Monthly Archives: December 2016

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France 24 : Under the shadow of terror: France’s year in review


Under the shadow of terror: France’s year in review

http://f24.my/2hBBFhB
The Euro 2016 football tournament gave France at least something to cheer about. But the country’s protracted terror alert continued to dominate headlines in a year so tense even police officers protested.

Horror on the French Riviera
A year after suffering the deadliest terrorist attacks in its history, France was again struck by jihadist militants in 2016 – repeatedly so. On July 14, as crowds gathered across the country to celebrate Bastille Day, France’s national holiday, a man ploughed a 19-tonne truck along Nice’s seafront promenade, mowing down revelers over a 1.7-kilometre stretch before police put an end to the murderous rampage. The attack, claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, left 86 people dead – including 10 children – and hundreds more injured. Five months later, its chilling modus operandi inspired a similar massacre at a Christmas market in the German capital, Berlin.

Horror in a church
Less than two weeks after sowing terror on the French Riviera, jihadist terrorism produced another gruesome attack, laden with symbolism, when two men stormed a small parish church in Normandy, murdering 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel at the altar as he celebrated Mass. Days later, a huge crowd brought together Catholics, Muslims and Jews at the nearby cathedral of Rouen to honour the slain priest, who was proclaimed a martyr by Pope Francis.
A permanent state of emergency
As it grappled with successive attacks, many carried out by homegrown terrorists, the French government repeatedly extended a state of emergency declared in the wake of the November 13, 2015, bloodbath in Paris. The emergency rule expanded police powers to carry out searches and put people under house arrest, and allowed authorities to ban protests and close mosques – leading to claims of rights abuse. A separate and more divisive proposal to strip dual nationals of their French citizenship if convicted of terror offences was eventually shelved, but not before it caused a fatal rift within the ruling Socialist Party.
Euro 2016: France’s nearly men
The state of emergency threatened to cast a pall over the biggest event of the year in France: the Euro 2016 football tournament, which attracted hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors. Guaranteeing security at stadiums and “fan zones” across the country presented France’s already-stretched police force with a formidable logistical challenge. As if the terrorist threat were not enough, drunken English and Russian fans fought running battles in the streets of Marseille, turning the southern port city into a war zone. But the football eventually took centre stage and a strong run by the home side helped lift French spirits – at least until the final, where Les Bleus saw their party crashed by the unfancied Portuguese.
Terror, floods and strikes plague Paris tourism
With France’s terror alert making headlines around the world, and police, gendarmes and soldiers patrolling the streets of Paris and other French cities, the country’s tourism industry endured its most miserable year in decades – despite the Euro 2016 boon. In the French capital, normally the world’s most visited city, officials reported a €750 million shortfall in revenue. It wasn’t just fear of terrorist attacks that blighted the City of Light. Massive, sometimes violent, industrial action against a controversial labour law, severe flooding, record pollution levels, and high-profile muggings all conspired to keep tourists at bay.
The burkini saga
At the height of the summer holiday season, France attracted more unwanted attention when a handful of right-wing mayors in Nice and other beach resorts proclaimed a ban on full-body swimsuits for Muslim women, commonly known as burkinis. The mayors, backed by Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls, said the burkinis represented an unacceptable affirmation of radical Islam in the public sphere, and a possible provocation in the wake of the July attack in Nice. A top court eventually ruled that the bans “illegally breached fundamental freedoms”, though by then pictures of French police fining beachgoers and telling them to strip in public had stirred outrage and ridicule around the world.
Hollande throws in the towel
The protracted terror alert took its toll on France’s already unpopular president, François Hollande, whose approval rating sunk to an unprecedented low of 4% in October. The release of a tell-all book of interviews with journalists – which included classified information and candid remarks on the sensitive issue of Islam and Hollande’s troubled private life – proved the last straw for many of his remaining supporters. Alone and discredited, the Socialist president surprised the nation by announcing he would not run for re-election in 2017, becoming the first sitting president of the Fifth Republic not to seek a second term in office.

Sarkozy’s aborted comeback
A month before Hollande’s “renoncement”, his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy also saw his hopes of a second presidential mandate crushed. In a year of electoral upsets that brought pollsters on both sides of the Atlantic into unprecedented disrepute, the first round of France’s conservative primary largely confirmed the trend – but with an important caveat: in France the loudmouthed agitator, who had dominated headlines by playing on voters’ fears, was soundly beaten. Sarkozy’s humiliating third place sent him back into political retirement, four years after he pledged, upon losing to Hollande, that “you won’t hear from me again”.
The rise of Fillon
The corollary of Sarkozy’s humiliating defeat was the astonishing rise of his former prime minister, François Fillon, who romped to victory in the primary organized by the conservative Les Républicains party. Polls suggest Fillon, an admirer of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, is likely to beat far-right leader Marine Le Pen to the French presidency next year. His sudden surge from outsider in the conservative primary to hot favourite for the Elysée Palace has cast a spotlight on the role played by anti-gay marriage movements in drumming up support for his socially conservative platform.

