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 91 
 on: Nov 19, 2014, 07:25 AM 
Started by Rose Marcus - Last post by Rad

'Pope Francis effect' credited with boosting Italian congregations

Researchers say more than half of Catholic priests have reported significant rise in attendance since election of new pontiff

John Hooper in Rome
theguardian.com, Sunday 10 November 2013 18.31 GMT      

Hundreds of thousands of Italian Catholics have flocked back to church since the election of the pope, according to a study published on Mondaythat credits the "Francis effect" for the boost in congregations.

Researcher Massimo Introvigne, a sociologist and head of Italy's Centre for the Study of New Religions (Cesnur), found that 51% of 250 priests he interviewed reported a significant rise in church attendance since the election of the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in March.

"If we project those results nationally, and if only half the parishes and communities in Italy have been touched by the Francis effect, then we're talking about hundreds of thousands of people who are returning," he said.

There was evidence that the 76-year-old Argentinian pope had made an even more dramatic impact in Britain. In a smaller survey, of 22 British cathedrals, 65% of the respondents had said they had noticed a rise in numbers, Introvigne added.

He said he first discovered evidence of a surge in attendance at mass in a survey he carried out soon after Francis became pope. He decided to conduct a more extensive poll to see if observance had since returned to its previous level.

"It might have been attributable to the novelty of having a new pope and the emotions stirred by the resignation of pope Benedict. But after six months I got more or less the same result," he said.

According to two of Italy's most senior clerics, Francis is making his biggest impact on long-lapsed Catholics. Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, the archbishop of Florence, said: "So many are returning to the sacraments, in some cases after decades."

His account was borne out by the auxiliary bishop of L'Aquila, Giovanni D'Ercole, who said in an interview with the daily La Stampa that "Francis makes headway above all among those who had distanced themselves from Christian life."

Introvigne cautioned that the persistence of the Francis effect would depend on how parish priests dealt with those who had previously abandoned their faith: "whether they are made to feel welcome" and whether they were given a proper re-introduction to Catholicism.

Pope Francis, who was noted for his simple lifestyle while archbishop of Buenos Aires, has refused the opulent trappings of the papacy and repeatedly advocated a simpler, poorer and less bureaucratic church. Some of his initiatives have also suggested he intends decentralising the administration of the world's biggest Christian denomination.

In one of the first public signs of misgivings, an influential Catholic writer on Sunday disparaged the idea of a less hierarchical church and defended the Vatican bureaucracy. Vittorio Messori, whose book-length interview with the late pope John Paul II sold millions of copies around the world, wrote in the daily Corriere della Sera that the dream of a "poor, egalitarian church [reminiscent of its] origins in which faith is freed of superstructures" was at odds with the historical fact that charismatic movements that "refused to change into hierarchical institutions" were swiftly reduced to irrelevance.

 92 
 on: Nov 19, 2014, 07:24 AM 
Started by Rose Marcus - Last post by Rad

Pope Francis to raffle off gifts to raise money for poor

Prizes for 8 January draw include a new Fiat Panda 4x4 with all the optional extras, a light blue racing bike and a panama hat

John Hooper in Rome
The Guardian, Tuesday 18 November 2014 18.35 GMT      

It really ought not to be news, but given the worldly tenor of the Vatican down the centuries, it is: Pope Francis is raffling the gifts that have been showered on him to raise money for the down-and-outs who bed down in the environs of the world’s tiniest – but far from poorest – state.

In recent days, posters have gone up on walls around the Vatican advertising a draw. The tickets are only €10, yet the first prize is a brand spanking new Fiat Panda 4x4 – with all optional extras.

The car, sprayed papal white, is worth more than £15,000 new. But that is without the cachet that comes with having been the property of one careful owner who is also Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church. Such things count for a lot on eBay.

Other prizes include a light blue racing bike, a ballpoint pen and a panama hat.

Francis, famed for his ascetic way of life, has forsaken the lavish accessories of the papacy since his election last year as leader of the world’s 1.2 billion baptised Roman Catholics. He wears clumpy black shoes instead of the custom-made red slippers favoured by his predecessor, Benedict; refuses to live in the magnificently decorated papal apartments, and drives himself around the city state in a 1984 Renault 4 of the sort favoured by Italian smallholders.

