CoE Backs Restoring Russia's Voting Rights

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has voted on Tuesday in favor of restoring Russia's voting right, five years after they were revoked over its illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

After nine-hour debates and multiple voting amendments, the Council of Europe (CoE) said the assembly affirmed its members' rights to vote, to speak and to be represented in the assembly and its bodies. The assembly voted 118 in favor and 62 against, with 10 abstentions.

Concerning this new measure, the Russian PMs return on Tuesday to the PACE.

Before PACE plenary session, the outgoing CoE Secretary-General, Thorbjorn Jagland, referred to the need for that body to hold an innovative character, through dialogue and not confrontation.

CoE, along with its sister institution, the European Court of Human Rights, is tasked with promoting human rights and the rule of law in its 47 European member states.

Its decisions are not binding, but it issues some recommendations or asks governments for human rights and democracy.

In April 2014, PACE deprived Moscow of its voting right, in violation of its own statutes, in response to the Crimean split from Kiev and its annexation to Russia, following the March 2014 referendum, in which over 96 percent of voters favored to be part of Russia.

After this measure was taken, the Kremlin stopped sending its parliamentary delegation in 2016, and a year later suspended its fee payments, waiting for their rights to be fully restored.

To make Russia's return possible, PACE adopted a document that exceptionally allows a nation to be represented by a delegation throughout the year, and it also excludes the possibility of depriving it of its main voting rights.

The Vice President of the Russian Parliament, Piotr Tolstoy, reported that Moscow, before the voting result was known, sent its delegation to Strasbourg on Monday.

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Continental Europe braced for 'potentially dangerous' heatwave

High pressure pulling hot air northward from Africa will send temperatures soaring

A potentially record-breaking heatwave is forecast to grip much of continental Europe next week, with temperatures in cities from Spain to Germany expected to exceed 32C and climb to more than 38C or even 40C in the hottest areas.

The combination of a storm stalled over the Atlantic and high pressure over central Europe would pull very hot air from Africa northward, leading to a “potentially dangerous heatwave over a large portion of western and central Europe”, forecaster AccuWeather said.

In France, temperatures of between 35C and 40C were expected across most of the country except Brittany from Monday, Météo-France said, and were unlikely to fall below 20C overnight.

“Even though it will be shortlived, this heatwave could be remarkable for its momentum and intensity,” the forecaster said in a bulletin.

France’s health minister, Agnès Buzyn, warned local authorities, hospitals and retirement homes to be on high alert, noting that last summer’s heatwave resulted in 1,500 more deaths than normal in July and August.

Meteorologists in Germany said there was a 50% chance of temperatures hitting 40C, possibly breaking the national record of 40.3C set in Bavaria in 2015.

AccuWeather said cities from Madrid to Berlin, including Paris, Brussels and Frankfurt, were likely to experience a “multi-day heatwave” in the first half of the week, with similar temperatures of 32C or above expected further east later in Bucharest, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade and Sofia.

“Multiple days of extreme heat combined with warm nights will not allow buildings and homes without air conditioning to cool off, creating uncomfortable sleeping conditions and also raising the risk of heat-related illnesses,” the forecaster’s senior meteorologist, Eric Leister, said.

“The elderly and children are most at risk from such ailments, and outdoor exposure should be limited during the hottest times of the day to reduce the risk of illness.”

Long-range weather forecasts show summer temperatures throughout July and August are expected to be higher than normal, rivalling those of 2018, which according to the European Environment Agency was one of the three warmest years on record on the continent.

Scientists have said last year’s heatwave, which led to increased mortality rates, a dramatic decline in crop yields, the shutdown of nuclear power plants and wildfires inside the Arctic Circle, was linked to the climate emergency and that extreme climate events are likely to be regular occurrences in the coming decades.

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Despite new limits, Cuba tour operators see a way forward

Tour operators are saying that the Trump administration's ending of the people-to-people category of Cuba travel will not impact their operations.

The administration on Tuesday imposed major new restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, including a ban on people to people travel and travel by cruise ship.

However, many tour operators say their tours do not operate under the people to people category that has been banned and will continue to operate under the assumption that the other categories of authorized travel to Cuba are not affected.

One of them, "support for the Cuban people," is commonly used by Cuba tour operators, including Cuba Candela, which said that its tours remain legal under the new rules.

