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Bellapais to be turned into tourist village

Bellapais is being turned into a tourist village in the occupied north and as part of this plan, a cable car is to be constructed. According to Turkish Cypriot media, work on the cable car project between Kyrenia and Bellapais is progressing smoothly. As reported by Haber Kıbrıs, the cabins of the cable car have been completed, and the “Minister of Tourism” Fikri Ataoglu has also been informed about the matter. In a post, Serdar Turgut points out that the final meeting with the investor has also taken place. According to Turgut, orders have been placed and work on the cable car will start as soon as possible. According to Turkish Cypriot media, the “Minister of Tourism”, in previous statements on the matter, emphasized the importance of this step, stating that “it is done for the development and progress of the area with the aim, as he said, of turning Bellapais into a tourist village”.

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Young dolphin found dead at Lady’s Mile [PHOTOS]

A reader of philenews spotted a dolphin, which appears to be of young age, today (Wednesday) morning at the well-known Lady’s Mile beach in Limassol. Marinos Kartoudis, who was at the beach for his daily swim, found the baby dolphin dead outside the water, without, as he informed us, any visible injuries. The reader notified the Fisheries Department, which rushed to the scene, while the British Bases were also informed.

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In South Korea, world’s lowest fertility rate plunges again in 2023

South Korea’s fertility rate, already the world’s lowest, continued its dramatic decline in 2023, as women concerned about their career advancement and the financial cost of raising children decided to delay childbirth or to not have babies. The average number of expected babies for a South Korean woman during her reproductive life fell to a record low of 0.72 from 0.78 in 2022, data from Statistics Korea showed on Wednesday. That is far below the rate of 2.1 per woman needed for a steady population and well behind the rate of 1.24 in 2015 when concerns about issues such as the cost of housing and education were lower. Since 2018, South Korea has been the only Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) member with a rate below 1, defying the billions of dollars spent by the country to try to reverse the trend that led the population to decline for a fourth straight year in 2023. “Having a baby is on my list, but there’s windows for promotions and I don’t want to be passed over,” said Gwak Tae-hee, 34, a junior manager at a Korean dairy product maker who has been married for three years. Gwak had considered starting in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment last year to try to have a baby, but ended up volunteering for work projects to improve her career prospects. “I don’t know about elsewhere but working two or three days a week doesn’t get you anywhere in Korean companies. I hope it’s not too late when I try next year or the year after,” Gwak said. South Korea’s demographic crisis has become the top risk to economic growth and the social welfare system, with the country’s population of 51 million on track to halve by the end of this century. South Korea has previously projected its fertility rate is likely to fall further to 0.68 in 2024. The capital Seoul, which has the country’s highest housing costs, had the lowest fertility rate of 0.55 last year. Ahead of elections in April, South Korea’s major political parties vowed more public housing and easier loans to encourage childbirth, aiming to allay fears of “national extinction” as fertility rates crumble. Being married is seen as a prerequisite to having children in South Korea, but marriages are also declining in the country. “There are people who don’t get married but we think about why married couples choose not to have babies, and my understanding is that addressing that part is going to be the focus of our policies (to boost the birth rate),” an official at Statistics Korea told a briefing, without elaborating. The parties’ focus on population in their election planks reflects growing alarm after spending of more than 360 trillion won ($270 billion) in areas such as childcare subsidies since 2006 has failed to reverse record low fertility rates. South Korea is not alone in the region struggling with a rapidly ageing population. Neighbouring Japan said on Tuesday the number of babies born in 2023 fell for an eighth straight year to a fresh record low. Japan’s fertility rate hit a record low of 1.26 in 2022, while China recorded 1.09, also a record low. ($1 = 1,331.2100 won) (Reuters)

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How many deaths do we have from Covid justifying this inconvenience?

The Minister of Health and the professors of the Scientific Monitoring Committee should inform us of how many dozens of deaths are recorded daily in Cyprus, so that they can justify why the mandatory measure of conducting rapid antigen testing for COVID-19 disease continues in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, dental practices, etc., and even for 48 hours instead of the 72 that was in effect before January. If the measure was justified in early January (after the Christmas holidays) due to the increase in cases of a milder (perhaps) disease than the flu, now obviously it is not justified. And it’s good that the authorities are considering and examining the data, and if the… death spike has passed, they should lift the measure. B.

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“Thanasis Nikolaou was murdered by strangulation,” investigator testifies

The third inquiry into the death of Thanasis Nikolaou continued on Wednesday with the independent criminal investigator, Savvas Matsas, providing his deposition before death investigator Doria Varosiou. As proceedings commenced, the legal representatives of the Nikolaou family conveyed that Thanasis’s mother opted not to testify, despite the court’s directive. They cited an “insulting and derogatory manner of cross-examination” by the Law Office’s representative as the reason for her refusal. Thanasis’ body was found under a bridge in Alassa in 2005 and his death was deemed by the army and police as a suicide. But after his remains were exhumed in 2020 over suspicions of foul play, further autopsies showed he had been beaten and strangled. Savvas Matsas was summoned to shed light on the police’s conduct in the case and reiterated the shortcomings he perceived. He criticised the approach, stating, “Mr Stavrianos made omissions and showed carelessness and negligence, but also told lies.” Matsas further highlighted the systemic failures, mentioning, “Cyprus was condemned by the ECHR for carelessness and omissions. Not only omissions but also the obvious lies mentioned by Mr Stavrianos.” He expressed incredulity at the decision to treat the case as a minor offence, questioning, “Why did he rule out criminal action?” Matsas also shed light on the methodology of gathering depositions, sharing an anecdote from a conversation with Iatropoulos during a break. He recounted, “He told me that Limassol is a very criminal city and the Limassol CID is loaded with cases.” This revelation prompted Matsas to question the preliminary conclusion of suicide and the subsequent categorisation as a minor violation, to which he received no substantive reply. In a statement extracted from the investigative report, Matsas declared, “Due to the above, we attribute the death of Athanasios Nikolaou to premeditated murder by strangulation and after the exercise of brutal physical violence.” Matsas further criticised the initial handling of the inquiry by Stavrianos, particularly pointing out inconsistencies in his explanations regarding the physical evidence at the scene. “In the first death inquiry, he was asked… how after falling from such a height from the bridge, there was not an imprint, a dent at the point of fall.” Matsas highlighted the shifting narrative, stating, “While in the first death inquiry, he said it was compact, in the second to justify the absence of fractures, he said it was soft and absorbed the shocks.” Read more

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Prosecutors seek Trump gag order in NY hush money criminal case

Prosecutors have asked a judge for a gag order to restrict Donald Trump from making public comments about witnesses or exposing the identities of jurors in the former president’s New York trial involving hush money paid to a porn star, court filings made public on Monday showed. The requests by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office noted Trump’s “longstanding history of attacking witnesses, investigators, prosecutors, judges and others involved in legal proceedings against him.” Trump, seeking to regain the presidency in the Nov. 5 U.S. election, is scheduled to go on trial in state court in Manhattan starting on March 25, one of four criminal cases against him. He has pleaded not guilty. He is accused of falsifying business records to cover his lawyer Michael Cohen’s $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election to keep her silent about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump a decade earlier. He has denied any such relationship. Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesperson, said a gag order in the case would infringe on Trump’s right to free speech, if implemented. “This is election interference pure and simple,” Cheung said in a statement. Trump is cruising toward the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in November. Judges may impose gag orders – which restrict defendants or others involved in court cases from speaking publicly about certain aspects of legal proceedings – to try to prevent intimidation of witnesses or jurors, or to protect court staff from threats. If approved in this case by Justice Juan Merchan, the gag order would bar Trump from “making or directing others to make” statements about witnesses concerning their role in the case. The district attorney’s office also asked that Trump be barred from commenting on prosecutors on the case – other than Bragg himself – as well as court staff members. Trump previously has called Bragg, who is a Democrat, an “animal” and a “degenerate psychopath.” Merchan on Feb. 15 denied Trump’s request to dismiss the charges on the grounds that the case was brought for partisan purposes and that state laws do not apply to federal elections. The measures Bragg requested are similar to restrictions a federal judge in Washington imposed last year in Trump’s criminal case on charges involving his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to Biden. In a civil fraud case, a New York state judge fined Trump a total of $15,000 for twice violating a gag order barring him from publicly talking about court staff. Bragg’s office requested that jurors be referred to only by number in open court to shield their identities. Their names should still be disclosed to the parties in the case, but Trump should be put “on notice” that he would lose his right to access their names should he threaten their safety, prosecutors said. Prosecutors called that request “modest,” pointing to two federal civil cases in which jurors who ordered Trump to pay the writer E. Jean Carroll nearly $90 million were fully anonymous. Prosecutors have said the payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was part of a broader “catch-and-kill” scheme to prevent allegations that Trump had extramarital affairs from coming to light ahead of the 2016 election. In a separate filing on Monday, prosecutors said that at the time of the payoff, Trump’s staff was concerned about his standing with female voters due to the leak of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording in which Trump made vulgar comments about women. They asked the tape be admitted as evidence at trial. “The motivation to complete the Daniels non-disclosure agreement cannot be understood without reference to the desperation facing defendant and his campaign in the wake of the tape’s release,” prosecutors wrote. Cohen in 2018 pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws with the payment to Daniels, which exceeded contribution limits. He spent more than a year in prison. (Reuters)

