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Nats sign Soriano for 2 years, with half deferred
Hungary homeless face winter, fear return of fines
Posted Jan 22 2013 1:47am
Hungary homeless face winter, fear return of fines
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Fidesz party cares little about the country's disadvantaged. In just one recent controversy, one of the party's founding members, journalist Zsolt Bayer wrote in a newspaper column that many of the country's Gypsies, or Roma â an impoverished minority that faces entrenched discrimination â "are animals" and "unfit for coexistence."Fidesz refused to distance itself from the column, saying it understood citizens' anger about crimes committed by Roma and called on those demanding Bayer's expulsion from the party "to refrain from standing on the side of the criminals."The homeless issue has been brewing for several years. At the end of 2011, Orban's ruling right-wing Fidesz party used its overwhelming parliamentary majority to make the punitive regulations first introduced earlier that year by the Fidesz-backed mayor of Budapest â including fines of up to $650 for repeat offenders and the threat of up to 60 days in jail â applicable nationwide."This is a method to demoralize or intimidate us," said Gyula Balog, 53, who has been homeless for nearly 20 years. "No one was jailed but quite a few had to pay fines. It's frivolous to fine those who have nothing.
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"At the time, even the United Nations expressed concerns, saying the obligation to provide shelter "cannot serve as an excuse for the criminalization or forced detention of homeless persons.""By a wave of the legislative pen, the Hungarian Parliament has labeled tens of thousands of homeless people in Hungary as potential criminals," said a statement from two U.N. human rights experts. "Moreover, the law has a discriminatory impact on those living in poverty."At least 1,500 homeless are believed to be currently living rough in Budapest, even as temperatures are expected to remain below freezing in coming days and dozens of homeless are found frozen to death each year on the streets.In the winter, many head to the warmest spots they can find, usually the entrance halls of subway stations, sometimes quietly holding out a paper cup for money from passersby or by selling street newspapers.Authorities recently inaugurated two more shelters in the capital and the government spent 8.5 billion forints ($38.4 million, â¬28.9 billion) on the homeless in 2012, with a similar figure planned this year. But some of the most popular refuges, like the "Heated Street" run by the Hungarian Evangelical Brotherhood, are full far beyond capacity, with many people sleeping on mats on the floor.
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The issue of the fines re-emerged in November when the constitutional court struck down the punishments, saying homelessness was a social issue that should not be handled as a criminal matter.There are no exact figures on the number of homeless in Hungary, but the U.N. last year put the figure at between 30,000 and 35,000. A survey carried out each year on Feb. 3 in Budapest and the larger Hungarian cities by NGOs, counted 8,641 in 2012, up from 7,199 in 2011. Many cities across the United States also ban activities such as "urban camping," panhandling, "lodging" outdoors and similar actions, often resulting in fines or jail time for offenders.The Hungarian government argues that it is simply acting out of concern for the dozens of homeless people who freeze to death every year, implying that fines are meant to push the displaced to seek refuge in warm shelters."There are more places in heated shelters than there are homeless living in Hungary," Orban said last month in Parliament. "So no one ... is forced to survive winter under the open sky."But social workers and the homeless themselves accuse the government of caring only about the country's image."They simply want to clean up the areas frequented by tourists," said Balog, speaking outside the department store where he sold Commodore 64 computers during communism, before losing his job and family because of his alcoholism.An official with the West African regional bloc says troops from Nigeria are expected in Mali nearly a week after French forces began a military operation to oust radical Islamists from power.
