Updates from December, 2017 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Jack 3:39 am on December 13, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: ap, , , ukraine politics   

    Little Hope 

    KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — An anti-corruption agency established in Ukraine two years ago was expected to be the driving force that would uproot the endemic graft that depleted the nation’s resources and worried its Western allies.

    But the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine instead has come under fire from allies of President Petro Poroshenko who are trying to curtail its operations and authority. NABU chief Artem Sytnik told The Associated Press in a weekend interview that fear is behind the recent attempts by political and business elites to weaken the agency that was supposed to be a visible symbol of reform in Ukraine.

    “The old and new elites are quite scared” after realizing “there are no untouchables anymore,” Sytnik said. Last month, the Security Service of Ukraine and the prosecutor general’s office derailed a sting operation by undercover NABU agents to catch a State Migration Service official suspected of issuing passports and residence permits for bribes. The agencies accused NABU of illegal eavesdropping and released the names of its agents, blowing their covers.

    Poroshenko’s faction and its allies in parliament also have submitted a bill that would allow lawmakers to fire the anti-corruption agency’s director with a simple majority vote. Under current law, NABU’s chief can only be fired for a criminal conviction, a provision that was intended to ensure independence.

    “Those attacks are directly linked to the fact that we investigate an increasing number of criminal cases involving people who are in control of the media, material or administrative resources, which they turn against us,” Sytnik said.

    Since its creation in 2015, NABU has investigated 461 cases involving business executives, government officials and judges accused of involvement in corrupt schemes. Sytnik thinks the current campaign against his agency results from a probe that targeted the son of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov for alleged involvement in a scheme to embezzle 14 million hryvnias (about $520,000) allocated for purchasing police rucksacks.

    Avakov has insisted his son was innocent and alleged that NABU of falling under political influence. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde expressed concern about the recent developments “that could roll back progress that has been made in setting up independent institutions to tackle high-level corruption, including the National Anti-Corruption Bureau.”

    “Fighting corruption is a key demand of the Ukrainian society, is crucial to achieving stronger and equitable growth, and is part of the government’s commitment under the program with the IMF,” Lagarde said in a statement last week.

    She urged the Ukrainian government and parliament to safeguard NABU’s independence and to move quickly to set up an independent anti-corruption court “to credibly adjudicate high-level corruption cases.”

    IMF made the establishment of a court where corruption cases could be prosecuted a condition for releasing further installments of a $17.5-billion aid package as Ukraine grapples with the separatist conflict in the east.

    In what was seen as another attempt to block anti-corruption efforts, lawmakers from Poroshenko’s faction and their allies voted Thursday to dismiss the chairman of the anti-corruption committee in parliament.

    “The former and present corrupt elite have colluded,” the ousted committee head, Yegor Sobolev, said. “Their plan is to break the independence of anti-corruption bodies, replace them with fake ones and stop the process of cleaning the government,” he added.

    Popular anger over corruption was a factor in months of protests that drove Ukraine’s former Russia-leaning president from office in February 2014. Poroshenko’s failure to oversee progress has caused growing impatience and triggered calls for his impeachment led by Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgia president turned Ukrainian opposition leader.

    After leading several rallies in Kiev, Saakashvili was arrested Friday on allegations that he colluded with Ukrainian businessmen tied to Russia to topple the president. Saakashvili scoffed at the charges, alleging they resulted from longtime hostility between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    “The detention of Saakashvili shows how far Poroshenko is ready to go to muzzle his opponents and those who expose corruption,” Sobolev said. Thousands of Saakashvili’s supporters marched across the Ukrainian capital Sunday, demanding his release and calling for Poroshenko to be impeached.

    “Poroshenko is continuing the worst traditions of the old nomenklatura,” said Vitaly Shabunin, the head of watchdog group the Center for Fighting Corruption. “The same old elites, the same people have taken different political slogans, but their way of thinking and their goals have remained the same.”


  • Jack 3:38 am on December 12, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: andrew bridgen, camilla tominey, eu crime, , eu fraud, , ,   

    EU Fraud 

    A PRO-Brexit MP has claimed that a recent raid on the European Court of Auditors – the watchdog of EU finances – suggests “something is rotten in the state of Brussels”.

    The European Anti-Fraud Office raided the Luxembourg premises of the ECA last month – although neither body will confirm the incident.

    The raid, which has gone largely unnoticed amid reports of the Brexit negotiations, is understood to be related to an ongoing investigation into the expenses claims of a Belgian official.

    It forms one of around 220 open investigations by the fraud office into the misuse of EU funds.

    The ECA has failed to sign off the EU’s accounts since 1994, claiming they are “materially affected by error”.

    Brexiteer Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: “When the EU is having to continually investigate itself it suggests all is not well in Jean-Claude Juncker’s federalised fantasy land.

    “Thank goodness we’re leaving this busted flush of a bloc behind.”

    The fraud office courted controversy when it refused requests to release a report relating to the 2015 VW “dieselgate” scandal.

    VW had received a £350million loan from the EU’s bank to develop emission-reducing efficiencies, but was found to have cheated.

    It later emerged the EU knew about the scandal but kept silent until US regulators acted.


    See Also:

    (1) EU faces being DESTROYED by forcing Eastern states to take in refugees, Czech leader warns

    (2) PM will confront Boris over Brexit before Christmas

  • Jack 3:11 am on November 27, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: bernard darby, , giving thanks, holocaust, holocaust survivor, us veterans,   

    Giving Back 

    At 83 years old, I am one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors – thanks to the American troops who rescued me in what seems like a lifetime ago.

