11 Year old boy and his parents die after falling into a volcanic crater in Italy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

A boy and his parents die after falling into a volcanic crater in Italy

Rescue workers stand near the crater in Pozzuoli, Italy, after three people died there Tuesday September 12.

Rome (CNN) An 11-year-old boy died after he fell into a volcanic crater in Italy and his parents also died when they tried to help him, police said.

The incident happened Tuesday at the Solfatara Crater in Pozzuoli, a popular tourist attraction near Naples.
Naples police told CNN the family of four was visiting from Turin, and the 11-year-old boy wandered into an area that is off-limits to visitors.

A view of Solfatara crater near Naples on September 12.

The Solfatara, a dormant volcano, emits sulfurous fumes. The area around it is known for a type of quicksand, which makes the ground unstable.
It’s not known if the boy lost consciousness because of the fumes or if the quicksand pulled him in. But when his parents tried to rush to his rescue, they too were were sucked in, police said.
Another child, 7, survived.
“I’ve been here for 40 years and such an accident has never happened,” Armando Guerriero, owner of a bar located near the entrance to the volcano, told the ANSA news agency.

Italian mafia kingpin arrested in Uruguay after two decades

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Italian mafia kingpin arrested in Uruguay after two decades on the run

Rocco Morabito was arrested in Uruguay.

Story highlights

  • Rocco Morabito was convicted in Italy and sentenced to 30 years for drug trafficking
  • He fled Italy in the mid-1990s, was arrested in Uruguay on Friday

(CNN)A convicted drug kingpin in the Italian mafia has been arrested in Uruguay after being on the run for over 20 years, the Uruguayan Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Rocco Morabito — described by authorities as a prominent member of the Ndrangheta, or Calabrian Mafia — had been wanted since 1994. He was convicted in absentia for drug trafficking and organized-crime activities in Italy, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Italian authorities said that Morabito had been responsible for shipping drugs into Italy and arranging distribution in Milan.

View of the villa where Italian mafia fugitive Rocco Morabito lived in the resort town of Punta del Este, Uruguay.

The Uruguayan Interior Ministry said Morabito was arrested Friday in a hotel in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo. Italian police said the arrest followed “months of international cooperation and intelligence activity.”
Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti lauded Morabito’s arrest, saying he was “considered one of the sought-after members of the Ndrangheta”.
Uruguayan authorities said some months ago Morabito tried to enroll his daughter in a local school using his real name, and his fingerprints were confirmed by Italian authorities.
Interpol issued a red notice for Morabito — its highest-priority international arrest warrant — in 1995 following an arrest warrant issued by Italian prosecutors in Reggio Calabria.
Authorities said Morabito — one of Italy’s five most-wanted fugitives — entered Uruguay in 2001 using false Brazilian identification papers including a bogus birth certificate. For the last decade he lived in a comfortable rural villa near the town of Maldonado, adjacent to the resort city of Punta del Este.
When he was arrested, Morabito had 13 cell phones, an automatic pistol, 12 credit and debit cards, a large quantity of Uruguayan money and US $50,000 in cash, plus currency certificates worth US $100,000, the Uruguayan Interior Ministry said.
In a search of Morabito’s home in the town of Maldonado, authorities seized a 2015 Mercedes and a Portuguese passport in his false Brazilian name. His wife — an Angolan national with a Portuguese passport — was also arrested, authorities said.
According to the Uruguayan Interior Ministry, Morabito was indicted for three crimes of forgery and will remain in preventive detention for three months while extradition proceedings are underway Italian police say once extradited, Morabito will face the 30-year sentence handed down two decades ago.

7 climbers fall to their deaths in the Alps

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

7 climbers fall to their deaths in the Alps

A view of the Zillertal Valley in the Austrian Alps, near an area where five climbers were killed.

Story highlights

  • Five climbers were killed after falling onto a glacier in the Austrian Alps
  • Two others were killed in Italy climbing in a group roped together

Rome (CNN) Seven climbers fell to their deaths in two separate incidents in the Alps on Sunday, officials said.

Five of the climbers died in the Austrian Alps, Zell am See provincial government chief Martin Reichholf told CNN. Two others were killed as they climbed in a group roped together in the Italian Alps, according to an emergency center there.
Reichholf said there were indications that the climbers were German citizens, adding that details were still emerging.
The climbers in Austria fell around 300 meters (1,000 feet) onto a glacier near the town of Krimml, according to Dr. Egbert Ritter, a trauma surgeon at the AUVA hospital in Salzburg.
Adamello Glacier
Krimml
Map data ©2017 GeoBasis-DE/BKG (©2009), Google, Inst. Geogr. Nacional
A sixth climber — a 60-year-old man — is in intensive care at the hospital, but his injuries are not life-threatening, Ritter said. Six helicopters were at the scene of the accident, he told CNN.
The climbers fell at around 10 a.m. (4 a.m. ET) about 1.5 kilometers south of a mountain cabin called the Zittauer Hutte at an altitude of around 3,000 meters, he said.

