Tens of thousands protest in Germany against far right

Demonstrators protest against the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party outside the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany on February 3, 2024, during a rally under the motto 'We are the firewall' called for by international non-profit organisation 'Hand in Hand' to protest against right-wing politics. (AFP)
Demonstrators protest against the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party outside the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany on February 3, 2024, during a rally under the motto 'We are the firewall' called for by international non-profit organisation 'Hand in Hand' to protest against right-wing politics. (AFP)
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Updated 04 February 2024
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Tens of thousands protest in Germany against far right

Tens of thousands protest in Germany against far right
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hailed the demonstrations in a post early Saturday on X, formerly Twitter

BERLIN: Tens of thousands of people attended rallies across Germany against the far-right AfD party on Saturday, the latest wave of such protests over the past three weeks.
Nearly 150,000 people turned out in Berlin according to police, some forming a human chain in front of parliament. Organizers put the figure at 300,000.
Similar protests took place in around 200 other cities.
The wave of mobilization against Alternative for Germany (AfD) was sparked by a January 10 report by investigative outlet Correctiv revealing that AfD members had discussed the expulsion of immigrants and “non-assimilated citizens” at a meeting with extremists.
The report sent shock waves across Germany at a time when the AfD is soaring in opinion polls, months ahead of three major regional elections in eastern Germany where their support is strongest.
“All together against racism,” the crowd in Berlin shouted. Some held posters that said “Heart instead of hate” or “Racism is not an alternative.”
Many people hoping to attend the Berlin rally found the site already packed, and were directed to a nearby park or the riverbanks along the Spree River, AFP journalists saw.
“I don’t know if these demonstrations will influence AfD voters,” Margret Hurth, a 53-year-old childcare worker, told AFP.
“But it’s important to send a signal, because we need more humanity and respect for our differences.”
“I came to set an example,” said Martin Raue, a university professor who had come from Sweden to attend the rally. “I was born in Germany.”
The Berlin rally was organized by the “Hand in Hand” collective, which is made up of 1,800 organizations, including the Fridays for Future climate group.
Around 700 police were deployed for the rally, which ended without incident late in the afternoon.

A similar human chain was also formed around the state assembly building in Potsdam, just southeast of Berlin.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hailed the demonstrations in a post early Saturday on X, formerly Twitter.
“In small and large cities across the country, numerous citizens are gathering to demonstrate again this weekend against forgetting, against hate and inciting hate. A strong sign for our democracy and our constitution,” he wrote.
Markus Soeder, the powerful leader of the conservative CSU party in the opposition, denounced the AfD as “a deeply far-right party” in comments to the Rheinische Post newspaper.
“I’m literally shocked each time I hear their hateful speeches,” he added.
The AfD, an anti-immigration party, confirmed the presence of its members at a November meeting with Martin Sellner, a leader of Austria’s white pride Identitarian Movement.
But it has denied taking on the “remigration” project championed by Sellner and his movement, which subscribes to the “great replacement” conspiracy theory that claims there is a plot to replace Europe’s “native” white population with non-white migrants.
The party has more than 30 percent support in some parts of the former East Germany, where regional elections are due to be held later this year.
The AfD denounced “a campaign against the only true opposition party in Germany,” in a post on X Saturday.
“Where are we in Germany when a government calls for a demonstration against part of its population?” it asked.
 

 


RFK Jr. says he loves his family ‘either way’ after relatives endorse Biden’s campaign over hi

RFK Jr. says he loves his family ‘either way’ after relatives endorse Biden’s campaign over hi
Updated 7 sec ago
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RFK Jr. says he loves his family ‘either way’ after relatives endorse Biden’s campaign over hi

RFK Jr. says he loves his family ‘either way’ after relatives endorse Biden’s campaign over hi
  • The son of assassinated former US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy has not been taken seriously for his vaccine-skeptic campaign
  • His relatives have openly opposed his decision to run for the presidency, saying he could take away some votes for Biden

ROYAL OAK, Michigan: Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Sunday acknowledged endorsements from more than a dozen of his relatives who are backing Democratic President Joe Biden, noting that he feels no ill will over the family political divide.

