British PM Lays Out Post-Lockdown Restrictions   

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled an updated plan for handling Britain’s COVID-19 infection after the country’s partial national lockdown is lifted December 2.In video message to Parliament Monday, Johnson said the lockdown will be lifted next Wednesday as promised. He said although Britain will return to the regional system that was in place prior to the lockdown, he has received scientific advice indicating the tiers need to be tougher to adequately reduce the infection rate.In the new tier 1, people will be required to work from home if they can. In tier 2, pubs will only be able to serve drinks with a “substantial meal.” And in tier 3, indoor entertainment and hotels will close, and restaurants and pubs will only be allowed to open for take-out.As before, Johnson said the tiers will be determined based on the rate of COVID-19 infections in each area, with the toughest measures implemented where the disease is most prevalent. The government will announce which areas will be under which tier later this week.A woman walks through the Burlington Arcade adorned with Christmas decorations, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak, in London, Nov. 23, 2020.Johnson said more regions will fall, at least temporarily, into higher levels than before. But, he said, with tougher restrictions and more rapid coronavirus testing, it should be possible for areas to move to lower levels of restrictions fairly quickly.The prime minister said people should not expect a normal Christmas holiday this year, saying, “This virus is obviously not going to grant a Christmas truce, it doesn’t know it’s Christmas.” He did say his government was working to develop “a special time-limited Christmas dispensation” plan that would allow families to come together, while minimizing the risk.Britain has recorded 18,662 new cases and 398 deaths in the last 24 hours. Of these, 16,668 are in England, 844 in Scotland, 808 in Wales and 342 in Northern Ireland. There are now more than 1.5 million cases recorded in total, and deaths have crossed 55,000.
 

your ad here

Vaccine Breakthrough Raises Hopes of Rapid Global Rollout

A coronavirus vaccine developed by Britain’s University of Oxford and the pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca has shown successful results in early trials. If it is approved by regulators, the vaccine appears suitable for a fast rollout around the globe. Early analysis of trials involving 20,000 volunteers in Britain and Brazil show the vaccine is at least 62% effective after two doses. In volunteers given a different dosing regimen — a half dose, followed by a full dose — that figure rose to 90%. The average efficacy of the two dosing methods is 70%. None of those given the vaccine developed severe COVID-19 illness. Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said the recent successful trials of three different vaccines by Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, represent a scientific breakthrough. “It really feels like a great moment that we’ve got now multiple vaccines. If we can get them rolled out as soon as possible, we’re going to have a big impact,” Pollard said. Differences from other vaccinesAstraZeneca plans to begin supplying hundreds of millions of doses by the end of the year, subject to regulatory approval. Several properties of the vaccine make it suitable for global rollout, according to Peter Drobac, a global health expert at the University of Oxford, who did not work on the development of the AstraZeneca vaccine. “The first is cost,” Drobac said. “So, this vaccine has been priced at about one-fifth to one-tenth of the cost reportedly being sought by Pfizer and Moderna, some of the other leading vaccine candidates.” AstraZeneca has pledged it will not make a profit on the vaccine during the pandemic.  Secondly, “in 10 countries, it’s already being manufactured, including a very large manufacturing partner in India. So, we hope to see very large numbers of doses become available very quickly. And then thirdly, this vaccine only required kind of fridge-temperature storage,” Drobac told VOA. By contrast, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires storage at minus 70 degrees Celsius. Many health systems in developing nations lack refrigeration facilities to store medicines at such ultra-cold temperatures. COVAXSo far, 188 countries have signed up to an initiative called COVAX, where richer countries invest in the development of several vaccines and the infrastructure required for rolling them out across the globe.  “The goal in a perfect world would be that each of the countries that signs up for COVAX would receive enough vaccine for 20% of their populations by the end of 2021,” Drobac said. “Now, that’s an aspiration of course, not a guarantee. But that would allow every country to at least begin to cover the most vulnerable, front-line workers, etc.” The human rights organization Amnesty International praised Oxford University. “However, much more needs to be done to ensure that everyone, everywhere can benefit from these life-saving products, and without further action, vaccine supply for lower-income countries will remain perilously low,” Amnesty said in a statement Monday.  It is possible the leading vaccine candidates will be given emergency approval by regulators in the coming weeks, raising hopes that the world is on the brink of a major breakthrough in the fight against the pandemic.
In the meantime, doctors say it is vital that people follow measures to suppress the transmission of the virus.
 