Group roped together

In Italy, a man and woman who appear to be in their mid-30s were killed as they climbed the Adamello glacier in the the Trentino Alto Adige region, according to the emergency rescue center in the town of Trento.
They were part of a group of nine Italians from the city of Brescia. The climbers were connected by three ropesThey fell when those on the lowest rope slipped on the glacier, dragging down others higher up the slope, according to the rescue center.
A further two climbers were seriously injured, including a 14-year-old boy who is being treated in Trento hospital.
Three helicopters were used to rescue the group, officials said.

Why Terror Suspects in Europe Slip Through Security Cracks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT AND FROM THE WASHINGTON POST)

Why Terror Suspects in Europe Slip Through Security Cracks

London- About a year ago, police stopped a young man in the airport of Bologna, a town in northern Italy. Youssef Zaghba, an Italian citizen of Moroccan origin, had raised suspicions because he was to embark on a one-way ticket for Istanbul: They feared he was trying to reach Syria through Turkey to join a terror group.

After ISIS propaganda materials were found on his smartphone, Zaghba was arrested and briefly detained between March and April 2016. (Attempting to join a foreign ogranization is a crime in Italy, since a special law was introduced in 2015.)

Eventually authorities had to release him because his lawyer found irregularities in the arrest, but the secret services kept monitoring him and put his name in the Schengen Information System (SIS), the database where European Union member states share security information, so that other countries could be alerted that Zaghba posed a danger.

On June 3 of this year, Zaghba participated in the London Bridge attack that left eight people dead, along with the three terrorists.

Despite being in the EU’s watch list, Zaghba was let into Britain at least twice. Moreover, according to the local media, he was not considered “a subject of interest” by British security. Most recently, Zaghba traveled between two countries in January: He was briefly questioned in London’s Stansted airport. (It is unclear if the British failed to go through a check of the SIS database, or if they saw his name on the database and simply ignored the warning, as the newspaper Repubblica suggests.)

How could a terror suspect be on Italy’s watch list and not in the British one? And why didn’t the presence of Zaghba’s name in the SIS prompt UK authorities to keep an eye on him?

The London Bridge attack raises issue about the sharing of security information between European countries, at a time when terrorists have been shown to move often across the EU’s open borders.

It is not unusual after an attack to learn that the perpetrators were already known to anti-terror agencies. Some analysts argue that this doesn’t always imply a security failure, because there are too many people on watch-lists to monitor effectively all of them: There are some 23,000 “subjects of interests” for anti-terror agencies in the UK and 15,000 in France.

“Since it takes at least four agents to monitor a single suspect, it becomes apparent that many European countries lack the resources to monitor all of them and that there’s an overload of security information,” said Arturo Varvelli, the head of the Terrorism Program at ISPI, a think tank in Milan.

However, Zaghba’s case is different — and the way he slipped by, despite all the warnings, might not be just the result of an overburdened security system but also symptomatic of a different problem: European countries still haven’t fully learned how to read (and perhaps trust) each other’s red flags.

“It’s the second time, in less than a year, that a terrorist already known to Italian authorities has carried an attack in another European country,” notes Francesco Strazzari, a security expert at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, referring to last winter’s attack in Berlin. The Christmas Market attack was carried by a Tunisian man who immigrated to Italy, and whom Italian authorities had tried to deport because they were aware of his radical tendencies.

In an interview, Strazzari recalled that the November 2015 attacks in France were also carried out by terrorists that had ties to a different country, Belgium, and who seemed to move freely between the two.

Critics of the EU have blamed its open borders for security failures, while its supporters point out that assets such as the SIS database are actually supposed to improve the security of each country. But Strazzari says that the main problem is that sometimes information gets “lost in translation.”

The EU, he says, doesn’t really have a pan-European security apparatus, but only a system that aims at coordinating the security services of each of its member states.

Varvelli, the ISPI researcher, argues that lack of trust might also pose a problem. Red flags about individuals are not clear cut, he explains: “Security officials need to interpret them, in order to grasp the level of danger, and knowing where that information comes from plays an important part in the process.”

But while they are bound to share information, the secret services of different countries aren’t keen on sharing with each other how they gathered that information — which ends up making the information less useful.

Varvelli said that ISIS is “well aware” of this weakness and are exploiting it: “Terrorists have realized that if they are closely monitored in the country they are based in, a good strategy is to move to a different country.”

The Washington Post

Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FRANCE 24 TV)

Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US

 

 
© Mandel Ngan, AFP | US president Donald Trump flies home after G7 summit in Italy

Text by EMILIE BOYER KING

Latest update : 2017-05-28

President Donald Trump flew back to the United States on Saturday without a much-awaited commitment to fighting climate change, at odds with many of his allies on big policy issues and to a brewing crisis in the White House.