‘Maverick’ Macron throws hat in the ring
With France’s ruling Socialists all but written off, the former “maverick” economy minister Emmanuel Macron launched his long-expected presidential run, campaigning under his own banner and with the enthusiastic support of an army of young volunteers. A one-time investment banker with a rather sketchily defined liberal agenda, Macron promised nothing short of a “revolution” to “pull France into the 21st Century”. Experts warned that he would struggle without the support of a mainstream party. But with polling institutes in disarray and the Macron media bubble showing no sign of bursting, the 38-year-old’s campaign was causing anxiety among his rivals on both sides of the political divide.
Labour unrest
After quitting Hollande’s administration in late August to focus on his campaign, Macron pledged a “radical” overhaul of France’s job market, arguing that the government’s deeply divisive labour reforms had been too shy. Unions begged to differ. Unveiled at the start of 2016, the “Loi travail” gave companies greater leeway to decide about hiring, firing, pay and working hours. It prompted a six-month standoff with unions, leading to huge protests, strikes and fuel shortages (and an egg-pelting session for Macron). Amid broad opposition from the public and from Socialists dissidents in parliament, Prime Minister Manuel Valls repeatedly used a notorious clause in the French constitution – known as the 49-3 – to force through the legislation without a vote. Ironically, he later pledged to scrap the clause as he launched his own presidential bid.
Police in revolt
Violent clashes during protests against the “Loi travail” turned a difficult year for French police into a hellish one. France’s over-stretched security forces already had their hands full with round-the-clock anti-terror patrols and rioting football fans. When a Molotov cocktail attack on a police car in a Paris suburb seriously injured two officers, their furious colleagues began to stage protests of their own. After 10 days of nightly demonstrations in cities across France, the government pledged to upgrade police equipment and review the rules of engagement that restrict officers’ ability to defend themselves.
Black Lives Matter in France too
Just over a decade after riots brought chaos to the suburbs of Paris, the issue of police discrimination resurfaced in July after a 24-year-old black man died while in police custody in a town north of the French capital. Police first said Adama Traoré had died of a heart attack, before blaming a severe infection. A second autopsy found that his death had been caused by “asphyxiation”, although how the asphyxiation occurred could not be determined. Traore’s death set off days of clashes between angry minorities and police. It was picked up under the banner of Black Lives Matter movement, which acquired special resonance amid reports of a surge in cases of police abuse and racial profiling under France’s state of emergency.
Clearing the Calais ‘Jungle’
Up in the northern port of Calais, police cleared the last segment of the notorious “Jungle” camp where thousands of migrants – many of them asylum seekers – had been amassing for years in dire conditions, waiting for a chance to cross the English Channel. Some of the migrants moved to new facilities elsewhere in France, while others ended up in makeshift settlements in Paris, which were routinely cleared by police, then promptly rebuilt. The capital’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, ordered the construction of the city’s first humanitarian camp for homeless migrants, but only a fraction found room inside.
Young blood
The rich – and all too often disparaged – legacy of immigration in France was on full display during literary award season as French-Moroccan writer Leïla Slimani became only the 12th woman to win the Goncourt, France’s top prize for literature, for her “Chanson douce” (Sweet Song), and French-Rwandan rapper and writer Gaël Faye picked up its younger sibling, the Goncourt des lycéens, for “Petit Pays” (Little Country). Critics hailed a breath of fresh air for French literature, noting that both authors were born outside France and are in their mid-30s.
Cannes, perfume and a long-lost Caravaggio
With terrorism, primaries and football grabbing all the headlines, culture stories seldom made front-page news. In Cannes, home to the world’s leading film festival, British director Ken Loach joined the exclusive club of two-time Palme d’Or winners with his latest social-realist drama, while France picked a rape-revenge thriller starring Isabelle Huppert to represent it at the Oscars. Just as tourism was drying up, Paris prepared to welcome two new museums – one to celebrate French perfume and the other to house the vast private collection of luxury retail magnate François Pinault. Ill-gotten collections were also in the spotlight: a French court upheld the conviction of an elderly couple who had kept 271 Picasso artworks hidden in their garage for 40 years; a long-lost Caravaggio painting was presented to the public, two years after it resurfaced in an attic in Toulouse; and French patriots hailed a symbolic victory over their old English foes by bringing a silver-gilt ring believed to have belonged to Joan of Arc back across the Channel.

France 24 : Argentina’s ex-president Kirchner faces new probe over bombing


Argentina’s ex-president Kirchner faces new probe over bombing

http://f24.my/2iKBH6Z

An Argentine appeals court ordered a new investigation Thursday into charges that ex-president Cristina Kirchner obstructed a probe into a 1994 bombing that killed 85 people at a Jewish community centre.

