Daily Archives: December 25, 2017

Milan, Italy (photo by Ömer Kavala)via: http://bit.ly/2yXaV6x


Adoration of the Shepherds. El Greco. 1596-1600


Adoration of the Shepherds. El Greco. 1596-1600

Adoration of the Shepherds. El Greco. 1596-1600

Lombardy – Livigno


Lombardy - Livigno

Lombardy – Livigno

Maternity, by Picasso 


Maternity, by Picasso

Maternity, by Picasso

Romanian judicial reform: Critics decry ′parliamentary coup,′ threat to democracy | Europe | DW | 24.12.2017


http://m.dw.com/en/romanian-judicial-reform-critics-decry-parliamentary-coup-threat-to-democracy/a-41923648?maca=en-gk-volltext-newsstand-topstories-en-10709-xml-media

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EUROPE

Romanian judicial reform: Critics decry ‘parliamentary coup,’ threat to democracy

First Poland and Hungary — now Romania, too, is set to reshape its judicial system, disregarding heavy criticism at home and abroad. The Romanian president must now decide whether the reform will come into effect.

Protesters in Bucharest gather to demonstrate against corruption (picture-alliance/AP Photo/V. Ghirda)

Pre-Christmas protests in Bucharest: There is no shortage of symbolism in a country where December demonstrations toppled its longtime Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu and led to his Christmas Day execution

The Romanian people and their president chose a symbolic date for their protest. On Thursday, the eve of the anniversary of the December 22 revolution, state president Klaus Iohannis warned his fellow Romanians against political developments in his own country.

“In 1989 Romanians cried, ‘Down with Communism,'” he said. “Now this cry resounds again — as a clear signal to the politicians who, in recent days, have shown that they haven’t learned from the mistakes of the past. Defending the ideals of the revolution means defending the institutions of state, the values of freedom and democracy, and respect for citizens.”

Tens of thousands of Romanians have been demonstrating for weeks now, united in the belief that a controversial judicial reform threatens the constitutional state, democracy and European ideals and values in Romania. They are protesting not just within sight of the parliament building in the capital, Bucharest, but in all the big towns and cities as well.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis (picture-alliance/AP Photo/D.Bandic)

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis

Constitutional state in danger

At the start of this year, hundreds of thousands of Romanians took to the streets to protest the plans by the left-wing populist Social Democratic Party (PSD). The justice minister, Florin Iordache, was forced to step down in February, and later a vote of no confidence removed the prime minister, Sorin Grindeanu. After these resignations, the protests died down. However, after a delay of several months, the parliament passed the reform on 21 December. It was pushed through in haste, and the opposition was excluded from some of the debates.

Critics are describing it as a “parliamentary coup” against the judiciary. Now that the parliament has voted, only President Klaus Iohannis or pressure from abroad could stop the reform.

The main areas of concern are a number of changes in the penal code and the code of criminal procedure. These grant the government greater political opportunity to influence the judiciary, while also curtailing the independence of judges and public prosecutors, thereby undermining the separation of powers.

Romania's former justice minister, Florin Iordache (picture-alliance/AP Photo/V. Ghirda)

The former justice minister, Florin Iordache, resigned in February following mass protests over a law that would have softened the fight against corruption

Obstruction of police and judiciary

However, the legal reform doesn’t just focus on the work of the police and the judges, or that of the anti-corruption authority and its head, Laura Codruta Kovesi; it also addresses reporting on corruption cases, and investigative journalism in general.

A higher, politically appointed body will be given the right to proceed against unfavourable decisions by public prosecutors and judges. At the same time, people under suspicion will have to be informed when they become the object of an investigation. They will also be allowed to be present when witnesses are questioned. Furthermore, it will be possible to close down an investigation if politically appointed senior public prosecutors deem it unfounded or illegal.

Unlike in Poland, where the EU has started sanctions proceedings against Warsaw, the EU Commission’s response to the judicial reform in Romania has been comparatively muted. To date, Brussels has merely expressed concern; as have the US Department of State and individual EU states, which have also criticized the reform. So far, though, this pressure from abroad does not seem to have made any impression on the Romanian leadership.

