• Charlie Hebdo attacks: A look back at the three days that shook France

    07/Jan/2016 // 417 Viewers


    PARIS, JANUARY 7, 2016: On the morning of January 7, 2015, gunmen opened fire at the Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly, killing 12 people. The attack was the first in three days of terror across the French capital that would ultimately claim 17 victims.
    On the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, FRANCE 24 takes a look at how the terrorist attacks unfolded and the subsequent manhunt, which ended with nearly simultaneous double raids on two locations that ended hostage stand-offs.
    Source: France24

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  • German police search two homes in anti-terror raids

    08/Feb/2016 // 176 Viewers



    German police on Sunday searched the homes of two men suspected of having ties to "a terrorist group" in Syria, federal prosecutors said.

    The anti-terror raids took place near the western city of Mainz.

    The federal prosecutor's office said the men were "suspected of having taken part in Syria's civil war as members of a foreign terrorist group" but declined to name the jihadist group involved.

    "There are no immediate indications that a concrete attack was planned," the prosecutor's office said, adding that it was not yet in a position to say whether police had arrested the men or if any items were seized from their homes.

    German weekly Der Spiegel said on its website that one of the two was a 32-year-old "suspected former commander" of the Islamic State group who had fought in Syria and arrived in Germany as a refugee late last year.

    Spiegel Online said it had spoken to the man before the raids, and that he had denied any link with IS.

    In a similar police operation on Thursday, German officers arrested three Algerians suspected of having ties to the jihadist group. Those arrests followed raids at several sites across Germany, including refugee shelters where some of the suspects lived.

    Germany took in some 1.1 million asylum seekers last year, and fears are growing that jihadists have taken advantage of Europe's worst migrant crisis in decades to slip in undetected.

    Security has already been tightened after a wave of sexual assaults in the western city of Cologne on New Year's Eve shocked the country. Many of the attacks were blamed on North African migrants.

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  • For Putin’s Censors, Only Suicide Is Worse Than Homosexuality

