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Malaysia, Australia mark two years of MH370 disappearance

The Malaysian parliament has observed one minute of silence to mark the second anniversary of the plane's disappearance. Australia says it will continue to look for the aircraft. "We hope the relatives of the 239 people, including 50 Malaysians, will remain strong," Pandikar Amin, speaker of the Malaysian parliament, told the audience. Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the current search operation would end later this year. "We remain hopeful that MH370 will be found in the 120,000-square-kilometer (46,332-square-mile) area under investigation," he added. The Australia-led search for the plane, which disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, has not yielded much until now. Last year, a piece of the plane was discovered by chance on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, seemingly having washed up on shore there. Najib said this was further evidence that the plane might have crashed in the Southern Indian Ocean. Frustration at the failure to locate the craft has led some families of passengers to accuse the Malaysian governemnt of witholding information on what happened and treating relatives insensitively, charges denied by the authorities. "But we know that neither the passage of time, nor this evidence, will comfort those whose grief cannot be assuaged," Najib said, adding that his country, together with Australia and China, would determine the way forward if the plane's whereabouts remained elusive. "We remain committed to doing everything within our means to solving what is an agonizing mystery for the loved ones of those who were lost," Najib told the parliament. Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester also said that the three countries remained "hopeful" and that "finding the aircraft would give answers to the world, in particular the families of missing loved ones, about what happened." International investigators were due to release their findings later on Tuesday; global rules require annual updates in such investigations. With the second anniversary also the deadline for legal action against Malaysia Airlines, lawsuits have been filed on behalf of well over 100 next-of-kin in several countries' courts in recent days. The MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014, on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing carrying 239 passengers and crew. The Australia-led search is trying to retrieve the Boeing 777's black boxes, but no crash site has been determined and the countries are trying to wrap up the search within the next few months.

The Malaysian parliament has observed one minute of silence to mark the second anniversary of the plane’s disappearance. Australia says it will continue to look for the aircraft. “We hope the relatives of the 239 people, including 50 Malaysians, will remain strong,” Pandikar Amin, speaker of the Malaysian parliament, told the audience. Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the current ... Read More »

Tsipras marks year in office with vow to implement pension reform

Greek premier Alexis Tsipras has marked one year in office by telling supporters that his pension reform bill must go ahead. Rural waverers among his leftists are threatening to erode his coalition's three-seat majority. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told 4,000 supporters in Athens on Sunday that he was determined to make a pitch for pension reform, despite opposition from farmers, the self-employed and small firm proprietor who will be hit by higher contributions. The reform "must go ahead, it's necessary," said Tsipras, who intends to put the bill to parliament early next month. Tspiras' remarks came on the eve of Monday's one-year anniversary of the election victory of his leftist Syriza party, a year marked by dramatic negotiations with Brussels over Greece's future in the eurozone and unprecedented arrivals of refugees, mainly from war-torn Syria, headed for Western Europe. Pension reform sought by bailout lenders The pension bill is designed to save 1.8 billion euros ($1.7 billion) this year, and is crucial for the first review of Greece's EU-led bailout by international lenders, who have also pressed for tax overhauls. Tsipras has vowed, however, not to trim pensions from current levels, saying they had "already been cut by 40 percent" by previous Greek governments under pressure from key lenders such as the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Farmers, who three years ago hailed Tsipras as an opposition politician, are now widely critical because their payments into Greece's insurance scheme could triple. "He lied, he imposed more taxes than all the others put together," Yiorgos Kostakiopoulos, a wheat and cotton grower, told Reuters on Saturday. "He was here with us, told us that he would fight with us for a dignified income for us and our children," said the father of three. Greece's Labor Ministry recently claimed that many farmers were under-declaring their incomes, leaving the state to top up their pensions by up to 90 percent. Already, as part of broader reforms, fuel subsidies have been slashed and taxes on fertilizer and animal feed increased. Political analyst George Sefertzis told AFP that Tsipras was now facing an uncertain negotiating outcome - exactly what happened to his conservative predecessor Antonis Samaras in his final six months of power in 2014. Dramatic year Tspiras's emerged as Syriza's stalwart in January 2015, vowing a debt revolution. Months of dramatic negotiations with Brussels were followed by re-election in September, again as head of a coalition with the nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, but minus radical Syriza dissenters. In those months, Greece was nearly evicted from the eurozone. The latest surveys show Greece's right-wing opposition resurging in voter support. Tsipras has 153 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament, but Syriza waverers have threatened to erode that three-seat lead to press the views of small-scale farmers. Europe transformed: Tspiras On Sunday, Tspiras claimed that his government's struggle with Brussels had brought long-lasting change to the EU. "Europe is no longer the same," he said, referring to recent anti-austerity swings in electoral sentiment in Spain, Italy and Portugal. At the height of last year's highly public Greece-EU row, Tspiras argued that debt-swamped Greece would never recover if bailout lenders forced it to just make spending cuts and hike taxes, without investments. In July, Tsipras ousted his outspoken Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and signed another rescue package worth 86 billion euros coupled with spending cuts. On Friday, Standard and Poor's raised its credit rating for Greek debt by one notch - up to B- from CCC+, removing Greece from default vulnerability.

