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rpannier's Journal
rpannier's Journal
March 23, 2024

Five Stories from Europe You May Have Missed

5. To Some In Belgrade, Serbia Risks Loss Of 'Crown Jewel' In Kushner Deal

BELGRADE -- Serbs in Belgrade and close followers of their memorialization of the Balkan wars of the 1990s are responding coolly to word that Serbian officials are surprisingly advanced in talks for Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to redevelop one of the most recognizable symbols of Western military might targeting Serbs.

The abandoned headquarters of the Yugoslav General Staff in downtown Belgrade was struck by two overnight bombing raids in April and May 1999, midway through NATO’s 79-day bombardment to force an end to violence and charges of ethnic cleansing between mostly Serb troops and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, then an autonomous province of rump Yugoslavia.

Despite decades of sporadic debate about transforming the site, the old General Staff buildings have remained mostly unchanged as a crumbling reminder to many Serbs of perceived bias against their national cause at a dark historical juncture.

"Why should it be given away?” Belgrade retiree Zivko Nedeljkovic told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service this week, following news of the potential Kushner deal.


4. Kurti Says Won't Change Suspension Of Serbian Dinar Use In Kosovo

PRISTINA -- Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti says he will not suspend a move by the central bank to ban the circulation of the Serbian dinar in parts of the country with Serbian majorities but will accept the forming of an Association of Serb-Majority Municipalities once Belgrade agrees to sign a basic agreement on bilateral relations.

The basic agreement for the normalization of relations with Serbia was reached in February 2023, and includes the formation of the association, which is expected to more adequately represent predominantly ethnic Serb areas in Kosovo.

Kosovo is not a member of the European Union or its common currency area, the eurozone, but it unilaterally adopted the euro in 2002 to help bring monetary stability and to simplify and reduce transaction costs inside and outside the country.

Serbia, which has never acknowledged its former province's 2008 declaration of independence, still pays many ethnic Serbs at institutions in Serb-dominated parts of Kosovo in dinars. Many also hold their pensions and get child allowances in dinars.


3. Senior Labour figures seeking to water down plans to decriminalise abortion

Senior Labour figures want to water down proposed legislation to decriminalise abortion in England and Wales ahead of a historic Commons debate on the issue.

Later this spring, MPs are due to have a free vote on a proposal by the Labour MP Diana Johnson to abolish the criminal offence associated with a woman ending her own pregnancy.

The proposal from Johnson, who chairs the home affairs select committee, has support from MPs on both sides of the house and senior doctors’ groups. There has been a widespread expectation it will pass, in a major change to abortion law.


Some senior Labour figures have privately expressed concern that Johnson’s proposal goes too far because of the provision of telemedicine in England and Wales, whereby a woman seeking an early-stage abortion can be prescribed tablets at home without seeing a doctor.


2. Rising prices and social inequality could decide the European elections: Exclusive poll

The fight against rising prices and social inequalities are the most important issues for European voters ahead of the European Parliament elections in June, according to an exclusive poll by Ipsos for Euronews.

Beating out topics like climate change and immigration, economic issues represent four out of the top five topics that Europeans think should be the highest priorities for incoming decision-makers.

The first-of-its-kind survey, conducted in 18 countries representing 96% of the EU's population, found that rising prices remain the leading electoral issue for Europeans, followed closely by social concerns such as preserving healthcare and pension systems.


1. Ex-Prime Minister Of Bosniak-Croat Federation Begins Jail Term

Fadil Novalic, the former prime minister of the Bosniak-Croat federation, one of Bosnia's two entities, has started serving a four-year prison sentence for corruption in a case regarding the purchase and importing of Chinese ventilators during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fahrudin Zolak, the head of the entity's civil protection service, and entrepreneur Fikret Hodzic were also found guilty on April 5, 2023, and were sentenced to six years and five years in prison, respectively.

Jelka Milicevic, the entity's finance minister, was found not guilty.

The trial regarding the procurement of 5.4 million euros ($5.9 million) worth of ventilators earmarked for the entity's health-care system began in February 2021.


The Sarajevo Prosecutor's Office opened an investigation after it emerged that 100 ventilators had been purchased without following the legal public-procurement procedure via direct negotiations with Hodzic's private company F.H. Srebrena Malina (Silver Raspberry), which deals in fresh produce.

March 16, 2024

Five Stories from Europe You May Have Missed

5. Aya Nakamura, the pop superstar at the centre of a Paris Olympic racism storm

She is the most listened-to French singer in the world, whose relentlessly catchy hits about love and betrayal have been streamed 7bn times and who made history last year when she sold out three Paris gigs in 15 minutes.

