21/03/2012 World News Today


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This is BBC World News Today with me Tim Willcox.


Cornered in his apartment in Toulouse - French police surround


the man suspected of being behind the recent killings.


He referred to the fact he was planning other killings. If he is


telling the truth, the gunmen would have left his house this morning


and once again killed any soldier he came across.


Cutting the top rate of income tax - but how big a political gamble is


George Osborne's budget? This country borrowed its way into


trouble, now we're going to earn our way out. It's a millionaires'


budget which squeezes the middle - wrong choices, out of touch, same


old Tories. Free after more than six months -


the British woman held in Somalia is released after a ransom is


handed over. Also coming up in the programme:


The increasingly amazing aspirin. New evidence that a daily dose


might not only prevent the spread of cancer, but actually treat it.


In the name of imperial Caesar, hail Caesar.


And how easy is it to translate one of Russia's greatest literary


Hello and welcome. As we come on air, the man suspected of being


behind the recent killings in France remains cornered in an


apartment block in Toulouse. The man, identified as Mohammed Merah,


a 24-year-old French citizen of Algerian origin with links to


Pakistan and Afghanistan, is surrounded by police commandoes.


Shots have been fired and several policemen injured. It's also


emerged that French intelligence had been tracking him for years.


Christian Fraser has been following events.


They swooped in the early hours of the morning. Intelligence gathered


in the biggest manhunt France has known led them to an apartment in


this quiet residential street. Inside was the gunman responsible


for seven murders. His name is Mohammed Merah, aged 24-year-old


French citizen who was arrested in Afghanistan and was known to the


intelligence services. As they try to force their way end, there was


an exchange of fire in which two policemen were shot and injured.


The gunman's brother was arrested in a separate operation and his


mother was brought to the scene to try and talk him out. We have now


spoken to the man who yesterday afternoon handed the police their


key piece of information. 10 days ago, Mohammed Merah came to this


Yamaha franchise in Toulouse to discover how to disable the


tracking device on his scooter and how he would dismantle it to


respray it. This man has known the killer since he was a teenager.


seemed a normal kid. A bit more unruly than others and he did have


a criminal record, but there was nothing that may Keith -- make me


think he was capable of this. remembered their conversation and


phone the police. President Sarkozy has come to congratulate the based


on a job well done but serious questions will be asked. How did a


well-known fundamentalist managed to kill seven people and how did he


gather such an extraordinary arsenal of weapons which was found


in the boot of his car without raising the concerns of the


surveillance teams which were following him. For the families,


who were today attending the funeral of the victims in Israel


and France, they will be anger and frustration that maybe this could


have been prevented. Two weeks ago, Mohammed Merah appeared in court


charged with a minor driving offence. It was the last


opportunity to stop the man who would soon become the most


dangerous killer in France. We can now go live to the scene and


the BBC's Richard Galpin. One deadline to give himself up has


been and gone. What is the situation? The siege continues. The


police commandos still surrounded the apartment building. Mohammed


Merah is still inside his flat and we now know they have been many


hours of negotiations because the first initial police raid was at


3am in the morning. We are talking 17 hours ago. They have been


talking but so far it seems there has been no breakthrough. They have


not persuaded him to actually surrender and come out of the


building and the question now is, it is night-time here, what will


the police do? Will they continue talking to him throughout the


night? Or will they decide that they have got used force and try


and break into the apartment he, perhaps when he is feeling


particularly exhausted and tired? Fills this began at 3am in the


morning. At some point, it is likely he is going to fall asleep.


What sort of weapons has he got in there? According to reports we have,


he is quite well armed a. He handed over one Pistyll earlier round


today in exchange for getting a mobile phone. But we understand he


still has a Kalashnikov assault rifle, apparently he has a machine-


gun and there are reports also that he has a number of hand-grenades.


He remains well-armed and we know that he is prepared to use them


against the police because, in the initial raid this morning, he


opened fire, firing through the door, injuring three policemen. He


remains an extremely dangerous man and it is going to be a very


difficult decision for the police as to what they should do in the


coming hours. Thank you very much. Let's go to Paris now to speak to a


French journalist. What sort of questions are being asked there?


