Environmentalists Seek Tougher EU Curbs on Balkan Coal Power Plants

Environmentalists urged EU policymakers on Tuesday to take a tougher stance on air pollution from coal power plants in the Western Balkans, blaming the fumes for 3,900 deaths across Europe each year.

The 16 Communist-era plants with 8 gigawatts (GW) capacity emitted the same amount of sulphur dioxide in 2016 as 250 coal-fired plants with 30 times more capacity in the rest of the European Union, five environmentalist groups said in a report.

Lignite, the most polluting coal, is widely available in the region, providing a cheap energy resource and the major source of energy for Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro.

The countries are members of the Energy Community, which had a commitment to implement EU rules to curb pollution by 2018.

But investments in new power plants or technology to cut emissions have largely been delayed, the report said.

“Air pollution knows no borders and is still an invisible killer in Europe,” said Vlatka Matkovic Puljic, senior health and energy officer at HEAL and the report’s lead author.

“It is high time that EU policymakers step up efforts to clean up the air and decarbonize the power sector,” she said.

The report said the West Balkan power plants caused pollution across the EU and beyond that caused health care costs of up to 11.5 billion euros ($13.02 billion) a year.

The region plans to add 2.7 GW of new coal plant capacity in the next decade, mainly financed by Chinese banks, the report said, adding that most plants would not meet the EU’s pollution control rules.

Governments in the region say they need to expand coal power generation to meet rising demand and ensure energy security and say that new coal plants would emit less greenhouse gases.

The report called for stricter rules to be imposed on the Energy Community and said the European Commission should make meeting those regulations a requirement for joining the EU.

For now, the countries in the Energy Community do not face any penalties if targets are not met.

“Rather than investing in yet more outdated coal power plants, Western Balkan leaders need to … increase the share of sustainable forms of renewable energy,” said Ioana Ciuta, Energy Coordinator at CEE Bankwatch, one of the five groups behind the report.

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Juncker: Hungary’s Ruling Party Doesn’t Belong in Europe’s Center-right

The party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban should leave the mainstream European center-right grouping, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, comparing Orban to French far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The unusually sharp comments, made at a public meeting in Stuttgart, Germany, came after the Hungarian government unveiled a new poster campaign accusing Juncker and philanthropist George Soros of wanting to flood Hungary with migrants.

“Against lies there’s not much you can do,” Juncker replied, adding that Manfred Weber, the European Peoples Party’s lead candidate for the upcoming European elections, would certainly be asking himself “if I need this voice” in the EPP.

Calls have been growing for Orban’s nationalist Fidesz party to be expelled from the EPP, which groups Christian Democratic and center-right parties in the European Parliament, because of Fidesz’s stridently anti-immigration campaigns.

Fidesz’s domestic strength, however, means it has a large delegation in the European legislature, and its removal from the EPP umbrella could erode the center-right’s current dominance of the Strasbourg parliament.

Juncker, previously the longtime center-right prime minister of Luxembourg, said he had called for Fidesz’s exclusion from the EPP.

“They didn’t vote for me in the European Parliament,” he said. “The far right didn’t either. I remember Ms. Le Pen, she said ‘I’m not voting for you.’ I said: ‘I don’t want your vote.’ There are certain votes you just don’t want.”

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Thousands Decry Anti-Semitism in France After Spike in Attacks

Thousands of people rallied across France after a surge of anti-Semitic attacks in recent weeks that culminated on Tuesday with vandals daubing swastikas and anti-Jewish slogans on dozens of graves in a Jewish cemetery.

Political leaders from all parties, including former Presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, gathered in Paris filling the Place de la Republique, a symbol of the nation, to decry anti-Semitic acts with one common slogan: “Enough!” People also lined the streets of cities from Lille in the north to Toulouse and Marseille in the south.

President Emmanuel Macron paid respects at one of the 96 desecrated graves in the village of Quatzenheim, near the eastern city of Strasbourg.