your ad here

Speedboat Taking Migrants to Greece Partially Sinks; 1 Dead

A speedboat that appeared to have been smuggling migrants to the Greek island of Rhodes from nearby Turkey partially sank before reaching land, leaving one person dead, Greece’s coast guard said on Monday.
The coast guard said it received information about the speedboat near the northwestern coast of Rhodes on Monday morning. Thirteen people who had been on board were found safe on the nearby shore, while the body of one man was recovered.
The survivors told authorities that a total of 14 people had been on board the speedboat. However, coast guard patrol boats were searching the area in case of others who might have been on board.
Greece remains one of the most popular routes into the European Union for people fleeing conflict and poverty in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

your ad here

Dayton Accords 25 Years Later: Bosnia Got Blueprint for Peace but not for Its Future

When leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia gathered in the U.S. city of Dayton, Ohio, in November 1995, war in Bosnia had been raging for almost four years. It exacerbated deep ethnic tensions, drove almost 2 million people from their homes and claimed about 100,000 lives.  
 
A few months earlier, Serb forces had killed more than 8,000 Bosniak — Bosnian Muslim — men and boys in Srebrenica, an event later ruled genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
 
After numerous failed international attempts to stop the fighting, it was U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke who brokered the Dayton Peace Agreement. NATO, the guarantor for the peace, deployed 60,000 peacekeepers.
 
The agreement confirmed Bosnia’s independence and established a state presidency, parliament and government. However, it also divided the country into two entities, a Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina on one hand, and Republika Srpska, on the other, both with wide autonomies and complex political structures.FILE – Civilians run along Sarajevo’s notorious “Sniper Alley,” as French U.N. peacekeepers look on, April 5, 1995.James Pardew was part of the U.S. negotiating team, led by Holbrooke. He said that the biggest challenge before Dayton was the complicated structure of the negotiating process, including a lot of travel through European capitals, cooperation with international organizations, such as NATO and the United Nations, and dealing with leaders who had very hard positions.
 
Pardew said, “We had to deal with [former Serbian President] Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade, which was challenging and difficult. He was a very crafty person, and he created this fiction that somehow he wasn’t involved in the war in Bosnia. That was all untrue. But each of the leaders, [former Bosnian President Alija] Izetbegovic with the Bosnian Muslims, [former President Franjo] Tudjman in Croatia, and others, each one of them had their own interests and their own agendas. And Holbrooke had to weave his way through those.”  
 
The negotiating process culminated at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, where leaders of the former Yugoslav republics — Izetbegovic, Tudjman and Milosevic — agreed to end the war. The agreement was initialed on November 21 in Dayton, and finally ratified on December 14 in Paris.FILE – Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, left, shakes hands with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, right, as Croatian President Franjo Tudjman looks on, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, Nov. 1, 1995.Primary objective of agreement accomplished
 
Critics say that the Dayton Accords created a complex nation with far too many layers of government, focused more on protecting ethnic groups than on promoting the rights of individuals. Many war criminals were never sanctioned, while the same, nationalistic, political parties have mostly been in power since 1995.
 
Robert Gelbard was special representative of the U.S. president and secretary of state for implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords from April 1997 until August 1999. Before that appointment he also dealt with the former Yugoslav region, including cooperation on capturing war criminals.
 
“The resistance that we saw from some of the governments in the region, particularly from Serbia, was extraordinary,” Gelbard said.  
 
Gelbard said he went to Bosnia for the first time just two weeks after the Dayton Accords, at Holbrooke’s request. He adds that it is easy to criticize compromises like the peace agreement later, but it did achieve its main goal, stopping the killing.
 
