With it being New Year's Eve, I thought I'd ring out the old year with one more thread
1. Russian Priest Sidelined For Five Years After Signing Open Letter In Defense Of Moscow Protesters
A Russian Orthodox Church court in the Yaroslavl eparchy has issued a five-year work suspension for a priest who in September signed an open letter with dozens of other clergymen urging the authorities to reduce their clampdown and free activists sentenced to prison for attending protests.
The eparchy said the ban's aim is to care for Father Aleksandr Parfyonov, describing it as a "therapeutic church measure, which should bring a person back in the right state of mind so that he continues to serve in the future."
However, the press secretary for the eparchy, Aleksandr Samosky, told Russian media that the church court's ruling wasn't linked to this summer's protests. He didn't specify a reason for Parfyonov's suspension.
Citing passages from the bible and tenets of Christian teaching, the letter signed by the priests condemned the use of force by riot police and appealed to Russia's judges and members of law enforcement.
2. Chinese tourist vandalises cross at Lithuania's top tourist site
A Chinese tourist vandalised Lithuanias top religious heritage site by removing a wooden cross that expressed support for Hong Kongs protest movement.
After throwing the cross, she says: We have done a good thing today. Our motherland is great.
Another photo posted online shows graffiti on another cross dated later in November that reads Hope all cockroaches soon rest in peace. Hope HK can return to peace.
Police have launched an investigation into both incidents at the site in northern Lithuania, which has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries.
3. Bulgarian Poison Probe Focuses On Russian Spy Chief Suspected In Novichok Attack On Skripals
Bulgarian officials say an investigation into the attempted assassination of an arms maker is focusing on five suspected Russian agents -- including a Russian military intelligence general alleged to have commanded a team accused in the 2018 Novichok attack in Britain against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.
Authorities in Sofia also confirmed that they are working with the FBI and British medical experts to investigate the two suspected Russian poison attacks in 2015 in Bulgaria against Emiliyan Gebrev, owner of the weapons manufacturer EMCO Ltd.
Evidence about Denis Sergeyev, the purported operational commander behind the March 4, 2018 poisoning of Skripal and his daughter Yulia, was uncovered earlier this year by the British-based open-source investigative group Bellingcat.
4. Greek activists warn of surge in police brutality and rights violations
Greece has seen an alarming rise in police violence, amid reports of unprovoked attacks by officers that have seen protesters beaten with batons and people strip-searched in broad daylight.
Human rights groups, commentators and the countrys leftist opposition have deplored what is increasingly being viewed as the deployment of excessive force by the authorities. Despite a widespread ban in Europe, the use of plastic bullets has also rais
Incidents of police brutality, captured on video and uploaded on social media, have increased markedly since the centre-right New Democracy party led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis ousted Alexis Tsiprass leftist Syriza in July.
Elected on a tough law-and-order platform with promises to take on radical leftwing and refugee-occupied squats in anarchist enclaves such as Exarchia in central Athens, Mitsotakiss government appears to have given free reign to security forces.
5. Romania Definitively Acquits Gang Of Alleged Roma Child Traffickers
An appeals court in Romania this week issued a verdict that upheld an acquittal for 25 men accused of trafficking dozens of Roma children across Europe while controlling their families through debt bondage.
The December 23 ruling in the nearly decade-long case, which is final and cannot be appealed, was widely seen as a test of Romanias commitment to combating modern-day slavery.
Balkan Insight reported that delays characterized the initial trial, which started in 2010, during which lawyers for the defendants were changed, and witnesses either could not be found or their testimony had changed.
Lead British investigator in the case, Bernie Gravett, told the BBC that he had personally seen "truckloads" of evidence being given to Romanian officials in 2010.
Seven-Eleven's termination of contract with franchisee seen as move to expel outspoken owner (Osaka)
OSAKA Seven-Eleven Japan Co. has decided to cancel its contract with a franchise store owner in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, who made headlines earlier this year for halting round-the-clock operations, due to severe labor shortages, without permission from the franchisor.
The operator of 7-Eleven convenience stores in Japan cited a higher number of customer complaints as the reason, but the move is perceived as an effort to eliminate the outspoken owner who not only called for shorter hours but also demanded that the store be allowed to close on New Years Day and Sundays.
