credit to reuters


Venezuela’s symphony of protests

Protesters play violins, flutes and guitars as they take to the streets of Caracas in demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela’s opposition renewed nationwide protests to pressure the president into holding elections and improving a collapsing economy. (Reuters)

Photo credits: Marco Bello/Reuters, Ivan Alvarado/Reuters, Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters (2)

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Hero dogs help rescue survivors after Mexico City quake

Rescue dogs joined search teams to look for trapped survivors after the powerful 7.1 earthquake hit Mexico City on Tuesday, killing at least 245 people.

These canine heroes include the goggle-clad Frida, who has reportedly already saved 52 people and stolen hearts across the globe.

Click through the slideshow above to see more of the dogs’ rescue efforts. (Yahoo News)

Photo credits: Edgard Garrido/Reuters, Carlos Cisneros/AP, Dan Trotta/Reuters

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Simone Veil dies at 89: The legacy of the French Auschwitz survivor and women's rights icon

Simone Veil, the French campaigner and activist, has died at her home on Friday at the age of 89.

Mrs Veil survived Auschwitz and went on to become one of France’s most respected politicians, steering through landmark laws to liberalise contraception and abortion.

Sending condolences to her family, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “May her example inspire our fellow citizens, as the best of what France can achieve.”

Tributes for the former European Parliament president also poured in from Brussels, with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker acclaiming her for “helping build sustained peace in Europe”.

Mrs Veil is credited with securing peace for Europe Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Born Simone Jacob in the Mediterranean city of Nice on July 13, 1927, she was arrested by the Gestapo in March 1944 and deported to Auschwitz with one of her sisters and her mother Yvonne.

The two girls, who were put to work in a concentration camp, survived - as did another sister who was deported for her part in the French Resistance.

Mrs Veil’s mother died of typhoid in Belsen just before the camp was liberated in 1945 and her father and brother were last seen on a train of deportees bound for Lithuania.

“Sixty years later I am still haunted by the images, the odours, the cries, the humiliation, the blows and the sky filled with the smoke of the crematoriums,” Mrs Veil said in a TV interview broadcast in 2005.

After the war, she studied law at Sciences Po, the elite school of political science in Paris, where she met her husband Antoine Veil, who died in April 2013.

The couple had three sons, one of whom, Claude-Nicolas, died in 2002.

As a young judge she lobbied for improvements in prison conditions, and, in 1970, became the first female general secretary of the Council of Magistrates.

At Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2005 with Jacques Chirac  Credit: PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images

It was the springboard for a political career that fundamentally changed France.

In 1971, feminists began a campaign to overturn France’s ban on abortion, attacking the stigma of pregnancy termination and women’s deaths in backstreet operations.

Mrs Veil threw herself into the battle, setting up an organisation to defend women who were prosecuted for abortion.

A member of the centre-right Union for French Democracy, she was named health minister under president Valery Giscard d'Estaing and led a battle that marked her generation: the legalisation of abortion.

Mrs Veil led the charge in the National Assembly, where she braved a volley of insults, some of them likening terminations to the Nazis’ treatment of Jews.

In a chamber where there were just nine women and 481 men, the 25-hour debate is remembered for Veil’s calm, measured opening speech as much as for the hostility of some of her opponents.

One lawmaker accused Mrs Veil of “genocide” and another spoke of embryos “thrown into the crematorium ovens”.

“I did not imagine the hatred I would stir up,” Mrs Veil said in a 2004 interview.

“There was such hypocrisy,” she said. “The assembly was mainly filled with men, some of whom were secretly looking for contacts to arrange an abortion for a mistress or a member of their family.”

Mrs Veil and Mr Chirac leaving the Elysee Palace in 1974 Credit: AFP/Getty Images

The legislation - named the “Loi Veil” (Veil Law) - is today considered a cornerstone of women’s rights and secularism in France.

A staunch believer in European integration, Veil went on to become the first elected president of the European Parliament in 1979, a position she held for three years.

She last held major public office between 1998 and 2007, as a member of France’s Constitutional Council.

Her experience left her with no tolerance for the far-right National Front, and in 1983 she condemned fellow conservative politicians for seeking electoral arrangements with the anti-immigration party.

Among other posts she served from 2000 to 2007 as president of the French Foundation for preserving the memory of the Shoah, or Holocaust.

In the early 1990s she was a member of a delegation which investigated detention camps during the war in the former Yugoslavia.

In 2010, Veil joined the Academie Francaise, the elite intellectual guardians of the French language, becoming only the sixth woman to join the “immortals”, as the 40 members of the academy are known.

Mrs Veil, Mr Chirac and her ceremonial epee Credit: REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Each “immortal” is given a ceremonial sword. Veil’s was engraved with the three things that had imprinted her life.

They were the mottoes of the French Republic and the European Union - and the number 78651, which was tattooed on her arm at Auschwitz.


Wild horse border patrol

Prisoners participating in the Wild Horse Inmate Program train mustangs that will eventually be adopted by the U.S. Border Patrol, providing the agency with inexpensive but agile horses, and inmates with skills and insights they hope to one day carry with them from prison. (Reuters)

Photo credits: Mike Blake/Reuters, Jim Urquhart/Reuters

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Rebuilding Aleppo’s Old City

Aleppo’s Old City, shelled, burned and shot up during years of fighting in Syria’s civil war, can be rebuilt, the local representative of the United Nations cultural body UNESCO said.