The strange thing is that he had not entirely served under the radar


because he was known as being increasingly radical eyes in is a


part of Toulouse where he lived and he was under an amount of


surveillance which also kept an eye on him. He applied to join the army


twice, we don't know why, but the police were aware of him. He was


rejected. These three different spate of murders have taken place


within 10 days so he was under the radar but not, they could not get


to him a fast and ever. This all comes ahead of the presidential


elections. President Sarkozy said this would not divide France but


has it? We don't know yet what the result is going to be. I think all


the politicians in France are terrified that they will say the


wrong thing and then they will destroy their electoral chances,


the way it did for the Spanish conservative premier who was not


cautious and described the Madrid bombings to the Basque separatist.


Mohammed Merah's grievances include the deaths of Palestinian children


and France's role in Afghanistan, the 4th largest contingent. Could


this change the withdrawal of forces? The Socialist candidate is


on record as saying he wants forces out sooner rather than later.


Several politicians are on record on that and I suspect the French


military are not happy with the way the Afghanistan campaign is going


but what is certain is that nobody is going to ask for a faster


withdraw mouth because that means if you perpetrate a terrorist act,


the country will yield a. It is an encouragement to go and kill people.


I would imagine that nobody in France will call for any kind of


early withdrawal out of Afghanistan. Thank you very much.


There have been weeks of pre-Budget speculation but, today, Chancellor


George Osborne took quite possibly the biggest gamble of his political


career. During an hour-long statement, he confirmed he's


cutting the top rate of income tax, taking it down from 50% to 45% next


year. The 50p rate, he said, had raised next to nothing. Labour has


dubbed it the millionaires' budget. But Mr Osborne said he'd also


helped millions of low and middle income earners by raising the


income tax personal allowance to more than �9,000.


Let's hear more from our Political Correspondent, Naomi Grimley. A


difficult decision politically for the Chancellor because he lays


himself wide open to attack from Labour. Although polls we have had


on the subject of the top rate of tax to suggest it is going to be a


tough sell. It was just part of a Budget which actually opens up some


new dividing lines between the two parties on the subject of tax.


Let's have a look at the main points. The government will cut the


top rate of tax for the nation's highest earners from 50 % down to


45 %. That is coming into effect next year. But ministers also


pledged to take more low earners out of tax altogether. That is by


increasing the personal tax allowance significantly. And to


help pay for those tax cuts, has George Osborne announced a new 7%


rate of stamp duty on properties over �2 million. But inside the


chamber, inevitably, the debate pivoted on that whole question of


cutting the top rate of tax. George Osborne pointed to a report that


the Treasury had done, showing that the tax only raised a third of what


it was supposed to do. He also suggested that wealth creators


could be scared away from the UK altogether. Mr Deputy Speaker, no


Chancellor can justify a tax rate that damages our economy and raises


that. And thanks to the other new taxes on the rich, which I have


announced today, we will be getting five times more money each and


every year from the wealthiest in our society. Ed Miliband was not


convinced that was going to be the case. He did this a budget for


millionaires. What has he chosen to make his priority? For Britain's


millionaires, a massive income tax cut each and every year. The


fairness test for this Budget was whether the Chancellor used every


penny he could to help middle- income families that are squeezed.


He has failed that test. One other constituency which will not be very


happy are pensioners. It was almost an off-the-cuff remark that the


Chancellor announced he was going to freeze some of the tax-free


allowances for pensioners. This is probably going to pick between 4


million and 5 million over 65 year- olds. It has already been dubbed on


Twitter as the granny tax. Knowing what we do about the power of the


green lobby in Britain, I think it could cause the government quite a


big headache. We have got a few will rise as well in a few months'


time and he was under pressure to postpone that, but that has not


happened. The fuel tax has been something that caused the


government a lot of pain as well because it points to squeeze to


household budgets. There has been a lot in the press talking about the


squeeze Middle, a phrase adopted from America, and although in the


past the Chancellor has offered help to motorists, this time he did


not. He says it is a fiscally neutral but the other question has


been that of child benefit. What sort of tweeds have been done


there? -- tweaks? That has proved very controversial in the past,


particularly hitting a group of middle earners who are going to see


their money, their benefits cut. He has actually raised the threshold


at which that it is going to taking so there will be some relief from


those households, well-off households, who are going to see


this benefit cut, but some people will say, if people at the bottom


end of the income scale were going to suffer benefit cuts, why


shouldn't those who are better off Now a look at some of the day's


other news. The UN Security Council has given its backing to a peace


plan for Syria put forward by its envoy, Kofi Annan. In a statement,


agreed after weeks of negotiations with Russia and China, the council


urged the Syrian government and its opponents to implement Mr Annan's


proposals immediately. It said further steps would be considered


if they failed to do so. A Libyan government delegation has


left Mauritania without the former Libyan Intelligence Chief, Abdullah


al-Senussi, who was detained there last week. Earlier, Libya's Deputy


Prime Minister had said he'd been promised Mr Senussi's extradition


from the Mauritanian president. Mr Senussi was considered to be


Colonel Gaddafi's right-hand man. Foreign private security companies


in Afghanistan have begun to hand over control to Afghan government


forces after a new law came into force. President Karzai has been


increasingly frustrated by the behaviour of some companies.