    Since World War II, I’ve felt a deep connection to American troops for saving my life – a feeling that resurfaces every year on Veterans Day and throughout the holiday giving season.

    And so this year I’m saying “thank you” to the American soldiers of the 1940s by donating $1 million to organizations serving wounded American veterans today.

    My donation to the Wounded Warrior Project and the Services for Armed Forces program of the American Red Cross is my way of giving back, thanking previous generations of warriors for helping me. I hope this inspires others to give back as well.

    Even though more than 70 years have passed since my rescue, it’s not too late to give back. That’s a lesson I hope the next generation recognizes, because it’s all too easy to let procrastination give way to inaction. But action is what brings hope to those who need it.

    As a child, I spent most of World War II hiding from Nazi invaders in my native France, where my parents moved after fleeing the pogroms in Poland. Unfortunately, with the German invasion in 1940, we were again at risk. On July 16, 1942, the French police led a big roundup of Jews in Paris. More than 13,000 Jews were detained before being deported to Nazi death camps.

    The police came to our apartment at 6 a.m. My parents managed to take me to my aunt’s home. She was married to a French soldier and was protected.

    A few hours later, my mother was arrested as she and my brother were trying to get information about my father, who was hiding in a nearby grocery store. A concierge had pointed them out to the police. They ran, but my mother was not fast enough. She was detained and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. She perished there – probably within three weeks.

    I was 7, and for the next two years I lived on borrowed time, shielded by other families on the outskirts of Paris. The same was true for my future wife, who was also a child in hiding. If the war had continued much longer, we would not have survived.

    I vividly remember the arrival of the hundreds of thousands of American troops who landed in Normandy to liberate us in June 1944. They were our saviors, doling out packets of sweets to half-starved, war-weary children who had almost given up hope for freedom.

    The gratitude I feel to these men is beyond words. They freed our country and they saved our lives. Without American troops, my family and I simply would not have existed. I think of that every time I look at our family photos.

    Since the end of the war, life has been good to me. I’ve had a successful career as co-owner of one of Europe’s largest home appliance retailers, working alongside my brothers. I’ve also enjoyed raising my family, celebrating extended family gatherings of 20 people.

    My wife and I have a deep sense of gratitude for America. So in the early 1990s, freshly retired, we bought a home in South Florida. I travel with my wife each winter from our home in Paris to the warmth of Miami Beach. We still appreciate our second home there, where we now spend almost a third of our time.

    I have met many American people who I am lucky enough to call my friends. First, Americans saved us. Then decades later, they welcomed us.

    But as I watched news stories this fall of hurricanes, flooding and wildfires striking America, inflicting suffering among civilians and veterans alike, I realized that I still had an important task left to complete in my life. I had not yet given back to the American soldiers who saved my life nearly three-quarters of a century ago.

    That is why I want to help modern American veterans today. They pursue the tradition of the young men who landed on the shores of Normandy in June 1944 and who I will never forget. In giving this donation, I want to thank Americans with all my heart for coming to rescue us in our hour of need.

    But I also want to make a public stand in support of America. I hope that my donation can trigger a movement and lead others to take action. My story shows it’s never too late to give back, especially for a cause that’s close to your heart. If it wasn’t too late for this octogenarian, it’s not too late for you.


  • Jack 3:24 am on November 16, 2017 Permalink |  

    Royal Row 

    A shock survey revealed almost half of Britons want Prince William to become the next monarch after Queen Elizabeth II rather than his 69-year-old father, Charles.And while Prince Charles is said to be desperate to become King of the United Kingdom, trouble is brewing in Buckingham Palace.

    Richard Palmer, Express royal correspondent, said while “the winds of change are sweeping through palace corridors”, tensions are mounting between staff as the monarchy prepares for life without the Queen.

    He said: “As courtiers oversee a gradual handover to Prince Charles and his sons, some courtiers have found their noses put out of joint amid tensions over the pace of change.

    “It’s a slightly jarring change, in contrast to the long held view that the monarchy is in a way modelled on the design of a jar of Marmite: it changes dramatically over the years but so gradually that the change is almost imperceptible.”Charles would become the oldest Royal ever to become head of state after turning 69 this week.

    Britain’s previous oldest monarch at the time of their coronation was King Edward VII – who was 59 when he took the throne after Queen Victoria died in 1901.

    He was the longest holder of the title of the Prince of Wales until the record was broken by Charles – who has held the title since 1952.

    But his popularity has never recovered from his split from the people’s Princess Diana, according to the latest opinion poll by Opinium.The poll, which questioned 2,500 UK adults online between Tuesday and Friday last week, found 59 per cent of people would love to see doting father and helicopter pilot William take over, while Charles received backing from less than a quarter of British people with just 22 per cent.

    Sir Max Hastings, an author and journalist, said: “If time passes, and Prince William is more and more at the centre of the stage, one question I think is bound to be asked.

    “Would it be in everybody’s best interests, including those of the Prince of Wales, for a new, young, next generation, Prince William, to succeed to the throne?”

    But royal experts insisted Charles would never step aside because his “whole life has been a preparation for kingship”.Richard Fitzwilliams told Express.co.uk:“Of course those who are younger such as William who is second in line have a special appeal but Charles’s whole life has been a preparation for kingship.

    “One day Charles will be proclaimed King the day after the Queen dies. The public expect this and it is for him to choose his name and also apparently the status of his spouse.”

