Tragic French police dog Diesel to receive supreme honour for gallantry

Diesel-pdsaHeroic French police dog, Diesel, who was tragically killed as he led a raid on a Paris terror cell last month, is to receive the PDSA Dickin Medal – recognised worldwide as the animals’ Victoria Cross.

The medal was instituted by the UK charity, the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), in 1943 and it is the highest animal honour in the world and Diesel’s will be the 66th PDSA Dickin Medal to be awarded.

Diesel, a seven-year-old Belgian Malinois, served with the French National Research, Assistance, Intervention and Deterrence special anti-terrorism force (RAID).

On the morning of Wednesday 18 November, five days after the Paris attacks which killed 130 people, the French national police forces, including RAID, were involved in a security operation in the suburb of St-Denis.

Major RULP Jean-Marc Lenglet from the French National Police, said: "Diesel’s handler has been deeply affected by the death of his dog, as have many thousands of well-wishers who sent messages of condolence for Diesel who died in the service of his country."

The formal presentation of Diesel’s PDSA Dickin Medal will be made in 2016. PDSA Director General, Jan McLoughlin, said: "Following the tragic terrorist events in Paris last month, where many innocent people lost their lives, Diesel was instrumental in helping the French police locate and deal with the perpetrators.

"When news emerged of Diesel’s death there was a huge outpouring of grief . As guardians of the world’s most prestigious animal awards programme, we were inundated by messages from members of the public to recognise his heroism.

"The PDSA Dickin Medal recognises conspicuous devotion to duty in the theatre of conflict and Diesel is a truly deserving recipient. His gallant actions helped to protect human life in the face of imminent danger and we are very proud to honour him in this way."

Since the introduction of the medal by PDSA founder Maria Dickin CBE in 1943 it has been awarded to 30 dogs (including Diesel), 32 World War Two messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat.

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French mosques to hold open days

Grande-mosque-parisGrande Mosquée de Paris. By LPLT - Wikimedia Commons
Mosques in France are to hold open days on the weekend of the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in Paris.

The Muslim representative group Le Conseil Français du Culte Musulman (CFCM) has asked mosques across France to invite non-Muslims to visit on 9 and 10 January, 2016 to let people ask questions and find out more about the religion.

The move comes as tensions remain high in Corsica after a mob attacked a prayer room on Friday in the regional capital, Ajaccio, following an attack on firefighters and a police officer.

A directory of mosques is available on the CFCM website.

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Direct from Colombia: 2.4 tonnes of cocaine seized in the English Channel

Hms-severn
A joint operation involving UK and French law enforcement has resulted in the seizure of around 2.4 tonnes of cocaine from a freighter a few miles off the UK’s south coast.

Acting on intelligence from the National Crime Agency and the French Customs investigation service DNRED, the Moldovan flagged MV Carib Palm was intercepted in the Eastern Channel on Thursday 10 December.

It had sailed from Colombia and was on its way to Gdansk in Poland.

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News stops: Front National held at bay in regional elections, but for how long?

Reg.france
The second round of the regional elections in France saw the Front National held up as it searches for a position of political power, but for how long?

At present it seems the only tactic being adopted by the Socialists and the Republicans is to plead to people to vote against Marine Le Pen and the Front National, instead of giving people something to actually vote for.

Surely one day such pleading will fall upon deaf ears, and if the political elite are shocked this morning after such a close shave, what state will they be in if their horse-trading fails to work next time?

Here is a collection of news stories to let you get up to speed on the result, as well as the chance to check the official results for your own commune.

BBC: French far right National Front routed in key vote
France's far-right National Front (FN) has failed to win a single region in the second round of municipal elections.

The party was beaten into third place, despite leading in six of 13 regions in the first round of voting on 6 December.

Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right Republicans finished ahead of the ruling Socialists.

Acknowledging defeat, FN leader Marine Le Pen pledged to keep fighting.

The Guardian: Front National held back in France – but its trajectory is on the up
The election night mood in France was one of grim introspection.

Even if the rising tide of the far right Front National (FN) had been held back – temporarily at least – by tactical voting and a leap in turnout, the lessons were clear to see. The nationalist, anti-immigration, anti-European party was here to stay.