DW RECOMMENDS

In Romania thousands rally against proposal to water down corruption laws

Thousands of people have marched across Romania to protest against plans to reduce the powers of the anti-corruption body. It is the second time this year that attempts to reform graft laws have provoked protests. (27.11.2017)

Polish parliament approves judiciary overhaul despite EU criticism

Polish lawmakers have approved changes to the judiciary which would give parliament control over the selection of judges. The decision came in defiance of EU standards for member states to keep an independent judiciary. (09.12.2017)

Romania corruption: Ruling party chief Liviu Dragnea faces fresh probe

Liviu Dragnea has appeared before Romanian prosecutors amid claims he illicitly obtained EU funds. His party’s attempts this year to decriminalize graft offenses led to Romania’s biggest protests since the communist era. (13.11.2017)

Romanian PM Sorin Grindeanu ousted by own party in no-confidence vote

Romania’s parliament has dismissed Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu after his party submitted a no-confidence vote. The party has said Grindeanu lost their support for failing to implement its reform program. (21.06.2017)

Romania’s Tudose clinches cabinet reshuffle amid anti-corruption drive

A reshuffle of Romania’s cabinet is due Friday after the forced departure of two ministers facing anti-corruption probes. Prime Minister Mihai Tudose has wrested backing from his Social Democrats for the shakeup. (13.10.2017)

Romania commits to NATO defense spending target until 2026

NATO member Romania will spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense until 2026, according to a procurement plan. That would make it only the sixth of NATO’s 28 members meeting the target. (01.08.2017)

Romania justice minister resigns over anti-corruption protests

Romanian Justice Minister Florin Iordache has stepped down over an anti-graft law that sparked mass protests and international condemnation. Critics said the law would have protected corrupt politicians from prosecution. (09.02.2017)

European Commission triggers Article 7 against Poland

The European Commission has launched proceedings against Poland for breaching European common values and rule of law. While only a warning, Article 7 could lead to sanctions and a suspension of EU voting rights. (20.12.2017)

AUDIOS AND VIDEOS ON THE TOPIC

Ban on bear hunting in Romania 


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Romanian former monarch King Michael given state funeral in Bucharest 16.12.2017

Rumänien Beerdigung von König Michael I. in Bukarest

Thousands of people turned out for the state funeral attended by royalty from across Europe. Michael was best remembered for joining a coup in 1944 which resulted in Romania switching from the Nazi to the Allied cause.


Smoke bombs in Albanian parliament cloud controversial vote 18.12.2017

Die albanischen Oppositionsgesetzgeber werfen bei der Wahl des neuen Staatsanwalts im albanischen Parlament in Tirana Rauchbomben in das Parlament

Albanian opposition parliamentarians have protested against the interim appointment of a chief prosecutor by the ruling party. But their smoke-bomb tactics were unable to prevent her being elected.


Poland and the EU… It’s complicated20.12.2017

Fahnen Polen Europa

The EU has said its decision to trigger Article 7 against Poland is based on a series of judicial reforms it’s recently implemented. But what are the new laws? And are they the only issues at play? DW examines.


Top stories in 90 seconds

DW News presents the most important news — in brief, quickly and up-to-date. 


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Norway to limit funding of NGOs promoting Israel boycotts


http://www.jpost.com/International/Norway-to-limit-funding-of-NGOs-promoting-Israel-boycotts-520037

JERUSALEM POST

Norway to limit funding of NGOs promoting Israel boycotts

Eytan Halon

Norwegian flags flutter at Karl Johans street in Oslo, Norway May 31, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Norway became the second Scandinavian country in a week to announce limits on funding anti-Israel non-governmental organizations (NGOs) Monday, following in the footsteps of southern neighbor Denmark.

“Boycott creates distance, while the Norwegian government believes in dialogue and cooperation to create mutual trust as part of the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said a Norwegian government statement.

“This decision is another expression of the Norwegian government’s consistent opposition to boycotts against the State of Israel.”

The Norwegian announcement reflects the country’s 2018 governmental policy that refuses to support organizations promoting boycotts of Israel.

