A TOWN NAMED ROTTENEGG: Monarch Airlines encourages people to visit unfairly named locations

London – VIJAY SHAH via SWNS digital

You are probably right now in the midst of booking your summer break to somewhere in Europe. Perhaps it is somewhere well-known, cultural, fun and touristy. Some place like Barcelona, London, Venice, Valletta or even Belgrade. However, maybe you want to sample a different, new and off-the-beaten-track destination this time round. How about Hell, in Norway, Piles in Spain, or God forbid, the simple hamlet of Twatt in the Orkney Islands, off Scotland. While visiting destinations with giggle-inducing names might give Instagram bragging rights to some teens, most families would baulk at the idea of visiting a place name that sounds like an intimate body part. Step forward, flight company Monarch, has launched a campaign as part of their ‘Year of Nice’ to encourage people to get over their misgivings and give places like Windpassing (there are four of them in Austria’s Niederoesterreich region) a chance, as they are often locales with beautiful scenery and attractions to discover.

One in six British holidaymakers would be put off going to a place if it had an unsavoury name. Yet they are missing out on some truly unique places. Why not take a seat in Piles, in Spain’s sunny Valencia region, not too far from the Costas of the Catalan coast and the arty metropolis of Barcelona. Despite it’s name’s awkward resemblance to a painful condition, Piles is very comfortable, with its own clean and flat beach. Also in Spain, you can head over to Andalusia and visit the traditional town of El Moron, a decision that will not make you look like an idiot. Ironically, El Moron has produced one of Spain’s most eminent archaeologists, so it is clearly not a town of tanned hicks.

For staycations closer to home, try the hamlet of Nasty in Hertfordshire, an hour’s or so drive from London. This picturesque and quintessentially English cluster of twenty or so buildings is anything but nasty, and many Londoners have in fact moved there to take advantage of the fresh rural air and bucolic countryside, even if they are reluctant to tell their friends in the big city where exactly they have upped sticks too.

For more oddly-named villages and towns to inspire you, take a look at the video below, featuring presenter Laura Hamilton.

 

SOURCES/VIDEO CREDIT:

SWNS digital/72Point http://www.swnsdigital.com/

 

THOUGHT MOMENT: Refugees

 

As some sections of society in Europe become agitated at the prospect of the continent being a final place of safety for thousands of refugees fleeing among other things, the Daesh and civil war in Syria, a tweet starkly illustrates a taste of why so many people are running for their lives and risking everything. Above is a bombed out boulevard somewhere in Syria. Now is a time for compassion, not xenophobia.

SOURCES/IMAGE:
Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind
TV, Film, Media…, Stephanie Lang , Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/DrStephanieLang/lists/tv-film-media
Marie McInerney, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/mariemcinerney
Top-Up Their Phones, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/connect_refugee

VIDEO MOMENT: The Choco Kebab

 

Like most young British men (and women), I am very fond of kebabs, the Turkish, Greek and Central Asian fast food delicacy of meat and vegetables in a bread pocket. Since the doner kebab and its equally delicious siblings began appearing on the high streets here in the 1970s, the food has become a staple of pub crawls, family get-togethers and football matches.

So, when I was shown this video by my sister yesterday, which is usually kebab night for me, I just had to share this with you as a kebab fan. I’m also a chocaholic, so when this video began playing, I was shocked and pleased in equal measure that two of my greatest culinary loves had been fused into one delicious, mouth-watering and calorie-saturated snack.

Give a big round of applause to the Choco Kebab. Hailing from Italy, which has a large Afghan and Turkish populations famed for their greasy meat in rolls, this kebab replaces the spinning cylinder of processed lamb or chicken with one of white and milk chocolate. The cook shears off curls of chocolate with a special implement and packs them into a crepe, rather than the usual pitta or naan. The accompanying mayonnaise, chill sauce and ketchup is replaced with Nutella, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and other sweet treats.

This unique kebab is sold around the world, according to the video above, but I have never encountered anyone selling it here, and I live in London, one of the most adventurous cities for food in Europe. I’m now tempted to buy a van, empty the local stores of all their chocolate and party snacks, and become the richest chocolate kebab entrepreneur this side of the Adriatic.

Let me know what you think of this latest food trend.

VIDEO CREDITS:
INSIDER, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/thisisinsider/?fref=nf
Alia Hellz Bachell.