“There are lots of problems with the Dayton Agreement, but I still think, 25 years later, it was a brilliant achievement by Richard Holbrooke and those who were working with him,” Gelbard said.
“The failure came afterwards,” he said, “in the unwillingness of the international community when things have calmed down to sit down and create the circumstances again through the necessary political will to revisit it, redo the constitution, and create an environment to provide a different kind of Bosnia-Herzegovina that would be a successful state.”FILE – A forensic anthropologist of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) works to identify the remains of a victim of the Srebrenica massacre, at the ICMP center near Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 6, 2016.Pardew said that the priority was to stop the killing, but the problem was the political structure created by Dayton.
 
“Did we make mistakes? Of course, we did. There is no perfect negotiation,” Pardew said.
 
“But I would say the biggest one was giving the entities, the Republika Srpska and the Federation, as much authority over the functioning of Bosnia as they had. I don’t think we could have reached an agreement without the two entities, but I do think that we could have done a better job of limiting the power to disrupt the state by those entities.”  
 
The U.S. played a key role in establishing the peace, but the long-term goal for Bosnia was always European integration. In the past two decades Bosnian politicians have unsuccessfully attempted to change the constitution, make significant reforms and fulfill conditions to join the European Union. The EU itself also has slowed down the accession process.   
 
Despite all that, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Matthew Palmer, who has responsibility for the Western Balkans, said that the European dream for Bosnia has no alternative.  
 
“The Dayton Peace Accords were successful in achieving their primary objective, which was to bring an end to the war, an end to the violence, an end to the suffering. To create a foundation upon which the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina could build a more stable future,” Palmer said. “There’s still clearly a lot of work that needs to be done. The vision of Bosnia-Herzegovina integrated completely into the European family of nations has not yet been fulfilled,” he added.FILE – A flock of pigeons fly over Bascarsija square in the old part of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital Sarajevo, Jan 11, 1998.Responsibility of local leaders
 
On the 10th anniversary of the accords, Holbrooke urged U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration to increase its engagement in Bosnia, saying that Bosnia’s central government was weak, and corruption in the country was widespread. He added that without EU membership, Balkan countries will always be a mess.  
 
Gelbard said that even today corruption, complicated bureaucracy, and an unfavorable investment environment remain key problems in Bosnia.
 
“I’ve tried to get companies to invest in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Very little interest,” he said.
 
Pardew also says the development of Bosnia after 1995 has been a disappointment. As reasons, he cites negative, destructive influences of neighboring countries, especially Serbia, Russian involvement, and the failure of local leaders to create a democratic and productive society that benefits everybody.   
 
Both Pardew and Gelbard mentioned Milorad Dodik as an example. Dodik, currently a member of a tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was a pro-Western leader of Bosnian Serbs after the war, with strong international support. Since then, though, he has embraced a nationalistic narrative, threatening to separate Republika Srpska from Bosnia. In 2017, he was sanctioned by the U.S. for actively obstructing the Dayton Accords.FILE – Members of Bosnia’s newly elected tripartite presidency, Bosnian Serb member Milorad Dodik, center, Croat member Zeljko Komsic, left, and Muslim member Sefik Dzaferovic, greet each other, in Sarajevo, Nov. 20, 2018.“Milorad Dodik was around in 1995 when all this was going on. I can’t believe that he’s still in power in Republika Srpska and unwilling to take any kind of compromise that would weaken the position of Republika Srpska in his mind. Even though those compromises might be in the best interest of the Serbs who live there,” Pardew said.  
 
“I think of anybody in that country, he disappoints me the most,” Gelbard said.
 
“Watching Republika Srpska over the years and at first they hated Dayton, and now Dodik keeps saying — I love Dayton. And the reason he loves Dayton is because the structures, unfortunately, do not allow for true governance of a real state,” he added.
 
Gelbard said that the peace agreement provided a temporary framework for the governance of Bosnia Herzegovina, but the country is stagnating, and needs changes in its constitution and its structures. He adds that the process should be led by the EU, which has failed to show the political will to do so for decades.  
 