The store owner, Mitoshi Matsumoto, 58, is still planning to close the store Tuesday and Wednesday and resume operations from Thursday despite the contract cancellation.
With the public on his side, Matsumoto escalated his demands. In August he called for his store to be closed on Sundays, and then announced in October that his store would be closed on New Years Day.
Ghosn had been under strict bail conditions requiring him to stay in Japan
Carlos Ghosn, the ousted boss of the Renault-Nissan car-making alliance who was awaiting trial in Japan, has flown to Lebanon, Frances Les Echos newspaper reported.
The newspaper cited its own unnamed source and a report in Lebanese newspaper LOrient-Le Jour late on Monday. There was no immediate confirmation from official sources.
It was unclear how Ghosn, who holds both French and Lebanese citizenship, would have been able to leave Japan, where he has been under strict court-imposed restrictions on his movements.
This is why Courts should not grant the uber wealthy that are even remotely likely to flee bail.
This story is a fairly big deal here (Kanagawa), and people are not happy. Though people are waiting for confirmation
After a 46-year run, The Royal Canadian Air Farce is saying farewell with their last New Year's Eve special airing December 30 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT) on CBC and streaming on CBC Gem. The stripped-down special takes aim at the year's events including the Canadian 2019 federal election, Brexit, and the Royal Family.
You have to click the link to see who it is. I watched the 50 sec promo, I thought it was funny
Afghanistan's communist President Hafizullah Amin was lying unconscious in his bed.
A KGB agent who had infiltrated Amin's staff as a cook had poisoned the president and his ministers during lunch at the Tajbeg presidential palace in Kabul.
A few hours later, the Afghan president was lying in bed in his underpants when scores of KGB special forces stormed the presidential palace, killing Amin and his family members amid fierce clashes. Soviet forces also seized key government buildings and military installations in Kabul in a coordinated attack.
Before the attack, hundreds of Soviet paratroopers -- members of the Soviet Army's Muslim Battalion -- and KGB special forces had surrounded the palace, taking cover in the heavy snow.
Winovich happy to pay his 'tax as a human': Patriots rookie outside linebacker Chase Winovich said he wasn't expecting any publicity when he paid the school-lunch debt of 96 students in the West Jefferson Hills (Pennsylvania) School District last week. That wasn't why he did it.
But it came quickly when the official Facebook page of the school district thanked him publicly for the gesture.
"Obviously that community raised me. I lived in the same house my whole life, the same township. A lot of great memories there. It's a special place. I feel like it's part of my tax as a human, being raised there, to try to make it a better place," Winovich told ESPN.com this week.
"Giving back to my community has always been important to me. It was an opportunity, around the holidays, to lighten the load on people and give them one less thing they had to focus on."
(Sorry. Had to redo it. There were problems with transferring the original source)
BETTENDORF Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., will return to the Quad Cities on Saturday, Dec. 28, one day after celebrating the completion of her 99-county tour of Iowa.
Klobuchar will host a meet and greet at Ross' Restaurant, 2297 Falcon Ave., Bettendorf, at 5:15 p.m.
Klobuchar is seen as one of the top five presidential contenders heading into the Feb. 3 caucuses.
She has been actively campaigning across the state in her green "Amy for America" touring bus, often welcoming supporters on board.
Even Abes friends in the media cant ignore this, says Isoko Mochizuki over lunch in between interviews and chasing down the days most important political story a scandal involving accusations that Japans prime minister, Shinzo Abe, used a taxpayer-funded cherry blossom viewing party to reward political supporters. I think the prime ministers office is quite concerned.
For Mochizuki, a reporter on a left-leaning newspaper covering a conservative government likely to remain in power for some time, sakura-gate is her latest opportunity to make life uncomfortable for Abe and his colleagues.
But it is in the sombre setting of government briefing rooms where Mochizuki has arguably had the greatest impact on Japans staid political reporting culture.
When she started asking difficult questions about the environmental impact of a US marine corps base under construction in Henoko village, Okinawa, the government responded by attempting to frustrate her reporting. In a letter to the cabinet office press club a body of accredited journalists assigned to report on the offices activities it called for restrictions on questions by a certain reporter, whom it accused of spreading misinformation about the potential damage landfill work could inflict on the marine environment.
