Council of Europe (CoE) - European Human Rights Court - founding fathers (1949)

Council of Europe (CoE) - European Human Rights Court - founding fathers (1949)
French National Assembly head Edouard Herriot and British Foreign minister Ernest Bevin surrounded by Italian, Luxembourg and other delegates at the first meeting of Council of Europe's Consultative Assembly in Strasbourg, August 1949 (AFP Photo)

EU founding fathers signed 'blank' Treaty of Rome (1957)

EU founding fathers signed 'blank' Treaty of Rome (1957)
The Treaty of Rome was signed in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, one of the Renaissance palaces that line the Michelangelo-designed Capitoline Square in the Italian capital

Shuttered: EU ditches summit 'family photo'

Shuttered: EU ditches summit 'family photo'
EU leaders pose for a family photo during the European Summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on June 28, 2016 (AFP Photo/JOHN THYS)

Merkel says fall of Wall proves 'dreams can come true'


“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013. They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)


"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dutch police launch investigation after tribunal suspect takes poison and dies

DutchNews, November 29, 2017

Photo: UNtv screen shot

Dutch police have begun an investigation into how a defendant on trial at the Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal in The Hague managed to take poison and kill himself after hearing the verdict. 

Slobodan Praljak, 72, died in hospital, after swallowing liquid from a small bottle after hearing his 20-year jail term for war crimes had been upheld. 

The ex-commander of Bosnian Croat forces, who took the poison in full view of the cameras, said he was not a criminal before drinking from the bottle. As the judge continued reading, he then said: ‘I have taken poison.’ 


In 2013, Praljak had been sentenced for crimes in the city of Mostar during the Bosnian war from 1992-95. 

How Praljak obtained the poison is so far a mystery.  Praljak has been held at a special unit in Scheveningen for tribunal suspects and is allowed free access to visitors and his legal team, broadcaster NOS said. 

Visitors have to go through security checks similar to those at an airport. Visitors to the court itself have to go through a similar security procedure. 

Smuggling

A Serbian lawyer who has represented suspects at the tribunal told news agency AP that it would be easy to smuggle in a liquid. ‘They check you for metal objects. Pills or small amounts of liquid would not be discovered,’ he said. 

Wednesday’s session was the final one to be held at the court since it was established by the United Nations in 1993, two years after the end of the war. 

Dutch justice minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus told reporters later that he did not think the Netherlands’ reputation as host of the tribunal had been damaged by Wednesday’s shock death. ‘The Netherlands has always had a very good reputation and has acquitted itself well,’ he said. 

The court room has now been declared a crime scene. Dutch lawyer Erik Kok, who worked at the tribunal from 2006 to 2011, told RTL Nieuws it is strange that Praljak took his own life now. 

Although he had been sentenced to 20 years in jail, most people are released after serving two-third of their sentence. Given that he had already been in jail for 13 years ahead of the trial, he would have been released in the very near future, Kok said.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Meghan Markle: A feminist among Britain's royals

Yahoo – AFP, Remi BANET, November 27, 2017

US actress Meghan Markle shows off her engagement ring in the Sunken
Garden at Kensington Palace

American, mixed-race and "fiercely independent": Meghan Markle, Prince Harry's actor girlfriend, will breathe fresh air into the British royal family when she marries Queen Elizabeth II's grandson next spring.

Playing a lawyer in the hit television show "Suits", the 36-year-old actress with long flowing black hair was barely known in Britain when her name appeared on newspaper front pages last October.

The tabloids based their report of a relationship between Harry and Meghan, who lived in Toronto, Canada, on pictures showing them wearing the same tricoloured wristband.

The relationship was formalised by Kensington Palace, which handles communication for Prince Harry, in November in a most unexpected way.

Exasperated by the media frenzy, the palace released a statement attacking the "sexism" and "racism" Meghan Markle faced on social media.

It also blasted the press for "harassing" the actress.

Four days earlier, The Sun, Britain's top-selling newspaper, ran a piece on its front page titled "Harry's girl on Pornhub," the adult video website.