Less visibly, he has appointed a new papal almoner – a Polish archbishop, Konrad Krajewski – and boosted his department. The almoner’s job is to respond to pleas for help, mostly with small gestures such as the paying of fuel bills for poor families.

Last week, it was reported that Krajewski was arranging for showers to be built at the Vatican for the homeless who camp out in the area round St Peter’s Square. The Rome daily Il Messaggero said the raffle was intended to raise funds for projects to help the down-and-outs. In a bid to increase its resources, the almoner’s office last month reasserted the Vatican’s monopoly on the production of papal blessings on parchment, which some Catholics buy to mark special occasions such as baptisms and marriages.

The raffle draw is not being held, as might have been expected, at Christmas but on 8 January. Why is unclear but the date is the feast day of St Severinus of Noricum who ministered to refugees displaced by the Hunnish invasions of the fifth century. Famed for his self-denial, Severinus is said to have slept on sackcloth.
The papal prizes

1. Fiat Panda 4x4 1.3 JTD.

2. Racing bicycle (light blue).

3. Bicycle (orange) with panniers.

4. City bicycle (grey).

5. Tandem bicycle (white).

6. Sony HD digital video camera.

7. Illy Iperespresso coffee maker.

8. JBL Wi-Fi dock for iPod and iPhone.

9. Ottaviani ballpoint pen with silver trim.

10. Leonardo Argenti silver picture frame.

11. Brosway gentleman’s wrist watch.

12. PTM document case in brown leather.

13. Homero Ortega white panama hat – plus around 30 “consolation” prizes.

 93 
 on: Nov 19, 2014, 07:20 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
François Hollande insists green climate fund must be part of emissions deal

French president says fund, rejected by Australia, is crucial to bringing developing countries on board to make a legally binding deal

Lenore Taylor, political editor
The Guardian
Wednesday 19 November 2014 03.32 GMT
   
The green climate fund will be part of any international emissions reduction deal in Paris next year, the French president said in Canberra on Wednesday.

Tony Abbott, standing alongside François Hollande as he made the announcement, has said Australia will not be contributing to the fund.

The prime minister has committed only to considering further climate policies “in the coming months”.

The fund promises money to help the poorest countries with climate adaptation and mitigation and is seen as vital to winning their backing for a new global deal. Abbott again pointed to Australia’s domestic $2.5bn emissions reduction fund and the $10bn clean energy finance corporation, which he is trying to abolish, as examples of what Australia is already doing.

“We will be considering our position in terms of targets, in terms of contributions to various funds in coming months. But when it comes to funds, let me just make this observation,” the prime minister said.

“We’ve just passed a law in our parliament to establish a $2.55bn fund over the next four years to purchase abatement. So, this is a very significant fiscal contribution to the task of global emissions reduction.

“We’ve also got the clean energy finance corporation, a $10bn institution which is in the business of funding various projects which have economic and environmental outcomes.

“Finally, a significant part of our aid contribution, our overseas aid, particularly in the Pacific, is climate mitigation. So, Australia is doing a lot and obviously we’ll consider what more we can do in the weeks and months ahead.”

Abbott said it was “very important that we don’t have another disaster like [the 2009 climate conference] in Copenhagen. For Paris to be a success, we “can’t pursue environmental improvements at the expense of economic progress”, he said.

Hollande stressed the importance of the green climate fund to the negotiations before Paris and for countries to bring forward their new emissions reduction pledges well ahead of the meeting, late next year.

The green fund contributions already announced (which include a $3bn pledge by the US and a $1.5bn pledge by Japan revealed during the G20 summit) “show very clearly that if we want the emerging countries and the more fragile countries to participate in this global growth, we have to ... support them,” Hollande said.

He said the new deal had to be “legally binding, and it has to … have some sort of link with the green fund”.

Abbott said it was “good to hear Francois talking about a binding agreement coming out of Paris. What’s important is that the agreement is strong and effective and that the targets are met. That’s the point – targets have to be met and when it comes to [the Kyoto protocols] Australia more than met its reductions targets, and that can’t be said of other countries.”

Australia did exceed its Kyoto targets – after negotiating an extremely generous deal at that meeting. Australia was one of only two countries allowed to increase its emissions by the Kyoto target year of 2012. Australian emissions were allowed to climb 8% compared with a 1990 baseline and Australia also negotiated a deal to include land use emissions, which credited a steep reduction in land clearing in Queensland that had already occurred when the deal was done. The Abbott government insists its Direct Action fund will be able to meet the next target - a 5% cut by 2020 – although analysts believe this will be difficult.

