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Sun, 23 Jan 2022
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Italian region votes on declaring independence, just like Crimea

© Reuters / Manuel Silvestri
As Crimeans make their way to the polls this Sunday, another region further in the heart of Europe is also deciding its fate in a referendum: the Italian region of Veneto, which is voting on whether to break with Rome.

The independence movement insists the industrial northern region's wealth is being drained by Rome's mismanagement of the financial crisis.

Following in the footsteps of Scotland and Catalonia, Venice - the capital of the Italian region of Veneto - will be holding a referendum to form an independent republic. About 3.8 million people in the region are eligible to vote in the referendum, which runs through Friday.

Leaders of the independence movement say they are not going to wait for Rome's approval, and if the population votes in favor they will begin the separation process. The latest polls carried out by the independence movement show that over 60 percent of the population is in favor of becoming independent.

Arrow Down

Wounded veteran denied ride at Texas Six Flags, then was refused a refund

© Screen grab via KMOV-TV
Stephen Jackel says a Texas Six Flags treated him so poorly he broke down in tears in front of his 14-year-old daughter.
A military veteran who lost both of his legs in Afghanistan says he was reduced to tears when a Texas Six Flags refused to allow him to accompany his 14-year-old daughter on a ride.

Sgt. Stephen Jackel told KMOV-TV that he was told by the amusement park he was not permitted to go on the ride because their policy states individuals must have one functional leg and arm.

Six Flags insists the policy is in place for safety reasons.

However, Jackel - who uses two prosthetic legs - insists park personnel never informed him of the policy when he purchased his tickets.


Gaza power plant shuts down due to fuel shortage

Lack of fuel causes Gaza Strip's sole power station to stop operating, leading to numerous blackouts throughout the territory.

The Gaza Strip's sole power station stopped generating electricity on Saturday, causing blackouts throughout the territory after it ran out of fuel, officials said.

The power plant is one of the main sources of electricity for Gaza's 1.8 million people and without it, daily blackouts of around 12 hours are expected. Electricity is also received directly from Israel and Egypt.

Gaza lacks much basic civil infrastructure and lives under an Egyptian-Israeli blockade meant to cut off arms flows but which also curbs imports of fuel and building supplies.

A few months ago the plant was switched off for 43 days due to a fuel shortage that arose after neighboring Egypt closed off smuggling tunnels. Israel eventually allowed in fuel paid for by Qatar when a storm swept the region.

Light Sabers

Indian diplomat in US strip search saga: U.S. prosecutors again indict Indian diplomat Khobragade

A grand jury in New York has returned a new indictment against Indian diplomat Devyani
Devyani Khobragade
© REUTERS/Stringer
Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade (C) leaves with her father Uttam Khobragade (L) from the Maharashtra Sadan state guesthouse to meet India's Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid in New Delhi January 11, 2014.
Khobragade for visa fraud, two days after a U.S. judge dismissed a similar indictment because she had diplomatic immunity.

Khobragade's arrest in December and a subsequent strip search drew outrage in India, causing a major diplomatic rift between the United States and India.

The United States granted her immunity and then essentially had her expelled from the country in a flurry of diplomatic maneuvers on January 9, the same day she was indicted for the first time.

"Unfortunately, I can have no comment at this stage," Khobragade's lawyer, Daniel Arshack, said in an email. "The government of India will respond in due course."

The new indictment effectively returns the case to where it was before Wednesday's dismissal.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled on Wednesday that Khobragade, who was India's deputy consul-general in New York, had diplomatic immunity when she sought on January 9 to dismiss the indictment, and thus could not be prosecuted for alleged underpayment of her nanny.


Cyber games continue as Ukrainian hacktivists take down NATO websites

© www.cyber-berkut.org
The hacktivist group calling itself CyberBerkut has claimed responsibility for taking down 3 NATO websites in a series of DDoS attacks. The group criticizes NATO for stirring up turmoil in Ukraine and helping the "Kiev junta" suppress freedom of speech.

CyberBerkut claims it brought down NATO's main website (nato.int), as well as the sites of the alliance's cyber defense center (ccdcoe.org) and NATO's Parliamentary Assembly (nato-pa.int).


Venice and surrounding Veneto prepare for referendum on secession from Italy‏

Around 3.8 million people in the Veneto are eligible to vote and campaigners hope to achieve a majority in favour of independence.
Voting will begin on Sunday in a referendum on whether Venice and its surrounding region should secede from the rest of Italy, in a bid to restore its 1,000-year history as a sovereign republic.

"La Serenissima" - or the Most Serene Republic of Venice - was an independent trading power for a millennium before the last doge, or leader, was deposed by Napoleon in 1797.


