Romania police probe anti-semitic graffiti at Elie Wiesel home

Romania police probe anti-semitic graffiti at Elie Wiesel home
In this Sept. 12, 2012, photo Elie Wiesel is photographed in his office in New York. (AP)
Updated 05 August 2018

Romania police probe anti-semitic graffiti at Elie Wiesel home

Romania police probe anti-semitic graffiti at Elie Wiesel home
  • Wiesel, born in northern Romania in 1928, survived Auschwitz and devoted his life to keeping memories of the Nazi genocide of World War II from fading away

BUCHAREST: Romanian police on Saturday announced a probe into anti-semitic graffiti found on the walls of the house where Nobel Peace prize winner Elie Wiesel was born.
“An enquiry is underway to identify those responsible,” police spokeswoman Florina Metes said, adding that officers were studying footage from surveillance cameras in the northern town of Sighetu Marmatiei, hometown of Holocaust survivor Wiesel who died in New York in 2016.
The graffiti, which appeared overnight Friday, was quickly removed by local authorities.
“This grotesque act represents an attack not only on the memory of Elie Wiesel but on all the victims of the Holocaust,” said the national institute for Holocaust studies, which is named after Wiesel.
The Israeli ambassy in Romania condemned an “unprecedented anti-semitic act,” and expressed the hope that those responsible would be swiftly brought to justice.
Wiesel, born in northern Romania in 1928, survived Auschwitz and devoted his life to keeping memories of the Nazi genocide of World War II from fading away.
He settled in the United States after the war and helped challenge the widely held assumption in Romania, following decades of communist rule, that the Germans alone were responsible for the Holocaust.
In 2003 he headed a panel of experts that found that between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews, as well as 11,000 Roma, perished on Romanian soil under dictator and Nazi ally Ion Antonescu. He received the received the Nobel prize in 2001.


UK police investigate after woman threatens ‘Algerian’ man on train

Footage emerged of a woman racially abusing and threatening to stab and behead people on a train, and of physical altercations breaking out between her and fellow travelers. (Screenshot/YouTube)
Footage emerged of a woman racially abusing and threatening to stab and behead people on a train, and of physical altercations breaking out between her and fellow travelers. (Screenshot/YouTube)
Updated 47 min 35 sec ago

UK police investigate after woman threatens ‘Algerian’ man on train

Footage emerged of a woman racially abusing and threatening to stab and behead people on a train, and of physical altercations breaking out between her and fellow travelers. (Screenshot/YouTube)
  • In footage uploaded to Instagram, the woman racially abuses fellow passengers, threatening to stab and behead them

LONDON: Police in the UK have appealed for witnesses after footage emerged of a woman racially abusing and threatening to stab and behead people on a train, and of physical altercations breaking out between her and fellow travelers.

The incident took place near West Ham station in east London. In footage shared on social media site Instagram, the woman — wearing a purple and white top and skirt, and appearing to be drunk — calls a fellow passenger a “f— Algerian c—,” and tells him she will spit in his face.

She then threatens to “stab him in the f— face” and to “knock him out,” and tells him that if he looks at or raises his hands to a fellow passenger, who appears to be her friend, she will cut his head off.

“I don’t want to have to punch up this Asian guy,” she tells her friend, before calling the man a “n—.” Other passengers can be heard calling her racist and telling her to calm down.

The passenger whose footage was uploaded to Instagram tells her that he has to film what she is doing “for my safety, your safety, his safety, everyone else’s safety.”

In the video, after he accuses her of being racist, she tells him: “You don’t know what country I’m from, I’m half f— Kenyan you little b—.” He responds: “If you’re Kenyan then you should know better.”

Unperturbed, she replies: “Carry on recording me because I don’t care. I don’t give a f—. You’re some civilian mother— from the middle of Essex.”

She later knocks the phone out of his hand, and is seen pushing and slapping another male passenger who pushes her back, knocking her into a luggage rack.

The British Transport Police said it received a report of a racially aggravated public order offense, and urged members of the public to assist with its investigation.


Bankruptcy looms for UK Islamophobe after Syrian refugee libel case defeat

Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, made various unsubstantiated claims about Syrian refugee Jamal Hijazi. (Reuters/File Photo)
Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, made various unsubstantiated claims about Syrian refugee Jamal Hijazi. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 23 July 2021

Bankruptcy looms for UK Islamophobe after Syrian refugee libel case defeat

Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, made various unsubstantiated claims about Syrian refugee Jamal Hijazi. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Court orders Tommy Robinson to pay $137,600 damages, legal costs that could exceed $500k over unfounded claims

LONDON: A British far-right figurehead and anti-Islam activist who lost a libel case against a Syrian refugee he had made unfounded accusations against on Thursday claimed he could now face bankruptcy as a result of damages and legal costs that could amount to more than $637,000.

Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, made various unsubstantiated claims about Jamal Hijazi, including that he was violent toward female students, after the teenager was filmed being assaulted and bullied by his classmates.

Hijazi, a refugee from Homs, a city in western Syria, took Robinson to court over the accusations, which he said were inaccurate and had deeply disrupted his life.

On Thursday, a London court ordered Robinson to pay Hijazi £100,000 ($137,600) in damages and, because of the nature of the English legal system, the English Defence League founder was also on the hook for legal costs for both parties that could total more than $500,000.

Robinson said: “I’ve not got any money. I’m bankrupt. I’ve struggled hugely with my own issues these last 12 months … I ain’t got it.”

He added that he was gobsmacked by Hijazi’s legal team’s costs, which included £70,000 ($96,318) for taking witness statements.

In two videos viewed nearly 1 million times, Robinson accused Hijazi, 17, of beating a girl “black and blue” as well as threatening to stab another boy at school — both claims denied by Hijazi and unproven by Robinson.

The judge said Robinson’s accusations were “calculated to inflame the situation,” and that the abuse Hijazi was then subjected to was predictable in its nature.

“It is my responsibility to make clear that the defendant has failed in his defence of truth, to vindicate the claimant and to award him a sum in damages that represents fair compensation,” the judge added. He also warned that Robinson’s bankruptcy declaration may make it difficult to extract from him the full sum awarded by the court.

Robinson’s accusations had a “devastating effect” on the schoolboy, Hijazi’s lawyers said, and they also landed him with multiple death threats. He was forced from his home and had to abandon his education after becoming the subject of a social media storm.

The judge said: “(Robinson) is responsible for this harm, some of the scars of which, particularly the impact on the claimant’s education, are likely to last for many years, if not a lifetime.”

The court also handed Hijazi an injunction against Robinson, preventing him from repeating the claims. However, Robinson said that he had been commissioned to create a film of the incident, which he pointed out had already been completed.

“It’s left for the viewer to make their mind (up) on what’s happened,” Robinson added, and he told the judge that by granting an injunction, “it will look like you are trying to prevent (the film), but the film will go out in the United States anyway, so I don’t see the point.”

Hijazi’s lawyers said they were “delighted” that the teenager had won his case.

Francesca Flood, from Burlingtons Legal, said: “It took great courage for our client, Jamal Hijazi, to pursue his libel action against such a prominent far-right and anti-Islam activist as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson.

“Jamal and his family now wish to put this matter behind them in order that they can get on with their lives.

“They do however wish to extend their gratitude to the great British public for their support and generosity, without which this legal action would not have been possible,” she added.


As cases soar, Spaniards keep their masks firmly on

As cases soar, Spaniards keep their masks firmly on
Updated 23 July 2021

As cases soar, Spaniards keep their masks firmly on

As cases soar, Spaniards keep their masks firmly on
  • Spaniards have largely opted to hang onto the face coverings that have become part of the daily lives
  • So far, just over 50 percent of Spain's 47 million people have been fully vaccinated

MADRID: It’s over 35 degrees Celsius and although masks are no longer obligatory in the streets of Spain, masks are everywhere in Madrid as people fear soaring Covid cases.
Unlike people in many other European countries who have dropped their masks, Spaniards have largely opted to hang onto the face coverings that have become part of the daily lives of billions of people over the past 18 months.
“Just in case,” says Katherin Castro, an 18-year-old who has already had one dose of the vaccine.
“Covid’s still around and even with the vaccine, there are a lot of infections.”
Walking down one of Madrid’s wide avenues, Juana Delgado, 65, has her face covered with a surgical-grade FFP2 mask which she wears every day.
“I’m in a risk category so I wouldn’t think of dropping it at the moment although I was fully vaccinated two months ago,” she said.
Despite being fully vaccinated two months ago, she says she only feels safe “at home.”
Nearly a month after Spain dropped its requirement for people to wear masks in the street, few here have done so unlike in the UK where face coverings were discarded this week, as France mulls a similar move for vaccinated people in some indoor locations.
“In the coming days, our streets and our faces will regain their normal appearance,” said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez ahead of the lifting of the requirement on June 26 — as long as a safety distance of 1.5 meters can be observed.
But with new cases of the highly-contagious Delta variant spreading rapidly, Delfin Rapado believes that “until 80 or 85 percent of the population is vaccinated, we shouldn’t be taking them off.”
So far, just over 50 percent of Spain’s 47 million people have been fully vaccinated.
Rapado, who is pushing his granddaughter in a buggy and keeps his distance while speaking, says “the government was wrong to drop mask-wearing so soon,” dismissing it as a ploy to bring back tourists.
And tourists “don’t wear masks,” complains Flor Cardena, 64, who has a shop in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, grumbling as two bare-faced visitors walk past.
“I don’t feel safe. I’m not going to take off my mask even when the pandemic ends,” she says.
For Marie-Helene Leheley, a 57-year-old French tourist visiting Barcelona, it’s a surprise to see so many people “wearing masks all the time.”
In areas where virus cases have shot up such as the northern Basque Country, the Balearic Islands, Catalonia in the northeast or Andalusia in the south, regional leaders have urged the central government to reimpose the outdoor mask rule — but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
Despite defending its decision to drop the requirement, the government has tempered its language, with Health Minister Carolina Darias saying Tuesday that masks were “still compulsory” in Spain except “in very specific cases.”
On Wednesday, when parliament passed the so-called “Smiles Law” which formally ended mandatory mask-wearing at all times, some of the government’s key allies abstained and the right-wing voted against.
Oscar Zurriaga, deputy head of the Spanish Epidemiology Society, believes mask-wearing in the open air should never have been made compulsory.
“In well-ventilated outdoor areas where there aren’t big groups of people and where the safety distance can be maintained, it’s never been necessary,” he said.
But he said “the subliminal message” sent through dropping the use of masks is significant in that it causes people to drop other health precautious such as keeping the safety distance.


