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Europe must speak up for Catalan separatists, says Puidgemont

November 7, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
AP
Tue, 2017-11-07 03:00
ID: 
1510075813478484100

MADRID: Ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who wants to lead a pro-independence coalition of political forces in an upcoming regional election, has criticized the passivity of European politicians in denouncing the prosecution of dismissed secessionist officials.
In an interview on Tuesday in Brussels with Catalan public radio, the separatist leader says there is an “absolute disconnect between the interests of the people and the European elites” and that Catalonia’s problem is an “issue of human rights that requires maximum attention.”
Puigdemont is fighting extradition to Spain, where other members of the ousted Cabinet have been sent to jail while awaiting the results of a probe for allegedly implementing a strategy to secede from Spain.
Spanish central authorities are now in direct control of the northeastern region, where an early election on Dec. 21 is shaping into a tight race between separatist and pro-union forces.
The civil society group that spearheaded the Catalan endeavor for secession from Spain on Tuesday called for the region’s separatist political parties to run in a “unified pro-independence ticket.”
In a statement, Assemblea Nacional Catalana said such a joint coalition should include jailed separatist activists and the members of the deposed Catalan Cabinet as candidates.
The parties were facing a midnight deadline to register an interest in forming coalitions.
But a repetition of the ousted ruling coalition of the center-right PDeCAT and the left republican ERC that also appeals to the anti-establishment CUP party seems unlikely before the deadline expires.
PDeCAT wants Puigdemont to lead a hypothetical coalition, while ERC says it will only agree if deposed and jailed Vice President Oriol Junqueras heads a ticket supported by the CUP and even far-left non-nationalists.
A recent poll by the Barcelona-based La Vanguardia newspaper predicted that the three pro-secession parties would win between 66 and 69 seats in December. Sixty-eight seats are needed for a majority.
Pro-secession parties held a slim majority of 72 of 132 seats in the Catalan Parliament before it was dissolved by Spanish authorities after lawmakers passed a declaration of independence on Oct. 27.
The central government also removed Puigdemont’s Cabinet and called for a snap election to replace them.
Catalonia’s opposition leader Ines Arrimadas said on Tuesday she hoped that disillusionment among pro-independence supporters would help her Ciutadans (Citizens) party and other pro-Spanish unity groups to band together and oust the pro-secessionists.
Arrimadas, 36, said secessionist parties will have no credibility if they again promise a bright future for Catalonia’s independence.
She said no country recognized their secession declaration on Oct. 27, the EU insists independent Catalonia will be expelled and thousands of businesses have since moved their headquarters from the region.
Arrimadas, whose party holds 25 seats in the 135-deputy Catalan parliament, said “demoralization” among the pro-independence camp and mobilization of unionist parties could help swing the balance in Spain’s favor.
Meanwhile, judges are also gauging possible rebellion charges against the former Catalan separatist officials and lawmakers who made the vote possible. Eight former Cabinet members including Junqueras have been jailed, one of them released on bail and five more, including Puigdemont, are in Belgium where they plan to campaign while fighting extradition to Spain.
Six lawmakers, including the regional parliament’s speaker Carme Forcadell, could also be sent to jail as soon as Thursday after they testify before a Supreme Court judge on a similar probe. They face possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, which can be punished with up to 30 years in prison.
Catalan separatist parties are planning to include some of the officials in ballots as a way to draw more attention to a situation that they consider unjust. Lawyers are also arguing that the officials should be spared jail before trial because running for a parliamentary seat means that they have no intention of fleeing the country.