“Some of them don’t like the fact that I’m running,” Kennedy said of his relatives, after a comedy showcase in suburban Detroit to benefit his campaign.
Kennedy — who last year launched an independent presidential bid after first challenging Biden for the Democratic nomination — was reacting to the endorsements from his sister and other relatives last week, a move by the Biden campaign that signals how seriously the president’s team is taking a long-shot candidate using his last name’s lingering Democratic magic to siphon support from the incumbent.
In Philadelphia, Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, niece of former President John F. Kennedy and sister of the current presidential candidate, called Biden “my hero,” saying — without mention of her brother — that the family wanted to “make crystal clear” their support for reelecting Biden.
Biden, who keeps a bust of Robert F. Kennedy in the Oval Office, said the endorsements were “an incredible honor.”
Going on to describe family debates he said his father orchestrated among his children, Kennedy said Sunday night that the exercise showed him a respectful way to take opposing positions with people he cares about without taking it personally.
“I debated them with information and passion and not to hate each other because we disagreed with each other,” he said. “I love my family, either way.”
Kennedy — who mentioned Biden’s Oval Office RFK bust, as well as his relatives currently working both in the Biden’s administration and on his own presidential campaign — made his remarks in Michigan, where last week, the campaign secured access to the general election ballot. In front of the suburban Detroit theater ahead of the performances, several dozen protesters opposed Kennedy’s appearance, with signs aiming to align Kennedy with former President Donald Trump.
Kennedy has spoken publicly in the past about disagreeing with his family on many issues, but maintains it can be done in “friendly” ways. After a super political action committee supporting his campaign produced a TV ad during the Super Bowl that relied heavily on imagery from John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential run, Kennedy Jr. apologized to his relatives on the X social media platform, saying he was sorry if the spot “caused anyone in my family pain.”
“I love my family. I feel that they love me,” he said Sunday. “And I wish the same thing would happen for all of our country, where we disagree with each other without hating on each other.”
 


Health-harming heat stress rising in Europe, scientists say

Health-harming heat stress rising in Europe, scientists say
Updated 23 min 18 sec ago
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Health-harming heat stress rising in Europe, scientists say

Health-harming heat stress rising in Europe, scientists say
  • Temperatures in Europe are rising at roughly twice the global average, Copernicus and WMO reported
  • Deaths related to heat have increased by around 30 percent in Europe in the last 20 years, the report said

BRUSSELS: Europe is increasingly facing bouts of heat so intense that the human body cannot cope, as climate change continues to raise temperatures, the EU’s Copernicus climate monitoring service and the World Meteorological Organization said on Monday.
In a report on Europe’s climate, Copernicus and the WMO noted last year’s extreme conditions, including a July heatwave which pushed 41 percent of southern Europe into strong, very strong or extreme heat stress — the biggest area of Europe under such conditions in any day on record.
Extreme heat poses particular health risks to outdoor workers, the elderly, and people with existing conditions like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Parts of Italy recorded 7 percent more deaths than normal last July, with victims including a 44-year-old man painting road markings in the northern town of Lodi who collapsed and died.
Heat stress measures the impact that the environment has on the human body, combining factors like temperature, humidity and the body’s response, to establish a “feels like” temperature.