    21/Feb/2016 // 190 Viewers

    IT IS THE OPINION of Russian censors that there is something worse than homosexuality, and that is suicide.
    The law “On Protecting Children From Information Harmful to Their Health and Development” bans the propaganda of suicide to anyone under 18. A September 2013 order from Roskomnadzor, the communications authority, explains what that means: “any mention of suicide as a way of solving a problem” and “the inclusion of information of one or more ways to commit suicide, descriptions or demonstrations, including textual … of processes and procedures that depict any sequence of actions.” A news site for the city of Saratov was so stymied by these restrictions that in September it published the following headline about a high school senior’s suicide: “In Saratov, After a Fight With Her Parents, a Student Committed a Certain Act for Certain Reasons.” Reporting what the girl had done might have violated the ban on description of suicide, and reporting why she had done it might have suggested it was her way of solving a problem.
    There are no reliable statistics or studies of teenage suicide in Russia — in part, no doubt, because the chilling effect of Roskomnadzor’s prohibitions affects researchers — but it is fair to assume that some Russian teenagers contemplate suicide, and that, like elsewhere in the world but more so because of Russia’s anti-queer environment, a disproportionate number of these teenagers are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Recent examples include 18-year-old Vlad Kolesnikov in the Samara region; he killed himself in December, after being bullied for both his sexuality and his opposition to the Russian war in Ukraine. In February, an androgynous-looking 14-year-old eighth-grader in Saransk took a selfie on a roof before jumping to her death. A local newspaper reported on the suicide, noting in the last line that “on social networks, the girl took part in discussions of pansexuality and LGBT issues.”
    Lena Klimova, the founder and administrator of an online support group for LGBT teenagers, has seen it all, but the suicide-with-a-selfie story set her off. “You know, my dears, it may be true that the world is shit,” she wrote. “It may also be that we, the adults, are to blame for the world being the way it is. Maybe you’ll get older and take care of the mess we’ve made, once and for all. But here is what I can tell you for sure: There is nothing in death. No romance, no charm, no continuation.” She went on. It was a rant. She had been thinking about suicide a lot, because she reads a lot of letters about it.
    Klimova launched the online community about three years ago. A then-closeted bisexual journalist living in the god-forsaken prison-industrial-complex city of Nizhny Tagil, she had set out to write a story about LGBT teenagers. The parliament was just then passing — unanimously, but over the course of months in several readings — its ban on “homosexual propaganda,” so the topic seemed timely. The depth of misery and despair Klimova discovered when she so much as scratched the surface was so profound that she decided to start a social network page for these kids. She called it “Children-404,” for the error code one gets after requesting a nonexistent web page. The group’s tagline is “We exist.”
    Over the next couple of years, Klimova came out, got over 3,500 letters from LGBT teenagers (a few of them happy), received so much hate mail that it could make a (rather dull and repetitive) book of its own, made Children-404 her full-time job, and battled numerous attempts to have her prosecuted and the page shut down for violating the “propaganda” ban. For now, Klimova has been hit with fines, but the online community continues to exist, safely enough on Facebook and precariously on the more-popular Russian social network VKontakte.
    After running the community for two years, Klimova put together a book of letters she had received and self-published it; the money came from a Russian-emigre LGBT organization in Germany. As she considered putting together a second, updated and more-polished edition, she was approached by several publishers. She doesn’t want to name them for fear of “creating trouble” for them, but one of them — Ilya Danishevsky, who runs an imprint at the AST conglomerate — volunteered the information to me.
    When Danishevsky took the book to his publishing house’s lawyers, he got an answer he had never gotten before: a firm, unequivocal, nonnegotiable no. The notorious ban on homosexual propaganda — actually an amendment to the law “On Protecting Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development” — forbids the “uncontrolled and concerted dissemination of information that can harm the spiritual or physical development of children, including forming in them the erroneous impression of the social equality of traditional and nontraditional marital relations.” Danishevsky was going to market the book in the “18+” category, so that on the face of it, the book would not violate the ban. But the face of it has little to do with actual law enforcement, so his lawyer (who declined to speak to me) was adamant: The very subject of the book, LGBT teenagers, had no right to exist under Russian law.
    The other editors who had expressed interest must have been hearing something similar from their lawyers or executives, because after several months they had all said no. “That didn’t leave a lot of options,” Klimova wrote to me. “One: knock on the doors of other publishing houses and wait months more for an answer — that seemed a dead end. Two: publish the book abroad — I’m holding that option in reserve. Three: self-publish, and take care of the postal orders yourself. That’s what we did with the first edition of the book, but it took a gigantic amount of time and labor. Four: use a service called Ridero. It allows authors to publish their books and then fulfills both e-book and print on-demand orders — that seemed ideal.”
    Ridero is not subject to the same financial pressures as conventional publishers: It prints on demand, and if no orders come in, it loses hardly any money. It is still subject to Russian laws, though, so it has its own lawyers who review every manuscript. The vetting process usually takes a few days, but in Klimova’s case, it dragged on for months. The service knew from the start, of course, that the book’s subject was LGBT teenagers. But there was an even bigger problem: the subject of suicide.
    After weeks of waiting, Klimova got a letter from Ridero: “We suggest you edit the text so that the wording cannot be interpreted as violating the Roskomnadzor order.” It turned out Russian LGBT teenagers mentioned suicide as a means of solving their problems or described the process itself on Pages 178, 183-190 (at least one mention per page), 215, 224, 274, 275, 276, 284, 285, 286, 295, 296, 308, 326, and 363. They wrote things like, “I feel like an outcast. I have seriously considered suicide, but only because I don’t know what else to do. It’s a dead end.” Or, “I would not wish it on an enemy of mine, this struggle to accept yourself, when it is better to die than admit who you really are.”
    Klimova and Ridero were able to settle on one phrase that they figured would not violate the ban: “I considered suicide.” Where that didn’t fit, they cut the potentially offending references altogether. At the end of 2015, the book was finally cleared for publication. It is marked “for ages 18 and over.” - The Intercept

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  • Exclusive: North Korea to pursue nuclear and missile programs - envoy

    01/Apr/2016 // 145 Viewers


    GENEVA (Reuters) - North Korea will pursue its nuclear and ballistic missile program in defiance of the United States and its allies, a top Pyongyang envoy told Reuters on Friday, saying there is now a state of "semi-war" on the divided peninsula.

