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File Photo: People ride on a motorcycle near a burning barricade as Haitians mount a nationwide strike to protest a growing wave of kidnappings, days after the abduction of a group of missionaries, in Port-au-Prince, in Haiti October 18, 2021

A Haitian gang that kidnapped a group of American and Canadian missionaries is asking for $17 million to release them, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing a Haitian official.

Justice Minister Liszt Quitel said the FBI and Haitian police are in contact with the kidnappers and seeking the release of the missionaries abducted over the weekend outside the capital Port-au-Prince by a gang called 400 Mawozo, the Journal reported.

Negotiations could take weeks, Quitel told the Journal.

The group of 16 Americans and 1 Canadian includes six women and five children. They were abducted in an area called Croix-des-Bouquets, about 8 miles (13 km) outside the capital, which is dominated by the 400 Mawozo gang.

Five priests and two nuns, including two French citizens, were abducted in April in Croix-des-Bouquets and were released later that month.

Quitel told the Journal that a ransom was paid for the release of two of those priests.

Kidnappings have become more brazen and commonplace in Haiti amid a growing political and economic crisis, with at least 628 incidents in the first nine months of 2021 alone, according to a report by the Haitian nonprofit Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, or CARDH.

Haitians on Monday mounted a nationwide strike to protest gang crime and kidnappings, which have been on the rise for years and have worsened since the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

Shops were open again on Tuesday in Port-au-Prince and public transportation had starting circulating again. Transport sector leaders had pushed for the strike, in part because transport workers are frequent targets of gang kidnappings.

The FBI said in a statement on Monday that it is part of a U.S. government effort to get the Americans involved to safety.

Kidnappings in Haiti rarely involved foreigners.

The victims are usually middle-class Haitians who cannot afford bodyguards but can nonetheless put together a ransom by borrowing money from family or selling property.

The growing crisis in Haiti has also become a major issue for the United States. A wave of thousands of Haitian migrants arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border last month, but many were deported to their home country shortly after.

REUTERS
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Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki delivers a speech during a debate on Poland's challenge to the supremacy of EU laws

Poland’s prime minister repeatedly came under criticism during a tense debate in the European Parliament on Tuesday, with the EU’s chief executive warning Warsaw that its challenge to the supremacy of the 27-nation bloc’s law would not go unpunished.

“You’re arguments are not getting better. You’re just escaping the debate,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, visibly exasperated with Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki after more than four hours of back-and-forth.

Von der Leyen said a ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal last week that parts of European Union law are incompatible with the Polish constitution was “a direct challenge to the unity of the European legal order”.

She laid out three options for a response to the Polish court’s attack on the primacy of EU law, ranging from legal action to a cut in funding and suspension of voting rights.

Brussels has long complained that the Polish government is undermining the independence of its judiciary, but the court ruling has turned a stand-off into a full-blown crisis, raising fears that Poland could eventually leave the bloc.

Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice party says it has no plans for a “Polexit” and – unlike Britain before its Brexit referendum in 2016 – popular support for membership of the EU remains high in Poland.

In an open letter sent before his appearance at the EU assembly in Strasbourg, France, Morawiecki complained of EU mission creep that would lead to a “centrally managed organism, governed by institutions deprived of democratic control”.

He doubled down on that in the parliament debate on Tuesday, accusing the bloc of overstepping its authority.

“EU competencies have clear boundaries, we must not remain silent when those boundaries are breached,” he said. “So we are saying yes to European universalism, but we say no to European centralism.”

OPTIONS FOR ACTION

Von der Leyen said she was “deeply concerned” by the Polish court ruling, as it “calls into question the foundations” of the EU and the European Commission was compelled to act.

She said a first option for action was a so-called infringement, where the European Commission legally challenges the Polish court’s judgment, which could lead to fines.

Another option was a conditionality mechanism and other financial tools whereby EU funds would be withheld from Poland.

Until Warsaw’s clash with Brussels is resolved, it is unlikely to see any of the 23.9 billion euros in grants and 12.1 billion in cheap loans that it applied for as part of the EU’s recovery fund after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EU could even eventually block Polish access to EU grants for development and structural projects in the 2021-2027 budget worth around 70 billion euros.

Von der Leyen said a third option was the application of Article 7 of the EU’s treaties. Under this, rights of member states – including the right to vote on EU decisions – can be suspended because they have breached core values of the bloc.

A succession of members of the EU parliament stood up to castigate the Polish leader after he spoke, and some EU ministers meeting in Luxembourg joined the chorus of criticism.

Finland’s minister for European affairs said compromise could not be the solution and the European Commission must act.