Now back home, Trump is unlikely to get much rest after his gruelling nine-day diplomatic marathon, with Russian controversies and claims that his son-in-law Jared Kushner wanted to set up secret communications with Moscow swirling overhead.

Trump’s first trip abroad as president took him to Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Vatican, and Belgium and Italy. He met with heads of state, the pope and attended gatherings of NATO leaders and members of the G-7 industrialised nations.

The royal treatment in Saudi Arabia

Trump is not a conventional president and neither was his first foray into international politics.

From the start, he set a new direction. In many ways, the first leg of his journey in the Middle-east was the easiest for the US leader who made ‘America First’ a cornerstone of his presidency and is still learning the ropes on international diplomacy.

Instead of following presidential tradition by heading to a neighbouring democracy like Canada or Mexico, Trump kicked off his maiden voyage in Saudi Arabia, the repressive desert kingdom, where he sought to win Arab states’ support for fighting extremism.

He was given the royal treatment, and looked delighted as he took part in traditional dances and enjoyed lavish meals. Raising the human rights record of his host, one of the world’s most oppressive governments, was not on his agenda.

“We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump said.

Instead, the US closed a $110 billion arms sale to show its renewed commitment to the security of the Persian Gulf region and unveiled numerous business agreements, but without going into details.

Trump then travelled to Israel and the West Bank to more rapturous welcome. He looked solemn as he lay a wreath at a holocaust memorial and as he prayed at the sacred western wall in Jerusalem. But while he called for peace in the region he was vague as to what form it should take. Trump stayed clear of calling for ‘a two-state solution’, an option backed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Trump chastised the members

Things started to heat up when Trump left the warm climes of the Middle East for Europe, for the NATO summit in Brussels and the most confrontational part of his trip.

On his way, Trump made a short stop in Rome for an audience with Pope Francis. The two men have in the past clashed on issues such as migration, climate change and the Mexico-US wall. After the meeting, the Vatican said, laconically, that there had been an “exchange of views” on international issues.

Trump was more enthusiastic: “Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world,” he tweeted on May 24th after meeting the pontiff.

Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.

The NATO summit in Belgium the next day pitted Trump against the 27 other members of the military alliance. The US president unnerved them by not affirming his commitment to the alliance’s key Article 5 on mutual defense — which states the principle that an attack on any one member is an attack on all. A US administration spokesperson downplayed their fears however and saying the US would adhere to it.

Trump chastised the members for not spending enough on defence and repeated the charge that some members owed “massive amounts of money” from past years, even though allied contributions are voluntary.

A “disaster”

Trump’s appearance in Brussels was particularly frustrating for Germany. In a meeting with senior European Union officials, he said the country was “very bad on trade” despite months of painstaking relationship building between Germany and the US in the run up to the summit.

It is little surprise European officials described the summit as a “disaster”.

Side meetings with other leaders in the Belgium capital provided with some light relief however. A series of “manly” and prolonged handshakes with French President Emmanuel Macron, followed by an apparent snub by Macron in favour of European Union leaders, delighted the twittersphere.

À Bruxelles, unis avec nos alliés de @NATO.

Leaving the EU headquarters and his crestfallen NATO allies behind, Trump ended his diplomatic tour in Italy for the G7 summit with the leaders of the world’s wealthiest industrial nations. This stop was set to be just as acrimonious: four preparatory meetings had failed to clear up differences with the Trump administration on trade, how to deal with Russia and climate change.

Little surprise, but some disappointment

So there was perhaps little surprise, but some disappointment, when after three days of contentious private debate and intense lobbying by other leaders, Trump refused to commit to the hard-fought Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The six other G7 nations reaffirmed their commitment to it in a joint statement issued Saturday.

Trump promised to make a decision in the week ahead on whether the United States will be the first of 195 signatories to pull out.

The leaders reached agreement on some issues however. On trade, Trump bowed to pressure from allies to retain a pledge to fight protectionism. And on Russia, Trump did not insist on removing the threat of additional sanctions for Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, as the allies had feared.

‘Someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work’

But despite disagreements over many policy issues, leaders also warmed to the US president.

“I saw someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work,’ said France’s Macron. “I think Donald Trump understood the importance of multilateral discussion and that, along with the pragmatism he demonstrated during his campaign, Trump will now take into account the interests of his friends and partners.”

The Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the G7 summit’s host agreed. “I found him very willing to engage, very curious, with an ability and desire to ask questions and to learn from all his partners,” he said.

At the summit’s close on Saturday, Trump appeared to rate his trip as a success.

“I think we hit a home run no matter where we are,” he said.

Home, where a whole new set of challenges begin.

The Vatican’s Swiss Guard Just Added 40 New Members

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Pope Francis Delivers First 'Urbi Et Orbi' Blessing During Easter Mass In St. Peter's Square
Swiss guards perform ceremonial duties during Holy Easter Mass held by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s square on March 31, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

The Vatican’s Swiss Guard Just Added 40 New Members

2:55 PM ET

(VATICAN CITY) — The world’s oldest standing army has 40 new members after a Vatican Swiss Guard swearing-in ceremony.

