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Separatist parties in Spain’s Catalonia declare victory in election

Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont celebrated the results from Brussels where's been in..

Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont celebrated the results from Brussels where's been in self-imposed exile since Spanish authorities announced they were seeking his arrest.Puigdemont was pushed from power after holding an illegal independence referendum and declaring the region's unilateral independence from Spain."The Catalan Republic has won," he announced in Brussels in the early hours of Friday morning. "The Spanish government was defeated."The Spanish government had called an early election in the hope of quelling the separatist movement, whose push for independence triggered the country's worst political crisis in decades.But Madrid's hopes were clearly dashed. With more than 99% of the vote counted, no single party gained an outright majority but the three separatist parties together took 70 seats.They needed 68 to keep their grip on the 135-seat Parliament. To govern the pro-independence parties will need to join in a coalition. Such a scenario pushes the Madrid-Barcelona relationship back to where this all began three months ago, with a provocative separatist government in Barcelona rattling Madrid. The anti-independence Ciutadans (Citizens) did win the most seats of any party, but not enough to form a majority government.

'The Catalan republic has won'

Puigdemont's party — Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia) party won 34 seats in Thursday's vote. He said the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, had "received a hit, a blow by the Catalans.""They lost their coup d'etat," he said. Marta Rovira, from the other main separatist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia) party, also declared victory after her party won 32 seats. She shouted "Freedom" in concert with party supporters after the results emerged.Prime Minister Rajoy's People's Party (Partido Popular) lost most of its seats in the Thursday election, dropping from 11 to three.The result was also a clear rejection of Madrid's response to the turbulence. The Spanish government sent in thousands of police to shut down the October 1 referendum, and officers were seen pulling elderly voters by the hair from polling stations and firing rubber bullets at relatively clam protesters.Madrid seized control of the region after it dismissed the entire Catalan government and Parliament.Oriol Junqueras, leader of the pro-independence Esquerra Republicana de Cataluyna party, is in a Madrid prison over the separatist push.

Rise of the center-right Citizens party

Despite the clear support for the pro-independence side, it was actually the anti-independence Ciutadans (Citizens) party that came away with the most seats, winning 37 — a sweeping gain compared to the 25 the party won in the last vote, and a sign of just how divisive the independence issue has been. The party benefited from a record turnout of 82%.Ciutadans (Citizens) candidate Inés Arrimadas casts her vote in Barcelona.The party candidate, Inés Arrimadas, was likely hoping to win and form a coalition of other anti-independence parties, but the numbers do not stack up in her favor.Nonetheless, she gave a victory speech of her own."We are all Catalonia and the first political force in the Catalan parliament is called Ciutadans," she said. "The 10 most-populated cities in Catalonia are right now orange, so thank you to all the people who have made that possible," she said, referring to the party's color.

Political negotiations to come

The results, however, do not necessarily mean easy sailing for the independence movement. There will likely be intense negotiations, particularly over the issue of who would become Catalonia's next president. The question is further complicated by the fact that Puigdemont is in self-imposed exile in Brussels.He said last week that he would come back if he won, but he could still face arrest by Spanish authorities over the illegal referendum if he does. A man leaves a voting booth after casting a ballot on Thursday in Tarragona.  The other separatist leader — Oriol Junqueras of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya — is detained in a Madrid prison over the referendum, on charges of sedition and rebellion. Both leaders face 30-year jail terms.The two parties told CNN last week that they would join in a coalition in this scenario, but the movement has shown signs of fracture and is not as united as it was in the 2015 vote.The two parties will also have to please the marginal Candidatura d'Unitat Popular (Popular Unity Candidacy), as they would not pass the 68-seat threshold without it. The party was kingmaker in 2015 as well, propelling Puigdemont to the presidency in an 11th-hour deal.

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Europe

Pope expresses support for same-sex civil union laws in new documentary

Issued on: 21/10/2020 – 17:54

Pope Francis says in a film released on Wednesday that homosexuals s..

Issued on:

Pope Francis says in a film released on Wednesday that homosexuals should be protected by civil union laws, in some of the clearest language he has used on the rights of gay people.

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"Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it," Pope Francis says in the documentary "Francesco" by Oscar-nominated director Evgeny Afineevsky.

"What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that," he said.

The pope appeared to be referring to when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires and opposed legislation to approve same sex marriages but supported some kind of legal protection for the rights of gay couples.

Papal biographer Austen Ivereigh told Reuters that the pope's comments in the film were some of the clearest language the pontiff has used on the subject since his election in 2013.

The pope, who early in his papacy made the now-famous "Who am I to judge?" remark about homosexuals trying to live a Christian life, spoke in a section of the film about Andrea Rubera, a gay man who with his partner adopted three children.

Rubera says in the film that he went to a morning Mass the pope said in his Vatican residence and gave him a letter explaining his situation.