    Mr Fitzwilliams said the abdication of Edward VIII “haunted” the royal family as he insisted the Queen would want succession to occur “naturally”.


  • Jack 3:18 am on November 10, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: anthony watts, carbon capture, , , , , european union, wattsupwiththat.com   

    Hot Air 

    From the “models didn’t predict this”  and the “Climate Action” department:

    An investigation found that Brussels blew the colossal sum of cash on a drive to build underground storage facilities for CO2 emissions – but no such facilities were ever constructed.

    This week the architect of the scheme, a former Lib Dem MEP, admitted this was because officials bungled their predictions for the environmental costs facing businesses.

    The revelations, uncovered by the website EUobserver, will heap further pressure on EU chiefs who are already facing increased scrutiny over their spending due to Brexit.

    Britain’s departure from the bloc is set to blow a £9 billion a year hole in its budget, with a number of member states actively calling for Brussels’ largesse to be be reined in.

    Eurosceptics in the UK have long complained about the cost and red tape related to European environmental regulations which they accuse of stifling entrepreneurial enterprise.

    However, many academics and officials have raised concerns about Britain lowering standards once it leaves the EU and the detrimental impact this could have on the public health and the environment.

    The reports concern a Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project the EU set up in 2007, which was designed to help companies reduce their emissions and so save money on Brussels’ green taxes.

    Under the scheme businesses could buy pollution permits, or allowances, from eurocrats the proceeds of which would then be spent by the EU on capturing and storing carbon emissions.


    However the fund, called NER300, did not support a single such project after officials catastrophically miscalculated carbon emissions pricing in Europe, which they expected to go up but which actually dropped drastically just after the programme was announced.

    Reflecting on the scheme he helped create, former Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies told EUobserver: “The expectation was that the carbon price would rise from thirty euros up to a hundred euros.

    “The incentive to not to have to pay a hundred euros a tonne for every tonne of CO2 emitted, was very strong indeed. The assumption was industry would do it, without us requiring any other means. Industry would take all these risks.”

    However, he said that when the carbon price crashed – it now stands at just seven euros – the scheme attracted virtually no participants and only ended up funding projects already in the renewable category.

    Source: http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/875213/European-Union-EU-wasted-green-project-carbon-capture-zero-results

    More from the Global CCS Institute:

    The failure of NER300

    But it should all have been so different. Back in 2008, collaborative advocacy from industry and non-government organisations helped the European Parliament and Member States to secure an innovative funding mechanism for CCS. The NER300 scheme would sell allowances from the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) to create a funding mechanism to support a suite of CCS demonstration projects, as requested by the European Council the year before. With carbon prices heading toward €30/tonne, it was hoped that up to €9 billion would be raised—providing the world’s largest fund for supporting innovative low–carbon technologies. Soon afterward, the European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR) selected six projects to receive fast-tracked assistance and a further €1.1 billion of public funding. The future looked bright.

    In late December 2012, European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard finally announced the outcome of the first NER300 funding round—but could only award €1.2 billion to 23 innovative renewables projects across Europe. Not one CCS project was funded. What should have been the centrepiece of European CCS efforts had failed to deliver. It had taken EU institutions two years to finalise the programme, and a further two to scrutinise the bidding projects. This was far too long for a supposedly urgent process. But the roots of European difficulties on CCS reach far beyond the administration of the NER300 programme itself.


    Neither of the EC funding approaches has been able to cope with changed circumstances. But the blame must be shared beyond Brussels.

    The EEPR funding provided by DG Energy has failed to secure a single project that has been able to move forward. The Vattenfall project at Jänschwalde pulled out due to public opposition and the failure of the German Government to pass an adequate CO2 storage law. Other projects have experienced technical delays or an absence of Member State support. Only Rotterdam’s ROAD project continues to sit in the starting blocks, but it is waiting for partners to emerge to share some of the funding gap. Its utility sponsors are unwilling to absorb on their own a financial hit anticipated to be in the region of €100 million. This is understandable from an individual company perspective, but mind-blowingly short-sighted from the energy sector as a whole. Other industrial players need to step up and provide support.

    In respect of the NER300 funding process, it was primarily Member States that failed to deliver on the agreed milestones. They were asked to confirm the projects they would support, together with the level of co-funding they would contribute. Only the French Government confirmed co-funding for the proposed ArcelorMittal steel mill CCS project at Florange, and €275 million was assigned by the EC. Bizarrely, ArcelorMittal withdrew at the last minute, citing technical problems. The CCS project had become a political football, kicked out of the ground rather than toward the goal.


    • Jack 2:54 pm on November 10, 2017 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Everytime I read something like this I find myself laughing at the foolishness of trying to solve the hypothetical “problem” of CO2 by burying it in the ground.

      What next?

      Are they going to bury everything that breathes out CO2 (including every human “bean”) to save the planet? And if they manage that who is going to pay for their fantastic lifestyles providing any of them still exist?

      Truly, you can’t make these idiotic ideas up providing you are sane but here we have it. The lunatics continue their assault on progress and “ya know what”…they do it for one reason reason only.

      Personal enrichment.

      Think about that.

  • Jack 3:41 pm on November 5, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: dion dassanayake, , internet piracy, ,   

    Kodi Crackdown 

    THE crackdown against Kodi add-ons and illegal streams continues with a shock new precedent set that affects watching movies online.

    The Kodi surge continues without any sign of stopping, as users continue to ditch paid TV services for the online player.