The couple made their first official public appearance together in September, 
attending the opening ceremony of the third Invictus Games

But the actress's only crime had been to take off her shirt while filming what the newspaper described as a "steamy scene" for her show "Suits," which then made it onto the pornographic website.

The couple made their first official public appearance together in September, attending the opening ceremony of the third Invictus Games -- created by Harry for disabled or wounded soldiers and veterans.

"We're two people who are really happy and in love," Markle told Vanity Fair shortly before the event.

'A woman who works'

The daughter of an African-American mother and white American father of Dutch and Irish descent, Markle's parents divorced when she was aged six.

She has half-siblings on her father's side, from whom she is estranged, and grew up in Los Angeles.

With a degree in communication, Markle appears to have navigated her career without a hitch.

The 36-year-old actress found success with
the hit television show "Suits"

Like Harry, she does humanitarian work.

She is also telegenic, practises yoga and drinks detox drinks including "green juices," according to her Instagram account.

Tabloids were quick to point out that the actress, three years Harry's senior, is divorced, unearthing pictures of her first marriage (2010-2013) with an American producer.

However, none of this was enough to derail a royal wedding, which will take place early next year, according to Monday's announcement.

Quite the contrary, says Penny Junor, Prince Harry's biographer: "I think that would be no problem at all, and the fact that she is of mixed race might even be a bonus," she told AFP.

"It would show Harry, a senior member of the Royal Family, to be a thoroughly modern man -- not a precious, strange creature from another planet, which is how the royals are sometimes seen".

Some believed, however, that her proud independence -- the actress had maintained a long-distance relationship with the prince for much of their courtship -- could be a source of contention for the Windsor family.

"I've never wanted to be a lady who lunches -- I've always wanted to be a woman who works," Markle once wrote on her blog "Tig".

The actress had maintained a long-distance relationship
with Prince Harry for much of their courtship

'Fiercely independent'

Popular tabloid the Daily Mail wrote that it was "easy to see what happy-go-lucky Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have in common."

"What's less clear is...what some female members of the Royal Family will make of a fiercely independent young woman".

Beyond her role as an ambassador for the charity "World Vision Canada," which works to improve children's lives in developing countries, Markle regularly asserts the feminist beliefs she forged during her childhood in California.

"Aged 11, she forced a soap manufacturer to alter an advert after she wrote a letter to then First Lady Hillary Clinton and other high-profile figures complaining that it implied women belonged in the kitchen," wrote the BBC.

Nowadays, the actress also campaigns for women's rights alongside the United Nations.

In a speech she made on the 2015 International Women's Day, she urged women to make their voices heard, saying: "Women need a seat at the table, they need an invitation to be seated there, and in some cases, where this is not available, they need to create their own table". 


Related Article:


Britain's Prince Harry and his fiance Meghan Markle pose for a photograph 
in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace (AFP Photo/Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)


Saturday, November 25, 2017

France's Macron vows to combat 'shameful' violence against women

Yahoo – AFP, November 25, 2017

French Junior Minister for Gender Equality Marlene Schiappa (L) applauds
President Emmanuel Macron after his speech on combating violence against women.
(AFP Photo/LUDOVIC MARIN)

Paris (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday proposed a raft of measures to combat "horrific and shameful" violence against women, as he pledged to make gender equality a major theme of his administration.

"Our entire society is sick with sexism," Macron said in a speech in Paris to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The 39-year-old leader began with a minute of silence to remember the 123 women killed in 2016 in France by their partner or ex-partner.

"France must no longer be one of those countries where women are afraid," he said.

Public awareness of sexual assault and harassment has been heightened following the allegations levelled by women against Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Weeks later, the #metoo hashtag burst into the social media spotlight in mid-October and snowballed into an online movement as women across the world reveal their own similar experiences.

Macron outlined three priorities over the five year term of his presidency from fostering gender equality to giving better assistance to victims of sexual abuse and enforcing harsh measures against aggressors.

Nearly 225,000 women were victims of physical or sexual violence by their partner in France last year, according to official figures. But fewer than one in five of them have filed a complaint with authorities.

Macron proposed new measures against this scourge including making a sexual insult an offence in order to combat harassment in the street.

He also called for making 15 the minimum age of consent for sex -- there is currently no such law in France.