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Catalonia’s ex-leader urges unity as deadline for secessionist pact nears

November 7, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Reuters
Tue, 2017-11-07 13:44
ID: 
1510052383716146300

MADRID: Catalonia’s deposed leader Carles Puigdemont on Tuesday urged the region’s political forces to unite against Spain, as hours remained for him to agree terms for an electoral pact with other pro-independence parties.
Puigdemont went into self-imposed exile in Belgium last month after Spain’s central government fired his secessionist administration, dissolved the Catalan parliament and called an election in the region for Dec 21.
Madrid also issued an arrest warrant against him on charges including rebellion, but a Brussels court ruled on Monday he could remain at liberty in Belgium until it had decided whether he should be extradited.
The independence push has deeply divided the country, dragging it into its worst political crisis since its return to democracy four decades ago and fueling anti-Spanish feelings in Catalonia and nationalist tendencies elsewhere.
Pro-independence parties want the December vote to become a de facto independence referendum, and Puigdemont’s PDeCAT and the ERC party led by Oriol Junqueras said at the weekend they might contest it on a combined ticket.
But they must register any alliance by the end of Tuesday, and prospects of them bridging their differences in time looked slim.
ERC’s spokesman Sergi Sabria said on Monday his party did not rule out a coalition with PDeCAT, but would agree only if other parties joined them, including the anti-capitalist CUP which has yet to decide whether it will contest the December ballot.
Polls suggest secessionist parties would win enough votes combined to hold a slim majority in the Catalan parliament. Running together would increase their chance of success.
Puigdemont and other secessionist leaders face charges of rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of public trust for organizing an illegal independence referendum on Oct. 1 and later proclaiming a Catalan republic, something that goes against Spain’s constitution.
In an interview with Catalunya Radio on Tuesday, Puigdemont said all parties standing in the region should unite against Madrid’s actions.
He also called on the Spanish government to suspend article 155, which Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy enacted last month to rule Catalonia directly from Madrid, ahead of the December vote.
“The ideal would be a broad regional list of parties… PDeCAT, CUP, (left-wing) Podemos, ERC… that stand for democracy and freedom.” Puigdemont said.
“The Spanish state is committing a brutal repression … If we don’t battle repression together, the Spanish state may win this fight.”
Around 200 Catalan mayors who are in favor of independence traveled to Brussels on Tuesday to back Puigdemont and defend the Catalan cause in the European capital. They were due to hold a rally at 5 p.m. (1600 GMT).

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‘He needed to be stopped,’ says local hero who pursued Texas gunman

November 7, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Reuters
Tue, 2017-11-07 06:19
ID: 
1510032244685242100

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas: A Texas man who saw a local exchanging gunfire with the assailant who had just massacred 26 people at a small town church said he had no hesitation in pursuing the gunman because he needed to be stopped.
“That’s it. I mean that’s the bottom line, he needed to be stopped,” Johnnie Langendorff told Reuters TV. “He was stopped and he’s not going to hurt anyone else ever again.”
Langendorff was driving his pickup truck in Sutherland Springs on Sunday when he saw a local man, Stephen Willeford, trading rifle fire with a black-clad stranger who had just emerged from the First Baptist Church.
“He jumped in my truck and said ‘He just shot up the church, we got to get him’ and I said ‘OK, let’s go,’” Langendorff said of his rapid words with Willeford.
“And so from there we blew through this intersection and he started going about 90-95 (miles per hour) (145-153 km per hour) keeping up with this guy,” Langendorff said.
At the time, neither of them knew they were chasing Devin Kelley, 26, an Air Force veteran who police say put on tactical gear, a ballistic vest and skull-like mask to carry out the most deadly mass shooting in the modern history of Texas.
The pursuit lasted about 10-12 minutes, Langendorff said. Then Kelley lost control and crashed into a ditch. They stopped too and Willeford trained his rifle on the disabled vehicle, Langendorff added, but the gunman never emerged.
Willeford’s cousin Ken Leonard told CNN that Willeford shot Kelley where there was a gap in his vest.
“Stephen is the best shot that I know,” Leonard told CNN. “He without armor and barefooted ran into the fire and put his own life at risk, took return fire and fired accurately three times. That’s an amazing accomplishment, especially for a man who has, who was never in the military.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Freeman Martin, a regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, described Willeford as a good Samaritan and a “Texas hero.”
Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt also hailed Willeford for grabbing his gun and responding to the danger.
“He didn’t have to come out,” Tackitt told Reuters. “He could have stayed at his house.”

