Spanish prime minister speaks on economic crisis

Monday, October 20, 2008

In an interview with Público, a Spanish newspaper, the prime minister of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has stated that ” if there is a global recession, it seems logical to expect that Spain will enter the recession in 2009 .”

In the interview Zapatero also described the worldwide economic situation as “difficult.” He recognized that ” the developed countries are or are going to experience negative growth, and developing countries are also going to see falling growth; resulting in a worldwide loss of jobs.”

We have a year-long financial crisis, which has had its most acute moment in the past two months, and I think now the financial markets are beginning to recover

Regarding the global financial situation, Zapatero continued by saying that “the financial system is a part of the economy, a crucial part. We have a year-long financial crisis, which has had its most acute moment in the past two months, and I think now the financial markets are beginning to recover.”

Asked about whether it would be desirable to another plan to help those overwhelmed by the size of their mortgage, Zapatero reiterated the falls in the Euro Interbank Offered Rate .

Zapatero then claimed that the average Spanish citizen would see their mortgage decrease by 28 a month (€330 per year) as result of the recent drops in interest rate, lead by seven central banks, including the European Central Bank which covers Spain, dropped their interest rate by 0.5%.

The prime minister then said that he was pleased with the role of Spain in the recent summits discussing the financial crisis, before adding that he believes the European Union will lead the way in solving the current issues in the markets.

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Chula Vista, California becomes model for blight control laws in the US

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The San Diego, California suburb of Chula Vista has responded to the recent housing crisis with an aggressive blight control ordinance that compels lenders to maintain the appearance of vacant homes. As foreclosures increase both locally and throughout the United States, the one year old ordinance has become a model for other cities overwhelmed by the problem of abandoned homes that decay into neighborhood eyesores.

Chula Vista city code enforcement manager Doug Leeper told the San Diego Union Tribune that over 300 jurisdictions have contacted his office during the past year with inquiries about the city’s tough local ordinance. Coral Springs, Florida, and California towns Stockton, Santee, Riverside County, and Murietta have all modeled recently enacted anti-blight measures after Chula Vista’s. On Wednesday, 8 October, the Escondido City Council also voted to tighten local measures making lenders more accountable for maintenance of empty homes.

Lenders will respond when it costs them less to maintain the property than to ignore local agency requirements.

Under the Chula Vista ordinance lenders become legally responsible for upkeep as soon as a notice of mortgage default gets filed on a vacant dwelling, before actual ownership of the dwelling returns to the lender. Leeper regards that as “the cutting-edge part of our ordinance”. Chula Vista also requires prompt registration of vacant homes and applies stiff fines as high as US$1000 per day for failure to maintain a property. Since foreclosed properties are subject to frequent resale between mortgage brokers, city officials enforce the fines by sending notices to every name on title documents and placing a lien on the property, which prevents further resale until outstanding fines have been paid. In the year since the ordinance went into effect the city has applied $850,000 in fines and penalties, of which it has collected $200,000 to date. The city has collected an additional $77,000 in registration fees on vacant homes.

Jolie Houston, an attorney in San Jose, believes “Lenders will respond when it costs them less to maintain the property than to ignore local agency requirements.” Traditionally, local governments have resorted to addressing blight problems on abandoned properties with public funds, mowing overgrown lawns and performing other vital functions, then seeking repayment afterward. Chula Vista has moved that responsibility to an upfront obligation upon lenders.

That kind of measure will add additional costs to banks that have been hit really hard already and ultimately the cost will be transferred down to consumers and investors.

As one of the fastest growing cities in the United States during recent years, Chula Vista saw 22.6% growth between 2000 and 2006, which brought the city’s population from 173,556 in the 2000 census to an estimated 212,756, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Chula Vista placed among the nation’s 20 fastest growing cities in 2004. A large proportion of local homes were purchased during the recent housing boom using creative financing options that purchasers did not understand were beyond their means. Average home prices in San Diego County declined by 25% in the last year, which is the steepest drop on record. Many homeowners in the region currently owe more than their homes are worth and confront rising balloon payment mortgages that they had expected to afford by refinancing new equity that either vanished or never materialized. In August 2008, Chula Vista’s eastern 91913 zip code had the highest home mortgage default rate in the county with 154 filings and 94 foreclosures, an increase of 154% over one year previously. Regionally, the county saw 1,979 foreclosures in August.