Greek premier Alexis Tsipras has marked one year in office by telling supporters that his pension reform bill must go ahead. Rural waverers among his leftists are threatening to erode his coalition’s three-seat majority. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told 4,000 supporters in Athens on Sunday that he was determined to make a pitch for pension reform, despite opposition from ... Read More »

Man shot dead at Paris police station was carrying ‘IS’ flag, says prosecutor

French prosecutors say a man carrying an "Islamic State" (IS) flag and a machete has been shot dead outside a Paris police station. The incident happened on the one-year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Paris prosecutor Francis Molins said "the Daesh flag (an Arabic acronym for the group calling itself Islamic State) and a clear written claim in Arabic" were found on the man, who appeared at a police station in the north of the French capital on Thursday morning. The unidentified man, who was armed with a meat cleaver and a fake bomb vest, was shot dead by police after threatening officers. Paris resident Alexis Mukenge told the news channel iTele that police told the man, "Stop. Move back," before firing twice. The man immediately dropped to the ground. Paris' Montmartre district Paris' Montmartre disctrict is home to the Sacre Coeur Cathedral A source close to the investigation told news agency Agence France-Presse that the man was wearing a pouch under his coat with a wire hanging from it, but it "contained no explosives." Explosives experts were sent to the scene, close to the Montmartre tourist hotspot, which was cleared during the incident. The man's body was checked by an explosives robot before they approached and gave the all clear. Timed to scare? An interior ministry statement said the man cried out 'Allahu akbar" when he threatened police at 11:30 a.m local time (10:30 UTC), a year almost to the minute after two Islamist extremists burst in the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, gunning down 12 people. The dramatic incident further frayed nerves across France, coming less than two months after multiple Islamist attacks on Paris - claimed by IS - left 130 people dead. Neighborhood resident Nora Borrias said "it's like the Charlie Hebdo affair isn't over," as she waited by police barricade, unable to return home. Two metro lines and several bus services were disrupted; two schools were placed in lockdown and stores in neighborhood streets were told to close temporarily. Prosecutor Molins said that given the circumstance, Thursday's events would be investigated as a possible terrorist attack. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve praised the "remarkable work" of the security forces. Just a few minutes before the shooting, French President Francois Hollande unveiled new anti-terror measures, which will allow off-duty police officers to carry weapons. Meanwhile, Charlie Hebdo has published a special edition featuring a gun-toting God, with the headline: "One year on: the killer is still on the run." Since last January's attacks, the magazine has moved to ultra-secure offices in a secret location.

French prosecutors say a man carrying an “Islamic State” (IS) flag and a machete has been shot dead outside a Paris police station. The incident happened on the one-year anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Paris prosecutor Francis Molins said “the Daesh flag (an Arabic acronym for the group calling itself Islamic State) and a clear written claim in Arabic” ... Read More »

MH17 crash victims remembered on first anniversary

A year after Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was downed over Ukraine, memorial services have been held to remember the 298 victims. Russia and the West remain at loggerheads as to who was responsible. In the Ukrainian village of Hrabove on Friday, around 200 local residents gathered at a church in town before leading a procession to the crash site. Across the globe in Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbot unveiled a plaque, inscribed with the names of the 38 Australian victims. "Today we remember our dead, we thank those who brought them home. But most of all, we acknowledge the suffering of the bereaved," Abbot said in Canberra's Parliament Gardens. "You have had the worst year of your life. Today our nation pauses to acknowledge your tragedy." The plaque was set in soil brought back from the crash site by a police officer. 'This was an atrocity' Earlier on Friday, Sydney's Daily Telegraph released a video which purportedly shows Russian-backed rebels rummaging through the luggage of the MH17 passengers. Abbot said the footage highlighted that "this was an atrocity; it was in no way an accident." Also aboard the flight which was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpa last July, were Dutch, Belgian and Malaysian passengers. The names of all victims from the Netherlands were to be read out by victims' relatives on Friday during a service in the city of Nieuwegein. A similar memorial was held in Kuala Lumpa last Saturday due to the anniversary falling on the same day as the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid-al-Fitr. Blame game between Russia and West Ukrainian and some Western authorities claim that flight MH17 was downed by missile fire from either pro-Russian separatist rebels or Russian troops. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko reiterated the accusation on Friday, saying that the high technology weapon used to shoot down the aircraft"could only have found its way into the hands of rebels via Russia." Poroshenko called it a "moral duty" to "ensure a fair punishment for those guilty in downing the aircraft," saying the crime "represents a threat to the whole international community." Moscow and the rebels have denied the claims, however, saying the Boeing 777 was hit by a Ukrainian warplane or a Ukrainian-fired missile during the ongoing conflict in the east of the country. A criminal probe by detectives from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine is currently underway. All five countries have also asked the United Nations (UN) Security Council to launch an international criminal tribunal to prosecute those responsible for shooting down the plane. Russia, which holds a veto on the Security Council, has opposed a tribunal, however, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying on Thursday said that a tribunal would not make sense while the investigation continued.

A year after Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was downed over Ukraine, memorial services have been held to remember the 298 victims. Russia and the West remain at loggerheads as to who was responsible. In the Ukrainian village of Hrabove on Friday, around 200 local residents gathered at a church in town before leading a procession to the crash site. Across ... Read More »

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