UN Security Council condemns position of Turkey’s Erdogan on Cyprus

Turkish soldiers take part in a parade in the northern part of Cyprus' divided capital Nicosia, in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on July 20, 2021. (AFP)
Turkish soldiers take part in a parade in the northern part of Cyprus' divided capital Nicosia, in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on July 20, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 23 July 2021

UN Security Council condemns position of Turkey’s Erdogan on Cyprus

Turkish soldiers take part in a parade in the northern part of Cyprus' divided capital Nicosia, in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on July 20, 2021. (AFP)
  • On a trip to the north of divided Nicosia on Tuesday, Erdogan declared that a half-century of UN efforts had failed

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council on Friday condemned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's call for two states in Cyprus and a move to reopen a resort emptied of Greek Cypriots, calling for a “just” settlement with a united country under a “bizonal” federation, diplomats said.
“The Security Council condemns the announcement in Cyprus by Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leaders,” said the statement, obtained by AFP and which diplomats said was agreed upon and would be formally adopted later in the day.
“The Security Council expresses its deep regret regarding these unilateral actions that run contrary to its previous resolutions and statements.”
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded in response to an abortive coup engineered by the then military junta in Athens that aimed to unite the island with Greece.
The country, a European Union member now dominated by Greek Cypriots, and the United Nations both seek a “bizonal” federation of two regional administrations that are united as one nation.
On a trip to the north of divided Nicosia on Tuesday, Erdogan declared that a half-century of UN efforts had failed and that there should be “two peoples and two states with equal status.”
The United States voiced concern that his remarks would have a “chilling effect” on UN-led efforts for a solution in Cyprus.
In its statement, the UN Security Council reaffirmed its “commitment to an enduring, comprehensive and just settlement in accordance with the wishes of the Cypriot people, and based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality.”
Turkey alone recognizes the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Despite the lack of a solution, the island has been largely at peace.
Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar, an Erdogan ally, also announced Tuesday a new step in opening up Varosha, once the Mediterranean island's top resort but whose Greek Cypriot population fled with the 1974 invasion.
Tatar said that an initial 3.5 percent of Varosha, whose abandoned high rises lie under Turkish military control, would be removed from its military status.
“The Security Council calls for the immediate reversal of this course of action and the reversal of all steps taken on Varosha since October 2020,” the statement said.
“The Security Council stresses the importance of full respect and implementation of its resolutions, including the transfer of Varosha to UN administration.”
The Council had been expected to adopt the statement on Wednesday, but it was delayed as diplomats debated hardening the condemnation of Erdogan, one UN source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The move was rare, as such statements are often softened to ensure they garner as much support as possible from the Council's 15 member states.


EU regulator endorses use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in teens

EU regulator endorses use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in teens
Updated 23 July 2021

EU regulator endorses use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in teens

EU regulator endorses use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in teens

LONDON: Europe’s medicines regulator on Friday recommended approving the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in 12- to 17-year olds, paving the way for it to become the second shot okayed for adolescent use in the bloc.
The use of the vaccine, branded Spikevax, will be the same in adolescents as in people above 18 years, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said, adding the vaccine produced a comparable antibody response to that seen in 18- to 25-year olds.
Vaccinating children has been considered important for reaching herd immunity against the novel coronavirus and in the light of the highly contagious Delta variant. Moderna in May said its vaccine was found to be safe and effective in teens.
EMA’s safety committee said while common side effects in teenagers after vaccination were similar to those seen in older population, due to a smaller study size, the trial could not detect new uncommon side effects or estimate the risk of known ones such as myocarditis and pericarditis.