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rpannier's Journal
rpannier's Journal
September 2, 2023

Five Stories from Europe You May Have Missed

5. Christie's cancels sale of Nazi heiress' jewels

The enormous collection of jewellery belonged to Heidi Horten, the wife of a Nazi who made his fortune after buying Jewish businesses under duress in the Second World War.

Christie’s have cancelled the sale of a large amount of jewels from the estate of Heidi Horten, bowing to months of international pressure.

The late Austrian billionaire’s wealth was famously rooted in Nazi profiteering by her late husband.

The auction house announced that the jewellery would no longer be available to potential buyers following outcry from clients and staff as well as from Jewish organisations.


4. Finnish government renounces racism after a summer rocked by racist scandals

The Finnish government unveiled a new plan Thursday to try and shake off the stigma of racism that has marred the first months of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo's right-wing coalition government.

The plan is aimed at combating racism and anti-Semitism, including a new law to criminalise Holocaust denial and plans to possibly ban Nazi and Communist symbols – although that could prove legally difficult.

"Every minister in the government renounces racism and is committed to actively combating it", Orpo told a press conference in Helsinki, where leaders pledged up to €1.5 million to bring in the 23 measures outlined in the plan.


3. ‘Incomprehensible’ killing of popular brown bear in central Italy sparks outrage

Italian politicians and wildlife experts have condemned the fatal shooting of an endangered brown bear, as a search was under way for her two cubs.

Amarena was one of the most popular of the Marsican brown bears in the Abruzzo national park in central Italy, often pictured in and around the area with her offspring.

A local man was immediately identified as the shooter, according to park authorities, which condemned the “very serious incident”.

The 56-year-old reportedly told police he fired out of fear when Amarena entered his property on the outskirts of the town of San Benedetto dei Marsi, outside the park area, on Friday.


2. Russian National Granted Asylum In Bulgaria After Being Rejected Earlier

Bulgaria will allow a Russian national to stay in the country, after earlier rejecting three asylum requests. Aleksandr Stotsky fled Russia immediately after the start of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Stotsky, a supporter of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, argued that he risked being sent to fight in Ukraine if sent back to Russia. Stotsky's asylum request was rejected by Bulgaria's authority for refugees and a Sofia court, which ruled he was in no danger if he returned to his homeland. Following protests,


1. Armenia, Azerbaijan Report Casualties Amid 'Intense Fire' On Border

Armenia and Azerbaijan reported casualties after intense shelling near their common border on September 1, northwest of the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Armenian Defense Ministry said three soldiers were killed on September 1 in intense shelling near the border with Azerbaijan northwest of the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The ministry initially reported two soldiers had been killed and then raised the number to four but later said one of those believed to have died was resuscitated. The soldier has a severe gunshot wound and is in critical condition. One other soldier was wounded.

The ministry said Armenian positions were hit near the settlements of Sotk and Norabak, which are about 8 kilometers from the border.


August 26, 2023

Twisted Sister With Mariachi were not gonna take it

A Mariachi Band makes everything sound better
August 26, 2023

Five Stories from Europe You May Have Missed

5. Turmoil hits Estonian Prime Minister Kallas over husband's Russia ties

Opposition figures in Estonia have called on Prime Minister Kaja Kallas to resign after it was revealed her husband's company was continuing to operate in Russia.

The Center Party announced on Friday it was starting to discuss a no-confidence motion against her, while another opposition group Isamaa said the scandal has caused "considerable damage to the interests and reputation of Estonia".

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reported on Wednesday the haulage firm Stark Logistics, part-owned by Kallas's husband, Arvo Hallik, continued doing business with Russia after it invaded Ukraine.


4. Supermarket in Finland welcomes dogs, with special carts for canine customers

A 'su-paw-market' in Finland is welcoming canine customers, with specially-adapted carts which allow dog owners to bring their pooches grocery shopping.

