Wednesday, 5 August 2020: At least 78 dead and thousands injured after explosion in Beirut, EU opens investigation into Google’s acquisition of Fitbit, Brexit drives Brits to the EU


At least 78 dead and thousands injured after explosion in Beirut: A massive explosion ripped through central Beirut on Tuesday, killing dozens of people, injuring thousands and blowing out windows in buildings across the city. Officials said they expected the death toll to rise further as emergency workers dug through rubble. The Lebanon defence council declared the port area of the country’s capital a disaster zone. Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said a shipment of ammonium nitrate estimated at 2,750 tons had been stored for six years at the port without safety measures. He called for an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday and said a two-week state of emergency should be declared. Several countries have offered assistance to Lebanon.,,

EU opens investigation into Google’s acquisition of Fitbit: The European Commission will carry out a full-scale probe into Google’s takeover of Fitbit. The EU is concerned that the proposed transaction would further entrench Google’s market position in the online advertising markets by increasing the already vast amount of data that Google could use for personalisation of ads. EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement: “Our investigation aims to ensure that control by Google over data collected through wearable devices as a result of the transaction does not distort competition.” The Commission singled out online search and display advertising services and ad tech services, where analytics and digital tools are used in digital advertising, as two areas that would be affected by the deal.,,

Brexit drives Brits to the EU: The number of Britons moving to EU countries soared after the Brexit vote in 2016, according to a UK-German study released Tuesday. It found that migration from the United Kingdom to other EU countries rose from about 57,000 a year in 2008-2015 to more than 73,000 a year in 2016-2018 – an increase of 30%. Spain saw the largest number of UK arrivals, followed by France.

European Central Bank committed to stimulus: The European Central Bank is committed to supporting the euro zone’s economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, using its massive bond purchases as its main tool, chief economist Philip Lane said on Tuesday. He downplayed a recent rebound in economic data, warning a full recovery would take a long time and require stimulus from the ECB as well as governments to compensate for households incomes declining and jobs being destroyed.

German frigate joins EU mission Irini: On Thursday, the navy frigate “Hamburg” left port to join the EU mission “Irini” to enforce the arms embargo on Libya. 250 sailors are aboard the frigate, the first German naval asset to join the EU operation, which began in early May. Germany’s opposition has criticised the mission, with Green party politician Katja Keul doubting that the arms embargo can be effectively implemented: “Most of the arms for the recognised government, which is supplied by Turkey, come from the Mediterranean, while the Arab Emirates and Egypt deliver the weapons across the land border.”,

Majority of Germans support US troop withdrawal: A YouGov poll shows that 47% of Germans are in favour of reducing the number of US soldiers stationed in Germany. Around 25% would support a complete withdrawal of American troops. Only a third of Germans surveyed would like all US soldiers to remain in Germany. Along party lines, it is mostly voters of the governing conservative CDU/CSU alliance that are against a reduction of US soldiers in Germany. The voters of all other parties, especially the country’s opposition parties, want the troops to be withdrawn.

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Spain’s former king Juan Carlos possibly fled to the Dominican Republic: Former Spanish king Juan Carlos has abruptly left his homeland for the Dominican Republic amid a corruption scandal, according to Spanish media. The royal palace had announced on Monday that Juan Carlos, who abdicated in 2014 over a previous scandal, was leaving the country so that his personal affairs would not overshadow his son King Felipe’s reign. “La Vanguardia” said Juan Carlos, who is keeping the title of King Emeritus, left the palace on Sunday, before going to Portugal by car on Monday and flying on to the Dominican Republic. Juan Carlos’s Cuban millionaire friend Pepe Fanjul owns a luxurious hotel complex in the Caribbean state.,,

German politician forced to stop Moria refugee camp visit: German state premier Armin Laschet cut short his visit to Greece’s Moria refugee camp on Tuesday amid security concerns. Laschet had originally planned to visit the slum-like area of the overcrowded camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. But he heeded security advice telling him not to go to that part of the island after migrants from Afghanistan and Africa crowded around and started shouting “free Moria.” A security official said the camp residents had mistaken Laschet for the “prime minister of Germany,” according to sources from the delegation. Laschet said given the conditions in the camp, refugees projected their hopes onto every politician who visited, regardless of their nationality. He reiterated that Europe must not leave Greece alone.,

Germany drops travel warnings for some Turkish provinces: Germany has partially lifted a warning against Turkey as part of a deal to help revive tourism between the two countries, the foreign ministry in Berlin said on Tuesday. It said it was dropping warnings against travel to Antalya, Izmir, Aydin and Mugla on the Mediterranean. Turkey will also require all travellers leaving for Germany to show a negative coronavirus test result obtained within the previous 48 hours, the ministry added.

Masks required in Amsterdam and Rotterdam: Amsterdam and Rotterdam are the first Dutch cities to introduce a mask requirement. It will apply to particularly busy squares, streets and shops, the two cities announced on Thursday. The decision comes in response to a spike in infections and concerns that the large number of tourists in Amsterdam’s historic centre make social-distancing difficult.

Second coronavirus wave highly likely to hit France: A second wave of the coronavirus epidemic is highly likely to hit France in the autumn or winter, the government’s top scientific body warned on Tuesday. The warning came as an increasing number of French cities decided to make mask-wearing mandatory in crowded outdoor areas.

Italy: Only 2.5% of Italians have Covid-19 antibodies, government study shows
Poland reports record increase in coronavirus cases as coal mines hit
Greece: Biggest increase in infections in weeks


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Spain’s tourism industry collapses: While more than 8.8 million tourists visited Spain in June 2019, just over 200,000 people came to visit the country this June. That is a decline of almost 98%. There is no improvement in sight for August. Many hotels and restaurants in tourist areas are staying closed.


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