“Whoever did this is not worthy of the French republic and will be punished… We’ll take action, we’ll apply the law and we’ll punish them,” he said, walking through a gate scarred with a swastika as he entered the graveyard.

Macron later visited the national Holocaust memorial in Paris with the heads of the Senate and National Assembly.

France is home to the biggest Jewish community in Europe – around 550,000 – a population that has grown by about half since World War II, but anti-Semitic attacks remain common.

Government statistics released last week showed there were more than 500 anti-Semitic attacks in the country last year, a 74 percent increase from 2017.

“Some people are provoking the authority of the state. It needs to be dealt with now and extremely firmly,” Sarkozy told reporters. “It’s a real question of authority. Violence is spreading and it needs to stop now.”

Among incidents in recent days, “yellow vest” protesters were filmed hurling abuse on Saturday at Alain Finkielkraut, a well-known Jewish writer and son of a Holocaust survivor.

Artwork on two Paris post boxes showing the image of Simone Veil, a Holocaust survivor and former magistrate, was defaced with swastikas, while a bagel shop was sprayed with the word “Juden”, German for Jews, in yellow letters. A tree in a Paris suburb in memory of Ilan Halimi, a young Jewish man kidnapped, tortured and murdered in 2006, was cut in two.

The series of attacks has alarmed politicians and prompted calls for action against what some commentators describe as a new form of anti-Semitism among the far-left and Islamist preachers.

“I call on all French and European leaders to take a strong stand against anti-Semitism,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video message recorded in Hebrew. “It is an epidemic that endangers everyone, not just us.”

A rabbi and three children were killed at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 by an Islamist gunman, and in 2015 four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris were among 17 people killed by Islamist militants.


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Artists Create Contemporary Take on Ancient Art Form

Levitating objects and plastic boxes may not seem to have anything to do with landscape painting, but they are the contemporary take on an ancient Chinese art style called “shan shui hua” or mountain water painting.

Dating back more than 1,000 years, this style of landscape painting, which uses brush and ink, has evolved over time. The art form is evolving once again in an exhibit called “Lightscapes: Re-envisioning the Shanshuihua” at the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles.

The goal of Nick Dong and Chi-Tsung Wu, the two artists in the exhibit, is to connect the new, digital generation to this traditional type of art and to capture its essence in a new way through modern technology. 

The exhibit forces the viewer to slow down and experience a different world. That’s one of the objectives of the ancient masters of Chinese shan shui paintings.

Escape from reality

“Actually, it was for all these artists to create a world which they want to hide, avoid, escape from reality. So, they create a mountain (and) imagine they could live there,” said Dong, an artist born in Taiwan who now lives in Northern California.

Trained in both Chinese and Western art styles, Dong and Wu use experimental materials and light in the various art pieces in the exhibit. 

In a contemporary approach to what’s real and what is not, one installation involves a slowly moving light directed at clear plastic boxes attached to a wall.

“If we see this through the light, through the different perspective, we could see there’s another world behind that,” Wu said about his installation called Crystal City.

That other world Wu referenced are shadows that look more real and solid than the actual plastic boxes. Wu said the art installation is symbolic of the modern digital age.

“We spend most of our time in our daily life, no matter to work or to our social life or our entertainment, all on this cyberspace,” he said.

That space is an escape for many people similar to the landscape paintings.

Philosophy and the spiritual

To capture the philosophical elements of the landscape painting, magnets are used to levitate objects to show that there is a force between everything in nature.

Another art piece in the exhibit is a take on one’s relationship with the universe. To view Dong’s representation of heaven, one has to step into a room filled with mirrors from ceiling to floor. There is a stool in the middle of the room.

“We’re all searching. We’re all longing for growth, become better and, ultimately, good enough to go to heaven. So, in my mind, heaven is a place of selfless, so eventually once you’ve entered the installation, at first you’ll see a lot of your reflection. But once you sit down, you trigger the mechanism of the room. The mirror actually starts to reflect, and you yourself will disappear within the space. You vanish. All you have is this empty, wide-open space. For me, it’s the ultimate evolution,” Dong explained.