But Aya Nakamura, France’s biggest pop superstar who is known for her unique French style influenced by Afrobeats and Caribbean zouk, called out racism and ignorance this week after far-right politicians expressed outrage over the possibility that she could sing at the Paris Olympics.


Emmanuel Macron is yet to confirm that he wanted Nakamura to headline the Olympic opening ceremony, singing hits by the 1950s cabaret legend Édith Piaf. But complaints by rightwing politicians and TV pundits that Nakamura was somehow not French enough have exposed deep faultlines of racism and class prejudice that threaten to cast a shadow over the Games.


4. Orban Calls For Hungarians To 'Occupy Brussels' In Upcoming Elections

BUDAPEST -- Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a nationalist who has held power in Hungary for the past 14 years, has issued a stinging rebuke of the European Union and called on his countrymen to help "occupy Brussels" in elections set for the bloc this summer.

In a speech during a national holiday to commemorate Hungary’s failed 1848 revolution against Habsburg rule, the right-wing populist, who has often clashed with the EU during his time in power, said Hungary had to choose between "Brussels and Hungarian freedom" in the vote.

"They start wars, destroy worlds, redraw countries' borders and graze on everything like locusts," Orban told the crowd from the steps of the National Museum.

“We Hungarians live differently and want to live differently.”


3. Mushrooms swapped for tampons among bizarre UK supermarket substitutions

Mushrooms in place of tampons, a frozen pizza substituted for tinned peaches, and cream crackers instead of Christmas crackers. These are among the “bizarre” supermarket substitutions reported by online shoppers in a new poll.

Just over a third of online grocery shoppers (34%) reported having received a substitution in their most recent grocery delivery, the survey for consumer group Which? found.

Asda was the worst offender with more than half (56%) of customers receiving a replacement product in their last order. When asked about the strangest substitution of the past year, one of its shoppers recounted their bemusement at having ordered washing powder only to unpack 10 cans of beer.


Ocado customers were the least likely to have received a substitution, at 17%, but it still managed the occasional doozy, with one customer telling Which? they ordered tampons but got mushrooms instead.


2. U.S. Imposes Sanctions On 3 Individuals For Organizing Republika Srpska Day

The U.S. Treasury Department on March 13 unveiled sanctions against three individuals in Republika Srpska for undermining the peace and stability of Bosnia-Herzegovina by helping to organize an "unconstitutional" celebration of Bosnian Serb identity.

The three individuals -- Branislav Okuka, Jelena Pajic-Bastinac, and Srebrenka Golic -- were involved in "organizing and executing the commemoration of Republika Srpska Day on January 9, 2024, an activity determined to be unconstitutional" in Bosnia, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Okuka, Pajic-Bastinac, and Golic were added to the Treasury Department’s sanctions list for contributing to the efforts of Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik “to undermine the peace and stability” of Bosnia by organizing the event.


Dodik appointed the committee and demanded it plan the celebration, which included events taking place over three days beginning on January 8.


1. EU to revise Agricultural Policy in response to farmers protests

The European Commission proposed to review certain provisions of the Common Agricultural Policy in response to the farmers protests across Europe.

The proposals would "reduce the burden related to controls for EU farmers" and give them more "flexibility for complying with certain environmental conditionalities," the European Commission said.

The provisions are in response to the dozens of farmers protests that have been taking place in several countries in Europe, including Spain, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. They are against EU regulation, aimed at combating climate change, unrestricted imports from countries outside the bloc, and production costs, among other things.

March 12, 2024

Club of MAGA

March 9, 2024

Five Stories From Europe You May Have Missed

5. Religious And Social Conservatives In Kosovo Block Controversial IVF Bill


"Secular state, where?" one of the signs read, signaling the demonstrators' fear that public policy is falling prey to outsized religious influence in the Balkans' newest state. "Does IVF in private hospitals destroy the family?" read another at the February 29 protest in front of Kosovo's parliament, organized by the We March, We Don't Celebrate collective and joined by other groups.

The protest was part of an emerging legislative and regulatory battle over in vitro fertilization (IVF) -- a medical procedure where an egg is fertilized by sperm outside the body, typically in a laboratory dish -- and other fertility treatments in Kosovo, a male-dominated, mostly Muslim country of around 2.2 million people.