Each man took a loyalty oath Saturday evening in a ritual-rich ceremony in the St. Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. The May 6 date commemorates the day in 1527 when 147 guardsmen died while protecting Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome.

Earlier Saturday, Pope Francis told the Guards they’re called to “another sacrifice no less arduous” — serving the power of faith.

The recruits, who enroll for at least two years, must be single, upstanding Swiss Catholic males younger than 30.

Wearing blue-and-gold uniforms and holding halberds — spear-like weapons — they are a tourist delight while standing guard at Vatican ceremonies. Their main duty is to protect the pope.

Trump Just Tried To Show Off For Italy’s Prime Minister And Humiliated Himself

(I GOT THIS ARTICLE FROM FACEBOOK)

Trump Just Tried To Show Off For Italy’s Prime Minister And Humiliated Himself

President Trump started his White House press conference by reading from a prepared speech. He should have stayed on script. (Video below.)

“Through the ages, your country has been a beacon of artistic and scientific achievement,” Trump read aloud.

“From Venice to Florence, from Verdi to Pavarotti,” he continued before looking away from his script, and adding “friend of mine. Great friend of mine.”

Many in attendance, along with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, certainly knew that Italian opera legend Luciano Pavarotti is not Trump’s friend, as he has been dead for ten years.

Pavarotti, a national treasure for Italians, was considered one of the greatest voices of all times, was a legendary tenor who mastered both opera and popular music. For the President of the United States to claim him as a current friend is the equivalent of Italy’s Prime Minister announcing that he had just had a lovely time with Abraham Lincoln or Muhammad Ali.

Enjoy the latest example of Trump showing the world he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. At least no one got hurt this time.

Trump gives a shout out to Pavarotti, calls him “a good friend of mine”.

Pavarotti died 10 years ago in 2007. —via @MSNBC

Geert Wilders Falls Short In Election, As Wary Dutch Scatter Their Votes

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Geert Wilders, a Rising Anti-Muslim Voice

This is Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch politician with aspirations to be the next prime minister of the Netherlands. He has compared the Quran to “Mein Kampf” and has called Moroccans “scum.”

By AINARA TIEFENTHÄLER on Publish Date March 13, 2017.  

THE HAGUE — The far-right politician Geert Wilders fell short of expectations in Dutch elections on Wednesday, gaining seats but failing to persuade a decisive portion of voters to back his extreme positions on barring Muslim immigrants and jettisoning the European Union, according to early results and exit polls.

The results were immediately cheered by pro-European politicians who hoped that they could help stall some of the momentum of the populist, anti-European Union and anti-Muslim forces Mr. Wilders has come to symbolize, and which have threatened to fracture the bloc.

Voters, who turned out in record numbers, nonetheless rewarded right and center-right parties that had co-opted parts of his hard-line message, including that of the incumbent prime minister, Mark Rutte. Some parties that challenged the establishment from the left made significant gains.

The Dutch vote was closely watched as a harbinger of potential trends in a year of important European elections, including in France in just weeks, and later in Germany and possibly Italy. Many of the Dutch parties that prevailed favor the European Union — a rare glimmer of hope at a time when populist forces have created an existential crisis for the bloc and Britain prepares for its withdrawal, or “Brexit.”

Continue reading the main story

“Today was a celebration of democracy, we saw rows of people queuing to cast their vote, all over the Netherlands — how long has it been since we’ve seen that?” Mr. Rutte said.

Alexander Pechtold, the leader of Democrats 66, which appeared to have won the most votes of any left-leaning party, struck a similar note underscoring the vote as a victory against a populist extremist.

“During this election campaign, the whole world was watching us,” Mr. Pechtold said. “They were looking at Europe to see if this continent would follow the call of the populists, but it has now become clear that call stopped here in the Netherlands.”

GRAPHIC

How Far Is Europe Swinging to the Right?

Right-wing parties have been achieving electoral success in a growing number of nations.

OPEN GRAPHIC

According to an unofficial tally compiled by the Dutch Broadcasting Foundation, the country’s public broadcaster, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy was likely to capture 33 of the 150 seats in Parliament — a loss of seven seats, but still far more than any other party.

Mr. Wilders’s Party for Freedom was expected to finish second, with 20 seats (an increase of eight); and the right-leaning Christian Democratic Appeal and the left-leaning Democrats 66 were tied for third, with 19 each, the broadcaster reported.

In the Netherlands, the results betrayed a lingering distrust of turning over the reins of power to the far right, even as its message dominated the campaign and was likely to influence policies in the new government.

Yet there are limits to how much the Netherlands, one of Europe’s most socially liberal countries, will be a reliable predictor for Europe’s other important elections this year, including next month’s presidential elections in France.