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Jordan’s King Abdullah warns of dangers of Israel’s planned Rafah assault

Jordan’s King Abdullah warned on Monday of the dangers of a planned Israeli military operation in Rafah, Gaza, and reiterated his appeal for an immediate ceasefire to protect civilians and bring in aid, the royal palace said. The king also said the only way to end the decades-old conflict was to find a “political horizon” for Palestinians that would create a Palestinian state on territory Israel occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, including east Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week the Israeli security cabinet would approve military plans for Rafah – including evacuating more than a million displaced Palestinian civilians who have been sheltering there, and whose fate worries world powers. Israel did not give more details on evacuation plans, and Palestinians say the assault would lead to heavy civilian casualties. Israel has killed almost 30,000 Palestinians in the war, Gaza medical officials say. The Hamas raid of Oct. 7 killed 1,200 people in Israel, which has also lost 241 soldiers in Gaza ground fighting that followed, according to official tallies. The monarch also expressed worry about Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank which Washington and several European states have condemned. Abdullah echoed worries about a new cycle of violence during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan next month where Israel has said it will restrict the number of Palestinian worshippers at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque. The Jordanian army also arranged on Monday the biggest air drop operation so far to deliver aid to Gaza where the mostly displaced population of 2.3 million is facing crisis levels of hunger, an army statement said. The monarch himself participated in an airdrop of humanitarian aid to Gaza this month, in a move highlighting his kingdom’s role in spearheading an international campaign to speed aid flows into the war-torn enclave. Monday’s operation deployed four C-130 planes including one belonging to the French air force, army spokesperson Brigadier General Mustafa Hiyari said. Aid was dropped to 11 sites along the Gaza coast from its northern edge to the south for civilians to collect, Hiyari told Reuters. Previous air drops that parachuted in medicines and humanitarian provisions were sent to hospitals the Jordanian army runs in Gaza. The army planned in coming days to expand air drops in participation with other countries, Hiyari said adding that on Monday both Qatar and the UAE joined alongside Britain in providing the humanitarian aid deliveries. “Intensifying the air drops is a result of the worsening humanitarian conditions of the civilian population of Gaza that threatens famine and hunger,” Hiyari said. (Reuters)

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Cuba’s top cigar maker smokes sales record on booming high-end demand