There were no winners in an election that consisted of establishment parties running around at the last minute trying desperately to outwit what they warned was a racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic and overwhelmingly dangerous party.

Politico: 5 takeaways from the elections in France
The National Front failed on Sunday to convince voters to let it run any French region, even though the far-right party’s candidates together gathered more votes than leader Marine Le Pen received in her 2012 presidential run.

Both mainstream parties, the conservative Les Républicains led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, and sitting President François Hollande‘s Socialists, expressed relief at the failure of the National Front — and claimed responsibility for making it possible.

Both parties’ leaders also chose to shun the victory speeches customary on election nights, and warned that much remains to be done to address the problems that enabled the National Front’s rise — from mass unemployment to security and terrorism fears.

Elections régionales : les résultats
Le second tour des élections régionales 2015 a eu lieu le dimanche 13 décembre.

Front National’s Marine Le Pen: ‘This is a split between the globalists and the patriots’

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Five things you need to know about the Paris climate deal

Cop21-agreement
By Simon Lewis, UCL

The UN climate talks in Paris have ended with an agreement between 195 countries to tackle global warming. The climate deal is at once both historic, important – and inadequate. From whether it is enough to avoid dangerous climate change to unexpected wins for vulnerable nations, here are five things to help understand what was just agreed at COP21.

1. This is a momentous, world-changing event

The most striking thing about the agreement is that there is one. For all countries, from superpowers to wealthy city-states, fossil fuel-dependent kingdoms to vulnerable low-lying island nations, to all agree to globally coordinate action on climate change is astonishing.

And it is not just warm words. Any robust agreement has to have four elements. First, it needs a common goal, which has now been defined. The agreement states that the parties will hold temperatures to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”.

Second, it requires matching scientifically credible reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement is woollier here, but it does state that emissions should peak “as soon as possible” and then be rapidly reduced. The next step is to:

Achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity …

Third, as current pledges to reduce emissions imply a warming of nearly 3°C above pre-industrial levels, there needs to be a mechanism to move from where countries are today, to zero emissions. There are five-year reviews, and “the efforts of all parties will represent a progression over time”, which means at each step countries should increase their levels of emission cuts from today’s agreements.

Finally, this all means developed countries need to rapidly move from fossil fuel energy to renewable sources. But the challenge is larger for the developing world: these countries must leapfrog the fossil fuel age. They need funds to do so and a key part of the agreement provides US$100 billion per year to 2020, and more than that after 2020.

There is a lot to like about this agreement: it gives a common goal to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the overall emissions cuts stated are reasonably credible, there is a mechanism to increase national emissions cuts over time towards “net zero”, and there is funding secured to help poorer countries harness the power of the sun, wind and waves instead of coal, oil and gas. It provides a roadmap to get the world off its dangerous addiction to fossil fuel energy.

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News stops: Sarkozy's dose of rhubarb rhubarb

Sarkozy
Here is a pick of some of the news stories from France.

BBC: Sarkozy, rhubarb and France's National Front
In the olden days of Nicolas Sarkozy's French presidency, much fun was to be had irreverently pointing out his tics and verbal idiosyncrasies.

Now he is mere leader of the opposition, the chance comes less frequently - but Monday night offered up a humdinger.

In full flow with France Television's star interviewer David Pujadas, Sarko delivered this pearl: "Just because I get the salad, doesn't mean I pass the rhubarb."

Telegraph: Third Bataclan attacker identified as Foued Mohamed-Aggad who visited Syria in 2013
A third man who attacked the Bataclan concert hall in Paris on November 13 has been identified as a 23-year-old from Strasbourg who went to Syria with a group of other young people at the end of 2013, a judicial source and other officials said on Wednesday.

Sources close to the situation named the attacker, who died in the assault, as Foued Mohamed-Aggad. Prime Minister Manuel Valls confirmed on BFMTV that the man had finally been identified.

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News stops: Eagles of Death Metal back on stage in Paris

Eagles-death-metal
A LOOK over some of the news headlines from France.

Eagles of Death Metal join U2 on stage in Paris
Rock fans in Paris saw the emotional return of the Eagles of Death Metal on Monday night, when they joined U2 on stage in a show of unity and support after the terror attacks in the city last month.

“They were robbed of their stage three weeks ago and we would like to offer them ours tonight,” U2 frontman Bono said as he welcomed them on.

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French regional elections: no one can dismiss Le Pen as an also-ran now

Le-penn
By Paul Smith, University of Nottingham

Marine Le Pen probably won’t be the next president of France, but the regional elections are proving that her Front National has truly become a major player.

Le Pen’s party has taken 28% of the vote in the first of two rounds to elect regional assemblies. The right-wing Republicans, led by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, came a close second, with a shade under 27%. The ruling Socialist Party trailed, with just 23% of the vote.

There is one week to go until the decisive second round, but even if the left and right somehow manage to block their path, the FN has already struck a major blow ahead of the presidential election in 2017.

Continue reading "French regional elections: no one can dismiss Le Pen as an also-ran now" »

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News stops: Front National makes gains in regional elections


THE first round of the regional elections in France has seen the far-right Front National top the polls, and sent the Socialists and Republicans into shock.

The second round takes place on Sunday 13 December, when it looks likely that the Front National will hold power in two regions of France.

Here are a few news stories covering the election fallout:

Front National wins opening round in France's regional elections
The far-right Front National has made a significant breakthrough in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, winning the opening round of regional elections and coming top in half of France’s regions.

The spectacular showing is the highest ever performance for the anti-immigration, anti-European party and, if it maintains the strong lead in in next week’s second round, it could reshape France’s political landscape.

Marine Le Pen slams 'collective suicide' as France's Socialists fall on sword to block FN
France's Socialist Party on Monday said its candidates would fall on their swords in three regions to try and prevent the far-Right Front National from clinching historic electoral victories next Sunday.

The FN made sweeping gains across France in the first round of regional elections on Sunday, coming top in six out of 13 regions and taking 28 per cent of the national vote.

By withdrawing from the second round in regions where they came third, the Socialists hope to fend off FN wins by turning the run-offs into a duel with Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative The Republicans party, formerly known as the UMP.

France's new super-regions: their powers and profile
The councils that run continental France’s 13 “super-regions”, formed last year from the previous 22 regions in an attempt to cut bureaucracy and costs, cannot pass their own laws and so wield little serious political power.

But they dispose of sizeable budgets – the largest, Île-de-France, had €4.9bn (£3.5bn) to spend this year – and the decisions they make can have a real impact on the daily lives of millions of people.

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News stops: Questions over state of emergency

A LOOK over some of the news headlines from France.

France's state of emergency could lead to abuses, say human rights groups
Human rights groups have warned that the state of emergency decreed in France after the Paris terrorist attacks could lead to abuses and must be closely monitored.

Instances of armed police breaking down front doors with battering rams in the middle of the night, searching homes, handcuffing residents and placing people under house arrest without warrants or judicial oversight have multiplied in the two weeks since the Paris attacks that killed 130 people and injured more than 300.

Europe is unarmed against jihadists
In a televised comment, much circulated on social networks, the former head of the anti-terrorism section of Paris’ criminal court, Marc Trévidic, explained that “the jihadists we arrested after the attack on Charlie only said one thing: IS dreams about attacking France. One of them even said that they had asked him to attack during a concert”. What’s more, according to Trévidic, “IS has many, too many people” ready to commit suicide bombings in France: “Even if some of them fail, there will be others ready to go ahead, because, unlike Al Qaeda, IS has the possibility to ‘waste’ its personnel”.

After Attacks, the Soul of Paris Endures
Paris has for so long been America’s playground that it is difficult to imagine it being anything else. It is a pretty, walkable movie set of a place that elevates your own aesthetic sensibility before you return westward across the Atlantic an enlightened soul.

France and US are united in response to Daesh - President
Fight against terrorism/United States/Syria/Russia/Daesh – Statements made by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, during his joint press conference with Mr Barack Obama, President of the United States of America (excerpts)

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