Vienna zoo presents giant panda Yuan Yuan to public

Giant panda Yuan Yuan was officially handed over from China to Vienna’s Schoenbrunn zoo on Monday (May 20) in a ceremony attended by top Austrian and Chinese officials.

It was the first time that the panda was seen by visitors since he was brought to Vienna from China a month earlier. He replaces Long Hui, another giant panda which died in 2016, leaving behind his partner, Yang Yang.

Schonbrunn has been one of the few zoos in the world where giant pandas live and is known for its successful breeding programme, according to the zoo’s website.

Yang Yang and Long Hui had offspring four times since arriving in 2003, which is rare among captive pandas.

Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen personally returned the cubs to China — as even those born in captivity remain Beijing’s property.

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Eiffel Tower closed due to man climbing Paris landmark

He is now under police control, a Paris police spokesperson told CNN. His motivation for scaling the Paris landmark remains unclear.

Officials closed the tower and began evacuating visitors after the man was first spotted. The situation lasted just over seven hours before the climber’s capture.

Pictures and videos of the individual climbing up the tower, which is 324 meters (1,062 feet) tall, have been circulating online.

“The Eiffel Tower has been closed and is in the process of being evacuated because a person is scaling it,” a spokeswoman for the landmark said earlier in the day.

Irish tourist Claire Murphy, who is on vacation in Paris, told CNN that the lockdown began at 2:15 p.m. (8:15 a.m. ET) and that she had been stuck on the tower’s top floor.

People were stuck on the Eiffel Tower after a person scaled the landmark.

Almost 7 million people visit the Eiffel Tower every year. Completed in 1889, it was designed and built by Gustave Eiffel as part of a “Universal Exposition” marking the centenary of the French Revolution. It celebrated its 130th anniversary last week.

This isn’t the first time someone has tried to scale the tower. Three people were spotted climbing the landmark in 2015. It was also evacuated twice in 2010 due to bomb threats, once in 2013 over security concerns and was closed for two days following the terror attacks in Paris in 2015.

In 2017, a protective glass wall measuring 65 millimeters (about 2.5 inches) thick and resistant to bullets was erected around the base of the tower to provide increased security.

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6 IS would-be suicide bombers killed in western Iraq

Iraqi security forces on Monday killed six would-be suicide bombers affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) militant group in an operation in Iraq’s western province of Anbar, the Iraqi military said, Trend reports citing Xinhua.

The Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), backed by the international coalition aircraft, carried out an operation against IS hideouts in the desert of Anbar, killing six IS militants wearing explosive belts, Yahya Rasoul, spokesman of a media team affiliated with the Iraqi Joint Operations Command, said in a brief statement.

“We are working hard to end the cross-border terrorist threat, and the cells (terrorist groups) in our territory,” Rasoul added.

IS militants are still active in the vast Anbar desert which stretches to the border with neighboring countries of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, as many civilians have been kidnapped or killed by the extremist group in recent months.

The security situation in Iraq was dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country late in 2017.

IS remnants, however, have since melted in urban areas or resorted to deserts and rugged areas as safe havens, carrying out frequent guerilla attacks against security forces and civilians.

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Swedbank’s pension funds invest EUR 200 mln into sustainable business

VILNIUS – Pension funds managed by the Swedbank financial group are investing 200 million euros, or a sixth of their managed assets, into sustainable business. Swedbank Investiciju Valdymas says the fund’s all investments will have to match sustainability criteria in the future.

It’s the first such large investment in the market into exceptionally sustainable enterprises, Swedbank says.

“So far, we have sought to ensure that fund managers act responsibly and meet the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. Now we are taking another step and directing 200 million euros towards specialized funds with the highest sustainability criteria, managed by managers meeting such standards. In the pension fund market, an investment of such size into sustainable enterprises is a new phenomenon,” Tada Gudaitis, director Swedbank Investiciju Valdymas, said in a statement.

In his words, the investment will go to businesses limiting environmental pollution, using renewable energy resources, promoting responsible consumption and applying good business management practices.

Swedbank’s II-pillar life-cycle pension funds are managing assets worth around 1.2 billion euros, with over 525,000 people saving for pension in these funds.

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At least 12 wounded in Egypt blast targeting tourist bus

At least 12 people were injured on Sunday in a blast targeting a tourist bus near the new Egyptian museum close to the Giza Pyramids, sources have told Reuters.

The bus was carrying 28 passengers — including South African nationals, according to a security source— and most of the injuries were minor. Three passengers are, however, “being treated at the hospital as a precaution”, the country’s Tourism Minister Rania A. Al Mashat announced on Twitter.