VIRTUAL VEXILLOLOGY: Animated world flags with TLDs (Part 3 – Europe)

HEM Animated ccTLD Flags Ident pizap.com14318621928841

Part 3 of the Half-Eaten Mind’s series on animated ccTLD flags now arrives on the shores of Europe, a linguistically and historically diverse continent with a rich history of flags too. Many of Europe’s flags have religious and heraldric meanings, as it was in this continent that such devices as coats-of-arms and banners for military use were developed.

The world’s oldest flag design still in continuous use is the “Dannebrog“, the national flag of the kingdom of Denmark. This Christian inspired flag, featuring a white long-armed cross on a red field has a pedigree of several hundred years, and took its present form design in 1625. The world’s only square national flag is found here, representing Switzerland.

Europe also has a much smaller claim to fame. It is the continent where the Half-Eaten Mind operates from.

We bring you the waving flags of the European continent, including a nod to one of the most impressive projects of intra-national unity and co-operation in recent history – the European Union. You may notice that the flags for Jersey and Guernsey look different from the others. I was unable to find the TLD flags for the two Channel Islands so made do with close alternatives from one the websites I extracted some of the flags from. This also applies to the other crown dependency of the Isle of Man.

Interestingly enough, on an Arabic language forum, I came across two strange examples, one with a Scottish flag but the TLD for Spain (.es) (some sources attribute the flag to Tenerife island in the Canaries, which would explain the .es tag) and a blank ‘white flag’ with no text. On the Maple Royals forum, for players of the MapleStory online game, I came across a user whose forum signature had a previously undiscovered forum flag for the province of Friesland (Frisia or Fryslan) in the Netherlands. Its distinctive flag of red hearts and blue diagonal stripes on a white field soon found a home in my collection. It appears to have been made by someone influenced by the original designer and is not one of the original set of flags that at the end of the last decade.

During further research, I found forum postings from 2008 on Xenforo, another forum development platform, where a user named SchmitzIT made available some attachments for downloading of these GIFs, alongside instructions on how to power them up for your own forum. He attributed these flags to a web graphic designer with the tag name ‘Cobro’, who was working with VBulletin, another popular provider of forum software solutions. Sadly, despite registering for the site, I was unable to get access to the downloads. The user had also made available a single sample of the flags, that one being for the U.S.A.

I have included most of those flags here too.

EUROPE

(c) Wikipedia

ad - Andorra

al - Albania

at - Austria

ax - Aland Islands

ba - Bosnia and Herzegovina

be - Belgium

bg - Bulgaria

by - Belarus

ch - Switzerland

cs - Czechoslovakia

cy - Cyprus

cz - Czech Republic

de - Germany

dk - Denmark

ee - Estonia

es - Spain

eu - Europe

fi - Finland

fo - Faroe Islands

fr - France

fr - Fryslan

gb - Great Britain

gg - Guernsey

gi - Gibraltar

gr - Greece

hr - Croatia

hu - Hungary

ie - Ireland

im - Isle of Man

is - Iceland

it - Italy

je - Jersey

ks - Kosovo

li - Liechtenstein

lt - Lithuania

lu - Luxembourg

lv - Latvia

mc - Monaco

md - Moldova

me - Montenegro

mk - Macedonia (the former Yugoslav Republic of)

mt - Malta

nl - Netherlands

no - Norway

pl - Poland

pt - Portugal

ro - Romania

rs - Serbia

ru - Russian Federation

se - Sweden

si - Slovenia

sk - Slovakia

sm - San Marino

su - Soviet Union

ua - Ukraine

uk - England

uk - Scotland

uk - United Kingdom

uk - Wales

va - Vatican City State

yu - Yugoslavia

000 - Scotland

.ad Andorra
.al Albania
.at Austria
.ax – Aland Islands
.ba Bosnia and Herzegovina
.be Belgium
.bg Bulgaria
.by Belarus
.ch Switzerland
.cs Czechoslovakia
.cy Cyprus
.cz Czech Republic
.de Germany
.dk Denmark
.ee Estonia
.es Spain
.eu Europe (European Union)
.fi Finland
.fo Faroe Islands
.fr France
.fr Frisia
.gb Great Britain
.gg Guernsey
.gi Gibraltar
.gr Greece
.hr Croatia
.hu Hungary
.ie Ireland
.im Isle of Man
.is Iceland
.it Italy
.je Jersey
.ks Kosovo
.li Liechtenstein
.lt Lithuania
.lu Luxembourg
.lv Latvia
.mc Monaco
.md Moldova
.me Montenegro
.mk Macedonia (the former Yugoslav Republic of)
.mt Malta
.nl Netherlands
.no Norway
.pl Poland
.pt Portugal
.ro Romania
.rs Serbia
.ru Russian Federation
.se Sweden
.si Slovenia
.sk Slovakia
.sm San Marino
.su Soviet Union
.ua Ukraine
.uk England
.uk Scotland
.uk United Kingdom
.uk Wales
.va Vatican City State
.yu Yugoslavia