Parts of Spain, France, Italy and Greece experienced up to ten days of extreme heat stress in 2023, defined as a “feels like” temperature of more than 46 degrees Celsius, at which point immediate action must be taken to avoid heat stroke and other health issues.
Deaths related to heat have increased by around 30 percent in Europe in the last 20 years, the report said.
The EU’s environment agency urged governments last month to prepare health care systems for climate change and called for EU rules to protect outdoor workers from extreme heat.
Last year was the world’s hottest since records began. Europe is the world’s fastest-warming continent.
Greenhouse gas emissions were the biggest cause of last year’s exceptional heat, the report said. Factors including the El Nino weather pattern also played a role.
The heat fueled extreme weather including flooding, since the warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, causing heavier downpours when it is released.
Floods in Slovenia last year affected 1.5 million people. Greece suffered the EU’s biggest wildfire on record which, at 960 square km, was twice the size of Athens. Alpine glaciers lost 10 percent of their remaining volume during 2022 and 2023.
“Some of the events of 2023 took the scientific community by surprise because of their intensity, their speed of onset, extent and duration,” said Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

 


World’s largest private firms fail to set climate targets: report

World’s largest private firms fail to set climate targets: report
Updated 22 April 2024
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World’s largest private firms fail to set climate targets: report

World’s largest private firms fail to set climate targets: report
  • Several jurisdictions including the United Kingdom have adopted climate disclosure regulations

PARIS: Only 40 of the world’s 100 largest private firms have set net-zero carbon emissions targets to fight climate change, according to a report released Monday, lagging far behind public companies.
But for the world to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming 1.5 degree Celsius, all companies need to reduce their planet-heating emissions, the report by the group Net Zero Tracker noted.
The lack of market and reputational pressures on private firms compared to those publicly-listed, along with an absence of regulation are to blame for their slow uptake of climate commitments, John Lange of Net Zero Tracker told AFP.
“I think things are changing on all three of those fronts,” he added.
The report compared 200 of the world’s largest public and private companies based on their reported emissions reductions strategies and net-zero targets.
It found that only 40 of the 100 private firms assessed had net zero targets, compared to 70 of 100 publicly-listed companies.
Of the private companies that have set targets, just eight have published plans on how they will meet them.
“A pledge without a plan is not a pledge, it is a naked PR stunt,” the report said.
Only two firms — furnishing giant Ikea and US engineering giant Bechtel — ruled out using controversial carbon credits to achieve their net-zero goals, the report said.
Carbon credits allow businesses to offset their emissions by directing money toward a project that reduces or avoids emissions, such as protecting forests, but critics say they allow companies to keep polluting.
Meanwhile, none of the eight fossil fuel companies included in the report was found to have a net-zero target, compared with 76 percent of the sector’s largest public firms.
There was also little improvement in the figures compared with a previous analysis done in 2022, “despite a massive uptick in regulation around the world,” Lang said.
Several jurisdictions including the United Kingdom have adopted climate disclosure regulations.
Others have regulations on the horizon, with business hubs of California and Singapore requiring greenhouse gas emissions reporting from 2027.
The European Union also introduced two climate regulations — the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD) — which will soon require thousands of large companies to report their climate impacts and emissions, and to take action to curtail them.
“We’re trying to get private firms to understand what’s coming for them,” Lang said.
The EU policies will have far-reaching effects in particular, targeting firms not only based in the bloc but those that may be headquartered elsewhere with branches or subsidiaries within the member states.
Yet two European private firms, including French hypermarket chain E. Leclerc, were singled out in the report for having set any emissions reduction targets.
E.Leclerc told AFP that the company has made efforts toward more sustainable practices like eliminating the use of single-use plastic bags, and is “committed to setting near-term company-wide emissions reduction targets.”
But with the enforcement of EU regulations looming, firms will not be able to “dodge” climate targets much longer, Sybrig Smit of the NewClimate Institute told AFP.
“It’s actually quite watertight. If companies want to do business in Europe, they are going to have to face the consequences,” she said.
The firms analyzed account for roughly 23 percent of the global economy, with the majority based in either China, the United States or EU states — the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, Lang said.
Any changes the firms make to meet new regulations will have substantial benefits for the environment.
“They have such a trickledown effect. Whenever such a big company is implementing something real, it will have a huge effect on the rest of the sector that they operate in,” Smit said.