    Research has suggested Kodi – which offers access to thousands of channels – is being used in more than five million UK homes.

    Kodi software is not illegal, but developers can produce third-party add-ons that provide free access to pirated and illegal content.

    These apps allow users to stream premium content, like paid-for sports and movie channels for free.

    The illegal add-ons are being targeted by ISP’s, government agencies, broadcasters and rights holders.

    The rise in popularity of Kodi add-ons has helped turn online streaming into the new anti-piracy battleground.

    And now Kodi users have been put on alert about a new present that affects watching movie streams online illegally.

    Those who host pirated content online have always been a target for anti-piracy groups.

    But now a new precedent has been set which affects those that aggregate links to remotely hosted pirated materials.

    Moviestreamer charged customers access for an interface which made it easy for Kodi users to access illegal streams hosted all over the internet.

    However, they did not host the infringing TV, movie and sports streams.

    The service offered by the Netherlands-based firm came to the attention of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN who took them to court.

    MovieStreamer said they were not providing the content itself and were several step away from any infringement, TorrentFreak reported.

    However, a judge disagreed – ruling that MovieStreamer knew or should have known about the illicit nature of the content being linked to.

    There were told to stop linking to such content immediately.

    Failure to do so would result in a €5,000 daily fine up to a maximum of €500,000. MovieStreamer were also ordered to pay legal costs.

    The court ruling sets a precedent for internet pirates.

    Offering access to copyrighted materials, whether hosted locally or remotely, could land you in big trouble.

    Speaking to TorrentFreak about what the ruling meant for his company, Bernhard Ohler – owner of MovieStreamer – simply said: “The end”.

    The ruling will surely set alarm bells off for other firms that offer similar services that aggregate links to illegal content.

    And it could affect the number of avenues open to people trying to find illegal movie streams online.

    This year has seen authorities ramp up their efforts to clamp down on online piracy.

    The penalties for online piracy has become more severe this year thanks to the Digital Economy Act becoming law.

    The new law raised the maximum possible sentence for online copyright infringement offences from two to 10 years.

    The maximum sentence will only apply to people who commit serious copyright crimes, such as distributing content.


    See Also:

    (1) Got a smart TV? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

  • Jack 3:25 pm on November 1, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: cigna globa, , , , , the local.de   


    The building of a bypass and a roundabout was meant to commence at the start of Autumn die Welt reports, but because the hamster found living on the building site is endangered, construction had to be postponed until late April or even May.

    According to Germany’s ‘Red List‘, field hamsters, or ‘cricetus cricetus’, are considered endangered in Bavaria and critically endangered in Germany, and therefore killing the hamster or destroying its habitat would have criminal consequences.

    Field hamsters are more common in the region of Schweinfurt where Euerbach is located, as the soil there is especially good.

    People are not allowed to move the hamster, apart from in exceptional cases and particularly not during their hibernation period.

    The hamster can only be moved by experts once he wakes from his winter sleep and is active once again. This could take until May to happen.

    This isn’t the first time that this species has held up building work in the region. Ten years ago, construction of a large furniture shop was held up when 180 field hamsters had to be removed, Die Welt reports.

    The decline in the field hamster population is due to intensive agriculture, field hamster expert Steffen Jodl told Bayerische Rundfunk.

    Digging of the soil and adding manure or pesticides mean they can’t find food for winter. Additionally, the hamsters’ habitat is becoming smaller and smaller because of construction projects and roads.


  • Jack 12:13 pm on October 27, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: , , , iain burns, jake wallace simons, ,   


    The Catalan Parliament has voted to declare independence from Spain, prompting the national government to impose direct rule on the region just 40 minutes later.

    But before the vote, opposition parties stormed out of parliament in protest – with pro-independence MPs draping their empty seats with Catalan flags.

    In response, the Spanish government in Madrid has invoked article 155 of the country’s constitution, dismantling Catalonia’s autonomy.

    Spain’s prosecution office said the country’s top prosecutor will seek rebellion charges for those responsible for the vote. That means President Carles Puigdemont and others could face up to 25 years in prison.

    Independence was approved with 70 MPs in favour, 10 against and two blank ballots in the 135-member parliament.

    After the vote, Puigdemont said: ‘Today our legitimate parliament, that came out of a democratic election, has taken a very important step. The legitimate representative of the citizens have followed the people’s mandate.

    ‘Now we are facing times when we will need to keep calm and peaceful and always keep dignity, as we’ve always done.

    ‘Long live Catalonia!’

    Pro-independence groups have vowed a campaign of civil disobedience to protect public buildings on the event of a crackdown by Madrid, which may involve the feared national riot police and even the army.

    Thousands of Catalans gathered outside the parliament building and cheered and danced after the motion passed.

    The Spanish prime minister wrote on Twitter immediately after the vote: ‘I ask all Spaniards to remain calm. The rule of law will restore legality in Catalonia.’

    Spain’s government will meet at 5pm UK time to discuss the crisis. A central government spokesman said Rajoy’s cabinet will enact the measures to take control of Catalonia during the meeting.

    After the vote, MPs stood to chant the Catalan anthem while Puigdemont and his vice president, Oriol Junqueras, exchanged congratulatory embraces and handshakes.

    Puigdemont added in his remarks after the vote: ‘It is the institutions and also the people who have to work together to help build a country, a society…’

    The European Union will only deal with the central government in Madrid, according to the president of the European Council Donald Tusk.

    ‘For EU nothing changes. Spain remains our only interlocutor. I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not argument of force,’ Tusk wrote on Twitter.