Canada – one of the few countries previously in line with Australia’s opposition to the green climate fund – now appears to have changed its mind, with Abbott’s close friend prime minister Stephen Harper telling journalists at the G20 he was preparing to make a contribution.

Last November, Abbott and Harper “made history” by jointly dissenting from support for the fund in a communique from the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

After his meeting with Hollande Abbott also said Australia would move quickly to negotiate a free trade agreement with the European Union, saying the agreements clinched with Japan, South Korea and China showed Australia was “capable of moving quickly ... more quickly than people might think.”

The two leaders also discussed how to deal with citizens leaving to fight in Iraq and Syria.

 94 
 on: Nov 19, 2014, 07:19 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
François Hollande insists green climate fund must be part of emissions deal

French president says fund, rejected by Australia, is crucial to bringing developing countries on board to make a legally binding deal

Lenore Taylor, political editor
The Guardian
Wednesday 19 November 2014 03.32 GMT
   
The green climate fund will be part of any international emissions reduction deal in Paris next year, the French president said in Canberra on Wednesday.

Tony Abbott, standing alongside François Hollande as he made the announcement, has said Australia will not be contributing to the fund.

The prime minister has committed only to considering further climate policies “in the coming months”.

The fund promises money to help the poorest countries with climate adaptation and mitigation and is seen as vital to winning their backing for a new global deal. Abbott again pointed to Australia’s domestic $2.5bn emissions reduction fund and the $10bn clean energy finance corporation, which he is trying to abolish, as examples of what Australia is already doing.

“We will be considering our position in terms of targets, in terms of contributions to various funds in coming months. But when it comes to funds, let me just make this observation,” the prime minister said.

“We’ve just passed a law in our parliament to establish a $2.55bn fund over the next four years to purchase abatement. So, this is a very significant fiscal contribution to the task of global emissions reduction.

“We’ve also got the clean energy finance corporation, a $10bn institution which is in the business of funding various projects which have economic and environmental outcomes.

“Finally, a significant part of our aid contribution, our overseas aid, particularly in the Pacific, is climate mitigation. So, Australia is doing a lot and obviously we’ll consider what more we can do in the weeks and months ahead.”

Abbott said it was “very important that we don’t have another disaster like [the 2009 climate conference] in Copenhagen. For Paris to be a success, we “can’t pursue environmental improvements at the expense of economic progress”, he said.

Hollande stressed the importance of the green climate fund to the negotiations before Paris and for countries to bring forward their new emissions reduction pledges well ahead of the meeting, late next year.

The green fund contributions already announced (which include a $3bn pledge by the US and a $1.5bn pledge by Japan revealed during the G20 summit) “show very clearly that if we want the emerging countries and the more fragile countries to participate in this global growth, we have to ... support them,” Hollande said.

He said the new deal had to be “legally binding, and it has to … have some sort of link with the green fund”.

Abbott said it was “good to hear Francois talking about a binding agreement coming out of Paris. What’s important is that the agreement is strong and effective and that the targets are met. That’s the point – targets have to be met and when it comes to [the Kyoto protocols] Australia more than met its reductions targets, and that can’t be said of other countries.”

Australia did exceed its Kyoto targets – after negotiating an extremely generous deal at that meeting. Australia was one of only two countries allowed to increase its emissions by the Kyoto target year of 2012. Australian emissions were allowed to climb 8% compared with a 1990 baseline and Australia also negotiated a deal to include land use emissions, which credited a steep reduction in land clearing in Queensland that had already occurred when the deal was done. The Abbott government insists its Direct Action fund will be able to meet the next target - a 5% cut by 2020 – although analysts believe this will be difficult.

Canada – one of the few countries previously in line with Australia’s opposition to the green climate fund – now appears to have changed its mind, with Abbott’s close friend prime minister Stephen Harper telling journalists at the G20 he was preparing to make a contribution.

Last November, Abbott and Harper “made history” by jointly dissenting from support for the fund in a communique from the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

After his meeting with Hollande Abbott also said Australia would move quickly to negotiate a free trade agreement with the European Union, saying the agreements clinched with Japan, South Korea and China showed Australia was “capable of moving quickly ... more quickly than people might think.”

