Displaying items by tag: Europe

Friday, 20 January 2017 09:06

Italy: avalanche engulfs hotel

Rescuers are still hopeful that they will find survivors after an avalanche on Wednesday left at least two people dead and dozens more buried under rubble and snow.  Teams worked through the night in the search for at least 25 people believed to be missing. The avalanche struck the remote Rigopiano hotel, in the central Abruzzo region, after multiple earthquakes in the region. Two people who were outside the hotel at the time of the avalanche survived. The earthquakes, four of which were stronger than magnitude 5, terrified residents of rural areas who were already struggling with harsh conditions after heavy snowfall buried phone lines and took out power cables. Prosecutors in Pescara, the nearest big city, opened a manslaughter investigation into the disaster, amid growing criticism of the Italian authorities’ slow response.

Published in Europe

It seems almost inevitable that there will be an election in Northern Ireland, following deputy first minister Martin McGuinness’s resignation on Monday. This was after first minister Arlene Foster refused to step aside temporarily while an inquiry took place into the controversial ‘cash for ash’ renewable heat incentive scheme, which has turned out to be much more expensive than expected. Unless Sinn Féin nominates a replacement for McGuinness, which it has refused to do, an election has to be called. It is not certain if McGuinness will be a candidate in the expected elections: he has been diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called hereditary ATTR amyloidosis, which affects the nervous system and the heart to varying degrees. Medical experts say the disease progresses slowly.

Published in British Isles
Friday, 13 January 2017 07:24

Millennials and army recruitment

Millennials are too self-interested to be easily recruited into the military, according to General Nick Carter, the head of the British Army. In a recent speech at an event, hosted by telecoms giant BT, he laid out some of the problems with recruiting for the reserves. A recent £3 million campaign to get more people to sign up to the part-time military was unsuccessful. Carter said: ‘We are now dealing with a different generation, Generation Y, born after 1985, and they have a slightly different expectation of life, which tends to be slightly self-interested, very committed. They are much more adaptable to the information age than my generation; they want to know what’s in it for them.’ Whatever their ideals, said Carter, the army is determined to see Generation Y serve its nation. Carter also used the opportunity to re-launch the Military Covenant - a hypothetical agreement between military personnel and the nation which means they forego certain rights like free speech while in uniform, but are properly looked after in return.

Published in British Isles
Friday, 13 January 2017 07:22

The Church and the environment

It is ten years since the Church Times announced its first Green Church Awards. Since then, there have been great advances in scientific understanding and public awareness of environmental issues. Internationally, the new Paris Agreement was ratified in November, with 117 countries signing up. Domestically, recycling is far commoner than it was, and it is now possible to subscribe to clean-energy suppliers. However, globally the outlook is not good, with sixteen increasingly hot years damaging the natural environment and a number of influential voices still denying that there is a problem. The Church needs to play a greater part in this. Its national and global reach put it in a position to influence large numbers of people, even governments and power-brokers. But if its voice is to be heard, its own house must be in order. Fortunately, recent messages coming from the Pope and other faith leaders show how care for God’s planet and our common home is a priority around the world. Organisations such as A Rocha are leading the way in highlighting the issues, and around the country there are thousands of groups and individuals working sacrificially to change the climate - and the climate of opinion.

Published in British Isles
Friday, 13 January 2017 07:21

Atomic workers to strike

The workers’ union Unite has announced that atomic weapons workers will stage two 48-hour strikes from next Wednesday over what they claim are broken promises over pension cuts. Six hundred staff at the two Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) sites in Aldermaston and Burghfield, both in Berkshire, will strike for 48 hours from 18 January, and then for another 48-hour period from 30 January. AWE is owned by two US firms and a UK private security firm. The staff, all members of Unite, feel betrayed as the pensions, which they were assured would be ironclad when they were transferred to the private sector, will now be cut. AWE bosses have pledged to close the original scheme and replace it with a new contribution-based version from 31 January. Unite claims that the new scheme would be subject to the unforgiving ebb and flow of the stock exchange.