He told the pope that he and his partner wanted to bring the children up as Catholics in the local parish but did not want to cause any trauma for the children. It was not clear in which country RuberaRead More – Source

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Europe

Popping the digital filter bubble

Issued on: 21/10/2020 – 10:36

Ever wondered why 2 people can search for the same thing online and ..

Issued on: 21/10/2020 – 10:36

Ever wondered why 2 people can search for the same thing online and get 2 totally different results? The answer is online echo chambers and digital filter bubbles – social media and search engines that skew our access to information and algorithms that artificially promote content they think should suit us. Those invisible chains shrink our freedom to learn and be confronted with new ideas. Want to break free? France 24 can help you pop the filter bubbles around you!

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Social networks have revolutionised how we access information. In France, over a quarter of people get their news from social networks – second only to television. And for young people, the change is even more drastic: 47% of the under-35s say their primary source of information is social media (Ifop, 2019). And we’re not just passive consumers of information online now – everyone can also generate content, leading to a vast quantity of news and views online.

Sifting through that ever-growing mountain of information forces search engines and social media to use algorithms – to sort the wheat they think will interest us, from the chaff they assume won’t. For Jérôme Duberry of the University of Geneva, it’s a simple calculation: “if a web-user has a given profile, then they will be fed information of a certain type”. Posts that seem to appear at random on our Twitter or Facebook timelines are in fact carefully chosen according to what the platform already knows about us – interests, friends, “likes”. Highlighting content that is tailored specifically to our interests filters out topics from outside our comfort zone – reinforcing our beliefs.

Online rights are human rights

But social networks are only one aspect of the digital echo chambers. Search engines are also key – once again due to their reliance on algorithms. Google’s search results are generated from our own online history, mixed with that of thousands of other users. The goal for the search engine is to maximise user engagement by finding results that are most likely to prompt interest (and sales) from the user – and so generate advertising revenue.

For Jérôme Duberry, those gatekeepers limit our access to knowledge: “it’s as if there was someone standing in front of the university library, who asks you a bunch of questions about who you are, and only then gives you access to a limited number of books. And you never get the chance to see all the books on offer, and you never know the criteria for those limits.”

The consequences of these so-called Filter Bubbles are far-reaching. For Tristan Mendès France, specialist in Digital Cultures at the University of Paris, “being informed via social networks means an internet user is in a closed-circuit of information”.

Blinkered online views, democratic bad news

For many academics, those echo chambers could threaten the health of our democracies, suggesting the algorithms could contribute to the polarisation of society. By limiting our access to views similar to our own and excluding contradictory opinions, our beliefs may be reinforced – but at the expense of a diversity of opinions.

And that could undermine the very basis of our democracies. For Jerôme Duberry, the Filter Bubbles “could lead to us questioning the value of a vote. Today, we lend a great deal of importance to the vote, which is the extension of a person’s opinion. But that individual’s opinion is targeted by interest groups using an impressive array of techniques.”

That isn’t the only distortion that algorithms have created. They have also allowed more radical views to predominate. Youtube’s algorithm is blind to the actual content of a video – its choice of what will be most visible is made according to which videos are viewed all the way to the end. But for Tristan Mendès France, “it is generally the most activist or militant internet users that view videos all the way through”. That provokes “extra-visibility” for otherwise marginal content – at the expense of more nuanced or balanced views, or indeed verified information.

Escaping the echo chamber

So what happens to the spirit of debate in a world where your online habits reinforce your beliefs? Is the echo chamber a philosophical prison? And how easy is it to get back out into the fresh air of contradictory views?

In the US, the movement opposing algRead More – Source

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Europe

‘Well, this is Iceland’: Earthquake interrupts Prime Minister’s interview

Katrin Jakobsdottir was discussing the impact of the pandemic on tourism with the Washington Post wh..

Katrin Jakobsdottir was discussing the impact of the pandemic on tourism with the Washington Post when her house started to shake, visibly startling the Icelandic leader."Oh my god, there's an earthquake," she said with a gasp. "Sorry, there was an earthquake right now. Wow."But Jakobsdottir quickly pivoted back to the matter at hand, laughing: "Well this is Iceland" and continuing her response to the question."Yes I'm perfectly fine, the house is still strong, so no worries," she later added.Jakobsdottir, 44, has been Iceland's Prime Minister since 2017.The 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck on Tuesday afternoon 10 kilometers southwest of Hafnarfjordur, a coastal town near the capital of Reykjavík, according to the United States Geological Survey, which measures quakes worldwide.The tremble led to reports of damage around the capital. Earthquakes are common in Iceland, which boats a sweeping landscape dotted with dozens of volcanoes. Jakobsdottir isn't the first world leader to be interrupted by a quake this year; in May, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was discussing lifting coronavirus restrictions

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