Mark Bovens, a political scientist at Utrecht University, noted that Mr. Wilders and other right-wing parties, despite their gains, did not drastically cross traditional thresholds.

“The nationalist parties have won seats, compared to 2012 — Wilders’s party has gained seats, as has a new party, the Forum for Democracy — but their electorate is stable, it has not grown,” Mr. Bovens said.

Mr. Bovens pointed out that an earlier populist movement led by the right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn had won 26 seats in 2002, and that Mr. Wilders’s won 24 seats in 2010. If Mr. Wilders’s party rises to 20 seats, as the early returns seemed to indicate, it will still be lower than the previous high-water marks.

“And some of the traditional parties have moved in a more nationalistic direction, taking a bit of wind out of his sails,” he said. “You see the same strategy in Germany.”

The German governing coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, which is facing a stiff election challenge of its own this year, was clearly buoyed by the Dutch result, its foreign ministry sending a warmly enthusiastic message via Twitter.

Photo

“The Netherlands, after Brexit, after the American elections, said ‘Whoa’ to the wrong kind of populism,” said Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, speaking to an enthusiastic crowd. CreditCarl Court/Getty Images

“Large majority of Dutch voters have rejected anti-European populists. That’s good news. We need you for a strong #Europe!” it read.

In the Netherlands’s extremely fractured system of proportional representation — 28 parties ran and 13 are likely to have positions in the 150-seat lower house of Parliament — the results were, not atypically, something of a dog’s breakfast.

Mr. Rutte’s party lost seats, even as it came out on top, and will need to join forces with several others in order to wield power. Virtually all parties said they would not work with Mr. Wilders in a coalition — so toxic he remains — though his positions are likely to infuse parliamentary debate.

“Rutte has not seen the last of me yet!” Mr. Wilders wrote on Twitter, and indeed his anti-immigrant message, which dominated much of the campaign, was not likely to go away.

It came into particularly sharp relief on the eve of the election, when Turkey’s foreign minister sought to enter the Netherlands to rally support among Turks in Rotterdam for a referendum to increase the power of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Dutch officials refused him landing rights.

Mr. Wilders, who has seemed to relish being called the “Dutch Donald Trump,” has been so extreme that some appear to have thought twice about supporting him.

He has called for banning the Quran because he compares it to Hitler’s work “Mein Kampf,” which the Netherlands banned, and for closing mosques and Islamic cultural centers and schools.

Election turnout was high, with polling places seeing a steady stream of voters from early morning until the polls closed at 9 p.m. Of the 12.9 million Dutch citizens eligible to cast ballots, more than 80 percent voted.

Some polling places ran out of ballots and called for additional ones to be delivered. There were so many candidates listed that the ballots were as voluminous as bath towels and had to be folded many times over to fit into the ballot box.

Photo

Supporters of the Green Party reacted in The Hague on Wednesday.CreditRobin Van Lonkhuijsen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The percentage of the vote that a party receives translates into the number of seats it will get in Parliament. If a party gets 10 percent of the total votes, it gets 10 percent of seats in the 150-seat Parliament, given to its first 15 candidates listed on the ballot.

The election was a success for the left-leaning Green Party, led by 30-year-old Jesse Klaver, a relative political newcomer, whose leadership at least tripled the party’s seats, making it the fifth-place finisher and potentially a part of the government.

Mr. Klaver ran specifically on an anti-populist platform and worked hard to turn out first-time voters.

“In these elections there was an overwhelming attention from the foreign press, which is understandable because Brexit happened and Trump was elected, and because France, Germany and maybe Italy will be holding elections,” Mr. Klaver said. “They asked us: Will populism break through in the Netherlands?”

The crowd shouted: “No.”

“That is the answer that we have for the whole of Europe: Populism did not break through,” Mr. Klaver said.

Another striking development was the first-time election of former Labor Party members, all three of Turkish background, who formed a new party, Denk (which means “think”). It will be the only ethnic party in the Dutch Parliament and is a reminder that Turks are the largest immigrant community in the Netherlands. There are roughly 400,000 first, second, or third-generation Turkish immigrants in the nation.

The big loser was the center-left Labor Party, which was expected to drop from being the second largest party in Parliament, with 38 seats and a position as Mr. Rutte’s coalition partner. The party was expected to win only nine seats.

In past elections the impact of extremist right-leaning parties has been largely blunted by a political system that for more than a century has resulted in governance by coalition.

This year’s election may give the Netherlands its most fragmented government in history. Some political analysts believe it could take weeks or months to form a government and that the governing coalition will be fragile.

In Belgium, which has a similar political system as the Netherlands, it famously took nearly a year and a half after inconclusive elections in June 2010 to form a government.

