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Farmers from 12 EU countries continue to protest agricultural policies

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Farmers from 12 EU countries continue to protest agricultural policies

Farmers complain that the EU’s environmental policies, such as the Green Deal, and low-cost imports from third countries which they say don’t have to respect such high environmental standards.

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Farmers from 10 EU countries, ranging from Central Europe to the Baltics and the Balkans, were on Thursday participating in a protest against the bloc’s agriculture policies, bureaucracy and overall conditions for their business, organisers say.

Many of the farmers from the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Slovakia, met at a number of border crossings.

Farmers complain that the EU’s environmental policies, such as the Green Deal, which calls for limits on the use of chemicals and on greenhouse gas emissions, limit their business and make their products more expensive than non-EU imports.

They also complain about low prices for their products and say grain and other agriculture products coming from Ukraine and Latin America negatively affect the market.

Farmers had invited Czech Agriculture Minister Marek Vyborny, his Slovak counterpart Richard Takac, and the representatives of farmers from Poland and Hungary to rally at a Czech-Slovak border crossing known as Hodonin-Holic, which was blocked by hundreds of tractors.

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“We don’t protest against the EU, we protest against the wrong decisions by the European Commission,” said Andrej Gajdos from the Slovak Chamber of Agriculture and Food.

Elsewhere, clashes were reported on Thursday between Spanish farmers and police in Zaragoza, the capital of the northeastern Aragon region.

Talks between the government and farmers failed earlier this week with the biggest protest in weeks staged in Madrid on Wednesday.

The government has unveiled a package of 18 measures it said it will present to other EU member states at a meeting of agriculture ministers on February 26.

Carles Peris, Secretary General of the Union of Farmers and Stockbreeders of Valencia, said: “We want a law on the agri-food chain that is able to balance itself, it cannot be that those who generate the value, the producers, are the ones who receive the least money.” 

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Spanish farmers plan to gather in their thousands in the country’s capital on Sunday.

In France, some farmers have indicated that they could block the opening on Saturday of the Salon International de L’Agriculture in Paris, which runs until March 3.

Protests were meanwhile held in several cities north of Paris on Thursday with one farmer in the Oise saying: “We feel like we’re being taken for a ride, in the sense that the government has promised us a lot of things that we still haven’t received.”

“This is to show them that we’re still here and we’re still waiting for answers,” he added.

The protests were held despite the government announcing on Wednesday a new bill to strengthen the law on agriculture and food and improve salaries in the sector.

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Prime Minister Gabriel Attal also said several million euros would be paid as emergency aid, particularly to livestock farmers. 

The new law comes three weeks after the government unveiled a package of measures to stymie the protest movement that included no new pesticide ban “without a solution” and a ban on imports of fruits and vegetables coming from outside the EU that have been treated with Thiaclopride, an insecticide currently banned in the bloc. 

The government also said it would propose the creation of a “European control force” to combat fraud, particularly regarding health regulations, and fight against import of food products that go against European and French health standards. It also reaffirmed its opposition to the signing of the EU-Mercosur trade deal.

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Reggie Bush reinstated as 2005 Heisman Trophy winner. Changes in NCAA rules led to the decision

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Reggie Bush reinstated as 2005 Heisman Trophy winner. Changes in NCAA rules led to the decision

NEW YORK (AP) — Reggie Bush has been reinstated as the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner more than a decade after Southern California returned the award following an NCAA investigation that found he received what were impermissible benefits during his time with the Trojans, the Heisman Trust announced Wednesday.

“We are thrilled to welcome Reggie Bush back to the Heisman family in recognition of his collegiate accomplishments,” said Michael Comerford, president of The Heisman Trophy Trust. “We considered the enormous changes in college athletics over the last several years in deciding that now is the right time to reinstate the Trophy for Reggie. We are so happy to welcome him back.”

Bush had won the trophy awarded to the top player in college football after amassing more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and scoring 18 touchdowns in 2005. His 784 first-place votes were the fifth most in Heisman history.

The Heisman Trust has returned the trophy to Bush and the replica to USC. Bush will be invited to all future Heisman Trophy ceremonies.

The Trust said in a statement that its decision followed a “deliberative process” in which it closely monitored changes in the college football landscape. That included the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2021 decision that questioned the legality of the NCAA’s amateurism model and opened the door to athlete compensation; the ability of college football players to be paid for their name, image, and likeness; and the NCAA’s recent proposal to remove the cap on education-related payments.

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“Recognizing that the compensation of student athletes is an accepted practice and appears here to stay, these fundamental changes in college athletics led the Trust to decide that now is the right time to return the Trophy to Bush, who unquestionably was the most outstanding college football player of 2005,” the Trust said.

___

AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football

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United Nations demands investigation after mass graves discovered at 2 Gaza hospitals raided by Israel

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United Nations demands investigation after mass graves discovered at 2 Gaza hospitals raided by Israel

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The United Nations called Tuesday for “a clear, transparent and credible investigation” of mass graves uncovered at two major hospitals in war-torn Gaza that were raided by Israeli troops.

Credible investigators must have access to the sites, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters, and added that more journalists need to be able to work safely in Gaza to report on the facts.

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Earlier Tuesday, U.N. human rights chief Volker Türk said he was “horrified” by the destruction of the Shifa medical center in Gaza City and Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis as well as the reported discovery of mass graves in and around the facilities after the Israelis left.