They'll be replaced by an Afghan special protection force. The


change also reigns in private Afghan security companies, raising


fears that foreign aid workers could be less well protected in


future. Thousands of mourners attended a


memorial service in Lommel, Belgium, for some of the victims of last


week's bus crash in Switzerland. 22 children and six adults died when


their coach crashed in a road tunnel while the group was


returning to Belgium from a skiing holiday.


The Beatles didn't manage it, nor did the Rolling Stones, but the boy


band One Direction have. They've become the first British group to


go straight to the top of US music charts with their debut album,


selling 176,000 copies of their album Up All Night. The group was


formed in 2010 by judges on the Judith Tebbut, the British woman


held hostage in Somalia for more than six months has been freed. Mrs


Tebbutt has been reunited with her son in Nairobi following her


release which came after a ransom was paid to her kidnappers. Her


husband, David, was killed when she was snatched from a beach resort in


northern Kenya last September. Will Ross has the details.


The dramatic rescue from Somalia, or as a security official whisks


Judith Tebbutt of to a plane and freedom. Emotions are mixed. She


held back the tears as she spoke of her husband's dying. A I did not


know he had died. I think it was about two weeks from Mike Catt


chair. I assumed he was alive -- two weeks from my capture. My son


told me he had died. The terrifying ordeal began last September, at


this isolated, tranquil resolve to on the Kenyan coast. An armed gang


burst into the room in love the night. Shots were fired. The gunman


bundled Judith into a boat. Her husband was left behind and died of


his injuries. Just before her flight out of Somalia, Judith


Tebbutt spoke to the man who helped raise the ransom. Her son, Oliver.


OK, Honey bun. Sorry, Oliver! Mother and son have been reunited


in Kenya. On arriving here in Nairobi, officials from the British


High Commission stepped in to take care of Judith Tebbutt. The British


government's involvement in her release had been minimal, because


it opposes the idea of paying a ransom to secure the release of a


hostage. Two people who know the horror of captivity in Somalia and


the joy of being set free appal and Rachel Chandler. The process of


release is about 20 or 30 hours of travelling towards freedom. You get


on an adrenalin high. It is fantastic to realise you are free.


As Judith Tebbutt puts it, now is the time to pick up the pieces and


move on. The extraordinary qualities of the


simple aspirin have been known for years, but today came evidence of


another one, with research published in the Lancet suggesting


aspirin can not only protect people against cancer but actually treat


it as well. But there can be side effects as well, which include


internal bleeding. Fergus Walsh has this report.


The possible benefits of aspirin against cancer appear to be


mounting. This research shows its protective effect are quicker than


previously thought. For the first time, it showed a reduction in the


spread of disease of patients with cancer. For some patients, such as


those with bowel cancer, the risk was reduced by 50 % six years after


diagnosis. That means cancer spreading two out of 10 patients


taking daily aspirin, compared with four out of 10 taking a placebo or


a dummy pill. The researchers believe the guidelines on who would


benefit from daily aspirin need revision, as they do not include


the cancer benefits. I think we need to do more research on which


particular people are at highest risk of cancer and vascular events,


and have the most to gain from taking aspirin. I think we are


urgently need to do some trials of a spring in the treatment of cancer.


A weather, long-term aspirin used as a major and well researched


drawback -- however. That is the risk of internal bleeding. That is


what prevents it from being used daily in healthy adults. Aspirin


has long been known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Now,


cancer prevention must be included, but the dangers of internal


bleeding mean that anyone considering taking a small daily


dose of aspirin should first talk to their doctor.