Professionals from the real estate and mortgage industries object to Chula Vista’s response to the crisis for the additional burdens it places on their struggling finances. Said San Diego real estate agent Marc Carpenter, “that kind of measure will add additional costs to banks that have been hit really hard already and ultimately the cost will be transferred down to consumers and investors.” Yet city councils in many communities have been under pressure to do something about increasing numbers of vacant properties. Concentrations of abandoned and neglected homes can attract vandals who hasten the decline of struggling neighborhoods. Jolie Houston explained that city officials “can’t fix the lending problem, but they can try to prevent neighborhoods from becoming blighted.”

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CEO Robert Klein of Safeguard, a property management firm, told the Union Tribune that his industry is having difficulty adapting to the rapidly changing local ordinances. “Every day we discover a new ordinance coming out of somewhere”, he complained. Dustin Hobbs, a spokesman from the California Association of Mortgage Bankers agreed that uneven local ordinances are likely to increase the costs of lending. Hobbs advised that local legislation is unnecessary due to California State Senate Bill 1137, which was recently approved to address blight. Yet according to Houston, the statewide measure falls short because it fails to address upkeep needs during the months between the time when foreclosure begins and when the lender takes title.

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Ukrainian railway accident generates huge phosphor cloud

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

An alarm for heavy chemical pollution has been issued in the Lviv region, Ukraine, where yesterday evening a railway disaster led to a fire involving 15 containers of liquid yellow phosphorus.

Extinguishing the fire proved extremely difficult because water cannot be used: in contact with phosphorus, water creates poisonous gas. It took six hours before the flames were extinguished. Gas was generated nonetheless, and at the moment the poisoned area extends about 90 sq. km. The casualties count is already heavy: 20 people are reported injured, 13 of them in critical condition. They have been carried to the Lviv hospital. Podrobnosti reports that the fire started when one of the containers started to leak and the phosphor caught fire.

The poisoned area includes 14 villages. From the five villages that are closer to the disaster area some 800 people have already been evacuated. Half of the evacuees had to manage on their own as there was not enough public transport for all.

At the moment there is no available data about the wind direction or next expected movements of the phosphorus cloud. Special firemen units remain on place to control the possibility of a new fire, while the administration of the Lviv Oblast tries to forecast the possible short- and mid-term evolution of the situation.

The Ukrainian Railways have officially excluded the possibility of a terrorist act as a cause for the disaster.

Podrobnosti reports the deadly dose of yellow phosphor at 0.1 g. According to that source, when poisoning living beings, phosphor causes liver necrosis and attacks the bones and spinal cord.

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Controversial Berlin opera features interactive drug usage

Friday, August 26, 2005

Berlin’s Neukoellner Opera House is causing a stir with its new production, The Yellow Princess.

The story presented in the French opera, by Camille Saint-Saens, is of an artist “whose life is dictated by a love for drugs and Japan.” As a result, the performers smoke cannabis joints on stage, and the theatre itself is encouraging the audience to join in.

Artistic director Bernhard Glocksin says that the theatre is claiming the metaphorical “artistic licence”, to excuse the actions of the actors and audience, which are against German law. Glocksin was quoted by Ananova as saying opera would be “improved with a few joints and some appetising lines”, noting the production was partly an experiment, to see what they could “get away with.”

Artistic licence” is at par to an “artistic liberty”, where something is exaggerated or changed for the sake of the art itself. For example a visual artist painting a landscape might move a tree to another area of their work, for better balance, or a poet ignoring pentameter when writing a traditional sonnet.

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Man arrested in connection with Honolulu toddler death

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Matthew Higa, 23, has been arrested in connection with the death of a 23-month-old boy. Higa is alleged to have thrown the child from a pedestrian overpass into oncoming traffic on Honolulu’s H-1 Freeway.