 For Part Four, we cross the Mediterranean Sea and get ourselves acquainted with the many colourful flags of Africa.

Previous Articles in the Series

Part 1 – North America

Part 2 – South America

HEM 3rd anniversary banner pizap.com14293560242241

UPDATE: I managed to find a Isle of Man ccTLD icon at the Live Members Only website.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:
“Oldest continuously used national flag” – Guinness World Records http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/oldest-continuously-used-national-flag/
“[SchmitzIT] Animated Userflags” – SchmitzIT, xenFORO/XenForo Ltd. (27 January 2011) https://xenforo.com/community/threads/schmitzit-animated-userflags.11203/
IMAGE CREDITS:
CC Search, Creative Commons http://search.creativecommons.org/
“Template:European Australian map” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:European_Australian_map
“Pakistan Defence” – Pakistan Defence http://defence.pk/
“RIGS OF RODS” – Rigs of Rods http://www.rigsofrods.com/content/
IPBURGER/IPBurger.com http://ipburger.com/
“Category:Country Flags” – EP.com Wiki/EntropiaPlanets.com/EntropiaPlanets Wiki – Entropia Universe Guides Wiki Info http://www.entropiaplanets.com/wiki/Category:Country_Flags
“صفحة البلاغ ترحب بكم” – balagh, page2 rss (20 October 2012) http://page2rss.com/abccc22de5fb9e5a6addc8c4618b3827
“Storage loss” – mecheez, MapleRoyals/XenForo Ltd. (14 August 2014) http://mapleroyals.com/forum/threads/storage-loss.12851/
“Forza Inter Forums” – ForzaInterForums.com http://forzainterforums.com/forum.php
“Live Members Only – Index page” – Live Members Only http://www.livemembersonly.com/

MAMAG: International Modern Art Austria Biennale

MAMAG Modern Art Museum, a specialist art gallery in Austria, has announced it will be hosting the International Modern Art Austria Biennale exhibition and festival on the 14-30 August 2015, the museum‘s website has announced.

The board of trustees for the museum, based at the Schloss Hubertendorf (castle) in Blindenmarkt, a small town around 5 kilometres from Amstetten in central Austria, have organised the first ever such biennale for contemporary arts in Austria in a bid to increase networking and exposure to those engaged in the artistic life. The event will also offer up and coming contemporary artists across Europe and the world a unique and sympathetic chance to showcase their best pieces to a discerning international audience.

(c) MAMAG

 

The Schloss, which is a large stately home built in 1614 by a local knight, Georg Löffler on old farming lands and a disused mill, was chosen as the Biennale’s venue by MAMAG for its rustic charm, and its relevance as a European hotspot for old and new art and culture, according to the museum’s website.

Details on which artists will be exhibiting are not yet available as the Biennale is still in the very earliest stages of preparation. However the company’s Twitter account has a pinned tweet dated the 11th April, calling on artists to enter submissions for the Biennale this August. Visitors are also being offered free entry during the festival’s opening hours of 11:00 am to 6:00 pm local time.

The MAMAG museum is a privately owned art museum for modern and contemporary art in Lower Austria. Much of the pieces held in situ are by local Pop Art artist Tanja Playner. The museum regularly organises special exhibitions on modern art, photography, scenic views and panoramas, lithographic works, sculptures and mixed media contemporary art.

MAMAG will also be playing host to the International Modern Art Fair of Austria at the Schloss Neuberg in Loeffelbach on the 11-19 July, 2015.