To make it easier for women to file a complaint, they will be able to go online and speak directly with police 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

An anti-sexism module will be made available to schools. First lady Brigitte Macron will be personally involved with an effort to raise awareness of harassment in schools.

To help fight against inequality in the workplace, Macron also said he would like to look into the matter of hiring discrimination against women.

The French president said he wants "to fight for the non-negotiable equality of both sexes" making it a "major cause" during his term in office.

France's Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said the world was at a turning point.

"People can no longer ignore the extent of the violence women are subjected to. They have spoken up and we are responding," Schiappa said.

Related Articles:



Friday, November 24, 2017

Nobel literature academy shaken by #MeToo sex scandal wave

Geotv - AFP, 24 November 2017


STOCKHOLM: The Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Literature Prize, has been rattled by a sex scandal as several members, their wives and daughters accused an influential person with close ties to the prestigious institution of assault.

The #MeToo wave exposing sexual misconduct which began in Hollywood has shaken artistic, media and political circles in Sweden, one of the most gender equal countries in the world, as thousands of women have spoken up and campaigned against harassment.

Sweden´s prestigious literary scene was drawn into the fray on Tuesday when newspaper of reference Dagens Nyheter published the testimony of 18 women claiming to have been assaulted or raped by one of the most influential figures in Stockholm´s cultural scene.

The accused man´s name has not been published in the media due to Swedish laws on the presumption of innocence. But his identity is generally known by the public as he is a high-profile person in cultural circles and his name has appeared in online chat forums discussing the issue.

The man did not respond to AFP´s request for a comment, though he told Dagens Nyheter he was innocent.

Married to a writer with "close links to the Swedish Academy", the man runs a cultural club showcasing exhibitions, readings and performances by both the cultural elite and hopefuls -- including Nobel literature laureates -- and dubbed by some as "the Academy´s living room".

The club was partly funded by the Academy.

'Everyone has always known'

The alleged sexual assaults occurred between 1996 and 2017, some of them in the club´s premises, according to Dagens Nyheter.

Several women spoke openly, allowing the newspaper to reveal their identities, and their stories were corroborated by eyewitnesses, the paper said.

One of them claims to have been raped in an apartment in a posh Stockholm neighbourhood.

"Everyone knows and everyone has always known," that he was attacking young women, she says.

The women said they remained silent out of fear of jeopardising their careers because of the man´s connections and close relations with leading publishers, producers, directors and composers.

After a "crisis meeting" on Thursday evening, the Swedish Academy announced that it was cutting all ties with the accused, whom it had funded and allowed to manage an apartment it owns in an upscale Paris neighbourhood.

The Academy said in a statement that during the meeting, "it emerged that members of the Academy, daughters of Academy members, wives of Academy members and staff of the Academy have experienced unwanted intimacy or inappropriate behaviour" by the man.

The prominent institution said it would launch an internal inquiry to find out if the man "has had any direct or indirect influence on the Academy´s prizes, scholarships, and fundings of any kind".

Culture Minister Alice Bah Kuhnke said she regretted honouring him with the 2015 Order of The Polar Star, awarded to members of the Swedish royal family and foreigners for services to Sweden.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

'Butcher of Bosnia' found guilty of genocide, jailed for life

Yahoo – AFP, Jan Hennop and Jo Biddle, 22 November 2017

The trial for Ratko Mladic, dubbed the "Butcher of Bosnia," was the last
before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

UN judges on Wednesday sentenced former Bosnian Serbian commander Ratko Mladic to life in prison after finding him guilty of genocide and war crimes in the brutal Balkans conflicts over two decades ago.

But the man dubbed the "Butcher of Bosnia" was not present in court to hear the verdict, having been dragged out of the courtroom after loudly accusing the judges of "lying". And his son and lawyers told reporters he planned to appeal.

Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found Mladic guilty on 10 counts including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity such as murder and deportation. But he was acquitted of one charge of genocide in certain municipalities.

About 100,000 people were killed and 2.2 million displaced in the 1992-1995 war when ethnic rivalries tore Yugoslavia apart.

Judges said "ruthless" Bosnian Serb forces under Mladic's command carried out "mass executions" and showed "little or no respect for human life or dignity."