This Is A Great Article About Czech WW-2 History Filled With Excellent Information

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS ONE THAT I FOUND AT ‘RADIO PRAHA’ (PRAGUE)

MINES, SAND AND HEAT – CZECHS DEFENDING TOBRUK

This week the world war veteran and former Radio Prague chief editor Bedřich Utitz died. In the fight against Hitlerdeutschland was Utitz among other things in Tobruk deployed. The defense of this desert fortress in western Libya against the Afrikakorps of Erwin Rommel plays an important role in Czech historiography. There, an infantry brigade with soldiers from Czechoslovakia was deployed for the first time in World War II. In the following more about these soladts and the battle for Tobruk.

Jindřich Marek (Photo: Prokop Havel, Archives of Czech Rundfunk)spring 1941. The Italians and Germans are always trying to take Tobruk. It is the Italians themselves, who built the fortress with several defenses.Almost eight months, the Allies successfully defy the attacks. But why is this Tobruk so important in the Second World War? Jindřich Marek is a journalist and historian:

“It was important because the Germans wanted to penetrate to the Suez Canal and then to the oil in Iraq, Azerbaijan and other places. Erwin Rommel, the commander of the German and Italian armed forces in North Africa, quickly reached Suez, but the division in Tobruk was stuck in his throat. The port was important for the supply of the troops. That the Allies could defend the fortress caused him great problems. And so it became an important battlefield from a neighboring site. “

Tobruk (Photo: Public Domain) Tobruk (Photo: Public Domain)Tobruk is at this time the only deep sea port between Tripoli and Alexandria. As a colonial power, Italy built a protective belt around the city before the war. It is long, 50 km long, with shelters, trenches and machine-gun positions. In September 1940, Italy began an attack on Egypt under British protection. But the ending for the troops of Mussolini ends with a disaster. The Allies can drive the Italians far back to Libya and occupy, among others, Tobruk. Then the British army got into a dilemma at the beginning of 1941, because it wants to help the Greeks fight the Italians.

“There were two variants: either to continue the offensive in North Africa or to withdraw some of the Australian and New Zealand troops to Greece. It was then probably a mistake that the forces in North Africa were weakened. For the British had no success in Greece, and not in North Africa, “ says historian Marek.

Erwin Rommel (Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-785-0287-08 / CC-BY-SA 3.0)It is Erwin Rommel, who makes a kind of Blitzkrieg in the desert. The German propaganda celebrates the advance, but Tobruk simply does not want to fall. As this fortress becomes more and more important, the British form volunteers from other countries. Thus also Hitler’s opponents from the German-occupied “Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia” as well as Slovakia.

From icy Russia to the desert

The Czechs and Slovaks arrive on Haifa in today’s Israel, where the unity is to come. Jan Perl, as a 16-year-old youth, fled to Poland and fought there against the Wehrmacht, but was then captured by the Red Army. At the time, there is the German-Soviet non-aggression pact. Perl is lucky that he does not come to a camp in Siberia. Instead, in 1941 he was given the opportunity to join the Czechoslovakian brigade in the Middle East. The journey takes the train to the Black Sea port of Odessa. Then by ship to Istanbul and to the south of Turkey. A few years ago, Jan Perl described his story in the Czech Republic’s domestic broadcasts:

Jan Perl (Photo: Archivpost bellum)“I remember that we waited in the port of Mersin for other Czechs and Slovaks from Russia. But I do not know how many we were ultimately when we were shipped to Haifa. There we joined the eighth British army of Marshal Montgomery and received uniforms. It was unbelievably hot, because the desert wind Chamsin drove temperatures to 50 degrees. When we started off in Russia, the thermometer showed minus 30 degrees. It was exactly May 1, 1941. A few days later, we were sent to the army of Colonel Klapálek to Alexandria in Egypt. There we were to guard a British camp with German war prisoners. “

The Czechoslovakian brigade is colorful. The core is formed by soldiers who want to fight in France. Added to this are other refugees from the Protectorate, including many Jews whose goal is Palestine. And to the end, as Jan Perl, the participants of the unsuccessful struggle in Poland, which are freed from the Soviet internment, are. Most of them need an educated military training. They get it in Alexandria. Stanislav Hnělička, who died in November, also remembered his commitment to North Africa some time ago:

Stanislav Hnělička (Photo: Barbora Němcová) Stanislav Hnělička (Photo: Barbora Němcová)“The training period was very hard. We were given every second night to guard Italian and German war prisoners. So one day so training, the second we had free. But from the evening we had to push guard. We did not get out of the camp at all. “

Parts of the Czechoslovakian Brigade are then deployed for the first time in Syria and Lebanon. In October 1941 the allies of Hitler were defeated there. And so Klapálek’s troops are shipped from Alexandria to Tobruk. Historian Jindřich Marek:

“On October 21, the bulk of the brigade was brought to Tobruk on two torpedobots.There were 634 men who went ashore at night. “

On gum ishes through the minefields

Tobruk is surrounded by four Italian divisions and a German one. The Czechs and Slovaks are grouped together with a Polish unit. In the siege situation, security is first and foremost pushed. In the night, they always fail to the enemy line. One of them is Ladislav Snídal, then 26 years old. He died already in 2001, but an interview with him is in the archive of the Rundfunks:

Czech troop at Tobruk (Photo: Public Domain) Czech troops at Tobruk (Photo: Public Domain) “Five or six soldiers were selected and specially equipped for exploring. They got shoes with rubber soles and a jute cover for the helmet. The equipment had to be lashed, so that no sound could be heard. As weapons, one had a Tommy Gun, the forerunner of the machine gun, and grenades. The commander also had a pistol. So we sneaked away. We had to go through several mining fields. And then we simply overheard the enemy to get our information. “

The German propaganda designates the defenders of Tobruk contemptuously as “Desert Rats”, that is, Wüstenratten. They turn the tables and make their mark. In contrast to the actual wizards, however, they suffer from the permanent lack of water. This is rationed to one liter per day and man:

Tobruk (Photo: Public Domain) Tobruk (Photo: Public Domain) “Many soldiers had skin diseases because they could not wash. We got scurvy because we did not have enough fresh to eat. And there were also mental illnesses. Some had problems to be separated from the family as long as they had not seen their home. And there was the burden of staying in the bunkers or on the front line, where you could enter a mine at any moment. “

For the Czechs and the Slovaks, the situation is still a burden for another reason: their states are not official war soldiers.

“It was clear to us that in the event of a defeat there would not have been a war for us. This was different for the Poles in unit. We also had fear about our relatives. We swore, therefore, that we should never be taken prisoner. We did not know how we had managed this in an emergency. But that was the decision “ , says Stanislav Hnělička.

Tobruk is finally free

Karel Klapálek (Photo: ČT24) Karel Klapálek (Photo: ČT24) But fortunately it does not happen. On November 21, 1941, it was possible to break the siege ring for the first time. A few days later, a corridor to the British troops was built in Egypt. At the beginning of December Rommel withdrew his troops, and Tobruk is free – after 230 days of siege. The 11th Czechoslovak infantry brigade is still on the ground until April 1942 and is attacked several times. But the war has not yet come to an end. The Klápalek brigade is trained for air defense and again in Tobruk in 1943.

In May of the year, Rommel’s troops surrender, and the Czechoslovakian unit is shipped to Great Britain. There, Klapálek and his people are honored with high military orders, but the brigade is dissolved. As a result, the soldiers are fighting against Hitler at different warships.

After the war they were also honored in the liberated Czechoslovakia. But when the Communists took over the power, the propaganda of the heroes quickly made alleged collaborators with the class enemy. Many of them go to jail. The full rehabilitation takes place only after the political turn of 1989.

Uber Used Secret Greyball Tool To Deceive Authorities Worldwide

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Uber’s Greyball tool was developed to weed out riders thought to be using its service improperly.Credit Mark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO — Uber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was being resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been outright banned.

The program, involving a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials. Uber used these methods to evade the authorities in cities such as Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China, Italy and South Korea.

Greyball was part of a broader program called VTOS, short for “violation of terms of service,” which Uber created to root out people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly. The VTOS program, including the Greyball tool, began as early as 2014 and remains in use, predominantly outside the United States. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team.

Greyball and the broader VTOS program were described to The New York Times by four current and former Uber employees, who also provided documents. The four spoke on the condition of anonymity because the tools and their use are confidential and because of fear of retaliation by the company.

Continue reading the main story

Uber’s use of Greyball was recorded on video in late 2014, when Erich England, a code enforcement inspector in Portland, Ore., tried to hail an Uber car downtown as part of a sting operation against the company.

At the time, Uber had just started its ride-hailing service in Portland without seeking permission from the city, which later declared the service illegal. To build a case against the company, officers like Mr. England posed as riders, opening the Uber app to hail a car and watching as the miniature vehicles on the screen made their way toward the potential fares.

But unknown to Mr. England and other authorities, some of the digital cars they saw in their Uber apps were never there at all. The Uber drivers they were able to hail also quickly canceled. That was because Uber had tagged Mr. England and his colleagues — essentially Greyballing them as city officials — based on data collected from its app and through other techniques. Uber then served up a fake version of its app that was populated with ghost cars, to evade capture.

Portland vs. Uber: City code officers try to ticket drivers 

At a time when Uber is already under scrutiny for its boundary-pushing workplace culture, the Greyball tool underscores the lengths to which the company will go to win in its business. Uber has long flouted laws and regulations to gain an edge against entrenched transportation providers, a modus operandi that has helped propel the company into more than 70 countries and to a valuation close to $70 billion.

Yet using its app to identify and sidestep authorities in places where regulators said the company was breaking the law goes further in skirting ethical lines — and potentially legal ones, too. Inside Uber, some of those who knew about the VTOS program and how the Greyball tool was being used were troubled by it.

In a statement, Uber said, “This program denies ride requests to users who are violating our terms of service — whether that’s people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers.”