“This would be a wonderful case for Europe to show responsibility and for the EU to take responsibility, with strong American support, for convening a group, an international conference, to redo the constitution of Bosnia and create an effective ability to govern Bosnia,” Gelbard said.
 
Pardew does not think that is likely to happen, saying, “There is not going to be a Dayton 2.”FILE – Participants of the “March for Peace,” carrying Bosnian flags, walk near the village of Nezuk, some 150 kilometers northeast of Sarajevo, July 8, 2015.He said that responsibility lies in the hands of Bosnian leaders who have chosen divisiveness rather than cooperation and development, even though Dayton Accords do not prevent them from making positive changes.
 
“Until we have leaders that are willing to work together and toward those kinds of goals, I think Bosnia is going to continue to be a failure. And what does that cause? It causes young people to leave, to seek opportunities elsewhere, and it creates a kind of a broken system under international support. And I think that’s tragic. That is certainly not what we intended in 1995,” Pardew said.
 
Palmer, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, said that reforms are key for Bosnia and that the system needs to be more functional and capable of delivering goods and services to the citizens, and to holding the leadership accountable.
 
“Those who are in positions of power and responsibility need to be held to account and the system, the state, the institutions of Bosnia-Herzegovina need to work for everybody,” he said.
 

your ad here

French Ex-President Sarkozy Goes on Trial, Accused of Corruption

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy goes on trial Monday accused of trying to bribe a judge and of influence-peddling, one of several criminal investigations that threaten to cast an ignominious pall over his decades-long political career.Prosecutors allege Sarkozy offered to secure a plum job in Monaco for judge Gilbert Azibert in return for confidential information about an inquiry into claims that Sarkozy had accepted illegal payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.Sarkozy, who led France from 2007-2012 and has remained influential among conservatives, has denied any wrongdoing in all the investigations against him and fought vigorously to have the cases dismissed.Investigators had from 2013 been wiretapping conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog as they delved into allegations of Libyan financing in Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign.As they did, they learned that Sarkozy and his lawyer were communicating using mobile phones registered under false names. Sarkozy’s phone was registered to a Paul Bismuth.Prosecutors have said the wiretaps revealed that Sarkozy and Herzog had on multiple occasions discussed contacting Azibert, a magistrate at the Cour de Cassation, France’s top appeals court for criminal cases, and well-informed on the Bettencourt inquiry.They allege that Sarkozy offered to help Azibert get the Monaco job in return for insider help.”Mr. Azibert never got the job in Monaco,” Sarkozy told BFM TV this month.Herzog and Azibert are both on trial with Sarkozy, charged with corruption and influence-peddling. They are also accused of “violating professional secrecy.” All three face up to 10 years in prison and hefty fines if convicted.Sarkozy and his center-right party Les Republicains have for years said the investigations against the former president are politically motivated.Next March, Sarkozy is due in court on accusations of violating campaign financing rules during his failed 2012 reelection bid. The so-called “Bygmalion” case centers on accusations that Sarkozy’s party worked with a friendly public relations firm to hide the true cost of his campaign.Prosecutors are still investigating claims that Libya’s former leader Moammar Gadhafi provided Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign with millions of euros shipped to Paris in suitcases, allegations that Sarkozy denies. His main accuser, a French-Lebanese businessman, withdrew his account of events this month. 
 

your ad here

Hundreds Detained in Ongoing Belarus Protests Against Longtime President 

More than 200 people have been arrested, a rights group said Sunday, as Belarusians continued to protest longtime President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk. Thousands of people took to the streets to demand Lukashenko’s resignation. According to rights watchdog Vesna-96, 205 people had been taken into custody, despite activists’ efforts to decentralize protests in hopes of evading police. Weekly rallies have been held since disputed presidential elections on Aug. 9 in which long-term leader Lukashenko retained power in a vote seen by international observers as not fair or transparent and in which key opposition leaders were detained or forced to flee. The protests have led to more than 7,500 arrests and police violence against demonstrators. Street protests regained momentum after a 31-year-old anti-government demonstrator died earlier this month. Activists say he was severely beaten by security forces during a rally. Lukashenko has been in power 26 years and is refusing calls to step down. Lukashenko maintains he won the election in a landslide — garnering 80% of all ballots — despite widespread claims at home and abroad that the vote was heavily rigged to keep him in power. 

