News Trending

The Speaker of Poland’s upper house of parliament, Tomasz Grodzki, has urged the government to disclose its knowledge regarding an escalating scandal involving cash for visas. Grodzki expressed concern that the issue was damaging Poland’s international image as a responsible democracy.

Reports suggest that migrants paid substantial sums, up to $5,000 (£4,000) each, to expedite their work visa applications. While seven individuals have been charged in connection with the scandal, none of them are public officials.

The Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland, Piotr Wawrzyk, was dismissed last week in the wake of these allegations. His removal coincided with a search of the foreign ministry conducted by Poland’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA). The director of the ministry’s legal service was also terminated.

In response to the scandal, the foreign ministry announced the termination of all contracts with outsourcing companies responsible for handling visa applications since 2011. Opposition MPs allege that as many as 250,000 visas for individuals from Asia and Africa were irregularly issued through these outsourcing companies, a claim disputed by the government, which maintains that only several hundred were involved.

Donald Tusk, the leader of the opposition Civic Platform party, criticized the government’s migration policy, stating that anyone seeking to travel from Africa to Poland could easily obtain a visa at the embassy. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki dismissed these allegations, asserting that there is no widespread issue.

Speaker Grodzki characterized the scandal as the most significant Poland has faced in the 21st century, with corruption reaching the highest levels of government, posing a direct threat to the country. Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro downplayed the scale of the problem in an interview with state-run news channel TVP Info.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) became aware of the matter in July 2022 and has been conducting investigations since then. This scandal has the potential to cast a shadow over the Law and Justice party’s (PiS) anti-immigration stance ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for the next month. While PiS currently leads in polls, it remains uncertain whether they can secure the outright majority required to continue governing for a third term.

Picture Courtesy: google/images are subject to copyright

News Sports Trending

A Spanish court has issued a restraining order against Luis Rubiales, the former head of Spain’s football federation, preventing him from approaching footballer Jenni Hermoso within 200 meters.

The order came as the court considers allegations of sexual assault and coercion against Rubiales after he kissed Hermoso on the lips following Spain’s Women’s World Cup victory. Rubiales denies the accusations, insisting the kiss was consensual.

He recently resigned from his position, and this incident has cast a shadow over the national team, leading to ongoing disputes and a potential boycott. Prosecutors have submitted charges of sexual assault and coercion, citing pressure on Hermoso to defend Rubiales after the incident.

The case’s outcome may be influenced by Spain’s recent legal reforms regarding consent. Hermoso is set to provide testimony, and videos from the event will be crucial in determining if the case goes to trial.

Picture Courtesy: Google/images are subject to copyright

News Technology Trending

Following concerns about radiation levels, France’s digital minister, Jean-Noel Barrot, has announced that Apple will release a software update for iPhone 12 users in the country.

Sales of the iPhone 12 were temporarily halted in France due to excessive electromagnetic radiation detected by regulators, prompting Apple to address the issue with a specific software update for French users. The update will undergo testing by the radio frequency regulator (ANFR) before the iPhone 12 can be reintroduced to the French market.

Apple maintains that the radiation concerns stem from France’s unique testing protocol and do not pose a safety risk. This development has raised questions about the iPhone 12’s status in other countries. The World Health Organization has previously stated that low-level electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile phones are not harmful to humans.

Apple intends to contest the ANFR’s review, providing lab results to support its compliance with global emissions regulations. However, this issue may have implications for other EU countries, as regulators in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany are now investigating similar concerns.

Picture Courtesy: Google/images are subject to copyright

News Trending

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is now facing charges for disregarding a police directive to disperse during a protest at a bustling Swedish port. This comes several months after she was previously found guilty of a similar offense. In July, she received a fine for her refusal to leave a demonstration that obstructed a road used for oil transport from Malmo harbor.

Following this earlier conviction, Ms. Thunberg and fellow activists returned to the port and were once again forcibly removed by law enforcement. Her second trial is slated for September 27th.