Dylan Rivera, a spokesman for the Portland Bureau of Transportation, said in a statement: “We’re very concerned to hear that this practice continued at least into 2015 and affected other cities.

“We take any effort to undermine our efforts to protect the public very seriously,” Mr. Rivera said.

Uber, which lets people hail rides from a smartphone app, operates multiple kinds of services, including a luxury Black Car one in which drivers are commercially licensed. But one Uber service that many regulators have had problems with is the company’s lower-cost service, known as UberX in the United States.

UberX essentially lets people who have passed a cursory background check and vehicle inspection to become an Uber driver quickly. In the past, many cities banned the service and declared it illegal.

That’s because the ability to summon a noncommercial driver — which is how UberX drivers who use their private vehicles are typically categorized — often had no regulations around it. When Uber barreled into new markets, it capitalized on the lack of rules to quickly enlist UberX drivers, who were not commercially licensed, and put them to work before local regulators could prohibit them from doing so.

After authorities caught up, the company and officials generally clashed — Uber has run into legal hurdles with UberX in cities including Austin, Tex., Philadelphia and Tampa, Fla., as well as internationally. Eventually, the two sides came to an agreement, and regulators developed a legal framework for the low-cost service.

That approach has been costly. Law enforcement officials in some cities have impounded or ticketed UberX drivers, with Uber generally picking up those costs on behalf of the drivers. Uber has estimated thousands of dollars in lost revenue for every vehicle impounded and ticket dispensed.

This is where the VTOS program and the use of the Greyball tool came in. When Uber moved into a new city, it appointed a general manager to lead the charge. The manager would try to spot enforcement officers using a set of technologies and techniques.

One method involved drawing a digital perimeter, or “geofence,” around authorities’ offices on a digital map of the city that Uber monitored. The company watched which people frequently opened and closed the app — a process internally called “eyeballing” — around that location, which signified that the user might be associated with city agencies.

Other techniques included looking at the user’s credit card information and whether that card was tied directly to an institution like a police credit union.

Enforcement officials involved in large-scale sting operations to catch Uber drivers also sometimes bought dozens of cellphones to create different accounts. To circumvent that tactic, Uber employees went to that city’s local electronics stores to look up device numbers of the cheapest mobile phones on sale, which were often the ones bought by city officials, whose budgets were not sizable.

In all, there were at least a dozen or so signifiers in the VTOS program that Uber employees could use to assess whether users were new riders or very likely city officials.

If those clues were not enough to confirm a user’s identity, Uber employees would search social media profiles and other available information online. Once a user was identified as law enforcement, Uber Greyballed him or her, tagging the user with a small piece of code that read Greyball followed by a string of numbers.

When a tagged officer called a car, Uber could scramble a set of ghost cars inside a fake version of the app for that person, or show no cars available at all. If a driver accidentally picked up an officer, Uber occasionally called the driver with instructions to end the ride.

Uber employees said the practices and tools were partly born out of safety measures for drivers in certain countries. In France, Kenya and India, for instance, taxi companies and workers targeted and attacked new Uber drivers.

“They’re beating the cars with metal bats,” Courtney Love, the singer and celebrity, tweeted from an Uber car at a time of clashes between the company and taxi drivers in Paris in 2015. Ms. Love said protesters had ambushed her Uber ride and held her driver hostage. “This is France? I’m safer in Baghdad.”

Uber has said it was also at risk from tactics used by taxi and limousine companies in certain markets. In Tampa, for instance, Uber referred to collusion between the local transportation authority and taxi companies in fighting ride-hailing services.

In those environments, Greyballing started as a way to scramble the locations of UberX drivers to prevent competitors from finding them. Uber said it remained the primary use of the tool today.

But as Uber moved into new markets, its engineers saw that those same techniques and tools could also be used for evading law enforcement. Once the Greyball tool was put in place and tested, Uber engineers created a playbook with a list of tactics and distributed it to general managers in more than a dozen countries across five continents.

At least 50 to 60 people inside Uber knew about Greyball, and some had qualms about whether it was ethical or legal. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team, headed by Salle Yoo, the general counsel. Ryan Graves, an early hire who became senior vice president of global operations and a board member, was also aware of the program.

Ms. Yoo and Mr. Graves did not respond to a request for comment.

Outside scholars said they were unsure of the program’s legality. Greyball could be considered a violation of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or possibly intentional obstruction of justice, depending on local laws and jurisdictions, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University, who also writes for The New York Times.

“With any type of systematic thwarting of the law, you’re flirting with disaster,” Mr. Henning said. “We all take our foot off the gas when we see the police car at the intersection up ahead, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But this goes far beyond avoiding a speed trap.”

To date, Greyballing has been effective. In Portland that day in late 2014, Mr. England, the enforcement officer, did not catch an Uber, according to local reports.

And two weeks after Uber began dispatching drivers in that city, the company reached an agreement with local officials for UberX to be legally available there.

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