    So Se Pyong, North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, denounced huge joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises taking place which he said were aimed at "decapitation of the supreme leadership of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)".

    North Korea conducted a fourth nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket in February. The South Korean military said on Friday that North Korea had fired a missile into the sea off its east coast.

    "If the United States continues, then we have to make the counter-measures also. So we have to develop, and we have to make more deterrence, nuclear deterrence," So, who is also North Korea's envoy to the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament, said in an interview.

    U.S. President Barack Obama joined South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday in vowing to ramp up pressure on North Korea in response to its recent nuclear and missile tests. The three leaders recommitted their countries to each others' defense and warned they could take further steps to counter threats from Pyongyang.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday also called for dialogue to resolve the "predicament" on the Korean peninsula during a meeting with Park in Washington, Xinhua news agency said on Friday.

    So, asked whether his reclusive country felt pressure from its ally China and other powers, replied: "We are going on our own way. (We are) not having dialogue and discussions on that."

    The Security Council unanimously passed a resolution in early March expanding U.N. sanctions aimed at starving North Korea of funds for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

    "We are going against that resolution also because that is not fair and (not just). At this point, because this is really the war now... We are busy to deal with this semi-war status of the situation on the peninsula now."

    Regarding the joint military exercises being conducted by U.S. and South Korean forces, he said: "Now they open (show) their true color, meaning the decapitation of the supreme leadership of DPRK."

    So, asked prospects for resuming stalled six-party talks on his country's nuclear program replied: "The de-nuclearisation of the peninsula has gone.

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  • Queen Elizabeth kept busy in 90th year

    01/Jan/2016 // 226 Viewers


    LONDON (AFP) - Queen Elizabeth II, who turns 90 in April, carried out 306 engagements in Britain last year, a tally in The Times newspaper showed Friday.

    The queen, who became Britain's longest serving monarch in September after more than 63 years, also conducted 35 engagements abroad, having paid state visits to Germany and Malta.

    Last year she carried out a total of 393 engagements.

    Her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, carried out 250 engagements in total last year, despite turning 94.

    Their eldest son Prince Charles, 67, the heir to the throne, undertook 527 engagements, including 147 abroad.

    The engagements include official visits, opening ceremonies, sports, concerts and charity events; receptions, lunches, dinners and banquets; investitures, meetings and audiences.

    Charles's eldest son Prince William, 33, carried out 87 engagements in Britain and 35 overseas. William's day job is as an air ambulance helicopter co-pilot.

    William's wife Kate, who gave birth to Princess Charlotte in May, carried out 62 engagements, all in Britain.

    William's brother Prince Harry, 31, who ended 10 years of army service in June, carried out 49 engagements in Britain and 59 abroad.

    Queen Elizabeth's only daughter Princess Anne, 65, racked up the most engagements at 544, although the list should not be seen as a league table of the 15 royals tracked, said its compiler Tim O'Donovan.

    He has tallied the figures for the paper every year since 1979, based on engagements listed in the daily Court Circular -- the official record of royal engagements.

    "Except for Christmas Day and Easter Day, the Queen never has a day off from the official red boxes which pursue her everywhere," he told The Times.








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  • 2015 deadliest year for migrants crossing Mediterranean