"Our clients participate in a full-time schedule of activities that enhance contact with the Cuban people and engage in meaningful interactions with the Cuban people, through wonderful immersive cultural experiences that comply with U.S. travel rules," said Cuba Candela CEO Chad Olin. "We continue to operate business as usual, and we continue to guarantee compliance with U.S. law."

Cultural Cuba owner David Lee said, "Removing people-to-people does not affect companies like mine. We only do support for the Cuban people, humanitarian and religious travel on a private custom basis for our clients. These forms are still legal and it's business as usual for us."

Ya'lla Tours president Ronen Paldi said it has been operating tours since 2002 "with other legal provisions, other than [people-to-people]."

Collin Laverty, president of Cuba Educational Travel, was one of several companies that was analyzing the new laws and seeing how their tours would be impacted.

"There are still a number of ways to legally visit Cuba. Commercial flights were left intact and any previously made reservations can go forward," Laverty said. "We will study the new regulations and figure out how to continue to legally take thousands of Americans to Cuba going forward."

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Vietnam Welcomes 4.5 Million Foreign Tourists in First Quarter

More than 4.5 million foreign tourists have visited Vietnam in the first three months of 2019, a good start towards the goal to receive 18 million during the year.

That figure represents a seven percent growth over the first quarter of 2018, a year in which the nation received 15.6 million foreign vacationers, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism reported on Tuesday.

Although China tourists fell by 5.6 percent, the Chinese market still produce the largest amount of tourists travelling to Vietnam with 1.2 million, more than one third of the total.

Despite that fall, Asia continued to be the main tourist market for Vietnam with a 7.5 percent increase. The most notable growth was Thailand (49.3 percent), Taiwan (26 percent), South Korea (24.1 percent), Malaysia (11.1 percent ) and Japan (8.3 percent).

The growth in Europe (6.1 percent) and the Americas (6.3 percent) were also encouraging.

Vietnam began 2019 with a solid tourist support that in terms of lodging, the country has more than 500,000 rooms, distributed mostly in 116 five stars hotels, 259 four star hotels and 488 three star hotels.

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Left opt for election scaremongering? Report claims ‘US dark money’ meddling in Europe

A new alarming report claims American Christian conservative groups funneled millions to fund “shocking” meddling in European politics. Seems like a big scoop, or just a ploy to sway European Parliament elections?

The report released by the UK-based political website openDemocracy this week spares no black paint to produce a picture of gross interference in European affairs. The perpetrators are conservative Christian charities, which, the records show, pumped at least $50 million into European countries.

All the right names that can scare a left-leaning reader are duly mentioned. Donald Trump? Check. Vladimir Putin? Check. Steve Bannon? Check, three times. Also listed are billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, the DeVos family, including Blackwater founder Erik Prince, and the evangelical preacher Franklin Graham – who notably travelled to Russia earlier this month, the report stressed for some arcane reason.

  • franklin_graham #Collusion? I’m in Russia right now—Moscow to be exact—and I’m meeting with the Russian churches on how we can share with more young people about faith in Jesus Christ! That’s not “collusion,” but it is collaboration for the sake of souls. #GoodNews

    Of course the US public records over the past decade, which openDemocracy used as the source for the figure, don’t identify the recipients. But the readers may well assume that they had the most nefarious goals in mind.

    “The scale of this meddling by US extremists is shocking, but sadly no surprise to us. Every day European societies face concerted attacks by outside forces seeking to impose reproductive coercion,” commented Caroline Hickson, regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s European Network. “This is utterly at odds with the European values of democracy and human rights.”

    The authors make no secret that they compiled their work ahead of the European Parliament elections, which will be held throughout EU member states in late May. Right-wing and Eurosceptic parties are widely expected to score big wins at the ballot. Some 40 incumbent MEPs penned a letter calling for action to investigate “US Christian fundamentalists” and their influence on Europe.

    Staggering research from ⁦⁩ on just how vulnerable our politics are to well funded organised malign influences. Proud to have organised a cross party MEP call for action.

    ‘Pot calling kettle black, just like with Russia’

    The report seems to be an exercise in scaremongering, painting private donations made by a conservative foundation as something untoward, John Laughland, British conservative author and historian, told RT.

