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10 things you need to know about the Odd-Even scheme that starts this New Year

-The new rule was announced after a court ordered authorities asked the government to take measures to drastically reduce air pollution which was found out to be over 10 times the WHO safe limits.

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Tapped phone led Paris attack leader to his death | Reuters

PARIS The top suspect behind last week’s Paris attacks was watched by police being led into a building by a woman suicide bomber the evening before they both died there during a raid by special forces, a police source said on Friday.

Police had been tapping the phone of Hasna Aitboulahcen as part of a drugs investigation and were able to track her down to the Saint-Denis suburb north of the French capital.

They watched the 26-year-old take Abdelhamid Abaaoud, suspected mastermind of the Nov. 13 bombings and shootings that killed 130 people, into the building where both died early on Wdnesday morning.

She detonated a suicide belt during the seven-hour police assault on the building, where officials said a third unidentified person died with them. Aitboulahcen may be Abaaoud’s cousin.

Once they learned Abaaoud was in France from Moroccan officials, French police focused on Aitboulahcen, a woman with links to him whom they were already trailing.

Earlier, a police source said Abaaoud had been identified on CCTV footage recorded at a suburban metro station at the same time as the killings were in progress in central Paris.

He was seen at the Croix de Chavaux station in Montreuil, not far from where one of the cars used in the attacks was found, one of the police sources said.

In response to the attacks, police carried out raids across France for a fifth night. A bill to extend a state of emergency until February and give the police new powers goes before the upper house of the French parliament later on Friday.

So far, police have searched 793 premises, held 90 people for questioning, put 164 under house arrest and recovered 174 weapons including assault rifles and other guns, the Interior Ministry said on Friday.

Police searched a mosque in Brest in western France. Its imam, Rachid Abou Houdeyfa, who has strongly condemned the Paris attacks, achieved notoriety earlier this year after telling children they could be turned into pigs for listening to music.


Abaaoud, 28, was spotted on the CCTV tape at 10:14 p.m. (2114 GMT) on Friday last week, after shootings at several cafes and suicide bombings near a packed soccer stadium, but while an attack was still under way at the Bataclan concert venue.

Abaaoud was a petty criminal who went to fight in Syria in 2013 and, until the attacks, European governments thought he was still there.

He is believed to have recruited young men to fight for Islamic State from immigrant families in his native Brussels district of Molenbeek and elsewhere in Belgium and France.

Moroccan-born Abaaoud was accused of orchestrating last Friday’s attacks in which seven assailants died. A suspected eighth person, Salah Abdeslam is still on the run.

Abaaoud was one of Islamic State’s highest-profile European recruits, appearing in its slick online English-language magazine Dabiq, where he boasted of crossing European borders to stage attacks. He claimed to have escaped a manhunt after a police raid in Belgium in 2013 in which two militants died.

Islamic State, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria, has attracted thousands of young European and Abaaoud was seen as a leading figure in luring others to join, particularly from his home country Belgium.

His own family has disowned him, accusing him of abducting his 13-year-old brother, who was later promoted on the Internet as Islamic State’s youngest foreign fighter in Syria.

Moroccan authorities also arrested his younger brother Yassine last month after he arrived in Agadir and has been held in custody since, a Moroccan security source said on Friday.


While quickly tracking Abaaoud down will be seen as a major success for French authorities, his presence in Paris will focus more attention on the difficulty European security services have in monitoring the continent’s borders.

EU interior and justice ministers in Brussels on Friday pledged solidarity with France in the wake of the attacks and agreed a series of new measures on surveillance, border checks and gun control.

“We must be implacable in our determination, we must speed up our action, otherwise Europe will lose its way,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

The 28 governments agreed to speed new legislation to share air passengers’ data, curb firearms trafficking and ensure closer checks on EU citizens crossing Europe’s external borders.

France has called for changes to the functioning of the EU’s Schengen border-free travel zone to make it tougher to travel across Europe.

Hundreds of thousands of people have reached Europe as Syrian refugees in recent months, including at least one person using a passport found at the scene of Friday’s attacks.

