An Irish genealogist describes what “Irish weather” really means

Ireland went through an unusually cold snap in December – weathered the storm so to speak – it occurred to me, one of the notable traits of an Irish person is our unparalleled obsession with the weather. As amusing as it may sound, this is a not a new phenomenon and we have carried this trait for centuries. There is validity with our obsession, and this has been passed down through the generations, it has almost become part of our DNA!

If you are Irish you will understand, within the first five minutes of meeting someone, you can predict with certainty the weather will be discussed. 

If there is one thing that all Irish people are comfortable taking about – it’s the weather! Generally, whether it’s good or bad weather, we tend to complain about it. 

So where does it all come from…

Taking a closer look, the Irish have always maintained a healthy respect and regard for the weather, and this has been passed down through the generations with the reminiscence of folklore still evident. For example, it was widely accepted when there was a heavy mist it signified fairy activity in the area. Scientifically, there is also supporting evidence that our red hair and freckles are as a result of our limited sunshine and cloudy skies.

Our ancestors had an even closer relationship with the weather because, as a relatively small Island off the coast of Europe, the climate was so changeable and daily life was very much dependent on it. They looked to the sun, moon, stars, sky and clouds for signs. Agriculture, farming and fisheries were our main industries and predicting and anticipating weather was essential for economic survival.

Working the land and farming, weather was of the utmost importance as most work was done by hand and animals and crops needed to be protected from the elements. Animals also provided guidance as to what type of weather was expected. When cows lay down in the field it meant rain, a robin sitting high on the branch of a tree was a sign of good weather coming. Swallows flying high brought good weather, swallows flying low forecasted rain and so on and so on. 

Looking back through Irish history there are several weather fronts that affected the Irish psyche, and many believe it is because of these events that we have such high regard for weather. Coincidently, all these great weather events happened in the month of January.

The events of “the night of the big wind” on the 6th January 1839 has been carried down through the generations and became part of Irish folklore. The Feast of the Epiphany falls on January 6th and many believed it was judgement day and the end of the world was nigh. There was no storm warning and gusts of winds reached 112mph. The weather front hit at 3pm and lasted 9 hours through the dark night causing several hundred deaths as well as damaging and wiping out about 25% of houses in Dublin. At sea further disaster struck with 42 ships wrecked. Waves were reported coming in from the Atlantic and over The Cliffs of Moher. About 5 miles inland fish were found on branches of trees having come in on waves from the ocean. It was the worst storm to hit Ireland for over 300 years and it was a devastating and frightening experience that lived long in the memories of people. 

It’s worth noting that the weather was a factor when Ireland was at arguably at its lowest point in history. The Great Famine devastated our country and people between 1845 and 1852. Starvation and hunger related diseases caused the deaths of a million people with a further 1.5 million emigrating. At that time, one third of Ireland’s population depended on the potato crop for survival and when a disease affected the potato crop, the damp moist weather provided the ideal conditions for the fungus to grow and multiply and destroy the entire potato crop. Although the weather cannot solely be held responsible for Great Famine, it was a contributing factor. 

The next big weather event that was cemented in the memory of Irish people was in the early part of the 20th century. In January 1917, a severe snowstorm hit Ireland and it was regarded as the most severe in over 200 years. Because of the low ground temperature, the snow lasted until St Patrick’s Day in March. This snow caused widespread destruction particularly in animals, wildlife and plants. Again, it proved to be a very challenging time for the agriculture and fisheries industries. 

In 1947 The Big Snow hit Ireland and was reported as the coldest and harshest winter in living memory with snowdrifts measuring up to 15 feet high. It lasted for 2 months with very little respite claiming the lives of up to 600 people. 

In 1963 The Great Freeze broke the records for the coldest winter on record. 

In 1963, the bitterly cold winds, snow and freezing temperatures ensured it remained long in the memories of Irish people. The severe conditions impacted travel on land, sea and air. In Bray, south of Dublin, waves of up to 40 feet were reported and a woman was swept to her death in Dalkey Harbour, County Dublin. Food was airlifted to remote areas in County Wicklow which weren’t accessible by land. These blizzard conditions spread, causing widespread destruction across Europe. The Great Freeze retained this this record until 2010 when temperatures were about 2 degrees lower than the average during 1963.

In more recent living memory, The Big Freeze in 2010 was the most recent epic weather event. It was reminiscent of The Great Freeze in 1963 with bitterly cold northerly winds and heavy snow and caused all sorts of disruption and chaos to daily life. 

In contrast to these wintery conditions, we don’t appear to have had the same extreme summer conditions to become engrained in our memories. Although, the Summer of 1976 will still be recounted by many who remember this unusually long hot Irish Summer.

Despite these extreme weather fronts, overall, the climate in Ireland can be summed up as being mild, moist and changeable with plenty of rainfall, a bit of wind and not many extreme temperatures. As a nation I believe we will always have a fascination for the weather. It is what makes us distinctly Irish, and the weather is something that connects Irish people on a human level. It is not merely a conversation ice-breaker – there is far more depth and substance to it and it’s something that will remain forever in our psyche!

For less chat about the weather and more information on Irish Family History, tracing Irish family roots and all things genealogical, please contact Linda Mulligan at www.longlostfamily.ie or email enquiries to [email protected].



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EU has neglected Latin America as a trade partner. That has to change


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

When Russia embarked on its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February, the European Union realised that Moscow’s act of aggression meant Brussels had to look for economic partners elsewhere.

South America should have been the first on Brussels’ speed dial.

Yet, in reality, the two continents tend to treat each other with a combination of indifference and contempt.

Latin American diplomats would say that Europe tends to take the region for granted — especially its former colonies. At the same time, the EU appears not to have worked out clearly what it wants of its relationship with Latin America.

The detachment between the two blocs is summed up by the fact that the last EU-Latin America summit took place seven years ago, while a trade agreement between the EU and the Mercosur union — comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay — has been stalled for more than two decades.

In Brussels’ absence, Beijing became Latin America’s best friend

However, if the EU wants to wean itself off Russian energy and lead the clean-energy transition, officials in Brussels will need to renew ties with their Latin American counterparts by forging new trade deals, as the region is home to several metals that are critical to building a green economy. 

The demand for rare earth metals in the EU — already at its highest — is expected to surge fivefold by 2030, yet Europe produces a negligible share of the minerals it needs in its race for renewables.

By contrast, Chile owns 42% of the world’s lithium reserves, a key component of electric car batteries, and a quarter of its copper deposits, used in everything from grids to turbines. Peru, too, holds nearly a quarter of the world’s silver, which is essential in producing solar panels and electric cars.

Putting new life into that old relationship would also help the EU diversify trade to avoid strategic dependencies with China, as concerns are mounting in Brussels about the bloc’s over-reliance on Beijing as a market for goods and raw materials for its green transition.

In turn, deepening ties would also alleviate the economic semi-stagnation of Latin America, hard-hit by globalisation, enabling European companies to shift production from China to the Americas.

Another reason the EU should increase ties with Latin America is to counter Beijing’s rising influence in the region. To avoid the same mistake as in Africa — where Chinese firms have monopolised cobalt mining, essential for electric vehicle batteries, accounting for an estimated one-eighth of the continent’s industrial output — the EU needs to step up its game.

Over the past decade, China has been systematically building its supply chain in these critical minerals. It increased its investments in Latin America 26-fold between 2000 and 2020 and is now the primary stakeholder in two of the ten biggest lithium mines in Chile, as well as Mercosur’s largest single trade partner (and the second-biggest for Latin America as a whole).

In Brazil, China Three Gorges, the world’s largest hydropower provider, controls almost half of its hydro plants. At the same time, China’s State Grid Corp is the country’s largest power generation and distribution company.