But a smattering of lawmakers, including those from Prime Minister Albin Kurti's ruling Self-Determination party, are leading opposition to the bill in its current form. They want IVF and other assisted pregnancies restricted to couples in order to safeguard the institutions of marriage and family. They say they fear "accidental incest" -- where people who were conceived with the assistance of sperm or egg donors unintentionally enter into sexual relationships with their biological relatives -- and have argued that children conceived outside the womb should have the right to know their father.

The opponents of the reproductive-health bill, in its more inclusive wording, have so far successfully fended off a plenary vote that would likely result in passage. Long-running efforts at passage failed again last week and once more on March 7, when parliament failed to muster a quorum each time.


4. MoD paid millions into Saudi account amid BAE corruption scandal

Britain’s Ministry of Defence moved questionable payments through its own bank account amid one of the biggest corruption scandals in history, despite concerns the money could be pocketed by the Saudi royal family.

Previously confidential documents show how the MoD agreed to make the payments to a Saudi bank account after the transactions came under scrutiny following an investigation by the UK anti-corruption agency, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

The documents reveal a senior MoD official expressing concern that turning down the Saudi requests for payments could risk “displeasing key Saudis” and emphasising the need to “keep the Saudis on side at this critical time”.

The new payment system, detailed in the documents, was set up after the SFO began investigating allegations that BAE, Britain’s biggest arms company, had paid large bribes to the Saudi royal family to land the notorious UK-Saudi al-Yamamah contract.


3. Theresa May to step down as MP at general election

The former prime minister Theresa May will step down as an MP at the next general election after 27 years in parliament, becoming one of the most high-profile Conservatives to join a wave of departures from the House of Commons.

In a statement to the Maidenhead Advertiser, the Maidenhead MP said she wanted to focus on causes close to her heart, including her work on the Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.

She also criticised the current political climate, saying in an article for the Times that she had “seen a coarsening of our debates and less respect for others’ views”.

“Democracy depends on us being able to debate key issues that affect people’s everyday lives seriously and respectfully. It needs politicians who put those they represent first and themselves second. It needs MPs who are there to serve,” she said.


2. Chinese-Made Surveillance Cameras At Romanian Military Sites Raise Security Concerns


For less than $1,000, a Romanian Defense Ministry employee ordered an eight-port switch and two surveillance cameras for the security network at a military base in the sleepy southern village of Deveselu that is home to NATO's Aegis Ashore, land-based, missile-defense system.

The cameras were made by Hikvision, a partly state-owned Chinese company with alleged links to the country's military whose equipment has been blacklisted by the United States and Britain due to data and security vulnerabilities.

While there's no evidence the cameras at Deveselu have resulted in any breaches, a monthslong investigation by RFE/RL's Romanian Service shows that surveillance equipment made by Hikvision and Dahua -- another company that is partly owned by the Chinese government -- is used by at least 28 military facilities in the country. The equipment is also used by hundreds of other public institutions involved in national security, ranging from the coast guard to sites operated by the intelligence service.

Unlike the United States, Britain, or some other NATO partners, there is no prohibition on the use of Hikvision or Dahua equipment in Romania and the country's Defense Ministry and other national-security institutions using the brands told RFE/RL they were on closed-circuit systems that do not have cloud or Internet connections and that strict security protocols are followed.


1. Serbian LGBT Activists, Supporters Protest Alleged Police Brutality In Belgrade

BELGRADE -- Several hundred Serbian LGBT activists and their supporters protested in central Belgrade against alleged police brutality on March 6 following reports of abuse against two LGBT persons and what demonstrators say was official inaction in the incident.

Participants in the protest -- dubbed We Will Not Be Silent! -- called for the criminal prosecution of police officers for what they say was abuse, torture, and sexual harassment in the February 26 incident, as well as quicker sanctioning of police officers who commit violence.

Organizers from the Da se zna! (To Be Clear!) rights group also called on authorities in Serbia to condemn violence against the LGBT community.


Activists charge that police officers abused two LGBT persons during a search of an apartment in Belgrade that was suspected of having drugs in it.

March 5, 2024

Japan issues more transparent guidelines for foreigners who overstay their visa

According to NHK news and the Japan Times, special permission is granted to foreigners who are in Japan illegally, and those who request special permission to stay in Japan
1. Those who are considered stateless. There is no country they can be deported to.
2. Someone who is under medical care, especially if there is a serious threat to their lives if their medical care was not continued in Japan.
Interestingly, NHK News mentioned Americans without any caveat attached. American medical care... gotta love it.
3. Whether or not they have sufficient support from an employer or third party.
4. The necessity to protect the interests of children living with their families in Japan and the relationships they have built within Japanese communities, especially if they are Japanese minors, and if they are living under guardianship and care.

