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Budget passes: 30 votes in favour to 24 against

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 22:18

By Lizzy Ioannidou

THE state budget for 2019 was approved on Friday night with 30 votes in favour and 24 against, with MPs across all parties bar Disy voting to temporarily freeze funds amounting to €33mn for the implementation of the Estia debt relief scheme.

The money is to be released after the written consent of the House finance committee once they are satisfied the money will really go to vulnerable borrowers.

The state budget for 2019 provides for a surplus of 3 per cent of GDP, with general government revenues of €8.55bn and expenditure of €7.91bn. Primary spending by the central government will amount to €6.27bn. Fifty-one amendments tabled were incorporated into the budget, increasing expenditure by €16 million.

As expected, participating MPs from Disy, Diko and Solidairty Movement voted in favour, with main opposition Akel but also Edek, the Greens, the Citizens’ Alliance, Elam, and independent MP, Anna Theologou voting against, ending the three-day debate in parliament.

Exiting parliament after the session, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades expressed his satisfaction with the budget, which he described as “balanced, for the sixth year in a row,” and one that “constitutes a tool in the broader effort to promote our economy’s growth.”

Akel was the only party voting against the budget in its entirety, with MP Giorgos Loukaides saying that the party’s negative vote was a political statement seeking to stress disapproval of the government’s fiscal policy, adding that there’s no reason to vote in favour of any funds, even those the party may agree with.

Opposition Edek voted in favour of the budget allocated for defence. The Greens voted in favour of the health scheme Gesy and environmental department budgets, and far-right Elam approved the health and defence budgets.

The vote began shortly after 6pm and lasted over two hours.

Some of the items include cutting operating costs by five per cent across all ministries and government departments. A five per cent cut was also approved for the budget allocated for consulting services, except those involving the Committee for Missing Persons (CMP), the bicommunal technical committees, the department of foreign policy, matters related to the Cyprus problem, and the framework of implementing and promoting Gesy.

Certain items in the budget were frozen, meaning they are withheld by the legislature, forcing the executive to go to the House finance committee and justify them before the cash can be released.

The funds amounting to €33mn earmarked for the controversial Estia debt relief scheme, were frozen after approval of an amendment tabled by Akel, Diko, Edek, Citizens’ Alliance, Solidarity, and the Greens, by 34 votes win favour and 18 against.

Earlier in the week, Akel MP Stefanos Stefanou said that the party’s move to freeze Estia funds was to ensure scrutiny of the process, which in their opinion does not cover truly vulnerable households.

Also frozen were funds amounting to €3.16m earmarked from the energy ministry’s budget to go towards education on hydrocarbons. With 34 votes in favour and 17 against, a sum €3.5mn allocated from the finance ministry’s budget for the purchase of new limousines for state officials was also frozen.

A sum of €348,000 earmarked for ‘expert consultants’ for the president was also frozen.

Funds amounting to €150,000 earmarked for social insurance services were also frozen following the approval of the amendment tabled by Akel and the Greens, to ensure the department will be reinforced with staff with disabilities as promised by the government.

House president Demetris Syllouris had stated prior to the session that he would not be voting in favour of any proposition for the freezing of funds, which he considers an incorrect procedure.

 

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Cyprus and Russia reconfirm bilateral relations

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 21:45

The foreign ministry said on Friday that relations with Russia were“excellent”, following a meeting between the foreign ministry’s permanent secretary, Minas Hadjimichael, and Russia’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Alexander Grushko.

“During the consultations the bilateral relations between the two countries was reviewed and their excellent level was reconfirmed, as well as the cooperation in the context of international organisations between the Republic of Cyprus and the Russian Federation,” the ministry said.

Hadjimichael informed Grushko on recent developments on the Cyprus problem and thanked Russia for its long-standing support. Particular reference was made to the process for the renewal of the UN peacekeeping force`s mandate in Cyprus expected to take place in January.
Grushko met earlier with Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides.

Earlier in the month, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Moscow would respond in case of a military build-up by the US in Cyprus, warning that such a move would “inevitably lead to dangerous and destabilising consequences” for the island.

Russian ambassador Stanislav Osadchiy then spoke out claiming that the comments by Zakharova mainly concerned the US and not Cyprus, though Moscow had clearly said it had repeatedly told the leadership of Cyprus of its position.

After decades of close ties, relations with Moscow have become strained over the past two years in several respects due to tighter controls in the financial sector from US sanctions, and the Bill Browder case, in conjunction with international attitudes towards Moscow due to its involvement in Syria, the Skripal poisoning case in the UK, and alleged Russian hacking of the 2016 US election, all of which have not left Cyprus’ relations with Russia untouched.

