was founded, and where Congress offered a special session to honour her presence.