your ad here

US Officially Withdraws from Open Skies Agreement 

The United States formally withdrew on Sunday from the Open Skies Treaty, an 18-year-old arms control and verification agreement that Washington repeatedly accused Moscow of violating. The withdrawal is the latest blow to the system of international arms control that U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly scorned, complaining that Washington was being either deceived or unfairly restrained in its military capabilities. The U.S. State Department confirmed the move, noting six months had expired since notice of the pending exit had been issued and saying “the U.S. withdrawal took effect on November 22, 2020, and the United States is no longer a State Party to the Treaty on Open Skies.” The National Security Council confirmed the withdrawal and added that “Russia flagrantly violated [the treaty] for years.” It quoted national-security adviser Robert O’Brien as saying the move was part of an effort to “put America first by withdrawing us from outdated treaties and agreements that have benefited our adversaries at the expense of our national security.” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 21 announced the U.S. intention to withdraw and gave the six-month notification to Open Skies’ 34 other members, as required under the treaty’s rules. Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the U.S. decision. “Washington has made its move. Neither European security nor the security of the United States and its allies themselves have benefited from it. Now many in the West are wondering what Russia’s reaction will be. The answer is simple. We have repeatedly emphasized that all options are open to us,” the ministry said in a statement on November 22. Signed in 1992, the treaty, which entered into force in 2002, allows its 34 members to conduct short-notice, unarmed observation and surveillance flights over one another’s territories, to collect data on military forces and activities. More than 1,500 flights have taken place under the agreement. The treaty’s proponents say the flights help build confidence by showing that, for example, adversaries are not secretly deploying forces or preparing to launch attacks. But its critics, particularly among U.S. Republicans, have asserted the treaty has been violated repeatedly, first and foremost by Moscow. In his May statement, Pompeo charged that Russian violations included restrictions on flights near breakaway regions over Georgia, along Russia’s southern borders, and limits on the lengths of flights over the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. “Russia has consistently acted as if it were free to turn its obligations off and on at will,” he said. Arms control experts have said while some of the U.S. complaints have merit, others are misleading. And U.S. military and intelligence agencies will lose an important source of data by not being party to the treaty, they said, and NATO allies support the agreement. “While Russia has violated the treaty, the United States has reciprocated. NATO allies support the treaty — which focuses first and foremost on enhancing European security — and wish the United States to remain a party,” Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador and arms control expert, said in commentary published last week. The Trump administration has targeted several international treaties over the past four years, most notably the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a key Cold War agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union. After years of complaining that Russia had secretly designed, then deployed, a treaty-violating missile, Washington withdrew in 2019 and the treaty collapsed. Another more consequential treaty, the New START agreement, is also set to expire in February 2021, and U.S. and Russian officials have been struggling to find a way to keep it intact. But Trump administration officials want to expand the treaty to include China. And they have also sent mixed signals about new conditions for extending New START, something Moscow has rejected. Adding to the uncertainty is Trump’s expected departure from the White House on January 21, 2021, when Democrat Joe Biden is scheduled to be inaugurated and take office. Biden has signaled support for extending New START and preserving other treaties. “Instead of tearing up treaties that make us and our allies more secure, President Trump…should remain in the Open Skies Treaty and work with allies to confront and resolve problems regarding Russia’s compliance,” Biden said in a statement in May. 