A witness, Mohamed el-Mandouh, told Reuters he heard a “very loud explosion” while sitting in traffic near the site of the blast.

Pictures posted on social media showed a bus with some of its windows blown out or shattered, and debris in the road next to a low wall with a hole in it.

The museum is due to open next year as the new home for some of the country’s top antiquities on a site adjoining the world-famous Giza pyramids. It is part of an effort to boost tourism, a key source of foreign revenue for Egypt.

The sector has been recovering after tourist numbers dropped in the wake of a 2011 uprising and the 2015 bombing of a Russian passenger jet.

There was no damage to the museum from the blast, which happened 50 metres from its outer fence and more than 400 metres from the museum building, the Antiquities Ministry said in a statement.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Egyptian security forces are waging a counterinsurgency campaign against Islamist militants, some with links to the so-called Islamic State, that is focussed in the north of the Sinai Peninsula. Attacks outside Sinai have been relatively rare.

In December, three Vietnamese tourists and an Egyptian guide were killed and at least 10 others injured when a roadside bomb hit their tour bus less than 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) from the Giza pyramids.

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Salvini says he wants pre-Maastricht EU rules, ahead of far-right rally

“Those who want to save Europe are those that are sold as the anti-Europeans. I feel more pro-European than the pro-Europeans,” Salvini said in Milan on Friday.

“I would return to the pre Maastricht with more normal fiscal economic rules where we spoke of well-being and full employment…. The rules imposed by Brussels are creating full-on unemployment,” Salvini said.

The Maastricht Treaty — officially known as The Treaty on European Union — was signed by the 12 member countries of the European Community in the Netherlands in 1992. It created the structure for a single currency, later named the euro, that was be born in 1999.

Unemployment rates across the EU are at an all-time low, according to its statistical analysis body Eurostat, though rates in Italy are higher than in most other major European countries.

Salvini held a major rally on Saturday of European nationalists, including France’s Marine Le Pen, and Holland’s Geert Wilders. Around 100,000 people were expected to join the event, in driving rain in Milan’s Duomo Square.

“The political elites in Brussels cannot be trusted. They want to impose their orders on us. They want to take away our identity and our security,” Wilders claimed at the rally.

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Calling for “no more immigration,” he praised his friend Salvini as an “example for all of us” and said “Europe needs more Salvinis.”

The far-right Italian deputy prime minister was elected into government last summer on a wave of popular anger in Italy towards Brussels and the Italian political establishment. Now, he has Europe in his sights.

Asked by CNN’s Erin McLaughlin why he has slipped in the polls recently and if he thinks he’s gone “too far to the right,” Salvini replied, “I never believe in polls” and said he is proud his Northern League party that is “is a reference point for change not just in Italy but in Europe.”

Salvini claimed he has a network of alliances “that we never had before in the past” and listed parties in France, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Czech Republic, the UK and Poland among his allies.

“We have an idea of Europe founded on work, rights, life, safety, the exact opposite of the Europe founded on finance, unemployment, mass immigration, that we have suffered over these years,” Salvini said.

CNN’s Sarah Dean and Rob Picheta contributed to this report.

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USTR Lighthizer to meet Motegi for trade talks in Japan on May 24

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will visit Japan on May 24 to meet with Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi to accelerate trade talks ahead of a summit meeting scheduled a few days later, two sources with direct knowledge of the plan said on Monday, Trend reported citing Reuters.

After a late-April meeting between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump had said it was possible for the two countries to reach a new bilateral trade deal by the time he visits Tokyo in late May.

On Friday, Trump angered foreign automakers including Toyota Motor Corp by declaring that some imported vehicles and parts posed a national security threat, while delaying a decision for as long as six months on whether to impose tariffs to allow more time for trade talks with the European Union and Japan.

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OECD to study housing affordability in Latvia for EUR 280,000

RIGA – The Economics Ministry plans to conclude a EUR 280,000 agreement with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to conduct a study on housing affordability in Latvia.

The ministry’s representatives informed LETA that such comprehensive analytical materials comprising the whole range of housing affordability-related issues are currently unavailable in Latvia.

Under the agreement, the OECD is expected to analyze housing affordability in Latvia to provide a better insight into residents’ ability to obtain high-quality housing. One of the aims is to clear the obstacles preventing people from accessing high-quality rental housing and buying homes.

The research project will consist of two interconnected parts, the first of which will provide the assessment of housing affordability and the other will provide policy instruments promoting housing affordability.

The OECD is expected to launch the study in June this year and complete it in March 2020.

In February 2019, Economics Minister Ralfs Nemiro (KPV LV) told LETA that Latvia needs a new housing policy.