She is accused of conspiring to protect high-ranking Iranian officials suspected of ordering the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah to carry out the attack.

Kirchner, Argentina’s president from 2007 to 2015, allegedly received oil and trade benefits from Iran in exchange for signing off on a deal that enabled the suspects to avoid prosecution.

The accusations were first leveled by the late prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was found dead in mysterious circumstances the day before he was due to present his 289-page report against the president and her foreign minister, Hector Timerman to Congress.

Iran has denied involvement in the attack. Kirchner likewise denies the allegations against her.
Kirchner branded Nisman accusations “absurd” and stated that he was murdered by rogue intelligence agents who used the prosecutor to accuse her and then killed him when he was no longer needed.

Four lower courts had thrown the case out on grounds there was no evidence a crime had been committed.
Kirchner dogged by accusations

But the new decision reopens a murky case that has dogged Kirchner since her presidency, a day after she was charged in a separate corruption case.

The three judges also ordered the case be removed from the court of their colleague Daniel Rafecas and transferred to a randomly selected judge.

Rafecas threw out the original request to reopen Nisman’s case, brought by the Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations (DAIA).
Bombing and murder still unsolved

The unsolved bombing at the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires was the deadliest terror attack in Argentine history.

It still haunts the country two decades later.

No one has been convicted for the bombing, which wounded 300 people.

Nisman’s death also still remains unsolved nearly two years on.

The case was transferred in September to federal investigators, who are now tasked with determining whether it was a suicide or homicide.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

France 24 : Trump hails ‘very smart’ Putin amid US-Russia hacking row


Trump hails ‘very smart’ Putin amid US-Russia hacking row

http://f24.my/2izu0Bf

US President-elect Donald Trump on Friday praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for refraining from retaliation in a dispute over cyber attacks, in another sign that the Republican plans to patch up badly frayed relations with Moscow.

Putin earlier on Friday said he would not hit back for the US expulsion of 35 suspected Russian spies by President Barack Obama, at least until Trump takes office on Jan. 20.
“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” Trump wrote on Twitter from Florida, where he is on vacation.
Obama on Thursday ordered the expulsion of the Russians and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their involvement in hacking political groups in the Nov. 8 US presidential election.
“We will not expel anyone,” Putin said in a statement, adding that Russia reserved the right to retaliate.
“Further steps towards the restoration of Russian-American relations will be built on the basis of the policy which the administration of President D. Trump will carry out,” he said.
In a separate development, a code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont electric utility, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing unnamed US officials.
The Russians did not actively use the code to disrupt operations of the utility, the officials told the Post, but penetration of the nation’s electrical grid is significant because it represents a potentially serious vulnerability.
Trump has repeatedly praised Putin and nominated people seen as friendly toward Moscow to senior administration posts, but it is unclear whether he would seek to roll back Obama’s actions, which mark a post-Cold War low in US-Russian ties.
Trump has brushed aside allegations from the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the cyber attacks. “It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things,” Trump said on Thursday, though he said he would meet with intelligence officials next week.
US intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives before the presidential election. Moscow denies this. US intelligence officials say the Russian cyber attacks aimed to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Russian officials have portrayed the sanctions as a last act of a lame-duck president and suggested Trump could reverse them when he takes over from Obama, a Democrat.
A senior US official on Thursday said that Trump could reverse Obama’s executive order, but doing so would be inadvisable.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the Obama administration “a group of embittered and dimwitted foreign policy losers.”
Republican opposition
Should Trump seek to heal the rift with Russia, he might encounter opposition in Congress, including from fellow Republicans.
Republican John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Friday that Russia must face a penalty for the cyber attacks.
“When you attack a country, it’s an act of war,” McCain said in an interview with the Ukrainian TV channel “1+1” while on a visit to Kiev.
“And so we have to make sure that there is a price to pay, so that we can perhaps persuade the Russians to stop these kind of attacks on our very fundamentals of democracy,” added McCain, who has scheduled a hearing for Thursday on foreign cyber threats.
Other senior Republicans, as well as Democrats, have urged a tough response to Moscow.
A total of 96 Russians are expected to leave the United States including expelled diplomats and their families.
Trump will find it very difficult to reverse the expulsions and lift the sanctions given that they were based on a unanimous conclusion by US intelligence agencies, said Eugene Rumer, who was the top US intelligence analyst for Russia from 2010 until 2014.
But that might not prevent Trump from improving ties to Russia, said Rumer, now director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a policy institute. “If Mr. Trump wants to start the relationship anew, I don’t think he needs to walk these sanctions back. He can just say this was Obama’s decision,” said Rumer.
As part of the sanctions, Obama told Russia to close two compounds in the United States that the administration said were used by Russian personnel for “intelligence-related purposes.”
Convoys of trucks, buses and black sedans with diplomatic license plates left the countryside vacation retreats outside Washington and New York City without fanfare on Friday.
A former Russian Foreign Ministry employee told Reuters that the facility in Maryland was a dacha used by diplomatic staff and their children. The 45-acre complex includes a Georgian-style brick mansion, swimming pool, tennis courts and cottages for embassy staff.
Neighbors said the Russians were a lively bunch, seen water-skiing in summer and known for throwing a large, annual Labor Day party.
The Russian consulate in San Francisco said on its Facebook page, “We hate to have to say goodbye to close to a dozen of our colleagues, our friends.” Among those expelled was the consulate chef.
Obama had promised consequences after US intelligence officials blamed Russia for hacks intended to influence the 2016 election. Officials accused Putin of personally directing the efforts and primarily targeting Democrats.
Washington also put sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies, the GRU and the FSB, four GRU officers and three companies that Obama said “provided material support to the GRU’s cyber operations.”
(REUTERS)

