• French customs seizes €20 million in cannabis hash

    19/Oct/2015 // 283 Viewers

    French customs seized 7.1 tonnes of marijuana hashish worth about €20 million from vehicles parked in the chic 16th arrondissement (district) of Paris on Sunday in one of the biggest drug busts in France of the past two years.

    A source close to the investigation told BFMTV that the overnight seizure followed several weeks of inquiry by the National Directorate of Customs Intelligence and Investigation (DNRED).

    No one has been arrested in connection with the case and the investigation is ongoing.

    Officers found the bricks of cannabis hashish, which were wrapped in plastic and burlap, stashed in the boot of three abandoned commercial vehicles parked along a boulevard in the 16th arrondissementin southwest Paris.

    The drugs have an estimated street value of around €20 million with a kilogram of hashish fetching between €2,500 and €3,000, according to police sources.

    The seizure is the biggest ever made in central Paris, said a source close to the investigation.

    Demand at 300 tonnes per year

    Since the start of summer, officials have seized several large quantities of drugs. On July 26, nearly 6 tonnes of cannabis hashish destined for the Marseille region was discovered in a villa in Vitrolles (Bouches-du-Rhône).

    But the country’s biggest seizure in recent years dates back to April 26, 2013, when customs officials discovered more than 7.5 tonnes of cannabis on trucks transporting fruit and vegetables in Hendaye (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) close to the Spanish border. In February of that year nearly 7 tonnes of hash was also found in a truck travelling from Spain near the Boulou toll on the A9 motorway.

    In total nearly 200 tonnes of narcotics were seized in 2014 by customs officers, including 157.3 tonnes of cannabis – an increase of 84 percent over the previous year and a record high, according to official figures.

    In France, customs is responsible for more than 80 percent of total drug seizures.

    Cannabis is the most abused drug in Europe and its consumption is on the increase – including in France, where authorities estimate demand at 300 tonnes per year.

    Possession or the use of cannabis accounts for more than 60 percent of all drug offenses in Europe.

    (FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)


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  • Acclaimed Italian writer De Luca cleared in Alps train sabotage case

    19/Oct/2015 // 316 Viewers

     

    An Italian court on Monday cleared acclaimed writer Erri De Luca of inciting criminal damage by saying a controversial French-Italian rail link through the Alps should be sabotaged.

    A judge in the northern city of Turin delivered a not guilty verdict in a case that had become a cause celebre for anti-globalisation campaigners and test of the legal limits of artistic freedom.

    De Luca was accused of encouraging vandalism in 2013 interview comments in which he described sabotage of the rail link as "legitimate" and "just", with the prosecution arguing that his international fame made it likely that his stance would encourage militants to act.

    Prosecutors had asked for an eight-month prison term for the 65-year-old writer if found guilty.

    De Luca was prosecuted at the instigation of LTF, the Franco-Italian consortium building the multi-billion-euro link from Lyon in France to Turin in northwestern Italy.
    Italian authorities later joined the prosecution.

    The writer's defence was that the verb "to sabotage" has several possible meanings, not all of them amounting to physical action.

    "I am defending the origin of the word sabotage in its most effective and broadest sense," he said in final remarks Monday.

    "I am ready to be given a criminal conviction for using it, but not to allow my Italian language to be censured or diminished."

    Life-long radical

    De Luca claimed he has been hung out to dry by "an article of law which dates back to the fascist period" which had never been applied to a writer before.

    "I am the first, but I must also be the last," he said last week.

    A petition calling for his case to be thrown was been signed by over 500 artists from 20 countries, including British film director Ken Loach, Italian jazz trumpeter Paolo Fresu, German author Brigitte Glaser and French actress Isabelle Huppert.

    Opponents of the rail link say it will wreck the pristine Val di Susa on the Italian side of the Alps and potentially release toxic asbestos particles into the environment.

    The project has also been criticised as a misuse of public funds, by France's public spending watchdog as well as environmentalists.

    The two governments are strongly committed to the 26 billion euros ($29 million) scheme, which is expected to be finished by 2030.

    De Luca is a life-long radical whose literary tales centred on his home city of Naples have been translated into English, French, German, Spanish and a number of other languages.

    He is best known for "Montedidio" (2001, translated into English as "God's Mountain" in 2002) which won one of France's best-known literary prizes, the Femina


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  • Air France to cut less than a third of the 2,900 jobs planned

    19/Oct/2015 // 281 Viewers

    Air France will cut less than a third of the 2,900 job cuts it proposed to slash in an initial plan for 2016-2017 that triggered clashes with some of its staff, the chief executive of parent company Air France-KLM said on Sunday.

    The job cuts in 2016 would be voluntary and more significant job reductions now planned for 2017 could be avoided if talks with unions lead to an agreement on alternative cost-cutting measures by the beginning of next year, said CEO Alexandre de Juniac in an interview on RTL radio and the LCI news channel.

    “If negotiations are successful by the start of 2016 we can avoid implementing Plan B for 2017, which means reverting to Plan A, or the ‘Perform’ plan,” de Juniac said, reiterating a position expressed by his board on Thursday.