Thousands of Russians live in Cyprus and some have purchased controversial ‘golden visas’. Russia is also the island’s second-biggest tourism source.

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Double-murder suspect cracks under cross examination

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 21:16

By George Psyllides

A double-murder defendant broke during cross-examination before the Nicosia criminal court on Friday and admitted that he had not been coerced by police to admit involvement but was feeling the weight of his own lies.

Loizos Tzionis, 33, one of the defendants in the murder of a couple in Strovolos in April, had claimed he had been coerced into giving statements and doing crime-scene walkthroughs, and  that evidence collection by police was done under duress. The claims were made while he was partly suffering from drug withdrawal symptoms.

His claims prompted the criminal court to hold a trial within a trial to rule whether they held water but under cross-examination on Friday Tzionis broke. “I was not pressured by the police officers, I was pressured by myself,” due to the fact he had been lying to investigators about the events on the night of the murder.

At that point his court-appointed lawyer, Andreas Anastasiou, told the court that he could not go on defending the position that his client had been pressured by the police. He withdrew the claim but he said he would continue to argue on the position that Tzionis’ rights had been violated.

On Wednesday, Tzionis read out to the court a written statement where he listed all instances of alleged maltreatment on the part of the police, beginning with the morning he was transferred from the Ayios Dhometios police station to the crime prevention unit premises for questioning, when he was not offered breakfast, nor was he told where he was being taken.

In the police car, he was informed of the police line-up that would follow, but not of his rights.

Tzionis went on to testify regarding the aggressive behaviour of one of the lead investigators, Giorgos Themistocleous, who had last Thursday denied to the court that any form of coercion was exerted.

Anastasiou requested an adjournment until Monday so that he could see how to proceed following his client’s admission.

Lead prosecutor Polina Efthivoulou did not object to the request.

Earlier, Tzionis said he had been informed of his rights on the day of his arrest, including the right to a lawyer. He insisted however, that investigators had told him he did not need a lawyer if he planned to confess.

According to the defendant, officers told him he had been identified by the couple’s son so it was best not to hire a lawyer.

The main case, being tried at the Nicosia criminal court, relates to the murder of Giorgos Hadjigeorgiou, 60, and his wife Dina Sergiou, 59.

The defendants are accused of killing the couple in what appeared to be a botched robbery on the night of April 18-19. The couple were found in their bedroom stabbed multiple times.

The defendants are Tzionis, believed to be the mastermind of the crime; his half-brother Lefteris Solomou, 23; Sarah Shams, 21; and Marios Hadjixenophontos, 22.

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Juncker takes aim at Hungary’s Orban over fake news

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 19:49

European Union leaders on Friday backed a plan to tackle fake news on the internet and the bloc’s chief executive rounded on one of the EU chiefs, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, as one of the main culprits in spreading disinformation.

The EU plan endorsed by the bloc’s 28 national leaders is largely aimed at guarding against what the United States, NATO and the EU say are Russian attempts to undermine Western democracies.

But European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the bloc should also look within its own ranks in its fight against disinformation and he zeroed in on Orban whose populist politics have raised hackles in Brussels.

Singling out Orban, Juncker told reporters: “Some of the prime ministers sitting around the table, they are the origin of the fake news.”

“When Mr. Orban for example says … that migrants are responsible for Brexit, it’s fake news. So let’s not put all the responsibility on others,” Juncker said.

Since sweeping to power in 2010, Orban, once a campaigner against Hungary’s Soviet Communist overlords, has used his parliamentary majority to pressure courts, media and non-government groups in ways his opponents say breach EU rules.

He has irked many in the EU by taking on the image of a crusader for the rights of nation states and ethnic majorities against rules of civic behaviour agreed in Brussels.

Juncker backed the European Parliament when it voted to impose sanctions on Hungary for breaking with EU values on democracy and civil rights.

EU leaders earlier endorsed plans for an early warning system to alert governments and for tech giants such as Facebook and Google to do more to remove misleading or illegal content.

“The spread of deliberate, large-scale, and systematic disinformation, including as part of hybrid warfare, is an acute and strategic challenge for our democratic systems,” the EU summit’s conclusions said. “It requires an urgent response.”

The EU executive’s plan, endorsed by governments, will hand more money and power to regulators in Brussels to monitor and flag Russian disinformation. It increases funds for the foreign service EEAS for this to 5 million euros ($5.7 million) from 1.9 million in 2018.