The Kesko grocery chain in the city of Tampere has introduced the "Koirakärry" - dog cart - concept as a way to welcome in more dog-owning customers at one of its stores, where usually only service animals would be permitted inside the aisles.

"The idea is already used in some countries, but not in Finland, and we have a lot of dog owners nearby," explains Matilda Tistelgren, who has been operating the supermarket with her partner Joona Pesonen since the spring.

"We have a golden retriever ourselves, and if we go out jogging with the dog and forget something from the store, we don't want to go home, leave the dog, then have to return to the store ourselves, we want to be able to take the dog with us," Matilda tells Euronews.


3. Pro-Russian Bosnian Musician Plans Concerts In Romania After Moldova Ban

Bosnian musician Goran Bregovic, who has been banned from performing in Moldova because of his outspoken pro-Moscow views, is due to perform at least twice in the coming months in NATO and EU member Romania, RFE/RL has learned.

Bregovic and his band over the weekend were refused entry to Moldova, where they were scheduled to perform at a folk festival.

On August 21, Chisinau cited a ban on Bregovic imposed last year because of his pro-Russian views as the reason for not allowing his band, The Wedding and Funeral Orchestra, into Moldova.

Bregovic was to arrive in Chisinau on August 20 but canceled his trip after being told that his band had been stopped from entering Moldova.


2. Health alarm as tide of rotting seaweed chokes UK holiday beaches

When Owen Francomb from Margate set out on a walk with his dog Gertie along Kent’s picturesque Thanet coast early this month, he didn’t imagine he’d need to be rescued from a tide of toxic sludge. But on the beach at Newgate Gap, French bulldog Gertie started sinking into a thick carpet of rotting seaweed and began to panic.

“She couldn’t move,” Francomb. says. “So I scrambled down the slipway and jumped down on to the beach, expecting the seaweed to be a foot deep, but it came up to my belt. I really struggled to wade through it.” Another dog walker had to help him and Gertie out of the stinking slime.

Over 1,000 tonnes of seaweed have been removed from beaches between Minnis Bay and Broadstairs by Thanet district council – at a cost of £65,000 – in just five weeks from the beginning of July this year, compared with a reported average of between 400-800 tonnes in an entire season.


1. Yerevan Says Airport Fired On From Azerbaijan Hours After Prime Minister's Visit

Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) has said that an airport near the southeastern border with Azerbaijan was fired upon from Azerbaijani territory hours after Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian visited the facility.

The NSS said the incident took place in the early morning of August 18 at the Syunik airport in the town of Kapan. Pashinian had flown to the airport on August 17 from Yerevan.

According to the NSS, an unidentified individual fired three shots at the airport from across the border, striking windows and the roof of a building at the airport.

“We call on the authorities of Azerbaijan to conduct a proper investigation of the incident and to take measures to exclude the repetition of such incidents,” the NSS said in a statement.

August 19, 2023

Alabama priest 'groomed young girls' before fleeing to Italy with 18-year-old

Roman Catholic priest in Alabama who fled to Europe with a recent high school graduate whom he met through his work has drawn scrutiny from law enforcement and been told to stop presenting himself in public as a cleric.

Alex Crow, an expert in the theological study of demons and exorcism, is suspected of having “groomed [multiple] young girls” before going to Italy with an 18-year-old, according to an interview that local sheriff Paul Burch recently gave to Fox Nation’s Nancy Grace. The teen’s family has been trying to convince her to return home.

Burch has publicly released two letters written by Crow, 30, to support that assertion. In one of the letters to the teen, Crow described how he loved her and claimed that they were married. The Pillar, a Catholic news outlet, reported that the letter was for Valentine’s Day, when the girl was 17 and had not yet graduated from the parochial school where Crow had sat in on classes and met with students in the context of the sacrament known as confession.


August 19, 2023

Five Stories from Europe You May Have Missed

5. Doctors were forced to apologise for raising alarm over Lucy Letby and baby deaths

Lucy Letby’s colleagues were ordered to apologise to her after repeatedly raising concerns that the nurse may have been behind a series of unexplained baby deaths, the Guardian has learned.