In an official statement, Swedish prosecutor Isabel Ekberg asserted that the demonstration on July 24th had not received authorization and had disrupted traffic flow. During this protest, Ms. Thunberg had joined forces with the group Reclaim the Future in southern Sweden, aiming to impede the movement of vehicles to protest against the utilization of fossil fuels. This demonstration unfolded just hours after Ms. Thunberg had been fined 2,500 Swedish Krona (£180; $224) for her involvement in a protest at the same port on June 19th.

Picture Courtesy: Google/images are subject to copyright

News Trending

Spanish authorities have apprehended a man on suspicion of sexually assaulting a journalist during a live television broadcast. Isa Balado was reporting on a robbery in Madrid when the man allegedly touched her, which he denied when confronted. The incident was acknowledged by the program’s host, Nacho Abad, who labeled the man an “idiot” and had him appear on camera with Ms. Balado. She expressed her frustration at his inappropriate actions and continued her live report. The man later denied the accusation and even attempted to tickle her head as he walked away.

Police subsequently confirmed the arrest of a man for allegedly assaulting a reporter during a live television show. Mediaset España, the news channel’s owner, expressed support for Ms. Balado and condemned the “absolutely intolerable situation” she endured, firmly denouncing any form of harassment or aggression.

Spain’s Labor Minister, Yolanda Díaz, also condemned the incident, emphasizing that it should not go unpunished and attributing such behavior to machismo, with aggressors showing no remorse in front of the camera.

This incident occurred amidst a broader controversy in Spain following former Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales’ controversial kiss with World Cup winner Jenni Hermoso during the Women’s World Cup final, leading to widespread criticism, his subsequent resignation, and legal action over allegations of sexual assault and coercion.

Picture Courtesy: Google/images are subject to copyright

News Trending

France is poised to implement a ban on disposable e-cigarettes, known locally as ‘puffs,’ due to concerns about their impact on the environment and public health. Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne announced this move as part of a broader anti-smoking plan developed by the government, with the ban expected to take effect by year-end. Similar bans have been announced in several other European countries, including Germany, Belgium, and Ireland, with the UK also reportedly considering such a prohibition.

These disposable vapes, available at tobacconists in France for approximately €9 (equivalent to £7.70), claim to provide around 600 puffs, roughly equivalent to 40 traditional cigarettes. However, France’s National Academy of Medicine has criticized them as a ‘deceptive lure for children and adolescents,’ arguing that they instill smoking-related behaviors in young users.

Critics accuse manufacturers, many of which are based in China, of deliberately targeting teenagers with colorful designs and a variety of flavors reminiscent of a candy store, such as marshmallow, chocolate, hazelnut, watermelon, and ice candy. According to the Alliance Against Tobacco (ACT), 13% of 13-16-year-olds in France have tried disposable e-cigarettes at least once, with most starting around the ages of 11 or 12.

Campaigners argue that the ban is a significant victory, as disposable e-cigarettes serve as a gateway to smoking for young people. Loïc Josseran, ACT president, emphasizes the tobacco industry’s role in this trend, describing it as a deliberate effort to entice children.

Environmental concerns have also been raised, as disposable e-cigarettes contribute to ecological damage. In the UK, a study by the environmental organization Material Focus found that over one million of these devices were discarded weekly. French doctors and environmentalists have called disposable e-cigarettes an ‘environmental plague,’ citing their plastic construction, non-removable lithium batteries, nicotine content, and traces of heavy metals.

Picture Courtesy: Google/images are subject to copyright

News Trending

Austria’s former Foreign Minister, Karin Kneissl, known for her pro-Russian stance, is relocating to St. Petersburg, Russia, accompanied by her two ponies.

Karin Kneissl had previously been residing in Lebanon but left her government position amid a scandal involving the far-right Austrian party that appointed her.

She explained that her ponies were transported to St. Petersburg via a Russian military transport plane from Syria.