    The US State Department, meanwhile, said Catalonia is an integral part of Spain and backed the Spanish government’s measures to keep the country united.

    There are fears the developments could lead to violence as Spain attempts to impose direct rule on the rebellious region.

    The main secessionist group in Catalonia, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), called on civil servants not to follow orders from the Spanish government after Madrid authorised direct rule over the region.

    The ANC called on Catalan civil servants to respond with ‘peaceful resistance’.

    Shares in Catalan banks fell sharply in response to the news – dragging the entire stock market with them.

    CaixaBank, Spain’s third largest lender, fell by around five per cent while Sabadell, the country’s fifth biggest bank, fell roughly six percent.

    Nearly 1,700 companies have moved their headquarters outside of Catalonia since the referendum.

    The Ibex 35 stock index was down 1.3 percent on a day when most European markets rose. Spanish bonds were also down, but just slightly.

    The market movements are modest, considering the momentous nature of the conflict. Catalonia accounts for a fifth of the Spanish economy, which is the fourth-largest in the 19-country eurozone.

    Investors seem to believe the crisis will be resolved, though analysts say the risks are growing daily. Spain’s Senate in Madrid has approved measures for the central government to take direct control of Catalonia.

    Stephen Brown, economist at Capital Economics, said: ‘We still think that the economic effects of this political crisis will be manageable.’

    He said the Spanish government is likely to be able to force a regional election in Catalonia and later consider revisions to the constitution that might placate some of the independence supporters.

    Speaking to senators earlier today, Rajoy said Spain had to force Catalonia to submit to the Spanish constitution.

    He also attacked the region for ‘mocking democracy’ in a way reminiscent of the era of fascist Spanish leader Francisco Franco, and said he wanted ‘a return to legality’.

    The prime minister urged lawmakers to ‘proceed to the dismissal of the president of the Catalan government, his vice-president and all regional ministers’ during a widely applauded speech.

    It comes after the region held an independence referendum on October 1 that the Spanish government deemed illegal and during which over 800 people were hurt in clashes.

    How would Spain seize control of Catalonia?

    Catalan government

    Invoking the never-before-used article 155 of the constitution, designed to rein in rebel regions, the Spanish government has proposed to dismiss the entire Catalan regional executive, including president Carles Puigdemont and vice-president Oriol Junqueras.

    They would be replaced by nominees from the central government. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says national ministries will take over for as long as this ‘exceptional situation’ lasts.

    The measures also seek power for Rajoy to call elections for a new regional parliament ‘in a maximum timeframe of six months from the Senate’s approval’.

    They may also replace anyone working in a public entity, such as the region’s broadcasters.

    Catalan police force

    Under the proposed measures, Catalonia’s regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, would come under direct Madrid control.

    Whoever is named to take the reins of the regional interior ministry will ‘give members of Catalonia’s police – the Mossos d’Esquadra – direct instructions they will have to comply with’, according to a government document setting out the plans.

    If necessary, members of the Catalan force can also ‘be replaced by state security forces’, according to the document.


    Madrid had already seized control of wide areas of Catalan public spending in September, seeking in vain to stop the referendum.

    It will now seek full control over the region’s finances, including budgets and tax, to ensure that not a single euro of public money can be spent on efforts to break away.

    Telecommunications and media

    Regional ‘telecommunications and digital services’ will also come under Madrid’s governance, and the heads or employees of Catalan public media can be replaced.

    The Spanish government wants to ‘guarantee the transmission of truthful, objective and balanced information, which respects political, social and cultural pluralism, and also the territorial balance’.

    This means Madrid will have a say in what is broadcast on popular Catalan media such as TV3 television.

    Unions at TV3 have accused the channel of being biased in favour of independence, just as unions of the Spain-wide TVE news channel have accused it of being pro-Madrid.

    Regional parliament

    The measures would also see Madrid take control of the Catalan parliament, where pro-independence lawmakers have an absolute majority of 72 seats out of 135.

    The Spanish government has not called for Carme Forcadell, the head of the Catalan parliament and a staunch independence supporter, to be replaced.

    But it stipulates the regional parliament ‘won’t be able to process initiatives that run counter’ to the proposed measures.

    In order to ensure this, the central government wants to appoint an entity that will ensure every single text being processed through parliament conforms to the measures.

    The approved proposal for independence made by the ruling Catalan coalition Junts pel Si (Together for Yes) and their allies of the far-left CUP party said: ‘We establish a Catalan Republic as an independent and sovereign state of democratic and social law.’

    MPs from the opposition Socialists and Citizens parties, who walked out before the vote, had announced earlier that they would boycott the vote.

    Lawmakers from Partido Popular – the ruling party at the national level, but a minority in Catalonia – also walked out after placing Spanish and Catalonia official flags in their empty seats.

    ‘Today is the day that many Catalans’ long-held desire will be fulfilled, but tomorrow the cruel reality will set in with the Spanish state armed with its interpretation of Article 155,’ the former speaker of the Catalan parliament Joan Rigol i Roig, told The Associated Press before the vote. ‘We can only hope that the conflict remains in the political realm.’

    A socialist lawmaker in the parliament lambasted the separatists for bending national and regional laws to move toward declaring independence before the vote and vowed to work ‘for the return of legality to public institutions.’

    Spokeswoman Eva Granados said the separatists are ‘thoughtless’ and asked them why to build a new country based on a concept of democracy that is ‘intolerant and sectarian,’ and that excludes those who oppose independence.

