In Britain, Trying to Help Children Vulnerable to Drugs, Gangs

In parts of Britain, thousands of children have fallen victim to so-called “county lines,” drug networks run by gangs, with many forced to sell drugs in small towns and rural areas. Helping affected children in the $600 million illegal narcotics industry is a long and difficult process.Officials estimate that some 46,000 children are involved with gangs across Britain, and many of them are exploited through drug networks and routes termed “county lines.”The children are groomed and forced to travel across the country to sell heroin and crack cocaine, using dedicated mobile phone lines.The children exploited through the “county lines” witness a lot of violence and intimidation.Tamsin Gregory works with the St. Giles Trust, an organization that offers support to youngsters who have been affected by “county lines.”Gregory says it is common to see post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD among the young people they work with.”It takes a lot of care and kindness, and non-judgmental support to help young people overcome those kinds of experiences,” Gregory said. “And it’s not a quick process. What we often find is that young people, they don’t stop their ‘county lines’ activity overnight. So they will reduce it over a period of time. And then eventually over maybe a period of a year or so we can help them fully accept that lifestyle and put them back in touch with things such as helping them get back into education.””County lines” have been around for a long time, but the number of people involved in selling drugs in rural areas has grown in recent years. There are currently about 2,000 operational “county lines.”Anton Noble was a gang member as a teenager. Although not personally involved in “county lines,” he witnessed it. After almost ending up in jail, he says he turned his life around.Noble founded the organization Guiding Young Minds in 2018 to warn young people in Britain about the dangers of gangs and “county lines.””This generation they’re ain’t no level, they’ll go to any level,” Noble said. “They’ll go to four-year-olds, they’ll go to six-year-olds, they’ll do anything just to move their product. It’s not a gang anymore, it’s a business. Money is the motive but obviously I educated the kids to say to them money don’t make you happy.”While its mostly vulnerable youngsters who end up being exploited, children from a variety of backgrounds are targeted. The children are victims but often end up in the criminal system for selling drugs or committing violent acts.Noble says he has seen through his work as a youth mentor that it takes time to connect with young people and change their mindset. He says the root causes of the drug epidemic must first be address.If you take a drug runner off the road, it replaces itself, it’s a business,” Noble said. “But if you take the root out, it’s gone. It won’t grow again.”The British government announced it would spend nearly $33 million to tackle drug networks, mostly through strengthening law enforcement.Critics of that approach note that austerity policies in the last decade have led to thousands of British police and social workers losing their jobs, and the closing of hundreds of youth centers across the country.British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this month he wanted “county lines” to be stopped because “they are killing our children.” 

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Sources: EU Nations Can Restrict High-Risk Vendors Under New 5G Guidelines

EU countries can restrict or exclude high-risk 5G providers from core parts of their telecoms network infrastructure under new guidelines to be issued by the European Commission next week, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
The non-binding recommendations are part of a set of measures aimed at addressing cybersecurity risks at national and bloc-wide level, in particular concerns related to world No. 1 player Huawei Technologies.
The guidelines do not identify any particular country or company, the people said.
“Stricter security measures will apply for high-risk vendors for sensitive parts of the network or the core infrastructure,” one of the people said.
EU digital economy chief Margrethe Vestager is expected to announce the recommendations on Jan. 29.Other measures include urging EU countries to audit or even issue certificates for high-risk suppliers.EU governments will also be advised to diversify their suppliers and not depend on one company and to use technical and non-technical factors to assess them.
Europe is under pressure from the United States to ban Huawei equipment on concerns that its gear could be used by China for spying. Huawei, which competes with Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson has denied the allegations.

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Top Judge Elected as Greece’s First Female President

Greece’s lawmakers elected their country’s first female president Wednesday, with an overwhelming majority voting in favor of high court judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou.
    
Speaking after being formally informed of the parliament vote, Sakellaropoulou said she would aim for the “broadest possible consensus” in the course of carrying out her duties.
    
