Greece Macedonia: Name dispute draws mass protest in Athens

At least 140,000 Greeks have taken to the streets of Athens in a protest about the decades-long dispute over the name Macedonia.

Many Greeks object to the country of the same name calling itself Macedonia, saying it implies a territorial claim on Greece’s northern Macedonia region.

Protesters oppose Greek government proposals on resolving the issue.

Celebrated Zorba The Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, 92, was among those addressing the crowds.

Anarchists daubed red paint over his home on Saturday but he was unfazed, declaring, “I am calm and ready.”

How high are passions in Athens?

Demonstrators carrying Greek flags chanted “hands off Macedonia” and “Macedonia is Greece”, as they assembled in Syntagma Square outside parliament.

“Macedonia was, is and will forever be Greek,” Mr Theodorakis told the huge crowds, adding that any suggestion of a name to resolve the dispute must be put to a referendum.

“If a government considers signing on behalf of our country… there is no doubt it must first ask the Greek people.”

He said the neighbouring northern state was “illegitimate”.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias recently received death threats when he said he expected the dispute to be resolved within months.

“Here are the borders,” said protester Rania Mainou from Xanthi in northern Greece. “This is Macedonia. Here, these are Slavs, they are not Macedonians, we are Macedonians. Macedonia is Greek, no one can take this name, no one can use it.”

It is the second such protest in a fortnight. Some 90,000 demonstrators rallied in Thessaloniki, the capital of the Macedonia region, on 21 January.

Organisers of Sunday’s protest estimated that 1.5 million people had attended but police said turnout was less than one tenth of that.

How long has this row been rumbling?

The dispute has simmered since Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and it has held up its attempts to join Nato and the EU.

Greece’s left-wing Syriza government says the issue is a diplomatic obstacle it wants resolved and has proposed agreeing to a composite name for the country which would include the word Macedonia but ensure a clear differentiation from the Greek region.

Macedonia argues that its people can be traced back to the ancient kingdom of Macedon, once ruled by Alexander the Great, and that the name “Macedonia” is therefore the logical option.

However, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said last month that Macedonia would change the name of its airport from Skopje Alexander the Great airport, to show good will.

The Greek Orthodox Church backs the campaign to stop Macedonia using any variant of the name.

What names are being mooted?

In organisations such as the UN, where talks have been under way, the country is officially known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)

At home, the Macedonian government calls the country it administers simply “Republic of Macedonia”.

UN mediator Matthew Nimetz has suggested alternatives such as “Republic of New Macedonia”.

A proposal to name it “Republic of Macedonia-Skopje” was reportedly accepted by Greece but rejected by Macedonia.

source: BBC

Sony chief executive Kazuo Hirai to step down

Sony’s chief executive Kazuo Hirai is stepping down and handing the reins over to finance chief Kenichiro Yoshida.

Mr Yoshida, Sony’s chief financial officer, is to take over control of the Japanese electronics giant from 1 April.

Mr Hirai will remain at Sony as chairman.

Mr Yoshida and Mr Hirai have been instrumental in turning Sony around to focus on smartphone image sensors.

Under their efforts, the Japanese electronic giant sold off its struggling PC business and launched the successful PlayStation 4 video game console, which has sold more than 60 million units to date.

Sony said its profits quadrupled in the three months to December.

The Japanese electronics giant reported a record profit of 351 billion yen ($3.2bn, £2.5bn) for the quarter, compared with 92.4 billion yen in the same period the year before.

“As the company approaches a crucial juncture, when we will embark on a new mid-range plan, I consider this to be the ideal time to pass the baton of leadership to new management, for the future of Sony and also for myself to embark on a new chapter in my life,” said Mr Hirai in a statement.

Mr Yoshida said he wanted to build on the management foundation created under Mr Hirai’s leadership to “improve Sony’s competitiveness as a global company”.

Source: BBC

Vodafone eyes European expansion with Liberty Global deal

Vodafone Group, the UK-based telecoms giant, has said it is in talks to buy some European assets owned by US cable company Liberty Global.

The firm said the discussions were at an “early stage” and there was “no certainty” the deal would go through.

The talks concern assets in markets where the firms overlap, including Germany, Czech Republic, and Hungary.

Vodafone emphasised that the talks were not about a merger with Liberty, which owns Virgin Media.

Vodafone, founded in the 1980s, operates in more than 30 countries and boasts more than 400 million customers globally.

The company has historically focused on cellular mobile phone services, but has more recently been expanding its fibre infrastructure, which supports faster internet and data downloading.

Liberty Global is an international television and broadband company that operates in more than 30 countries under names that include Virgin Media, and Telenet.