“We do not want to escort anyone out,” Tytti Tuppurainen told reporters. “We respect the wish of the Polish people to be inside the EU and continue as members of the EU, but we will not compromise the value base of the EU.”

REUTERS
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With electric car sales soaring and regulations increasingly favouring zero-emission vehicles, a flurry of announcements on Monday showed how the global auto industry has kicked into a higher gear as it races to speed past the fossil-fuel car era.

As part of its own 30 billion euro ($34.7 billion) electrification plan Stellantis (STLA.MI) – born out of a merger of PSA and Fiat Chrysler earlier this year – said it had entered a preliminary agreement with battery maker LG Energy Solution to produce battery cells and modules for North America, where the world’s No. 4 automaker expects more than 40 per cent of its U.S. sales will be electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030.

That follows a recent announcement that Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) will take a 33 per cent stake in battery cell manufacturer Automotive Cells Company (ACC), founded in 2020 by Stellantis and TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) in 2020.

Carmakers are racing to secure battery supplies as they switch to electric, with dozens of new battery plants planned across Europe and America.

Ford Motor Co’s (F.N) plans to go electric in Europe received a boost on Monday as the company said it would invest up to 230 million pounds ($316 million) to retool an engine factory in northern England to produce electric car power units instead of combustion-engine transmissions.

The No. 2 U.S. carmaker has said its car lineup in Europe will be all-electric by 2030.

Companies like Mercedes-Benz Daimler maker have warned that shifting to electric will cost jobs at combustion-engine plants, so Ford’s announcement is a boost for workers making fossil-fuel engines at its Halewood plant near Liverpool.

The shift to electric has also been accompanied by changes in the automotive landscape, with a large number of startups hoping to become the next Tesla Inc (TSLA.O).

That has attracted the attention of Taiwan’s Foxconn (2317.TW), which has ambitious plans to diversify away from its role of building consumer electronics for Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and other tech firms.

Indeed, Foxconn unveiled its first three EV prototypes on Monday – an SUV, a sedan and a bus – made by Foxtron, a venture between Foxconn and Taiwanese car maker Yulon Motor Co Ltd (2201.TW).

It first mentioned its EV ambitions less than two years ago and has moved relatively quickly, this year announcing deals to build cars with U.S. startup Fisker Inc (FSR.N) and Thailand’s energy group PTT Pcl (PTT.BK).

The need for speed was also a reason Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) had Tesla CEO Elon Musk address top executives at the German carmaker over the weekend.

Volkswagen’s CEO Herbert Diess has made no secret of his ambitions to chase and overtake Tesla, the world’s leading electric carmaker.

But in a Linkedin post, Diess said he had invited Musk as a “surprise guest” to drive home the point that VW needs faster decisions and less bureaucracy for what he called the biggest transformation in the company’s history.

REUTERS
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File Photo: General view of El Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain

Survivors of a mass food poisoning four decades ago occupied Madrid’s El Prado art gallery for a few hours on Tuesday, threatening to commit suicide if their demands for aid and attention were unmet.

A photo showed six people – one in a wheelchair – holding a banner in front of “Las Meninas”, a painting by Spanish painter Diego Velazquez. Others gathered outside.

Police detained two of the protesters and the others left the museum around noon, the association “We Are Still Alive”, which defends victims, told Reuters.

They were protesting against the “humiliation” and “abandonment” from the government, the association said on its Twitter account.

“Six hours after the start of our presence here, we will start ingesting pills,” the association had warned, without giving a precise time.

The group’s demands included a meeting with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and mediators by the end of October, and money to cover medical expenses for surviving victims of one of the world’s biggest food poisoning scandals.

The poisoning killed 5,000 people and affected another 20,000, mostly with incurable conditions, it said.

‘WE ARE SICK’

There was no immediate comment from the Spanish government or the Prado. The protesters said they chose the museum because culture had helped victims to cope.

“We are sick. Physically, we are 20 years older than our IDs say,” one woman said outside.

The substance was originally for industrial use but was adulterated and illegally sold as olive oil, mostly in street markets, starting in Madrid then spreading to other areas.

Symptoms ranged from lung failure and limb deformation to the destruction of the body’s immune system.

Many survivors were crippled for life.

About 100,000 individuals were exposed and clinical disease occurred in 20,000 people, 10,000 of whom were hospitalized, according to Science Direct website.

More than 300 victims died, it said.

REUTERS
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Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania

Turkish prosecutors ordered the arrest of 158 suspects including 33 serving soldiers in an operation targeting people allegedly linked to a Muslim preacher who Turkey says was behind a 2016 failed coup, state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Tuesday.

The investigation, stretching across 41 provinces, was part of a five-year-old crackdown against the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. He denies any involvement in the putsch of July 2016, in which more than 250 people were killed.

