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rpannier's Journal
rpannier's Journal
July 31, 2021

Five Stories from Europe You May Have Missed

1. Italian MP chased out of parliament by security for protesting green pass

An Italian MP was filmed being chased out of parliament by security guards after waving a placard in protest against the country’s “green pass” scheme.

Video footage shows the man dodging security as they try to grab the sign, which says “no green pass”, out of his hands.

The politician is chased out of the chamber by one guard as numerous other MPs make their way down to the floor holding similar signs.

The parliamentary session was temporarily suspended amid cries of “shame” aimed at those protesting.


2. Submarine robot captures underwater footage of ancient Roman ship laden with wine jars – video

An ancient Roman ship carrying a cargo load of wine jars, or amphorae, has been found underwater in the Mediterranean Sea off the Italian island of Sicily. The vessel was discovered during an underwater reconnaissance expedition by the island's Regional Agency for Environment Protection. The findings will shed light on Rome’s trade activity in the Mediterranean, where the Romans traded spices, wine, olives and other products in north Africa, Spain, France and the Middle East


3. Balkan Survivors Of Notorious 'Ethnic Cleansing' Camp Fight Mockery On Serbian TV

The dozens of internment camps that sprung up in the former Yugoslavia are one of the most brutal and well-chronicled aspects of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Their discovery, early in the fighting, provided some of the most poignant and incriminating evidence that combatants were waging ethnic cleansing in newly won territories.

Now, a group of surviving detainees from one of the most infamous concentration camps in a Serb-controlled region of Bosnia-Herzegovina has filed suit in Belgrade to challenge televised statements downplaying its wartime horrors and mocking one of its most iconic inmates.

Plaintiffs include Fikret Alic, the Bosniak man who became a lasting symbol of Balkan atrocities after his skeletal frame was shown behind barbed wire at the Trnopolje internment camp near Prijedor, in what is now northwest Bosnia.


4. Local Staff At U.S. Embassy, Consulates In Russia Dismissed To Meet Kremlin Deadline

The United States says it has laid off nearly 200 local employees from its diplomatic missions in Russia ahead of an August 1 deadline set by the Kremlin to do so -- a move made by Moscow in response to U.S. sanctions and the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the United States.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on July 30 that the layoffs are regrettable and will severely impact the operations of U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia.

"Starting in August, the Russian government is prohibiting the United States from retaining, hiring, or contracting Russian or third-country staff, except our guard force,” Blinken said. “We are deeply saddened that this action will force us to let go of 182 local employees and dozens of contractors at our diplomatic facilities in Moscow, Vladivostok, and Yekaterinburg.”

The layoffs will potentially impact the safety of U.S. personnel "as well as our ability to engage in diplomacy with the Russian government," he added.


Another story can be read at


5. Poland's president changes tune on judicial reform amid row with EU

In a significant shift in tone, Poland’s president Andrzej Duda said on Friday his country will need to change its law on disciplining judges, which has sparked an escalating battle with Brussels over the rule of law.

Duda was commenting on letters from the head of Poland’s top court urging leaders to bring Polish legislation in line with EU law.

Duda told state agency PAP that he agreed with the court president and that “everything indicates that legislative changes will be needed”.


His words struck a different tone from the government's insistence in recent years that the disciplinary procedures were only for the good of the judiciary and that the EU had no say on the organisation of Poland's or any other EU member's justice system.

July 31, 2021

Nadia: Book Details Abuse Of Legendary Gymnast And Her Daring Escape From Romania

BUCHAREST -- When 14-year-old Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci scored the first perfect 10 at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, it was so unexpected that the scoreboard malfunctioned.


But details remained sketchy about her life in communist Romania, the elite world of gymnastics, and her escape to the West.

Nadia And The Securitate, a new book by historian Stejarel Olaru, exposes some of the dark secrets and mind-numbing surveillance that communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu employed to keep tabs on the young gymnast, who was propaganda gold for him and his destitute country.


Comaneci's escape was planned in mid-November after a chance meeting with Romanian émigré Constantin Panait at a party in Bucharest.


Years later, she claimed Panait held her captive after she had immigrated to the United States and took money from her.


July 28, 2021

Blackmail, Rape, Suicide: Inside The Webcam Studios Of Kyrgyzstan

An RFE/RL investigation into live webcam sites has exposed how young women employed by them are subject to abuse, blackmail, and even rape. At least two cases ended in suicide. We spoke to multiple people who have worked in webcam studios in Kyrgyzstan -- a hub in a multibillion dollar global industry. They lift the lid on dark practices and allege collusion from senior officials. Warning: Viewers may find the content of this video disturbing.