France 24 : Deadly blasts rip through Baghdad market


Deadly blasts rip through Baghdad market

http://f24.my/2iOJNeX
Two bombs exploded at a busy market in central Baghdad on Saturday killing at least 28 people and wounding more than 50 others, security officials and medics said. The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The blasts took place early Saturday morning in al-Sinaq, a busy market selling car accessories, food and clothes as well as agricultural seeds and machinery.
Details were sketchy in the immediate aftermath. An Interior Ministry official initially said that one of the blasts had been triggered by a planted explosive, but police later concluded that both explosions were caused by suicide bombers.
The IS group later claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement posted by its Aamaq news agency, confirming that the blasts came from a pair of suicide bombers.
An AFP photographer said torn clothes and mangled iron were strewn across the ground in pools of blood at the site of the wreckage near Rasheed street, one of the main thoroughfares in Baghdad.
“Many of the victims were people from the spare parts shops in the area, they were gathered near a cart selling breakfast when the explosions went off,” Ibrahim Mohammed Ali, who owns a nearby shop, told the news agency.
IS under pressure

Speaking from Baghdad, Global Radio News correspondent Saif Al-Hiali told FRANCE 24 that “security was heightened significantly” within the city in preparation for the New Year, with key streets on lockdown.

He noted that the attacks had followed the latest offensive against Mosul by Iraqi special forces.

“The military campaign is entering its third month now and the Islamic State group are known to resort to these tactics – attacking areas well outside their territory – whenever they’ve been pressured by advancing forces,” Al-Hiali said.

Diversionary attacks
Baghdad has been on high alert since the start of an offensive to drive the IS group out of the northern city of Mosul, Iraq’s largest military operation in years.
The jihadist outift has lost much of the northern and western territory it seized in 2014 and is now resisting the offensive in Mosul, its last major stronghold in Iraq.
It has tried to hit back with major diversionary attacks on other targets across the country but has had little success in Baghdad.
Saturday’s twin bombings were the deadliest in the capital since the start of the Mosul offensive.
At least 34 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a funeral tent in Baghdad’s Shaab area on October 15.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

France 24 : Video: Syrian regime emboldened ahead of Russia-backed peace talks


Video: Syrian regime emboldened ahead of Russia-backed peace talks

http://f24.my/2iQcjRm

Victory in Aleppo has strengthened President Bashar al-Assad’s hand ahead of planned peace talks brokered by Russia, Syria expert Hilal Khashan tells FRANCE 24, noting that regime change in Damascus is no longer on the agenda.

Building on a ceasefire brokered this week, Russia and Turkey are pushing for peace talks between the Syrian regime and its foes, to be held in January in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana.
Khashan, a professor of politics at the American University of Beirut, said the fall of Aleppo’s last rebel stronghold, and the entente between Moscow and Ankara, meant that Assad’s regime would be in a “better negotiating position” going into the talks.
“Victory in east Aleppo makes any precondition regarding the regime unthinkable,” he said, referring to past calls for Assad to quit power, which the Syrian rebels and their allies had previously put forward as a condition to peace talks.
Turkey, which had opposed Assad throughout the Syrian conflict, “now seems to have abandoned the rebels – and the events in east Aleppo attest to this,” Khashan added.
As its cooperation tightened with Moscow, Turkey stood conspicuously quiet as the Syrian regime, supported by Russia, took full control of Aleppo this month, handing the rebels their biggest defeat in the civil war so far.
Khashan noted that the new ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey this week contained a number of “loopholes”, allowing the regime to continue its attacks on radical rebel groups excluded from the truce.
“The Syrian regime and its allies will be at liberty to strike at the al-Nusra Front, or Jabhat Fateh al-Sham,” he said, referring to the former al Qaeda affiliate, which changed its name this year in an effort to distance itself from the terrorist network.
Khashan also cautioned against describing the Russo-Turkish peace push, which conspicuously excludes the US, as a humiliation for Washington.
In a clear snub to US President Barack Obama, Moscow has said it would look to get the team of President-elect Donald Trump in the mix when he takes power next month.
But Khashan argued that Syria was “not a major regional country for the US to worry about”, playing down the notion of fundamental differences between Moscow and Washington.
“American acquiescence made it possible for Russia to step into the Syrian theatre,” he said, adding: “There is a general understanding between the Russians and the Americans on the big picture of how the conflict in Syria should come to an end.”
Click on the player above to watch the interview.