The two leaders also discussed how to deal with citizens leaving to fight in Iraq and Syria.

 95 
 on: Nov 19, 2014, 07:18 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Conservationists slam plans to dump mining waste into Norwegian fjord

Norway’s green and unspoilt image is at risk if government agrees to Nordic Mining dumping hundreds of millions of tonnes of waste into a fjord, say campaigners

John Vidal
Guardian
Wednesday 19 November 2014 10.38 GMT

Norway’s image as one of the world’s cleanest, greenest countries with some of the finest unspoilt scenery will be tarnished if the government allows a giant titanium mining company to dump hundreds of millions of tonnes of waste directly into a fjord, conservationists warn.

Nordic Mining has applied to dump nearly 6m tonnes of tailings a year for 50 years into Førde Fjord, one of the country’s most important spawning grounds for cod and salmon, and a site where whales and porpoises congregate. The government is expected to give a decision in the next few days.

According to company statements, the plan is to remove around 250m tonnes of minerals from the nearby Engebø mountain. The annual waste would include 1,200 tonnes of sulphuric acid, 1,000 tonnes of sodium, 1,000 tonnes of phosphoric acid, 360 tonnes of carbonic acid and 90 tonnes of acrylamide as well as other acids, solvents and heavy metals including copper, nickel, lead, zinc and mercury.

But it contends that this will have negligible ecological effects even over 50 years. In a letter to the environment ministry last week it argues that waste deposits will cover no more than 13% of the flat fjord bottom which is less than 200 meters deep.

But Professor Callum Roberts, Britain’s leading marine conservation biologist, said that the company was “pulling the wool over the eyes of the Norwegian public”.

“This [plan] is mad. It’s like returning to the 18th century. It really is extraordinarily arrogant. It baffles me”, he said.

“This is pollution on a grand scale. There will be a huge downstream impact in the fjord and beyond. The pollution will get into the food chain and be moved out of the fjord. It can only be economics driving this. There is absolutely no ecological excuse.”

Scientists from the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research have also said that the very fine waste particles will spread far from the fjord, polluting the food chain and harming its vulnerable ecosystem.

But this is disputed by the company, which claims that its own water circulation models show that the waste would not be dangerous.

“We have long experience of deep sea tailings in Norway. There are temporary effects but it is more sustainable putting the tailings at sea than on land. The sea fauna would return within 5-10 years,” said company director Ivar Fossum, who added that the mine would not go ahead if it could not use the sea bottom.

“I am not a marine biologist but, based on the studies we have done, the marine biologists are wrong.”

In a letter to the Norwegian government the company stated: “The biological investigations did not reveal any rare or endangered species in the depositing area, and no evidence of important spawning grounds for fish was found. One possible spawning ground for ling [fish] was indicated; however, ling is a common deep water fish in Norwegian fjords, and it is expected that it can spawn in other areas of the fjord when depositing of tailings takes place,” it says.

“In our opinion, the investigations show that the tailings solution is environmentally safe. The project will strengthen Norway’s position in the titanium industry and trigger substantial positive effects locally, regionally and on a national level”.

Although the mine will provide up to 170 jobs, some local people fear it will devastate life in and around the fjord. In addition, tourist, seafood and fishing industry leaders have called for more research or have rejected the plans.

Activists from Friends of the Earth Norway protest in front of Førde Fjord, asking for a national ban on mining waste in all fjords. Photograph: Luka Tomac/Friends Of the Earth

“The waste from the planned mine would smother everything on the bottom of the fjord. In addition, ocean streams would likely carry the toxic mining waste far from the dumping area, with detrimental effects on marine life,” said Anne-Line Thingnes Forsund, a volunteer with Friends of the Earth Norway which is campaigning for a national ban on mining waste in all fjords.

“I grew up a few metres from the fish-rich Førde Fjord, and was able to fish for the family before I could read and write. The problem with dumping mining waste – leftovers from the mountain mixed with chemicals – in the fjord is that it will destroy all life in it. In addition it will destroy the way of life for people living by it.”

The Norwegian ministries of climate and environment and trade, industry and fisheries are expected to submit their recommendations on Friday to the ministry of local government which will decide shortly.