HEM 3rd anniversary banner pizap.com14293560242241

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
Schwarzenegger Fans, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/arnold_fanclub
“International Modern Art Austria Biennale” – MAMAG Modern Art Museum http://www.mamag-museum.com/international-modern-art-austria-biennale-1/index.html
“CASTLE HUBERTENDORF” – Franz Aigner Properties LLC/Aigner rental of properties http://www.aigner-properties.com/real-estate/aigner-schloesser-gmbh/84-castle-hubertendorf
“MAMAG Museum english” – MAMAG Modern Art Museum http://www.mamag-museum.com/mamag-museum-english/index.html
MAMAG Museum of Art, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/mamag_museum 
IMAGE CREDIT:
“International Modern Art Austria Biennale” – MAMAG Modern Art Museum http://www.mamag-museum.com/international-modern-art-austria-biennale-1/index.html

ASEF: Journalism event on crisis reporting in November

The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) is launching a special event for journalists this November to explore and share best practice on reporting global crises. The 10th ASEF Journalists’ Colloquium on Crisis Reporting is being held in Luxembourg over three days from the 4-6 November 2014, according to a source with ASEF’s branch in Singapore.

The colloquium is being organised in conjunction with the 12th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (ASEM FMM12), an important regional political meeting being held at the same time also in Luxembourg. A specially selected number of 25 practicing journalists from Asia and Europe to come together to discuss and learn different approaches, skills and tools used in crisis reporting from Asian and European perspectives.

(c) ASEF via Journalism.co.uk/Mousetrap Media.

From public health crises such as the E. Coli out breakout of 2011 in Germany, to environmental disasters such as the devastating 2013 cyclone Haiyan that struck the Philippines and this weekend’s earthquake in Nepal and India, the attendees will learn and build upon their understanding of the many issues these crises pose for Asian and European media. The recent terror attacks in places like France, and the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria also pose many challenges for reporters.

This colloquium will enable journalists to share their perspectives and best practices regarding international and regional challenges during crisis reporting from the different regional perspectives, as well as definitively understanding the role of the European and Asian media in reporting and witnessing such profound events. Journalists from ASEM countries (members of the Asia-Europe Meeting) can qualify to answer the call for applications. A list of participating ASEM nations can be found at http://www.aseminfoboard.org/members

Participating media professionals will see their recommendations and the event’s highlights published as the ASEF Media Handbook, which will be a ready reference for Asian and European journalists as well as for research and civil society organisations working in the field.

Founded in 1997, ASEF fosters understanding and dialogue between European and Asian countries through intellectual, cultural and people-to-people exchanges. This is with the goal to help encourage the growth of common development and stability, as well as contributing to world peace and prosperity. The Foundation particularly focusses on matters of concern such as war and famine in addition, and offers a range of collaborative events including seminars, workshops, conferences, lecture tours and exhibitions. In the past seventeen years, ASEF has seeded over 650 projects involving 17,000 direct participants over the two continents.

Interested journalists from ASEM countries can apply to take part at the colloquium. Application information can be found here: http://bit.ly/ASEFJC10

Travel (by economy class only) to and from Luxembourg and nearby hotel accommodation will be provided by the organisers for participants selected to attend this unique event. All applications should be submitted online by Tuesday, 12 May 2015, at the link above.

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HEM NEPAL EARTHQUAKE APPEAL

Nepal Quake Emergency Appeal pizap_opt

As many of you are well aware, Nepal was struck yesterday by the worst earthquake to be witnessed in its recent history. More than 1,200 people have lost their lives, mainly in Nepal, but also in India and Bangladesh. Much of the tourism infrastructure in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu has been obliterated, and thousands more are injured and without homes, food, and blankets for the harsh cold nights there.

The Half-Eaten Mind has joined forces with the international development charity Oxfam to support them in their Emergency Appeal. The top of the sidebar has a special link to Oxfam Great Britain’s giving page, where you can make donations securely via credit and debit card or PayPal. I am not aware if givers from outside the U.K. can donate via this link, but if you cannot, then please support any charities helping Nepal in your country.

Please donate what you can. Every little helps.

Thanks for reading.

Vijay Shah,

Editor and Blogger – the Half-Eaten Mind.