BBC News: The women who invented the Brazilian wax


The women who invented the Brazilian wax – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-37896963

BBC News: Russia-US row: Trump praises Putin amid hacking expulsions


Russia-US row: Trump praises Putin amid hacking expulsions – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38473240

BBC News: ‘Russia hacking code’ found on Vermont utility computer


‘Russia hacking code’ found on Vermont utility computer – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38479179

BBC News: New Year’s Eve security tightened post-Berlin attack


New Year’s Eve security tightened post-Berlin attack – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38473292

BBC News: Should holiday email be deleted?


Should holiday email be deleted? – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-28786117

BBC News: French workers get ‘right to disconnect’ from emails out of hours


French workers get ‘right to disconnect’ from emails out of hours – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-38479439

Watch “multi ani traiasca” on YouTube


Watch “Multi Ani Traiasca” on YouTube


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Happy New Year!


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Another Version of…Jungle Book…


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Another Version of…Jungle Book…

Another Version of…Jungle Book…

De ce oamenii îşi pierd timpul…


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De ce oamenii îşi pierd timpul…

De ce oamenii îşi pierd timpul…

What would a celebration of birds be without the Painted Bunting?


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What would a celebration of birds be without the Painted Bunting?

What would a celebration of birds be without the Painted Bunting? One of our priority species, and certainly one of the most stunning. #CelebratingBirds https://abcbirds.org/bird/painted-bunting/

Today’s Birthday: Mary Tyler Moore (1936)


Today’s Birthday:
Mary Tyler Moore (1936)

Although she began her career as a dancer, Moore’s success came from her TV roles, first as the secretary on Richard Diamond, Private Detective and then as Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. She is best known, however, as the star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the most popular sitcom of the 1970s and the first show to center on a happily unmarried career woman. Over the years, she has won multiple Emmys and Golden Globes. What film role earned her an Oscar nomination?: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

This Day in History: The Treaty of New Echota Is Signed (1835)


This Day in History:
The Treaty of New Echota Is Signed (1835)

In 1835, a minority faction of the Cherokee tribe signed the Treaty of New Echota, which bound the entire tribe to move beyond the Mississippi River within three years. Although the Cherokee overwhelmingly repudiated the document and the US Supreme Court upheld the nation’s autonomy, the state of Georgia forced their removal through military action. President Andrew Jackson refused to intervene, and thousands died on the march, known as the “Trail of Tears.” To where did they march?: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Quote of the Day: Joseph Conrad


Quote of the Day:
Joseph Conrad

The nations of the earth are mostly swayed by fear—fear of the sort that a little cheap oratory turns easily to rage, hate, and violence.: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Article of the Day: Exit Polling


Article of the Day:
Exit Polling

Instead of asking who voters plan to support in a future election, as is done in opinion polling, pollsters involved in exit polling ask people who they actually voted for as they leave polling stations. Exit polls are usually conducted by firms providing media outlets with an early indication of an election’s outcome, though they have also been used to deter election fraud. Critics, however, maintain that the results of these surveys can be distorted. How might exit polls influence an election?: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Word of the Day: tumulus


Word of the Day:
tumulus

Definition: (noun) A heap of earth placed over prehistoric tombs.
Synonyms: burial mound, grave mound, barrow
Usage: The tumulus marked the spot where his ancestor was buried.: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Thanks to Heather Ingraham who spotted this Gila Woodpecker outside Scottsdale, Arizon


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Thanks to Heather Ingraham who spotted this Gila Woodpecker outside Scottsdale, Arizon

A fruiting cactus provides a tasty treat for a Gila Woodpecker. These woodpeckers are found throughout the desert Southwest and Mexico, primarily in the saguaro cactus forests. Thanks to Heather Ingraham who A fruiting cactus provides a tasty treat for a Gila Woodpecker. These woodpeckers are found throughout the desert Southwest and Mexico, primarily in the saguaro cactus forests. Thanks to Heather Ingraham who spotted this Gila Woodpecker outside Scottsdale, Arizona, and submitted her photo to BirdSpotter. The contest category, Everyday Feeder Friends, closes tomorrow. Last call to submit a photo & vote for your favorites. Two lucky winners receive prizes from Wild Birds Unlimited, Inc. More @ http://bit.ly/BirdSpotter spotted this Gila Woodpecker outside Scottsdale, Arizona, and submitted her photo to BirdSpotter. The contest category, Everyday Feeder Friends, closes tomorrow. Last call to submit a photo & vote for your favorites. Two lucky winners receive prizes from Wild Birds Unlimited, Inc. More @ http://bit.ly/BirdSpotter

Nativity from El Greco


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Nativity from El Greco

Nativity from El Greco

Yeah, it’s a lot of downtime but never s dull moment!