"For having committed these crimes, the chamber sentences Mr Ratko Mladic to life imprisonment," presiding judge Alphons Orie said as applause broke out in the public gallery.

He added that the crimes were "amongst the most heinous known to humankind".

A smiling Mladic, 74, who once left a trail of fear across Bosnia, gave a thumbs-up as he entered the courtroom in The Hague dressed in a grey suit and red tie.

But in dramatic scenes he was later ordered to be removed, after accusing the judges of lying, when they refused to adjourn the hearing because of his high blood pressure.

"They are lying, you are lying. I don't feel good," he shouted, as two UN security guards hustled him into a nearby room to watch the rest of the verdict.

Relatives of people killed in the Bosnian war celebrated Ratko Mladic's 
conviction for genocide at a memorial cemetery near near Srebrenica

Tears in court

Wednesday's verdict was long awaited by tens of thousands of victims across the bitterly divided region.

Dozens gathered early outside the courtroom, many clutching photos of loved ones who died or are among the 7,000 still missing.

It was an emotional day for victims, some of whom sobbed in the gallery as the judges recalled brutal scenes of rape and murder. In Srebrenica there were tears of joy.

"Mladic will die in The Hague! I'm so happy that justice has been done!" said Nedziba Salihovic, who lost her husband, father and son in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

The court found Mladic guilty of genocide in that northeastern town, where troops under his command slaughtered almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

The killings, in which the victims were marched away, shot in the back and dumped in mass graves, was one of the darkest episodes in the conflict, and has been called the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II.

Mladic "intended to eliminate the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica by killing men and boys and forcibly removing the women, young children and some elderly men," Orie said.

Munira Subasic, president of the Mothers of Srebrenica association, said she was "partially satisfied" with the verdict.

"It's more than for (Radovan) Karadzic. But they didn't find him guilty for the accusation of genocide in some villages," she said.

Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in March 2016 for similar charges, including the Srebrenica genocide. He is appealing the sentence.

Edin Halilovic, 18, whose grandfather died in Srebrenica, said it had been important to attend the hearing. "My generation, and future generations, must never forget what happened to our families."

Profile of Ratko Mladic

Milestone for justice

Chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said the verdict was a "milestone" for the court and for international justice.

Mladic's was the last genocide trial before the tribunal before it closes its doors on December 31, having indicted 161 people since it was set up in 1993.

Praising the victims as the only "true heroes," Brammertz insisted it was not a verdict against the Serbian people.

"Mladic's guilt is his and is alone," he said.

Mladic was also found guilty of having "personally directed" a 44-month campaign of sniping and shelling in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, in which 10,000 people died.

And he was convicted for taking more than 200 NATO military personnel hostage.

But defence lawyers have denounced the trial as "political".

"This sentence is unjust and contrary to the facts and we will fight it on appeal to prove that this judgement is wrong," his son Darko Mladic told reporters.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Timmermans urges ‘brave’ victims of sexual abuse to keep up pressure

DutchNews, November 20, 2017


European commissioner Frans Timmermans has called on victims of historic sexual abuse to come forward in the wake of the #MeToo campaign. 

Timmermans, who told the NRC newspaper in 2002 that he had been abused as a teenager by an American priest, said victims had been ‘very brave’ to come forward against alleged serial abusers such as Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. 

‘It’s something that you carry with you all your life,’ he told Italian newspaper La Stampa. 

Last month the commission announced it was launching an investigation into whether EU member states were doing enough to enforce the laws on sexual intimidation. Since the Weinstein scandal broke accusations have emerged of a culture of harassment in centres of power, including the European Parliament. 

Amsterdam, Paris to host key EU agencies after Brexit

Yahoo – AFP, Danny KEMP, November 20, 2017

Amsterdam won a fierce fight to host the European Medicines Agency after it
leaves London, beating Milan in a tiebreak (AFP Photo/Aurore Belot)

Brussels (AFP) - Amsterdam and Paris on Monday won the fight to host two major EU agencies when they leave London after Brexit, in a suspenseful vote that eventually had to be decided by the drawing of lots.