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Zenobia to be decorated for Christmas

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 19:10

Dive enthusiasts will on Sunday be decorating the Zenobia wreck, resting 42 metres underwater near the Larnaca coast.

The annual Zenobia wreck Christmas tree decoration will feature a free dive, where non-toxic, insoluble ornaments will decorate the shipwreck, which will then be removed at the end of the event so as to keep the underwater habitat intact. The event will be followed by a Christmas feast and celebration.

The “Queen Zenobia” vessel will depart for the wreck at 10am from Larnaca marina, the owner of the wreck, A.A.K. Larnaca Napa Sea Cruises, announced on Friday.

The MS Zenobia, named one of the top ten wreck diving sites in the world, capsized in the Mediterranean Sea near Larnaca in June 1980 during its maiden voyage, and now rests on her port side 42 metres underwater attracting thousands of divers every year.

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Merkel briefly stuns audience with Brexit response

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 18:39

German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly stunned reporters in Brussels on Friday when she appeared to say that she would work against Britain remaining in the European Union after a possible second referendum.

“We would of course take note of that. You know we are preparing for such an eventuality, but in terms of what is in my power and what we can take responsibility for, we will do everything to ensure that this does not happen,” she replied, before coughing.

Merkel, who was suffering from a cold throughout a two-day EU summit in Brussels, appeared to think she had been asked what she would do in the event of a disruptive “no-deal” Brexit. Her spokesman promptly told her that she had misheard the question, and she rephrased her answer.

“Ah, right,” she said. “That is a totally speculative question, and I never answer those.”

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Ministers in final push to produce global climate deal rules

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 18:37

Ministers and negotiators from nearly 200 nations were making a final effort on Friday evening to find consensus on the language and sticking points of a package to implement a landmark agreement to combat climate change.

Countries are on a self-imposed deadline to produce a “rulebook” to flesh out details of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit the global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius and which comes into force in 2020.

Talks in Katowice, Poland, under way since Dec. 2, have been clouded by political divisions. Progress had been slow until some deadlocks were broken and draft texts produced overnight.

Before the talks started, many expected that the deal would not be robust and fall short of the detailed plan scientists have said is needed to limit global warming to well below a 2 degree-Celsius rise this century.

But on Friday evening there was more optimism than in the morning that compromises could be made to make the text acceptable to all parties.

Exhausted delegates were trying to iron out differences in what could be a long night in the sprawling Spodek conference venue, a flying saucer-shaped concert and sports hall.

U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres said he had told the Polish presidency of the talks that it was important to conclude work today “with the highest possible level of ambition”.

FEAR OF FAILURE

“It’s essential for me that Katowice is not a failure. The worst thing that could happen to us is that. There would be the idea of chaos, the idea that to a certain extent we would be reproducing in Katowice what happened in Copenhagen.”

Climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009 were widely regarded as a failure as they ended with a bare-minimum agreement. It took six more years to clinch a deal in Paris.

The Katowice draft text is still subject to change but requires developed countries to deliver and increase on a promise of $100 billion a year of climate finance to help poorer countries adapt to climate change by 2020 and rules on how to report and monitor each nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

There has been compromise in some areas, such as tweaking language to recognise the importance of a report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on limiting global warming to 1.5C, which caused rifts last week.

Greater clarity is sought on what countries will do after leaving Poland and how they will strengthen their commitments and targets under the pact.

“This text embeds the IPCC’s 1.5C report and recognises that (commitments) need to be updated by 2020 but fails to commit countries here and now to ramping up action,” said Jennifer Morgan, executive director at Greenpeace International.

Sticking points for countries most vulnerable to climate change include reference to a mechanism to find ways to cover the growing costs of “loss and damage”, the stepping up of rich nations’ emissions targets and climate finance.

“We do not want to see the Paris Agreement watered down,” said former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed.

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Three years and counting for suspected predator to go on trial

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 18:28

By Evie Andreou

Children’s Rights Commissioner, Leda Koursoumba, slammed authorities on Friday for the delay in the trial of a man accused of sexually abusing a nine-year-old girl some three years ago, and who is currently living in the same neighbourhood as the victim’s grandmother.

In a report released on Friday, the commissioner also said that not allowing the girl’s parents inside the court room during hearings – despite the fact it wa a closed-door procedure – affected their right and obligation to represent their child and take decisions on behalf of the minor concerning the procedure.