    Meanwhile Carlos Carrizosa, spokesman for the pro-union Citizens party, ripped up the copy of the proposed law to declare independence during the debate prior to the vote.

    Carrizosa said: ‘With this paper you leave those Catalans who don’t follow you orphaned without a government, and that’s why Citizens won’t let you ruin Catalonia.’

    He added that ‘today is a sad, dramatic day in Catalonia. Today is the day that you (secessionists) carry out your coup against the democracy in Spain.’

    The spokesman for the radical-left secessionist CUP party said Catalonia was poised to exercise what separatists call the Spanish region’s right to self-determination.

    Carles Riera of CUP says ‘Today we are ready to make a historic step. Today we become a political entity with right to self-determination and we are exercising it.’

    Spain vowed to stop any attempt at secession.

    Waving Catalan flags and chanting ‘independence’ and ‘freedom,’ thousands of demonstrators rallied outside the park in which parliament is located, hoping to see the proclamation of a new independent state by the end of the day.

    Several hundred Catalan town mayors also joined in a chant for ‘Independence!’ inside Catalonia’s regional parliament building earlier today.

    A 68-year-old protester, Jordi Soler, said: ‘I am here today because we will start the Catalan Republic.’

    Soler said ‘today is the last chance,’ noting that President Puigdemont had offered to negotiate with the central government in Madrid, ‘but Madrid is starting with total repression and there is no longer any (other) option.’

    Spain is expected to send its own representatives to rule the region for as long as the ‘exceptional situation’ persists, Rajoy said yesterday.

    It would also mean that Catalonia’s police force, public broadcasters and parliament would come under the direct control of the central government.

    Catalonia since the referendum: A timeline of the crisis

    October 1: Violence-hit referendum.

    Hundreds of thousands of Catalans vote in an independence referendum that goes ahead despite a court ban deeming it unconstitutional.

    Spanish riot police try to block the vote. Shocking footage emerges of them using batons and rubber bullets on crowds and roughing up voters.

    The Catalan government says 90 percent of those who voted backed independence, but turnout was only 43 percent as many who oppose a split boycotted the referendum.

    October 3: General strike.

    A general strike called by unions and political groups disrupts Barcelona’s port, transport and some businesses. Up to 700,000 people demonstrate in the city against police violence, defending the right to vote.

    King Felipe VI accuses Catalan leaders of threatening Spain’s stability and urges the state to defend ‘constitutional order’.

    October 5: Business exodus begins.

    Banco Sabadell, Catalonia’s second largest bank, announces it will shift its registered domicile out of the region. More than 1,600 companies follow suit in a bid to minimise instability.

    October 7-8: Mass protests.

    Tens of thousands of people demonstrate across Spain on October 7, some demanding unity, others demanding dialogue.

    The next day hundreds of thousands march in Barcelona to back unity with Spain.

    October 10: ‘Suspended’ independence declaration.

    In a move that sparks widespread confusion, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his separatist allies sign a declaration of independence, but say they are suspending its implementation to allow for time for negotiations with Madrid.

    The next day, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gives Puigdemont until October 16 to clarify his stance.

    October 16: Separatists detained.

    Puigdemont refuses to say whether he had declared independence and instead calls for dialogue. Madrid gives him an extended deadline of October 19 to say whether he is planning to secede.

    A court orders the leaders of two powerful grassroots independence groups, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, to be detained pending an investigation into sedition charges.

    Their detention prompts tens of thousands to protest in Barcelona the following night.

    October 21: Spain to sack Catalan government, force elections.

    Rajoy takes drastic steps to stop Catalonia breaking away, employing previously unused constitutional powers to seek the dismissal of Puigdemont’s government and new elections for the Catalan parliament. The Senate has to approve the measures.

    Some 450,000 people join a separatist protest in Barcelona, with Puigdemont accusing Rajoy of ‘the worst attack on institutions and Catalan people’ since Spain’s dictatorship.

    October 25: Puigdemont declines Senate meeting.

    Puigdemont turns down an invitation to address legislators in the Spanish Senate to state his case for independence, with a source saying he declined because Madrid ‘has already announced that it will implement Article 155 no matter what’.

    Puigdemont then calls an urgent brainstorming meeting with his cabinet and pro-independence civil groups.

    October 26: No regional elections, says Puigdemont.

    In a highly-anticipated address to the nation, Puigdemont says he considered calling elections to stave off the central government’s takeover bid, but received ‘no guarantees’ to make this possible.

    In the hours before Puigdemont’s announcement, there had been feverish speculation that he would dissolve parliament and announce elections in a bid to keep Madrid at arm’s length.

    October 27: Takeover v. independence.

    In Rajoy’s presence, Spanish senators meet to adopt drastic measures to seize control of Catalonia.

    Rajoy asks the Senate for the go-ahead to depose Puigdemont and his executive in a bid to stop their independence drive.

    In response, Catalan separatist parties file a resolution in the regional parliament in which they seek declare independence from Spain.

    ‘We declare Catalonia an independent state in the form of a republic,’ reads the start of the draft motion crafted by separatist lawmakers, which hold a majority in the regional parliament that may later proceed to a vote.

    Thousands of activists gather outside the Catalan parliament to add their voice to the push for a break with Spain.

    Rajoy also said he would use the powers to call elections for the region within six months.

    Pro-independence supporters have already started to gather outside the parliament, where a demonstration was called from 10.30 am (8.30am GMT).