On Friday, Denmark’s Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen announced that Copenhagen will cut back on support for Palestinian NGOs and introduce “rigorous” monitoring of the destination of Danish funds.

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“Denmark supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I am sure it will strengthen the work that we will focus on Danish assistance in the future, so we are absolutely sure that the money is being used for the right purposes,” said Samuelsen.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan praised the Norwegian announcement, describing it as a “further, critical step in damaging the pro-boycott organizations” and added that his ministry will continue to act to expose European funding of Palestinian organizations that delegitimize the State of Israel.

“The Domino effect continues… Norway won’t be the last,” Erdan wrote on Twitter.

According to Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, a large portion of European aid granted to Palestinian NGOs is distributed through the Norwegian Refugee Council. Norway and Sweden are described as the most transparent European countries.

Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statistics reveal that Norway distributed over $68m. of development aid to Palestinian groups in 2016.

Denmark to launch ‘rigorous’ supervision of funding to Palestinian NGOsJerusalem PostNorway won’t provide funds for organizations involved with BDSJerusalem PostDenmark announces aid freeze for Palestinian NGOsJerusalem PostNorway said set to cut funding for pro-BDS Palestinian NGOsThe Times of IsraelAfter investigation, Denmark to cut funding from some Palestinian NGOsThe Times of Israel

Everliving music :    Watch “Schubert: Piano Sonata No.18 in G Major Op. 78, D.894 (Arkady Volodos)” on YouTube


Opposition leader Alexei Navalny barred from challenging Putin in 2018 vote – France 24


http://m.france24.com/en/20171225-opposition-leader-alexei-navalny-barred-challenging-putin-presidential-vote-2018

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France 24 Mobile – International News 24/7

FRANÇAISESPAÑOLعربي

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny barred from challenging Putin in 2018 vote

Latest update : 25/12/2017

     

     

     

     

     

© Andrey Borodulin, AFP | Russian jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends a court hearing in Moscow on June 16, 2017.

Article text by NEWS WIRES

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was barred on Monday from running in next year’s presidential election after officials ruled he was ineligible to take part due to a suspended prison sentence he says was trumped up.

The decision by the central election commission was widely expected as election officials had repeatedly declared Navalny would be ineligible to run. Twelve members of the 13-member commission voted to bar Navalny. One member abstained, citing a possible conflict of interest.

Navalny, 41, who polls show would struggle to beat incumbent Vladimir Putin in the March election, said he would appeal and called on his supporters to boycott the election and campaign against it being held.

“We knew this could happen, and so we have a straight-forward, clear plan,” Navalny said in a pre-recorded video released immediately after the decision.

“We announce a boycott of the election. The process in which we are called to participate is not a real election. It will feature only Putin and the candidates which he has personally selected.”

Navalny said he would use his campaign headquarters across Russia to support the boycott and monitor turnout on voting day, March 18.

Polls show Putin, 65, who has dominated Russia’s political landscape for the last 17 years, is on course to be comfortably re-elected, making him eligible to serve another six years until 2024, when he turns 72.

Allies laud Putin as a father-of-the-nation figure who has restored national pride and expanded Moscow’s global clout with interventions in Syria and Ukraine.

Navalny says Putin’s support is exaggerated and artificially maintained by a biased state media and an unfair system. He says he could defeat him in a fair election, an assertion Putin’s supporters have said is laughable.

‘Do the right thing’

Before the commission voted, Navalny, dressed in a dark suit, had demanded he be allowed to take part in the election delivering a speech that angered election officials.

In one heated exchange, he said Russian voters’ faith in the system hung in the balance.

“If you do not allow me to run, you are taking a decision against millions of people who are demanding that Navalny take part,” he said, referring to himself in the first person.

“You are not robots, you are living, breathing human beings you are an independent body … for once in your lives, do the right thing,” he said.

His supporters clapped him, but officials were unmoved.

Boris Ebzeev, one of the officials, said: “We’re talking about the law and abiding by the law.”

Ebzeev said there could not be “the slightest doubt” that Navalny was ineligible to run, a reference to Russia’s constitution that bars him running because of his suspended sentence relating to an embezzlement case.

