All posts by MPolitics

France Probes Muslim Organizations Following Beheading of Teacher

France’s Interior Ministry has launched an investigation into a wide range of hate speech following the beheading of a history teacher last week. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that 80 instances of hate speech online had been investigated since Friday’s attack and that 51 French Muslim organizations would be probed, as well. “Not a minute of respite for enemies of the republic,” Darmanin wrote Monday on Twitter. Pas une minute de répit pour les ennemis de la République.👉+ de 80 enquêtes ouvertes pour haine en ligne suite à l’attentat de vendredi.👉 51 structures associatives verront toute la semaine des visites des services de l’Etat et plusieurs d’entres elles seront dissoutes. pic.twitter.com/r7F8UOTHJH— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) October 19, 2020The comments follow a weekend of countrywide rallies defending free speech and secularism in France after middle school teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded Friday near his school in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.Latest Terror Attack in France Sparks Anger, Fear Some believe free expression and France’s secularist creed are on the line  A national commemoration in honor of Paty takes place Wednesday. Among the groups being investigated by the French government is the Anti-Islamophobia collective (CCIF), a group that tracks anti-Muslim attacks. Darmanin called the group an “enemy of the state.” CCIF, which expressed condolences for Paty’s family and all teachers on social media, accused Darmanin of slander. Nearly a dozen people are being held for questioning in Paty’s killing, which took place as he returned home from class. They include the family of the suspect, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee identified by officials as Abdoullakh A., who police shot and killed shortly after he allegedly stabbed and decapitated his victim.  

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Wales to Impose Two-Week Coronavirus Lockdown Beginning Friday 

Officials in Wales announced Monday they will impose a two-week “firebreak” lockdown effective Friday, requiring all but essential workers to stay at home to combat an accelerating second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced the move at a news conference, saying the lockdown will be in effect from Friday to November 9. During that time, everyone in Wales will be required to stay at home, except for the most critical workers. He said that that means people will be working from home wherever possible. Referring to the lockdown as a “firebreak,” Drakeford said it “is the shortest we can make it but that means that it will have to be sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need it to have on the virus.”   Drakeford said that while he understood that people were tired of COVID-19 restrictions, the imposition of rules was essential as critical care units were already full.  All non-essential retail, leisure, hospitality and tourist businesses will have to close in Wales. Places of worship will also close for regular service. Last week, Britain’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE)recommended a similar break for all of Britain, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected it in favor of his regional three-tiered “alert” system approach.  Britain recorded 16,982 new daily cases of COVID-19 in the space of 24 hours, according to government data issued on Sunday, up from 16,717 the previous day. Wales recorded 950 cases, up from just 400 per day at the start of the month.    

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Poll Finds Many Spaniards Favor Dissolving Monarch

Protests against the monarchy have spread in Spain and polls show the nation is divided about whether it should be abolished, as Alfonso Beato reports from Barcelona in this story narrated by Jonathan Spier. Camera: Alfonso Beato   
Producer:  Jon Spie

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Got Any Signal Up Here? Nokia to Build Mobile Network on Moon

Finland’s Nokia has been selected by NASA to build the first cellular network on the moon, the company said on Monday.
 
The lunar network will be part of the U.S. space agency’s efforts to return humans to the moon by 2024 and build long-term settlements there under its Artemis program.
 
Nokia said the first wireless broadband communications system in space would be built on the lunar surface in late 2022, before humans make it back there.
 
The Finnish company will partner with Texas-based private space craft design firm Intuitive Machines to deliver the network equipment to the moon on their lunar lander.
 
After delivery, the network will configure itself and establish the first LTE (Long-Term Evolution) communications system on the moon, Nokia said. “The network will provide critical communication capabilities for many different data-transmission applications, including vital command and control functions, remote control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation and streaming of high definition video,” Nokia said.

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Czechs to Wait 2 Weeks Before Considering COVID Lockdown

The Czech Republic, which has the highest coronavirus infection rate in Europe, will wait at least two weeks before deciding whether to order a full lockdown to stem its epidemic, Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlicek said Sunday.In the past week, bars and restaurants in the country of 10.7 million have been ordered to close except for takeout orders, and schools have moved to distance learning. Sport and fitness clubs, theaters and cinemas had already shut, but shops have remained open.The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said it had registered 828 cases per 100,000 population in the last two weeks, more than 10 times the rate in neighboring Germany.Since schools reopened in September, the cumulative number of cases has risen almost seven times.Officials have warned that hospital admissions are set to rise sharply until the restrictions show an impact.”We will not decide this week about a lockdown,” Havlicek said on Czech television. “We have clearly said we will wait (until Nov. 2) for results.”Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said on CNN Prima’s Sunday show the new measures should cut the R number, which measures average spread from one infected person, by 30-40%. A number above 1.0 indicates an exponential increase, and the current rate is estimated at 1.4.If the latest restrictions are not effective enough, he said there were few options other than a lockdown.The growth in COVID-19 cases with more than 100,000 this month, bringing the total to 171,487 as of Saturday evening, and 1,402 deaths overall, according to Johns Hopkins University data, is forcing authorities to make plans for field hospitals and seeking foreign help.The Czech Fire Rescue Service said it had sent a formal request through European Union channels for ventilators.In Prague, more than 2,000 sports fans according to city hall estimates, including militant soccer supporters’ groups known as ultras, protested against the coronavirus measures, defying restrictions on gatherings.Police used water cannon and tear gas amid clashes. Emergency services reported nine people were injured.

