Category - Europe

Italy anti-immigration rally draws thousands in Rome

BBC, February 28

Thousands of supporters of Italy’s Northern League have poured into one of Rome’s biggest squares for a rally against immigration, the EU and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government.

League leader Matteo Salvini accused Mr Renzi of substituting the country’s interests to those of the EU.

He also criticised the government’s record in dealing with Romanian truck drivers, tax, banks and big business.

A large counter-demonstration against Mr Salvini was also held in Rome.

Opinion polls suggest that Mr Salvini is rapidly gaining in popularity.

‘Gerbils replace rats’ as main cause of Black Death

BBC, By Rebecca Morelle, February 24

Black rats may not have been to blame for numerous outbreaks of the bubonic plague across Europe, a study suggests.

Scientists believe repeat epidemics of the Black Death, which arrived in Europe in the mid-14th Century, instead trace back to gerbils from Asia.

Prof Nils Christian Stenseth, from the University of Oslo, said: “If we’re right, we’ll have to rewrite that part of history.”

The study is in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

[…]

And because this was a period when trade between the East and West was at a peak, the plague was most likely brought to Europe along the silk road, Prof Stenseth explained.

Exonerated!

Ukraine: UK and EU’s ‘catastrophic misreading’ of Russia

BBC – The UK and the EU have been accused of a “catastrophic misreading” of the mood in the Kremlin in the run-up to the crisis in Ukraine.

The House of Lords EU committee claimed Europe “sleepwalked” into the crisis. The EU had not realised the depth of Russian hostility to its plans for closer relations with Ukraine, it said… The committee’s report said Britain had not been “active or visible enough” in dealing with the situation in Ukraine. It blamed Foreign Office cuts, which it said led to fewer Russian experts working there, and less emphasis on analysis. A similar decline in EU foreign ministries had left them ill-equipped to formulate an “authoritative response” to the crisis, it said.

The report claimed that for too long the EU’s relationship with Moscow had been based on the “optimistic premise” that Russia was on a trajectory to becoming a democratic country. The result, it said, was a failure to appreciate the depth of Russian hostility when the EU opened talks aimed at establishing an “association agreement” with Ukraine in 2013.

Mr Cameron rejected claims Britain “sleepwalked” into the crisis in Ukraine.

Greek crisis talks collapse in acrimony as Syriza defies EMU

‘The only way to solve Greece is to treat us like equals; not a debt colony,’ says Greek finance minister

The Telegraph, By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, February 16

Greece is on a collision course with the eurozone’s creditor powers after emergency talks ended in acrimony on Monday night, triggering the most serious political crisis since the launch of the euro.

The Leftist Syriza government reacted with fury to eurozone demands that it must stick to the country’s discredited austerity plan, describing the draft text as “absurd and unacceptable”.

Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, said Eurogroup finance ministers had ignored a deal already agreed with the European Commission for a four-month delay and a “new contract for growth”, returning instead to old demands. “The only way to solve Greece is to treat us like equals; not a debt colony,” he said, predicting that EU authorities would soon have to withdraw their latest “ultimatum”.

The talks were halted after four hours of stormy exchanges, risking a traumatic showdown that could precipitate the biggest default in world history and force Greece out of the euro by the end of the month.

Preventing dissent

How Britain’s new police state will radicalise us all

Medium, By Nafeez Ahmed, February 13

In the UK, an insidious secret network of violent extremists is plotting to subvert democracy. The members of this network detest our way of life, and hate our freedoms. Walking amongst us, this dangerous fifth column is exploiting the very laws we hold dear to campaign for the establishment of an extremist, totalitarian state that would police every aspect of our lives based on a fanatical ideology that is devoid of reason.

No, the ‘Islamic State’ is not about to conquer Great Britain. But the neocons in government and industry who profit from fear might well be.