Published in British Isles

At least 500 churches, syn­agogues, and mosques across the UK have opened their doors to homeless people in the past year, a report by the charity Housing Justice says. Volunteers donated more than 490,000 hours to the 34 church and community night-shelter projects that contributed data to the report - an average of 14,850 hours per shelter. The report was produced to draw attention to the plight of homeless people in the UK and the work of night shelters. It says that these shelters stayed open for an average of 114 days during the year, with a total of 1,920 guests (84 per cent of them male). The findings were published as the Prime Minister announced extra funds for helping the homeless. Speaking last month, Mrs May said, ‘In the run-up to Christmas, images of soup kitchens and hostels remind us of the vital lifeline provided by charities and local services to those facing a night on the streets. But today I have witnessed a different kind of support, one which seeks to stop people ending up on the street altogether by providing assistance to address their most immediate needs, and - crucially - giving them the skills and oppor­tunities to help them build a more secure future for themselves.’

Published in British Isles
Friday, 13 January 2017 07:12

France: Election frontrunner a Christian

On Wednesday François Fillon, the frontrunner for the French presidential election due to take place in April, bucked tradition by declaring his Christian faith. He was picked as the presidential candidate for the French centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party in November. His declaration of faith has caused a stir in a country where the government, and elected officials, are legally not allowed to endorse a certain religion or the lack of religion, a policy known as laicité - secularity. He told the TF1 television channel, ‘I am a Gaullist and furthermore a Christian. It means that I will never take a decision that would run counter to the respect of human dignity, the respect of the individual, and solidarity.’ He was urged by politicians to keep his faith out of his campaigning. They accused him of using religion to win votes. 60% of people in France identify as Christian.

Published in Europe

It snowed in southern Albania for the first time in 32 years. The homeless are dying. Most rural areas are cut off by snow. There are temporary power and water outages and army helicopters are distributing aid in mountain areas. Shipping along Europe’s second-longest waterway is suspended as freezing conditions grip the continent, causing hardship among migrants, homeless and elderly.  On Tuesday the death toll was 61, one-third in Poland. Icy conditions in Serbia claimed two lives. Refugees are at risk in Greece. Three people died in the past three days in Macedonia from temperatures of -20C. A 68-year-old homeless man froze to death in the capital, Skopje, while a 60-year-old man died in front of his home in Strumica. Authorities urged homeless people to go to shelters and local schools, which are taking them in during the cold spell. Elsewhere roofs are collapsing and schools are closed.

Published in Europe
Saturday, 07 January 2017 03:08

EU ambassador’s surprise resignation

Sir Ivan Rogers, the British representative to the EU, has resigned from his position without warning, following disagreements with Theresa May’s team. His resignation leaves the Prime Minister without a senior experienced European negotiator, only weeks before Brexit talks are due to begin. One of the country’s most senior retired civil servants, Lord Macpherson, said that this sudden decision highlighted the Government’s ‘wilful and total’ destruction of its EU expertise. In a farewell message Sir Ivan, who had been criticised for being pessimistic about Britain’s future outside the EU, called on the staff of Britain’s mission in Brussels to ‘continue to challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking’. The Government has acted swiftly to deal with the crisis by appointing Sir Tim Barrow (former ambassador to Russia) as Sir Ivan’s successor. See:

Published in British Isles
Saturday, 07 January 2017 03:06

First BAME bishop for 20 years

One month after a large group of black and minority-ethnic (BAME) clergy wrote a letter criticising the lack of non-white senior clergy in the CofE, Downing Street has announced the appointment of the first BAME bishop for twenty years. The next Bishop of Woolwich will be the Vicar of St John’s, Upper Holloway, Revd Woyin Karo­wei Dorgu. The 58-year-old was born and brought up in Nigeria, and worked as a GP before training for ordination. He has been Vicar of St John’s since 2000. ‘We are greatly honoured to be invited to share and contribute to this dynamic ministry of bringing God’s love to the people of Wool­wich and the diocese,’ Revd Dorgu said. Speaking to reporters, he said, ‘I want to encourage BAME vocations and more participation in ministry. I will celebrate the divers­ity in race, ability, gender, sexuality, and class. Celebrating our differ­ences is a gift.’

Published in British Isles