 96 
 on: Nov 19, 2014, 07:12 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Intelligence services identify second French jihadi in Islamic State video

Man seen in Isis video showing killing of US hostage Peter Kassig and 18 Syrian soldiers is said to be Michaël Dos Santos

Kim Willsher in Paris
The Guardian, Wednesday 19 November 2014 11.27 GMT   

France’s intelligence services have reportedly identified a second French jihadi in an Islamic State propaganda video showing the killing of American hostage Peter Kassig and 18 Syrian soldiers.

The man was named as Michaël Dos Santos, 22, from Champigny-sur-Marne, a suburb about eight miles from the centre of Paris.

The Paris prosecutor’s office refused to confirm the information but admitted there were “strong suggestions” the man in the video was Dos Santos, who was named in the French press and on public television. Maxime Hauchard, 22, from Normandy, was identified by French authorities on Monday.

Le Monde said both men were named in court documents opening a legal investigation for “assassination by an organised group linked to a terrorist organisation”.

Dos Santos, it added, goes by the name of Abou Othman, and is believed to have left France to join the Isis forces in Syria a year ago.

His Twitter account shows gruesome photographs of beheaded female Kurdish fighters.

A tweet on 5 October reads: “The enemy’s women carry out training to fight us and you my brothers continue to stay in France?”

Meanwhile, France has said it will send six fighter planes to Jordan to strengthen air attacks against Isis positions in Iraq. The Mirage 2000 planes will be stationed at an unnamed base near the Jordanian border with Iraq and Syria.

The decision needs final approval from the French president, François Hollande, but the ministry of defence says the planes are ready to go and will join nine Rafale aircraft currently stationed in the United Arab Emirates, a refuelling C135-FR, an Atlantique 2 sea patrol ship and an anti-aircraft frigate already in the region.

“The idea is to reinforce our air capacity to bomb Islamic State positions more efficiently,” a high-ranking military officer told Le Parisien.

French aircraft have been carrying out an average of two reconnaissance flights per day for the last two months since Operation Chammal began. Military officers said collecting information on Isis positions and bases was “a bit fastidious, but necessary”. French planes have also carried out 12 air strikes against the Islamist positions.

The French foreign ministry announced it was sending more humanitarian aid to help displaced people in Iraq bringing the total amount of aid sent by France to Iraq to €5.2m (£4.2m).

 97 
 on: Nov 19, 2014, 07:11 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Holding Back the Sahara

Senegal Helps Plant a Great Green Wall to Fend Off the Desert

By DIANA S. POWERS
NOV. 18, 2014
IHT

WIDOU THIENGOLY, Senegal — Old people in Widou Thiengoly say they can remember when there were so many trees that you couldn’t see the sky.

Now, miles of reddish-brown sand surround this village in northwestern Senegal, dotted with occasional bushes and trees. Dried animal dung is scattered everywhere, but hardly any dried grass is.

Overgrazing and climate change are the major causes of the Sahara’s advance, said Gilles Boetsch, an anthropologist who directs a team of French scientists working with Senegalese researchers in the region.

“The local Peul people are herders, often nomadic. But the pressure of the herds on the land has become too great,” Mr. Boetsch said in an interview. “The vegetation can’t regenerate itself.”

Since 2008, however, Senegal has been fighting back against the encroaching desert. Each year it has planted some two million seedling trees along a 545-kilometer, or 340-mile, ribbon of land that is the country’s segment of a major pan-African regeneration project, the Great Green Wall.

First proposed in 2005, the program links Senegal and 10 other Saharan states in an alliance to plant a 15 kilometer-wide, 7,100-kilometer-long green belt to fend off the desert.

While many countries have still to start on their sections of the barrier, Senegal has taken the lead, with the creation of a National Agency for the Great Green Wall.

“This semi-arid region is becoming less and less habitable. We want to make it possible for people to continue to live here,” Col. Pap Sarr, the agency’s technical director, said in an interview here. Colonel Sarr has forged working alliances between Senegalese researchers and the French team headed by Mr. Boetsch, in fields as varied as soil microbiology, ecology, medicine and anthropology.

“In Senegal we hope to experiment with different ways of doing things that will benefit the other countries as they become more active,” the colonel said.

