Diane is a perfectionist. She enjoys searching the internet for the hottest events from around the world and writing an article about it. The details matter to her, so she makes sure the information is easy to read and understand. She likes traveling and history, especially ancient history. Being a very sociable person she has a blast having barbeque with family and friends.
Pope Francis is visiting Strasbourg where he will address the European Parliament and Council of Europe on social and economic issues.
The Pope is expected to speak about anti-immigration sentiment and unemployment during his four-hour trip.
Many of Strasbourg’s Catholics are upset that he will not meet them or visit the city’s cathedral.
Some Catholics have accused the Pope of neglecting Europe since his election in 2013.
Pope Francis visited the Italian island of Lampedusa in July 2013 to meet and pray for illegal immigrants, and went to Albania in September. The Pope has said that he is planning a second visit to France in 2015.
Residents of Strasbourg have been told they can watch both of the pontiff’s speeches on a giant screen that will be installed inside the cathedral, which is celebrating its millennial anniversary.
Pope Francis is making the second papal visit to Strasbourg after Pope John Paul II visited the city in 1988.
Pope John Paul II addressed the European parliament where he was heckled by Northern Irish MEP the Rev Ian Paisley.
During his speech the late Pope called Europe “a beacon of civilization”.
However, Pope Francis has called Europe a “tired” continent which worships the “idol of money”.
In Strasbourg, Pope Francis is expected to call for greater tolerance and inclusion in response to the success nationalist parties have seen in parts of Europe.
In May, several of these parties performed strongly in the European parliamentary elections.
Pope Francis is also thought likely to address Europe’s ongoing economic crisis and the social problems that it has created.
Tunisia is voting in the first presidential election since the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that triggered uprisings across the region.
Twenty seven candidates are in the race, but incumbent Moncef Marzouki and anti-Islamist leader Beji Caid Essebsi are widely seen as the favorites.
The poll forms part of a political transition after the revolution that ousted Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.
A parliamentary vote was held in October.
Tunisia – seen as the birthplace of the Arab Spring – is considered to have had the most successful outcome, with relatively low levels of violence.
Today’s election will deliver the country’s first directly elected leader since the removal of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Most polling stations were opening at 08:00 and due to close 10 hours later.
If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, a run-off round will be held on December 31.
“We were the first to enter this cycle of change which they have called the Arab Spring,” PM Mehdi Jomaa was quoted as saying on the eve of the poll.
“We will be the first [to make the transition] but others will follow,” he added.
Beji Caid Essebsi, from the Nidaa Tounes (Tunisia’s Call) party, is the favorite to win after his party came first in the parliamentary election.
However, critics say Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old who served in the governments of post-independence leader Habib Bourguiba as well as Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, represents the past.
Among the other candidates are Moncef Marzouki, parliamentary Speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar, Republican Party leader Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, female magistrate Kalthoum Kannou and businessman Slim Riahi.
The Islamist party Ennahda, which led Tunisia’s last government but was beaten by Nidaa Tounes in October’s parliamentary election, did not field a candidate.
A statement from Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi spoke of wanting “to avoid deepening polarization or dividing the country”. Ennahda’s rise had led to concerns among more secular-minded Tunisians that Islamists would dominate politics.
Tunisia is still facing the specter of civil unrest and terrorism, with Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou warning of “serious security threats” near the Algerian border where al-Qaeda militants are said to be hiding.
Former deputy head of U.S. Strategic Command Rear Admiral Timothy M. Giardina may have made his own counterfeit $500 poker chips with paint and stickers to feed a gambling habit that eventually saw him banned from an entire network of casinos, AP reported.
The admiral was fired last year as deputy commander of U.S. nuclear forces, but evidence of his possible role in manufacturing the counterfeit chips has not previously been revealed
According to a criminal investigative report, his DNA was found on the underside of an adhesive sticker used to alter genuine $1 poker chips to make them look like $500 chips.
The Navy did not disclose how extensively he gambled.