In the name of fighting terror, the UK government, hand-in-hand with the US, is leading the way to turn freedom of speech and dissent into mere formalities that, in practice, have no place in societies that will function, effectively, as full-fledged police-states.
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Deadly shooting at blasphemy debate in Copenhagen featuring cartoonist Lars Vilks

RT, February 14

One civilian was killed and three police officers injured after shots were fired at a cafe in Copenhagen during a free speech discussion attended by controversial artist Lars Vilks and the French ambassador to Denmark, according to Danish police.

The assailant is still at large. Following interviews with witnesses, Danish police have said that evidence points to a single gunman and not two as previously reported. The suspect’s photograph has been released.

The perpetrator fled the crime scene in a dark Volkswagen Polo that was located later in the east of Copenhagen.

The French ambassador François Zimeray had just finished speaking at the event as the shots were fired at around 14:30 GMT. Later he confirmed in a tweet he was unharmed.

Sweden cuts rates below zero as global currency wars spread

Morgan Stanley warns that the world is revisiting the “ghosts of the 1930s” as one country after another tries to steal a march on others by devaluing first

The Telegraph, By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, February 12

Sweden has cut interest rates below zero and launched quantitative easing to fight deflation, becoming the latest Scandinavian state to join Europe’s escalating currency wars.

The Riksbank caught markets by surprise, reducing the benchmark lending rate to minus 0.10pc and unveiled its first asset purchases, vowing to take further action at any time to stop the country falling into a deflationary trap. The bank presented the move as precautionary step due to rising risks of a “poorer outcome abroad” and the crisis in Greece. Janet Henry from HSBC said the measures are clearly a “beggar-thy neighbour” manoeuvre to weaken the krone, the latest such action in a global currency war that does little to tackle the deeper problem of deficient world demand.

The move comes as neighbouring Denmark takes ever more drastic steps to stop a flood of money overwhelming its exchange rate peg to the euro and tightening the deflationary noose.

Ukraine’s warring parties agree to February 15 ceasefire

France24, February 12

The warring parties in Ukraine agreed Thursday to a February 15 ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front lines in a deal French President François Hollande called a “comprehensive political solution” after marathon talks in Minsk.

Speaking to reporters after almost 16 hours of talks between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany in the Belarusian capital Minsk, Putin said: “We have managed to agree on the main issues,” adding that a ceasefire would come into effect at midnight on February 15.

“The second point, which I believe to be extremely important, is the withdrawal of heavy weapons from today’s line of contact for Ukrainian troops and from the line stipulated in the September 19 Minsk agreements for Donbass rebels,” he said.

French President François Hollande called the deal a “comprehensive political solution” and said it provides “serious hope, even if all is not done”.

US, UK and France announce closures, evacuations of embassies in Yemen

Fox News, February 11

The State Department announced late Tuesday that the U.S. Embassy in Yemen had been closed and evacuated after much of the country was taken over by Shiite rebels last month.

Hours later, Britain and France followed suit and ordered their citizens to leave Yemen as soon as possible.

The U.S. embassy had already been operating with severely reduced staff for several weeks. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said remaining diplomatic personnel had been relocated “due to the ongoing political instability and the uncertain security situation.”

Al Arabiya: France, Britain suspend embassy work in Yemen

UN court rules Serbia, Croatia not guilty of genocide in Balkan wars

International Court of Justice says many crimes took place but intent to destroy population not proven.

Al Jazeera, February 3

The United Nations’ highest court ruled Tuesday that neither Serbia nor Croatia committed genocide during the bloody wars sparked by the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Peter Tomka, president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), said many crimes had taken place between 1991 and 1995, but intent to commit genocide — by destroying a population “in whole or in part” — had not been proven in regards to either party.

The handing down of the rulings has been eyed as a landmark moment that could reopen old wounds between the former foes. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic described the case as “perhaps one of the most important events for our bilateral relations with Croatia.”

Huge Madrid march in support of anti-austerity party

Tens of thousands fill Spanish capital in support of Podemos, as anti-austerity message surges in polls.

Al Jazeera, January 31

Tens of thousands of people have marched in Madrid on Saturday in support of the anti-austerity party Podemos, whose surging popularity and policies have drawn comparisons with Syriza, Greece’s new leaders.