The European Medicines Agency will relocate to the Dutch city, while the French capital will be the new home of the European Banking Authority.

The two watchdogs, with a total of 1,000 highly skilled jobs between them, are currently based in London's Canary Wharf district but must leave before Britain quits the EU in March 2019.

But the fate of the some most prized spoils of Britain's decision to quit the EU had to be decided by a lucky dip after three tense rounds of voting for both agencies failed to produce a clear winner.

Amsterdam won out against the Italian city of Milan while Paris beat the Irish capital Dublin.

"It was a big transparent bowl with two small lots, and it fell to me to draw the lot," said Matti Maasikas, the deputy EU affairs minister of Estonia, which holds the bloc's rotating presidency.

"The procedure was accepted by everyone and followed by the Estonian presidency to the letter."

'Attractiveness of France'

French President Emmanuel Macron said the choice of Paris for the banking regulator showed the "attractiveness of France".

EU President Donald Tusk said on Twitter before the vote that "whatever the outcome, the real winner of today's vote is EU27. Organised and getting ready for Brexit."

Diplomats compared the complex voting process to the annual Eurovision Song Contest. The production's nail-biting televised voting sequence is one of the most watched TV moments in Europe and is known for its come-from-behind surprises.

The Netherlands hailed the decision to relocate the EMA to Amsterdam as "good news for all patients in Europe".

"It took a while to make the decision and the selection process was intensive, but it shows that the EU27 is able to make good decisions, also after Brexit," Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra said.

The battle for both agencies has been bitterly contested, with governments jostling to win the backing of other countries with "hot bargaining" behind the scenes, a diplomatic source told AFP.

But it has also been deeply political. Carles Puigdemont, the sacked leader of Catalonia, said that Barcelona had been the "favourite" but that the "state had condemned it", blaming violence over the region's disputed independence vote.

There were 16 candidates to be the new home of the EMA, one of the world's most powerful drugs watchdogs, which employs 900 pharmaceutical experts, biologists and doctors from every corner of Europe.

There was a smaller batch of eight bidders for the EBA, the banking regulator with 159 staff members. The agency is perhaps best known for its regular "stress tests" on the EU's financial sector in the wake of the global financial crisis.

'Self-inflicted wound'

Member states brought out all the stops to extol the merits of their candidate cities, producing glossy brochures and videos and offering a host of perks.

"We also have a very stylish queen, and enjoy fish and chips," said a video for Amsterdam's bid, emphasising a continuity with two famed parts of British life.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, delivered an evaluation of the applications in September based on a range of criteria, from transport links to job prospects for spouses and schools.

But the staff of the agencies in question, already being forced to up sticks from London, had reportedly been nervous about some of the candidates, reportedly including Bratislava, Warsaw, Bucharest and Sofia.

For Britain the departure of the two agencies is an economic and political blow.

"For the UK, its loss is the first self-inflicted wound of Brexit," said the centre-right European People's Party, the largest group in the European Parliament.

Related Article:


Saturday, November 18, 2017

New Vatican probe will focus on allegations of sexual abuse concerning current and former pupils of a school for children destined for the priesthood

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Ukraine seeks distance from Moscow with new Christmas holiday

MSN - AFP, 16 November 2017

The law must be approved by President Petro Poroshenko before it takes effect.
© Provided by AFP The law must be approved by President Petro Poroshenko
before it takes effect.

Ukrainian lawmakers on Thursday voted for a new public holiday on December 25 in a move that they said would allow the country to distance itself from Russia, which celebrates Orthodox Christmas in January.

Ukraine is majority Orthodox and January 7 will remain a public holiday in the country even though the Western Christmas day is now officially recognized.

Oleksandr Turchynov, secretary of Ukraine's Security and Defense Council, said it was a "historic" decision.

"(It) will allow us to distance ourselves from Moscow's calendar and Russian imperial standards," he said.

"Let us liberate ourselves from Moscow's mental occupation and return to the family of free peoples," Ukrainian parliament chairman Andriy Parubiy wrote in a blog post after the vote, in which 238 deputies voted for the changes and eight against.

The law, which must be approved by President Petro Poroshenko before it takes effect, removes a public holiday on May 2, breaking with the Soviet tradition of marking International Workers' Day over two days.