The minister said that most dwelling houses in Latvia have been built in Soviet times and are in poor condition, with crumbling balconies, etc.

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After six months of protests, France’s yellow vests lose momentum

Yellow vest protesters took to the streets of Paris for the 27th Saturday in a row but turnout numbers are declining.

By 2 pm on Saturday, there were around 2,800 protesters across France.

Last week around 18,600 people took part, according to the Interior Ministry — the lowest turnout throughout the whole of the movement.

Police in Paris have now banned protesters from the Champs Elysees and areas around the presidential palace, the national assembly, and Notre Dame.

Protesters are also forbidden from wearing anything that disguises their face.

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Climate change concerns sours Germany’s love for cars

A new Deutschland Trend poll by national broadcaster ARD, shows that 48% of respondents listed climate change as their biggest concern.

On one side are younger, urban voters, demanding immediate steps to become a carbon-neutral country. On the other, are an older, rural generation who grew prosperous under Germany’s coal-powered, automobile-driven economy.

“Young people are much more involved with digitalization now,” explains Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research in Duisburg-Essen.

Germany has already committed to reducing carbon emissions next year by 40% from 1990 levels, 55% by 2030 and up to 95% in 2050. It’s not clear though if the country can hit those targets.

Energy production is by far the leading cause of emissions and Germany has promised to phase out coal-energy plants and replace them with renewables by 2038. But transportation is the next leading cause of emissions, and getting Germans to give up their cars goes right to the heart of the country’s political and cultural debate.

Home to Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler-Benz

It’s no wonder that cars have a special place in Germany.

Home to Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler-Benz, the country produced 5.5 million passenger cars in 2017, according to the country’s Trade and Investment Agency.

Germany's Autobahn is a no-limits highway paradise for speed-loving drivers.
The automobile industry employs more than 820,000 people and generates about 20% of Germany’s industrial output. The autobahn — a no-limits highway paradise for speed-loving drivers — criss-crosses the country.

But the automobile industry has been hard hit, in part by swelling climate activism as well as the fallout from “Dieselgate,” the 2015 emissions scandal that revealed Volkswagen, as well as others, had colluded to cheat diesel pollution regulations.

Plummeting car sales were blamed for the country’s shrinking GDP last year, nearly tipping the country into recession.

A worker stands by Volkswagen hood ornaments at the Golf production line at the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany.

“Large segments of the population have now realized that climate change is the biggest threat. As the world steers towards reducing emissions, the carmakers have had to change their former models. And they all have moved away from old lines,” said auto analyst Duddenhofer.

“Both VW and Mercedes as well as BMW and even the supplier have said they want to become climate neutral. We have no other option but to become purely electric.”

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In its Climate Action Plan 2050 unveiled earlier this year, the government promised to reduce transport emissions by 2030 by as much as 95 million tons. But the plan did not set a deadline for German cars to be emission free and evaded responsibility for stricter emission limits for new cars by stating it would be set at a European — and not a national level.

But for climate activists that is simply too little too late.

In an April debate with Economy Minister Peter Altmeier, Luisa Neubauer, 23-year-old leading the Fridays For Future school strikes snapped: “We see that our future is far lower on your priority list than is that of Volkswagen!”

Few parties have been able to capitalize on that discontent like the Greens. Once a fringe, far-left party, according to ARD the Greens are now polling at roughly 20%, neck-and-neck with its biggest rival on the left — the once formidable Social Democrats, and far outpacing the far right, Alternative for Germany (AfD).

“People have realized that the idea of climate change — a climate crisis — is real,” says Oliver Krischner, a leading member of the Greens party.

“I think that pays off for us now. Even when we were unpopular and we did not make the headlines, we clearly gave priority to climate change. And voters see when one is genuine and serious talking about such a big public issue.”

Climate activists Greta Thunberg mocked

While the public seems to support more action on climate change, recent polls show Germans are divided on what steps to take.

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A poll taken earlier this month by national broadcaster ARD showed that 81% of respondents demanded immediate action to reduce emissions but less than 34% supported political proposals, like a carbon tax.

And not everyone in Germany is convinced that climate change is a problem.

Germany’s far-right populist party AfD has campaigned for the EU elections by saying it wants to be the party that “saves diesel,” not the climate.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has been mocked by some AfD members.

Some AfD members have mocked Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, as “Saint Greta” leading a quixotic rabble of teenage protesters.

But for all their taunts, the AFD could be reacting to recent poll numbers from the weekly Deutschland Trendpoll by the ARD that show unusually heightened interest in the EU elections this year, with 63% of respondents said they were “very interested.”

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