The statement from Adinai Jantai Kyzy, Interior Ministry Press Office Spokesperson is a good lesson in sounding like it says something, but really says nothing

July 25, 2021

Tommy Robinson: Far-right activist ordered to pay 100,000 in damages to Syrian refugee

A British activist has been ordered to pay £100,000 in damages to a Syrian refugee for libelling him on Facebook.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson, is the founder of the far-right English Defence League.

In October 2018 he responded online to a viral clip that showed Jamal Hijazi, then 15 years old, being attacked by fellow pupils at his school in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

In two follow-up videos seen by at least 950,000 people and shared 25,000 times, Robinson falsely claimed the teenager had previously attacked "young English girls" at his school.


He's trying to claim he's broke, so he cannot pay

July 24, 2021

Mosquito 'Tornadoes' Storm Russia's Far East (4 photos)


A photo taken in a car showing a "tornado" of uncountable thousands of mosquitos in the village of Ust-Kamchatsk on July 17.

Columns of mosquitos rise above the swampy area on the banks of the Kamchatka River.

July 24, 2021

The European Parliament Was Told Of Her Plight. Then This Turkmen Doctor Disappeared.

Khursanai Ismatullaeva, a pediatrician in Turkmenistan, has been fighting a legal battle for nearly four years against her dismissal from a perinatal clinic near Ashgabat.

Now -- after the European Parliament heard details of her case against Turkmen authorities during a meeting on rights abuses in Central Asia -- she has gone missing in the custody of the police.

Late at night on July 16, just a day after the European Parliament was told by rights activists about her legal battle, a group of about 10 men arrested Ismatullaeva at her home in the town of Gokdepe.


The independent news website Turkmen.news reports that the men confiscated telephones and computers from Ismatullaeva’s home before hauling her off to an unknown location.


July 24, 2021

Five Stories from Europe You May Have Missed

Busy week in Europe. So hard to choose: Russia added another news service to its 'Foreign Agent' list, this week is the 10th anniversary of the slaughter in Norway of the teens by Brevik, Belarus continues crackdowns on NGOs, a Turkmen doctor disappeared while the European Parliament was hearing about her in Turkmenistan being oppressed by the gov't, Cyprus, Greece and France were also newsworthy, as was the UK

1. 'Norway owes us', says Hungary, after Oslo suspends aid in NGO row

Norway announced on Friday that it will not provide financial aid allocated to Hungary after the two countries failed to reach an agreement over who should distribute the funds meant for civil society.

Hungary was set to receive 2.3 billion Norwegian kroner (€220 million) from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Norway Grants Scheme through which the Scandinavian country and to a much lesser extent Lichtenstein and Iceland — which are not part of the EU but are members of its internal market — fund programmes in EU countries to reduce social and economic disparities.

Norway's Ministry for Foreign Affairs said in a statement that "the donor countries have set an absolute requirement for all of the 15 beneficiary countries that the fund for civil society must be administered independently of the authorities."

"Hungary has accepted this, but has not accepted the appointment of the best-qualified candidate for the task. We have therefore been unable to reach agreement, and under the conditions set out in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) we signed with Hungary in December 2020, no programmes will be implemented in Hungary under the EEA and Norway Grants scheme during that period," it added.


2. Trans-Siberian Railroad Blocked After Bridge Collapse

Floods caused by heavy rains in Siberia have led to the collapse of a bridge, severing the Trans-Siberian Railroad, the world's longest rail line that spans Russia, from Moscow to the Pacific port city of Vladivostok.

The collapse on July 23 halted train operations for several hours along the 9,289-kilometer (5,772-mile) line, prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin to urge repair crews to work quickly to fix the issue.

Residents of the Chernyshevsky district in the Zabaikalye region said the bridge collapse occurred near the village of Nizhnyaya Kuenga after the Aleur River burst its banks, flooding the town of Chernyshevsk and several villages nearby.


"Areas near the river are all under water.... Rescue teams from the Emergency Situations Ministry have yet to be seen. But even if they were here, they would not be able to take care of the situation as too many people are affected. It is very difficult to leave the area as there is only one bridge for cars and the authorities are allowing only one car at a time to cross. It looks like they are afraid that it may also collapse like the railroad bridge," one of the residents of the district, Svetlana Shemyakina, told RFE/RL.


story also available at


3. Norway prepares to mark 10th anniversary of Utoya massacre

On Thursday, July 22, Norway will mark the 10th anniversary of the worst terror attack in the country's recent history.

