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Oil sheikhs turning to renewables: greenwashing or real change?

Abu Dhabi’s World Future Energy Summit (WFES) came at a volatile time for global energy markets, especially since its final day came just twenty-four hours before Donald Trump’s inauguration in the United States. While the WFES – held under the patronage of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed – focused heavily on environmental issues, environmentalists can be forgiven for their scepticism when it comes to a summit on CO2 emissions and climate change being hosted by an oil producer. After all, when Abu Dhabi hosted the first of these “world” summits nine years ago, the rulers of the Gulf emirate felt very differently about fossil fuels; in 2007 and 2008, for example, the UAE and its neighbours were busy reaping the […]


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Mosul Op: 6,500 Iraq soldiers killed in 3 months

Recently released figures paint a grisly picture of the butcher’s bill paid by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), allied Kurdish Peshmerga and Iran-backed Shia jihadists as the third month of fighting for Iraq’s northern city of Mosul continues. According to figures released by Amaq news agency, closely linked to the Daesh extremist group, the militants have managed to exact a devastating death toll on US and Iran-backed forces, totalling to 1,520 men lost in the third month of combat alone. Daesh have also claimed to have killed 170 soldiers in sniper attacks, in addition to carrying out 58 suicide bombing missions leading to the destruction of 11 tanks and dozens of other vehicles used by the ISF and allied forces. […]


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16 dead as Hungarian school bus crashes, burst into flames in Italy

Author: 
Céline CORNU | AFP
Sat, 2017-01-21
ID: 
1485000893025844500

VERONA, Italy: Sixteen people died when a coach bringing Hungarian teenagers home from a skiing trip crashed and burst into flames on a northern Italian motorway overnight, authorities said Saturday.
It appeared the death toll from the tragedy near Verona at around 11:00 p.m. (2200 GMT) could have been much worse had it not been for the bravery and quick thinking of a teacher.
Emergency workers said that the bus carrying 56 people returning from France, most of them teenagers aged 14-16 as well as several teachers and two drivers, plowed into a bridge pillar.
A huge inferno very quickly engulfed the bus, dramatic pictures released by police showed, completely destroying the interior and reducing the vehicle to a burned-out wreck.
Some were killed when they were hurled from the coach on impact, but most of the victims were found badly charred inside the vehicle after being unable to escape in time.
The Hungarian government said that three people were in a very serious condition, including one in an artificial coma. Ten more were seriously hurt and 13 had minor injuries.
All were being treated in nearby hospitals. Twelve others who were not hurt were receiving counselling at a hotel in the vicinity.
“These were children. It’s the hardest thing to take. Everyone thinks of their own,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, fighting back tears, told a news conference in Budapest.
“Of course the Hungarian government will do everything necessary to ease the families’ pain.”
Girolamo Lacquaniti, Verona traffic police chief, said on radio that no other vehicle was involved, pointing to mechanical failure or human error such as the driver falling asleep.
“The coach was traveling at quite a constant speed and we haven’t found any traces of braking,” Lacquaniti said. The vehicle burst into flames “moments after the impact,” he said.
One of the drivers was among those killed, Italian media reported.
Describing a “devastating” scene, Lacquaniti told Radio Capitale that 13 passengers had managed to escape by jumping out.
“Those who were seated at the back of the bus saved themselves by smashing the windows amid shouting and panic,” Hungary’s consul in Italy Judit Timaffy told Italian media.
“A gym teacher rescued lots of those on board by getting back on the bus. He was taken to hospital with serious burns on his back,” Timaffy said.
She said that the drivers had changed over around an hour before the accident.
Traffic police were still gathering evidence and consulting video evidence meaning it was “still too early to determine the cause of this tragedy,” Lacquaniti said.
Once the blaze was put out emergency workers had to wait for a judge to give approval to comb through the smoking remains, which they then spent the rest of the night doing to establish the complete death toll.
At the Szinyei secondary school in the heart of Budapest, which is well known and has an excellent academic reputation, people were laying flowers and candles outside on Saturday, an AFP photographer said.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban expressed his horror and shock.
“Losing children, young lives, is the worst thing for any family, community or nation,” Orban said in a statement carried by state news agency MTI.
“At this time of mourning I am praying and am with the families and loved ones of those affected by this tragedy,” Orban said.
Several parents of the children arrived at the Verona traffic police headquarters late morning on Saturday as well as 10 or so young people.