    01/Jan/2016 // 385 Viewers


    Last year saw more than 3,770 migrants and refugees lose their lives in the Mediterranean as they made the perilous journey from North Africa to Europe.
    Most of those deaths occurred along a dangerous central Mediterranean route used by smugglers operating out of Libya, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
    Five hundred more people died last year as compared to 2014 when 3,270 deaths were recorded.
    April saw the highest number of fatalities when nearly 1,250 migrants perished.
    Some 800 of these were on board an overcrowded ship that capsized off the Libyan coast, with only 28 people on board survived, according to IOM. Worldwide, an estimated 5,350 migrants died in 2015 up from 5,017 in 2014, according to the Geneva-based organization.
    The record numbers of people dying in an effort to flee conflict and acute poverty are "shocking and inexcusable," said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing in a statement.
    "Throughout the year, we have been reminded that much of human mobility is not voluntary," he said.
    "Tragically we have seen so many who felt they had no option, but to leave their beloved homelands and were lost at sea, in the deserts or trapped in the back of lorries they had hoped would carry them to a safer and better life."
    When the body of Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Turkey, the photo sparked widespread outrage and a new interest in the global refugee crisis.
    Alan’s father, Abdullah, delivered an alternative Christmas Day message last week on British television in response to the Queen of England’s annual address.
    This is the third year the IOM Missing Migrants Project has used media reports and government data among its sources to track deaths of migrants along the world's migratory routes.
    IOM said the Mediterranean was the most deadly region for migrants, followed by Southeast Asia, mostly the Bay of Bengal, Andaman Sea, Malaysia and Thailand, where at least 800 people died in 2015, it said.
    In Mexico and along the US-Mexico border, at least 330 deaths were recorded.

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  • UK MPs Urge Government To Decriminalise Prostitutes

    01/Jul/2016 // 355 Viewers



    UK: The home affairs select committee, consisting of a cross-party influential MPs, recommended that sex workers in England and Wales be decriminalised.

    The select committee was launched in early 2016 to hold an inquiry into prostitution..

    The committee recommended in its interim report last Friday, the Home Office should change current law, with immediate effect to legalise soliciting. The committee also suggested that brothel-keeping rules be modified to enable prostitutes to share premises rather than risk working alone.

    Prostitution is legal in the UK. However, other activities relating to it such as brothel-keeping, kerb-crawling and soliciting sex in a public place, are outlawed.

    The committee urged the Home Office legislate to erase sex workers' previous convictions and cautions for prostitution from their record. This will remove barriers for them when moving on to find other jobs.

    It however stressed that people who are using brothels to control or exploit sex workers should still be prosecuted. 

    This was the first time within decades that the UK parliament had considered the issue of prostitution. 

    ''It is a polarising subject with strong views on all sides. This interim report will be followed by final recommendations, when we consider other options, including the different approaches adopted by other countries- Keith Vaz, Chairman Home Affairs Select Committee''

    The English Collective of Prostitutes, a campaign group pushing to decriminalise prostitution and safeguard sex workers’ rights and welfare, welcomed the report. 

    ''We’re absolutely delighted. The measures will make a massive difference to women in our group who at the moment are living with a massive burden of criminality which really makes it much more dangerous to work.- The English Collective of Prostitutes.''

    The Home Office have commented that it would carefully consider the recommendations.

    Source credits: The Guardian

    Picture credits: The Independent

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  • Breaking: US Warns on Possible Terror Attacks at Euro 2016!

    01/Jun/2016 // 453 Viewers


    The United States warned its citizens on Tuesday that this summer’s Euro 2016 soccer tournament and related events across France and Europe will present “potential targets for terrorists.”

    The month-long European Championship finals start in Paris on June 10, drawing the best international teams from the continent and hundreds of thousands of fans.

    “Euro Cup stadiums, fan zones, and unaffiliated entertainment venues broadcasting the tournaments in France and across Europe represent potential targets for terrorists,” the State Department said.
    The warning was contained in an update to its long-standing warning to US travelers to beware extremist attacks on transport and public gatherings in Europe.

    “We are alerting US citizens to the risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe, targeting major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers and transportation,” it said.
    “The large number of tourists visiting Europe in the summer months will present greater targets for terrorists planning attacks in public locations, especially at large events.”
    The French government has ruled out cancelling the prestigious tournament, which is expected to draw two million fans to cities across the country.

    To strengthen security at Euro 2016, France has extended a state of emergency put in place after attacks last November on a concert hall, cafes, police and a football crowd.
    Last month, French domestic intelligence chief Patrick Calvar told lawmakers that France is “clearly targeted” by the Islamic State group.