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Turkish Cypriot Hardliner Beats Leftist in Leadership Runoff

A hardliner who favors even closer ties with Turkey and a tougher stance with rival Greek Cypriots in peace talks has defeated the leftist incumbent in the Turkish Cypriot leadership runoff Sunday.Turkish Cypriot broadcaster BRT says with 100% of the votes counted, Ersin Tatar secured 51.74% of the vote compared to 48.26% for Mustafa Akinci.Tatar appears to have benefited from a higher turnout in the runoff, managing to rally supporters from the estimated 200,000-strong electorate who may not have voted in the first round.Akinci conceded to Tatar in a speech to supporters at his campaign headquarters, congratulating his opponent on his victory.  “We went through an election contest that wasn’t normal. … These results mark the end of my 45-year political career,” Akinci said. “I wish good luck to our people.”Tatar declared victory in a speech to his supporters.Akinci, 72, is a champion of Turkish Cypriots who oppose Turkey’s complete domination of their affairs. Tatar, 60, advocates fully aligning Turkish Cypriot policies with those of Turkey, the region’s patron.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated Tatar on his election victory.  “Turkey will continue to make all necessary efforts to defend the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people,” Erdogan said on his official Twitter account.  The Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north that is economically and militarily dependent on Ankara. The island’s internationally recognized government has its seat in the Greek Cypriot south and is part of the 27-nation European Union.The tussle between Turkish Cypriots who seek to retain more say in how they’re governed and those who want to walk in lockstep with Turkey has been a prominent feature in past leadership races, but this contest seems more polarized than ever.  Akinci has alleged that Turkey has engaged in “unprecedented” interference throughout the campaign in favor of Tatar and that he and his family have received threats to drop out of the race.”We know that things happened that shouldn’t have happened,” Akinci said after casting his ballot.A first test for the winner will be a meeting with Greek Cypriots and Cyprus’ “guarantors” — Greece, Turkey and Britain — that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to call soon. The aim will be to figure out if there’s enough common ground to restart dormant peace talks.Nearly five decades of U.N. facilitated attempts at achieving reunification based on a federal framework have failed.Akinci believes that federation is the only way toward a peace accord. Tatar shares the Turkish government view that federation may not be the most viable option and alternatives such as a two-state deal should be pursued.Tensions have soared this summer in waters off Greece and Cyprus over sea boundaries and energy exploration rights after Turkey redeployed a research vessel near the Greek island of Kastellorizo. The move cast doubts on fresh talks aimed at resolving the dispute.Turkey insists it has every legal right to search for hydrocarbons in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights. The Greek and Cypriot governments accuse Turkey of violating international law. The dispute raised fears of a military conflict between Greece and Turkey, which are NATO members but are strong regional rivals.

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UK Says Door Remains ‘Ajar’ for Post-Brexit Trade Deal 

The UK had imposed a deadline of last week’s EU summit for a deal  and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was now ready to walk away and prepare for a no-deal exit, after five decades of EU membership. However, senior minister Michael Gove said on Sunday he was still hopeful there would be an agreement, telling TV interviews the door remained “ajar” if the EU would change its position. The two sides disagree on the rules for fair competition, how these rules will be policed and how much access EU fishing fleets will get to UK waters. Britain wants to reassert sovereignty over its waters and have no EU legal oversight over the deal — insisting it wants a simple trade deal of the kind the EU signed with Canada. But the EU says Britain’s situation is completely different to that of Canada. “I want a deal, I’m keen to conclude one but it takes both sides to compromise in order for there to be one. The EU is not doing so at the moment,” Gove told Sky News, adding that the EU did not seem serious in their desire to reach a deal. Chief European negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost are due to discuss the structure of talks on Monday, according to the European Commission. “The ball is in his court,” Gove said of Barnier. Failure to strike a deal would see Britain and Europe revert to World Trade Organization terms, with higher tariffs and quotas, potentially devastating for economies already weakened by the pandemic.  