Belgium, stung by revelations several of the attackers were based there, has announced a 400 million euro ($430 million) security crackdown.

France has called for a global coalition to defeat the group and has launched air strikes on Raqqa, the de-facto Islamic State capital in northern Syria, since the weekend. Russia has also targeted the city in retribution for the downing of a Russian airliner last month that killed 224.

(Additional reporting by Chine Labbe, John Irish, Emmanuel Jarry and Leigh Thomas in Paris, Pierre-Henri Allain in Rennes, Francesco Guarascio and Alastair Macdonald in Brussels; writing by Giles Elgood and David Clarke; editing by Andrew Callus and Peter Millership)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Greece seeks new EU loan deal in race to avert collapse | Reuters

STRASBOURG/BRUSSELS A race to save Greece from bankruptcy and keep it in the euro gathered pace on Wednesday when Athens formally applied for a three-year loan and European authorities launched an accelerated review of the request.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called in a speech to the European Parliament for a fair deal, acknowledging Greece‘s historic responsibility for its plight, after EU leaders gave him five days to come up with convincing reforms.

The government submitted a request to the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund to lend an unspecified amount “to meet Greece‘s debt obligations and to ensure stability of the financial system”. It promised to begin implementing tax and pension measures sought by creditors as early as Monday.

With its banks closed, cash withdrawals rationed and the economy in freefall, Greece has never been closer to a state bankruptcy that would probably force it to leave the euro and print an alternative currency.

Yet the leftist premier seemed almost nonchalant, albeit with a note of humility, when he appeared before EU lawmakers in Strasbourg to cheers and scattered boos.

Speaking hours after euro zone leaders, at another emergency summit in Brussels, set Greece a deadline of the end of the week to come up with far-reaching reform proposals, Tsipras said Greeks had no choice but to demand a way out of “this impasse”.

“We are determined not to have a clash with Europe but to tackle head-on the establishment in our own country and to change the mindset which will take us and the euro zone down,” he said to applause from the left. But he gave scant details of his reform plans, frustrating many lawmakers.

The head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers of the 19-nation currency area, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, asked the European Commission and the European Central Bank to evaluate the loan request, assess Greek debt sustainability and study whether Greece poses a risk to the financial stability of the euro zone.


The aim is for Eurogroup ministers meeting on Saturday to be in a position to recommend a loan, and some emergency bridging finance, which a full summit of the 28 EU leaders would approve on Sunday if they are satisfied with Greek reform commitments.

That is a big ‘if’, both due to Athens’ chequered record and because many of the liberalisation measures required run counter to the leftist ideology of Tsipras’ Syriza party.

The prime minister promised to deliver detailed reform plans on Thursday and avoided the angry rhetoric that has alienated many European partners. He did however criticise attempts to “terrorise” Greeks into voting for “never-ending austerity”.

The European Central Bank kept Greece’s banks on a tight leash, holding a freeze on emergency funding that means they could soon run out of cash.

European Council President Donald Tusk reiterated that the final deadline for Greece to submit convincing reform plans and start implementing them was this week.

“Our inability to find an agreement may lead to the bankruptcy of Greece and the insolvency of its banking system,” Tusk told EU lawmakers. “And for sure it will be most painful for the Greek people.

“I have no doubt that this will affect Europe, also in the geopolitical sense. If someone has any illusion that it will not, they are naive,” he said.

In the turbulent chamber, some lawmakers held up “Oxi” (No) signs to back Greek voters’ rejection of more austerity, while far-right speakers praised the radical leftist government for standing up to what several called the European “oligarchy”.

Euro zone officials want Greece to rush a first wave of measures through parliament before Sunday to prove its serious intent. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she would ask parliament in Berlin to authorise the opening of loan negotiations if the Greek measures are deemed satisfactory.

Merkel made clear earlier that that she was “not exaggeratedly optimistic” that a deal could be found to save Greece by Sunday.

Euro zone sources said one key question was whether the package will be more ambitious than the spending cuts, tax increases and modest reforms that Greek voters rejected on Sunday in a referendum on a previous bailout plan.