    The airline initially presented its Plan A, a raft of new productivity measures that would have required pilots to spend between 15 and 20 percent more time flying for the same salary. Unions protested that the increase was equivalent to six weeks of extra work without pay. When the pilots refused, the company rolled out Plan B – which included the loss of 2,900 jobs and flight cutbacks.

    The announcement of the Plan B job losses led to scuffles during which senior managers had theirclothes ripped by protesting staff members. Five workers were suspended without pay over the incident after they were identified from video taken of the shocking episode outside the company headquarters near Paris’s main Charles de Gaulle airport.

     

    © Kenzo Tribouillard, AFP

     

    Air France has been in financial trouble for some time. The company reported losses of €619 million in the first half of 2015 and has an overall debt of around €5.4 billion.


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  • British journalist found dead at Istanbul Airport

    19/Oct/2015 // 535 Viewers

    A British journalist traveling from London to Iraq has been found dead at Istanbul Ataturk Airport after missing her connecting flight in what initial reports say was a suicide, though her colleagues have raised doubts over the cause of death.

    The woman, named as 50-year-old Jacqueline Sutton, arrived in Istanbul at 9:58 pm on October 17 with Turkish Airlines flight number 1986. She was later found dead in a toilet, allegedly after having hanged herself with her shoelaces.

    However, colleagues raised doubts over the possibility that Sutton, the acting Iraq director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), who had also worked for the United Nations and the BBC, might have committed suicide.

    “[I find it] very difficult to believe that my colleague ... and seasoned traveller Jacky Sutton committed suicide,” said Sudipto Mukerjee, a country director with the United Nations Development Programme, in a Tweet after the incident.


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  • German mayoral candidate stabbed on eve of vote wins election

    19/Oct/2015 // 291 Viewers

    A candidate who was stabbed as she campaigned by a man who said he acted out of anti-foreigner motives was elected Sunday as the new mayor of Cologne, Germany's fourth-largest city.

    Henriette Reker won 52.7 percent of the vote, final results showed. Reker, who is currently responsible for housing refugees in Cologne, ran as an independent but was backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats and two other parties.

    Reker was stabbed in the neck and seriously wounded Saturday by a 44-year-old German man. A psychological examination showed that there is no reason to doubt he can be held criminally responsible, prosecutors and police said Sunday.

    The suspect, who hasn't been identified, was ordered kept in custody on suspicion of attempted murder and dangerous bodily harm.

    The man has told officials, without giving details, that he was actively involved in the far-right scene in the past, prosecutors and police said in a joint statement.

    "This time goes back to the '90s," the statement said. "In what function and intensity" he was involved is now a matter for investigation.

    Officials have said that the man apparently acted alone and had no police record.

    Germany's interior minister has said that the attack on Reker underlines growing concerns over hatred and violence amid the refugee crisis.

    Doctors say an operation Saturday went well and Reker's life wasn't in danger. They say she is expected to make a complete recovery.

    Reker, 58, had been one of the pre-election favorites to win. She handily beat the other main candidate in a seven-strong field, center-left Social Democrat Jochen Ott, who polled 32 percent.

    (AP)


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  • €10 million Basquiat painting recovered after theft in Paris

    19/Oct/2015 // 296 Viewers

    A painting by famed contemporary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat worth an estimated 10 million euros ($11.3 million) was recovered Saturday, hours after it was stolen from its owner's Parisian home, police said.

    The painting was removed without any trace of a break-in from a plush apartment near the Elysee presidential palace and the interior ministry.

    But within hours it was back with its rightful owner after being traced to a family member with whom she had had a squabble, police said.

    The owner had returned home late Friday after three days away to discover the painting, details of which were not made public, was missing, police said.

    With no sign of a break-in police had immediately suspected a family quarrel as the motive for the theft.

    Basquiat, a New Yorker of Haitian and Puerto Rican origin close to avant-garde legend Andy Warhol, died from an overdose in 1988 aged just 27 but is a much-coveted contemporary artist.

    He started out as a graffiti artist in Lower Manhattan but a meeting with Warhol helped transform his fortunes.

    His 1982 work 'Dustheads' fetched $48.8 million two years ago at Christie's.

    (AFP)


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  • French train staff 'reacted well' during attack, internal probe says

    19/Sep/2015 // 309 Viewers

    Philippe Huguen, AFP | Crime and forensic investigators stand on a platform next to a Thalys train of French national railway operator SNCF at the main train station in Arras, northern France, on August 21, 2015

     
    Staff on the French train involved in a foiled attack by a heavily armed gunman "had the best reaction possible in an unprecedented situation", an internal probe concluded Friday said, despite claims some had locked themselves away.
     
    Some passengers on the Amsterdam to Paris train complained that when staff heard shots fired, some had locked themselves in the engine car and left the passengers to their fate.
     
    The gunman was overpowered by two off-duty US servicemen and their friend, whom investigators believe almost certainly prevented carnage in the incident on August 21.
     
    The report said the intervention of four people who first encountered the gunman – a French passenger, then two train conductors and then a French-American passenger who was shot in the back – made the gunman "lose enough time" for the Americans to stop him.
     