Navalny has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and says the case is politically motivated.

There had been some speculation prior to the decision among the opposition that Navalny might be allowed to run in order to inject more interest into what looks like a predictable contest amid Kremlin fears that apathetic voters might not bother to vote.

Navalny has been jailed three times this year and charged with breaking the law by repeatedly organising public meetings and rallies.

(REUTERS)

 

     

     

     

     

     

  • RUSSIA

    Thousands rally in support of Russian opposition leader Navalny

    Read more

  • RUSSIA

    As elections near, Putin says Russians will not stand for Ukraine-style coup

    Read more

  • RUSSIA

    Russian police detain hundreds of anti-Putin protesters

    Read more

 

From France 24 & RFI

 

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Gerard David (c. 1460-1523)


Gerard David (c. 1460-1523)

Gerard David (c. 1460-1523)

Death and Life, 1908-1916 Gustav Klimt


Death and Life, 1908-1916 Gustav Klimt

Death and Life, 1908-1916 Gustav Klimt

The U.S. government says it has negotiated a $285 million cut in the United Nations’ 2018-2019 budget. 


Check out @ABC’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/ABC/status/945405810481475584?s=09

The U.S. government says it has negotiated a $285 million cut in the United Nations’ 2018-2019 budget. https://t.co/CdfnHJSbBK https://t.co/qEX0DrHCSC

HMS St Albans: Russian warship escorted by UK frigate in North Sea


http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42481216

HMS St Albans: Russian warship escorted by UK frigate in North Sea

PA

HMS St Albans (foreground) escorts Admiral Gorshkov

A British frigate has escorted a Russian warship through the North Sea near UK waters on Christmas Day, the Royal Navy has revealed.

It said HMS St Albans monitored the Admiral Gorshkov’s “activity in areas of national interest”.

Russia has not commented on the issue.

The Royal Navy said there had been a recent “upsurge in Russian units transiting UK waters”. Britain recently warned of a new threat posed by Russia to internet cables under the sea.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the chief of the defence staff, said earlier this month that Britain and Nato needed to prioritise protecting the lines of communication.

He said it would “immediately and potentially catastrophically” hit the economy if they were cut or disrupted.

The cables criss-cross the seabed, connecting up countries and continents.

In a statement, the Royal Navy said HMS St Albans was called upon to sail on 23 December and “keep watch on the new Russian warship Admiral Gorshkov as it passed close to UK territorial waters”.

It said the British frigate remained at sea on Christmas Day, monitoring the Russian vessel. It would return to Portsmouth on Boxing Day.

“I will not hesitate in defending our waters or tolerate any form of aggression,” Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said.

“Britain will never be intimidated when it comes to protecting our country, our people, and our national interests.”

The Royal Navy said that HMS Tyne was also called to escort a Russian intelligence-gathering ship through the North Sea and the English Channel on Christmas Eve.

Meanwhile, a navy helicopter was scrambled to track two other Russian vessels.

Last January, a British warship and three RAF Typhoons escorted a Russian aircraft carrier and a number of other ships up the English Channel.

Relations between Britain and Russia have remained tense since Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s southern Crimea peninsula in 2014.

UK ‘ready to retaliate’ against Russian cyber-attacksBBC NewsCyber-attack: US and UK blame North Korea for WannaCryBBC NewsUkraine crisis: Russian truce monitors to leaveBBC NewsUK frigate escorts Russian warship in North SeaBBC NewsRussian ships escorted through North Sea by British naval vesselsThe Guardian

Who voted for PSD?


HE DID?

Seven Palestinians arrested in connection with attack on Jewish children


http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Seven-Palestinians-arrested-in-connection-with-attack-on-Jewish-children-520001

JERUSALEM POST

Seven Palestinians arrested in connection with attack on Jewish children

JTA and December 25, 2017 18:16

Palestinian arrested near Gaza border. (photo credit: SDOT NEGEV SECURITY)

JERUSALEM — Seven Palestinians from the West Bank village of Qusra were arrested in connection with an attack on Jewish children hiking in the West Bank.