The local coroner’s office noted that the child died on impact after falling 30 feet (9 meters) from the overpass. This occurred during Thursday’s lunch rush hour in the heart of downtown. Upon impact, several cars struck the child, which caused traffic to grind to a halt.

The toddler, Cyrus Nainoa Tupa?i Belt, was pronounced dead at the scene at 12:07 p.m. (2207 UTC), approximately 27 minutes after being allegedly being ejected from the overpass by Higa. The portion of H-1 was closed for approximately five hours with traffic diverted to side streets. The freeway was reopened in time for the evening commute.

At first the relationship between Higa and the child was unclear, but later reports stated that Higa lived adjacent to him and had babysat him on previous occasions. The boy’s mother was out of town at the time of his death, but it was revealed that the child was supposed to be in the custody of his father and not with Higa.

Higa graduated from Roosevelt High School in 2003. In the summer of 2004 Higa was involved in an incident where police reports indicate a three-car race resulted in the death of a friend. Higa has since had a criminal history, with more than a dozen arrests but no convictions, and reports from neighbors of erratic behavior.

Queen’s Medical Center, which houses a psychiatric ward in Honolulu, noted that he was a patient there as recently as December 11, 2007. When arrested, Higa was wearing hospital scrubs, which were not immediately conducive to whether Higa was a patient in Queen’s psychiatric wing in the last couple of days. A representative of Queen’s declined to comment on whether Higa was admitted in the last week.

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Alternative to controversial hotel proposed to Buffalo, N.Y. business owners and residents

Buffalo, N.Y. Hotel Proposal Controversy
Recent Developments
  • “Old deeds threaten Buffalo, NY hotel development” — Wikinews, November 21, 2006
  • “Proposal for Buffalo, N.Y. hotel reportedly dead: parcels for sale “by owner”” — Wikinews, November 16, 2006
  • “Contract to buy properties on site of Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal extended” — Wikinews, October 2, 2006
  • “Court date “as needed” for lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal” — Wikinews, August 14, 2006
  • “Preliminary hearing for lawsuit against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal rescheduled” — Wikinews, July 26, 2006
  • “Elmwood Village Hotel proposal in Buffalo, N.Y. withdrawn” — Wikinews, July 13, 2006
  • “Preliminary hearing against Buffalo, N.Y. hotel proposal delayed” — Wikinews, June 2, 2006
Original Story
  • “Hotel development proposal could displace Buffalo, NY business owners” — Wikinews, February 17, 2006

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Buffalo, New York —

Residents and business owners in the Elmwood Avenue neighborhood and surrounding area in Buffalo heard a competing proposal for development in their neighborhood at the February 22 meeting held at the Burchfield-Penney Art Gallery, at Buffalo State College. The meeting, attended by at least 140, was originally to consider the Elmwood Village Hotel but also included a new revitalization proposal from Rocco Termini which would increase retail space, but involves less demolition and no hotel.

Rocco Termini, a Buffalo, New York developer wants to develop the corner of Elmwood and Forest, the same spot where Savarino Construction Services Corporation want to build the Elmwood Village Hotel.

Termini proposed that a similar revitalization take place on the intersection like one that incorporated 3 buildings on Aurburn and Elmwood just last year. Termini’s proposal will add more retail space than Savarino’s proposal with the possibility of including up to seven retail outlets.

“I just think it’s necessary to preserve the streetscape that we have. That’s the whole point of living and shopping on Elmwood,” said Termini. “You should be able to go into little shops, that have unique items, and that bring people to Elmwood. When you bring a big box on Elmwood Avenue, it takes something away from the urban-streetscape, just as suburban areas do not want a big box Wal-Mart. We don’t want a big box on Elmwood avenue and I think that’s just what this (the hotel) does, brings a big box to Elmwood,” said Termini.

When asked if there were any development companies currently interested in his proposal Termini said, “I will be willing to take a look at this myself,” said Termini. “Or I would be more than happy to be partners with Sam, Sam Savarino,” who is President and Chief Executive Officer of Savarino Construction Services Corp.

An unnamed source close to the project stated, “Rocco has serious concerns that the Mobius’s asking price could make his project infeasible.”