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Danes can also fight militants with Iraqi troops

Author: 
Associated Press
Fri, 2017-01-20
ID: 
1485001472415893200

COPENHAGEN, Denmark: Denmark has extended the mandate of an undisclosed number of special Danish troops training Iraqi troops fighting Daesh group, to also fight militants.
Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said Friday’s decision to allow troops fight “in the Iraqi-Syrian border area” was taken in response to request by the international coalition that Danes joined in October 2014.
Hjort Frederiksen said “it is vital” the international coalition push the Daesh group “from all sides.”
The opposition Social Democrats, Denmark’s largest party, support the decision that must be approved in a formal vote in the 179-seat Danish Parliament. No voting date was immediately announced.
Denmark earlier had sent seven F-16 planes, which have been pulled back in a planned move.

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Putin ready to meet Trump — Kremlin

Author: 
Sat, 2017-01-21
ID: 
1485001272085874900

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to meet US President Donald Trump but preparations for the possible meeting may take months, not weeks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by TASS news agency.
Donald Trump took power as the 45th president of the United States on Friday after winning the presidential contest against Hillary Clinton. Russia-US relations were at their lowest since the Cold War under Barack Obama administration, with tensions around conflict in Ukraine and Syria crisis.
“This will not be in coming weeks, let’s hope for the best — that the meeting will happen in the coming months,” Peskov told BBC, according to TASS.
Some of Trump’s opponents believe the Kremlin helped him win the White House by staging a hacking campaign to hoover up embarrassing information about Clinton, his rival.
The Kremlin denies that, saying that US Democratic party used hacking allegations as an excuse for losing to Trump.
Putin and other high-ranked Russian officials have publicly praised Trump, expecting him to lift US sanctions on Moscow, first put in place in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
Peskov said that it would be “a big mistake” to think that Russia-US relations will be “free of contradictions and disputes,” during a Trump presidency.
“We indeed are the two biggest countries in the world. And we can’t live without frictions, conflict of interests,” Peskov was quoted by Interfax was saying on Saturday. (Reporting by Katya Golubkova)

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Gambia’s Jammeh says steps down after military pressure from neighbors

Author: 
Pap Saine | Reuters
Sat, 2017-01-21
ID: 
1484997602595561200

BANJUL: Gambia’s leader Yahya Jammeh said he was stepping down on Saturday under pressure from West African armies which entered the country this week following his refusal to concede an election defeat to President Adama Barrow.
Jammeh’s announcement in an overnight broadcast on state television appears to bring to an end a political impasse and brings to a close a reign that began in 1994 when he seized power in a coup.
In practice, he had little choice but to step down after some 7,000 soldiers from Nigeria and Senegal entered Gambia on Thursday backed by tanks and warplanes. They were poised to move into the capital as Jammeh’s army provided no resistance.
Jammeh’s authoritarian government established a reputation for torturing and killing perceived opponents to stifle dissent and his departure will likely be welcomed by democracy advocates and viewed as a triumph for African diplomacy.
“I have decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation,” Jammeh, dressed in a white robe and looking tired, said.
“All those who have supported me or were against me in this period, I implore them to put the supreme interest of our nation the Gambia above all partisan interest and endeavour to work together as one nation,” he added.
Jammeh made no mention of whether he would go into exile but said he was leaving power in the national interest and was grateful there was no bloodshed during the political stalemate.
His announcement was delayed by negotiations with the presidents of Guinea and Mauritania over where he would live and whether he could be offered amnesty for alleged crimes committed during his years in power, said sources close to talks. They said the outcome of the talks remained uncertain.
Shops in central Banjul were shut and the streets quiet on Saturday, with a dozen people gathered outside State House.
“How can we believe anything until we see he has left,” Chino Hussein, 21, a security guard, said.
Jammeh’s defeat in December sparked celebrations on the streets of Banjul but, after initially conceding defeat, he backtracked and said he would challenge the result in court.
In a last bid to cling to power this week, he declared a state of emergency, dissolved the cabinet and the National Assembly extended his term for three months. More than half the government resigned and 45,000 people fled to Senegal.