On 22 July 2011, right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed eight people and injured more than 200 others in a car bomb attack on the government quarter of Oslo.

Wearing a homemade police uniform, he then took a ferry to the island of Utøya, where members of the Labour Party's youth wing (AUF) were on an annual summer camp.

Breivik opened fire on the mostly teenaged participants, killing 69 people. The massacre lasted for around an hour and a half before special forces arrived.


4. Top International Official In Bosnia Criminalizes Genocide Denial

The outgoing international high representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina has imposed amendments to Bosnia's Criminal Code that prohibit and punish the denial of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, drawing an angry reaction from Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik who again called for the dissolution of the Balkan country.

The changes to the country's Criminal Code introduce prison sentences of up to five years for genocide deniers and for any glorification of war criminals, the Office of the High Representative for Bosnia (OHR) said on July 23, hours after the UN Security Council rejected a Russian proposal to scrap the post overseeing the implementation of the 1995 peace agreement that ended the Bosnian War.

The U.S.-brokered Dayton accords ended the 1992-95 war after more than 100,000 people died and established two entities within Bosnia -- a Muslim-Croat federation and the predominantly Serbian Republika Srpska -- held together by joint central institutions.


In New York, the UN Security Council rejected a draft resolution sponsored by Russia and China that would have immediately stripped the powers given to the high representative in 1997, saying such powers “are no longer required given the progress achieved by the Bosnian parties.”


story also available at

5. Smugglers crammed these 15 migrants into one vehicle, say police

A gang of smugglers used luxury cars to transport hundreds of migrants from Turkey to Greece - sometimes driving at speeds of up to 250km/h to avoid police, according to Europol.

Both smugglers and migrants were injured in speeding incidents, which included up to 15 migrants being packed into a single vehicle, according to the police agency.

The leaders of the gang were arrested during multiple operations on Wednesday, July 21, in an operation by Bulgarian and Hungarian police forces.

Raids in Bulgaria, Greece and Hungary saw 14 suspects arrested, and 25 vehicles seized along with electronics, phones, SIM cards, crypto-mining equipment and cash.


July 19, 2021

The Tokyo Olympics... The Worst Olympics Organizing team maybe ever

While we know the Berlin Games were the most vile, it may be hard to find an Olympics more poorly run than this one -- and the Covid issue may be the least of the idiocy and bizarro world

1. Several Japanese publications and the Guardian (UK) are reporting that Olympic Composer Keigo Oyamada has resigned as the composer for the opening ceremony.
per the Guardian:
Keigo Oyamada, who is better known as Cornelius, initially resisted calls to quit after reports surfaced last week of magazine interviews he gave in the mid-1990s in which he appeared to boast about the incidents. (bullying classmates)


Oyamada told Quick Japan magazine in 1995 how he had confined a classmate in a cardboard box and forced a boy with an intellectual disability to eat his own faeces and masturbate in front of other children. He made similar comments in another magazine interview a year earlier.

( https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/jul/19/tokyo-olympics-composer-keigo-oyamada-resigns-after-admitting-bullying-disabled-classmates )

***** It's not like they didn't know about this guy's past. At the very least, they could have set up some kind of preparation should this become an issue, where they could explain how he is a better person, or something. Instead, they accepted his apology to them and did nothing; like they hoped it would never come up

2. The committee’s former president, Yoshiro Mori, was forced to quit in February after making remarks about women in sports administration - he said they had no place in it. Then when he was roundly criticized, he invited women on the committee, but they were not supposed to speak at meetings because... "Talkative women make meetings drag on."
For those who are unaware, Yoshi Mori is a former Prime Minister and LDP cabinet member beginning in 1969. He was known for his many "gaffes" in public, that included, but not limited to, continuing to play golf after U.S. naval ship accidentally hit a Japanese fishing boat killing nine. Being seen and photographed hanging out at restaurants and bars with Yakuza.

3. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand then there's Creative Director Hiroshi Sasaki, who made disparaging comments about Japanese comedian Naomi Watanabe, and her weight. He thought it would be funny to have her dress up as a pig for the opening ceremonies. He called it, "The Olympig"

July 18, 2021

Five Stories from Europe You May Have Missed

1. Frontrunner to succeed Merkel ‘sorry’ for joking amid fresh German floods

More flash-floods have devastated towns in Austria, Bavaria and eastern Germany, as the frontrunner to replace the chancellor, Angela Merkel, was forced to apologise after seeming to make light of a catastrophic situation that has claimed the lives of more than 150 people.