It is unknown if Savarino Construction or the city of Buffalo will consider Termini’s proposal.

Termini purchased and developed several buildings and areas including the Ellicott Lofts on Ellicott Street in Buffalo, which opened in 2003, The Oak School Lofts which used to be a Buffalo Alternative School, and ‘IS’ Lofts on Oak Street in Buffalo.

Eva Hassett, Vice President of Savarino Construction, and Karl Frizlen an architect from The Frizlen Group and designer of the hotel commented on the development proposal. Hassett said, “We’ve been thinking about it and trying to put it together for the last few months, and it was made public a couple of weeks ago.”

“There are lots of different areas you can look at. This is an Elmwood Avenue hotel. Putting it somewhere else makes a completely different kind of hotel. We wanted a hotel that people could walk to from the business on Elmwood. We wanted a hotel that people could walk to from the Albright Knox Art Gallery. This is really a location for this kind of hotel. Other locations end up being for other kinds of hotels,” said Hassett

“We are excited about the concept of a boutique hotel at this corner. We think it makes sense to the various businesses in the area or the galleries just down the street. We also believe that this is a way for the visitors of Buffalo to experience what the best of what Buffalo has to offer. We think it will be a great way for people from out of town, to get to know what we know about the city,” said Hassett.

Although Hassett had said that the proposal has only been around “for a few months”, Karl Frizlen said that he came up with the idea “three years ago when Hans Mobius,” former owner of the properties at risk, “came to me and asked what we could do with these properties.” Frizlen also said that he introduced Mobius to “four different developers, who after seeing the properties, did not want to tackle them, saying that they felt like it was too much for them to take on.”

Hans Mobius did not attend last nights meeting.

Frizlen is also designing the former telephone company building at 504 Elmwood which would be a “mixed use building with retail on the lowest level and lofts on the other two floors.”

After speeches from developers, residents and business owners were invited to present questions and comments.

Mark Freelend, a Buffalo resident, and local artist, said “I’m looking at my house in the picture, and I’m picturing all the houses on Granger street behind me, and I’m realizing that, if this is implemented (the hotel), we will get zero sunlight. The Sun is supposed to be free, for everyone. The people on Granger are going to have eighty windows looking at them and their children being raised, and playing in the backyard, guests looking in the windows of their houses twenty-four hours a day. A million people starring into their houses. No sunlight, and they are on permanent reality TV. Put a price on that!”

“I think this hotel is totally out of scale to the area and it does not conform to the style (of Elmwood) at all. It will totally obscure the gateway of Elmwood. The gateway now has open arms that allow for passage and view into the commercial corridor. This hotel stands as a brick wall as far as I can tell,” said Nancy Pollina one of the owners of Don Apparel at 1119 Elmwood. Pollina referenced to the recent ‘revitalization’ project on Auburn and Elmwood saying, “That building was boarded up for years, and that was beautiful a renovation. That building was not in any less need of repair than Hans Mobius’s properties.”

Both residents and business owners in the area are concerned that the proposal is moving too quickly and said that the developers should wait before having any city meetings and wait for a consensus from the community on the hotel.

Mrs. Pollina said, “I think people feel passionate about their neighborhood, and this is their neighborhood. I feel that what was most shocking is that the city’s planning board meeting and Common Council meeting, which are they need to push this through, is next week without almost no notice. This (the proposal) is being rushed.

However; Sam Savarino did say that “some people have gotten emotional about this project. And I want to let the community know that we will listen to what you have to say. We’re not forcing this down anybody’s throat. If this is not something this community wants, we do not want to have it here.”

The city’s Planning Board is expected to meet on February 28, 2006 at 8:00am in room 901 on the 9th floor of City Hall. The city’s Legislative Committee meeting of Common Council is expected to take place on the same day at 2:00pm in Council Chambers on the 13th floor of City Hall.

It has just been confirmed from an unnamed source close to the project that “significant changes” will be made to the design of the Elmwood Village Hotel. “Its not being cancelled, just redesigned,” he said. The changes are not yet known, but they are could be released “tomorrow. He (Savarino) doesn’t want it released until he touches base with a few people today.”