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Yeah, it's a lot of downtime but never s dull moment!

Yeah, it’s a lot of downtime but never s dull moment!

This day in history, December 29, 1890 the Wounded Knee Massacre. The U.S. Army 7th Calvary, surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers at the edge of Wounded Knee Creek


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This day in history, December 29, 1890 the Wounded Knee Massacre. The U.S. Army 7th Calvary, surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers at the edge of Wounded Knee Creek

This day in history, December 29, 1890 the Wounded Knee Massacre. The U.S. Army 7th Calvary, surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers at the edge of Wounded Knee Creek. A fight broke out and the 7th Calvary opened fire, killing an estimated 150 Native American’s most of which women and children. After the massacre a large snow storm ravaged the area, several days after the massacre, the 7th Calvary buried the dead in a large mass grave.

Beauty and the beast


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Beauty and the beast

Beauty and the beast

One reason to visit Hawaii in 2017: Hanauma Bay! Photo: Ron F.


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One reason to visit Hawaii in 2017:  Hanauma Bay!  Photo:  Ron F.

France 24 : Details of Berlin attacker’s Europe travels emerge


Details of Berlin attacker’s Europe travels emerge

http://f24.my/2iEnz3e

Following the Berlin attack, suspected assailant Anis Amri travelled from Germany to the Netherlands and then on to France before heading to Italy where police shot him dead, investigative sources revealed Wednesday.

Two days after the December 19 attack on a Christmas market in Berlin left 12 dead, the 24-year-old Tunisian boarded an overnight bus at the Dutch city of Nijmegen, near the German border, that took him to Lyon in central France, sources close to the investigation told the AFP Wednesday.
At Lyon, Amri got off the bus at the Gare de Lyon-Part-Dieu station, where surveillance cameras filmed him Thursday, according to sources.
From there, he took a train to the French Alpine town of Chambery before heading to Milan, in northern Italy.
Italian police shot Amri dead in the early hours of Friday after he fired at officers who had stopped him for a routine identity check.
A train ticket from Lyon to Milan via Turin was found on his body.
The fact that the chief suspect in the Berlin attack was able to return to Italy unhindered despite a Europe-wide arrest warrant has raised uncomfortable questions for intelligence agencies.

The security lapse is particularly embarrassing for France, which the suspect was able to enter, travel across and leave, despite a state of emergency.

Details of Amri’s travels through Europe have also sparked questions of German security lapses with investigators still trying to determine how a suspect on a Europe-wide warrant was able to leave Berlin and traverse most of Germany to reach the Netherlands.
Wim de Bruin, spokesman for the Dutch public prosecution service told AFP: “I can confirm that the Dutch police are investigating whether he travelled through The Netherlands after the attack in Berlin.”
De Bruin declined however to give further details.
Dutch lawmakers including anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders demanded an explanation over reports that Amri may have travelled through the Netherlands.
An attempt by Wilders to convene the lower house of parliament for an urgent debate on the matter was turned down after he failed to get the approval of a majority of lawmakers.
The Berlin rampage was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, which released a video on Friday in which Amri is shown pledging allegiance to IS group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
German officials arrest suspected Amri contact
German authorities are probing whether Amri had help before or after the attack, and on Friday police detained a Tunisian man on suspicion of having ties with him.
The 40-year-old man, who wasn’t identified, was detained during a search of his home and business, federal prosecutors said.
The man’s telephone number was saved in Amri’s cellphone, according to prosecutors.
Of the new suspect, prosecutors said in a statement that “further investigations indicate that he may have been involved in the attack”.
The arrest in Germany came as Tunisian authorities on Friday arrested Amri’s nephew and two other suspects, aged between 18 and 27, who they said were members of a “terrorist cell” connected to Amri.
But the interior ministry made no direct link between the trio and the Berlin assault.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

France 24 : Erdogan accuses the West of backing the IS group


Erdogan accuses the West of backing the IS group

http://f24.my/2hMk8DA

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said the West was breaking promises in Syria, accusing Ankara’s partners of backing “terror groups” including IS jihadists in the country.