Protesters chanted “Yes we can!” as they made their way from Madrid city hall to the central Puerta del Sol square. Podemos and its anti-austerity message have been surging in polls ahead of local, regional and national elections this year. Podemos (“We Can”) was formed just a year ago but gained international attention after winning five seats in elections for the European Parliament last May.

Antonia Fernandez, a 69-year-old pensioner from Madrid, came to the demonstration with her family. Fernandez, who lives with her husband on a combined pension worth about $790 a month, said she used to vote for Spain’s Socialist party but had lost faith in it because of its handling of the economic crisis and its austerity policies. “People are fed up with the political class,” Fernandez said. “If we want to have a future, we need jobs,” she said.

Like Syriza, Podemos has found popular support by targeting corruption and rejecting a European austerity program aimed at lifting struggling economies out of a deep crisis. After his Syriza party swept to victory in a snap election on Jan. 25, Alexis Tsipras promised that five years of austerity, “humiliation and suffering” imposed on Greece by international creditors were over.

7 Keys to Understanding the Greek Elections

originally posted Jan 23

Huffington Post, By Pavlos Tsimas, January 22

On Sunday at 7:00 p.m. in Greece when the ballots are closing and the first exit polls are released in Berlin, Brussels, Madrid, London, Frankfurt and New York, all the political and financial decision-makers — and people who assist in making such decisions — will be staring at their computer screens, ready to read and interpret those numbers.

The upcoming elections in Greece are undeniably a global event, whose importance transcends Greece’s borders. The importance lies in the fact that these elections are part of a series of critical elections in Europe, from the British elections in May to Spain’s elections in November.
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France begins jailing people for ironic comments

Electronic Intifada, By Ali Abunimah, January 19

It may sound like an ironic joke, but it isn’t. Less than a week after the massive rallies in defense of “free expression,” following the murders of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, French authorities have jailed a youth for irony.

The arrest is part of a harsh crackdown on free speech in the country that has prompted criticism from national and international human rights organizations.

A 16-year-old high school student was taken into police custody on Thursday and indicted for “defending terrorism,” national broadcaster France 3 reports.

His alleged crime? He posted on Facebook a cartoon “representing a person holding the magazine Charlie Hebdo, being hit by bullets, and accompanied by an ‘ironic’ comment,” France 3 states.

Europe’s answer to France terror ‘attack on free speech’ is greater Internet censorship

After three days of terrorist attacks in the French capital, European leaders are pushing for stronger measures to crack down on online “extremist” content.

ZDNet, By Zack Whittaker, January 12

About half of Europe’s member states are pushing for greater online censorship powers in the wake of the terror attacks in France earlier this month.

In a joint statement, interior ministers from 11 European member states — including Germany, Poland, Spain, and the U.K. — expressed condemnation of the attacks, while stressing further cooperation between their law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Members of the European Union, along with a delegation from the U.S. government — including outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder — adopted, among other sentiments, a resolution to create a partnership of major Internet providers to report and remove material associated with extremism.

“We are concerned at the increasingly frequent use of the Internet to fuel hatred and violence and signal our determination to ensure that the Internet is not abused to this end, while safeguarding that it remains, in scrupulous observance of fundamental freedoms, a forum for free expression, in full respect of the law,” the statement said.

The statement also said the Internet was a focal point in the “fight against radicalization,” and there was a need to strengthen resources across the region, including greater border surveillance.

WSJ Digits blog: France Pushes for Scrubbing Internet of Terrorism-Related Content

Anchor Leaves CNN After Paris Tweets


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NYT – The veteran CNN anchor Jim Clancy has left the network after a series of Twitter messages he wrote about the terrorist attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.

In the tweets, which were sent on the day of the attack, Mr. Clancy wrote about the cartoons the paper had published depicting the Prophet Muhammad, but he then began criticizing supporters of Israel and sparring with other Twitter users. Mr. Clancy’s Twitter account has since been deleted, but the tweets were published on several websites, including Gawker, Twitchy and Mediaite.