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Saturn moon Enceladus may have salty ocean

Thursday, June 23, 2011

NASA’s Cassini–Huygens spacecraft has discovered evidence for a large-scale saltwater reservoir beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. The data came from the spacecraft’s direct analysis of salt-rich ice grains close to the jets ejected from the moon. The study has been published in this week’s edition of the journal Nature.

Data from Cassini’s cosmic dust analyzer show the grains expelled from fissures, known as tiger stripes, are relatively small and usually low in salt far away from the moon. Closer to the moon’s surface, Cassini found that relatively large grains rich with sodium and potassium dominate the plumes. The salt-rich particles have an “ocean-like” composition and indicate that most, if not all, of the expelled ice and water vapor comes from the evaporation of liquid salt-water. When water freezes, the salt is squeezed out, leaving pure water ice behind.

Cassini’s ultraviolet imaging spectrograph also recently obtained complementary results that support the presence of a subsurface ocean. A team of Cassini researchers led by Candice Hansen of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, measured gas shooting out of distinct jets originating in the moon’s south polar region at five to eight times the speed of sound, several times faster than previously measured. These observations of distinct jets, from a 2010 flyby, are consistent with results showing a difference in composition of ice grains close to the moon’s surface and those that made it out to the E ring, the outermost ring that gets its material primarily from Enceladean jets. If the plumes emanated from ice, they should have very little salt in them.

“There currently is no plausible way to produce a steady outflow of salt-rich grains from solid ice across all the tiger stripes other than salt water under Enceladus’s icy surface,” said Frank Postberg, a Cassini team scientist at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

The data suggests a layer of water between the moon’s rocky core and its icy mantle, possibly as deep as about 50 miles (80 kilometers) beneath the surface. As this water washes against the rocks, it dissolves salt compounds and rises through fractures in the overlying ice to form reserves nearer the surface. If the outermost layer cracks open, the decrease in pressure from these reserves to space causes a plume to shoot out. Roughly 400 pounds (200 kilograms) of water vapor is lost every second in the plumes, with smaller amounts being lost as ice grains. The team calculates the water reserves must have large evaporating surfaces, or they would freeze easily and stop the plumes.

“We imagine that between the ice and the ice core there is an ocean of depth and this is somehow connected to the surface reservoir,” added Postberg.

The Cassini mission discovered Enceladus’ water-vapor and ice jets in 2005. In 2009, scientists working with the cosmic dust analyzer examined some sodium salts found in ice grains of Saturn’s E ring but the link to subsurface salt water was not definitive. The new paper analyzes three Enceladus flybys in 2008 and 2009 with the same instrument, focusing on the composition of freshly ejected plume grains. In 2008, Cassini discovered a high “density of volatile gases, water vapor, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, as well as organic materials, some 20 times denser than expected” in geysers erupting from the moon. The icy particles hit the detector target at speeds between 15,000 and 39,000 MPH (23,000 and 63,000 KPH), vaporizing instantly. Electrical fields inside the cosmic dust analyzer separated the various constituents of the impact cloud.

“Enceladus has got warmth, water and organic chemicals, some of the essential building blocks needed for life,” said Dennis Matson in 2008, Cassini project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“This finding is a crucial new piece of evidence showing that environmental conditions favorable to the emergence of life can be sustained on icy bodies orbiting gas giant planets,” said Nicolas Altobelli, the European Space Agency’s project scientist for Cassini.

“If there is water in such an unexpected place, it leaves possibility for the rest of the universe,” said Postberg.

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Tunisian Prime Minister signs decree to ban face veils in public institutions, government offices

Monday, July 8, 2019

On Friday, Youssef Chahed, the Prime Minister of Tunisia, signed a government decree banning anyone wearing a niqab from entering a public institution or government offices. A niqab is a face-veil, which covers almost the entire face, and is commonly worn by Muslim females as a religious garment.