Koursoumba launched a probe into the case after receiving a complaint by the girl’s mother over the constant adjournments of the case. The incident reportedly took place in the summer of 2015.

The girl’s mother told daily Phileleftheros this week that the incident took place sometime between June and July 2015, one day when the then nine-year-old and her brother were at their grandmother’s.  The woman said that, on that day, her mother was drinking coffee with the defendant’s wife, and that he had asked the girl to go down to his basement to show her the birds he had in cages.

He allegedly led the girl to a kitchenette, squeezed her into the corner and started kissing her. The child reportedly asked him to let her go, but the man immobilised her with his knee while holding her both hands and carried on. According to the report given to the police the man had lowered his trousers and underwear and kissed the girl on the mouth.

He only stopped after the girl’s grandmother called on her to get ready for her dance lesson, the woman said. The suspect, who was 72 at the time, reportedly threatened the girl that if she said anything, he would kill her and that even if she did, no one would believe her. The woman said that she was told of the incident some eight months later by her son and reported it to the police.

The suspect was arrested at the time and remanded for eight days and was then released pending trial. He was referred to a trial before the criminal court at the beginning of July 2016.

But a long time had passed, the report said, and “after several postponements requested by the accused, the case had not yet been heard and the accused remained free.”

On December 2017, the trial was referred to a district court to speed up the procedure, and the trial was set for April 2018. After several more postponements requested by the defendant, the trial has been adjourned once more for February 2019 and there has been no objection by the prosecution, the report said, “on the grounds that the testimonies were illegible.”

The woman told Phileleftheros she was fed up with the constant postponements and that she was concerned over the safety of her daughter, as the suspect is free to roam the neighbourhood without any restrictions. The defendant’s home is next to that of the girl’s maternal grandmother.

“I cannot leave her alone not even for five minutes. She must, at all times, be with another family member,” the woman said.

The report said that the law calls for a prompt hearing of cases of such nature to minimise the re-victimisation of the child, as the whole procedure, which has been pending for a long time, creates feelings of anxiety and tension to the child and her parents.

In this case, it said, it is intensified as the defendant is free and lives next to the child’s grandmother’s home.

“It seems that the necessary measures have not been taken for the effective implementation of the above legal framework and that the protection of the rights of the child during the court proceedings in the cases of child sexual abuse or exploitation are not being ensured,” the report said.

It added that while the referral of the case from the criminal to the district court which has been made for the sake of speeding up the proceedings, “this not only was not achieved, but the child’s right to a quick trial was grossly violated, as prosecution never objected to the requested postponements, nor the court tried to avoid them.”

In addition, it said, the referral of a case involving the sexual abuse of a nine-year-old child from the criminal to the district court “removes the appropriate weight to be given to such cases and does not reflect a rigorous treatment of the state in relation to protection of children from sexual abuse or exploitation.”

The commissioner also challenged the reasoning of the state legal service that the suspect had sexually abused only one child “without of course excluding the possibility that he may in the meantime, or in the past, abused other children”, adding that it should not be a criterion based on whether the case should be tried by the criminal or district court.

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Factbox: German cities ban older diesel cars

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 18:15

German cities are starting to introduce bans on older diesel vehicles that emit higher amounts of pollutants than later models after the country’s highest administrative court in February confirmed such bans are permissible.

Germany’s cities have for years flouted Europe’s clean air rules, prompting environmental groups to sue local governments in an attempt to force bans of some heavily polluting vehicles. The first diesel ban took effect in May in Hamburg.

Diesel car sales in Germany fell to 31.1 percent of the total in the first half of 2018 from 41.3 percent a year earlier, while in the European Union sales declined by 16 percent during the period.

After a court ruling on Nov. 15, imposing diesel driving bans in certain areas of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the state of Hesse announced that Darmstadt would ban some older diesel and petrol cars from parts of the city. Wiesbaden is expected to be the next German city to decide on a ban, with a ruling expected on Dec. 19.

Below is a summary of the rulings on diesel vehicles in various cities so far:

DARMSTADT

The state of Hesse plans to ban older diesel cars with engines conforming to the Euro 5 emissions standard, as well as petrol vehicles up to Euro 2 from two streets in the city. The plan to reduce pollution is to take effect from mid-2019.

ESSEN AND GELSENKIRCHEN

A court ruled that the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia must ban older diesel vehicles from parts of the nation’s industrial heartland, including a busy motorway as well as the city centre of Essen and some areas of Gelsenkirchen.