Jessica Harris is a health information manager at Cancer


Research UK and joins us now from central London. That is the


question. We will be, you were excited, but how many of us should


think about taking aspirin? These are encouraging findings. It is


great to say so much good quality research into the benefits and


drawbacks of taking aspirin daily. It is important that people talk to


their doctors. Some people will have conditions, quite common


conditions in some cases, which mean it is a bad idea to take


aspirin. For example, asthma, and other medications people might be


taking, such has anti-inflammatory drugs, they can react badly with


aspirin. It is a good birdie to be careful with whom should not take


it -- it is a good idea. But it is extraordinary, isn't it? Every


month, we seem to be hearing of some other feature of this. The


fact that it could actually prevent cancer, is it credible? There could


be a number of different ways. The way it is looking like it is


probably working is to do with its effect on our platelets. As far as


cancer developing goes, it has an effect on reducing inflammation


throughout the body. That could be how what is having that effect. It


is a very interesting drug, and one which has a range of effects across


the body, which is why it is so important to make sure we balance


appropriate in the benefits, which seemed to be stacking up highly,


with making sure we do not put people at risk. What age should we


stand? In these studies, the benefit was most his team of people


to locate in middle-age. For example, people in their fifties.


His is something that should perhaps be advocated for children?


-- is it something. We need to make sure people are recommended to take


it at an age at which the benefit is greatest, and the risk of harm


is lowest. The risk of side-effects goes up quite a lot in older people,


in elderly people, they are at more risk of the side-effects. You go


people will be at low risk of cancer so the benefit will not be


so great -- younger people. We need a review of the risks and


recommendations from the government at him -- about to his best to take


it and who should not definitely take it. Thank you.


It's considered one of the greatest novels of Russian literature. For


many of its admirers, Mikhail Bulgakov's Master And Margarita is


a rival to War And Peace, or Crime And Punishment. Now the British


director Simon McBurney has adapted it for the stage. The BBC's Russian


Service Arts Editor Alexander Kan has been talking to McBurney about


It is not the first time Simon McBurney has turned himself to


Mikhail Bulgakov. One year ago, he put on a production of Heart Of A


Dog, based on the book. This time, he took on a more challenging task.


I have lost count of the number of people who have said it is their


favourite novel. That is very disturbing to me, because when you


take anybody's favourite anything, you feel you have a responsibility,


and so you have to forget the idea that it is everybody's favourite


novel and just concentrate on the personal experience. The novel


evolves in two parallel universes. The story of Jesus Christ and


Pontius Pilate. If the biblical story is universal, Stalin's Moscow


is fading into history. The way Mikhail Bulgakov right means that


the story rises above local and particular -- the way he writes.


You do not say, this is a portrait of Stalin, he is writing eminently


not like Solzhenitsyn. It goes further, in my opinion. Master And


Margarita, with its mix of fantasy and realism, and leaps between


intersecting stories, asks for a unique approach in bringing it to


the stage. In my adaptation, what I have done is splintered the novel,


and I have inter-cut elements, so you are in one place and another,


them back in the first place them in a third place. Then you were


hearing something else, and seen something you were not sure about.


What happens is, gradually, you piece together the fragments and


they begin, slowly, to form something you in your mind. --


something new. Let me be quite clear, this is not Mikhail


Bulgakov's novel. This is filtered through Simon McBurney's lens, and


doll-like can do is hope to put my own passion in it. -- and all I can


do. A modern production with video and special effects, the music of


Shostakovich and the Rolling Stones, Simon McBurney's masterpiece.


A reminder of our main news. The prime suspect in the killing of


seven people in France is surrounded by elite police


commandos. The man, identified as Mohammed Merah, a 24-year-old


French citizen of Algerian origin with links to Pakistan and


Afghanistan, is surrounded by police commandos. Shots have been


fired at the house in Toulouse where negotiators have spent the


day trying to persuade the man to give himself up. That siege


continues. Commanders say they want to take him alive. We will bring


you on the latest developments. Hello. We had a lot of sunshine


across parts of the country. Tomorrow will be dry for many, with


more sunshine. There will be a few exceptions. Essentially, we have


high pressure in the Atlantic. There is a weather front moving up


through the Bay of Biscay which will complicate matters in the


south-west corner. It will throw in some more cloud for Devon and


Cornwall and some showers may be. Along the coast of eastern England,


it will be a bit misty and murky, and feel much colder. Inland, the


sunshine, and temperatures could reach as high as 18 degrees. South-


west England, we will see some showers on and off through the day,


and temperatures at 12 degrees. Further north, in South Wales, it


should be warm earth. Warm or through West Wales, with


temperatures around 16. Cool around the coast of Northern Ireland, but


in the north-west corner, we have some sunshine, and about 15 degrees.


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