The company, run by billionaire John Malone, operates in 12 countries in Europe and also has a joint venture with Vodafone in the Netherlands.

The share prices in both companies increased after Vodafone’s announcement.

‘No certainty’

The telecoms industry has been going through a period of deal-making as phone companies attempt to offer their customers packages of television, broadband, mobile and traditional phone services.

Vodafone issued its statement on the talks after a media report that the two companies were discussing swapping some assets.

The two companies had similar discussions in 2015 that ended without a deal.

“Vodafone confirms that it is in early stage discussions with Liberty Global regarding the potential acquisition of certain overlapping continental European assets owned by Liberty Global,” it said.

“There is no certainty that any transaction will be agreed, nor as to the terms, timing or form of any transaction. Vodafone is not in discussion with Liberty Global regarding a combination of both companies.”

Source: BBC

Lady Gaga halts tour due to ‘severe pain’

Lady Gaga has cancelled the last 10 dates of the European leg of her world tour due to “severe pain”.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the pop star apologised to fans and said she was “devastated”, but needed to put “myself and my well-being” first.

The Grammy award-winning singer has fibromyalgia, a long-term condition which can cause pain all over the body.

Shows in London and Manchester are among those affected.

In the statement, it said the “tough decision” had been made on Friday night with “strong support from her medical team”.

“I’m so devastated I don’t know how to describe it,” Lady Gaga, 31, wrote. “All I know is that if I don’t do this, I am not standing by the words or meaning of my music.”

The announcement comes after she started the UK leg of her tour at Birmingham Arena.

The European leg of her Joanne World Tour had already been rescheduled due to her condition and followed a decision to pull out of a performance at Rock In Rio in Brazil in September, after she was hospitalised with “severe physical pain.”

The Born This Way singer was due to perform in Zurich, Cologne, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Paris and Berlin in the coming weeks.

At the end of last year, the star announced a two-year residency in Las Vegas, starting late in 2018.

But many are disappointed.

Alice Outten had bought tickets for a London show as a birthday treat.

“I have train tickets and hotels booked in London,” the 23-year-old, from Llandudno, said.

“I love Lady Gaga – she has been my idol for over 10 years, but this is just such a disappointment when I’ve been saving and saving to afford this trip and I was so excited.”

Robert Miller, from Derby, has also been left out of pocket.

“My husband originally bought me tickets for us both to go for my birthday for the date in London last year costing £150 each,” he said.

“We’d booked hotels and travel for then and couldn’t cancel. It’s happened again and we’ve been left with yet another costly trip to London for nothing.”

Source: BBC

Italy Macerata drive-by attack: Foreigners targeted, say police

At least six people have been wounded in a series of drive-by shootings in a town in central Italy, and one man has been arrested, police and media say.

Those targeted in Macerata were black immigrants, media said.

The suspect, named locally as Luca Traini, 28, had an Italian flag wrapped around his neck when he was detained.

He had taken part in regional elections for the anti-immigration Northern League last year and reportedly made a fascist salute when he was captured.

Italy votes in national elections on 4 March, with immigration one of the key issues.

Link to teenager’s killing?

Mr Traini, who is from the surrounding Le Marche region, did not resist when he was detained after fleeing from his car near the town’s war memorial. He is now being questioned. Police found a gun in his car.

The shooting had begun two hours earlier at about 11:00 local time (10:00 GMT), La Repubblica website reports.

The mayor had warned people to stay indoors during the incident, which saw shootings across a number of locations.

The victims are being treated in hospital. At least one of them is said to be in a serious condition.

Video of the moment the suspect was apprehended was published by local website, Il Resto del Carlino, showing a white bald man draped in an Italian tricolour being escorted away by police.

Italian police also tweeted a photo of the moment of capture, saying one of the wounded had required surgery.

Shots had been fired in the Via Spalato and Via dei Velini parts of town, two key areas in an investigation into the murder of an 18-year-old girl whose body was found dismembered and hidden in two suitcases last Wednesday.

A 29-year-old Nigerian male migrant has been detained over the killing of Pamela Mastropietro.

Several racist comments calling for revenge attacks were posted on the Facebook page of the victim’s mother in the run up to Saturday’s shootings, Ansa reports.

Local reports are linking the two incidents.

Right-wing politicians have been using Pamela Mastropietro’s killing to promote their anti-migrant message as part of their campaign for the general election.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has temporarily suspended campaigning over the shootings.

Opinion polls suggest a centre-right bloc, including the Northern League, Forza Italia and the far-right Brothers of Italy, will win the most seats but not a working majority.

With about 28% support in the opinion polls, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement is the most popular single party. This suggests there could be tough coalition negotiations, or even another election, after 4 March.

source: bbcnews.com & ilrestodelcarlino.it