BONN AND COLOGNE

A court ruled that Cologne must introduce bans on older diesel vehicles in certain areas from April 2019. The nearby city of Bonn must impose bans for two roads.

MAINZ

A court ruled that Mainz, the state capital of Rhineland-Palatinate, must impose a driving ban on older diesel vehicles in September 2019, if nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter pollution levels are not brought down to agreed limits. The city can appeal against the ruling.

STUTTGART

The state of Baden-Wuerttemberg plans to ban older diesel cars with engines conforming to the Euro 4 emissions standard, which stems from 2005, in Stuttgart in 2019. A ban on diesel cars adhering to the Euro 5 emissions standard, which applied to vehicles made from 2009, is still before the court.

AACHEN

A local administrative court in June said driving bans would be imposed unless values for nitrogen oxide pollution were met by the end of year.

FRANKFURT

From February 2019 diesel cars made to Euro 4 standard and older will be prohibited from entering the city centre, the administrative court in Wiesbaden ruled in September. The air pollution control plan, to be updated by the state of Hesse, must also include a driving ban for diesel vehicles of the Euro 5 standard from September 2019.

BERLIN

In October, the administrative court ruled that by the end of June 2019, cars and trucks with diesel engines that comply only with the Euro 5 or lower emission standard, should not be allowed to drive on at least eleven routes.

MUNICH

In Munich, city authorities have not implemented a court ruling from February 2017, to ban some diesel vehicles on certain routes, despite facing fines for their failure to do so.

DUESSELDORF

In Duesseldorf a court ordered, as early as 2016, that a driving ban for diesel vehicles should be seriously examined. Despite that, in August 2018 the district government of the city presented a new air pollution control plan without driving bans.

HAMBURG

Germany’s first diesel ban took effect in Hamburg in May.

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Six fan offences at football matches downgraded from criminal top disciplinary  

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 17:25

The government is looking to downgrade certain offences committed in stadiums from criminal to disciplinary but it appears lighting flares on the stands will not be one of them.

According to daily Politis, the justice ministry has prepared a list of the offences, with the six most important ones being throwing plastic cups on the pitch, display of banners with abusive contents, attempting to enter the stadium with someone else’s fan card, illegal sale of tickets, and verbal abuse of players and refs.

The paper quotes Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou making clear that lighting flares on the terraces, as had been suggested, would not be downgraded to a disciplinary offence.

It emerged recently that organised fans had demanded lighting flares be downgraded and be considered a criminal offence only if they are thrown onto the pitch.

No concessions will be made on racist behaviour either, the minister said.

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Johnson and Johnson ‘knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its baby powder’

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 16:47

Shares of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) fell over 6 percent on Friday, on track to post their biggest percentage drop in more than a decade, after Reuters reported that the pharma major knew that its baby powder was contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos.

The decline in shares wiped off about $24 billion from the company’s market capitalization and made the stock the biggest drag on the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 indexes.

J&J was found to have known about the presence of small amounts of asbestos in its products from as early as 1971, a Reuters examination of company memos, internal reports and other confidential documents showed.

Reuters report also showed the company had commissioned and paid for studies conducted on its Baby Powder franchise and hired a ghostwriter to redraft the article that presented the findings in a journal.

J&J has been battling some 6,000 cases claiming its Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products cause ovarian cancer. The products have also been linked with mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer that affects the delicate tissue that lines body cavities.

J&J insists on the safety and purity of its iconic product.

But the internal documents examined by Reuters show that the company’s powder was sometimes tainted with carcinogenic asbestos and that J&J kept that information from regulators and the public.

Reuters compiled a special report, which runs to 6,000 words, which was released on Friday.

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-johnson-johnson-cancer-special-report/special-report-johnson-johnson-knew-for-decades-that-asbestos-lurked-in-its-baby-powder-idUKKBN1OD1SE

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Honouring migrants and multiculturalism

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 16:42

For one afternoon, forget about borders and ethnic differences and celebrate multiculturalism. On December 18, international migrants day, meet and engage with each other in the diverse, colourful and active framework of the Agora Project.

Bridging community gaps and fighting social marginalisation, the Old Market of Nicosia will be open to celebrate the richness migration brings to lives and societies. In a festive environment, the Agora Project welcomes the public with activities for children, art installations, workshops and informative sessions on the reality of Europe and Cyprus.

Wanting to bring more people together from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds, the organisers open the event to everyone as they create a welcoming environment. And what better way for people to connect than with music and dance? Musical beats will set the mood while representatives from different organisations will be present information on their work and relevant projects.