your ad here

Erdogan says Turkey Sees itself a Part of Europe 

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that his country, an official candidate for European Union membership, sees itself as an inseparable part of Europe but will not give in to attacks and double standards. “We see ourselves as an inseparable part of Europe… However this does not mean that we will bow down to overt attacks to our country and nation, veiled injustices and double standards,” Erdogan said in a speech to the members of its AK Party. Turkey’s drilling activities in a disputed part of the eastern Mediterranean have raised tensions with the EU as Turkey locked in a dispute with and Greece and Cyprus over the extent of their continental shelves and hydrocarbon resources. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said this month that Turkey’s rhetoric on Cyprus was aggravating tensions with the EU and Ankara had to understand that its behaviour was “widening its separation” from the bloc. The EU will discuss Turkey’s pursuit of natural gas exploration in contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean at their next summit in December, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday. “We do not believe that we have any problems with countries or institutions that cannot be solved through politics, dialogue and negotiations,” Erdogan said. 
Erdogan, connected to the event through videolink, said that the EU should keep its promises regarding the migrants issue and making Turkey a full member of the bloc. He was referring to a 2016 deal under which Ankara curbed migrant entries into Europe in exchange for financial help and visa-free travel in the Schengen region. Turkey recently extended the seismic survey work being carried out by its Oruc Reis ship in a disputed part of the eastern Mediterranean until Nov. 29, according to a naval notice. 

your ad here

Ancient Madrid Market Reopens Amid Debate Over Virus Rules 

Madrid’s ancient and emblematic Rastro flea market reopened Sunday after a contentious eight-month closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has walloped the Spanish capital. With many major European flea markets still shut down, the Rastro’s return seems to be another example of Madrid’s bid to show that heavy coronavirus restrictions may not be necessary even among the latest surge of the virus and some sort of normality can resume with precautions.  That stance has been both criticized and lauded. After lengthy negotiations, city authorities agreed the Rastro could open at 50% capacity, with half its 1,000 stalls alternating each Sunday for a maximum crowd of 2,700 people.  Police with backup drones will monitor the market to avoid overcrowding. Dating back to the 1700s, the Rastro sells the usual flea market mix of antiques, clothes, furniture, bric-a-brac and curios in stalls that snake down through a warren-like district next to Madrid’s majestic Plaza Mayor square.  Long a traditional meeting and drinking place, the bustling Sunday morning market used to attract thousands of tourists and locals alike. If you arrived after 11 a.m., it was almost impossible to move. Spain has been one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries in the pandemic, recording more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases and over 42,500 deaths. 

your ad here

Bodies of Man and His Slave Unearthed from Ashes at Pompeii

Skeletal remains of what are believed to have been a rich man and his male slave attempting to escape death from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago have been discovered in Pompeii, officials at the archaeological park in Italy said Saturday.Parts of the skulls and bones of the two men were found during excavation of the ruins from what was once an elegant villa with a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea on the outskirts of the ancient Roman city destroyed by the volcano eruption in 79 A.D. It’s the same area where a stable with the remains of three harnessed horses were excavated in 2017.Pompeii officials said the men apparently escaped the initial fall of ash from Mount Vesuvius then succumbed to a powerful volcanic blast that took place the next morning. The later blast “apparently invaded the area from many points, surrounding and burying the victims in ash,” Pompeii officials said in a statement.The remains of the two victims, lying next to each other on their backs, were found in a layer of gray ash at least 2 meters deep, they said.As has been done when other remains have been discovered at the Pompeii site, archaeologists poured liquid chalk into the cavities, or void, left by the decaying bodies in the ash and pumice that rained down from the volcano near modern-day Naples and demolished the upper levels of the villa.The technique, pioneered in the 1800s, gives the image not only of the shape and position of the victims in the throes of death, but makes the remains “seem like statues,” said Massimo Osanna, an archaeologist who is director general of the archaeological park operated under the jurisdiction of the Italian Culture Ministry.Judging by cranial bones and teeth, one of the men was young, likely aged 18 to 25, with a spinal column with compressed discs. That finding led archaeologists to hypothesize that he was a young man who did manual labor, like that of a slave.The other man had a robust bone structure, especially in his chest area, and died with his hands on his chest and his legs bent and spread apart. He was estimated to have been 30 to 40 years old, Pompeii officials said. Fragments of white paint were found near the man’s face, probably remnants of a collapsed upper wall, the officials said.Both skeletons were found in a side room along an underground corridor, or passageway, known in ancient Roman times as a cryptoporticus, which led to the upper level of the villa.“The victims were probably looking for shelter in the cryptoporticus, in this underground space, where they thought they were better protected,” said Osanna.Instead, on the morning of Oct. 25, 79 A.D., a “blazing cloud (of volcanic material) arrived in Pompeii and… killed anyone it encountered on its way,” Osanna said.Based on the impression of fabric folds left in the ash layer, it appeared the younger man was wearing a short, pleated tunic, possibly of wool. The older victim, in addition to wearing a tunic, appeared to have had a mantle over his left shoulder.Mount Vesuvius remans an active volcano. While excavations continue at the site near Naples, tourists are currently barred from the archaeological park under national anti-COVID-19 measures.