Timothy M. Giardina was a habitual poker player, spending a total of 1,096 hours – or an average of 15 hours per week – at the tables at the Horseshoe casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in the 18 months before being caught using three phony chips in June 2013.
He was such a familiar figure at the casino, across the Missouri River from his office near Omaha, Nebraska, that some there knew him as “Navy Tim”.
A career submarine officer, Timothy Giardina is a 1979 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.
On July 18, Timothy Giardina was banned from both the Horseshoe and Harrah’s for 90 days, but he returned at least twice to play poker at the Horseshoe before the ban expired. The second time, in October, he was given a lifetime ban from all gambling establishments run by the Horseshoe’s owner, Caesar’s Entertainment Corp.
Six days after he received the lifetime Caesar’s ban, Tim Giardina was kicked out of the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, according to the NCIS records that gave no reason for that expulsion. That casino is not a Caesar’s property.
Timothy Giardina, who remains on the Navy payroll as a staff officer in Washington, was never charged with counterfeiting. Instead he was found guilty in May 2014 of two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer – lying to an investigator and passing fake gambling chips. He was given a written reprimand and ordered to forfeit $4,000 in pay.
The Navy chose not to pursue a court martial because they were uncertain they could get a conviction with the evidence they had, officials said.
In September 2013 Timothy Giardina was quietly suspended from his post at Strategic Command, which he had assumed in December 2011. One month later he was fired and reduced in rank from three-star to two-star admiral.
Bahrain is voting in its first parliamentary elections since Arab Spring protests broke out in 2011.
The government has called on all of the country’s political factions to participate in Saturday’s poll.
However, Shia opposition groups plan to stage a boycott, saying the vote is an attempt to establish “absolute rule”.
Despite being ruled by a Sunni monarchy, the majority of the Bahraini population are Shias.
Disenchanted protesters took to the streets of the capital, Manama, in 2011 to demand greater civil rights.
The protests were stamped out when the government, backed by Saudi tanks, moved in to crush dissent.
Talks to resolve the situation have since collapsed and unrest has continued.
Some 350,000 people are eligible to vote, choosing 40 legislators from among 266 mostly Sunni candidates.
A coalition of opposition groups said it would boycott Saturday’s legislative and municipal elections.
The alliance, which includes al-Wefaq, Bahrain’s most popular opposition group, has called the poll a “sham”.
It has also demanded an elected prime minister who is independent from the ruling al-Khalifa monarchy.
“These elections are destined to fail because the government is incapable of addressing the political crisis,” al-Wefaq member Abdul-Jalil Khalil told the Associated Press news agency.
Bahraini Information Minister Sameera Ebrahim Bin Rajab said that the “door to dialogue will never be shut, including with al-Wefaq” but added: “Violence is not allowed. It is tantamount to terrorism.”
Bahrain is of key strategic importance to Washington and hosts the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.
The election will also be closely watched by Saudi Arabia, which has a large Shia Muslim population in its Eastern Province.
Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has said that pensioners will get free trips to the cinema if his party is returned to power.
Silvio Berlusconi, 78, who is in hospital for an eye operation, has written a letter in which he sets out a host of promises to the elderly, as long as they vote for his Forza Italia party at the next election, Il Messaggero newspaper reports.
As well as pledging to cut taxes and increase pensions, Silvio Berlusconi says pensioners would get free cataract operations and dental implants, as well as “free cinema in the afternoons and train journeys during the week”.
Silvio Berlusconi is currently banned from holding public office after being convicted of tax fraud, and has been doing community service at a care home as part of his sentence.
“We say to our friends in retirement: Do not make the mistake that you made at the last European elections,” he says in the letter.
“You must go and vote. It’s someone of your own age and who loves you who’s telling you himself: Silvio Berlusconi.”
Forza Italia took a drubbing in the European Parliament elections in May, coming third behind PM Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.
Silvio Berlusconi, who famously owns two fluffy white poodles called Dudu and Dudina, has one final sweetener to persuade those older people who share his love of pets: “A free vet’s appointment once a month for your four-legged friends.”
An arrest warrant against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been upheld by a Swedish appeals court.