Justice Minister Koizumi has said these are necessarily new guidelines, but issues in the name of greater transparency.
We have been living in Japan, and while we knew them, am surprised at how many people did not know them, especially #4
Also, that a positive, or negative finding on a single point is necessarily the deciding factor
Example: If you enter Japan under a false passport you are ineligible to stay. But if, for example, the government discovered you were stateless, you would probably be allowed to stay.

If you are receiving medical care for a heart condition, they would probably let you stay. But, if you came from some place that had facilities that would provide same-level care that was not outrageous cost (ahem... USA) then maybe the government might make you leave. Unlikely, but maybe.

New guidelines will be issued in June, which will add greater transparency to the process, and benefit those with visa issues


March 2, 2024

The Rochdale Byelection in the UK. (And you thought your area's election was weird)

George Galloway won the Rochdale byelection, garnering almost 40% of the vote (39.7) and taking the seat away from Labour for the British Worker's Party.

The election was necessary because Labour MP Tony Lloyd dies from Leukemia in January.

For the record: The British Worker's Party describes itself as a leftist political party whose ideology is Socialism, Leftist economics, British Unionism, Eurosceptic, and Social Conservatism.

Galloway is a bit of a gadfly, and a somewhat "unique" personality. His victory surprised some people, though I'm not sure why; he has been a rather successful candidate over the years (he's won in four different constituencies in 37 years), he is good at retail politics (the anti-DeSantis), a good orator, and excellent in verbal sparring. Some may remember him from when he made a fool out of Minn Senator Norm Coleman (Repub-Moron) in the mid-2000s when he gave testimony before the US Senate and Coleman (it appears) did no preparation and got embarrassed by Galloway.

His opponents were

From Labour: Azhar Ali, who finished 4th, his campaign imploding after he accused Israel of allowing the attack in October to happen so they could invade Gaza. (7.7%)
From Tories: Paul Ellison who went on vacation during the campaign, and was seldom ever seen by many people (12%)
Independent candidate David Tully finished 2nd at a little over 21%, his campaign centered around "It's not about me" (I know, soooooo original)
Simon Danczuk, the Reform UK Party candidate (Nigel Farage). A former Labour Party MP, he was kicked out of Labour after he was caught exchanging text messages with a 15-year old girl. I guess being anti-immigrant is all that matters to Reform UK.
He got 6% of the vote.
Way to go, stay class you 6%. Maybe those supporters brought up Joseph and Ruth from the Bible, like Roy Moore's supporters did.
Lib Dems ran a rather uninspiring campaign, capturing 7%. But, I've read in places, they expected to finish 4th or 5th, even after the Ali fiasco.
The Greens took about 1.5% of the vote.

My guess is, with the exception of BWP and (probably) Reform UK, most of the parties sent their B or C Team.
But, who could have foreseen the Labour candidate (the favourite) saying something that stupid so close to the election that they had to keep him on the ballot?

March 2, 2024

Made In Macedonia: Americans Lose Millions Buying Fake Donald Trump Debit Cards

BELGRADE -- Last September, 86-year-old Ann Bratton thought she'd stumbled onto the investment of a lifetime.

An ad on one of the encrypted Telegram app channels the Nashville-area retiree had joined was offering debit-like "Trump cards" featuring the billionaire U.S. ex-president's image, each supposedly preloaded with $200,000. After years of forking out tens of thousands of dollars on souvenir banknotes, coins, and other Trump memorabilia, she calculated that she could quickly and easily turn a $6,000 investment into a $4 million nest egg.

What she didn't know was that behind the offer of "Trump Collection" cards was an opaque group of web-based vendors from a faded industrial city 8,500 kilometers away. And that city, in the Balkan country of North Macedonia, was already notorious for being home to legions of scammers who had fraudulently monetized Donald Trump's popularity in the United States and around the world.


But it's an open secret in this corner of the Balkans that a startlingly successful digital disinformation and fake news industry that emerged in the Macedonian city of Veles alongside the political rise of Donald Trump helped lay the groundwork for a thriving new business in fraudulent goods marketed through encrypted channels to Trump-style conservatives and "patriots" an ocean away.