your ad here

UNHCR, EU Slam Greece Over Migrant Pushbacks, Abuse

The United Nations’ refugee agency is urging Greece to stamp out migrant abuse and investigate multiple accusations of pushbacks at the country’s sea and land borders with neighboring Turkey.The UNHCR statement issued late Thursday echoes portions of a report published hours earlier by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). The CPT report says Greece engaged in repeatedly pushing back migrants and encouraged similar actions by European forces deployed along its porous frontiers as part of a concerted effort to crack down on illegal migration.Forcing migrants to turn around is a serious breach of international law, violating asylum-seekers’ right to safe passage and protection.Croatia, France, Spain and Italy — all of which face similar migration challenges — also have been accused of engaging in unlawful, sometimes violent pushbacks.Earlier this week the EU Observer published emails from the EU border agency commonly known as Frontex citing an October incident in which Danish coast guard officers assisting Greek authorities refused orders to force migrants and asylum-seekers onto a small boat bound for Turkey.Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri last month called the incident a “misunderstanding,” describing it as an “isolated incident” during questioning by European lawmakers.Details of the published emails, however, show that a Danish coast guard crew based in the Aegean Sea rejected the pushback order despite alleged recommendations by Greek authorities. They instead issued new orders for the migrants to be returned to a harbor on Greece’s southeastern Aegean island of Kos, which lies roughly 23 kilometers southwest of the Turkish port city of Bodrum.’Rescue, support, register’“UNHCR calls on Greece to continue rescuing, providing immediate support and registering new arrivals seeking protection,” said a prepared statement released by the office of Peter Kessler, the refugee agency’s senior communications officer. “UNHCR firmly reiterates its call on Greece to refrain from any practices that may involve informal returns of people to Turkey after they have reached Greek soil or territorial waters.”Kessler called out Greek authorities for allegedly underreporting land and sea arrivals from neighboring Turkey — a move believed to provide local authorities a free hand to conduct illegal pushbacks.Greece has grappled with accusations of forced migrant returns and abuse since 2015, when about a million refugees, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, arrived in Europe to escape violence at home.Inflows have since see-sawed, reaching record lows since the start of the year with a total of 14,600 sea and land entries, according to UNHCR data.Accusations rejectedGreek migration officials did not immediately comment on either the pushback accusations or calls by the EU and UNHCR to stamp out migrant abuse.The government in Athens has repeatedly denied engaging in pushbacks or abuse of migrants, calling accounts part of an “unsubstantiated fake news campaign” orchestrated by its longtime regional rival, Turkey.Earlier this year, Turkey condemned Greek security forces for using tear gas and water cannons on migrants attempting to enter the country and accused those same forces of opening fire and killing at least three migrants trying to cross the border from Turkey into the European Union.Tens of thousands of migrants have been trying to get into EU member Greece since Turkey said on Feb. 28 it would no longer keep them on its territory as part of a 2016 deal with Brussels reached in return for European aid.Athens on March 1 suspended asylum applications for a month in what it called a strategy to prevent migrants from illegally entering the EU.’Ill treatment, inhumane conditions’According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a Senegalese asylum-seeker in March said Greek security forces fired on a group of migrants and that he saw two men fall to the ground before he fled from the area.The New York-based rights group could not verify the shooting but accused the European Union of “hiding behind a shield of Greek security force abuse instead of helping Greece protect asylum-seekers and relocate them safely throughout the EU.”In its lengthy report issued Thursday, the CPT task force deployed to Greece earlier this year found recurring cases of migrant abuse, mainly by local police and coast guard officers.“The ill-treatment,” CPT said in its report, “consisted primarily of slaps to the head and kicks and truncheon blows to the body [mainly during arrest or transfer to detention cells.]”The CPT report described the detention facilities as inhumane.“Migrants continue to be held in detention centers composed of large barred cells crammed with beds, with poor lighting and ventilation, dilapidated and broken toilets and washrooms, insufficient personal hygiene, inadequate food and no access to outdoor daily exercise.”HRW in March issued a report stating that Greek authorities arbitrarily detained nearly 2,000 migrants and asylum-seekers in “unacceptable conditions” at mainland detention centers, denying them the right to lodge asylum claims.“[Greek] authorities claim they are holding the new arrivals, including children, persons with disabilities, older people, and pregnant women, in quarantine due to COVID-19, but the absence of even basic health precautions is likely to help the virus spread,” the report states.Greek government spokesperson Stelios Petsas has staunchly denied the criticism, insisting that Greek officials “tell everyone that they shouldn’t attempt to get in through the window.”“There is a door,” Petsas told reporters at a March press conference. “Whoever is entitled to protection should knock on that door and be entitled to protection based on international law.”He also rejected a New York Times report of secret Greek “black sites” where detainees are denied access to lawyers and cannot file asylum claims.Since surging to power last year, Greece’s ruling conservatives have taken an increasingly strong-armed approach to illegal migration, insisting that the EU help shoulder the burden and cost of Europe’s lingering refugee population.Earlier this year, Turkey warned it would no longer uphold a 2016 agreement with the European Union to continue hosting migrants on its soil in exchange for billions in aid.UNHCR says Turkey is currently home to 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees and an estimated 370,000 refugees and asylum-seekers of other nationalities.Greece currently hosts an estimated 186,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, including more than 5,000 unaccompanied minors.Reuters contributed to this story. 