The Court of Appeal refused Julian Assange’s appeal for the detention order issued in 2010 to be revoked.
Julian Assange, who denies assault allegations, has sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London to avoid extradition.
If he is sent to Sweden, he says he fears charges in the US over the leaking of secret government documents.
Two women in Sweden accuse Julian Assange of assault.
Thursday’s court decision ruled on an appeal against a similar decision by a lower court.
“There is no reason to set aside the detention solely because Julian Assange is in an embassy and the detention order cannot be enforced at present for that reason,” the Svea Court of Appeal in Stockholm said in a statement.
“The reasons for detention still outweigh the reasons to the contrary since Julian Assange is suspected of crimes of a relatively serious nature and there is a great risk that he will evade legal proceedings or punishment if the detention order is set aside.”
The Ecuadorean government granted asylum to Julian Assange in 2012 after the UK Supreme Court refused to reopen his appeal against extradition.
Julian Assange has not been formally indicted in Sweden, but prosecutors want to question him over allegations of sexual misconduct and rape involving two women he met during a visit to the Scandinavian country in 2010.
He denies the allegations and has said they are part of a smear campaign against him.
Julian Assange fears that, if he were extradited to Sweden, he would be extradited again to the US, where he could face charges over the release of thousands of secret documents by WikiLeaks.
Chelsea Manning, an American soldier formerly known as Bradley Manning, was sentenced to 35 years in prison in the US for passing documents to WikiLeaks.
North Korea has responded to a UN move towards a probe into the country’s human rights violations by threatening to conduct a nuclear test.
The North Korean foreign ministry on November 20 accused the US of orchestrating a recent UN resolution calling for the investigation.
North Korea previously conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
Its threat comes as new satellite images emerge indicating fresh activity at a North Korean nuclear facility.
A UN human rights committee on November 18 passed a resolution calling on the Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.
Pyongyang said the resolution was based on “fabricated testimonies” from North Korean defectors and “slander against Pyongyang”.
The resolution’s approval was a “grave political provocation” by the US and such “aggression..is leaving us unable to further refrain from staging a new nuclear test”.
It added that its military deterrence “will be beefed up limitlessly” to guard against the US.
A US State Department spokesman said: “It would certainly be unfortunate to threaten with that kind of activity in response to the legitimate focus on North Korea’s human rights situation by the international community.”
North Korea has previously rejected claims of human rights violations.
Following a UN report alleging the country was committing “unspeakable atrocities”, a Pyongyang official held a rare open briefing last month where he denied the existence of prison camps, and said there were only detention centers.
Tuesday’s resolution drew heavily on the report, which was released in February.
Analysts however say that it is unlikely that the Security Council will allow North Korea to be tried in the ICC, as Russia and China – which voted against the resolution – sit on the Council.
North Korea’s nuclear test threat comes as a US research institute published new evidence that Pyongyang may be restarting a plant that can reprocess nuclear fuel into weapons-grade plutonium.
The US-Korea Institute posted recent satellite images showing activity at a radiochemical laboratory at the Yongbyon facility on 38 North, its website devoted to North Korea analysis.
The pictures show a cooling tower emitting steam, vehicles coming and going, and piles of “grey material” stacked outside a facility believed to be manufacturing fuel.
The US Senate has failed to pass a bill approving the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The Senate voted by 59-41 in favor of the bill, but this was one vote short of the 60 needed to pass it.
The 1,179-mile pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska where it joins pipes running to Texas.
Republicans have vowed to approve the bill next year when the new Congress convenes.
The current Senate is controlled by the Democratic Party, but Republicans will control the next Senate, following gains in elections earlier this month.
President Barack Obama is said to take a “dim view” of the legislation, but has not directly threatened a veto in the event of the bill reaching the White House.
The pipeline project has pitted Republicans and other supporters – who say it will create much-needed jobs – against many Democrats and environmentalists who warn the pipeline will add to carbon emissions and contribute to global warming.
Republicans maintained their majority in the House and gained control of the US Senate during mid-term elections on November 4. But the official start of the new Congress is not until early January.