HEM 3rd anniversary banner pizap.com14293560242241

SOURCES:
“Call for Journalists: 10th ASEF Journalists’ Colloquium on Crisis Reporting” – Debasmita Dasgupta, Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) via Journalism.co.uk/Mousetrap Media Ltd (24 April 2015) https://www.journalism.co.uk/press-releases/call-for-journalists-10th-asef-journalists-colloquium-on-crisis-reporting/s66/a564889/
“Project Updates” – Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) http://asef.org/projects/themes/sustainable-development/3412-10th-asef-journalists-colloquium#3511-call-for-applications-10th-asef-journalists-colloquium
“Upcoming Events 10th ASEF Journalists’ Colloquium 4-7 November 2015 (tbc)” – Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) http://asef.org/projects/themes/sustainable-development/3412-10th-asef-journalists-colloquium
“The History” – Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) http://www.asef.org/about/history
“What We Do” – Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) http://www.asef.org/about/what-we-do
IMAGE CREDIT:
“Call for Journalists: 10th ASEF Journalists’ Colloquium on Crisis Reporting” – Debasmita Dasgupta, Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) via Journalism.co.uk/Mousetrap Media Ltd (24 April 2015) https://www.journalism.co.uk/press-releases/call-for-journalists-10th-asef-journalists-colloquium-on-crisis-reporting/s66/a564889/

BERLIN WALL: 8,000 balloons mark 25th anniversary of wall’s collapse, German reunification

Twenty-five years ago, the heavily fortified Berlin Wall that divided east and west Berlin and the capitalist world from the communist one, was breached and the two Germanys were reunited. Now a quarter of a century later, an art project named “Lichtgrenze” – the border of light – will mark this historical milestone with eight thousand glowing balloons across an eight mile (fifteen kilometre) stretch of the once heavily guarded and fortified border that separated Berlin for thirty years. The white glowing orbs will remain in place until this Sunday, when they will be set free from their tethers and allowed to rise into the sky. The balloons’ release will mark the pivotal moment on the 9th of November, 1989, when a garbled speech at a news conference by a senior east Berlin communist official – the Politburo spokesman Günter Schabowski -, began the chain of events that pulled down one of the most potent and controversial symbols of the Cold War. The opening wide of the East German border heralded the removal of one-party governments across eastern Europe. Poland soon elected its first non-communist prime minister and Hungary’s new government tore down its own border fences. Once the announcement was given, hundreds of east Berliners surged across the newly liberated border. Guards, who once had instructions to shoot on sight any escapees, were said to have been powerless to stop the crowds and let them through without any obstacle. One of the émigrés was current German chancellor Angela Merkel, who at that time was employed as a physicist.

Lichtgrenze balloons on mounts running the length of an autobahn alongside a section of the Berlin Wall. (c) imgur

Even today when I walk through the Brandenburg Gate, there’s a residual feeling that this wasn’t possible for many years of my life, and that I had to wait 35 years to have this feeling of freedom,” Merkel said last week, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “That changed my life.

West and East Germany were formally reunified for the first time since the end of the Second World War on the 3rd October 1990, just under a year after the breaching of the Wall.

The route of the glowing balloons of the Lichtgrenze will snake past well known landmarks across the old divide, including Checkpoint Charlie (the border crossing between the wartime Soviet and British-American zones), the Brandenburg Gate (one of Berlin’s most recognised landmarks) and the German parliamentary building, the Reichstag. Many of the lit balloons, which resemble old-fashioned street lighting, will be affixed to the top of the wall’s remnants as well as local bridges adjoining the old border. The 25th anniversary will see celebrations across Germany as it marks not only the collapse of communism but also the beginning of its rise to becoming a European powerhouse and a prominent leader within the EU.

An aerial photo of the Lichtgrenze installation across the former border that split Berlin (c) imgur
A line of glowing white balloons lined up outside the famous Berliner landmark, the Brandenburg gate (c) imgur

 

The balloons will be released to the soothing sounds of the German composer Ludwig van Beethoven‘s Ode to Joy – a symbol of peace after the reunion of Europe 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The light installation was organised and designed by brothers Marc and Christopher Bauder. In an interview with the British Daily Mail newspaper, Marc said: “We wanted to counter this ominous, heavy structure with something light.

‘Remembrance belongs to the people.

Much of the Berlin Wall still stands, albeit in broken portions, as a reminder of how far the city has come since its divided days. The wall was originally built as a defensive measure but was also intended to prevent east Berliners from fleeing to the West. Turrets with armed guards and attack dogs watched over the ‘no man’s land’ that split the city, gunning down anyone that dared to escape. A total of 138 people were killed along the Berlin wall from 1961 until 1989 as they tried to flee, some just months before peaceful protests opened the border. German reunification in 1989 saw jubilant crowds tear down parts of the war and stream through openings and border crossings. Much of the remaining structure is now adorned with graffiti celebrating both the city’s vibrant arts scene and hopes for peace.

The mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, inaugurated the Lichtgrenze light installation and its 8,000 ‘Luftballons’ on the evening of 7th November 2014 (yesterday) in a solemn address to the public near the German parliament, the Reichstag. Hundreds of the city’s residents clustered together in the sharp German cold to watch a film on the history of the Wall. For many, it was an emotional, yet stoic, time of remembrance of a city once-divided by wartime machinations and political alliances.

BERLIN LICHTGRENZE

Mauerfall 2014 – „Lichtgrenze“ zum 25.Jubiläum in Berlin

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter/Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
newslocker_uknews, Twitter/Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/newslock_uknews
“Wall of light: 8,000 glowing balloons recreate the route of the Berlin Wall, 25 years after it fell” – Ollie Gillman, Mail Online – News/Associated Newspapers Ltd (8 November 2014) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2826196/Germany-marks-25-years-fall-Berlin-Wall-illuminating-former-border-East-West-8-000-glowing-balloons.html
“Germany marks 25 years since Berlin Wall’s fall” – Geir Moulson, Associated Press/San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC/MLIM (8 November 2014) http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/nov/08/germany-marks-25-years-since-berlin-walls-fall/
IMAGE CREDITS:
“Lichtgrenze. 8,000 illuminated balloons to recreate the Berlin Wall.” – DaHitcha, Reddit Pics/reddit inc.(7 November 2014) http://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/2lkwec/lichtgrenze_8000_illuminated_balloons_to_recreate/
“Lichtgrenze” – Imgur/Imgur, Inc. http://imgur.com/a/TEBCG

UKRAINE CIVIL WAR: Fierce clashes reported in Slovyansk

The ongoing battle between Ukrainian national forces and pro-Russian separatists has intensified around the eastern city of Slovyansk, reports agency journalists working with the Balkans division of news network Al-Jazeera today.

Clashes between the Ukrainian army and separatists, among them fighters allied with the self-declared People’s Republic of Donetsk, intensified in the vicinity of Donetsk’s international airport, which was this week subject to bombing by the national army as it seeks to wrest control back from the occupiers, who desire union with the Russian Federation.

 

 

Caption:DONETSK, UKRAINE – MAY 26: A pro-Russian separatist fighter take position outside the Donetsk airport, the scene of an hours-long battle between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces, on May 26, 2014 in Donetsk Ukraine. A day after businessman Petro Poroshenko won Ukraine’s presidential election, separatists occupied the airport, leading to a military response. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

According to the Anatolian News Agency (Anadolu), Ukrainian troops had penetrated the airport amid fierce resistance from occupying forces. The sounds of warning sirens were reported and ‘strong’ detonations rang out over the local area. Combatants of the two sides then began fighting.

Slovyansk, also known as Sloviansk and Slavjansk, has already seen large numbers of its residents flee the fighting, while remaining residents spent the last few nights seeking shelter in basements and hastily constructed bomb shelters as they fear the battle spreading to the streets of the industrial city, an epicentre of Ukraine’s large Russian-speaking minority. Some of the fiercest clashes have occurred in the surburban village of Semenovka.

The Ukrainian armed forces say they have carried out their operations in Slovyansk in order to gain a foothold in the restive east and commence ‘anti-terrorism’ operations to flush out separatists, especially those entrenched in the main city of Donetsk. Around two hundred children and twenty-one families had fled Slovyansk for the Crimea after an attack was launched on a local hospital.

The media centre of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk claimed that at least six members of the pro-Russian forces have been killed in clashes within the past twenty-four hours. Last week, a Ukrainian helicopter was shot down over the area, killing several soldiers and a high-ranking commander and dozens of pro-Russian separatists have also died or been evicted. The Ukrainian bid to reclaim Donetsk airport is believed to have resulted in the deaths of fifty militants on the Russian side.