Each year since 2008, from May to June, about 400 people are employed in eight nurseries, choosing and overseeing germination of seeds and tending the seedlings until they are ready for planting. In August, 1,000 people are mobilized to plant out rows of seedlings, about 2 million plants, allowing them a full two months of the rainy season to take root before the long, dry season sets in.

Newly planted trees are protected from hungry animals by fencing for six years — time for their roots to reach down to groundwater and their branches to grow higher than the animals can reach. Unplanted strips protect the parcels from forest fire and provide passageways for herders’ livestock.

In especially harsh years, when there is nothing left for herds to eat and too many animals starve, the protected parcels are opened up as an emergency forage bank, a flexibility that has won local acceptance of the project.

Six indigenous tree species were chosen by local people and the scientists for their hardiness and their economic uses. Among them, Acacia Senegal can be tapped for its gum arabic, a stabilizer and emulsifying agent, widely used in soft drinks, confectionery, paints and other products. The desert date, Balanites Aegyptiacus, is used for food, forage, cooking oil, folk medicine and in cosmetics. Many of the uses of these plants are still being explored by researchers.

After their first dry season, the saplings look dead, brown twigs sticking out of holes in the ground, but 80 percent survive. Six years on, trees planted in 2008 are up to three meters, or 10 feet, tall.

So far, 30,000 hectares, or about 75,000 acres, have been planted, including 4,000 hectares this summer.

There are already discernible impacts on the microclimate, said Jean-Luc Peiry, a physical geography professor at the Université Blaise Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand, France, who has placed 30 sensors to record temperatures in some planted parcels.

“Preliminary results show that clumps of four to eight small trees can have an important impact on temperature,” Professor Peiry said in an interview. “The transpiration of the trees creates a microclimate that moderates daily temperature extremes.”

“The trees also have an important role in slowing the soil erosion caused by the wind, reducing the dust, and acting like a large rough doormat, halting the sand-laden winds from the Sahara,” he added.

Wildlife is responding to the changes. “Migratory birds are reappearing,” Mr. Boetsch said.

The project uses eight groundwater pumping stations built in 1954, before Senegal achieved its independence from France in 1960. The pumps fill giant basins that provide water for animals, tree nurseries and gardens where fruit and vegetables are grown.

Widou has one of the pumping stations, serving nomads and herders who bring as many 25,000 animals a day — cattle, goats, donkeys and horses — from more than 10 miles around to drink at the basin. A drip-irrigated garden covering 7.5 hectares, or nearly 20 acres, is supplied with seeds by Colonel Sarr’s agency. About 250 women spend a half a day each tending the garden and learning about horticulture. They grow onions, carrots, potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, lettuce, tamarind, guava, watermelon and many other fruits and vegetables, taking the produce home to enrich their families’ traditional diet of milk and millet.

Colonel Sarr said he was looking forward to trying one of the first mangos from young trees in the garden.

“In another garden, 30 kilometers away, the first honey will be gathered next year,” he said. “This is just the beginning,” he added. “The gardens could cover 50 hectares in the future.”

 98 
 on: Nov 19, 2014, 07:04 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Ukraine Says it Foiled Plot Against Dutch Minister

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 November 2014, 20:19

Ukrainian security services claimed Tuesday to have thwarted a plot against the Dutch foreign minister as he paid his respects to the victims of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

The alleged plot against Bert Koenders dates back to November 8 in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, where he and a delegation were due to visit a building housing the remains of some of the victims.

The Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down in a remote, rebel-held area in eastern Ukraine in July, killing all 298 people on board.

"We have arrested a very dangerous group of 12 people," the head of the security service, Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, told a press conference.

"We seized weapons, guns and ammunition. They also had mines and explosives in their possession."

Citing information from the interrogation of one of the suspects, he added that those arrested were Ukrainians commissioned by Russian military intelligence to carry out the attack.

Contacted by AFP about the alleged plot, the Dutch justice ministry said it could not confirm anything "at the moment".

A recovery team overseen by Dutch experts carried out a third day of work Tuesday to recover debris from flight MH17, eventually aiming to return it to the Netherlands.

Source: Agence France Presse

 99 
 on: Nov 19, 2014, 07:03 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Hungary FM to Meet Lavrov in Moscow

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 November 2014, 18:45

Hungary's foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, will travel to Moscow on Wednesday to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, his office told AFP.