So far 97 people have been detained in the latest operation, Anadolu said. The suspects included 110 military students who were expelled in the wake of the coup attempt, as well as 48 serving and former military personnel.

Following the failed military takeover, about 80,000 people were held pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others were sacked or suspended. More than 20,000 people have been expelled from the Turkish military.
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A magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck near the sea off the Greek island of Karpathos early on Monday.

According to the Geodynamic Institute of the National Observatory of Athens, the quake occurred at 8.32am. The epicentre was 156 km southeast of Karpathos, 300 km east of Heraklion, Crete, at a depth of about 66.3 km.

The quake was also felt Cyprus.

And in a written announcement, the Cyprus Geological Survey Department reported a 6.1 magnitude quake 350 km west of Cyprus.

“Despite the large distance of the epicentre from Cyprus, this quake was felt in many parts of the island, mainly by residents of large buildings,” it said.

The department said it was monitoring the situation.

There were no immediate reports of any damage or injuries.

The quake also shook, Beirut, Cairo and other cities in Egypt, parts of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and the region around southern Turkey’s Antalya, Reuters witnesses said.

Two powerful quakes rattled Crete in recent weeks, killing one person and damaging buildings.

Cyprus Mail
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FILE PHOTO: Lawyers and supporters of the Gezi solidarity group gather in front of the Justice Palace, the Caglayan Courthouse, as a Turkish court began the re-trial of philanthropist Osman Kavala REUTERS/Dilara Senkaya/File Photo

Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned the ambassadors of 10 countries, including the United States, Germany and France, over a statement calling for the urgent release of philanthropist Osman Kavala, state-owned Anadolu agency said on Tuesday.

The statement, shared by some of the embassies on Monday, called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, four years after he was jailed, saying the case “cast a shadow over respect for democracy.”

Kavala, a businessman, has been in jail in Turkey for four years without being convicted, despite the European Court of Human Rights calling for his release.

He was acquitted last year of charges related to nationwide protests in 2013, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges in another case related to a coup attempt in 2016.

Rights groups have described the trials against Kavala as symbolic of a crackdown on dissent under President Tayyip Erdogan.

“The continuing delays in his trial, including by merging different cases and creating new ones after a previous acquittal, cast a shadow over respect for democracy, the rule of law and transparency in the Turkish judiciary system,” the embassies said in the statement.

“Noting the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights on the matter, we call for Turkey to secure his urgent release,” the statement said.

The other countries named in the statement were Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland and New Zealand.

In response, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Turkey is a democratic state of law. “Ambassadors making a recommendation and suggestion to the judiciary in an ongoing case is unacceptable,” he said on Twitter

“Your recommendation and suggestion cast a shadow on your understanding of law and democracy,” Soylu said.

Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said diplomats need to respect laws and ambassadors cannot make suggestions to courts.

The Council of Europe has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.

The next hearing in the case against Kavala, who has denied all charges, and others will be held on Nov. 26.

REUTERS
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Novak Djokovic has won the season's opening Grand Slam a record nine times, including the last three editions

World number one Novak Djokovic once again declined to reveal whether he has been vaccinated against Covid-19 and said he was unsure if he would defend his title at next year’s Australian Open.

The state of Victoria, where the Grand Slam event takes place in Melbourne, has introduced a vaccine mandate for professional athletes, although authorities have not yet clarified what the requirement will be for those coming from abroad.

“Things beings as they are, I still don’t know if I will go to Melbourne,” Djokovic told the online edition of Serbian daily Blic.

“I will not reveal my status whether I have been vaccinated or not, it is a private matter and an inappropriate inquiry.

“People go too far these days in taking the liberty to ask questions and judge a person. Whatever you say ‘Yes, no, maybe, I am thinking about it’, they will take advantage.”

Djokovic has won the season’s opening Grand Slam a record nine times, including the last three editions.

The 34-year-old last competed at the U.S. Open, where his bid to complete the calendar slam — winning all four majors in the same year — was ended by Russian Daniil Medvedev in the final.

Djokovic, who is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on a record 20 Grand Slam titles, said he plans to compete in the Paris Masters, the season-ending ATP Finals in Turin and the Davis Cup before the end of 2021.

“Of course I want to go, Australia is my most successful Grand Slam tournament. I want to compete, I love this sport and I am still motivated,” he said.

“I am following the situation regarding the Australian Open and I understand the final decision (on COVID-related restrictions) will be made in two weeks. I believe there will be a lot of restrictions just like this year, but I doubt there will be too many changes.

“My manager, who is in contact with the Australian Tennis Federation, tells me they are trying to improve the conditions for everyone, both for those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.” 

REUTERS