The suspects were arrested early Monday. Some of the suspects are believed to have been involved in the actual incident and some for rioting following the attack. At least 20 other Qusra residents already have been arrested in connection with the attack.

On November 30, at least 30 Palestinian men surrounded the children and their parent escorts, who were on a hike in honor of one of the boy’s bar mitzvah, and started throwing rocks. An Israeli father escorting the hike, one of two carrying a gun, fired into the crowd to break it up, killing a Palestinian farmer.

The boys were ushered into a cave to keep them safe until Israeli security forces arrived, but they were harassed by the rioting Palestinians and some of their equipment was stolen.

Last week police announced that an investigation into the incident so far has shown that the children and their adult chaperones came under attack from residents of Qusra and that the father of one of the children was justified in firing his gun since they felt that their lives were threatened.

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No hold bar: Jewish groups’ disgraceful rejection of Jerusalem recognitionJerusalem PostFollowing UN vote, Hamas leader calls for ‘Day of Blood’ in West BankJerusalem PostPolice arrest man with explosive device in West BankJerusalem PostSeven more suspects arrested in probe of West Bank bar mitzvah hike attackThe Times of IsraelPalestinian girl arrested after slapping Israeli soldierSBS

Today’s Holiday:Christmas


Today’s Holiday:
Christmas

Because South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas is a summer holiday. The tinsel and evergreen boughs that decorate homes, churches, parks, and shopping malls offer a stark contrast to the weather. But Christmas traditions persist: children hang up their stockings in anticipation of the arrival of Father Christmas, carolers sing by candlelight on Christmas Eve, and Christmas pageants are performed. For South Africans Christmas is a day for feasting and exchanging gifts. It marks the culmination of a Carnival-like week of singing, dancing, and eating. More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Today’s Birthday:Conrad Nicholson Hilton (1887)


Today’s Birthday:
Conrad Nicholson Hilton (1887)

As a boy, Hilton helped his father turn the family’s home into an inn for traveling salesmen. After serving in World War I, he began to buy hotels in Texas and soon graduated to such grand establishments as Chicago’s Palmer House and the Waldorf-Astoria of New York. By the late 1940s, Hilton’s company had expanded overseas. At the time of his death in 1979, Hilton controlled the world’s largest hotel company. What did Hilton’s mother tell him was the best investment he would ever make? More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

This Day in History:General George Washington Crosses the Delaware in a Surprise Attack (1776)


This Day in History:
General George Washington Crosses the Delaware in a Surprise Attack (1776)

By December 1776, the morale of American colonists fighting in the Revolution had been severely weakened by a string of losses to the better-equipped British. On Christmas Day, Washington crossed the partially-frozen Delaware River with thousands of troops, overnight and during an ice storm, to surprise and overwhelm Hessian mercenaries at Trenton. There were few casualties, and the bold move restored hope of an American victory. What secret phrase signaled the start of the crossing? More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Quote of the Day:Robert Louis Stevenson


Quote of the Day:
Robert Louis Stevenson

It is better to lose health like a spendthrift than to waste it like a miser. More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Article of the Day:Arborsculpture


Article of the Day:
Arborsculpture

Arborsculpture is the art and technique of growing and shaping trees or woody plants into ornamental or functional shapes by grafting, bending, and pruning their trunks and branches in specific ways. Depending on the size of the starter material, the plant’s rate of growth, and the complexity of the design, which can range from an abstract pattern to a piece of furniture, such projects can take as little as a year or as long as a decade or more to complete. How are bridges formed in this way? More…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Idiom of the Day:like there were no tomorrow


Idiom of the Day:
like there were no tomorrow

Very rapidly and eagerly; without restraint or thought (i.e., as if there won’t be another opportunity, so one must do something as much or as quickly as possible). Watch the video…: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Word of the Day:sulfurous


Word of the Day:
sulfurous

Definition: (adjective) Harsh or corrosive in tone.
Synonyms: acid, blistering, caustic, vitriolic, acrid, acerbic, bitter, virulent
Usage: Her sulfurous denunciation of the governor was aired on the news that evening.: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tfd.mobile.TfdSearch

Merry Christmas!:  Watch “Prokofiev’s ‘Troika'” on YouTube