Moreover, 19 governments across Latin America and the Caribbean have joined Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative, a nearly €1-trillion transcontinental trade and infrastructure network.

‘Pink wave’ of left-leaning leaders a chance for relations reset

However, after years of EU disengagement, it seems that the political stars have aligned to enable a qualitative leap in relations between the bloc and Latin America. 

Putin’s war in Ukraine and China’s rising authoritarianism have woken Brussels to the enormous challenges the bloc has to face, and politicians are now scrambling to forge new deals to secure raw materials.

Last December, the EU concluded a trade deal with Chile that will give it easier access to lithium, copper and other minerals vital to its renewable energy industry. Currently, 67% of Chile’s copper exports go to China, while just 5% go to the EU.

Yet another disadvantage for Brussels can be gleaned from the fact that Chile’s raw materials are processed in China and resold at a markup, with the difference often coming out of the pockets of Europeans.

Some things have changed as of late, however.

Chile’s leftist President Gabriel Boric is seeking to boost manufacturing jobs by reducing the country’s reliance on raw exports to China and instead having more of the production process based locally.

Moreover, socialist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s victory in Brazil’s presidential election on 30 October has revived EU trade hopes for Latin America.

It was Lula’s return that also brought back talks about the EU-Mercosur trade deal, now poised to be ratified by the end of the year — a pact blocked by European countries in 2019 after his predecessor, far-right firebrand Jair Bolsonaro, allowed Amazon’s deforestation to spike by 59.5%.

Boric and Lula both belong to the so-called “pink wave” of left-leaning Latin American heads of state at the helm of six out of seven of the region’s biggest economies.

Strike while the iron is hot

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s recent trip to the region was, in many ways, a chance for Europe to use this new era to its advantage.

In late January, he met with Boric to secure additional supplies of the lithium needed for its electric car industry, promising in return to help Chile develop its processing sectors. This week with Lula, he talked Mercosur.

Others in the EU, too, are looking to boost relations: a mix of trade-friendly countries — Sweden and Spain — are set to hold the bloc’s Council presidency this year, and the need to decouple from Russian gas and reduce Chinese dependencies are at the top of the agenda, which is bound to incentivise officials to forge new deals.

Yet, none of this will happen if Europe doesn’t strike while the iron is hot.

In the face of mounting geopolitical challenges and the urgent need to speed up the energy transition, Brussels needs a major reset of policy towards Latin America. It’s time to open political dialogue and diversify friendships.

Carla Subirana is an economist who has worked as a policy analyst for the Bank of England and Europe analyst for Economist Intelligence.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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China to look into report of spy balloon over U.S.

China said Friday it is looking into reports that a Chinese spy balloon has been flying in U.S. airspace and urged calm, adding that it has “no intention of violating the territory and airspace of any sovereign country.”

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning also said she had no information about whether a trip to China by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken planned for next week will proceed as scheduled.

At a daily briefing, Ms. Mao said that politicians and the public should withhold judgment “before we have a clear understanding of the facts” about the spy balloon reports.

Mr. Blinken would be the highest-ranking member of President Joe Biden’s administration to visit China, arriving amid efforts to mitigate a sharp downturn in relations between Beijing and Washington over trade, Taiwan, human rights and China’s claims in the South China Sea.

“China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international laws, and China has no intention of violating the territory and airspace of any sovereign country. As for the balloon, as I’ve mentioned just now, we are looking into and verifying the situation and hope that both sides can handle this together calmly and carefully,” Ms. Mao said.

“As for Blinken’s visit to China, I have no information,” she said.

A senior defence official told Pentagon reporters that the U.S. has “very high confidence” that the object was a Chinese high-altitude balloon and was flying over sensitive sites to collect information.

One of the places the balloon was spotted was over the state of Montana, which is home to one of America’s three nuclear missile silo fields at Malmstrom Air Force Base. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

A high-altitude balloon floats over Billings, Mont., on February 1, 2023
| Photo Credit:
AP

Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the balloon is “currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground.”

Mr. Ryder said similar balloon activity has been seen in the past several years and the government has taken steps to ensure no sensitive information was stolen.

President Biden was briefed and asked the military to present options, according to a senior administration official, who was also not authorised to publicly discuss sensitive information.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, advised against taking “kinetic action” because of risks to the safety of people on the ground. Mr. Biden accepted that recommendation.

The defence official said the U.S. has “engaged” Chinese officials through multiple channels and communicated the seriousness of the matter.

Mr. Blinken’s visit was expected to start this Sunday in an effort to try to find common ground on issues from trade policy to climate change. Although the trip has not been formally announced, both Beijing and Washington have been talking about his imminent arrival.

The senior defence official said the U.S. prepared fighter jets, including F-22s, to shoot down the balloon if ordered. The Pentagon ultimately recommended against it, noting that even as the balloon was over a sparsely populated area of Montana, its size would create a debris field large enough that it could have put people at risk.

It was not clear what will happen with the balloon if it isn’t brought down.

The defence official said the spy balloon was trying to fly over the Montana missile fields, but the U.S. has assessed that it has “limited” value in terms of providing intelligence it couldn’t obtain by other technologies, such as spy satellites.

The official would not specify the size of the balloon but said commercial pilots could spot it from their cockpits. All air traffic was halted at Montana’s Billings Logan International Airport from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, as the military provided options to the White House.

A photograph of a large white balloon lingering over the area was captured by The Billings Gazette. The balloon could be seen drifting in and out of clouds and had what appeared to be a solar array hanging from the bottom, said Gazette photographer Larry Mayer.

The balloon’s appearance adds to national security concerns among lawmakers over China’s influence in the U.S., ranging from the prevalence of the hugely popular smartphone app TikTok to purchases of American farmland.

“China’s brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed,” Republican Party House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted.

Tensions with China are particularly high on numerous issues, ranging from Taiwan and the South China Sea to human rights in China’s western Xinjiang region and the clampdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong. Not least on that list of irritants are China’s tacit support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its refusal to rein in North Korea’s expanding ballistic missile program and ongoing disputes over trade and technology.

On Tuesday, Taiwan scrambled fighter jets, put its navy on alert and activated missile systems in response to nearby operations by 34 Chinese military aircraft and nine warships that are part Beijing’s strategy to unsettle and intimidate the self-governing island democracy.

Twenty of those aircraft crossed the central line in the Taiwan Strait that has long been an unofficial buffer zone between the two sides, which separated during a civil war in 1949.

Beijing has also increased preparations for a potential blockade or military action against Taiwan, which has stirred increasing concern among military leaders, diplomats and elected officials in the U.S., Taiwan’s key ally.

The surveillance balloon was first reported by NBC News.

From an office window in Billings, Montana, Chase Doak said he saw a “big white circle in the sky” that he said was too small to be the moon.

“I thought maybe it was a legitimate UFO,” Mr. Doak said. “So I wanted to make sure I documented it and took as many photos as I could.”

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US pressures allies to expel Russia’s Wagner mercenaries from Libya, Sudan

The United States has stepped up pressure on Middle East allies to expel the Wagner Group, a military contractor with close ties to Russia’s president, from chaos-stricken Libya and Sudan where it expanded in recent years, regional officials told The Associated Press.

The U.S. effort described by officials comes as the Biden administration is making a broad push against the mercenaries. The U.S. has slapped new sanctions on the Wagner Group in recent months over its expanding role in Russia’s war in Ukraine

The group is owned by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Pentagon has described it as a surrogate for the Russian Defense Ministry. The Kremlin denies any connection.

The Biden administration has been working for months with regional powers Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to pressure military leaders in Sudan and Libya to end their ties with the group, according to more than a dozen Libyan, Sudanese and Egyptian officials. They asked for anonymity to speak freely and because they were not authorized to discuss the issue with the media.

“Wagner obsesses them (American officials),” said an Egyptian senior government official with direct knowledge of the talks. “It is at the top of every meeting.”

The group doesn’t announce its operations, but its presence is known from reports on the ground and other evidence. In Sudan, it was originally associated with former strongman Omar al-Bashir and now works with the military leaders who replaced him. In Libya, it’s associated with east Libya-based military commander Khalifa Hifter.

Wagner has deployed thousands of operatives in African and Middle Eastern countries including Mali, Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Syria. Its aim in Africa, analysts say, is to support Russia’s interests amid rising global interest in the resource-rich continent. Rights experts working with the U.S. on Jan. 31 accused the group of committing possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Mali, where it is fighting alongside government forces.

“Wagner tends to target countries with natural resources that can be used for Moscow’s objectives – gold mines in Sudan, for example, where the resulting gold can be sold in ways that circumvent Western sanctions,” said Catrina Doxsee, an expert on Wagner at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Prigozhin did not respond to a request for comment sent to the press department of the Concord Group, of which he is an owner. 

The group’s role in Libya and Sudan was central to recent talks between CIA director William Burns and officials in Egypt and Libya in January. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also discussed the group with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in a late-January trip to Cairo, Egyptian officials said. Weeks after the visits, Burns acknowledged in a Thursday speech at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., that after recent travel to Africa he was concerned about the Wagner’s growing influence in the continent. 

“That is a deeply unhealthy development and we’re working very hard to counter it,” Burns said. 

Burns and Blinken called on el-Sissi’s government to help convince Sudan’s ruling generals and Libya’s Hifter to end their dealings with the Wagner, an Egyptian official briefed on the talks said.

The group and its founder have been under U.S. sanctions since 2017, and the Biden administration in December announced new export restrictions to restrict its access to technology and supplies, designating it as a “significant transnational criminal organization.”

Sudan

Leaders in Sudan have received repeated U.S. messages about Wagner’s growing influence in recent months, via Egypt and Gulf states, said a senior Sudanese official.

Abbas Kamel, the director of Egypt’s Intelligence Directorate Agency, conveyed Western concerns in talks in Khartoum last month with the head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the official said. Kamel urged Burhan to find a way to address Wagner’s “use of Sudan as a base” for operations in neighboring countries such as the Central African Republic, the official said.

Wagner started operating in Sudan in 2017, providing military training to intelligence and special forces, and to the paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces, according to Sudanese officials and documents shared with The Associated Press. 

The RSF, which grew out of the feared Janjaweed militias, is led by powerful general Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who has close ties with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Dagalo has been sending troops to fight alongside the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s long-running civil war.

Wagner mercenaries are not operating in a combat role in Sudan, officials said. The group, which has dozens of operatives in the country, provides military and intelligence training, as well as surveillance and protection of sites and top officials.

Sudanese military leaders appear to have given Wagner control of gold mines in return. The documents show that the group has received mining rights through front companies with ties to Sudan’s powerful military and the RSF. Its activities are centered in gold-rich areas controlled by the RSF in Darfur, Blue Nile and other provinces, according to officials.

Two companies have been sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury for acting as fronts for Wagner’s mining activities — Meroe Gold, a Sudanese gold mining firm, and its owner, the Russian-based M Invest firm. Prigozhin owns or controls both, according to the Treasury. Despite sanctions, Meroe Gold is still operating across Sudan.

The Russian mercenaries helped the paramilitary force consolidate its influence not only in the country’s far-flung regions, but also in the capital of Khartoum, where it helps run pro-RSF social media pages.

The main camp of Wagner mercenaries is in the contested village of Am Dafok on the borders between the Central African Republic and Sudan, according to the Darfur Bar Association, a legal group that focuses on human rights.

“Nobody can approach their areas,” said Gibreel Hassabu, a lawyer and member of the association.

Libya

In Libya, Burns held talks in Tripoli with Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, head of one of Libya’s two rival governments. 

The CIA director also met with Hifter in eastern Libya, according to officials with Hifter’s forces. One official briefed on the meeting in al-Rajma military complex, the seat of Hifter’s command just outside Benghazi, said Wagner was the main issue discussed.

U.N. experts said Wagner mercenaries were deployed Libya since 2018, helping Hifter’s forces in their fight against Islamist militants in eastern Libya. The group was also involved in his failed offensive on Tripoli in April 2019.

The U.S. Africa Command, AFRICOM, estimated that some 2,000 Wagner mercenaries were in Libya between July-September 2020, before a cease-fire. The mercenaries were equipped with armored vehicles, air defense systems, fighter aircraft, and other equipment, which were supplied by Russia, according to the AFRICOM assessment. The report also said the Wagner group appeared to be receiving money from the UAE, a main foreign backer of Hifter.

Since the 2020 cease-fire, Wagner’s activities have centered around oil facilities in central Libya, and they have continued providing military training to Hifter forces, Libyan officials said. It is not clear how many Wagner mercenaries are still in Libya.

American officials have demanded that mercenaries be pulled out of oil facilities, another Libyan official said.

Hifter did not offer any commitments, but asked for assurances that Turkey and the Libyan militias it backed in western Libya will not initiate an attack on his forces in the coastal city of Sirte and other areas in central Libya.

Egypt, which has close ties with Hifter, has demanded that Wagner not be stationed close to its borders.

There is no evidence yet that the Biden administration’s pressure has yielded results in either Sudan or Libya, observers said.

Doxsee, the expert, said the U.S. and allies should resist promoting narratives that “Russia is bad and what we have to offer is good” and instead focus on offering better alternatives to Wagner.

“Ultimately, at the end of the day, Wagner is a business. If you can cut out the profit and you can reduce the business case for using Wagner, that’s what is going to make it a less appealing case,” she said.

(AP)

 

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Why do people love Ireland so much?

What is it about Ireland that makes it so appealing and popular with holidaymakers and those who call it home? We asked around and tried to find out!

Now that the summer is over most of us are secretly thinking about our 2023 vacation. And while there is a whole world out there to explore, there is still so much to see and do in Ireland.

So we spoke to some residents, both those born here and those who have chosen to make Ireland their home, to find out what is so great about the Emerald Isle – and with so much global unrest, our little island is becoming a more appealing prospect by the day.

The Irish countryside

The scenery – A view from Sneem, in County Galway.

Firstly of course is the scenery – there are stunning locations all over the world but we also have plenty of our own; including the Wild Atlantic Way, the craggy rocks of the Burren, Glenveagh National Park, the remote beauty of Connemara, the majesty of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher and Glendalough to name just a few.

Most of us haven’t experienced even half of the beauty on our doorstep, so after the parade pick somewhere you haven’t visited before and go exploring. 

Irish rainbows

According to a South African native who has become an Irish citizen, we truly have the best rainbows. And while we have yet to find a legendary pot of gold at the end, thanks to an abundance of rain and clear, fresh skies, when the sun shines on a rainy day, our colorful bows are a joy to behold. 

Irish weather

This leads on to the climate – yes, we have quite a few damp days throughout the year, but we are blessedly free from weather extremes. And whatever about being caught in a downpour, we aren’t too likely to experience anything more dramatic in the near future. In fact, one Italian man, who has recently moved here, said he loved the weather because it’s always summertime – in other words, it never changes.

Irish rain = green

Irish weather - The lush greens of Europe's largest city park, Phoenix Park, Dublin.

Irish weather – The lush greens of Europe’s largest city park, Phoenix Park, Dublin.

And on the subject of rain, its abundance makes for a stunning natural environment; gardens, parks, even hedgerows are always lush and vibrant, often wild and most definitely green.

Irish history

Irish history - Irish famine memorial in Dublin. Our history has made us who we are today.

Irish history – Irish famine memorial in Dublin. Our history has made us who we are today.

We have a long, often sad and undoubtedly colorful history and while at times it was far from pretty, it still lingers in all of our minds and has helped to promote a keen sense of patriotism and pride. 

The smell of Ireland

Smell - what is more evocative than the smell of an Irish turf fire.

Smell – what is more evocative than the smell of an Irish turf fire.

Smell is our most powerful sense with a particular scent having the ability to transport us to another place and time – so the aromas of Ireland are another thing to be thankful for – the smell of a turf fire is unbeatable, as is the scent on the air after a rain shower. And when the wind blows a certain way over St James’ Gate, the smell of toasted barley and hops never fails to remind you that you are home. 

Read more: Smell of an open fire in Ireland is intoxicating but what is Irish turf?

Education in Ireland

Education in Ireland - Trinity College Dublin.

Education in Ireland – Trinity College Dublin.

With their long, paid holidays and short working days, teachers are the focus of many a rant, but according to people who have moved here from abroad, our education system is pretty impressive.

Many people from Europe, US and beyond were keen to pass on their feelings about the Irish education system and as one French man said ‘Education in Ireland, particularly in primary schools, really focuses on getting the best from students, the child is always put before the curriculum’.

Irish music

Irish music - U2! Making waves around the world for decades.

Irish music – U2! Making waves around the world for decades.

Irish music is very special – from U2 to Westlife and Sinead O’Connor to the Pogues, many of our artists have been making waves across the world for decades. But it is our traditional sound which sets us apart from the rest – hip young things might scoff at it, but you can bet your bottom dollar, they would be the first to claim it as their heritage if they happened to hear Trad music abroad – its vibrancy, skill, and downright toe-tapping catchiness is second to none. 

Irish dance

We’re not too bad on our feet either and Riverdance did much to bring our unique dance to the world and give a bit of glamour to the ‘one, two, threes’. 

Read more: Riverdance stars in Dublin are living their dream

Irish surf

The water might be pretty cold (read bloody freezing), but apparently the quality of our surf is up there with the best on the planet. So while surfing might not be your thing, it’s still something to be proud of. 

Island life

The sea - the restorative powers of seaviews in Ireland.

The sea – the restorative powers of seaviews in Ireland.

When I was growing up on the west coast, there was a story doing the rounds of a local farmer whose cows escaped from a field. Enjoying a pint of Guinness, he seemed unperturbed by the bovine fugitives and when pressed, replied ‘Sure, what harm, don’t we live on an island’. Wise words indeed – and apart from the fact that our livestock can’t hatch plans to migrate overseas, living on an island also ensures that nowhere is far from the ocean with its ever-changing views and restorative powers.

Irish air

Irish air - Breathe it in!

Irish air – Breathe it in!

Like love, air is all around us, and living on a blustery island in the Atlantic, we have some of the freshest air going. If we could bottle it, we could make a fortune, but as we can’t we should be thankful for the fact that city center aside, it’s so clean and pure.

Irish kindness

Some people like to keep themselves to themselves and that’s fair enough, but there’s no getting away from the fact that when the chips are down, we Irish are pretty good at taking care of people. The vast majority are good and kind and dozens shared stories of how complete strangers helped; by carrying bags up the stairs, offering up seats on a train, putting a shout-out on social media about lost property, intervening when someone was being verbally abused and generally being good citizens. 

Irish sense of community

The sense of community is another point that newly-minted Irish citizens were keen to point out – having moved here from abroad, most felt very included by their new neighbors and colleagues and said their children were happily settled in school and had a good group of friends. 

No dangerous animals

No dangerous animals - We got nothing! Cows anybody?

No dangerous animals – We got nothing! Cows anybody?

A somewhat bizarre but equally relevant positive is the lack of dangerous animals in Ireland. A number of residents discussed their relief at living in a place devoid of creatures that sting, poison or attack. 

The Irish wake

Perilous creatures aside, strange as it may seem, the way we deal with death in this country is very positive – from the funeral wake to the hugely supportive way in which the entire community turns up to show respects and offer support to the bereaved, we really know how to address the inevitable and take the whole process into our stride. It’s not quite the keening days of old, but by tackling the sad and sorry business head-on, we, together with our communities, acknowledge that death is a part of life. 

“Do you know…”

“Do you know…” – Ireland is so small and we’re so friendly that networking is easy.

Networking is made easier in Ireland thanks to the size of the country and our easy familiarity with each other. One German IT consultant said she is astounded at how everyone seems to know the right person for any job and no matter what needs doing, there is always an instant recommendation – and having a personal introduction makes future business much easier.

Friendly folk

Friendly folk - The Irish live up to that stereotype.

Friendly folk – The Irish live up to that stereotype.

We have always prided ourselves on being the ‘land of a thousand welcomes’. And while that may seem a bit twee and ‘Oirish’, the fact remains that we are still viewed as being an altogether friendly bunch who will strike up a conversation with anyone at any time.

Irish Mammy’s cooking

Irish Mammy's cooking - Can any Irish person resist bacon, cabbage and mash?

Irish Mammy’s cooking – Can any Irish person resist bacon, cabbage and mash?

Everyone loves their mothers’ home cooking and Irish people who have moved abroad cite this as being the thing they most look forward to when visiting home (after their Mammy’s of course) – whether it’s an Irish stew, some freshly baked soda bread, or even the traditional Sunday roast or bacon and cabbage, nothing beats it. 

High-quality Irish produce

High-quality Irish produce - It doesn't get any better than Irish.

High-quality Irish produce – It doesn’t get any better than Irish.

And on the subject of food, many visitors commented on the quality of our produce – our butter and dairy produce is second to none, our locally produced meats are praised worldwide and our fresh fish and seafood is top-notch (or top nosh).

Irish rugby

Irish ruby - Ireland fly half Jack Carty sets up the attack for the games first try during the International match between Wales and Ireland.

Irish ruby – Ireland fly half Jack Carty sets up the attack for the games first try during the International match between Wales and Ireland.

We can’t compile a list of Irish positives without mentioning our rugby teams, who continue to impress year upon year – and once again, for a country as small as Ireland, we have managed to produce some amazing players over the years.

Gaelic games 

Gaelic games - There's something pretty special about Ireland's ancient sports.

Gaelic games – There’s something pretty special about Ireland’s ancient sports.

On the topic of sport – love it or hate it, the GAA is pretty special. Our unique games not only set us apart from other nations and bring us together in Irish clubs abroad but also are the beating heart of many small communities up and down the country.

Any parent out there will know what it’s like to be constantly on taxi duty as we take our children to one activity after another – but several European parents have praised this as a very positive aspect to Irish life, as they believe their children have more opportunity to try different sports and other extra-curricular activities than they would have had in their native countries.

Modern Ireland

Modern Ireland - It's not your grandparent's Ireland anymore.

Modern Ireland – It’s not your grandparent’s Ireland anymore.

In our grandparent’s day, we were quite a conservative bunch by all accounts, living by the (holy) book and not wanting to step out of line, but recent referendums have shown that we are no longer afraid to voice our opinions and accept change and this is a very positive aspect to modern Ireland.

Multi-cultural Ireland

Multi-cultural Ireland - The face of Ireland is changing and it's for the better.

Multi-cultural Ireland – The face of Ireland is changing and it’s for the better.

And last but most certainly not least is the fact that modern Ireland is a melting pot of different nationalities, which when all mixed together, make the nation richer in so many ways. 

Love Ireland? What did we miss out? Tell us why you love Ireland so much in the comments section below.

This article was submitted to the IrishCentral contributors network by a member of the global Irish community. To become an IrishCentral contributor click here.



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China can help cool soaring global inflation


An Indian customer shops at a toy store on Thursday at Yiwu International Trade City in Yiwu, Zhejiang province. The complex, the world’s biggest small-commodities market, reopened after closing for the Spring Festival holiday in late January. (HUANG ZONGZHI/XINHUA)

Stable prices provide room for more policy easing to shore up economy

China, with its benign inflation rate, is capable of playing a pivotal role in helping cool soaring global inflation and will continue to ensure strong economic recovery and mild price fluctuations this year, analysts and executives said.

In marked contrast to major advanced economies, which have been plagued by surging inflation amid rising energy and food prices, China has seen its inflation levels remain low and stable, which, analysts said, provides space for further policy easing to shore up the world’s second-largest economy.

“Over the past year, many advanced economies witnessed the biggest surge in inflation in 40 years,” said Liu Zhicheng, director of commodity market division at the Academy of Macroeconomic Research’s market and price research institute. The academy is affiliated with the National Development and Reform Commission, or NDRC, China’s top economic regulatory body.

Last year, a number of developed economies, including the United Kingdom and the United States, experienced inflationary whiplash. During the first 11 months of 2022, the inflation rate, as measured by the consumer price index, was 8 percent in the United States, 8.4 percent in the eurozone and 8.9 percent in the UK, sparking public complaints and protests. Some developing countries have also suffered from high inflation.

Both the Bank of England, Britain’s central bank, and the European Central Bank were expected to raise interest rates on Thursday to tame high inflation, ease the cost-of-living crisis and avoid falling into recession. The US Federal Reserve increased its key interest rate by a quarter point on Wednesday.

China has had a good record of keeping its overall price levels low and stable. Last year, the country’s consumer price index rose by 2 percent year-on-year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, which was well below the country’s inflation control target of around 3 percent.

Notably, China’s food inflation rate was 2.8 percent and the cost of water, electricity and fuel rose a modest 3 percent in 2022, both significantly lower than in major Western economies, Liu said.

He attributed soaring inflation across the globe to runaway energy and food prices amid geopolitical tensions and the massive fiscal and monetary easing measures in many Western countries.

China has managed to deal with imported inflationary pressures with effective measures focused on stabilizing prices of products essential for people’s livelihood as well as bulk commodities.

“China’s stable price levels are creating an environment that keeps economic performance stable, which also helps tame global inflation,” Liu said.

While warning of headwinds from imported inflationary pressures and potential fluctuations in commodity prices, Wan Jinsong, director of the NDRC’s Department of Price, said China has solid foundations as well as the confidence and capabilities to maintain overall price stability in 2023.

Wan said at a recent news conference that the country has sufficient supplies of goods essential for people’s livelihood, a stable energy supply and an improved system for ensuring price and supply stability.

“Compared with the dramatic inflation surges much of the world has experienced, China has continued to have low inflation due to weak domestic demand and government measures to stabilize prices and supplies,” said Zhou Maohua, an analyst at China Everbright Bank.

NBS data showed China’s CPI grew by 1.8 percent year-on-year in December, while the inflation rate in the US was 6.5 percent in the same month.

Zhou estimated that China’s CPI will remain at a moderate level this year given the gradual pickup in demand and the country’s sufficient supply of daily necessities.

“Unlike many other economies, China has not adopted massive policy stimulus over the past few years,” he said. “Given its stable inflation levels, the country has ample room and plenty of policy tools in reserves to support the economy.”

Lu Ting, chief China economist at Nomura, said that his team thinks inflation is not a major concern for China in 2023, and they expect the policy stance to remain accommodative.

A top government think tank forecast that China’s consumer inflation will stay mild in 2023, while cautioning that the risk of price increases beyond expectations still remains.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Center for Forecasting Science estimates that China’s CPI will rise about 1.8 percent in 2023, while the producer price index will decline by about 0.4 percent.

Gao Ruidong, chief macroeconomist at Everbright Securities, warned that the robust recovery in consumption of services may add to “structural inflation pressures”.

China is taking a more pro-growth stance, giving priority to expanding domestic demand and spurring consumption. The local governments have mapped out detailed plans in an attempt to put growth back onto the fast track.

On Tuesday, the Beijing Municipal Government released a document on key tasks for 2023, urging more efforts to boost consumption, including spurring consumption in housing, new energy vehicles and elder care.

There have been initial signs of recovery in consumption thanks to such policies in other provincial-level regions.

In Guangdong province, Guangzhou’s Beijing Road shopping area achieved a business turnover of 345 million yuan ($51.3 million) in the weeklong Spring Festival holiday, up 19.4 percent year-on-year, official data showed.

Gao said in an article published in China Finance magazine that the country will also likely see a notable rebound in consumption of services, such as transportation, catering, accommodation and entertainment, and prices for services will go up in the post-COVID period.

He said the government should take more steps to keep prices stable, with a key focus on ensuring the supply of food and energy, assisting companies to stabilize employment and promoting the rebound of services industry.




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One year after the opening of the Beijing 2022: Unique and unforgettable


Editor’s Note: Hailed as extraordinary and excellent by the International Olympic Committee, Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics left indelible memories for all Chinese people and the global sports community. A year after the opening of the Games, some shining moments still feel inspiring and heartwarming as if just happened yesterday.

1. A host of talent

Despite being a relative newcomer to winter sports, China, as the host nation of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, impressed the world by bagging its best ever haul of 15 medals, including nine golds, to finish third in the overall standings — the highest since the country’s Winter Games debut in 1980 at Lake Placid, New York.

Sensational freestyle skiing champion Gu Ailing and snowboarding gold medalist Su Yiming were among a group of young Chinese winter sports stars who made global headlines and became fan favorites at Beijing 2022. Their stunning skills on ice and snow, as well as the passion and energy that the young generation of Chinese winter sports aces showed at the Olympics, encouraged more people to embrace ice and snow sports.

2. A real crowd pleaser

The popularity of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics is evidenced by the huge global broadcast audience. According to independent research conducted on behalf of the IOC, the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games reached 2.01 billion people worldwide, which made it the most digitally engaged Olympic Winter Games in history. Viewers watched a total of 713 billion minutes of the Games coverage through the channels of Olympic media rights partners, and Olympic social media also achieved 3.2 billion engagements and attracted more than 11 million new followers across various platforms. According to the data, about 57 percent of teenagers will watch more Olympic Games coverage in the coming years.

3. A fairer gender balance

With women accounting for 45 percent of the athletes, Beijing 2022 was the most gender-balanced Olympic Winter Games in history. It featured the highest ever number of women’s events with 46 out of a total of 109. Meanwhile, the Beijing 2022 organizing committee itself was also a great example of gender balance. Among the 19 members of the organizing committee’s athletes’ commission, 14 were women, as were seven out of the 11 event managers. The organizing committee ensured that females accounted for 40 percent of its staff, and also a half of Games’ volunteers were also female.

4. Green Games

With low-carbon venues, clean-energy transport, water-efficient artificial snow production and the reuse of key sites, the Beijing Winter Olympics proved “the greenest Games” ever. As an example, clean energy vehicles accounted for 84.9 percent of the total vehicles used during the Games, which included more than 1,000 hydrogen-fueled cars. Among the 13 venues at the Games’ Beijing competition zone, 11 were reused from the 2008 Summer Olympics in a bid to cut emissions, reduce environmental impact, and minimize the consumption of water, energy and materials. All competition venues were, and continue to be, powered 100 percent by green electricity generated from renewable sources.

5. An Olympic legacy

The extraordinary Beijing Winter Olympics left a rich legacy to fuel rapid winter sports growth in the host nation. According to China’s General Administration of Sport, more than 346 million Chinese took part in winter sports and related activities at least once before the Games began.

Moreover, most of the Beijing 2022 competition venues, such as the “Ice Cube” and the Shougang Big Air slope, opened to the public following the Games. The venues have become popular destinations for the first-class services and events they offer.

6. Winter warmth

Beijing Winter Olympics had no shortage of touching stories of friendships among athletes from around the world. One of the best examples was the dramatic conclusion to the women’s aerials freestyle skiing competition in Zhangjiakou on Feb 14. After China’s Xu Mengtao won gold, American fourth-placed finisher Ashley Caldwell gave Xu a huge hug and roared congratulations to her friend. The moment touched the hearts of millions of Chinese, who heaped praise on both competitors on social media.

Days earlier, after the United States beat China 7-5 in a mixed doubles curling match on Feb 5, Fan Suyuan and Ling Zhi from Team China presented their US rivals, Christopher Plys and Vicky Persinger, with a set of commemorative pins featuring Games mascot Bing Dwen Dwen. The four competitors posed for the cameras together while showing off the gifts. The American duo then posted the photos on social media, saying they were “honored to receive these beautiful Beijing 2022 pin sets in a wonderful display of sportsmanship by our Chinese counterparts”.

7. Playing it safe

To ensure the safety of all participants and cope with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing Winter Olympics staged the Games under a “closed loop” management system. It proved to be a flexible and efficient way of ensuring the safe delivery of the event.

All key participants, including athletes, coaches and organizers, stayed and traveled inside the closed loop with daily COVID-19 testing, and were separated from local communities, as well as only using designated transportation services. Thanks to the strict operation of this system, COVID-19 cases were kept under control throughout the Games, with no infections leaked out of the loop.

8. Passing the torch

Beijing 2022 was the platform where some ice and snow legends chose to take their final bow. Among them was American snowboarding superstar Shaun White. Although the 35-year-old failed to earn a medal at Beijing 2022, the three-time winter Olympic champion still earned a deafening cheer after finishing fourth in the men’s snowboard half-pipe final, which marked the end of a long and storied career.

The Beijing Games also became the last Olympics for Japanese figure skating legend Yuzuru Hanyu (pictured). The two-time Olympic champion was unable to win his third Olympic gold medal in Beijing, finishing fourth in the men’s singles skating. However, the 28-year-old still enjoyed huge popularity during the Games. In July 2022, Hanyu announced his retirement from competitive figure skating. “I’ll no longer be compared with other skaters as a competitor. I have no sadness,” Hanyu said.

9. For the record

The great organization and top-class venues at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics provided the athletes with the perfect conditions to make history. A total of two world and 17 Olympic records were broken.

Among the record-breakers was Dutch skater Suzanne Schulting, who won gold and became the undisputed queen of 1,000m short-track speed skating in Beijing. The 24-year-old set a new all-time record of 1 min 26.514 sec in her quarterfinal heat en route to earning her second Olympic gold.

In speed skating, Dutch legend Ireen Wust (pictured) glided into the record books with a victory in the 1,500 meters, becoming the first athlete — woman or man, winter or summer — to claim individual gold medals at five different Olympics.

10. Cultural phenomenon

Bing Dwen Dwen, the official mascot of the Beijing Winter Olympics, enjoyed huge popularity at the Games. Participants from around the globe were captivated by the cuddly panda. The craze for the mascot kicked off a media, and social media, frenzy. With fans lining up for hours to get their hands on toys of the adorable companion, despite their initial scarcity, as of December, more than 5.5 million Bing Dwen Dwen products have been sold.

It wasn’t only the mascot that proved popular with foreign athletes and those following them online, but also Chinese traditional cultural activities and local cuisine. A series of cultural experience activities, such as paper-cutting and calligraphy-writing, were offered to the athletes during the Games, which were staged during the Spring Festival. The athlete villages and media centers also provided participants with traditional Chinese cuisine, with Beijing roast duck among the favorite dishes.




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U.S. seeks to expel Russian mercenaries from Sudan, Libya

The United States has stepped up pressure on Middle East allies to expel the Wagner Group, a military contractor with close ties to Russia’s President, from chaos-stricken Libya and Sudan where it expanded in recent years, regional officials told The Associated Press.

The U.S. effort described by officials comes as the Joe Biden administration is making a broad push against the mercenaries. The U. S. has slapped new sanctions on the Wagner Group in recent months over its expanding role in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The group is owned by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Pentagon has described it as a surrogate for the Russian Defence Ministry. The Kremlin denies any connection.

The Joe Biden administration has been working for months with regional powers Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to pressure military leaders in Sudan and Libya to end their ties with the group, according to more than a dozen Libyan, Sudanese and Egyptian officials. They asked for anonymity to speak freely and because they were not authorised to discuss the issue with the media.

“Wagner obsesses them (American officials),” said an Egyptian senior government official with direct knowledge of the talks. “It is at the top of every meeting.”

The group doesn’t announce its operations, but its presence is known from reports on the ground and other evidence. In Sudan, it was originally associated with former strongman Omar al-Bashir and now works with the military leaders who replaced him. In Libya, it’s associated with east Libya-based military commander Khalifa Hifter.

Wagner has deployed thousands of operatives in African and Middle Eastern countries including Mali, Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Syria. Its aim in Africa, analysts say, is to support Russia’s interests amid rising global interest in the resource-rich continent. Rights experts working with the U.S. on January 31 accused the group of committing possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Mali, where it is fighting alongside government forces.

“Wagner tends to target countries with natural resources that can be used for Moscow’s objectives – gold mines in Sudan, for example, where the resulting gold can be sold in ways that circumvent Western sanctions,” said Catrina Doxsee, an expert on Wagner at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Mr. Prigozhin did not respond to a request for comment sent to the press department of the Concord Group, of which he is an owner. The group’s role in Libya and Sudan was central to recent talks between CIA director William Burns and officials in Egypt and Libya in January. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also discussed the group with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in a late-January trip to Cairo, Egyptian officials said. Weeks after the visits, Mr. Burns acknowledged in a Thursday speech at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., that after recent travel to Africa he was concerned about the Wagner’s growing influence in the continent.

“That is a deeply unhealthy development and we’re working very hard to counter it,” Mr. Burns said. Mr. Burns and Antony Blinken called on el-Sissi’s government to help convince Sudan’s ruling generals and Libya’s Hifter to end their dealings with the Wagner, an Egyptian official briefed on the talks said.

The group and its founder have been under U.S. sanctions since 2017, and the Biden administration in December announced new export restrictions to restrict its access to technology and supplies, designating it as a “significant transnational criminal organisation.”

SUDAN

Leaders in Sudan have received repeated U.S. messages about Wagner’s growing influence in recent months, via Egypt and Gulf states, said a senior Sudanese official.

Abbas Kamel, the director of Egypt’s Intelligence Directorate Agency, conveyed Western concerns in talks in Khartoum last month with the head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the official said. Mr. Kamel urged Burhan to find a way to address Wagner’s “use of Sudan as a base” for operations in neighbouring countries such as the Central African Republic, the official said.

Wagner started operating in Sudan in 2017, providing military training to intelligence and special forces, and to the paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), according to Sudanese officials and documents shared with The Associated Press.

The RSF, which grew out of the feared Janjaweed militias, is led by powerful general Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who has close ties with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Mohammed Hamdan has been sending troops to fight alongside the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s long-running civil war.

Wagner mercenaries are not operating in a combat role in Sudan, officials said. The group, which has dozens of operatives in the country, provides military and intelligence training, as well as surveillance and protection of sites and top officials.

Sudanese military leaders appear to have given Wagner control of gold mines in return. The documents show that the group has received mining rights through front companies with ties to Sudan’s powerful military and the RSF. Its activities are centred in gold-rich areas controlled by the RSF in Darfur, Blue Nile and other provinces, according to officials.

Two companies have been sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury for acting as fronts for Wagner’s mining activities — Meroe Gold, a Sudanese gold mining firm, and its owner, the Russian-based M Invest firm. Mr. Prigozhin owns or controls both, according to the Treasury. Despite sanctions, Meroe Gold is still operating across Sudan.

The Russian mercenaries helped the paramilitary force consolidate its influence not only in the country’s far-flung regions, but also in the capital of Khartoum, where it helps run pro-RSF social media pages.

The main camp of Wagner mercenaries is in the contested village of Am Dafok on the borders between the Central African Republic and Sudan, according to the Darfur Bar Association, a legal group that focusses on human rights. “Nobody can approach their areas,” said Gibreel Hassabu, a lawyer and member of the association.

LIBYA

In Libya, Mr. Burns held talks in Tripoli with Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, head of one of Libya’s two rival governments.

The CIA director also met with Hifter in eastern Libya, according to officials with Hifter’s forces. One official briefed on the meeting in al-Rajma military complex, the seat of Hifter’s command just outside Benghazi, said Wagner was the main issue discussed.

U.N. experts said Wagner mercenaries were deployed Libya since 2018, helping Hifter’s forces in their fight against Islamist militants in eastern Libya. The group was also involved in his failed offensive on Tripoli in April 2019.

The U.S. Africa Command, AFRICOM, estimated that some 2,000 Wagner mercenaries were in Libya between July-September 2020, before a cease-fire. The mercenaries were equipped with armoured vehicles, air-defence systems, fighter aircraft, and other equipment, which were supplied by Russia, according to the AFRICOM assessment. The report also said the Wagner group appeared to be receiving money from the UAE, a main foreign backer of Hifter.

Since the 2020 cease-fire, Wagner’s activities have centred around oil facilities in central Libya, and they have continued providing military training to Hifter forces, Libyan officials said. It is not clear how many Wagner mercenaries are still in Libya. American officials have demanded that mercenaries be pulled out of oil facilities, another Libyan official said.

Hifter did not offer any commitments, but asked for assurances that Turkey and the Libyan militias it backed in western Libya will not initiate an attack on his forces in the coastal city of Sirte and other areas in central Libya.

Egypt, which has close ties with Hifter, has demanded that Wagner not be stationed close to its borders. There is no evidence yet that the Joe Biden administration’s pressure has yielded results in either Sudan or Libya, observers said.

Catrina Doxsee, the expert, said the U.S. and allies should resist promoting narratives that “Russia is bad and what we have to offer is good” and instead focus on offering better alternatives to Wagner.”

“Ultimately, at the end of the day, Wagner is a business. If you can cut out the profit and you can reduce the business case for using Wagner, that’s what is going to make it a less appealing case,” she said.

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Palo al Plan B y va el Plan C

LOS CIUDADANOS ORGANIZADOS tienen un plan de acción bien definido para “matar” la reforma política unilateral de Andrés Manuel López Obrador para allanarse el camino a la presidencia en el 2024.

La estrategia está escalonada en diversos frentes:

  1. Tormenta de amparos contra el llamado Plan B de la reforma electoral.
  2. Marchas ciudadanas de decenas de miles dentro y fuera del país.
  3. Impulso de un candidato ciudadano de la alianza opositora.

El INE, las agrupaciones de la sociedad civil y los partidos están en “alerta máxima” para debatir y combatir la reforma electoral del gobierno de la 4T desde la opinión pública, el Congreso, el Poder Judicial y en la calles.

Ocurrió con la marcha del 13 de noviembre pasado, cuando miles de ciudadanos se manifestaron en 60 ciudades de cuatro países, y se pretende amplificar con la concentración del 26 de febrero en el Zócalo.

La fecha fatídica es el próximo 2 de junio, plazo que el gobierno y su partido tienen para impedir modificaciones a las reglas del juego político, la operación del INE y del Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial.

Para detener la reforma electoral de AMLO, ahora mismo decenas de grupos de abogados vinculados a la sociedad civil, academia y partidos políticos de oposición se muevn a todo lo que dan.

Circulan profusamente en las redes sociales y en grupos de chats de Whatsaap instructivos, recomendaciones y machotes de amparos individuales y de grupos para ejecutar inmediatamente.

Uno es Somos Uniendo Caminos Mexico, que dicen llevar varios años trabajando en el activismo jurídico, y “hemos presentado y ganado varios amparos contra la 4T”, entre ellos el de la militarización.

Otro es Grupo Amparos Estados, que tiene presencia en 30 ciudades y estados del país, así como en Estados Unidos y ofrecen una agenda de ocho pasos para saber cómo presentar demandas colectivas.

Incluso están convocando a un Zoom masiva el próximo 6 de febrero para aclarar cualquier duda y orientar a la ciudadanía sobre la forma de ampararse contra el Plan B del Obradorismo.

POR ANDAR DE indiscreto y hablador el gobernador de Nuevo León, el emecista Samuel García, podría perder la megainversión de Tesla. Pero que tampoco el Presidente Andrés Manuel Obrador y su vocero, Jesús Ramírez, canten victoria de agandallarse el proyecto para beneficio de un estado gobernado por Morena, como es el caso de Hidalgo, que encabeza Julio Menchaca.

Tal es el espectáculo que ambos bandos están dando que, en una de esas, y Elon Musk se decide por Canadá o alguna otra ciudad de Estados Unidos. Le referíamos ayer 800 hectáreas en Tizayuca que el secretario de Desarrollo Económico, Carlos Henkel, está ofreciendo. Desde Palacio Nacional se está operando para sacar de la jugada a Monterrey. El golpe político no es solo para Samuel, sino para su mentor, Dante Delgado, que se le fue duro esta semana a AMLO.

“COMO DECÍA YOGI Berra: no se acaba hasta que se acaba”… tuiteó el miércoles a las 9:57 de la noche Daniel Becker, horas después de la reunión de Jane Fraser, la CEO de Citi, y Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Y efectivamente, a pesar de que a finales de diciembre le pidieron bajarse a instancias de Germán Larrea, quien condicionó subir su oferta por Banamex arriba de 10 mil millones de dólares siempre y cuando el dueño de Mifel saliera de la puja, éste volvió a agarrar tracción en las dos últimas semanas.

Se dice que fue la propia Fraser quien lo metió nuevamente, para desgracia de Larrea, cuya oferta no toma las contingencias. El minero ofrece cerca de 7 mil millones de dólares, más otros 4 mil millones que pide de garantías por los pasivos ocultos. El grupo de Becker sí está dispuesto a tomar el riesgo. Ambas propuestas plantean a Citi quedarse temporalmente con un tercio del banco, que eventualmente les cederá en una Oferta Pública.

LE DECÍA HACE un par de días que Andrés Manuel López Obrador recibió a Arturo Zaldívar, disipando con ello todos los rumores de una ruptura en la relación. Para nada. El ministro está más firme que nunca y su cercanía es crucial para el Presidente, que suma un tercer voto prácticamente incondicional en la Suprema Corte, en adición a los de Yasmín Esquivel y Loretta Ortiz en los grandes temas que vienen, empezando por la guerra que se viene con el INE y la controversia constitucional que ya promovieron Lorenzo Córdova y Ciro Murayama y demás colectivos ciudadanos contra el famoso Plan B. Zaldívar por su parte está moviendo sus fichas para ubicar a sus más cercanos colaboradores y no pierde la esperanza de llegar pronto a la Fiscalía General de la República (FGR).

POR CIERTO QUE toda la atención va estar fija el próximo domingo en Querétaro. Ese día se conmemora la promulgación de la Constitución y los únicos discursos serán los del propio Presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador y el de la ministra presidente de la Corte, Norma Piña. Se ratificarán las dos posturas irreconciliables que ya empezaron a dar visos de choques.

También vamos a ver si reaparece el Fiscal Alejandro Gertz Manero. No se le ve públicamente desde el 15 de diciembre, cuando Arturo Zaldívar rindió su último informe de labores. Palacio Nacional le ha pedido que acuda a la conferencia mañanera a disipar dudas sobre su salud, pero se ha negado. Están convocados todos los poderes del Estado.

NO PIERDA DE vista a Ricardo Peralta. Pian pianito el ex subsecretario de Gobernación y director general de Aduanas ha ido construyendo un movimiento político que recoge la esencia del Obradorismo, pero que voltea a los sectores que se sienten agraviados por las políticas del inquilino de Palacio Nacional.

Su Alianza Patriótica por la 4T sigue ganando adeptos, suficientes para que haya levantado ya la mano como aspirante de Morena para suceder a Claudia Sheinbaum en la Jefatura de la CdMx. Peralta lo mismo es interlocutor con gobernadores, algunos de los cuals apoyó en las elecciones de 2021, que con empresarios por su paso en el sector privado, que con grupos políticos territoriales.

LA INVESTIGACIÓN POR abuso sexual que se sigue contra el consejero Jurídico de la CdMx, Néstor Vargas, contenida en la carpeta FDS/1880/11-2022 de la Fiscalía General de Justicia, amenaza con descarrilar la estrategia del gobierno de Claudia Sheinbaum contra lo que considera proyectos irregulares de la industrias de la construcción y publicidad exterior.

Te recomendamos leer:

Se recuerda que apenas llegó a ese encargo, Vargas empujó a Xóchitl Hernández para ser magistrada de la Sala Superior del Tribunal de Justicia Administrativa de la CdMx y con otros seis nombres para las salas ordinarias. Por ese camino pasan muchos de los juicios de lesividad con que la autoridad capitalina mantiene congeladas inversiones millonarias.

SOBRE RADIÓPOLIS, DUEÑA de la W, y sobre su conductor estrella, Carlos Loret de Mola, le comenté a principios de semana que prepara el lanzamiento de su noticiero nocturno diario, de lunes a viernes. Será muy probablememente a partir del próximo lunes a las 8 de la noche a través de Latinus, donde quedará fijo las 24 horas. Pero la propuesta de la plataforma propiedad Alexis Nickin en realidad va más allá: serán tres noticieros: el de la noche de Loret, uno por la mañana y otro más al medio día. En las recientes semanas Nickin y la familia de Roberto Madrazo han reclutado a un buen número de periodistas. Quieren hacer de Latinus un buena y muy competitiva oferta informativa.

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Will Britain become a republic, or keep the royal family?

When the Sex Pistols released ‘God Save the Queen’ in 1977 it certainly ruffled a few feathers.

The anti-establishment anthem — which blasted the “fascist regime” of Elizabeth II — was banned by the BBC, while the tabloid press accused the punks of treason, calling for them to be hung.

But Britain is a different place than it was when the single came out. 

This year marks a watershed for the country, as a new monarch will be crowned for the first time in 70 years. 

King Charles III will ascend to the throne amid a weekend of pomp and pageantry; ancient religious rites and a concert featuring today’s global music stars. 

Support for the monarchy stayed fairly constant in the months before the Queen’s death last year, and in the months since, according to YouGov: with around 60% of people in favour of keeping the monarchy, and 25% in favour of abolishing it. 

There may well be a “coronation boost” for the institution of the monarchy in springtime, but the long term trends show a clear loss of support for the royals over the years among members of the public, with increased numbers of people wanting the ancient institution swept aside and replaced with a republic. 

In 1983, some 86% of Britons believed the monarchy was “very” or “quite” important. By 2021, this had slumped to 55%, with 25% saying it was “not at all important” or should be abolished, according to the British Social Attitudes survey.

A string of scandals have fuelled these republican rumblings, including Prince Andrew’s alleged sexual relations with minors, then Prince Charles accepting “bags of cash” for honours and the ongoing public spat between Harry, Meghan, and the rest of the family. 

‘Ingrained deference’

While even the most ardent anti-royals would perhaps concede a grudging respect for the late Queen Elizabeth and her life of service to the country and Commonwealth; but for most republicans, it does not matter who the head of state is.

“Republicanism about the type of society we want to have in Britain,” Ken Ritchie from Labour for Republic told Euronews. “The monarchy represents elitism. A society in which rank and status are important and where your position is entirely dependent on the circumstances of your birth.”

“Surely in the 21st century, this ought to be wrong”, he said.

The overall wealth of Britain’s royal family is hard to gauge due to the opaque nature of its finances. In 2015, a Reuters analysis suggested it had nominal assets worth almost 23 billion pounds at the time.

However, republican criticism of the monarchy’s riches goes further, drawing attention to its relationship to the British Empire. 

“A lot of their wealth was extracted through colonialism and indeed slavery,” said Ritchie. “This is no longer the sort of country we want to be.”

“The monarchy is much grander, much more extravagant, much more expensive than the others in Europe,” he added. “I suspect that stems back to the idea that Britain was the centre of an empire spanning the world.”

While the monarchy is symbolic of British history, others question how much the royal family directly profited from colonialism.

What’s the situation like in other European countries?

Britain is not the only European country with an active discussion about the role of the royal family.

In the Netherlands, a poll carried out for King’s Day in April 2022 showed 71% support for the monarchy and 29% support for a republic — a few percentage points more support for republicanism than in the UK, but a much stronger support support for the royals. 

Meanwhile in Denmark — where Queen Margrethe is Europe’s longest-reigning monarch, and recently celebrated 50 years on the throne — a February 2022 poll showed almost 77% of people supported a Danish monarchy, while just 14.6% of people wanted the Nordic nation to become a republic. 

And in Spain, where a series of financial and personal scandals has rocked the House of Bourbon in recent years, an October 2020 poll found that 40.9% of Spaniards favoured replacing King Felipe and Queen Letizia in favour of a republic; while 34.9% of people said they supported keeping the royal family.   

The sprawling fortunes of Britain’s royals are not the only gripe of anti-monarchists. It’s also what they call the “inequality of power” that comes with it. 

Professor Richard Toye, a historian at Exeter University, criticised the “democratic deficit” of having such “an important public position which is hereditary”, calling it “surprising and problematic” in a country styling itself as a democracy.

This shadowy power fuels “worries about the ways in which monarchs, although they’re supposed to be neutral, actually end up wielding influence over politics”, he added.

In 2021, the late Queen was accused of lobbying government to protect her private wealth from new transparency laws, while other members of her family have allegedly applied pressure to get financial advantages.

“They are simply preserving their own power”, said Richtie. “We want to see a monarch that is much more transparent.”

When Charles took over the Crown Estate, the 15 billion pound portfolio of land and assets held by his mother, it was not subjected to inheritance tax, prompting widespread criticism in the UK. 

‘We are entering new territory’

By any measure, the British monarchy does not seem like it is going anywhere – even if republican feeling grows stronger.

All of Britain’s major political parties are pro-monarchist, and in a country grappling with strikes, inflation and the fallout from Brexit, the issue remains a low priority.

“The very existence of the monarchy is dependent on publicity and public opinion,” says Ken Ritchie from Labour for Republic. 

“If it wasn’t for that, it would simply be irrelevant and ignored … they’re going to do their best to try and to win back public support.”

Despite the “very chequered past” of King Charles and the recent controversies to rock the Royal Family, Dr Joe Powell, a republican campaigner, was dismayed that public criticism of the was not turning even more against the monarchy.

“You would think that the high level of scandals would make people question what they’re doing and why they’re doing it on our behalf,” he said. 

“But that doesn’t really seem to happen.”



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