Monday, 19 July 2021: Spyware used to target journalists and activists around the world, EU vaccination campaign is catching up with the US, Merkel tours damages und promises aid after historic western Europe flooding


Spyware used to target journalists and activists around the world: World leaders, human rights activists, journalists, business executives and lawyers across the world have been targeted by authoritarian governments using the hacking software „Pegasus“ sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, according to an investigation by an international consortium of journalists, including The Washington Post, PBS Frontline, the Guardian in England, Le Monde in France, Haaretz in Israel and others. „Pegasus“ is a malware that infects iPhones and Android devices to enable operators of the tool to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones. The leak contains a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that, it is believed, have been identified as those of people of interest by clients of NSO since 2016. The list does not identify who put the numbers on it, or why, and it is unknown how many of the phones were targeted. Among those targeted for hacking were two women connected to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Cecilio Pineda Birto, a Mexican journalist who was slain in 2017. The investigation also suggests the Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán appears to have deployed NSO’s technology as part of his so-called war on the media, targeting investigative journalists in the country as well as the close circle of one of Hungary’s few independent media executives.,,

EU vaccination campaign is catching up with the US: The European Union has now vaccinated more people against COVID-19 with a first dose than the United States, data released on Saturday shows. European officials tweeted figures from Our World in Data showing that 55.6% of EU citizens have had at least one dose, compared to 55.4% in the US. It is the first time the EU figures outpaced those across the Atlantic. EU markets commissioner Thierry Breton noted that half of vaccines made in the bloc have been exported to more than 100 countries overall.,

Turkey condemns EU court ruling on headscarf ban: Turkey on Sunday denounced a judgment by the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ) to allow companies to ban the wearing of headscarves under „certain conditions”. The court ruled that a company could justify its decision if they want to present a neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes. The Turkish Foreign Ministry in a statement said the ruling was a sign of rising Islamophobia at a time Muslim women in Europe are being subjected to increasing discrimination for their religious beliefs.

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US and EU diplomats back rival to acting Haitian prime minister: Key envoys and representatives on Saturday seemed to go over the head of Haiti’s current acting leader by calling on another politician to form a government following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. In a statement, the so-called Core Group urged Ariel Henry, who was designated prime minister by President Jovenel Moise shortly before his 7 July assassination, to form a „consensual and inclusive government.“ Joseph, who had been acting prime minister up to Moise’s death, has managed to stay in power after the assassination. He and his allies argue that Henry, though designated, was not sworn in as prime minister.

OPEC+ agree to keep boosting oil output: OPEC+, the world’s leading oil producers, have agreed on Sunday to extend a slight boost in output. The 23-member group, which also includes Russia, is now set to boost output by 400,000 barrels per day each month, starting with August. The new deal is set to undo the production cuts that OPEC+ made at the start of the pandemic, signalling an eventual return to pre-pandemic production levels.,

Data Governance Act: EU Parliament endorses voluntary data altruism
Afghanistan recalls Pakistan envoy after alleged kidnapping of his daughter
Temple Mount in Jerusalem: Clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police
South Africa: Zuma’s graft trial to resume despite unrest
Russia: Pro-opposition association of human rights lawyers, Komanda 29, suspends work


The German language knows hardly any words for this devastation.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit to flood-stricken areas in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate.


Merkel tours damages und promises aid after historic western Europe flooding: At least 189 people are dead and hundreds more remain missing after catastrophic flooding hit large swaths of western Europe, with tens of thousands unable to return to their homes and many still left without access to power and drinking water. The flooding, caused by unprecedented rainfall, has hit parts of western Germany before shifting to neighbouring Belgium and the Netherlands. More flash floods devastated towns in eastern Germany, Bavaria and Austria over the weekend. By far the most deaths were reported in the western state of Rhine-Palatinate, where 110 people lost their lives, according to a statement issued by Koblenz police on Sunday. During a visit to flood-stricken areas, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Rhineland-Palatinate State Premier Malu Dreyer vowed close coordination between Germany’s federal and state governments. Merkel confirmed that her government would be approving a relief programme on Wednesday. She also promised a stronger government focus on climate protection. While one flood in itself was not an indicator of the climate crisis, Merkel said, the number of such extreme weather events had increased in recent years. Bavarian Premier Markus Söder also warned that Germany must accelerate its programme of climate protection and adaptation. German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said more than 300 million euros in immediate aid will be needed. The city hall of the Israeli capital Tel Aviv lit up in the colors of the German flag — black, red and gold — on Sunday to show support for those affected by the devastating floods.,,,,