    Addressing allegations that its staff had fled, Thalys – a branch of France's state-run rail operator SNCF – said one of the two guards had confronted the gunman in Carriage 13, while another had panicked and taken refuge in the engine of the train with two of the bar staff and three passengers.
     
    'He panicked'
     
    "He said he had feared for his life and had panicked and felt as if he was 'trapped in a tunnel', so he did not think to alert the passengers in Carriage 11," the report said.
     
    That meant that none of the passengers in the carriage were initially aware of the dramatic events in the carriages next to them.
     
    The internal investigation said that as a result of the incident, Thalys train staff will receive extra training in dealing with "situations of extreme crisis and danger".
     
    It added that the train staff "are victims of this attack" and some had suffered psychological trauma.
     

    Changes will also be made to the way the train conductors, or guards, communicate with the driver of the high-speed trains.

    It had taken the driver two minutes to fully understand what was happening in the carriages behind him – "a normal reaction time, given the conditions," the report said.

    "Nevertheless, this event has highlighted several weak points in the system," it concluded.

    One was that it would have been impossible to alert the driver if the two train guards had been among the victims of the attack – guards have to use telephones in fixed positions.

    Thalys will now look at ways of installing a more efficient way of communication between the driver and the train, the report said.

    Ayoub El Khazzani, a 25-year-old Moroccan national, has been charged with "attempted murder of a terrorist nature" over the attack.

    The report into the incident was released on the day that Dutch police evacuated a Thalys train and part of Rotterdam station after a man locked himself in the train's toilets and refused to come out.

    Train services from the city were suspended for several hours after the man, whose motives remain unclear, was seen "running onto a stationary train and going directly into the toilet," Dutch police said.

    (AFP)


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  • Putin and Berlusconi 'drank $100,000 bottle of Crimean wine'

    19/Sep/2015 // 297 Viewers

    Ria Novosti/AFP | Vladimir Putin (left) and Silvio Berlusconi visit archaeological excavations in Chersonesus outside Sevastopol, Crimea on September 12, 2015

    KIEV (AFP) -
    Ukraine has launched a criminal probe into wine-tasting by Russian President Vladimir Putin and ex-Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi after they allegedly quaffed a $100,000 bottle of centuries-old wine in Crimea, prosecutors said Saturday.
     
    The Kremlin strongman and the disgraced billionaire reportedly cracked open a bottle of 1775 Spanish Jerez de la Frontera at the famed Massandra winery during a private visit by Berlusconi this month to the region Moscow annexed from Kiev in 2014.
     
    The bottle was part of a legendary collection established by Prince Mikhail Vorontsov, who ran Crimea as governor-general in the first half of the 19th century.
     
    The Massandra winery was taken over by Russia along with the rest of the Crimean peninsula when Putin sent thousands of special forces troops to capture the Ukrainian region last year.
     
    Exiled Ukrainian prosecutors from Crimea said they are now investigating the alleged incident as a "seizure of government property".
     
    "This wine is not just the property of Crimea or Massandra but of the whole Ukrainian people," Nazar Kholodnitsky, an official from the prosecutors' office, told AFP.
     
    Kholodnitsky said that authorities estimated the bottle of wine could be worth "over $100,000".
     
    Berlusconi met his long-standing friend Putin on a private visit to Crimea earlier this month that sparked ire in Kiev.
     
    In a video from Russian television of the pair's tour of the winery Berlusconi can be seen asking the director if "it is possible to drink" one of the aged bottles.
     
    ? 2015 AFP

     


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  • BREAKING: Again, Paris under attack

    20/Apr/2017 // 899 Viewers

     

    PARIS, APRIL 20, 2017: (DGW)  It is all pandemonium tonight here in the French capital of Paris as the city has again come under attack that saw the death of one policeman. Two others have been reportedly injured.

    Two attackers reportedly took part in the attack, one has been killed while the other one is still at large  although the police has commence a manhunt to track him down, Police sources revealed to newsmen.

    We will bring you the details of this unfolding news report shortly.


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  • Video: World's largest, ugliest airship takes maiden flight

    20/Aug/2016 // 448 Viewers

     

    Airlander 10 is the world’s largest airship that can fly. Dubbed “Flying Bum” because of obvious reasons, the huge blimp took off on its maiden flight in London on Wednesday, after technical issues stopped the original launch that should have taken place on Sunday.

    The Airlander 10 measures 302 feet, needs 1.3 million cubic feet of helium to run, and can reach an altitude of 16,000 feet where it can stay for five days, NBC News reports. Its first flight was rather short-lived, as it only stayed in the air for 20 minutes about 35 miles north of London.

    It’s unclear whether the aircraft will be used for commercial purposes anytime soon, but the Flying Bum can be used for surveillance (which we can’t have enough of), communications and humanitarian relief.

    The huge flying object has been in the making since 2007 at Hybrid Air Vehicles.

    Now that we know this thing can actually fly, I can’t but wonder what it’d be like for the Airlander 10 to be used by a country’s military, and then to somehow break free and fly by itself. You know, because that stuff really happens.

    The following video from CNN Money will show you exactly how gigantic this aircraft is and help you understand the Flying Bum thing better.




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