The art pieces in the exhibit are ways the artists hope the modern-day viewer will be able to experience what the ancient artists of the landscape paintings were trying to achieve. 

“They (ancient scholars) were able to say, ‘We’re seeking a spiritual outlet. We’re seeking a way to refine the spirit and refine the soul.’ This work, today, it’s hard to have that experience with the traditional artwork because they’re such a contained device. You see them in a museum under glass, and they’re hard to approach,” said Justin Hoover curator of the Chinese American Museum, Los Angeles.

Contemporary artists hope their use of lighting and experimental materials will make an ancient art form more tangible and real in the 21st century.

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Artists Emulate Ancient Art With Modern Technology

Dating back more than 1000 years ago, the style of Chinese landscape painting that uses brush and ink has evolved over time. This traditional art form is evolving once again in an exhibit called “Lightscapes: Re-envisioning the Shanshuihua.” It is on display at the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles. The goal: to connect the new, digital generation to this type of art and capture its essence in a new way. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee has the details

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Рівень поширення ВІЛ серед молоді в Україні знижується – МОЗ

Рівень поширеності ВІЛ серед української молоді віком 15-24 роки має стабільну тенденцію до зниження. Як повідомляє Центр громадського здоров’я Міністерства охорони здоров’я, це може свідчити про ефективність профілактичних заходів і стабілізацію епідемічної ситуації щодо ВІЛ-інфекції.

«Водночас більше половини осіб віком 15 років і старше (56,4% у 2017 р.) уперше виявляють на 3-й та 4-й клінічних стадіях ВІЛ-інфекції», – йдеться в повідомленні.

За даними МОЗ, понад 66% усіх випадків інфікування ВІЛ в Україні трапляється під час незахищених статевих стосунків.

Безоплатні швидкі тести на ВІЛ є в усіх регіонах України, їх можна зробити як у спеціальних центрах і кабінетах «Довіра», так і у сімейного лікаря, терапевта чи педіатра, зазначили в міністерстві.

З початку епідемії СНІДу у 1980-х роках понад 77 мільйонів людей по всьому світу захворіли на ВІЛ, і майже половина з них померли від СНІДу.

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Кількість волонтерів в Україні за минулий рік збільшилась – опитування

2018 року відсоток тих, хто впродовж року займався волонтерською діяльністю в Україні, зріс з 12% до 18%. Про це свідчать результати опитування, проведеного фондом «Демократичні ініціативи» імені Ілька Кучеріва і соціологічною службою Центру Разумкова.

«Найвищий рівень волонтерства спостерігається серед молоді (24%), а регіонально – на заході (21%) та у центрі (22%) і значно нижчий – на півдні (11%) та сході (14%)», – йдеться в повідомленні.

Згідно з опитуванням, після Революції гідності істотно зросла кількість людей, які впродовж року надавали грошову чи матеріальну допомогу – з 29% у 2012 році до 47% у 2015-му.

«Щоправда, далі цей відсоток дещо знизився: 42% у 2016 році, 41% – у 2017 році, 38,5% у 2018 році. Водночас, рівень залученості до благодійної діяльності нині все ж залишається вищим, ніж до Революції гідності», – йдеться в повідомленні. Загальна сума, яку благодійники жертвували впродовж 2018 року, складала від 50 до 500 гривень.

Опитування фонду «Демократичні ініціативи» та Центру Разумкова тривало з 19 до 25 грудня 2018 року в усіх регіонах України за винятком Криму та окупованих територій Донецької та Луганської областей. Опитали 2017 респондентів віком від 18 років. Теоретична похибка вибірки не перевищує 2,3%.

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Світоліна вийшла до третього кола турніру в Дубаї

Українська тенісистка Еліна вийшла до третього кола турніру Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships після відмови представниці Тунісу Онс Жабер продовжувати гру через травму.