The civil war in Ukraine began earlier this year after Viktor Yanukovich, the pro-Russian president of the Ukraine was overthrown in a popular revolution fuelled by Ukrainian speakers’ desires to forge closer links with the European Union and move away from dependency on Russia. After a series of protests marred by killings and atrocities, Yanukovich fled the country and allegedly resurfaced in the Russian capital Moscow. Russian speakers in the east of Ukraine, its industrial heartland, feared being sidelined by the new government and began demanding referenda and union with their compatriots across the border. Separatists began occupying police stations and government buildings in the cities of Luhansk, Donetsk and Slovyansk. Russian speakers in the Crimean peninsula also rose up against the post-revolution government in Kiev and later the whole of the area, once part of Russia and gifted to Ukraine during the Soviet era and recently home to the Russian Black Sea navy fleet, was first occupied by separatists then annexed formally by the Russians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been accused of aiding and abetting the separatists in eastern Ukraine, which he has denied. However, people dressed in Russian military uniforms and armed with weapons sourced from the country have been sighted in the war zone. Mercenaries from as far away as Chechnya have also been reportedly spotted. Russia however has largely rebuffed the separatists’ demands to unite with them, and the Russian President has instead proposed talks aimed at settling the crisis and giving greater autonomy to eastern Ukraine. Both the previous and current governments in Kiev have vowed to end the rebellion. Both the occupation of the Crimea and alleged Russian backing of the separatist movements in eastern Ukraine have been condemned by both the European Union and the United States.

SOURCES:
HEM News Agency, The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter LINK
Al Jazeera Balkans,  Twitter LINK
“Ukrajina: Žestoki sukobi u Slavjansku” – Al Jazeera (1 June 2014) LINK
IMAGE CREDIT:
“Ukrainian Military Reponds To Occupation Of Donetsk Airport” – Brendan Hoffman, Getty Images (26 May 2014) LINK
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SWISS MINIMUM WAGE: Voters likely to reject world’s highest minimum pay package

Swiss voters are likely to reject a motion by the country’s government to begin paying workers what would have been the world’s highest rate of minimum wage pay, according to an online report by Irish current affairs public service RTE News. The vote, being held nationally today, will decide if employers are to be made to pay their staff a minimum wage of €18 (21.98 Swiss francs, £14.65) per hour worked. If the motion survives the vote, this means that no Swiss national can be paid less than an annual salary of £32,000.

The latest opinion poll on the minimum wage package, which is double that paid to workers in the United Kingdom, suggests that sixty-four per cent of voters are opposed, citing its potential negative impact on the buoyant Swiss economy. Local businesses are also fiercely opposed to the measure, which may leave smaller firms out of pocket.

The initiative was originally put forward by the SGB union and backed politically by the Socialist and Green parties. It is part of a raft of initiatives being put in front of the country’s voters to address pay inequality and the widening income gap in a country famed for its egalitarian policies, culture and low taxes, which have made this part of Europe a popular domicile for both local and foreign organisations. The liberal economy means that Switzerland does not currently have a national statutory minimum wage.

A Swiss employee’s pay rate is usually agreed via employment contracts. Companies in certain industries often arrange an industry-wide minimum wage via ‘collective bargaining agreements’ between competitors.

12 Francs
12 Francs (Photo credit: [Jim])

As in many other European countries, public anger has increased at the widening gulf in pay between top CEOs and other executives and workers at the opposite end of the pay spectrum. Those on the lower wage scales have seen take-home pay lag in real terms, while bonuses and pay cheques for executives have expanded continuously even six years after the 2008 credit crunch.

Supporters of the minimum wage package say it will put an end to the wage disparity between the richest Swiss and the poorest, and will see an average worker take home at least 4,000 francs (£2,666) per month, enabling those working in industries like retail, lower-grade office work and hospitality to live a far better standard of living. Many also cite the high costs of living in cities such as Geneva and Zurich, which attract many investors and financial high-fliers. This has led to more expensive outlets and higher property prices that disadvantage the less well off. According to the BBC, an average one-bedroom city centre flat in Zurich, Berne or Lausanne can cost 1,800 francs (£1,199.70) per month. This does not include further costs such as utility bills and health insurance, which totals around 400-600 francs (£267-400) monthly. A restaurant meal for two in a popular five-star eaterie can set diners back 100-150 francs (£66-£100). The higher cost of living also means lower-paid workers are forced to claim government benefits to top up pay, meaning in effect the government subsidises employers who refuse to pay a livable wage, supporters say. Opponents however say that the measure will damage competitiveness among Swiss businesses. Companies unable to pay the higher salaries would be forced to shed their minimum wage workforce, meaning that the policy may increase unemployment, particularly among the young and newly employed, and do more harm than good to the lower-paid.