The bill failed to pass despite all 45 current Republican senators as well as 14 Democrats voting in favor.
The proposed XL pipeline has the same origin and destination as an operational pipe, also called Keystone but takes a more direct route and has a wider diameter.
It would daily carry 830,000 barrels of mostly Canadian-produced oil from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Steele City, Nebraska and then on to the Texas coast for export.
The southern section to the Gulf opened in January 2014.
It is a privately financed project, with the cost of construction shared between TransCanada, an energy company based in Calgary, Alberta, and other oil shippers.
A state department report raised no major environmental objections in February, but the final recommendation was delayed amid a court battle over the project in Nebraska.
The state department is involved because the pipeline would cross an international border.
The Keystone XL pipeline aims to carry some 830,000 barrels of heavy crude a day from the fields in Alberta to Nebraska.
The oil would then be transported on existing pipes to refineries in Texas. The southern section of the project was finished last year.
The bill passed easily in the House last week with a 252-161 vote, but it was not the first time the chamber had voted to approve the project.
The bill’s sponsor, Louisiana Representative Bill Cassidy, is facing a run-off election against incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu for her seat.
Mary Landrieu – among the pipeline’s Democratic supporters – successfully pushed the Senate to hold the vote on the measure on November 18 and urged backing for the measure.
The UN has called for the Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over its human rights record.
The human rights committee passed a motion seeking a probe into alleged crimes against humanity committed by the Pyongyang regime.
The motion still needs to be voted on by the General Assembly itself.
A UN report released in February revealed ordinary North Koreans faced “unspeakable atrocities”.
The UN Commission of Inquiry detailed wide-ranging abuses in North Korea after hearing evidence of torture, political repression and other crimes.
It led to Tuesday’s non-binding vote, which was passed with 111 countries in favor and 19 against, with 55 abstentions.
China and Russia, which hold veto power on the Security Council, voted against the motion.
The resolution also condemned North Korea for its poor human rights record, and urged the Security Council to consider targeted sanctions against those responsible for the crimes.
Michael Kirby, who chaired the report, described the move as “an important step in the defense of human rights”.
“One of the only ways in which the International Criminal Court can secure jurisdiction is by referral by the Security Council. That is the step that has been put in train by the big vote in New York,” he said.
The General Assembly is to vote on the motion in coming weeks.
Diplomats say, however, that long-time ally China would probably use its veto to block the Security Council from referring the case to the ICC.
The UN report said North Korea’s human rights situation “exceeds all others in duration, intensity and horror”.
It said those accused of political crimes were “disappeared” to prison camps, where they were subject to “deliberate starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide”.
The report, based on interviews with North Korean defectors, estimated that “hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished in these camps over the past five decades”.
It included an account of a woman forced to drown her own baby, children imprisoned from birth and starved, and families tortured for watching a foreign soap opera.
North Korea refused to co-operate with the UN report and rejected its conclusions.
Speaking ahead of the vote, a North Korean foreign ministry official warned the committee of the possibility of further nuclear tests.
Penalizing North Korea over human rights “is compelling us not to refrain any further from conducting nuclear tests”, Choe Myong-nam said.
Hong Kong police clashed with a small group of protesters who tried to break into parliament early on November 19.
Protesters used metal barricades to break down a side door at the Legislative Council building (LegCo).
The incident happened hours after bailiffs and police peacefully cleared a section of the main protest camp.
Protesters calling for full democracy have occupied three key sites in Hong Kong for nearly eight weeks.
Dozens of young protesters, some wearing masks, tried smashing in the door shortly after 01:00 AM. Some reportedly managed to enter the building.
Riot police warned protesters to stay back, using red flags, and later used pepper spray to push them back.
There were repeated attempts by protesters to enter the building throughout the night, but they appeared to retreat by daylight.
Democratic lawmaker Fernando Cheung, who was among a group of people who tried to stop the protesters, told Reuters that it was “a very, very isolated incident” as the movement had been peaceful so far.