Senior doctors had warned for months that Letby was the only staff member present during the sudden collapses and deaths of a number of premature babies on the Countess of Chester hospital’s neonatal unit.

She was not removed from the ward until early July 2016, a year after a doctor first alerted a hospital executive to a potential link. By that time she had murdered seven babies and attempted to kill another six, a court found on Friday.


4. Romania Sends Navy Divers, Helicopter After Suspected Mine Explodes At Black Sea Resort Area

Romanian officials said the NATO member nation's navy had sent a team of specialized divers and a helicopter to search for stray mines along the Black Sea coast after an explosion shook the embankment near the resort town of Costinesti. No one was injured in the blast. Since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, mines have been placed in the Black Sea by both sides of the war. Strong waves and winds have often brought the explosives toward the Romanian coast. Western reports say Russia planted additional mines in the region after it left a UN-brokered grain deal.


3. Former Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz charged with giving false evidence to a corruption inquiry

Sebastian Kurz has been charged with making false statements to a parliamentary inquiry into a scandal that brought down his first government, prosecutors said. The court said Kurz will go on trial on 18 October.

Austria's former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has been charged with making false statements to a parliamentary inquiry into alleged corruption in his first government, which collapsed in a scandal in 2019, prosecutors said Friday.

An indictment against Kurz, his former chief of staff, Bernhard Bonelli, and a third person was filed at the state court in Vienna, the prosecutors' office that investigates corruption cases said in a statement. The court said Kurz will go on trial on 18 October.

The charges result from an investigation that was launched in 2021, when Kurz was still chancellor. It centres on his testimony to a parliamentary probe that focused on alleged corruption in the coalition he led from 2017, when his conservative People's Party formed a government with the far-right Freedom Party, until its collapse in 2019.


2. Three Bulgarians Suspected Of Being Russian Spies Arrested In Britain

Three Bulgarian nationals suspected of spying for Russia in the U.K. have been arrested and charged as part of a major national security investigation, the BBC reported on August 15. RFE/RL contacted the Bulgarian Embassy in London for confirmation, but it said it had no information at the moment and had not been contacted by British authorities. The BBC named the suspects as Orlin Rusev, 45, Biser Djambazov, 41, and Katrin Ivanova, 31. The A spokeswoman for the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said the department is still investigating the case. The accused were arrested in February and have been in custody since then, according to the BBC.


1. Russian women fear return of murderers freed to fight for Wagner

The 2020 murder of Vera Pekhteleva, by her ex-boyfriend, was so gruesome that even in Russia, where violence against women often goes under the radar, it caused a media outcry.

Vladislav Kanyus spent hours torturing Pekhteleva before she died; neighbours repeatedly called police to report horrifying screams coming from the neighbouring apartment, but the police did not show up. At trial, it emerged there had been 111 injuries on Pekhteleva’s body.

Last summer, a court in Siberia sentenced Kanyus to 17 years in prison for the murder. Pekhteleva’s family members were disappointed that the judge dismissed additional charges of rape and unlawful imprisonment, but breathed a sigh of relief that the murder charge alone would put Kanyus behind bars for 17 years.


As part of the deal, convicts were told that if they fought for six months and survived, they would be allowed to go back to normal life without serving the rest of their sentences. Later, prisoners were also freed to fight for the regular Russian army and for other Wagner-like formations fighting with the Russians in Ukraine.


August 12, 2023

Five Stories from Europe You May Have Missed

5. Mayor Of Bulgarian Town Arrested In Probe Into Misuse Of EU Funds

The mayor of a Bulgarian town has been arrested in an investigation into an alleged fraud involving EU funds meant for a project to increase energy efficiency in multifamily residential buildings, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office said.

Valentin Dimitrov, mayor of the town General Toshevo in northeastern Bulgaria, was arrested on August 9 at the request of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Interior Ministry confirmed the arrest to RFE/RL.