In her first comments as president-elect, the judge noted the  “difficult conditions and challenges of the 21st century, including the financial crisis, climate change, the mass movement of populations and the consequent humanitarian crisis, the erosion of the rule of law and all manner of inequalities and exclusions.”
    
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis nominated Sakellaropoulou as a non-partisan candidate who would enjoy broad support from across the political spectrum. All major parties voted in favor of the nomination, with Sakellaropoulou being elected to the largely ceremonial post in a 261-33 vote, well above the 200 votes required. Six lawmakers were absent.
    
Greece has a historically low number of women in senior positions in politics, and Mitsotakis had been criticized for selecting a nearly all-male Cabinet after he won general elections in July 2019. In the current Greek Cabinet, all but one of the 18 senior positions are held by men.
    
Speaking after the vote, Mitsotakis described Sakellaropoulou, 63, as a “great jurist, a great judiciary personality who unites all Greeks from the minute this procedure began.”
    
He said he sought to nominate a candidate who would “symbolize the youth of the Greek nation, and I am glad that the result confirmed that on the big issues, we can finally agree.”
    
European officials congratulated Sakellaropoulou, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcoming the election of Greece’s first female president in a tweet that said the country was “moving ahead into a new era of equality.”  
 
European Council head Charles Michel also tweeted congratulations, saying it was “a great signal to elect the Republic’s first female head of state.”
    
Sakellaropoulou, who has headed the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, since 2018, is to begin her five-year term in March, when the term of the current president, veteran conservative politician Prokopis Pavlopoulos, expires.

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UN Calls for Probe Into Possible Hacking of Bezos’ Phone

The phone of Amazon billionaire and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos was hacked after receiving a file sent from an account used by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, United Nations experts alleged Wednesday.The experts called for an “immediate investigation” by the United States and others into information they received that suggests that Bezos’ phone was hacked after receiving an MP4 video file sent from the Saudi prince’s WhatsApp account.Bezos went public about the incident after allegedly being shaken down by the National Enquirer tabloid, which he said threatened to expose a “below-the-belt” selfie he’d taken and other private messages he’d exchanged with a woman he was dating while still married at the time.A forensic report that was commissioned by Bezos and shared with the U.N. experts assessed with “medium to high confidence” that his phone was infiltrated on May 1, 2018, via the MP4 video file.Saudi critic and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey in October that same year. The Post was highly critical of the Saudi government after his killing.“The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia,” the independent U.N. experts said.“At a time when Saudi Arabia was supposedly investigating the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, and prosecuting those it deemed responsible, it was clandestinely waging a massive online campaign against Mr. Bezos and Amazon targeting him principally as the owner of The Washington Post,” the U.N. experts said.The U.N. experts reviewed the 2019 digital forensic analysis of Bezos’ iPhone, which they said was made available to them as U.N. special rapporteurs, which are independent experts appointed by the world body.The experts said that records showed that within hours of receipt of the video from the crown prince’s account, there was “an anomalous and extreme change in phone behavior” with enormous amounts of data from the phone being transmitted over the following months.The Financial Times has seen the forensic report that was done by FTI Consulting, the private firm hired by Bezos. The newspaper said the forensic report “does not claim to have conclusive evidence,” and “could not ascertain what alleged spyware was used.”

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75th Anniversary of Auschwitz Camp Liberation Comes as Anti-Semitic Attacks Rise

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a bipartisan delegation Tuesday on a visit to the former Nazi camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland. More than 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, died in the death camp before it was liberated by the allied forces 75 years ago. The main event commemorating the event will be held in Jerusalem Thursday. Pelosi will join representatives from about 50 other countries and Holocaust survivors at a conference, which will also address the need to fight the resurgence of anti-semitism in the world. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke has more.