"They will discuss bilateral issues and exchange views on the latest international developments," the foreign ministry said in an email.

The Hungarian minister will also meet Nikolay Fyodorov, Russian minister for agriculture.

Szijjarto will be traveling to the Russian capital only two days after the European Union adopted more sanctions against Ukrainian separatists, but stopped short of fresh sanctions against Russia.

Hungary has supported the latest round of sanctions although it is increasingly seen by critics as cosying up to Moscow.

Hungary came under fire after it suspended gas deliveries to Ukraine in September, amid threats by Russia that it could cut off European countries helping Kiev.

Germany's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier was flying to Moscow late Tuesday to meet Lavrov and urge Russia to respect the frayed Ukraine peace plan.

Source: Agence France Presse

*************

Hungary raises taxes on advertising and supermarkets

‘Chips tax’ on unhealthy foodstuffs extended to alcoholic drinks, and environmental levy extended to shampoo and soap

Agence France-Presse in Budapest
The Guardian, Tuesday 18 November 2014 19.22 GMT   

Hungary has approved new and higher taxes on soap, alcohol, advertising and supermarkets, the latest in a series of unorthodox levies put forward by the prime minister, Viktor Orbán.

The European commission has repeatedly criticised Hungary’s special taxes, saying they negatively affect growth. A proposed internet tax on downloads was shelved last month following protests.

Orbán, who took office in 2010, has sought the taxes in an effort to reduce Hungary’s deficit. He has imposed levies on the energy, banking, retail and telecoms sectors, often blaming them on Brussels or on foreign companies making “extra profit”.

Critics say it is mostly allies of Orbán who benefit because their foreign rivals have to pay more tax.

The new package raises an advertising tax that Germany’s media giant RTL says is discriminatory, and which has already hurt its parent company Bertelsmann’s profits.

A “chips tax” on unhealthy foodstuffs will be extended to alcoholic drinks, while an environmental levy will be extended to shampoo, soap and other products.

A supervision fee, nicknamed the Tesco fee for the British retail chain which is active in eastern and central Europe, will be raised significantly for large, typically foreign-owned firms.

The personal income tax remains at a flat rate of 16% and VAT at 27%, which is the highest in the EU.

The chips tax, nominally about tackling obesity, was launched in 2011, a tax on text messaging and phone calls in 2012 and a financial transaction levy on paying bills and taking cash from an ATM last year.

Orbán’s government plans to impose a special tax on tobacco companies that British American Tobacco’s local unit has already called discriminatory.

On Tuesday the chairman of the supermarket firm Spar said it would postpone a significant part of its planned investments over the coming years.

Last month the US banned six senior Hungarian officials including the head of the tax authority from entering the country over alleged corruption allegations, further souring already strained ties.

Hungarians have taken to the streets in recent weeks to demand corruption be stamped out, and experts said the protests against the internet tax showed that anger was building.

 100 
 on: Nov 19, 2014, 07:02 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Czech Leader Invites Putin to Prague in January

by Naharnet Newsdesk
18 November 2014, 19:12

The Czech president has invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to a Holocaust forum in January, his spokesman said Tuesday.

The invite from the pro-Russian Czech leader, Milos Zeman, comes as tensions over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis have plunged relations between the West and Russia to a post-Cold War low.

Putin attended a G20 summit in Australia at the weekend but wound up leaving early after facing a hail of criticism over the deadly seven-month conflict between pro-Western government forces and pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine's east.

"Representatives of the winning powers of World War II have been invited" to the January 26-27 forum organised around International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovcacek told AFP, adding that they were still waiting for responses.

Invites were sent to Britain, France, Russia, Ukraine and the U.S., according to Tomas Kraus, secretary of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities.

Organizers of the Let My People Live forum said on the event's website that they also expect German Chancellor Angela Merkel to attend.

Co-organised by the Czech Republic, the European Parliament and the European Jewish Congress, the forum will be held in the Czech capital Prague and the northern town of Terezin, site of a World War II ghetto and prison.

While the West believes Russia is pulling the strings in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Zeman has repeatedly described it as "a civil war between two groups of Ukrainian citizens".

Prague protesters angry over Zeman's foreign policy targeted him with apples and eggs on Monday, but one egg hit visiting German President Joachim Gauck in the head.

Source: Agence France Presse

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