As in the majority of ex-Soviet nations, the festival is celebrated with a tree and presents are handed out for New Year rather than Christmas.

Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a bitter feud since Moscow seized the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

The Kremlin was then accused of fueling a separatist conflict in two other eastern regions that has cost the lives of more than 10,000 people in over three years.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

HSBC to pay 300 mn euros to avoid French tax fraud trial

Yahoo – AFP, November 14, 2017

HSBC Private Bank, a Swiss unit of banking giant HSBC, has agreed to pay 300 million
 euros ($352 million) to avoid going to trial in France for enabling tax fraud. (AFP Photo/
FABRICE COFFRINI)

Paris (AFP) - HSBC Private Bank, a Swiss unit of banking giant HSBC, has agreed to pay 300 million euros ($352 million) to avoid going to trial in France for enabling tax fraud, prosecutors said Tuesday.

HSBC was accused last year of helping French clients to hide at least 1.67 billion euros from the tax authorities, according to a source close to the probe.

The deal struck between the financial crime prosecutor's office and the bank is a first in France under a new procedure that allows companies under suspicion of corruption or dissimulation of tax fraud to negotiate a fine to stop a case from going to trial.

The deal does not include a guilty plea and French prosecutors have now dropped the case against HSBC Holdings.

Investigators believe that HSBC's private banking division offered its customers several ways of hiding assets from the French taxman, notably via the use of offshore tax havens.

The banking giant was at first accused of failing in its supervisory role over its private banking division, but further investigation led to suspicions that HSBC "participated actively in the fraudulent practices", the source close to the investigation said.

The probe named the former chief executive of the bank's Swiss private banking arm, Peter Braunwalder, and another executive, Judah Elmaleh.

The case began when French authorities in late 2008 received files stolen by Herve Falciani, a former HSBC employee, whose disclosures sparked the so-called "Swissleaks" scandal on bank-supported tax evasion.

The French-Italian national -- dubbed by some media as "The Edward Snowden of banking" -- leaked a cache of documents allegedly indicating that HSBC helped more than 120,000 clients of a number of nationalities to hide 180.6 billion euros from tax authorities between November 2006 and March 2007.

He was sentenced in absentia in November in Switzerland to five years in prison. The leaked files led to investigations by tax authorities in several European countries including, in addition to France, Spain and Belgium.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

EU's Brexit chief said without a deal on trade terms, the EU and UK would revert to WTO tariffs, with trade ties "like those we have with China"

Britain's Queen steps down from Remembrance Sunday role

Yahoo – AFP, 12 November 2017

Britain's Prince Charles laid a wreath during the Remembrance Sunday
ceremony at the Cenotaph in central London

Queen Elizabeth II took a significant step back from official duties on Sunday, leaving heir to the throne Prince Charles to lay a tribute to Britain's war dead on her behalf.

The queen traditionally lays a wreath at the Cenotaph national war memorial in London, but for the first time she observed the annual Remembrance Sunday service from a balcony.

Her eldest son Charles instead stepped forward following a nationwide two-minute silence, placing a wreath of poppies at the monument close to parliament.

Other members of the royal family, including princes William and Harry, also took part in the ceremony along with senior politicians and veterans.

Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn also placed wreaths at the Cenotaph, while the ceremony was attended by former premiers including Tony Blair.

The queen has missed the ceremony only six times in her 65-year reign and handing over her role to Charles is a visible sign to her subjects that she is reducing her official duties.

Buckingham Palace announced in advance that the 91-year-old monarch would view the service from a Foreign Office balcony, alongside her husband Prince Philip, 96, who retired from public duties in August.

Queen Elizabeth has already reduced her schedule, with official engagements dropping 22 percent from the 425 in her 2012 diamond jubilee year to 332 in 2016.

Remembrance Sunday is the Sunday nearest to Armistice Day on November 11, the anniversary of the 1918 signing of the peace treaty that ended fighting in World War I.