Світоліна виграла перший сет з рахунком 7:6, хоч програвала 4:1. У другому сеті українка вела 4:0, коли суперниця вирішила припинити боротьбу.

У наступному колі Світоліна зіграє з іспанкою Гарбінє Мугурусою.

Сьогодні свій поєдинок у Дубаї проведе ще одна українка, Леся Цуренко.

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Indonesia Submits Bid to Host 2032 Olympics

Indonesia has submitted a bid to host the 2032 Olympics, the state news agency said on Tuesday, after winning praise for hosting last year’s Asian Games, though it could face competition from India and a joint bid by North and South Korea.

Indonesia’s ambassador to Switzerland submitted a letter from President Joko Widodo to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week.

“The IOC has acknowledged Indonesia’s capabilities during the Asian Games and Asian Paragames of 2018,” the Antara news agency quoted Ambassador Muliaman D. Hadad as saying. “We feel that is a strong foundation.”

A senior official in the coordinating ministry for human development and culture, Gunawan, who goes by one name, confirmed the bid.

If Southeast Asia’s most populous nation wins the opportunity to host the summer Olympics, it would become the fourth Asian country to do so, after Japan, China and South Korea. The IOC will pick the 2032 host by the year 2025.

Tokyo is to host the next Summer Olympics in 2020, with Paris holding the 2024 Games and Los Angeles confirmed to host the event four years later.

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Pressure Grows on Europe to Back Venezuelan Opposition Leader

Pressure is growing on the European Union to formally back Venezuela’s opposition, after three EU lawmakers were refused entry into the country Sunday.

The Venezuelan government accused them of having “conspiratorial aims,” and forced them back on a plane to Madrid. The three had been invited by Venezuelan members of parliament to visit the country.

“[It was] very unpleasant and a pure demonstration that Venezuela is a country held hostage by a power that is almost like North Korea,” Esteban Gonzalez Pons, a senior member of the European Parliament, told reporters on his arrival in Madrid Monday.

The diplomatic snub has triggered calls for Brussels to take a stronger stand against the government of disputed President Nicholas Maduro. The United States and many allies have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president, after accusations of vote rigging in last year’s election.

The EU lawmakers have demanded that the bloc now abandon the International Contact Group or ICG, an EU initiative among European states and four Latin American countries, that is seeking a political way forward in Venezuela. The group met in the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo, earlier this month.

Europe’s foreign policy chief rejected pulling out of the ICG Monday.

“On the contrary, all member states have reaffirmed how crucial it is to have this instrument, which is currently probably the only one that we can use, to be at the same time in contact with relevant stakeholders and clear on the objective, which is a democratic, peaceful, and early election outcome for the crisis,” Federica Mogherini said in a press conference.

At the Munich Security Conference Saturday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said the European Union must recognize the American-backed interim president.

The Netherlands was among the EU member states that followed Washington’s lead. Foreign Minister Stef Blok spoke to VOA following Pence’s speech.

“Twenty-two European countries did recognize Guaido as the interim president. And of course I would have preferred to see the European Union united,” Blok said.

The EU, however, is divided. Spain, which retains the closest links to its former colony, rejected Washington’s demands.

“Mr. Pence can’t ask us to not accept the constitutional law of Venezuela,” Spain’s foreign minister, Josep Borrell, said at the Munich conference.

Borrell’s French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drain, is insisting on new elections.

“The only way out of the political crisis in Venezuela is a presidential election with democratic guarantees,” Le Drian said.

The Dutch government has agreed that its overseas territory of Curacao, an island off Venezuela, can be used as an aid hub.

“In order to get the aid toward Venezuela, we will need the consent of the Venezuelan authorities,” Blok told VOA.

As the diplomatic debate intensifies over how to end Venezuela’s political crisis, hundreds of tons of foreign aid remain stranded on the country’s borders — and the Venezuelan people continue to suffer.

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