At least 37 Turkish soldiers have died in Turkey’s major incursion inside Syria since it was launched in August to back pro-Ankara Syrian fighters battling IS and Kurdish militia.
Casualties have mounted as the military seeks to take the town of Al-Bab from IS jihadists and Ankara has become more impatient over the lack of support from the US-led coalition against the extremists for the Turkish operation.
“The coalition forces are unfortunately not keeping their promises,” Erdogan said at a news conference alongside visiting Guinean President Alpha Conde.
“Whether they do or they don’t, we will continue along this path in a determined way. There is no going back on the path we have set out on,” he added.
Turkey has met the fiercest resistance yet of the campaign in the fight for Al-Bab, some 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of the Turkish border.
Erdogan complained that rather than supporting Turkey, the West was backing the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and Democratic Union Party (PYD), who work with the United States on the ground in Syria, and also IS.
“They are supporting all the terror groups — the YPG, PYD but also including Daesh (IS),” Erdogan said.
“It’s quite clear, perfectly obvious,” he said, adding that Turkey could provide proof in pictures and video.
Erdogan had made a similar claim on a visit to Pakistan in November alleging that “the West stands by Daesh right now” and its weapons were Western-made.
But the Turkish leader expressed confidence over the assault saying “we now have the Daesh terror group surrounded on four sides in Al-Bab”.
“Yes we have martyrs… but now there’s no turning back,” he said.
Erdogan made no mention of a video purportedly showing two Turkish soldiers being burned to death by IS in Syria.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said earlier there was no information confirming the video.
Erdogan said that along with Russia, Turkey backed a plan to bring the parties in the conflict together with key powers for peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana.
But he said that “terror groups” must not be included and that Turkey also wanted to see its Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar involved.
(AFP)

Today’s Holiday: Fifth Night of Hanukkah


Today’s Holiday:
Fifth Night of Hanukkah

Hanukkah commemorates the successful rebellion of the Jews against the Syrians in the Maccabean War of 162 BCE, but the military associations are played down. What is really being celebrated is the survival of Judaism. Jewish families today celebrate this holiday by lighting a special Hanukkah menorah, a candelabrum with holders for eight candles, one for each day of celebration, plus a ninth, the shammash, used to light the others. A special prayer is recited during the lighting, and, while the candles burn, it is a time for songs and games, including the four-sided toy called the dreidel.: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Today’s Birthday: John von Neumann (1903)


Today’s Birthday:
John von Neumann (1903)

Neumann was a Hungarian-born American mathematician. He emigrated to the US in 1930 to teach at Princeton University and was among the original faculty of its Institute for Advanced Study. He solved one of David Hilbert’s 23 theoretical problems, collaborated on an algebraic ring with profound applications in quantum physics, and helped develop the atomic bomb. He later made major contributions to the development of computers. What branch of applied mathematics did he help found?: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

This Day in History: Lumière Brothers’ First Film Screening for a Paying Public Audience (1895)


This Day in History:
Lumière Brothers’ First Film Screening for a Paying Public Audience (1895)

In 1882, French inventor Louis Lumière developed a method of making photographic plates. By 1894, he and his brother August were producing 15 million plates a year. They worked on improving Edison’s kinetoscope, and, in 1895, patented their combination movie camera and projector, the Cinématographe. Their 46-second film La Sortie des ouvriers de l’usine Lumière is considered the first motion picture and was one of 10 included in their first public film screening. What is its subject?: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Quote of the Day: Henry David Thoreau


Quote of the Day:
Henry David Thoreau

If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go; perchance it will wear smooth—certainly the machine will wear out.: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Article of the Day: The Didgeridoo


Article of the Day:
The Didgeridoo

The didgeridoo, developed by the Australian Aborigines, is perhaps the world’s oldest wind instrument. Though the exact age of the didgeridoo is unknown, studies of rock art in northern Australia suggest that the Aboriginal people have been using it for approximately 1,500 years. Didgeridoos measure about 4 ft (1.5 m) in length and are made from branches that have been hollowed out by termites. A 2005 study found that practicing the didgeridoo can help reduce what sleep-related conditions?: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Word of the Day: demeanor


Word of the Day:
demeanor

Definition: (noun) The way a person behaves toward other people.
Synonyms: deportment, conduct, behavior
Usage: She had a charming demeanor that endeared her to her many friends.: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Pierre-Auguste Renoir – On the Terrace, 1881


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Pierre-Auguste Renoir – On the Terrace, 1881

Pierre-Auguste Renoir – On the Terrace, 1881

Watch “Leonard Cohen – The Partisan” on YouTube


France 24 : Netanyahu summons envoys, meets US ambassador


Netanyahu summons envoys, meets US ambassador

http://f24.my/2hEIMWL

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu met Sunday with US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro, officials said, without offering details. The meeting came hours after the foreign ministry summoned envoys from 10 states that supported a UN vote on settlements.