And because no event is complete without some tasty treats, numerous stalls will be offering food from all the corners of the world.

The message the organisers hope to pass on? “A society that is united in its diversity is stronger, is more beautiful and is the key to fight against the negativity and the dark direction our world is taking.”

International Migrants Day 2018
Celebrating multiculturalism in style with food, music and activities for all. December 18. Old Municipal Market, Nicosia. 5pm. migrantsdayinitiative@gmail.com

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Christmas ‘Gift of Love’ urgent appeal for 20 more bags

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 15:51

By Bejay Browne

Organisers of the Gift of Love, an appeal that ensures that hundreds of children of needy families in Paphos will receive a gift bag of presents this Christmas, are just short of their target and are hoping members of the public will come forward to help.

One of the volunteers of the initiative, now in its sixth year, told the Cyprus Mail on Friday that the deadline for donations is Saturday (tomorrow) afternoon and 20 gift bags of various ages are still needed.

“The public have been particularly amazing this year and have donated so many wonderful presents, but we still need a few more bags to ensure that all of the children on our list will receive something this festive season,” she said.

Twenty more bags are needed in all, five in each of the following age groups: boys aged 3-5 years, 6- 8 years and 13-15 years. Five more bags are also required for the girls group ages 6-8 years.

The gift bags should contain a selection of new gifts around the value of €15-€20 each bag as a guideline, and all sorts of presents are required including dolls, toys, colouring books, crayons, socks, gloves, hats, scarves, sleepwear, toiletries, sweets, chocolate, biscuits, hot water bottles, deodorant, clothes, nail varnish, makeup, calculators, writing pads, pens, small games and jewellery.

Other suggestions and guidelines are available on the Gift of Love Facebook page.

A number of cash donations have also been made which will ensure that needy children will also receive new winter coats for Christmas.

In recent years, the presents were placed into shoe boxes, this year for ease and presentation, they are preferably placed into gift bags.

The children who receive the gifts are all from low- or no-income families who are part of a list provided by Paphos social services. If they are working, the adults are all earning six hundred euros or less a month.

The ‘Gift of Love’ volunteers are led by Smith, Mikka Heaney, and Soula Theodosiou,and around 500 children in the district of Paphos will receive the donated presents. For many, these bags will be the only gifts they receive this Christmas.

“We are also appealing for winter clothes for both adults and children and linen and blankets,” she said, adding that on Friday a request was also made for new teenagers’ clothes shoes.

“There are some children who are in desperate need of these necessities as the colder months are here and their parents just can’t afford it,” she said.

The gift bags will be carefully checked by the volunteers before being handed over and presents don’t need to be wrapped, making it easier to check them. They will be distributed ahead of Christmas through various networks such as social welfare, schools and community boards.

Drop off points include: Peyia Medical Centre, Revival fashion store, Revolution hairdressers, Century Travel, Maraki market cafe, Rock FM and Baby Corner.

For further information: Facebook: www.facebook.com/GiftOfLovePaphos/

Dikla Smith- 97789099   Mikka Heaney: 96 462558

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Construction workers say they’ve run out of patience

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 15:35

Construction workers have authorised their trade unions to announce strike measures when it is deemed necessary to defend their rights and convince employers to respect their collective agreement, Peo union said on Friday.

After general meetings in all districts, Peo said in a written statement that construction workers have authorised unions Peo, Sek and Deok to announce measures whenever they deem it necessary.

“All general meetings were carried out in a spirit of unity but there was intense feeling of anger, indignation and determination, sending the clear message to the Federation of Cyprus Building Contractors (Oseok), to finally respect the agreements and invite its members to apply the collective agreement,” the union said.

Construction workers, it said, have run out of patience and are ready to fight for the full implementation of the collective agreement and the restoration of their slashed salaries and benefits.

The workers’ general meetings urged Oseok to stop stalling and being evasive, the union said, by engaging in unnecessary consultations and trying to distort facts.

Workers have sent a clear message to all stakeholders involved in the dispute “not to attempt to underestimate their intelligence and to rise up to the occasion.”

Peo said that it would cooperate with the other trade unions to carry on the struggle and succeed, “because, firstly, the right is on the part of the workers, and secondly, because they simply ask for the obvious, (respect of) the collective agreement signed between the two parties.”

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Greece seizes drugs haul from Syrian ship worth €100m

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 15:20

Greece has seized drugs worth more than €100m after intercepting a Syrian ship sailing for Libya, the coast guard said on Friday.