your ad here

Americans Who Foiled Attempted Attack on Train Are Back in Paris to Testify

France will always remember 2015 as a deadly year with several terrorist attacks, including one that targeted the Charlie Hebdo magazine headquarters and another at the Bataclan concert hall. But one attack was foiled that year on an Amsterdam-to-Paris train.On August 21, a gunman with an AK-47 and a bag of nearly 300 rounds of ammunition boarded the high-speed train to allegedly commit a massacre on behalf of the Islamic State terror group. The trial of those charged in the incident is underway.Jean-Charles Brisard, a counterterrorism expert who chairs the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, said the armed man, Ayoub El Khazzani, is directly linked to Adelhamid Abaaoud, mastermind of the November 2015 Paris attacks, since the men traveled to Europe from Syria together. Brisard said El Khazzani was a member of the Islamic State and trained in its camps, where he learned how to shoot to stage an attack in Europe.Thanks to the bravery of a few passengers, including three young Americans backpacking through Europe that summer, the gunman was tackled and subdued. They are now back in France to testify at the trial against El Khazzani and his alleged accomplices.’I do not feel like a hero’Five years after saving many lives, Aleksander Skarlatos said he still does not consider himself as a hero. He instead credited his friend and co-passenger Spencer Stone, who helped subdue the assailant.“I do not feel like a hero because we were just doing what we had to to survive,” he said. “I think Spencer is probably a hero because he was the first one to get [to the attacker]. We only got involved because Spencer needed our help.”Since 2015, Europe has been hit by many terrorist attacks. The most recent ones have occurred in Vienna and in France, where a teacher was beheaded near Paris and three people were killed in a church in Nice.European police are on highest alert because of the terror threat.Counterterrorism expert Brisard said that since the attempted attack on the train, terrorist strikes have evolved. He said analysis shows jihadists may operate alone but are all connected, in France or abroad, and are inspired by an ideology and jihadist propaganda.The trial will resume Monday with the testimony of Stone. He was supposed to testify earlier but was hospitalized when he landed in Paris before the trial. No details about his condition were released.

your ad here