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Trump Not Ruling Out Iraq Sanctions

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday did not rule out future sanctions against Iraq, but cited what he called “a very good relationship” when asked about potential plans for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.”We’ll see what happens, because we do have to do things on our terms,” Trump told reporters in Davos, Switzerland as he met with Iraqi President Barham Salih.WATCH:  President Trump Press Conference LIVE in Davos Iraq’s parliament passed a resolution urging the government to expel U.S. troops from the country, prompting Trump to respond with a threat not to leave unless Iraq reimburses the United States for a U.S. airbase there.He said Wednesday 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, and that his administration will “make a determination” about their future.Salih highlighted the United States and Iraq as being partners in the war against Islamic State militants, and said he and Trump share the goal of a “stable, sovereign Iraq that is at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbors.”The Iraqi parliament’s demand for U.S. forces to get out was a protest against the U.S. drone attack at the Baghdad airport that killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani.Trump also held talks Wednesday with the president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, Nechirvan Barzani, on the final day of his trip to Davos to attend the World Economic Forum.In a speech at the event Tuesday, Trump touted the conclusion of two major trade deals and declared Americans are “winning again like never before.”Trump went through a list of what he celebrated as victories for middle class workers and companies, including the first phase of a trade deal with China and the Senate’s approval of a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.He also kept track of the historic proceedings in the U.S. Senate where he is on trial on a charge of abuse of power and another of obstruction of Congress.Trump expressed confidence in his legal team hours before the start of opening statements, saying, “We have a great case.”

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Suspected Nazi Commander Living in US Dies at 100

A Minneapolis carpenter whom the Associated Press exposed as a former Nazi commander — a charge his family fiercely denied — has died.According to a Hennepin County, Minnesota, death certificate, Michael Karkoc died last month in a nursing home at age 100.The Ukrainian-born Karkoc came to the United States after World War II in 1949 and led a modest life, working as a carpenter and worshipping at a Ukrainian Orthodox church.FILE – This undated file photo shows Michael Karkoc, which was part of his application for German citizenship filed with the Nazi SS-run immigration office on Feb. 14, 1940.A 2013 Associated Press investigation concluded that Karkoc commanded a Nazi-led Ukrainian military unit accused of committing atrocities against Polish civilians in 1944. Dozens of women and children were among the victims. The AP said Karkoc concealed his wartime activities from U.S. immigration officials.The AP said it relied on interviews, Nazi documents, and U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence files. It also looked at Karkoc’s own memoirs where he said he was a founder of what he called the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion — a group that collaborated with the Nazi SS to stave off communist forces.German prosecutors declined to extradite Karkoc, citing his age. But Polish prosecutors say a suspected Nazi war criminal’s age is no barrier to punishment. They announced in 2017 they would seek his arrest and extradition from the United States.Karkoc’s son strongly denied his father was a war criminal, calling him a Ukrainian patriot who fought to free Ukraine of both Nazi and communist rule. Andrij Karkoc called the AP report “evil, fabricated, intolerable and malicious.”But the top Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff, said he regrets U.S. and Polish officials did not move fast enough to put Karkoc on trial.”He didn’t deserve the privilege of living in a great democracy like the United States,” Zuroff said.
 

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Spain Declares Climate Emergency, Signals Move to Renewables

Spain’s new government on Tuesday declared a “climate emergency” and pledged to unveil a draft bill on transitioning to renewable energy within its first 100 days in office.In a statement announced after the weekly cabinet meeting, the government committed to bringing a draft bill “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the objective of reaching climate neutrality by 2050” — effectively net-zero carbon emissions.Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s leftwing coalition government, which took office on Jan. 13, also committed to updating the national plan for tackling climate change.The government has decided to ensure that “climate change and the transition is the cornerstone for all (ministerial) departments and governmental action,” spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero told reporters.Environment Minister Teresa Ribera said the government had been inspired by French moves to create a public advisory panel “to generate ideas about responding to climate change in an inclusive, consultative way with a special focus on the youth.”Last summer, France announced the creation of a citizens’ panel on climate change made up of 150 people who would offer ideas and views on an array of issues touching on climate change “in keeping with the spirit of social justice”.At the end of November, the European Parliament voted to declare a “climate and environment emergency” in a symbolic gesture just ahead of the UN global crisis summit which took place in Madrid last monthThe motion urged efforts to ensure the “objective of limiting global warming to under 1.5 degrees C (35.7 degrees Fahrenheit).”It was followed by similar moves in a number of parliaments across the EU, notably in France, the United Kingdom and in Austria.