    France feared a “new form of attack” in which terrorists would place bombs in areas where big crowds gather, he warned.
    The updated State Department travel warning also noted that huge crowds and extra security should be expected in Krakow, Poland, during the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day event between July 26 and 31.

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  • Breaking: Muslims no more welcome in Germany! - AFD

    01/May/2016 // 4252 Viewers


    STUTTGART, Germany - Members of the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) on Sunday backed an election manifesto that says Islam is not compatible with the constitution and calls for a ban on minarets and the burqa.

    Set up three years ago, the AfD has been buoyed by Europe's migrant crisis, which saw the arrival of more than one million, mostly Muslim migrants, in Germany last year. The party has no lawmakers in the federal parliament in Berlin but has members in half of Germany's 16 regional state assemblies.

    Opinion polls give AfD support of up to 14 percent, presenting a serious challenge to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and other established parties ahead of the 2017 federal election. They rule out any coalition with the AfD.

    In a raucous debate on the second day of a party congress, many of the 2,000 members cheered calls from the podium for measures against "Islamic symbols of power" and jeered a plea for dialogue with Germany's Muslims.

    "Islam is foreign to us and for that reason it cannot invoke the principle of religious freedom to the same degree as Christianity," said Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, an AfD lawmaker from the state of Saxony-Anhalt, to loud applause.

    Merkel has said freedom of religion for all is guaranteed by Germany's constitution and has said on many occasions that Islam belongs to Germany.


    Up to 2,000 left-wing demonstrators clashed with police on Saturday as they tried to break up the first full AfD conference. About 500 people were briefly detained and 10 police officers were lightly injured, a police spokesman said.

    The chapter of the AfD manifesto concerning Muslims is entitled "Islam is not a part of Germany". The manifesto demands a ban to minarets - the towers of a mosque from where the call to Muslim prayer is made - and the burqa, the all-encompassing body garment worn by some conservative Muslim women.

    Germany is home to nearly four million Muslims, about five percent of the total population. Many of the longer established Muslim community in Germany came from Turkey to find work, but those who have arrived over the past year have mostly been fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Last month the head of Germany's Central Council of Muslims likened the AfD's attitude towards his community to that of Adolf Hitler's Nazis towards the Jews.

    Although the AfD aimed to broaden its political agenda during the congress, members hardly debated on domestic issues, such as taxation and social welfare.

    The party's leadership has proposed the introduction of an income tax bracket system and the abolition of inheritance taxes, which experts say would benefit high earners.

    The head of Germany's DGB confederation of trade unions, Reiner Hoffmann, sharply criticized the AfD's program.

    "Their alternatives are nothing but simple, dull and inconsistent," Hoffmann said in a speech at an DGB event in Stuttgart to mark Labour Day.

    He said the AfD was not only conducting a hate campaign against refugees, but also aiming for a tax policy that was against the interests of workers. - Reuters

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  • 15 refugees missing in Mediterranean Sea

    01/May/2016 // 283 Viewers

    The UN refugee agency says at least 15 asylum-seekers have gone missing in an incident during which their boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea, the second such incident in a day.

    According to Carlotta Sami, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who was speaking on Sunday, a boat carrying around 120 people sank early Friday four hours after leaving the eastern coast of Libya for Italy.

    Some 15 people went missing, most of them from Africa, Sami added.

    Survivors from the incident were being disembarked in Pozzallo, Sicily, according to Sami, who also said that eight people had been taken straight to hospital “due to their serious health conditions.”

    The news came a day after the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that 26 people had been rescued from an inflatable boat that was carrying around 110 refugees off Libya in a separate accident on Friday.

    The refugees rescued had been reportedly transferred to two coastguard vessels and taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa. The rest reportedly perished.

    Large numbers of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa have died over the past months while trying to reach Europe via sea routes.

    Over 183,000 asylum seekers have reached Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year, while over 1,200 people died in their journey to the continent, according to the latest figures by the IOM.

    Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, most of whom are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East.

    Many blame support by some Western countries for militants operating in the Middle East as the main reason behind the departure of the refugees from their home countries.



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