Student leader Lester Shum, from the Hong Kong Federation of Students, told AFP: “It’s not something we like to see… We call on occupiers to stick firm to peaceful and non-violent principles and be a responsible participant of the umbrella movement.”
The police said they arrested four people, while three officers were injured.
Some protesters said that they attempted the break-in because they were angry about the earlier clearance of part of the main protest site at Admiralty.
Tuesday’s clearance in front of Citic Tower came after the building’s owners were granted an injunction by the high court.
An injunction has also been granted for the clearance of roads at the Mong Kok protest site. The South China Morning Post says hundreds of police are on standby to clear that site as early as Thursday. A third protest site remains at Causeway Bay.
The protesters have been on the streets since early October to demonstrate against a decision by China to screen candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 leadership election. Numbers were originally in the tens of thousands but have fallen to a few hundred.
Indian police is continuing an operation to arrest guru Rampal, after nearly 200 people were injured in clashes at his ashram in Haryana state on November 18.
The self-styled guru is wanted in connection with a 2006 murder case and for contempt of court.
Thousands of his supporters are protecting the Barwala town compound.
Police says armed supporters are holding people hostage and using women and children as human shields.
A week-long stand-off at the Satlok Ashram – some 105 miles north-east of Delhi – escalated on November 18 as police moved in to arrest Rampal.
Police fired tear gas and used bulldozers to try to break into the sprawling complex, while ashram members threw stones and other missiles and opened fire.
More than 100 policemen and 85 devotees of the guru sustained injuries, said police.
The unrest continued on Wednesday morning as several thousand policemen stood outside the ashram.
They have also cut off power and water supplies to the complex.
Reports say that some 60 devotees managed to slip out of the Satlok Ashram, but several hundred are reportedly still held up inside. Police say many are being held against their will.
Mani Ram, a devotee who managed to escape, told the Indian Express newspaper that ashram authorities had prevented them from leaving for two days, insisting police would kill them if they went outside.
A spokesperson for the ashram, Raj Kumar, was quoted as saying in the Indian Express newspaper that “innocent people have lost their lives” in the fighting and that “eight bodies were lying inside the ashram, of which four are women”.
However, Haryana police chief N Vashisth denied there had been any deaths, saying that “we have ensured that no innocent person is harmed, and so far no such casualty has come to our notice”.
Rampal is accused of involvement in a murder case dating from 2006 in which a man died in a clash at another of his ashrams.
He denies these allegations and is on bail, but authorities ordered his arrest on contempt charges after he failed to appear in court several times.
It remains unclear whether he is still inside the complex.
Police says he is, but Raj Kumar said he had already “been shifted out and is undergoing treatment in a private hospital outside the state”.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court had set a final deadline for Rampal to appear in court on November 17 in the contempt case.
Rampal ignored the summons and his lawyers said he was too ill to make the 155-mile journey to the court in Chandigarh, which serves as the capital of both states.
The judges criticized the government, saying they “lacked the will” to arrest the guru and said he must be presented at court by November 21.
Rampal began his life as a junior engineer in the irrigation department in Haryana after picking up a diploma in engineering, according to his website.
Born in a farming family, Rampal was apparently of a “religious nature since his childhood”. He began giving talks to groups of people in 1994. Encouraged by a growing number of devotees, he set up the Satlok Ashram in 1999. The year after that Rampal resigned from his government job.
The guru now has tens of thousands of devotees in several Indian states who have “given up alcohol, marijuana, smoking, meat, egg, and social evils like idol worship… fasting etc, baseless reverences” after becoming his followers, his website says.
Rampal claims that “thousands of people have got their chronic illnesses cured” and “ruined families have become prosperous again” after coming in contact with him.
His website details a number of cases against the guru. They relate to allegedly fraudulent purchase of land, conflicts with some devotees and an alleged case of murder involving the death of a man at another ashram in Rohtak. They dismiss all of these cases as false and fabricated.
Rampal is a tech-savvy guru – his website contains live streaming discourses and offers downloads of a number of his religious books. The website also contains video entitled God has descended to Haryana.