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Turkish Cypriots Pick Leader as Stakes Soar in Mediterranean

Turkish Cypriots began voting Sunday in a leadership runoff between an incumbent who pledges a course less bound by Turkey’s dictates and a challenger who favors even closer ties to Ankara. The stakes have soared as a battle over energy rights in the eastern Mediterranean has intensified.Veteran incumbent Mustafa Akinci, 72, is a champion of Turkish Cypriots who oppose Turkey’s complete domination of their affairs. His hard-line challenger Ersin Tatar, 60, advocates fully aligning Turkish Cypriot policies with those of Turkey, the region’s patron.The Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north that is economically and militarily dependent on Ankara. The island’s internationally recognized government has its seat in the Greek Cypriot south and is part of the 27-nation European Union.The tussle between Turkish Cypriots who seek to retain more say in how they’re governed and those who want to walk in lockstep with Turkey has been a prominent feature in past leadership races but this contest seems more polarized than ever.Akinci has alleged that Turkey has engaged in “unprecedented” interference throughout the campaign in favor of Tatar and that he and his family have received threats to drop out of the race.“We know that things happened that shouldn’t have happened,” Akinci said after casting his ballot, adding that he wishes voters will look back on Sunday’s election with “pride for Turkish Cypriot democracy and will.”Tatar edged out Akinci in the first round of voting by less than three percentage points but Akinci now has clinched support from the third-place candidate. Analyst Tumay Tugyan says the contest could go either way as Tatar courted a significant pool of voters from the approximately 200,000-strong electorate — especially in rural areas — who may not have voted in the first round.Tatar urged voters to get out and beat the first round’s record-low turnout.“The important thing is to reflect our will and send out a message to the world,” Tatar said after voting.A first test for the winner will be a meeting with Greek Cypriots and Cyprus’ ‘guarantors’ — Greece, Turkey and Britain — that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected call soon. The aim will be to figure out if there’s enough common ground to restart dormant peace talks.Nearly five decades of U.N. facilitated attempts at achieving reunification based on a federal framework have failed.Akinci believes that federation is the only way toward a peace accord. Tatar shares the Turkish government view that federation may not be the most viable option and alternatives such as a two-state deal should be pursued.Tensions have soared this summer in waters off Greece and Cyprus over sea boundaries and energy exploration rights after Turkey redeployed a research vessel near the Greek island of Kastellorizo. The move cast doubts on fresh talks aimed at resolving the dispute.Turkey insists it has every legal right to search for hydrocarbons in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights. The Greek and Cypriot governments accuse Turkey of violating international law. The dispute raised fears of a military conflict between Greece and Turkey, NATO members who are strong regional rivals. 

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Armenia, Azerbaijan Exchanging Accusations of Violating Humanitarian Truce

Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other Sunday of violating a new humanitarian cease-fire in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, just hours after it took effect.In a Twitter message early Sunday, Armenia’s Defense Ministry accused Azerbaijan of violating the new cease-fire in the Nagorno-Karabakh region by firing artillery shells and rockets.“Once again violating the humanitarian ceasefire, the enemy fired artillery shells in the northern direction from 00:04 to 02:45, and fired rockets in the southern direction from 02:20 to 02:45.”Once again violating the humanitarian ceasefire, the enemy fired artillery shells in the northern direction from 00:04 to 02:45, and fired rockets in the southern direction from 02:20 to 02:45.— Shushan Stepanyan (@ShStepanyan) October 17, 2020Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said in a statement later that “the enemy fired at the vicinity of the Jabrail city, as well as the villages of this region … using mortars and artillery,” adding that the Azeri army “took adequate retaliatory measures.”Azerbaijan and Armenia announced they had agreed to a new cease-fire beginning Sunday, the second attempt in a week to temper almost three weeks of fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh.”The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan have agreed to a humanitarian truce as of October 18, 00h00 local time,” Armenia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said late Saturday.Azerbaijan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued an identical statement.The announcements came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke by phone with his Armenian and Azeri counterparts. Lavrov and French President Emmanuel Macron both stressed that the cease-fire must be strictly observed by both sides.Earlier Saturday, Azerbaijan and Armenia accused each other of new attacks, a further indication that violence has escalated in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in violation of a Russian-brokered truce that took effect a week ago.Meanwhile, UNICEF called Saturday for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, declaring in a statement that children have been killed, injured and displaced by the fighting, forcing them to endure weeks of “extreme psychological trauma and distress.”“Children, families and the civilian facilities that they depend upon must be protected, in line with international human rights and humanitarian law. A complete cessation of hostilities is in the best interest of all children,” the statement said.The ongoing fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted Sept. 27 and has killed hundreds of people, marking the biggest escalation of the decades-old conflict over breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh since a 1994 cease-fire.The predominantly ethnic Armenian territory declared its independence from Azerbaijan in 1991 during the collapse of the Soviet Union, sparking a war that claimed the lives of as many as 30,000 people before a 1994 cease-fire. However, that independence is not internationally recognized.

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