**** as a note: If you read the article, you will see just how big a fool Bratton is (when she describes Trump in paragraph 7)

March 2, 2024

Five Stories From Europe You May have Missed

5. Romanian Presidency Tight-Lipped On Reports Of Iohannis Aiming For NATO Top Job

The Romanian presidency has refused to comment on media reports that Bucharest has proposed President Klaus Iohannis for the post of NATO Secretary-General. Quoting NATO diplomats, Bloomberg and Politico reported on February 22 that Romania had notified the alliance that Iohannis, who ends his term in December, was interested in the position, which incumbent Jens Stoltenberg is leaving in October. Asked for comment by RFE/RL, the Romanian presidency said it "does not comment on rumors." The United States, Britain, Germany, and France back outgoing Dutch premier Mark Rutte for the job. However, Rutte is viewed with skepticisim by eastern members like Romania and Bulgaria.


4. Police seize 72 firearms at home of French film star Alain Delon

Dozens of firearms have been seized from French actor Alain Delon's home, announced the Montargis public prosecutor's office in a statement
In all, "72 firearms and more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition" were seized from Delon's estate in Loiret, south of Paris, where "the existence of a shooting range" was also noted.
The veteran actor, 88, has “has no authorisation that would allow him to own a firearm”, said local prosecutor Jean-Cédric Gaux.
In a recent interview with magazine Elle, Anouchka Delon, the actor's daughter, explained that she "always goes with her bodyguard" to the family estate. According to her, her brothers walk around the house "armed", believing themselves to be "in the Wild West".


3. ‘It makes me so sad’: church reemerges from reservoir as Spain faces droughts

Magdalena Coromina tapped the hard ground with her walking stick and looked up at a church that was meant to be underwater. Six decades ago, when engineers had built the reservoir in which she stood, they had flooded the town of Sant Romà de Sau and drowned its buildings. The rains that slaked the region’s thirst had kept the ruins covered.
But that world no longer exists. Struck by a drought that has dried the reservoir to 1% of its capacity, the remains of the village have come back into view. Crumbling stone structures now sit on cracked soil among ashen plants. The church, whose spire used to poke above the surface during dry spells, today stands high above the waterline.
“It makes me so sad,” said Coromina, an 85-year-old from the nearby city of Ripoll who came to see the ruins on an unusually warm February afternoon. She remembered rain and snow during winters when she was a girl. “Now? Nothing.”
But as they wait for rain to fall and infrastructure to improve, Catalans are divided on how to share the water that remains. The dilemma has pitted locals, farmers and tourists against each other as they fight over a resource that is growing more scarce by the day.


2. Bulgarian Sanctioned By U.S., Britain For Corruption Elected To Leadership Role In Major Bulgarian Party

A Bulgarian lawmaker who has been sanctioned by the United States and Britain for alleged corruption, has been elected a co-president of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms at the party’s national convention in Sofia.

Delyan Peevski, a veteran member of parliament, was elected co-president of the party with Djevdet Chakarov, another veteran member of parliament and environment minister from 2005-09 when the Movement for Rights and Freedoms was in the governing coalition.

Peevski initially was the only candidate for president, but some members objected, prompting founder and honorary chairman of the party Ahmed Dogan to suggest Chakarov as co-president to please ethnic Turks. But it is clear to observers that Peevski is the party's main leader.

The move makes Peevski the first ethnic Bulgarian to lead the party, which has traditionally represented Bulgarian Turks and other Muslim communities in the country.


1. Daniela Klette: dog walker, dancer – and Germany’s most-wanted woman

To Anna Spiering she was simply another friendly dog walker, who greeted her with a smile whenever their paths crossed in the neighbourhood, but from whose snappy crossbreed, Malaika, her dog, Harry, knew to keep a safe distance.

That was until she saw Daniela Klette’s face on TV earlier this week. “I recognised her immediately,” Spiering said, pausing on a walk with Harry down Sebastianstraße, a street in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district once divided by the Berlin Wall, adjacent to the former guard-patrolled death strip. She said it was “bizarre now to think I was swapping small talk” with an alleged terrorist.

Klette – the last female member of the Red Army Faction (RAF) terror network still on the run until her arrest at her flat on Monday evening – was known by many dog walkers in the area not by her name or her notorious past, rather as the “owner of Malaika”.

She is suspected of involvement in at least 10 armed attacks and robberies, including a gun attack on the US embassy in Bonn in 1991 and the bombing of a prison in Weiterstadt in 1993.

February 23, 2024

Calvin Trump


February 20, 2024

The Cordone's are Raising Money for Trump... Maybe

I was watching Coffeezilla on youtube and he pointed to this:
There is no beneficiary listed on this gofundme. You can have a beneficiary if you raise money on someone's behalf. Though it only lists an owner. It has no beneficiary listed

Here's the video. The bit starts at about the 2min 35 sec spot.

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