    “Some of the organizations that they mention I personally know. This is just ridiculous. There are MEPs and European political parties that receive money from American sources, including liberals,” he said.

    Also on rt.com Brussels cries ‘conspiracy’ over Hungary’s ads showing smiling Soros behind EU immigration agenda...

    The notion of ‘dark money’ being used to ‘interfere’ in European affairs has been around in some political circles for quite some time. The only difference with this report is that the parties accused of interfering are private charities rather than a foreign nation like Russia, the most popular target for such accusations in the past few years.

    Perceiving ‘dark money’ behind political opponents is a kind of conspiratorial thinking that some people in the left-wing camp demonstrate, Laughland added. “They think that any kind of movement or current of ideas that is not their current of ideas is either because people are stupid or because they are paid,” he said.

    The complaints about “Russian election interference” made by the EU and the US, which have a long record of their own meddling in foreign nations, looks like a vivid example of pot calling kettle black, he said. The left complaining about the right receiving foreign money while receiving foreign money themselves would look similarly hypocritical.

    ‘Don’t turn this into a Bannon v Soros culture war’

    British Journalist Neil Clark, pointed out that while $50 million may seem like a large sum of money even spent over ten years, it dwarfs compared to the billions and billions floating around in European politics. A significant portion of that money goes to liberal causes funded by wealthy sponsors like Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros, the best-known person of that ilk.

    The impact that his Open Society Foundations made on Europe, especially in the eastern part during post-Soviet transition, is undeniable. Incidentally, the foundation is one of the primary sponsors of openDemocracy itself, alongside US-based groups like National Endowment for Democracy, and the Ford Foundation.

    Also on rt.com Eurosceptic parties set to double seats in EU Parliament after May elections – poll...

    Clark warned against piling up a dozen Christian conservative groups into one vaguely neo-Nazi-shaped boogeyman, which is what the report seems to have done. More so, if the goal was to turn it into a campaigning point for the May elections.

    “The issue that the left should be fighting on is economic. Employment, rising poverty in Europe, austerity – these are the issues they should be focusing on, and not culture wars,” he told RT. “And this report to me seems as if it wants to encourage culture wars… Basically, Steve Bannon versus George Soros.”

    https://cdni.rt.com/files/2019.03/article/5c9e3329dda4c8fb7c8b4589.JPG

    If left parties do go down that path, it may backfire, Clark said. There are plenty of Christians living in Europe, who vote left. Starting a war with American Christian conservatives would not win votes in Europe.

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Cuba Reiterates Interest in Boosting links with European Union

Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, ratified today the interest in boosting cooperation and dialogue with the European Union (EU).

In his Twitter social network account, the diplomat insisted that relations between the greater of the Antilles and the 28-country bloc have developed favorably, on the bases of mutual respect.

'We build spaces of dialogue and cooperation. We privileged the common points above those that difference us to develop stable and long-term links', he stressed.

Rodriguez recalled that last year, Cuba and the EU held the first sessions of the Joint Council and the meetings to approach issues in the area of human rights and unilateral coercive measures.

At the end of 2016, the island and the European bloc signed an agreement of political dialogue and cooperation, that represented the official end to the common position on Cuba, an initiative applied since 1996 by the EU which conditioned the approach to the greater of the Antilles to human rights issues, rejected by the Caribbean country, considering it a position of subordination to the U.S. aggressiveness and its economic blockade.

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Cubans Resident in Europe Meet in Belgium

The 13th Meeting of Cubans Resident in Europe (ECRE) begins on Friday in Belgium with the attendance of participants from some 20 countries.

According to sources close to the event, on this occasion it will be attended by the Cuban National Assembly of People's Power representatives, Lizzete Martinez Luzardo and the troubadour Raul Torres, as well as the director of Consular Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ernesto Soberon.

The event, which will be extended until Sunday, is organized by the host association, Cubabel, and the participants will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the wars of independence, the 65th anniversary of the Assault on the Moncada Garrison, and will celebrate National Culture Day.

Belgium will host for the second time (the first time 10 years ago) the event, on the 40th anniversary of the historic 1978 dialogue, which initiated the process of rapprochement between the Cuban Revolutionary Government and its emigration.