Ms. Kneissl disclosed that her decision to move to Russia was driven by her role in managing a think tank at St. Petersburg University, which she co-founded. She emphasized the dedication required for this work and her inability to carry it out remotely.

When asked about her move to Russia’s second-largest city, she declined to provide further comment. However, on social media, she mentioned that her stay in Lebanon had been temporary “to survive” while she commuted to Russia for teaching.

Ms. Kneissl is renowned for her love of animals and cited sanctions against Syria and the security situation there as the reasons for using a military transport plane to bring her ponies and belongings to Russia.

The Leningrad region’s veterinary department confirmed that the ponies had undergone examinations and were placed in quarantine.

Karin Kneissl served as Austria’s Foreign Minister from 2017 to 2019, appointed as an independent by Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, which has close ties to Russia.

She gained international attention in 2018 when she invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to her wedding in southern Austria, with photographs showing her dancing with him.

Ms. Kneissl announced her move to Russia while attending the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, an annual event aimed at encouraging investment in Russia’s far east. During the forum, she was seen appearing to fall asleep while listening to President Putin’s keynote speech.

Karin Kneissl is a regular commentator on the Russian state-backed news channel RT and served as a board member of the state-owned oil company Rosneft.

She left Austria in 2020, citing death threats and a de facto ban on working in the country.

Her departure followed the collapse of the government coalition between the conservatives and the far-right Freedom Party in 2019, triggered by a scandal involving FPÖ leader Heinz Christian Strache, who was filmed allegedly promising government contracts to a woman posing as a niece of a Russian oligarch at a villa in Ibiza.

Currently, the Freedom Party is in opposition but leads in opinion polls, making it a strong contender in upcoming elections. Its new leader, Herbert Kickl, has criticized EU sanctions against Russia, blaming them for the rising cost of living.

Peter Gridling, Austria’s former spymaster from 2008 to 2020, expressed concerns about the Freedom Party’s ties with Russia and warned that the party had not severed its connections with the Kremlin.

Vienna, Austria’s capital, has a longstanding tradition as a hub for espionage, which persists to this day.

Picture Courtesy: Google/images are subject to copyright

News Trending

A recent official investigation into the Roman Catholic Church in Switzerland has revealed nearly 1,000 cases of sexual abuse dating back to 1950. The report, compiled by researchers from the University of Zurich, found that the majority of victims were children, with 56% of them being male. Most of the accused individuals were men, and there was also evidence of a widespread cover-up within the Church.

The study, which was commissioned by Church authorities and conducted over a year, granted access to Church archives and included interviews with victims of sexual abuse. However, the researchers noted that many relevant documents had not been provided. They also uncovered instances of records being destroyed in two dioceses, and some cases of abuse were not documented or archived.

The report suggests that the identified cases represent only a fraction of the actual abuse cases, as many likely went unreported. A significant portion of the abuse occurred during pastoral activities, such as confession, altar service, and religious education in children’s clubs and associations. About 30% of the abuse took place within institutions like Catholic children’s homes, day schools, and boarding schools.

The researchers criticized Church officials, including bishops, for their inadequate response to these cases, often keeping them secret, covering them up, or downplaying their significance. They found evidence of clerics accused of abuse being systematically reassigned to different roles, sometimes abroad, to avoid prosecution, prioritizing the Church’s interests over the safety of parishioners.

This culture of secrecy and protection persisted until the 21st century, when various sex abuse scandals began to surface. Groups representing sexual abuse victims expressed their disappointment in the Church’s actions over the decades, accusing it of prioritizing the institution’s reputation over the well-being of victims.

In response to the report, the president of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference acknowledged that the organization had made numerous excuses and had fallen short in its response to victims’ needs. Church authorities pledged to fund a follow-up project by the University of Zurich, set to begin in 2024.