I am back after 3 weeks in the hospital
1. Montenegro Passes Law On Religious Communities Amid Anger, Protests
Montenegro's parliament, in a session marred by violent protests inside and outside the chamber, has adopted a law on religious communities that the opposition fears could strip the Serbian Orthodox Church of its property.
Lawmakers present in the parliament in the early hours of December 27 voted 45-0 for the law, after members of the opposition Democratic Front (DF) charged to the head of the chamber, swearing at colleagues from the majority and attempting to prevent the vote from taking place.
Some 36 other lawmakers in the chamber boycotted the vote, giving the ruling coalition a clear path to adoption of the bill after more than eight hours of bitter debate.
Some of the protesting lawmakers appeared to have been removed from the building by law enforcement, but it was not immediately clear if they had been detained.
2. Italy creates Europe's first plastic-free ski resort
An Italian ski resort is endeavouring to become the first in Europe to ban plastic after discovering that a nearby glacier contained a significant amount of microplastics.
The use of plastic bottles, bags, cutlery, plates, straws, cups and condiment sachets was banned when the slopes opened at Pejo 3000, a small resort in Val di Sole, Trentino, in early December, and other measures will be enacted over the season.
The facility, which attracted 137,000 skiers last winter, has three mountain huts that no longer stock plastic items.
The move was prompted by a study by scientists at the University of Milan and the University of Milan-Bicocca in April which revealed the surface of Forni Glacier, one of the largest valley glaciers in the Italian Alps, contained 131-162m plastic particles, including fibres and polyethylene.
3. Massive manhunt in Serbia for convicted paedophile and missing girl, 12
A massive manhunt has been launched to find a convicted paedophile accused of kidnapping a girl.
The case has gripped Serbia and seen more than 220 police officers dispatched to hunt for Monika, 12.
"Based on the evidence we have come to, we believe that the perpetrator of this criminal offence is Ninoslav Jovanovic of Malca, said Serbias director of police, Vladimir Rebic.
There is evidence that he stole a vehicle in which police found his prints and clues indicating that Monika was with him.
4. Russian Police Raid Navalny's Office Over Critical Video
Russian police have raided the office of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) in Moscow, a step he claims is an attempt to disrupt the publication of a damning investigation against the head of Russia's second-largest bank.
Masked officers in helmets belonging to the Federal Bailiffs Service covered the cameras outside FBK's office on December 26 around noon local time before cutting through the door with power tools and dragging out Navalny, the opposition politician said on social media. He was not detained.
Navalny said the raid was formally carried out as part of a criminal investigation against FBK's director, Ivan Zhdannov, for failing to delete the YouTube video Don't Call Him Dimon, an investigation into the secret wealth of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
However, he said he believed the raid could be tied to FBK's recent investigation into Andrei Kostin, the CEO of VTB, a state-owned lender that required a massive government bailout earlier this decade.
5. Belarus Reopens Case Into Disappearance Of Ex-Interior Minister Zakharanka
Belaruss Investigative Committee is resuming a criminal investigation into the disappearance of former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka following claims made by a former member of a secretive police unit of involvement in his alleged kidnapping and killing 20 years ago.
Belarusian human rights activist Aleh Vouchak told RFE/RL that the Investigative Committee reopened the cold case two days after Deutsche Welle on December 16 published an interview with Yury Harauski, who in 1999 served in a special Interior Ministry unit that allegedly kidnapped and killed political opponents of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
The rights activist showed a letter signed on December 18 by Yury Varauki, a department head at the Investigative Committee, stating that the case was reinstated.
According to Vouchak, the reason for reopening the missing-person case was because the former special-police unit member and opposition politician in his interview didn't "hide behind masks" and made statements that caused a "huge public reaction."
ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A Kazakh passenger plane with 95 travelers and five crew on board crashed after takeoff from Almaty airport early on December 27, killing at least 12 people.
Officials said 66 other people aboard the Bek Air flight, which was bound for the capital, Nur-Sultan, had been taken to local hospitals.
Aviation authorities said the aircraft "lost altitude during takeoff and broke through a concrete fence" before hitting a two-story building. The building was said to have been empty at the time of the crash.
A deputy prime minister, Roman Sklyar, later said the tail section appeared to have struck the runway twice on takeoff before the plane veered off course and struck the wall and building.
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