“Chahed signed a government decree that bars any person with an undisclosed face from access to public headquarters, administrations, institutions, for security reasons”, a government official said. This decision comes after a couple of suicide bombings took place in the country’s capital, Tunis, last month. Reportedly, two people were killed and at least eight people were injured in a suicide bombing that happened on June 27. According to eyewitness reports, the suicide bomber wore a face veil covering, the niqab. In the span of one week, at least three suicide bombings took place in Tunisia. The militant organisation, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, claimed responsibility for all three attacks.

Speaking to Agence France-Presse, the president of the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights, Jamel Msallem, said, “We are for the freedom to dress, but today with the current situation and the terrorist threats in Tunisia and across the region we find justifications for this decision”. A member of the Tunisian Parliament, Samir Dilou said, “Tunisia is facing terrorist attacks, so every measure which is led by security motives is understandable”.

After an attack in the capital city in 2015, a bill was proposed in 2016 for banning the niqab, but was not passed. Souhail Alouini, a member of Parliament, said, “We proposed a bill in 2016 about this subject and it has still not been debated […] Maybe it is time now.”

Tunisia’s neighbouring Muslim-majority African countries including Algeria and Morocco have cited security concerns to impose bans on niqabs. Previously, another Islamic religious garment, the hijab, was banned in Tunisian public offices during Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s Presidency. That ban was lifted in 2011.

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R&B singer Gerald Levert dies

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Gerald Levert, R&B singer, songwriter and producer died of a heart attack around 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

Gerald Levert was the son of Eddie Levert (of the soul group The O’Jays). Levert was known for a number of top ten hits in the 1980s and 90s, particularly “Pop, Pop Goes My Mind”, “Casanova”, and ABC-123″. Levert had finished an album, which is expected to go into release in early 2007.

The memorial service for his death will be held Friday, November 17, and scheduled to honor Levert are Stevie Wonder, Johnny Gill and Angie Stone.

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Violence at Cronulla Beach as 5000 people gather

Monday, December 12, 2005

Cronulla Beach in Sydney, New South Wales was the scene of racist mob-violence yesterday. In what has been described as disgusting, un-Australian and shameful behaviour, participants in a 5000-strong mob assaulted people suspected of being of Lebanese origin. The angry, alcohol-fuelled crowd also turned on anyone who tried to help the victims, including police, security guards and ambulance officers.

Following an attack on two lifeguards earlier in the week, allegedly by men of Lebanese descent, a protest had been organised via text messages and a small number of usenet postings.

Sutherland Shire Mayor Kevin Schreiber says inflammatory text messages calling for revenge attacks fueled the violence. Mr Schreiber said the heavily-circulated messages ensured troublemakers went to the southern Sydney beach looking for a fight. Police had patrolled the area all weekend after text messages began circulating among the community calling for vigilante responses to unwelcome visitors on the beach.

“The sending out of that text message was foolish and irresponsible and ensured that people from all over Sydney came to Cronulla looking to cause trouble and this was further fueled by alcohol,” said Mr Schreiber.

Sydney’s popular talk-back radio station 2GB also promoted Sunday’s event. Breakfast announcer Alan Jones has been accused of “fanning the flames.” Callers who recommended vigilante action were not discouraged to take the law into their own hands. Mr Jones, notorious for inflammatory comments, repeated the text message for Cronulla residents to defend their territory several times.

As the crowd marched along the beach and foreshore area, waving Australian flags, the crowd chanted racist slogans, with many wearing clothes bearing racist sentiment.

Middle Eastern men were openly targeted and assaulted. A young Muslim woman wearing a veil was chased into a kiosk on Cronulla beach. Police tried to move her away from the chanting crowd but were unable to reach the security of the command post. While the woman and police officers hid in the kiosk, a crowd surrounded the kiosk and shouted “Kill the Lebs”, while others climbed on top of the kiosk.

As police horses and special operations officers formed a line and pushed the crowd away, they were bombarded with beer bottles. After half an hour, an ambulance arrived at the kiosk and people were loaded into it. The ambulance, transporting six injured youths, escorted by police and police horses, was also bombarded with beer bottles. One struck an ambulance officer on the head. His colleague suffered lacerations to the arm.

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