More than one million people from the then British empire died in the four-year conflict, but the day has become a time to remember all the troops killed in wars since then.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

UK aid minister Patel quits over Israel meetings

Yahoo – AFP, Alice RITCHIE, November 8, 2017

UK Prime Minister Theresa May accepted the resignation of Britain's International
Development Secretary Priti Patel, seen leaving No 10 Downing Street in London
on November 8, 2017 (AFP Photo/Adrian DENNIS)

London (AFP) - Britain's overseas aid minister Priti Patel quit on Wednesday over unauthorised meetings in Israel, becoming the latest cabinet member caught up in a whirlwind of scandals rocking Prime Minister Theresa May's government.

"I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the government for what has happened and offer my resignation," Patel wrote in a letter to May, becoming the second minister to leave the cabinet in one week.

May summoned Patel back from a trip to Africa to explain her talks with Israeli politicians and officials, in which she reportedly raised the possibility of Britain diverting aid to the Israeli army.

Patel had apologised on Monday for holding 12 separate meetings -- including with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- during a family holiday to Israel in August, without notifying the Foreign Office or Downing Street in advance.

Patel wrote in her letter that there had been a "number of reports about my actions and I am sorry that these have served as a distraction."

May accepted Patel's resignation, replying in a letter that "the UK and Israel are close allies, and it is right that we should work closely together. But that must be done formally."

The departure comes a week after Michael Fallon quit as defence secretary following allegations of sexual harassment.

Britain is facing a major challenge in Brexit, but May has struggled to keep her ministers in line since losing her Conservative parliamentary majority in a snap election in June.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May has struggled to keep her ministers in line
 since losing her parliamentary majority in a snap June election (AFP Photo/
Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)

Months of public divisions over the negotiations with the European Union have in recent days given way to scandals over foreign affairs and sexual abuse.

May's deputy Damian Green is being investigated for allegedly groping a journalist in 2014 -- which he denies -- while a similar probe is under way into the behaviour of junior trade minister Mark Garnier towards his secretary.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been accused of jeopardising the case of a British woman jailed in Iran, after appearing to suggest she was training journalists at the time -- something her family strongly denies.

May put off a mooted reshuffle after her election setback, but some MPs have called on her to act to assert her power over a government that looks increasingly adrift.

Opposition party politicians welcomed Patel's departure.

Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson said she had "rightly been forced to step down for her cover up."

"This was an appalling error of judgement and is nothing short of a major failure by the British government," she added.

Funding to Golan Heights

On Monday, Patel revealed details of her meetings in Israel, which included discussions with non-governmental organisations and businesses.

She said they were arranged by Lord Stuart Polak, honorary president of the lobbying group Conservative Friends of Israel.

British Prime Minister Theresa May herself met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin 
Netanyahu in London earlier this month (AFP Photo/Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)

But it emerged late Tuesday there had been another two unauthorised meetings in September, with Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in London and senior foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York.

During her meetings, Patel discussed the possibility of British aid being used to support medical assistance for Syrian refugees arriving in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Downing Street said.

However, reports suggest that she did not explain to May that this involved supplying funding to the Israeli army, which has facilitated the treatment of more than 3,100 wounded refugees in Israeli hospitals since 2013.

Britain views the Golan Heights as occupied territory and a minister told MPs on Tuesday that funding the Israeli Defence Forces there was "not appropriate".

A senior Palestinian official on Wednesday condemned the meetings as "scandalous", urging May to take action.

"I think it is scandalous and that leads me to question how many more cases, not just in Britain but other places, have not been exposed," Hanan Ashrawi told AFP.

In a further development on Wednesday, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported that Patel visited a military field hospital in the Golan Heights as a guest of the government.

During her meetings with Israelis, British International Development Secretary 
Priti Patel discussed aid being used to support medical assistance for Syrian 
refugees arriving in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Downing Street said
 (AFP Photo/Oli SCARFF)

Patel's ministry declined to comment on the report.

Breach of ministerial code

Patel was a leading campaigner for Britain to leave the EU in last year's referendum, and is a prominent figure in May's cabinet.

The daughter of Ugandan Indians, the 45-year-old has been an MP since 2010, and is widely believed to have ambitions on Downing Street.

On Monday, she had apologised that her "enthusiasm to engage in this way could be misread, and how meetings were set up and reported in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures".