Saturday, 28 October 2017

Global community rejects Catalan's independence declaration

People holding placards reading "Help Catalonia. Save Europe" gather outside the Catalan parliament in Barcelona. — AFP
People holding placards reading "Help Catalonia. Save Europe" gather outside the Catalan parliament in Barcelona.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had his “full support” in enforcing the law in Catalonia as Madrid readies to take direct control of the rebellious province.
Catalan lawmakers voted on Friday to declare independence from Spain but Madrid moved swiftly to quash the breakaway bid in a sharp escalation of a crisis causing jitters in secession-wary Europe.
As thousands of pro-independence activists cheered outside, the regional parliament in Barcelona passed a resolution declaring Catalonia “a republic in the form of an independent and sovereign state”.
“I have one partner in Spain, that's Prime Minister Rajoy... the rule of law prevails in Spain, with constitutional rules. He wants to ensure they are respected and he has my full support,” Macron told reporters on the sidelines of a visit to the overseas territory of French Guiana.
His Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made it clear that France “does not recognise the declaration of independence”.
Spain's constitution “must be respected,” he added. “France wants a strong and unified Spain.”
Earlier this week French backers of Catalonian independence offered “hospitality” to Catalan President Carles Puidgemont to lead a government-in-exile in Perpignan, a southern French city with deep Catalan roots.
France's Pyrenees-Orientales area was for centuries a part of Catalonia, only becoming French in the latter half of the 17th century.

'United Spain'

Canada too rejected the Catalan regional government's unilateral declaration of independence and urged dialogue between Madrid and the breakaway region of Spain.
“In accordance with international legal principles, these decisions must be made within the constitutional framework,” Andrew Leslie, the parliamentary secretary to Canada's foreign affairs minister, told the Commons.
“Given this, Canada recognises a united Spain,” he said. “A dialogue between Spain and Catalonia within the constitutional framework remains the best way forward.”
Catalan lawmakers sharply escalated the political crisis in Spain by voting to declare independence, with Madrid immediately vowing to “restore legality” and quash the region's secessionist bid.
Canada's reaction mirrored those of European allies who voiced support for Rajoy.
Many of the Spanish Republicans that fled to the region during the long dictatorship of General Francisco Franco were Catalan.

Call for restraint

European Union President Donald Tusk insisted Madrid “remains our only interlocutor” in Spain after the independence vote that could test the stability of a key member of the bloc.
Wary of nationalist and secessionist sentiment, particularly after Britain's dramatic decision last year to leave the EU, the bloc has stood firmly behind Madrid in the escalating standoff.
Tusk nevertheless urged Madrid to exercise restraint.
“I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not an argument of force,” he tweeted.
Puigdemont also urged calm.
“We will have to maintain the momentum of this country (Catalonia) in the coming hours,” he told lawmakers and onlookers in Barcelona while urging them to do so in the spirit of “peace, civic responsibility and dignity”.
The United States, one of Spain's NATO allies, declared its backing for Madrid using “constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united”.
Germany and Britain too rejected the notion of Catalan independence.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Two American Women Rescued After Five Months at Sea

Two American Women Rescued After Five Months at Sea

Two American women lost at sea for five long months have been rescued after a broken mast and a disabled engine took them thousands of miles off course.

Jennifer Appel, 48, and friend Tasha Fuiava were found by a Taiwanese fishing vessel around 900 miles southeast of Japan, the U.S. Navy said Thursday. A Navy ship based out of Sasebo, Japan, rescued them on Wednesday morning Japan time.

"When I saw the gray boat on the edge of the horizon, my heart leapt because I knew that we were about to be saved," Appel told TODAY. "I honestly believed that we were about to die within the next 24 hours."

Two women and their dogs rescued by Navy after 5 months at sea 2:48
On May 23, the women set off from Oahu bound for Tahiti, about 2,600 miles away, but problems soon arose. First, a piece of the mast called a spreader failed, Appel said, limiting the sailboat's maneuverability, and on May 30 a storm flooded the engine. Communications were also impacted.

Appel and Fuiava described a sense of despair after making daily distress calls for 98 days straight, but the calls were out of range. They spotted other ships that did not or could not respond, and fired at least 10 flares. Twice the ship was attacked by Tiger sharks, they said.

"I could see light and I could see vessels, and once you get closer, we thought it would be close enough to do a [distress] call," Fuiava told TODAY. "When they would turn and keep going, yeah, it was kind of sad."

The women were rescued along with their two dogs, Zeus and Valentine, who had been aboard with them. While the dogs provided an immense source of comfort during the ordeal, at times Appel and Fuiava feared they would tip off sharks circling around their boat.

"I went downstairs with the boys and we basically laid huddled on the floor and I told them not to bark because the sharks could hear us breathing. They could smell us," Appel said.

On the 99th day of distress calls, a Taiwanese fishing vessel found them, they said. It began towing the sailboat, but by that time Appel said the ship was in such poor condition she estimates it wouldn’t have lasted another a day.

The Taiwanese ship's crew contacted the Coast Guard in Guam, and the USS Ashland, an amphibious dock landing ship, sped toward the area and reached the sailboat at around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday Japan local time (9:30 p.m. Tuesday ET), the Navy said.

Video released by the Navy showed Appel blowing kisses to an approaching U.S. vessel as the two dogs barked and scampered about.

 Dramatic Rescue: Navy Saves Two Americans Lost at Sea for Months 1:22
The journey from Hawaii to Tahiti is a fairly common route that normally takes about a month to complete.

Before departing, the mariners had loaded their boat full of supplies. They had water purifiers and a year's worth of food aboard — mostly dry goods like oatmeal, pasta and rice — and used those to survive, the Navy said.

Sailing experts in Honolulu had advised that for the trip to Tahiti they should pack the boat with as much food as possible in case of emergency, Appel said.

Spain's PM calls December election in Catalonia

Mr Rajoy took the decision as part of emergency measures in response to Catalonia's parliament voting to declare independence.
Spanish Prime Minister responds to Catalan MPs' vote to approve independence
Video:Spain PM: 'Catalonia needs to reconcile with itself' 
The Spanish Prime Minister has dissolved Catalonia's parliament and called a regional election for 21 December under sweeping powers.
Mariano Rajoy took the decision as part of emergency measures in response to Catalan MPs voting to declare independence from Spain.
He said he would seek to declare the vote illegal.
Mr Rajoy also said Catalonia's police chief will be sacked and central government departments will assume the powers of the Catalan administration.
The Spanish government is shutting down Catalonia's foreign affairs department and dismissing its delegates in Brussels and Madrid.
Applause breaks out across Catalan parliament after it votes in favour of declaring independence
Image:Applause breaks out across Catalan parliament after it votes in favour of declaring independence
He said it is important to call fresh elections to ensure "nobody can act outside the law", but added "we never wanted to come to this point".
He said the aim was to return Catalonia to "normality and legality" as soon as possible.
The move will increase tensions with separatists who celebrated in their thousands outside the Catalan government palace after the declaration was made.
They watched events inside from two giant screens as they clapped and shouted "independence" in Catalan.
A flag with the text in Catalan 'The people lead' is held up as people gather to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic at the Sant Jaume square in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. Catalonia's parliament voted to declare independence from Spain and proclaim a republic, just as Madrid is poised to impose direct rule on the region to stop it in its tracks. A motion declaring independence was approved with 70 votes in favour, 10 against and two abstentions, with Catalan opposition MPs walki
Image:A flag with 'The people lead' is held up in Sant Jaume Square
The motion, which was boycotted by opposition parties, said Catalonia was an independent, sovereign and social democratic state, and called on other countries and institutions to recognise it.
However, after the announcement from the Catalan parliament, Mr Rajoy hinted that their celebrations would be short-lived by saying they had done "something that is not possible - declare independence".
The supporters who had gathered in Sant Jaume Square in Barcelona to hear the Catalan declaration were told of Mr Rajoy's decision to sack the region's parliament.
A band took to the stage and the crowd defiantly began singing and dancing to music, shouting: "We are not moving."