German candidate criticised for laughing during flood visit: Armin Laschet, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia and chancellor candidate of Angela Merkel’s centre-right CDU, was heavily criticised on Sunday for laughing in one of the towns that was devastated by the recent floods. As the visibly upset German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier gave a statement to reporters promising aid to flood victims, Laschet and a group of others could be seen standing around in the background engaged in conversation with the state premier laughing enthusiastically. The images caused a backlash from opposition politicians and some members of the public by suggesting Laschet has an empathy gap. Laschet apologised on Twitter, saying his behaviour had been „inappropriate.“ German newspapers reported that Laschet and his companions could not hear what Steinmeier was saying, as the audio did not reach them. But outrage poured on social media and in the Sunday papers, as a distraught country reeled from what Merkel called a „catastrophic“ situation in the flood areas.,,,

French protest against Covid vaccination: Tens of thousands took to the streets throughout France on Saturday to protest against the new COVID-19 rules announced by the government earlier this week. The measures introduced by President Emmanuel Macron’s government include mandatory vaccination for health workers and an obligation for citizens to bring in a health pass for most public places. In Paris, one demonstrator’s blouse read „No to compulsory vaccination, freedom violated!“, while another’s placard said: „Macron, no to the health dictatorship.“

Hundreds of flights cancelled in Portugal due to airport workers’ strike: Two hundred flights were cancelled at Lisbon airport on Saturday at the start of a two-day strike by Groundforce handling company workers, with more cancellations likely before the action ends on Sunday evening, the company that manages Portugal’s airports said. The strike has had a huge impact on the Portuguese flag company TAP, which uses Groundforce’s handling services, but has not affected low cost companies. Groundforce workers are demanding that the handling company, which is in serious financial difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic, pay wages without any delay and this year’s holiday pay. The strike mainly affects the operation of Lisbon airport

Belgium repatriates 6 mothers and 10 children from Syria jihadist camps: Belgium repatriated on Friday ten Belgian children of jihadist fighters and six mothers from Syria, the federal prosecutor said in a statement. The adult women, „who were repatriated at their request,“ were arrested upon arrival, the federal prosecutor said. Five of them were already sentenced in absentia to prison terms by Belgium courts for participation in the activities of a terrorist group. The sixth is under an arrest warrant for the same offence.

Czech Cold War depot for Soviet nuclear warheads reopens to public: The so-called „Atom Museum“ in the Czech Republic is open every Saturday, by appointment. Deep inside the Brdy Highlands forests in the Czech Republic hides the former nuclear warhead depot. Between 1968 and 1990, it was fully under Soviet Army control and no Czech citizen was allowed to enter. Now, it is once again open to the public.

European Asylum Support Office: Germany with the most asylum applications in the EU
Germany has first African swine fever case in farm pigs
Italy considers Covid pass for restaurant visits
Czech gold for future generations?


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Brexit campaigner Farage gets his own TV show: GB News, a British news channel that launched last month as a right-leaning alternative to the BBC and Sky News, said Saturday it has recruited the former leader of the pro-Brexit Ukip Party, Nigel Farage, as a presenter. Hiring the high-profile but divisive Farage, who spent years stoking concerns about immigration and later became Britain’s most prominent supporter of former US president Donald Trump, could be a sign the channel plans to put more emphasis on right-wing politics and “culture war” issues.


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