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UN High-Level Panel Seeks Solutions to Problem of Internal Displacement

A high-level panel on internal displacement established by the U.N. Secretary-General said it will seek concrete long-term solutions to try to alleviate the plight of tens of millions of people internally displaced by conflict and natural disasters. The panel had its first brainstorming session Tuesday in preparation for the complex and challenging work that will get underway on Feb. 26. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has given the eight distinguished members of this high-level panel only one year to come up with a realistic plan to prevent displacement and mitigate its effects.Last year, the number of people internally displaced by conflict around the world reached a record high of more than 41 million.  In the same year, the United Nations said 17 million other people were forced to move because of natural disasters and climate-related events.Former European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini arrives at the European Union leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Oct. 17, 2019.Panel Co-Chair Federica Mogherini is the former European Commission high representative for foreign affairs and a seasoned politician.  She said the panel will address the problem of displacement from many aspects.  She said it will look for realistic, durable solutions and mobilize international support to help both the displaced and the countries hosting them.“The issue of internal displacement tends to be forgotten, while it is one of the major, not only humanitarian, but also, I would say, political crises that our times are seeing,” Mogherini said. “So, our first task will be to keep, or rather put this as high as possible on the agenda and try to provide some good advice on how this can be addressed.”  Former African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka speaks during the opening ceremony of the annual meeting commemorating the 50th anniversary of the African Development Bank in Abidjan, May 26, 2015.Co-Chair Donald Kaberuka is a former president of the African Development Bank Group and minister of Finance and Economic Planning in Rwanda.  He said he hopes to bring his experience from the development world to find practical solutions to this problem.He told VOA it is not possible to separate development, environment and security — all elements involved in displacement.  “We would be failing the secretary-general if we did not address the issue of climate impacts …  I do not see any solution in the Sahel at the moment … unless it encompassed what we are saying,” Kaberuka said.  “What is happening to climate … and how it has fallen into a social problem and now into a security problem. Those will have to be addressed together.”  The panelists said they want a positive, productive outcome to their year-long deliberations.  As such, they said they do not intend to point fingers of shame or dwell on governmental shortcomings.  They will try to get states to work together to meet the needs of the displaced.  They said they will try to avoid politicizing the issue.  Rather, they will look at ways to help those forced to flee conflict and natural disasters live better under very difficult circumstances.   

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US Urges China to Join Nuclear Arms Talks With Russia

The United States urged China on Tuesday to join trilateral nuclear arms talks with Moscow, calling Beijing’s secrecy around growing stockpiles a “serious threat to strategic stability.”U.S. President Donald Trump said last year he had discussed a new accord on limiting nuclear arms with Russian President Vladimir Putin and hoped to extend that to China in what would be a major deal between the globe’s top three atomic powers. But China has so far refused to take part.”We think, given the fact that China’s nuclear stockpile is estimated to double over the next ten years, now is the time to have that trilateral discussion,” Robert Wood, U.S. disarmament ambassador, told reporters on the opening day of the U.N.-backed Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.He said that Washington had discussed the potential trilateral talks in a security meeting with Russia last week and had reached an “understanding” about pursuing them. “We cannot afford to wait,” he added.Asked how to go about pressuring Beijing to join, Wood said that he hoped Russia, and others, would help. “Hopefully over time and through the influence of others besides the United States, they (China) will come to the table. We think it’s imperative for global security that the Chinese do that.”Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week that Russia would take part in potential trilateral talks but that he “won’t force China to change” its current position.China has previously said its weapons were the “lowest level” of its national security needs and not comparable to those of Russia and the United States.The United Nations is seeking the total elimination of nuclear arms but talks have been deadlocked for more than 20 years.Other talks between the five declared nuclear powers that have ratified the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – China, United States, Russia, France and the United Kingdom – are ongoing and a meeting is planned in London next month.However, Wood said this was not the right framework for nuclear arms talks with Beijing.In his speech, China’s disarmament Ambassador Li Song did not refer to its own nuclear stockpiles but called for cooperation among nuclear powers and made a thinly-veiled swipe at the Trump administration.Li called for a commitment to multilateralism, “with no exceptions, least of all the big power which shoulders a special responsibility for international peace and security and who is not expected to play the role of a ‘spoiler’ to our collective efforts and to withdraw from treaties.”
 