    If article 155 were invoked, it would be the first time in four decades of democratic rule that the national government would directly run the affairs of one of Spain’s 17 semi-autonomous regions

    Catalan President Carles Puigdemont yesterday ruled out a snap election over fears it would trigger violence.

    The president was seen holding hands with his wife as he entered the regional parliament today.

    Puigdemont revealed he considered calling elections in an effort to ease the separatist crisis as Madrid prepares to seize control of the region.

    But he decided not to because ‘abusive’ Madrid did not offer enough ‘guarantees’ that they would not take over control of Catalonia.

    In a televised statement, he said it was now ‘up to the (regional) parliament’.

    The regional leader also justified the decision not to hold an election by saying he believed it would spark more violence after the October 1 independence referendum descended into chaos.

    It is believed he also changed his mind because of huge divisions within his pro-independence coalition government. Many of his MPs believe he should simply unilaterally declare independence, with one yesterday resigning over the issue.

    The crisis has split Catalonia and caused deep resentment around Spain. It has also prompted a flight of business from the wealthy region and alarmed European leaders who fear the crisis could fan separatist sentiment around the continent.

    France’s Suez, the top water provider in Spain, has temporarily moved the legal registration of its offices in Catalonia to Madrid because of legal uncertainty related to Catalonia’s independence movement.

    ‘We have temporarily moved the registered office of Agbar, which is the (Suez) holding company in Catalonia, to Madrid in order to protect the legal certainty of investors, because what we see now in Catalonia is uncertainty,’ Chief Financial Officer Christophe Cros said on an earnings call.’

    Huge numbers of independence supporters marched through Barcelona yesterday, blocking several streets as they headed to the government palace after students at the local university went on ‘strike’.

    The three-day strike by students at the Autonomous University of Barcelona saw dozens of protesters block entry to facilities in protest of the political crisis, with hundreds of others prevented from attending lectures as a result.

    Access was restricted by protesters resulting in students struggling to get in the education facility after commuting from the nearby railway station of Cerdanyola del Valles.

    There were reports of clashes between picketing students and those wanting to attend lectures, as well as threats made on social media by protesters.

    A professor who teaches economics at the university said: ‘There is always trouble when a strike is called.

    ‘They have let us teachers pass, but if you wanted to remove the chairs it is the usual mess. It makes me crazy, they justify what they do, but you are not allowed to speak.’

    The unnamed professor said numerous classes had been suspended as a result of the protests.

    A law professor added: ‘There was a mess because many students wanted to come in and argued with the picket because they wanted to pass, but the picket did not change its attitude.

    He added that of the ‘hundreds of students who usually attend each day’, only 50 made it inside.

    President Puigdemont’s cabinet, including Junqueras, met for frantic meetings overnight and on Thursday morning and it was thought he was set to call a snap election.

    His pro-independence coalition has 72 seats in the Catalan Parliament out of 135.

    If the regional government decides to call a snap election it could see Puigdemont increase his majority.

    This would then give him mandate to declare that independence had been won lawfully, essentially turning the regional election into a new referendum, after the one earlier this month was branded ‘illegal’ by Madrid.

    Germany said on Friday it supported the Spanish government in its dispute with separatists in Catalonia and hoped both sides would de-escalate the situation through dialogue.

    ‘The government hopes those involved will make use of all opportunities for dialogue and de-escalation’ provided by the Spanish constitution, a German government spokeswoman told a regular government news conference in Berlin

    Catalans are fiercely protective of their language, culture and autonomy – restored after the 1939-75 dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

    Fears for Catalonia’s economy have increased as uncertainty persists over the independence drive, with some 1,600 companies having moved their legal headquarters out of the region in recent weeks.

    Catalonia accounts for about 16 percent of Spain’s population and a fifth of its economic output.


    See Also:

    (1) The Latest: Spanish flag ‘removed’ from Girona town hall

  • Jack 3:39 am on October 26, 2017 Permalink |
    Tags: bruce bawer, eu censorship, , , ,   

    Free Speech? 

    • Nor, we are told, should we associate “terms such as ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islam’… with particular acts,” because to do that is to “stigmatize.” What exactly does this mean? That when a man shouts “Allahu Akbar” after having gunned down, run over with a truck, or blown to bits dozens of innocent pedestrians or concertgoers, we are supposed to ignore that little detail?
    • But that is what this document is all about: advising reporters just how to misrepresent reality in EU-approved fashion.
    • It is interesting to note that while many people fulminate over President Trump’s complaints about “fake news,” they are silent when an instrument of the EU superstate presumes to tell the media exactly what kind of language should and should not be used when reporting on the most important issue of the day.

    “Respect Words: Ethical Journalism Against Hate Speech” is a collaborative project that has been undertaken by media organizations in eight European countries – Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, and Spain. Supported by the Rights and Citizenship Programme of the European Union, it seeks, according to its website, to help journalists, in this era of growing “Islamophobia,” to “rethink” the way they address “issues related to migratory processes, ethnic and religious minorities.” It sounds benign enough: “rethink.” But do not kid yourself: when these EU-funded activists call for “rethinking,” what they are really doing is endorsing self-censorship.