Officials found about six tonnes of processed cannabis and 3 million super-strength “Captagon” amphetamine pills hidden aboard the Syrian-flagged “Noka”, it said in a statement.

The freighter, with a crew of 11, was en route from the Syrian port of Latakia to Benghazi when it was intercepted by Greek authorities off the southeastern coast of Crete on Dec. 5.

The Noka was escorted to Heraklion port on the Greek island on Dec. 8, where the authorities unloaded its entire cargo.

The drugs were found under false floors in eight containers, hidden between layers of coffee, spices and wood shavings.

Syria became a major amphetamines exporter and consumer as the trauma of the country’s civil war fuelled demand and the breakdown in order created opportunity for producers.

Captagon was said to be a fund-raising tool and stimulant for militants. The government now controls most of the country and Islamic State is close to defeat.

Greek authorities have impounded the vessel and its contents. The crew have been arrested and will appear before a public prosecutor on Saturday.

Scientists say Captagon is a super-boosted amphetamine with unique chemical complexities allowing it to induce potent psychoactive effects far more rapidly than amphetamines alone.

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UK bans sexist stereotypes in ads

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 14:05

Britain is to ban advertising showing women who can’t park or men who struggle to change a nappy in a crackdown on gender stereotypes, the industry watchdog said on Friday.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said a review had found some stereotypes were harmful, citing ads that belittle men for carrying out tasks seen as female, or suggest new mothers should prioritise looking good over emotional wellbeing.

“Our new rule calls time on stereotypes that hold back people and society,” said Shahriar Coupal, director of the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), which sets the advertising standards applied by the ASA.

From next June, adverts featuring a depiction of gender roles that could cause offence or harm will be axed, it said.

The ban will apply to broadcast and non-broadcast media, including TV, radio, newspapers and social media.

It follows a campaign for weight loss products featuring a bikini-clad model with the tag line “Are you beach body ready?” that drew a barrage of complaints.

In November, retailer Marks and Spencer came under fire for a window display juxtaposing men is suits and women in knickers, while two months earlier Sweden’s advertising watchdog said a viral meme showing a man staring at another woman was sexist.

“Harmful gender stereotypes in ads contribute to how people see themselves,” said Ella Smillie, CAP’s gender stereotyping project lead.

“They can hold some people back from fulfilling their potential, or from aspiring to certain jobs and industries, bringing costs for individuals and the economy.”

Women’s rights groups welcomed the move, which follows a public consultation by the watchdog.

“Our society and our economy pays a heavy price for the constraints we place on boys and girls from our earliest moments of life. It has to change,” said Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society.

Some suggested the new rule went too far.

“What next, the politically correct going for our comedy shows!” tweeted Andrea Jenkyns, a lawmaker with the ruling Conservatives, a right-wing party.

However, Britain’s main industry body supported the ban.

“Our most recent research on public trust has shown the public particularly appreciates advertising when it takes a progressive stance,” said Stephen Woodford, head of the Advertising Association.

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Infantino says he has wide support for 48-team World Cup in Qatar

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 13:47

FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Thursday that a majority of national soccer federations were in favour of expanding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to 48 teams.

Infantino said a decision would be made by March, although it was still not clear whether an enlarged tournament would be feasible as it would be “difficult” to stage in Qatar alone.

Qatar has been locked in a bitter dispute with Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain that has complicated the prospect of sharing matches in an expanded tournament.

Those countries, as well as Egypt, began a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism. Qatar denies the claims.

FIFA last year voted to increase the size of the tournament from 32 to 48 teams starting from 2026 but, since then, Infantino has been mulling the possibility of bringing the change forward to 2022.

“We gathered the opinions as well of our members, the federations,” he told reporters.

“So far, of course, the majority are in favour because 16 more teams participating not only means that 16 more countries will have World Cup fever, but 50 or 60 countries will be able to dream of qualifying for the World Cup.”

“Whether it is feasible or not is a different question.”

Infantino said it was unlikely that Qatar, which has been planning for a 32-team tournament since it was awarded hosting rights in 2010, could manage 16 extra teams on its own.

“Is it feasible to do it only in Qatar? Difficult probably,” he said, adding that he did not want to share details of discussions with Qatar with the media.

“Is it feasible to have a few games played in neighbouring countries? Maybe this is an option.”

“Of course, I’m not naive enough to not know and read the news, and what’s going on, but we are in football not in politics and in football sometimes dreams come true.”

Infantino said a decision needed to be made by March because the draw for the qualifying competition is in the summer.