The conservative frontrunner to step into her shoes, Armin Laschet, the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), on Thursday interrupted a party meeting to attend flood-hit areas in NRW, the populous western state he represents as premier.

While visiting the devastated town of Erftstadt, where an eroded gravel quarry had swallowed cars, bits of road and entire buildings, Laschet was on Saturday caught sharing jokes with bystanders while the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, solemnly addressed the cameras.


Laschet tweeted an apology on Saturday afternoon. “The fate of those affected, which we heard about in many conversations, is important to us,” he wrote. “So I regret all the more the impression that arose from a conversational situation. That was inappropriate and I am sorry.”


2. Pussy Riot Member Leaves Russia Citing 'Persecution'

Veronika Nikulshina, a member of the Pussy Riot performance-art collective, has left Russia after being released from custody following her second arrest in less than a month.

Nikulshina told Dozhd television that she left because of the ongoing state “persecution” of Pussy Riot members and her repeated arrests for failure to obey police officers.

Nikulshina said she left Russia immediately after her release from jail on July 17, adding that she believed her car to the airport was followed.

She said that she has not emigrated and plans to return to Russia, possibly after the country’s legislative elections in September.


3. 'Brutal' Chechen Leader Kadyrov The Face Of Balkan Music Festival


The flamboyantly militant Chechen leader and his cronies famously clowned with a visiting Mike Tyson. He flew in former Brazilian soccer stars for a celebrity match against his own private team. And he hired Hollywood stars for his 35th birthday.

His critics and perceived opponents have had less reason to celebrate a regime marked by alleged political assassinations, kidnappings, and other systematic persecution.


They're using images of Kadyrov, in full military dress, in promotional materials on- and off-line to attract visitors to the festival in Bileca, in the Serb-dominated part of the country, on July 22.


Filipovic suggested it was even "more disturbing" that Trebjesa Brewery in neighboring Montenegro, which is owned by U.S.-based Molson Coors Beverage Company, was a sponsor.


4. Portugal flights disrupted in second day of airports strike

A strike by airport baggage handlers and ground crews in Portugal was expected to cause a second day of disruption Sunday, with most flights into and out of Lisbon cancelled.

The 48-hour walkout forced the cancellation of around 300 flights on Saturday, mostly in Lisbon. Long lines formed as stranded passengers sought to rearrange their travel plans.


The strike is part of an ongoing financial dispute between Portuguese handling company Groundforce and national flag carrier TAP Air Portugal, which is bearing the brunt of the cancellations.

Groundforce claims TAP owes it €12 million for services rendered and blames the debt for unpaid wages among its staff.


5. Final Results In Bulgarian Vote Confirm Win For Anti-Elite Party

The final results from Bulgaria’s snap parliamentary elections released on July 13 confirm earlier preliminary results showing the anti-elite party called There Is Such a People (ITN) edging out former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's GERB-led coalition.

With 100 percent of the ballots counted, TV entertainer Slavi Trifonov's ITN finished first with 24.08 percent and GERB with 23.51, Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission said.

The parliamentary elections were held just three months after a previous, inconclusive vote. ITN’s vote total on July 11 was more than 92,000 beyond its total in the previous elections, held on April 4. GERB’s total was nearly 200,000 votes below what it received in April.

Four other parties gained enough votes to enter parliament. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) was first among them with 13.39 percent, while liberal, Western-leaning grouping Democratic Bulgaria was next with 12.64 percent.

July 18, 2021

On The Road In Uzbekistan (8 photos)

A 2,500-kilometer road trip by Anzor Bukharsky, one of Central Asia's most beloved photographers and cultural commentators, offers a rare glimpse into everyday life on the backstreets and byways of Uzbekistan.

To see all the pics with explanations on them

Two local girls walk near a 900-year-old minaret in the southern town of Minor, near the border with Afghanistan.

A set of swings in the dusty expanse of the desert of Karakalpakstan in the north of Uzbekistan.

One of the world’s few remaining “towers of silence,” in Karakalpakstan.
This 2,000-year-old structure was used by fire-worshipping followers of the Zoroastrian religion as a way of disposing of corpses without contaminating the sacred elements of earth, fire, or water.

A bustling bazaar in Urgut, near Samarkand.

The closed entrance to a bazaar in Boysun, in southern Uzbekistan.

A puppeteer poses between shows in Khiva.

Fences built to contain sand alongside the highway between Bukhara and Khiva.

A military band performs at the base of a minaret in Khiva.

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