Picture Courtesy: Google/images are subject to copyright

News Trending

Venice is poised to greenlight a trial €5 (£4.30; $5.35) levy for daily tourists as a strategy to manage tourism. This fee will apply to all visitors aged 14 and above and necessitates advance booking for entry to the city. Simone Venturini, a city council member overseeing tourism, has disclosed that this trial period will take place during peak tourist seasons in the upcoming year.

Venice is grappling with the consequences of excessive tourism, and it’s among Europe’s most visited cities. Its compact size, measuring just 7.6 sq km (2.7 sq miles), hosted nearly 13 million tourists in 2019, according to Italian national statistics. Post-pandemic, visitor numbers are anticipated to surpass pre-pandemic levels.

The primary aim of this fee is to encourage day-trippers to select off-peak days for their visits. However, tourists staying overnight will be exempt from this charge. The city intends to evaluate and potentially refine this fee as necessary.

Earlier this year, Venice was suggested to be included on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites in danger due to the impacts of climate change and mass tourism, which pose a threat of irreversible alterations to the city. In 2021, large cruise ships were banned from accessing the historic center of Venice through the Giudecca canal, a move triggered by a ship collision and concerns over pollution and erosion.

Nonetheless, it remains uncertain whether this daily charge will discourage tourists. Some, like Karina from Germany, don’t see it as a significant burden, while others like Cal, a student from Ireland, find it relatively steep for a day of sightseeing.

Venice is witnessing a growing exodus of residents due to the overwhelming presence of tourists. The shortage of long-term rental options for residents has become a pressing issue, with landlords preferring to rent to tourists during the summer season. Citizen associations, Ocio and Venissa, have conducted studies revealing that the number of beds available for tourists now exceeds those for residents. Many government buildings have been converted into hotels, a transformation that threatens the city’s identity as it shifts towards a tourist-centric model.

Maria Fiano, who heads Ocio, advocates for restrictions on tourist accommodations as a solution to the issue and expresses skepticism about the effectiveness of the daily fee proposed by the town hall, viewing it as a superficial measure.

Picture Courtesy: Google/images are subject to copyright

Art News Trending

A Dutch art detective, Arthur Brand, successfully recovered a stolen Van Gogh painting from a Dutch museum in March 2020, ending a quest spanning three and a half years.

Brand mentioned that the 139-year-old artwork was delivered to him in an unconventional manner: a man showed up at his doorstep with the painting concealed within a pillow and an Ikea bag. He emphasized that this operation was carried out in close coordination with Dutch law enforcement, and they were confident that the person returning the painting was not connected to the theft.

The original theft occurred when an individual used a sledgehammer to break into the Singer museum in Laren, located southeast of Amsterdam, at the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown. The stolen artwork, titled “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring,” had been on loan from a museum in Groningen and is valued at several million euros.

In 2021, a career criminal named Nils M, who lived near Laren, was sentenced to eight years in prison for the theft, but by that time, the painting had already changed hands. DNA evidence linked Nils M to both the theft of the Van Gogh painting and another theft of a Frans Hals painting in Leerdam, near Utrecht.

Intercepted communications revealed that a criminal group had acquired the stolen Van Gogh painting with the intention of using it as leverage to secure reduced prison sentences. Arthur Brand, collaborating closely with Dutch law enforcement, had received images confirming the painting’s existence as early as June 2020.

Eventually, a man in Amsterdam approached Brand and offered to return the painting under the condition of strict confidentiality, as it had become a cumbersome burden for those in possession of it. The exchange occurred at Brand’s residence, with the director of the Groninger museum verifying the artwork’s authenticity at a nearby bar’s street corner.

The painting, upon recovery, was wrapped in a pillow with bloodstains, as the person returning it had injured their finger during retrieval.

The Dutch police’s arts crime unit authenticated the recovered painting, and Andreas Blühm, the head of the Groninger museum, expressed his delight at its safe return. While slightly damaged, the artwork can be restored. Currently, the Van Gogh painting is in the custody of the Van Gogh museum, and it may take several weeks or months before it is ready for public display.

Picture Courtesy: Google/images are subject to copyright