Dimitrov has been under investigation for fraud involving subsidies from the European Union for the housing energy efficiency project, the European Public Prosecutor's Office said in a news release. The alleged violations took place in 2017-19.


According to the evidence collected, officials involved in the project, including the mayor, presented false information about the implementation of the work, which had not been completed on time, the prosecutor’s office said.


4. European stocks plunge as Italy hits banks' profits with 40% windfall tax

Italy introduced a one-off 40% windfall tax targeting banks' extra profits from higher interest rates, a move that sent European tumbling on Tuesday morning as the market weighs in on the country's decision.

The new windfall tax will only apply to the accounting years of 2022 and 2023 and will affect banks' net interest margin, a measure of the net return on the bank's earning assets, which normally includes loans, leases, and investment securities. The tax must be settled by June 2024.

Italy expects to collect at least €2 billion with the new tax, as sources close to the issue told Reuters. The 40% levy will be made if the net interest income recorded in 2022 exceeds the value of the financial year 2021 by at least 3%.

For the profits of 2023 compared to 2022, the threshold from which the tax will be levied goes up to 6%. The proceeds of the tax, Italian politicians said, will be used to help struggling mortgage holders.


Follow up story later in week

3. China’s new London embassy on hold pending Westminster intervention

China has temporarily shelved plans to build a new embassy in London, angrily accusing the British government of not doing enough to force through planning permission for the project.

China had been given until Thursday to file an appeal to Tower Hamlets council in east London after the proposals for the embassy were rejected.

Beijing bought the Royal Mint Court site for its new embassy in 2018 for £255m, with the plan to move from its long-term but relatively cramped site in Portland Place, near Regent’s Park.

Chinese officials appear to have decided that rather than appeal through the local Tower Hamlets planning process, where they have relatively little chance of success, they want central government to intervene and give assurances that it will back a resubmitted application.


2. Seven Romanians Arrested For Weapons Possession Amid Investigation Into Fatal Stabbing Of Greek Fan

Seven Romanians were arrested on August 10 on the border between Greece and Bulgaria for weapons possession as police continued to probe the fatal stabbing of a Greek soccer fan, officials said. The Greek fan was killed near Athens on August 8 during a brawl between rival fans before a Champions League qualifying-round match between AEK Athens and Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb. The Romanians were found in possession of knives, a face mask, and other items, police said. They were believed to be on their way to a Europa League qualifying match when they were arrested.


1. 'This is my world!': Former Austrian FM spends holiday in Russia

Several Russian websites have circulated a video of former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl, wearing a flowing blue skirt and belted white shirt, extolling the charms of the Russian village of Petrushovo at a local summer festival.

“This is my world,” she said standing in front of a group of Russian children, insisting that she feels at home among the “chickens, ducks and goats” in the village located in the Ryazan Oblast, southeast of Moscow.


Kneissl was Austria’s foreign minister from 2017 to 2019, and made headlines when she invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to her wedding in 2018 in a ceremony in the town of Gamlitz.


When a vote of no-confidence ousted the government of Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz, she left political office and subsequently began contributing to Russian government news outlet RT, formerly Russia Today.

August 12, 2023

'Twinverclyde': 17 sets of twins to start school in one Scottish authority

Seventeen sets of twins will start primary school in one Scottish local authority next week, the second largest number on record.

Schools in Inverclyde will welcome the twins for the first time on Friday 18 August, in an area that has colloquially become known as “Twinverclyde”.

In 2015, a record 19 sets of twins started primary education in the region.


Last year, six sets of twins joined the year 8 group at St Mary’s college in Northern Ireland.
In 2017, five sets of twins started at Hillcrest primary school in Bristol.


August 10, 2023


Cats rule the world and prison cats Galileo and Belle rule the Larch Correctional facility in the first episode of the new SHEBA® documentary series, The Cats That Rule The World by Academy Award Nominated director Geoffrey O’Connor.

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