‘Rule of fear’ banished
Barrow, 51, is a soft-spoken man who worked as a property developer and led an opposition coalition few thought would win.
He was sworn in at the Gambian embassy in Senegal on Thursday and immediately called for international support.
“The rule of fear has been banished from Gambia for good,” Barrow told a crowd at a Dakar hotel on Friday, once it became clear a deal had been struck for Jammeh to relinquish power.
“To all of you forced by political circumstances to flee our country, you now have the liberty to return home,” he said. Barrow was also expected to return to the country.
The crisis was a test for regional bloc ECOWAS, not least because Jammeh had held office longer than any other current president in the grouping of states. The African Union and UN Security Council supported the military intervention.
Guinea’s President Alpha Conde and Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz went to Banjul on Friday.
“The accord sees the departure of Jammeh from Gambia for an African country with guarantees for his family, those close to him and himself. He can come back to the country as he pleases,” Aziz was quoted as saying by the Mauritanian state news agency.
Gambia’s Atlantic beaches make it a holiday destination for Europeans. Tourism is a mainstay in the country of 1.8 million and the economy is otherwise reliant on peanut production and remittances from overseas.
The economy is expected to grow 4.5 percent in 2017, bouncing from a projected contraction of 4.0 percent last year, according to World Bank figures.

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Gambia’s Jammeh says steps down after military pressure from neighbors

Author: 
Pap Saine | Reuters
Sat, 2017-01-21
ID: 
1484997602595561200

BANJUL: Gambia’s leader Yahya Jammeh said he was stepping down on Saturday under pressure from West African armies which entered the country this week following his refusal to concede an election defeat to President Adama Barrow.
Jammeh’s announcement in an overnight broadcast on state television appears to bring to an end a political impasse and brings to a close a reign that began in 1994 when he seized power in a coup.
In practice, he had little choice but to step down after some 7,000 soldiers from Nigeria and Senegal entered Gambia on Thursday backed by tanks and warplanes. They were poised to move into the capital as Jammeh’s army provided no resistance.
Jammeh’s authoritarian government established a reputation for torturing and killing perceived opponents to stifle dissent and his departure will likely be welcomed by democracy advocates and viewed as a triumph for African diplomacy.
“I have decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation,” Jammeh, dressed in a white robe and looking tired, said.
“All those who have supported me or were against me in this period, I implore them to put the supreme interest of our nation the Gambia above all partisan interest and endeavour to work together as one nation,” he added.
Jammeh made no mention of whether he would go into exile but said he was leaving power in the national interest and was grateful there was no bloodshed during the political stalemate.
His announcement was delayed by negotiations with the presidents of Guinea and Mauritania over where he would live and whether he could be offered amnesty for alleged crimes committed during his years in power, said sources close to talks. They said the outcome of the talks remained uncertain.
Shops in central Banjul were shut and the streets quiet on Saturday, with a dozen people gathered outside State House.
“How can we believe anything until we see he has left,” Chino Hussein, 21, a security guard, said.
Jammeh’s defeat in December sparked celebrations on the streets of Banjul but, after initially conceding defeat, he backtracked and said he would challenge the result in court.
In a last bid to cling to power this week, he declared a state of emergency, dissolved the cabinet and the National Assembly extended his term for three months. More than half the government resigned and 45,000 people fled to Senegal.

‘Rule of fear’ banished
Barrow, 51, is a soft-spoken man who worked as a property developer and led an opposition coalition few thought would win.
He was sworn in at the Gambian embassy in Senegal on Thursday and immediately called for international support.
“The rule of fear has been banished from Gambia for good,” Barrow told a crowd at a Dakar hotel on Friday, once it became clear a deal had been struck for Jammeh to relinquish power.
“To all of you forced by political circumstances to flee our country, you now have the liberty to return home,” he said. Barrow was also expected to return to the country.
The crisis was a test for regional bloc ECOWAS, not least because Jammeh had held office longer than any other current president in the grouping of states. The African Union and UN Security Council supported the military intervention.
Guinea’s President Alpha Conde and Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz went to Banjul on Friday.
“The accord sees the departure of Jammeh from Gambia for an African country with guarantees for his family, those close to him and himself. He can come back to the country as he pleases,” Aziz was quoted as saying by the Mauritanian state news agency.
Gambia’s Atlantic beaches make it a holiday destination for Europeans. Tourism is a mainstay in the country of 1.8 million and the economy is otherwise reliant on peanut production and remittances from overseas.
The economy is expected to grow 4.5 percent in 2017, bouncing from a projected contraction of 4.0 percent last year, according to World Bank figures.

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