Cuba’s top cigar maker Habanos said on Monday its sales had soared to a record $721 million in 2023, a benchmark the company’s executives attributed to booming demand for its most luxurious, high-end smokes in markets including China. Habanos co-president Luis Sanchez-Harguindey said revenues jumped 31% over the previous year as the company pushed promotion of cigars like its Trinidad and Cohiba brands, exclusive smokes once reserved as gifts for foreign diplomats on the communist-run island. “This is a year of records,” Sanchez-Harguindey told reporters on the sidelines of the company’s annual festival outside the Cuban capital Havana. Soaring sales came even as Cuban growers struggle to recover from Hurricane Ian in 2022, which flattened infrastructure and ravaged growing areas in a country already suffering its worst economic crisis in decades. The 2023-2024 growing season, now entering its homestretch, will fall about one-third short of the pre-hurricane planting area, according to Cuban state-run media. It is not expected to return to normal levels for the 2024-2025 season, the local growers’ association said. “We’ve been able to compensate for that reduction in volume with value,” Sanchez-Harguindey said, adding that Cuban growers had also focused resources on their most efficient, high-end farms. Cuba’s luxuriously smooth tobacco has long topped the cigar industry, with aficionados touting the Caribbean island’s unique variety of tobacco, rich soils, and ideal climate – as well as Habanos’ insistence on rolling its cigars by hand. Executives told reporters that China – whose smokers increasingly covet high-end Cuban cigars – once again topped sales in terms of value, followed by Spain, Switzerland, Germany and Britain. Habanos S.A. is owned 50% by the Cuban government and 50% by a consortium of Asian investors under the umbrella group Tabacalera. Habanos plans to keep its entire production process on Cuba, said Sanchez-Harguindey, as per Protected Designation of Origin rules. (Reuters)

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Kindergarten teachers hold protest [PHOTOS]

A protest is being held by kindergarten teachers working in 130 private kindergartens since 8:30 in the morning, against the backdrop of the provisions of the new bill submitted to the Parliament for the extension of mandatory preschool education from the age of 4. It is noted that members of the Association gathered outside the Parliament to express their concerns about the impact such legislation will have on private kindergartens. Meanwhile, at 9:30, the Parliamentary Committee on Education is expected to convene urgently to discuss the issue in the presence of members of the Association of Private Kindergartens.

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Cyprophonia 3

The works of three distinguished Cypriot composers take centre stage in the exciting and versatile ‘Cyprophonia 3’ concert series, under the baton of the renowned conductor Thomas Herzog. The concert’s featured soloist is the wonderful Cypriot clarinetist George Georgiou, to whom the Clarinet Concertino composed by Artemis Aifotiti in 2015 is dedicated. Breaking new ground, the CySO will perform the world premiere of Evis Sammoutis’ Aeolus for bass clarinet and string orchestra, a commission by the CySO Foundation. Inspired by Greek mythology, in the piece the bass clarinet depicts Aeolus in a multitude of sonic manifestations and contrasts, while the string orchestra acts mainly as an acoustic filter, reacting to the sound stimuli of the clarinet. The work In Spiritum by Michalis Andronikou draws inspiration from folk music of various parts of the world, aiming thus to convey a sense of connection between people of different cultures. Τhe concert concludes with Francis Poulenc’s Sinfonietta, a masterpiece that effortlessly blends neoclassical elegance with exuberant energy. Nicosia: Thursday 7 March 2024 – Strovolos Municipal Theatre, 20:30 Paphos: Friday 8 March 2024 – Markideio Municipal Theatre, 20:30 PROGRAMME Artemis Aifotiti: Clarinet concertino Evis Sammoutis: Aeolus for bass clarinet and string orchestra (World Premiere, commissioned by the CySO Foundation) Francis Poulenc: Sinfonietta Michalis Andronikou: In Spiritum (World Premiere, 2024) (Duration: 90´-110΄) George Georgiou – clarinet / bass clarinet Thomas Herzog – conductor Ticket prices: Zone Α: €18 / €14 (concession) Zone Β: €13 / €10 (concession) Concession tickets are available to: Students, soldiers, pensioners, large and five-member families on presentation of ID. Free Entrance for people with disabilities. Ticket presales: Strovolos Municipal Theatre (100 Strovolou Avenue, 2020 Strovolos, Lefkosia) Online at cyso.interticket.com, at the Pallas Theatre Box Office every Wednesday 16:00-19:00 and 2 hrs before the concert. Markideio Municipal Theatre (Andrea Geroudi 27, 8010 Pafos, 26 222286): Online at cyso.interticket.com and 2 hrs before the concert. Information: 22 463144, www.cyso.org.cy

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