The program will include debates on the impact on the Cuban community in Europe of the extraterritorial application of the blockade imposed by the United States against the island, as well as on the Constitutional Reform process currently underway in the Caribbean nation.

Cuba-European Union relations, migration issues, as well as the links between nation and emigration will also be addressed.

As part of the collateral program, meetings are planned with representatives of the Belgian movement of solidarity with Cuba, in order to agree on the implementation of actions aimed at defending and respecting the sovereignty of the country and to counteract the growing aggressiveness of Donald Trump's government policy.

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UK woman rescued 10 hours after falling from cruise ship in Adriatic

A British woman has been rescued after spending 10 hours in the Adriatic Sea at night, having fallen from a cruise ship, according to Croatia’s coastguard.

The 46-year-old, who gave her name as Kay to local media and was later named Kay Longstaff in UK reports, was taken to hospital in Pula, Croatia, and is understood to be out of danger.

It is understood she fell from the Norwegian Star cruise ship about 60 miles (100km) off Croatia’s coast shortly before midnight on Saturday as the vessel was making its way from the port of Vergarola to Venice in Italy.

The liner raised the alarm and was joined by coastguard and civilian vessels, plus a PC-9 aircraft, at about 6.30am on Sunday. The woman was spotted at 9.40am and reached by a rescue swimmer from a patrol boat minutes later, Croatian media reported, saying she was about 1.3km away from the spot where she fell in.

The rescued passenger told the Croatian news channel HRT: “I am very lucky to be alive. ... I fell off the back of the Norwegian Star and I was in the water for 10 hours, so these wonderful guys rescued me.

“I was sitting at the back of the deck and, yeah ... it was bad,” she said before being taken into an ambulance.

An unnamed rescuer told the Sun: “She said the fact that she practises yoga helped her as she was fit. And she said she was singing to not feel cold in the sea overnight.”

David Radas, a spokesman for the Croatian ministry of maritime affairs, said that by checking CCTV rescuers knew the exact moment Longstaff fell in the water. “Because they knew the time, they were able to know the exact position of the ship,” he told the Sun.

The rescue ship’s captain, Lovro Orešković, said the woman was exhausted, adding: “We were extremely happy for saving a human life.”

A Norwegian Cruise Line spokesperson said: “On the morning of 19 August a guest went overboard as Norwegian Star made her way to Venice. The coastguard was notified and a search and rescue operation ensued.

The rescued passenger told the Croatian news channel HRT: “I am very lucky to be alive. ... I fell off the back of the Norwegian Star and I was in the water for 10 hours, so these wonderful guys rescued me.

“I was sitting at the back of the deck and, yeah ... it was bad,” she said before being taken into an ambulance.

An unnamed rescuer told the Sun: “She said the fact that she practises yoga helped her as she was fit. And she said she was singing to not feel cold in the sea overnight.”

David Radas, a spokesman for the Croatian ministry of maritime affairs, said that by checking CCTV rescuers knew the exact moment Longstaff fell in the water. “Because they knew the time, they were able to know the exact position of the ship,” he told the Sun.

The rescue ship’s captain, Lovro Orešković, said the woman was exhausted, adding: “We were extremely happy for saving a human life.”

A Norwegian Cruise Line spokesperson said: “On the morning of 19 August a guest went overboard as Norwegian Star made her way to Venice. The coastguard was notified and a search and rescue operation ensued.

The rescued passenger told the Croatian news channel HRT: “I am very lucky to be alive. ... I fell off the back of the Norwegian Star and I was in the water for 10 hours, so these wonderful guys rescued me.

“I was sitting at the back of the deck and, yeah ... it was bad,” she said before being taken into an ambulance.

An unnamed rescuer told the Sun: “She said the fact that she practises yoga helped her as she was fit. And she said she was singing to not feel cold in the sea overnight.”

David Radas, a spokesman for the Croatian ministry of maritime affairs, said that by checking CCTV rescuers knew the exact moment Longstaff fell in the water. “Because they knew the time, they were able to know the exact position of the ship,” he told the Sun.

The rescue ship’s captain, Lovro Orešković, said the woman was exhausted, adding: “We were extremely happy for saving a human life.”

A Norwegian Cruise Line spokesperson said: “On the morning of 19 August a guest went overboard as Norwegian Star made her way to Venice. The coastguard was notified and a search and rescue operation ensued.

 

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