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Spain Declares Climate Emergency, Gets Climate Plan Ready

Spain’s new government declared a national climate emergency on Tuesday, taking a formal first step toward enacting ambitious measures to fight climate change.
    
The declaration approved by the Cabinet says the left-of-center Socialist government will send to parliament within 100 days its proposed climate legislation. The targets coincide with those of the European Union, including a reduction of net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
    
Spain’s coalition government wants up to 95% of the Mediterranean country’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2040. The plan also foresees eliminating pollution by buses and trucks and making farming carbon neutral.
    
Details of the plan are to be made public when the proposed legislation is sent to parliament for approval.
   
More than two dozen countries and scores of local and regional authorities have declared a climate emergency in recent years.
    
Scientists say the decade that just ended was by far the hottest ever measured on Earth, capped off by the second-warmest year on record.
    
Also Tuesday, young climate activists including Greta Thunberg told the elites gathered at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland they are not doing enough to deal with the climate emergency and warned them that time was running out.

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Polish Art Project Marks Sites of Vanished Jewish Cemeteries

An ethnologist and photographer are trying to recover a lost chapter of Poland’s past by marking the sites of now vanished Jewish cemeteries with transparent ‘headstones’ and taking photographs of them.The plexiglass installations bear laser-etched epitaphs in Hebrew to those believed to have been buried at the site.Poland was home to more than three million Jews before World War Two, one of the world’s largest Jewish communities, but the vast majority were killed by Nazi German occupiers who set up death camps such as Auschwitz on Polish soil.Next Monday world leaders including German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will join some of the dwindling number of survivors at Auschwitz to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation.Ethnologist Katarzyna Kopecka and photographer Piotr Pawlak travel around Poland searching for the sites of former Jewish cemeteries in their ‘Currently Absent’ project.“This is a bit like bringing back roots that have been destroyed, but life is stronger than the entire attempt at destruction,” said Pawlak. “We can bring some memory back.”The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw says on its website there are 1,164 Jewish cemeteries in Poland, but more than half of them have no tombstones left.Kopecka said they got the idea for the project after they discovered they were unwittingly sitting in an area that was actually a cemetery.“Whether it’s a field, or something else, these places are usually neglected,” said Kopecka, who plans to visit some 200 such sites with Pawlak for their project.DESCENDANTS’ INTERESTKopecka said they often work with local authorities to determine the site of a former cemetery, but even they sometimes cannot locate it, forcing her and Pawlak to rely on guesswork.The plexiglass installations are removed after they have been photographed.The pictures have been displayed in Poland’s parliament and in cultural centers around the country.“We have people contacting us whose ancestors were buried in these cemeteries and they ask when we’ll be going to a particular location,” Kopecka said.“They tell us the name of the place, they would like to obtain a photo because they’ve never been to Poland, and here rest their grandfathers, great-grandfathers, aunts and uncles.”The duo plan to publish a book of their photos and to make a documentary on the cemeteries which would also feature descendants of those buried there.

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