Northern Ireland's richest man, Lord Ballyedmond killed in helicopter crash

Northern Irish member of Britain's House of Lords Lord Ballyedmond has been killed in a helicopter crash in rural Norfolk, east of England.

On Friday, British police named Lord Ballyedmond as one of the four people who died in the chopper crash in the English county of Norfolk.

The helicopter came down in thick fog at the village of Gillingham, near Beccles on Thursday evening. The aircraft was reportedly travelling to Northern Ireland, and it crashed near a stately home owned by the Conservative peer.

Lord Ballyedmond, known as Northern Ireland's richest man, was the chair of Norbrook, the largest privately owned pharmaceutical company in the world.

"The helicopter has been confirmed as a civilian aircraft and the four occupants on board are thought to have died in the crash. Next of kin will be informed before further details of a deceased are released," a Norfolk Police spokesperson said.


French government bans GM maize MON 810

© AFP Photo / Yuri Cortez
France's agricultural ministry on Saturday banned the sale, use and cultivation of Monsanto's genetically modified maize MON 810, after France highest court twice previously struck down similar measures.

Currently the MON 810 is the only insect-resistant maize authorized in the EU. But France insists that GM crops pose significant environmental risks. The current socialist government of Francoise Hollande, like the conservative one before it, has opposed supporting GM crops in light of public suspicion and protests from environmentalists and farmers.

The decree by the agricultural ministry is timed to prevent farmers being able to sow GM maize before a draft law is debated on April 10, which will seek to permanently ban the planting of any genetically modified crops. Maize is sown in France in the second half of March.


Want to make a Libertarian's head explode? Talk about these 3 things

Libertarians tend to ride on theoretical unicorns that don't take them too far in the real world.

Libertarians are proponents of a philosophy that embraces free-market ideology, limited government, and a certain form of individual liberty. They would like to take the government and drown it in the proverbial bathtub. Unfortunately, libertarians tend to ride on theoretical unicorns that don't take them too far in the real world.

Next time you find yourself in the company of one of these quizzical beings, try bringing up one of the following topics and watch them start galloping off in 10 directions at once.

1. The inequality problem: Why do some people end up with most of the toys? The fact that in a capitalist system, money seems to flow into the hands of the few is a source of big headaches for many libertarians, though not all - some seem to regard any market outcome as the hand of God herself.

Irrefutably, America's income distribution has become ridiculous, ranked #4 in the world out of 141 countries for inequality, behind Russia, Ukraine and Lebanon, and this rattles many libertarians.

Libertarians usually start by insisting that how much money you have boils down to the choices you make as an individual. Bad, stupid choices = poverty. Good, smart choices = wealth (those clever Russian oligarchs!). Often the libertarian will rush to the defense of the rich. For example, we have W. Michael Cox, director of Southern Methodist University's Center for Global Markets and Freedom, offering this tidbit of wisdom recently on the Glenn Beck show:
"The truth is: If you look at almost all successful people in this country, from the time they were young they played with the right kids, studied in school, make good grades, get a job, get a lot of education, be productive at work everyday, save their money, start a business, hire people, invest - they made good choices."
The truth is actually this: Many a rich person gets wealthy just by being born to wealthy parents. Others get rich by ripping off other people. Bankers committed massive fraud on mortgage loans leading up to the financial crisis, and continue a crime spree which includes laundering money for terrorists and drug cartels, rate-rigging, manipulating the prices of commodities, taking bribes, engaging in insider trading, participating in ponzi schemes, cooking the books, and so on. Fraud has grown so pervasive in corporate America that legendary short seller Jim Chanos describes a culture in which executives think they have a fiduciary duty to cheat. The idea is that since everybody else is cheating, they owe it to shareholders to cheat in order to stay competitive!

Beyond the blatant crimes, bankers are engaging far more in reckless speculation that destabilizes the economy than doing useful things like lending money to people who need it. Put simply, they make a great deal of money looting the economy through cheating taxpayers and screwing customers with fees and tricks. Result: Bankers get very rich, while the rest of us get poorer.


Belgian deputy reports situation in Crimea calm, not as it being pictured abroad

© Flickr.com/ BiLK_Thorn /cc-by-nc-sa 3.0
The situation in Crimea is calm, Deputy of the Belgian parliament Frank Creelman, who arrived to monitor the referendum to be held on March 16, said on Saturday.

The situation is quite normal and calm, there are many pro-Russian people among residents and many law enforcement officers are at streets, Creelman said.

Nevertheless, everything is very calm and absolutely not the way it is being pictures abroad, he said. Creelman said he intended to monitor the referendum on the status of Crimea not just in Simferopol but in relatively small Crimean settlements as well.

The Belgian politician said that, of course, he would observe the referendum in Simferopol but would also go to smaller towns in order to monitor the transparency of the referendum there as well.