EU ministers to discuss air defense for Ukraine, Iran sanctions

EU ministers to discuss air defense for Ukraine, Iran sanctions
Updated 22 April 2024
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EU ministers to discuss air defense for Ukraine, Iran sanctions

EU ministers to discuss air defense for Ukraine, Iran sanctions
  • The EU already has multiple sanctions programs against Iran – for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, human rights abuses and supplying drones to Russia

LUXEMBOURG: European Union foreign ministers meet in Luxembourg on Monday to discuss bolstering Ukraine’s air defenses and expanding sanctions on Iran.
While the ministers will also discuss the war in Sudan, most of their focus will be on the conflicts raging on the 27-member bloc’s eastern and southern doorsteps – in Ukraine and the Middle East.
With Russia having stepped up air attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and other targets, EU governments are under pressure to supply more air defense systems such as Patriots to Kyiv.
Kyiv and its European allies got a big boost at the weekend when the US House of Representatives approved a package worth more than $60 billion to address the war in Ukraine.
But EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg have been urging European countries to step up their own efforts to give arms to Ukraine, particularly air defense.
After a video conference of NATO defense ministers with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday, Stoltenberg said he expected announcements soon.
“NATO has mapped out existing capabilities across the alliance and there are systems that can be made available to Ukraine,” he said.
“In addition to Patriots, there are other weapons that allies can provide, including (the French system) SAMP/T,” he added.
So far, Germany is the only EU member to declare it will send an additional Patriot system in response to Ukraine’s latest pleas.
The ministers will be joined by their defense counterparts for Monday’s Ukraine talks, as well as Ukraine’s foreign and defense ministers, before turning to the Middle East crisis sparked by the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 last year.

IRAN SANCTIONS
The ministers will seek agreement on how much further to go in sanctioning Iran, following Tehran’s missile and drone attack on Israel the weekend before last.
The EU already has multiple sanctions programs against Iran – for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, human rights abuses and supplying drones to Russia.
EU leaders agreed last week they would impose further sanctions against Iran. Many EU countries have called for widening the drone-related sanctions regime to cover missiles and transfers to Iranian proxy forces in the Middle East.
EU countries are also debating whether to impose fresh sanctions related to missile production, according to diplomats.
Some countries are also pushing for the EU to find a way to designate Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards force as a terrorist organization.
But officials say they have not yet found a legal basis for such a step are not sure all EU members would favor it.

 


India to rerun election at 11 places in Manipur after violence

India to rerun election at 11 places in Manipur after violence
Updated 21 April 2024
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India to rerun election at 11 places in Manipur after violence

India to rerun election at 11 places in Manipur after violence
  • Friday marked start of voting by nearly 1 billion people in world’s most-populous country
  • The main opposition Congress party had demanded a rerun at 47 Manipur polling stations

NEW DELHI: India, staging the world’s biggest election, will rerun voting at 11 polling stations in the northeastern state of Manipur on Monday after reports of violence and damage to voting machines in the state torn by months of ethnic clashes.
The election authorities declared the voting void at the 11 locations and ordered the fresh poll, the chief electoral officer of Manipur said in a statement late on Saturday.
Friday marked the start of voting by nearly one billion people in the world’s most-populous country, in an election running through June 1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is forecast to win a rare third term on the back of issues such as growth, welfare and Hindu nationalism.
The main opposition Congress party had demanded a rerun at 47 Manipur polling stations, alleging that booths were captured and elections were rigged.
There were scattered incidents of violence on Friday in the state, including clashes among armed groups and attempts to take over polling stations under heavy security. Voters turned out in large numbers, despite the threat of clashes that have killed at least 220 people in the past year.
Manipur has been roiled by fighting between the majority Meitei and tribal Kuki-Zo people since May. It remains divided between a valley controlled by Meiteis and Kuki-dominated hills, separated by a stretch of no-man’s land monitored by federal paramilitary forces.