Israel summoned the ambassadors of 10 nations to Jerusalem to reprimand them on Sunday and had more harsh words for the Obama administration over a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an end to settlement-building.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put his personal imprint on the show of anger by repeating at the weekly cabinet meeting what an unidentified Israeli government official contended on Friday – that Washington had conspired with the Palestinians to push for the resolution’s adoption.
The White House has denied the allegation.
The vote passed in the 15-member Security Council on Friday because the United States broke with its long-standing approach of diplomatically shielding Israel and did not wield, as a permanent member of the forum, its veto power, instead abstaining.
“According to our information, we have no doubt the Obama administration initiated it (the resolution), stood behind it, coordinated the wording and demanded it be passed,” Netanyahu told the cabinet in public remarks.
Ambassadors from 10 of the 14 countries that voted in favour of the resolution and have embassies in Israel – Britain, China, Russia, France, Egypt, Japan, Uruguay, Spain, Ukraine and New Zealand – were summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, the ministry said.
Sunday is a regular work day in Israel, but most embassies are closed, and calling in envoys on Christmas Day is highly unusual.
At the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu described a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday, when Israel and President-elect Donald Trump successfully pressed Egypt to drop the anti-settlement resolution it had put forward.
It was resubmitted a day later by New Zealand, Senegal, Venezuela and Malaysia.
“Over decades American administrations and Israeli governments disagreed about settlements, but we agreed that the security council was not the place to resolve this issue,” Netanyahu said.
“We knew that going there would make negotiations harder and drive peace farther away. As I told John Kerry on Thursday, ‘Friends don’t take friends to the Security Council’,” he said, switching from Hebrew to English.
Israel has pursued a policy of constructing settlements on territory it captured in a 1967 war with its Arab neighbours – the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, areas Palestinians seek for a state.
Most countries view the settlement activity as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel disagrees, citing biblical and historical connections to the West Bank and Jerusalem as well as security interests.
(REUTERS)

France 24 : Turkey detains more than 1,000 for links to exiled cleric


Turkey detains more than 1,000 for links to exiled cleric

http://f24.my/2hH3IfE
Turkish authorities last week detained 1,682 people over suspected links to militants and arrested 516, the interior ministry said Monday, with more than 1,000 of those detained suspected of having links to exiled US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Ankara says Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen orchestrated an attempted coup in July, with 1,096 of his suspected supporters detained and 426 of those subsequently arrested.

Another 508 people were detained for suspected links to Kurdish militants and 78 of those were arrested, the ministry said. Authorities detained 78 people for alleged links to the Islamic State group and arrested 12, it added.
Turkey declared a state of emergency soon after a failed coup in July, detaining thousands of citizens and purging tens of thousands of public servants over alleged ties to outlawed groups as well as to Gulen.
Some 110,000 people have been sacked or suspended in the civil service, army and judiciary and 36,000 people jailed pending trial in the investigation of the failed putsch, in which over 240 people were killed. Gulen has denied involvement in the coup.

Western governments, human rights group and legal experts have repeatedly expressed concern over the crackdown, which some say has begun targeting political opponents and critics. Ankara defends its actions saying they are necessary precautions in the face of ongoing nationwide terrorism.
This year Turkey has seen a series of attacks and bombings in major cities that were the work of either the Islamic State group or Kurdish militants.
Turkey frequently restricts access to social media websites to prevent the spread of graphic images and other material that authorities say would harm public order or security.
Such restrictions usually follow a major crackdown or a terrorist attack. On Friday access was restricted to social media websites for several hours after the Islamic State group released a video purportedly showing two Turkish soldiers being burned alive.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

BBC News: Toxic liquor kills at least 32 in Pakistan


Toxic liquor kills at least 32 in Pakistan – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-38441113

Thanks God: BBC News: Romania President rejects Muslim Sevil Shhaideh as PM


Romania President rejects Muslim Sevil Shhaideh as PM – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-38443757

Watch “Norwegian Wood – The Beatles” on YouTube



Norwegian Wood
The Beatles
Lyrics
I once had a girl
Or should I say she once had me
She showed me her room
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?
She asked me to stay
And she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around
And I noticed there wasn’t a chair
I sat on the rug biding my time
Drinking her wine
We talked until two and then she said
“It’s time for bed”
She told me she worked
In the morning and started to laugh
I told her I didn’t
And crawled off to sleep in the bath
And when I awoke I was alone
This bird had flown
So I lit a fire
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?
Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul Mccartney
Norwegian Wood lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Tobogan _ Parcul Tei_ 1997


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Tobogan _ Parcul Tei_ 1997

Tobogan _ Parcul Tei_ 1997

You’re beautiful! You too!


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You're beautiful! You too!

You’re beautiful! You too!

Torino, cupola della chiesa di San Lorenzo. Guarino Guarini, 1680. foto Didatticarte


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Torino, cupola della chiesa di San Lorenzo. Guarino Guarini, 1680.
foto Didatticarte

Torino, cupola della chiesa di San Lorenzo. Guarino Guarini, 1680.
foto Didatticarte

‪Home Lucy Hale!


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‪Home

‪Home

Două româncuțe frumoase ❤


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Două româncuțe frumoase ❤

Două româncuțe frumoase ❤