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Aboudou Toure Cheaka, special representative for the president of the ECOWAS commission, says troops from Niger also will be deployed Thursday along the border between Mali and Niger.Forces from Burkina Faso and Togo are expected to be in place this weekend or early next week.Polls give hawkish and religious parties led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a comfortable edge over their center-left rivals ahead of next week's parliamentary elections.Surveys published Wednesday night and on Thursday have Netanyahu's Likud Beiteinu list winning 32 to 37 of parliament's 120 seats, making it the best positioned to form Israel's next government.A Dialog service poll gives Netanyhu's bloc 64 seats, versus 56 for the opposing camp. A total of 756 people were polled; the error margin was 3.7 percent points.New Wave Research's poll gave the hard-line bloc 67 seats. Its survey of 810 people had a 3.5 percentage point error margin.The Maagar Mohot survey gave the hawkish bloc 72 seats. Its poll of 596 people had an error margin of 4.5 percentage points.French ground troops in Mali advanced north today toward the tiny hamlet of Diabaly, preparing to engage Islamic rebels in a shooting war whose duration and success are still a question mark.What began as a limited air campaign last week to counter an ambitious rebel advance southward from strongholds in northern Mali may this week become a full-scale war
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The French are seeking to retake Diabaly from the rebels after the town of 35,000 fell last week and airstrikes did not check rebel advances. "We will be fighting directly," said French military chief of staff Adm. Edouard Guillaud on Europe 1 television Wednesday. âI am unable to say whether it is in one hour or in 72 hours."RECOMMENDED: How the French got to airstrikes in Mali: A briefing from Bamako The French ground assault comes six days after French forces intervened with airstrikes as it appeared Islamist rebels captured Konna, a small town in central Mali close to the strategically vital cities of SÃ©varÃ© and Mopti.Despite initial statements by the Malian military that the French strikes drove the Islamists out of Konna, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said yesterday that Konna is still not under the control of the Malian army. Franceâs intervention still enjoys broad support among the majority of Malians. But the optimism that defined the early days of the operation has now taken on a more cautious tone. Both Malians and foreign analysts are grappling with the scale of operations thought necessary to retake northern Mali from the rebels â with many commentators questioning how France could have underestimated the strength of its adversary.âFrom my experience, the French have always underestimated the threat [in Mali],â says Rudy Atallah, who served as Africa Counterterrorism director in the office of the US Secretary of Defense.Mr.
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Atallah, who has extensive experience in the region, questioned optimistic military assessments predicated on the belief that the battlefield is the âflat and openâ Sahara.âWeâre talking about a large geographic space and it is sad to see that some people think that there are no places for these guys to hide,â he says. âItâs not a force on force fight,â he says. âThis is an insurgency war. It doesnât take a lot of Islamists to create a lot of damage. They [the Islamists] are prepared for this."Several days ago the rebels moved into Diabaly, a village about 215 miles from capital city Bamako after the days of heavy bombing in other locations in the north, including major population centers such as Gao, Douentza, and Lere.The rebel capture of Diabaly served as yet another example of the Malian armyâs inability to win a fight and renewed concerns that French air power in tandem with Malian ground forces would not be enough to stave off the Islamist push southward. Now many of the estimated 2,500 French troops largely based in the southern capital city of Bamako have been mobilized north to various locations in central Mali.With the Malian and French militaries cutting off access to certain areas, and amid reports the cell towers have been taken offline or destroyed, almost no information is coming out of the cities of Diabaly or Gao, leaving many Malians to wonder if the Islamists are gaining the upper hand.
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âSince yesterday, the network is down,â says Diabaly native Oumar Coulibaly, who works as an accountant in Bamako. âI donât know anything, there is no information,â he says with frustration.The Associated Press reports today that a âtrickle of refugees left on foot from Diabaly, a town seized two days ago by the jihadists who have held onto it despite a punishing bombing campaign by French fighter jets,â and says the refugees arrived in Niono, a small town some 40 miles south of Diabaly, citing residents from Niono.Ibrahim Komnotogo, a resident of Diabaly who heads a USAID-financed rice agriculture project with 20 employees, told AP that rebels have sealed off the roads and were preventing people from leaving, includes his charges. He was last able to speak to his employees on Tuesday, and had not had news of them since, after the telephone network was cut.Likewise, Mohammed Toure, a native of Gao living in Bamako, told the Monitor, âI talked to my family on Sunday, but I have not been able to since then. I am scared because I donât know what has happened, and with bombing, one never knows.âWhen asked if he still supported Franceâs military intervention in Mali, TourÃ© did not hesitate, "100 percent ... 100 percent.
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