“Our vision is to rebuild the Old City exactly as it was before the war, with the same stones where we can,” said Mazen Samman, UNESCO’s associate program coordinator in Aleppo.

There are detailed plans for the Old City’s great medieval mosques, souks, bathhouses and citadel from an earlier restoration that should allow exact reconstruction, he said.

But while that may be true of the most treasured monuments, whole districts of less celebrated alleyways and traditional houses that gave the Old City its character are also now rubble.

Reviving the Old City is important for Syrian President Bashar Assad both as a symbol of the returning power of his state, but also because of Aleppo’s economic importance.

The fighting in Aleppo ended in December when the Syrian army drove out rebels, but they still hold swaths of the country, and Assad’s government is hobbled by Western sanctions.

Now gradual efforts are being made to revive the city, one of the oldest in the Middle East.

The United Nations and international cultural agencies say they are committed to preserving and restoring Syrian heritage, but it will ultimately rely on local effort.

Local government will need to ensure work fits the character of the Old City, both architecturally and in how land is divided between shops, houses and public spaces.

Reconstruction depends on the Old City’s 100,000 former residents choosing to return to their homes and businesses, many of which are now piles of stones and concrete.

But it also requires the skills of Aleppo craftsmen, many of whom left the city during the war, some killed, others departing with the rebels or starting new lives as refugees abroad. (Reuters)

Photo credits: Ali Hashisho/Reuters, Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters, Omar Sanadiki/Reuters

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Supermoon Around the World

Compiled by @sixpenceee @sixpenceeeblog

The moon rises over the ancient Acropolis of Athens


An aeroplane flies past the London Eye on Sunday

Credit: TOBY MELVILLE/Reuters

Supermoon rises over Auckland, New Zealand in August 2014.

Credit: Simon Runting/REX

Supermoon is seen behind the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, in May 2012.

Credit: AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano
Polish senate backs judicial overhaul, defying protests and the EU

Poland’s upper house of parliament approved on Saturday the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party’s Supreme Court reform bill denounced by critics as an unconstitutional move towards authoritarian rule.

The parliament’s upper house voted in favour of a  bill forcing the removal of all Supreme Court judges except for those selected by the justice minister and approved by the president.

Since Thursday, tens of thousands have protested in Warsaw, Poznan, Krakow and other Polish cities in one of the biggest demonstrations since the 2015 election. Some protesters carried Polish and European Union flags chanting “Free Courts”.

Poland’s Supreme Court, its former presidents, the ombudsman, the Polish associations of judges have all denounced the bill as unconstitutional. The head of the European Parliament and president of the European Council expressed concern the bill would erode the independence of courts.

People attend a protest against supreme court legislation in Wroclaw, Poland, Credit: Agencia Gazeta/Reuters

The United States, Poland’s most important ally in NATO, issued a statement urging Poland to ensure any changes respect the constitution.

“We urge all sides to ensure that any judicial reform does not violate Poland’s constitution or international legal obligations and respects the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers,” it said in a statement.

An opinion poll for private television TVN showed on Friday that 55 percent of respondents said President Andrzej Duda should veto the overhaul of the judiciary, 29 percent said he should not veto it.

The government of the EU’s biggest eastern member state has so far dismissed criticism, saying the changes were needed to make courts more accountable and to ensure state institutions serve all Poles, not just “elites”.

Senator Aleksander Bobko, of the right-wing PiS party, said that ending the term of the first Supreme Court president was an obvious violation of the constitution.

“The constitution is so simple and clear here that even my granddaughter would be able to read and understand it,” he told local media.

A protester shouts slogans and gestures by a picture of Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro stuck on wheelbarrow Credit: Wojtek Radwanski/AFP

According to the constitution, the country’s president appoints the first Supreme Court president for a six-year term. The current term ends in 2020.

The ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) has rushed through its systemic overhaul of the top court. The bill was not subject to any public consultation and was passed by the lower chamber just nine days after it was first submitted.

On Wednesday, the EU gave Poland a week to shelve the judicial reforms that Brussels says would put courts under direct government control. If the PiS government does not back down, Poland could face fines and even a suspension of its voting rights, although other eurosceptic EU governments, notably Hungary, are likely to veto strict punishments.

Senior Czech judges denounced the judicial overhaul in Poland as an attack on the rule of law on Friday.



Performance artists hold zombie G20 protest

German police used water cannon to disperse around 500 anti-capitalist protesters overnight in the port city of Hamburg where Chancellor Angela Merkel will host leaders of the G20 leading economies in a two-day summit starting on Friday.

Tens of thousands of protesters are expected to march in the city this week against globalization and what they say is corporate greed and a failure to tackle climate change. German authorities believe around 8,000 demonstrators were prepared to use violence, the interior minister said on Tuesday. Some 20,000 police officers will be deployed.

Hundreds of mainly young left-wing activists gathered and marched on a main street shortly before midnight on Tuesday in the first major protest ahead of the summit, which will be attended by U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Der Spiegel magazine reported that the Germany army fears protesters will use unarmed drones and that it has deployed a radar to locate any possible aerial intrusions.

A spokesman for the German military declined to confirm the report. (AP)

Photo credits: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters (3), Matthias Schrader/AP, Friedemann Vogel-Pool/Getty Images

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