SOURCES:
“HEM News Agency” – The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter LINK
RTÉ News, Twitter LINK
“Swiss set to reject world’s highest minimum wage proposal” – RTÉ News/RTÉ Commercial Enterprises Ltd (18 May 2014) LINK
XE.com LINK
“Switzerland votes on world’s highest minimum wage” – BBC News Business, BBC (18 May 2014) LINK
IMAGE CREDIT:
“12 Francs” – [Jim], Flickr (27 October 2008) LINK

 

 

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UKRAINE’S STRAY DOGS: Euro extermination

In about a week’s time, the referee will blow the whistle for the first kickoff at the UEFA European football championship being held jointly by the Ukraine and Poland, the first nations in east Europe to do so. While footie fans from all over Europe celebrate their team’s goals and victories, the stray dogs of Ukraine will not be celebrating. Government and municipal authorities in the nation of 45 million, desperate to beautify their streets and improve the Ukraine’s much-maligned image abroad, are declaring a war. A war on the 500,000 estimated unowned and unwanted canines who call the grey streets and abandoned Soviet-era factories home. A war which has seen 12,000 dogs killed last year alone in Kiev (Kyiv), the capital.

The dogs, many of which are abandoned by their owners who can no longer afford them, are a common sight in Ukraine’s cities. They wander about aimlessly, feeding on rubbish or handouts from sympathetic passers-by. Most urban Ukrainians aren’t too bothered by them; they are part of the fabric of city life, a minor inconvenience, in the same way as pigeons are in London. Politicians however, concerned over the spread of rabies and other diseases from strays, have begun rounding up and slaughtering them.

A dog gazes at a poster condemning the massacre of strays as Ukraine readies for Euro 2012 (c) The Guardian

Reports from local animal activists obtained by the London Evening Standard newspaper claim that dogs are being systematically shot, poisoned and even hung like condemned criminals by ‘street cleaning squads’, paid for out of city and national funds. Tamara Tarnavska, a representative of the charity SOS Animals reports that “in Kiev they are poisoning them, and some are even shot…The poison can take up to six hours to kill the animals so we believe some are very possibly taken to crematoriums and burnt while not yet dead“.

Despite official assurances to end this sickening and barbaric slaughter of man’s best friend, the massacre had reached almost mechanical levels. Ms. Tranavska also told the Evening Standard’s Oliver Poole that mobile incinerators were roaming the streets of Lisichansk town, scooping up the corpses of slain strays and reducing them to ash. Other shot dogs were gutted and skinned to be turned into fur coats and hats, or even animal feed.

Even those dogs lucky to escape the gun or the oven have been delivered to shelters where they are thrown into dirty ramshackle cages exposed to the elements.

After worldwide condemnation, Ukraine’s environment minister called a halt to the slaughter and proffered a £2.5 million aid package to charities to open 200 new shelters for strays as well as for a nationwide sterilisation programme.  The money has not been forthcoming however, even though several new stadiums have been constructed in the four cities helping to host Euro 2012 matches.

Stray dogs being collected in Kiev (C) AsiaOne/Reuters News Agency

Despite the minister’s failed promise, there is some hope. An organisation specialising in assisting stray dogs around the world has stepped in to do what it can. Four Paws have sent a team of activists and veterinarians in an 11-vehicle convoy which will travel all over the Ukraine, neutering and treating dogs using funds from donations. These mobile clinics are also offering on-the-spot health checks, vaccinations and de-fleaing/de-worming.

Stray dogs may be popularly seen as scruffy flea-bitten mutts, but they are still animals with feelings. It is because of modern consumerist throw-away culture and people biting more than they can chew, that populations of stray pets exist in the first place. Wholesale cruel butchering of strays, as has been happening in the Ukraine, is something that many right-thinking people have condemned. It is something that will boil the blood and raise the pressure of any animal lover. Yet many would say that,as cruel as it is, such exterminations are necessary to keep down the likelihood of maladies such as rabies transmitting from stray animals and possibly causing human deaths.  Ironically,  the beleagured stray dogs of Kiev were sentenced to death to improve Ukraine’s image abroad, but blood on the hands is never a good look.

To find out more and/or support the charities mentioned in the article, please visit the websites below:

SOS Animals Ukrainahttp://www.sos-animals.info/

Postal address for donations (dog foods, medical supplies, cleaning chemicals and freezers)

Krasnoznamennaya Street, Pirogovo village, Kyiv. Telephone: +38 (050) 447-61-07; +38 (044) 569-33-46. Donations can be made at: account ¹ 26004301242846, Prominvest Bank, Kyiv office

Four Paws Organisationhttp://www.vier-pfoten.eu/