PELOSI CALLS ON NETANYAHU TO RESIGN, CONDEMNS HIM AS ‘OBSTACLE’ TO PEACE

He called for independent and transparent investigations into the deaths, saying that “given the prevailing climate of impunity, this should include international investigators.”

“Hospitals are entitled to very special protection under international humanitarian law,” Türk said. “And the intentional killing of civilians, detainees and others who are ‘hors de combat’ (incapable of engaging in combat) is a war crime.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Vedant Patel on Tuesday called the reports of mass graves at the hospitals “incredibly troubling” and said U.S. officials have asked the Israeli government for information.

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U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, speaks during a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq, on Aug. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File)

The Israeli military said its forces exhumed bodies that Palestinians had buried earlier as part of its search for the remains of hostages captured by Hamas during its Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war. The military said bodies were examined in a respectful manner and those not belonging to Israeli hostages were returned to their place.

The Israeli military says it killed or detained hundreds of militants who had taken shelter inside the two hospital complexes, claims that could not be independently verified.

The Palestinian civil defense in the Gaza Strip said Monday that it had uncovered 283 bodies from a temporary burial ground inside the main hospital in Khan Younis that was built when Israeli forces were besieging the facility last month. At the time, people were not able to bury the dead in a cemetery and dug graves in the hospital yard, the group said.

The civil defense said some of the bodies were of people killed during the hospital siege. Others were killed when Israeli forces raided the hospital.

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Palestinian health officials say the hospital raids have destroyed Gaza’s health sector as it tries to cope with the mounting toll from over six months of war.

The issue of who could or should conduct an investigation remains in question.

For the United Nations to conduct an investigation, one of its major bodies would have to authorize it, Dujarric said.

“I think it’s not for anyone to prejudge the results or who would do it,” he said. “I think it needs to be an investigation where there is access and there is credibility.”

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, said after visiting Israel and the West Bank in December that a probe by the court into possible crimes by Hamas militants and Israeli forces “is a priority for my office.”

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The discovery of the graves “is another reason why we need a cease-fire, why we need to see an end to this conflict, why we need to see greater access for humanitarians, for humanitarian goods, greater protection for hospitals” and for the release of Israeli hostages, Dujarric said Monday.

In the Hamas attack that launched the war, militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages. Israel says the militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

In response, Israel’s air and ground offensive in Gaza, aimed at eliminating Hamas, has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, around two-thirds of them children and women. It has devastated Gaza’s two largest cities, created a humanitarian crisis and led around 80% of the territory’s population to flee to other parts of the besieged coastal enclave.

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North Macedonia votes in presidential polls as EU membership bid looms

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North Macedonia votes in presidential polls as EU membership bid looms

The vote is the first in a series of polls that could decide whether the diverse Balkan country will ever join the EU.

Voting is under way in North Macedonia to elect a president ahead of an upcoming parliamentary election as the Balkan country continues to ponder its European Union membership bid.

The results of Wednesday’s polls are due later in the day, shortly after the polling stations close at 18:00 GMT.

The country has 1.8 million registered voters in a population of 2.3 million, and the turnout must be at least 40 percent for the result to be valid.

The 61-year-old incumbent President Stevo Pendarovski is a candidate of the pro-European Social Democrats running for a second five-year term and is challenged by the 70-year-old Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova from the opposition VMRO DPMNE coalition.

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The two offer different views on how to deal with neighbouring Bulgaria’s condition of securing a recognition of a Bulgarian ethnic minority in the constitution of North Macedonia, in exchange for its backing of Skopje’s EU bid.

Pendarovski and the ruling centre-left Social Democrats (SDSM) are prepared to make the amendments but lack the numbers to win a parliamentary vote.

The opposition coalition refuses to budge, saying any constitutional changes can come after North Macedonia joins the EU, a stance the government says is unrealistic.

EU membership talks for the Balkan state began in 2022 as part of a process expected to take years, and its candidacy for the 27-nation bloc dates back to 2005.

The country had already cleared another resistance to its membership bid from Greece in a 2019 move to change its name from Macedonia to North Macedonia. The Balkan state joined NATO in 2020.

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About 1.8 million registered voters can cast ballots on Wednesday for one of seven candidates who are competing for the largely ceremonial president’s post [Boris Grdanoski/AP Photo]

Voter Stavre Temelkovski told The Associated Press news agency that he had high expectations that North Macedonia would become a full-fledged EU member soon.

“I expect a civic movement to win, for us to be a part of all those pro-Western systems, and to start a process of healing for a state which has waited for almost three decades,” he said. “Many generations are exhausted.”

Parliamentary vote

The election on Wednesday comes ahead of a parliamentary vote on May 8.

If the presidential vote goes to a second round of voting, a possibility indicated by the results of state-released polls, a run-off vote will also be held on May 8.

The opposition’s Siljanovska-Davkova is expected to take 19.2 percent of the votes and Pendarovski 9.7 percent, according to state television. Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani, a candidate for the DUI party, is forecast to come third with 6.6 percent of votes.

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In total, seven candidates are running for the largely ceremonial position after less than a month of campaigning, with discussions also ranging from the rule of law, fighting corruption to reducing poverty.

North Macedonia
Ruling Social Democratic Union of Macedonia’s presidential candidate and North Macedonia’s President Stevo Pendarovski votes during the presidential election [Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters]
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