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Trump expresses ‘great confidence’ in Saudi anti-corruption push

November 6, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
ZEKE MILLER | AP
Mon, 2017-11-06 06:00
ID: 
1510011007972726900

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump is expressing “great confidence” in Saudi leaders amid an anti-corruption push, saying in a tweet, “They know exactly what they are doing.”
Trump is addressing the arrests of prominent Saudi royals and business leaders ordered by a committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
Trump said he has great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. He said some of the arrested people “have been ‘milking’ their country for years!“
“They know exactly what they are doing,” Trump also tweeted that

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Reports: Queen Elizabeth has investments in offshore tax havens

November 6, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
AP
Sun, 2017-11-05 03:00
ID: 
1509984469060986000

LONDON: Newly leaked papers revealed Sunday that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has invested some of her private money in offshore tax havens.
According to documents obtained by the International Consortium of Journalists, the queen’s investment managers placed roughly £10 million ($13 million) in offshore portfolios in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
The investments were made in 2004 and 2005 by the Duchy of Lancaster, the queen’s private financial manager.
The Duchy of Lancaster, which holds assets for the British monarch to generate income for her, confirmed in a statement that some of its investments are in overseas accounts.
It said that all its investments were legitimate.
“We operate a number of investments and a few of these are with overseas funds. All of our investments are fully audited and legitimate,” it said.
The documents showed that the queen has roughly £3,200 invested in BrightHouse, a household goods and electronics retailer that has been accused of exploiting customers by charging high interest rates.
Her use of offshore tax havens is likely to generate criticism from activists seeking to abolish the monarchy in favor of a republic.
The queen pays taxes on the income generated by her holdings in the Duchy of Lancaster.
She has vast financial assets, including luxury real estate, valuable artwork and jewelry.
She is also the legal owner of many of the swans on the River Thames.
The documents about Elizabeth’s financial holdings are part of a tranche of some 13.4 million records of offshore accounts leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Journalists and a network of more than 380 journalists in 67 countries.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the widespread use of offshore havens by wealthy individuals in dozens of countries proves “there’s one rule for the super-rich and another for the rest when it comes to paying tax.”

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UN warns on heat as climate talks hear pleas for action

November 6, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Reuters
Mon, 2017-11-06 16:09
ID: 
1509984299960967000

BONN: This year will be among the three hottest on record, the UN said on Monday as almost 200 countries began talks in Germany to bolster a global climate accord that the US plans to quit.
Temperatures this year would be slightly less than during a record-breaking 2016 and roughly level with 2015, as part of a long-term warming trend driven by greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said.
“We have witnessed extraordinary weather,” said Petteri Talaas, head of the WMO, pointing to extreme events including a spate of hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean, monsoon floods in Asia and drought in East Africa.
He said the dip from last year was largely because a natural El Nino event that released extra heat from the Pacific Ocean in 2016 had faded.
Delegates said sweltering temperatures and weather extremes were a spur for action at the annual conference in Bonn from Nov. 6-17, which will to work on a detailed rule book for the 2015 Paris climate agreement and try to step up action before 2020.
“This is our moment of truth,” Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, presiding at the Bonn talks, told delegates, urging them to “lock arms with all other nations and move forward together.”
“Millions of people around the world have suffered and continue to suffer from extreme weather events,” said Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s climate chief.
“The message cannot get any clearer. We must act right here, right now.”
US President Donald Trump, who doubts mainstream scientific findings that man-made greenhouse gases are the primary cause of climate change, said in June he would pull out of the Paris agreement and instead promote US fossil fuels.
None of the speakers at the opening ceremony mentioned Trump by name. The meeting included a traditional Fijian ceremony and children parading with models of a whale, jellyfish and polar bear to urge more action.
A UN list of delegates counts 48 Americans, mostly technical experts and many fewer than in recent years. The US delegation office in a tent village in Bonn has less space, for instance, than those for France or Italy.
A formal US pullout will take until November 2020 and delegates say there are wide uncertainties about how far Washington will balance Trump’s pro-coal agenda with the conference’s goals.
Thomas Shannon, a career diplomat who once called climate change “one of the world’s biggest challenges,” will head the US delegation.
The Paris climate agreement sets a goal of ending the fossil fuel era this century and to limit warming to “well below” 2°Celsius (3.6°Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, ideally 1.5°C.
The WMO report said average surface temperatures in 2017 were about 1.1°C above the pre-industrial era in data from January to September.
Many scientists say the 1.5°C limit is slipping out of reach because of insufficient action by governments.
The UN says the world is on track for a temperature rise of about three degrees by 2100.