He said that, even with 16 additional teams, FIFA was committed to playing the tournament in the original 28-day period “because it was a difficult enough process to decide to move the World Cup to November or December.”

He denied that it was too late to make the change.

“For those who think it’s late, I’ve been told that the decision to move the World Cup in 1998 to 32 teams from 24 in 1994 was also taken only four years in advance so there is already a precedent,” he said.

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Solari says Real Madrid need fan support after CSKA jeers

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 13:35

Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari says the fans need to get behind the team after they were whistled off following Wednesday’s humiliating 3-0 home defeat by CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.

Madrid suffered their heaviest ever home European defeat against CSKA and were given short shrift by angry supporters despite having already qualified for the last 16 as Group G winners.

“I heard applause too the other day. Fans express themselves and that is valid and respectable,” Solari told a news conference on Friday when asked about the fans’ reaction.

“The team always looks for support and we need it. Through the 115 years (the club has existed) we’ve made it with unity and the fans backing us. We hope that they help us and push us on.”

Madrid, who are fourth in La Liga, host second-bottom local rivals Rayo Vallecano on Saturday and can close the gap on leaders Barcelona to two points with victory.

Solari defended midfielder Isco, who was whistled by Madrid supporters against CSKA.

“Isco is a mature man, a professional who has brought a lot of joy here and we are sure that he will keep bringing that,” said Solari, who has not started the playmaker in a single league match since taking over at the end of October.

“Everyone’s working as hard as possible to be available for the team, the hardest thing is choosing the starting side, those who sit on the bench, those who don’t make it.

“That’s the hardest thing because they are all good. It’s a tough job. There are no maths that work, someone always has to be left out.”

Forward Gareth Bale hurt his ankle against CSKA Moscow although he was not taken off after receiving treatment.

“We will see (about Bale,) it’s a question of rest because it’s an ankle problem. We will see how he recovers,” said Solari.

“We will speak about it with the medics and with him and we will ponder it.”

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Official casino regulation website up and running

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 13:31

The National Gaming and Casino Supervision Commission of Cyprus announced on Friday the that its official website is now operating.

The commission is the regulator for casino operations in the Republic of Cyprus. It licenses and regulates both the casino operator and individuals working in the casino industry, including casino employees, machine suppliers, junket operators and those providing test laboratory services.

In addition to licensing and regulating the casino operator and individuals working in the casino industry, it is also tasked with protecting members of the public, including vulnerable groups and young people, from the negative effects of casino gaming and to implement appropriate protective measures where necessary.

At http://cgc.org.cy/ , users may find all the information regarding the authority, the legislation governing the casino operations in Cyprus, responsible gaming and more.

 

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The stories of 12 gold coins

Cyprus Mail - Ven, 14/12/2018 - 13:30

From Alexander the Great to the Byzantium and the Middle Ages until the modern era all periods are covered in an exhibition featuring a rare collection of gold coins. This collection contains coins that are considered to have paved the way for the use of coins in world history and is being staged by the A.G. Leventis Gallery.

Having opened its doors on Thursday, the Stories of Gold exhibition will run until February 11 and, as much of the content of the gallery, is drawn from the personal collection of AG Leventis himself. The collection includes rare specimens that are of particular interest for both collectors and scholars.

The exhibition focuses on 12 coins and reveals fascinating stories and important relevant events behind them. These are coins of large empires with international trade ranges, power and reputation, coins with interesting iconography, as well as commemorative coins, which are considered to be milestones in global history of the coin.

For each of these coins, historical summaries provide information on the issuing authority or the ruler so the observer can place it geographically and in time.

The accompanying materials of the rest of the exhibition include portraits, engravings, sculptures, porcelain and other artefacts that place the coins in their historical, cultural and monetary context.
In particular, the use of new technologies, videos and projections help visitors appreciate the enchanting world of coins and its wealth. The complete collection also shows items borrowed from eight museums and three private collections.

And if you’re too caught up with festive activities or swamped with work to pay a visit, the exhibition and its fascinating historical tales will later move to the Leventis Municipal Museum of Nicosia as a permanent collection.

The Stories of Gold are part of the A.G. Leventis Gallery’s five-year anniversary celebrations, which will officially be marked in March 2019. The celebrations will continue in the new year with more national exhibitions, educational programmes and activities for children, giving the public an extra reason to visit the gallery.

Stories of Gold
Temporary exhibition tracing stories of gold. December 13 – February 11. A.G. Leventis Gallery, Nicosia. 7.30pm. Tel: 22-668838

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