    In September, “Respect Words” issued a 39-page document entitled Reporting on Migration & Minorities: Approach and Guidelines. Media outlets, it instructs, “should not give time or space to extremist views simply for the sake of ‘showing the other side.'” But which views count as “extremist”? The report does not say – not explicitly, anyway. “Sensationalist or overly simplistic reporting on migration,” we read, “can enflame existing societal prejudices” and thus “endanger migrants’ safety.” Again, what counts as “sensationalist” or “overly simplistic”? That is not spelled out, either. Nor, we are told, should we associate “terms such as ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islam’… with particular acts,” because to do that is to “stigmatize.” What exactly does this mean? That when a man shouts “Allahu Akbar” after having gunned down, run over with a truck, or blown to bits dozens of innocent pedestrians or concertgoers, we are supposed to ignore that little detail?

    Or perhaps we should entirely avoid covering such actions? After all, the document exhorts us not to write too much about “sensationalist incidents involving migrants,” as “[v]iolent individuals are found within every large group of people.” If, however, we do feel compelled to cover such incidents, we must never cease to recall that the “root causes” of these incidents “often have nothing to do with a person’s ethnicity or religious affiliation.” What, then, are those root causes? The report advises us that they include “colonialism, racism, [and] general social inequality.” Do not forget, as well, that there is “no structural connection between migration and terrorism.”

    At least the report’s authors do not have the audacity to maintain that there is no connection between Islam and terrorism. But they do urge us to remember that Islam is “diverse.” The notion that it is inherently violent is — what else? — a “stereotype.” So is depicting Islam as “grounded in a different reality and lacking common value with other cultures” or portraying Muslim immigrants as being “fundamentally different from the citizens of the host country.” And it is just plain wrong, needless to say, to encourage “the widespread perception that there is a ‘cultural clash’ between Islam and the West with religion at the heart of the ‘problem.'” (On the contrary: Islam is, the report tells us, “a belief system that can exist alongside others.”) And do not dare to suggest that Islamic culture is in any way “inferior to Western culture.” Or that Muslim men are “highly patriarchal.” (Repeat after me: “Many societies around the world remain highly patriarchal, independent of religion.”) And do not pay too much attention to Muslim women’s “clothing styles.” Why? Because doing so tends to “homogenise” them. (Banish from your mind the thought that it is the clothing itself that homogenizes them.)

    During the last couple of years, many countries in Europe have experienced a veritable tsunami of Islamic migration. But responsible journalists, according to “Respect Words,” must never, ever put it that way: “When describing migration, don’t use “phrases such as ‘tide,’ ‘wave’ and ‘flood'” (or, the authors later add, “horde” or “influx”) because such language can “evoke the sense of a ‘mass invasion.'” It “dehumanises migrants,” you see, and “constructs a false sense among the audience of being ‘under siege’ by an ‘enemy’ that must be repelled.” Of course, much of Europe is “under siege”; this fact is becoming clearer by the day; to use milder terms when discussing this topic is to do nothing less than misrepresent reality. But that is what this document is all about: advising reporters just how to misrepresent reality in EU-approved fashion.

    “Inform your audience,” the report urges journalists, “about the reasons why people feel compelled to leave their homelands, and investigate what connections there may be to policies and practices of European states.” Possibly, however, a massive percentage of the Muslims pouring into certain European states are doing so because of those states’ “policies and practices” — namely, their readiness to start handing immigrant families large sums of cash the minute they arrive, to set them up with free housing, furnishings, etc., and to allow them to stay on the dole for the rest of their lives. Many of those countries are more generous to Muslim newcomers than they are to their own citizens who have fallen on hard times; immigrants often go to the front of the line, while elderly citizens of some of these countries – people who have worked hard and paid into the welfare system since the world was young – have been turned out of their homes in order to accommodate newly-arrived Muslim families.

    But these obviously are not the “policies and practices” to which the “Respect Words” document is referring. Quite the opposite. The transparent implication here is that Muslim refugees and asylum seekers are fleeing conditions for which they and others in their countries of origin hold no responsibility whatsoever and that can, in fact, ultimately be traced back to Western wrongdoing, whether in the last generation or centuries ago. Never mind that Muslims took over Persia, the Byzantine Empire, all of North Africa and the Middle East, Greece, Northern Cyprus, much of Eastern Europe, and Southern Spain. Ultimately, everything that is wrong with the Muslim world is seemingly the fault of the West, so Europeans owe all incomers a new life — and perhaps even a new country — peaceably handed over to them so that they can import sharia law?

    No, the report does not quite go so far as to make this argument. But the report does caution that even to touch on the question of “whether asylum seekers’ claims are genuine” or “whether migrants have a right to be in the country” is thoroughly inappropriate: it places the focus on “law and order” rather than on such things as “the fundamental right of asylum.” Yes, you read that correctly: “the fundamental right of asylum.” Never mind that under international law not everyone is entitled to asylum — and that a huge proportion of self-styled asylum seekers in Europe today have no legitimate grounds for such a claim but are, like many of us, seeking better economic opportunities.

    But such facts are inimical to the authors of the “Respect Words” document. In their view, no human being can be “illegal”; therefore, the word “illegal,” they admonish, should be used to describe actions, not people.

    The only surprising thing about this document is that it actually includes a brief section on anti-Semitism, in which it suggests — believe it or not — that equating Israel and Nazi Germany may not be a good idea. For the most part, however, the report is one long taxpayer-funded catalog of politically correct protocols which — if adhered to by everyone in Europe who is professionally involved in reporting on events concerning Islam and immigration — would guarantee a full-scale whitewash of the alarming developments currently underway on this unfortunate continent. It is interesting to note that while many people fulminate over President Trump’s complaints about “fake news,” they are silent when an instrument of the EU superstate presumes to tell the media exactly what kind of language should and should not be used when reporting on the most important issue of the day.

    Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.


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