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Charlie Hebdo gets fresh death threats over cartoon of Tariq Ramadan

November 6, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
AFP
Mon, 2017-11-06 14:35
ID: 
1509984155620941700

PARIS: French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo said Monday it was pressing charges after receiving fresh death threats over a cartoon of the religious scholar Tariq Ramadan who faces rape allegations.
The provocative magazine suffered a deadly terrorist attack in 2015 after publishing blasphemous cartoons.
The Swiss academic has been accused of rape by two women after the Harvey Weinstein scandal unleashed a wave of sexual abuse accusations worldwide.
Ramadan, 55, has furiously denied the accusations as a “campaign of lies launched by my adversaries.”
“Rape,” reads the caption on Charlie Hebdo’s cover. “The defense of Tariq Ramadan.”
Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau, the magazine’s editor, said the threats and hate mail had “never really stopped” after the January 2015 terrorist attack in which 12 people were gunned down at its offices.
“Sometimes there are peaks when we receive explicit death threats on social media — this has been the case once again,” he told Europe 1 radio.
“It’s always difficult to know if these are serious threats or not, but as a principle, we take them seriously and press charges.”

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Venezuela opposition leader seeks refuge in Chilean Embassy

November 5, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
AP
Mon, 2017-11-06 21:57
ID: 
1509902827103691100

CARACAS: One of Venezuela’s most prominent opposition leaders has sought refuge in the Chilean ambassador’s residence after being targeted for arrest by the Supreme Court.
Chile’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it had welcomed congressman Freddy Guevara as a guest, in line with Chile’s humanitarian tradition. He entered the ambassador’s residence in Caracas late Saturday with his girlfriend, ending more than 24 hours of suspense in which he went into hiding and vehicles belonging to the Sebin intelligence police had surrounded his residence.
There were no sign of activity Sunday morning outside the ambassador’s residence, located in an exclusive country club neighborhood of walled-in estates, except for a few neighbors walking to the golf course.
On Friday, the government-stacked high court barred Guevara from leaving the country and requested the pro-government Constitutional Assembly strip his immunity from prosecution. The court said Guevara is suspected of instigating unrest and other crimes during months of anti-government protests.
By law, the opposition-controlled National Assembly is charged with determining whether a legislator’s constitutional immunity should be lifted. But the court has instead referred the case to the Constitutional Assembly, which has been given virtually unlimited powers.
Guevara, vice president of the Congress, was at the forefront of opposition protests that mobilized hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans frustrated with their nation’s spiral into political and economic crisis.
His Popular Will party called the accusations “inexistent crimes invented by the dictatorship.” On Saturday, 12 Western Hemisphere governments — including Mexico, Brazil and Canada — issued a joint statement saying the targeting of Guevara by the high court was a “new blow to the rule of law and separation of powers in Venezuela.”
There was no immediate reaction from the government.
But a similar diplomatic drama involving Chile unfolded earlier this year when five jurists appointed by the National Assembly to replace government loyalists on the Supreme Court sought asylum in Ambassador Pedro Ramirez’s residence after their arrest was ordered.
The government considered the jurists usurpers and never granted them safe conduct to take up exile in Chile. After a more than two-month standoff they left the residence on their own will last month and were secretly ferried across the border to Colombia and from there flew to Santiago.

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