“The numbers have to add up, and the numbers have become vastly more unfavourable since the banks were shut and the economy seized up in the last 10 days,” one euro zone finance official said.


France, which has tried to mediate between Athens and Berlin, nailed its colours to the mast on Wednesday, warning of the perils of a “Grexit”.

Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls told parliament in Paris: “Keeping Greece in the euro and therefore in the heart of Europe and the EU is something of the utmost geostrategic and geopolitical importance.” To let Greece go would be “an admission of impotence”, he added.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew stepped up pressure from Washington for Greece and its partners to reach a deal that keeps Athens in the euro for the sake of economic and geopolitical stability in Europe.

Despite the last-minute efforts to conjure up a deal, a Reuters poll of economists found the probability of Greece leaving the euro zone had risen to 55 percent from 45 percent last week, the first time more than half had taken that view.

Tsipras admitted that after winning power on a promise to end austerity, his government had “spent more time negotiating than governing” but he disappointed those who had hoped to hear concrete immediate measures to transform the shattered economy.

Having secured a referendum victory and the unprecedented support of the five main parties in parliament, Tsipras also made clear he wanted to act fast to pre-empt any possible revolt against the painful concessions he will need to make.

He was strongly critical of Greece’s failings as a society, citing a history of clientelism, corruption, tax evasion that had “run riot”, inequality and “the nexus of political and economic power”.

Centrist EU lawmaker Sylvie Goulard told him: “In the words of a well known advertising slogan, ‘Just do it!'”

While Athens has made strides since 2010 in turning around its public finances to post a budget surplus before debt service, it has lagged on implementing structural reforms.

In particular, it has fallen far short of targets on privatising state assets and struggled to improve tax collection and reform labour laws and a costly pension system.

The IMF in the past has demanded that Greece quickly implement a law allowing for collective dismissals since no such layoffs have been approved for 30 years.

Creditors have also pushed to end anti-competitive restrictions in product markets that have kept prices high, such as preventing the sale of bread in convenience stores.

(Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou, Foo Yun Chee, Robert-Jan Bartunek, Alastair Macdonald and Tom Koerkemeier in Brussels, Susanna Twidale in Strasbourg, Deepa Babington in Athens and Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Ross Finlay in London and Jason Lange and Douwe Miedema in Washington; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Giles Elgood)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

French court acquits former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of pimping charges

One of Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, Richard Malka, said the case had collapsed “like a house of cards” after even the prosecutor called for him to be let off due to a lack of evidence that he had organised or profited from prostitution.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn File Photo

A French court on Friday acquitted former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of procuring prostitutes, in a case that dragged his colourful sex life into the public eye.The verdict draws a line under four years of legal proceedings for a man whose strong prospects of becoming French president were destroyed by a New York chamber maid’s accusations of sexual assault in 2011.In a court in the northern city of Lille, 66-year-old Strauss-Kahn merely nodded his head to acknowledge the verdict of not guilty to charges of “aggravated pimping” at parties in Paris, Brussels and Washington.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>One of Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers, Richard Malka, said the case had collapsed “like a house of cards” after even the prosecutor called for him to be let off due to a lack of evidence that he had organised or profited from prostitution.Chief judge Bernard Lemaire ruled that Strauss-Kahn was not the “instigator” of orgies attended by prostitutes but merely the “beneficiary of group sex”.The trial was the latest in a long series of high-profile corruption and sexual scandals that have landed Strauss-Kahn in the dock in the past 16 years, only to fizzle out.Strauss-Kahn saw his career as the head of the International Monetary Fund implode over the accusations in New York.Those criminal charges were dropped in 2012 and the case was settled in a civil suit, but soon afterwards his name cropped up in a probe into an alleged prostitution ring in northern France, which provided sex workers for orgies he attended.Under French law, prostitution is legal, but procuring and benefiting from it is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.The trial heard lurid details of champagne-fuelled orgies attended by Strauss-Kahn, as his lawyers accused the prosecution of putting his morals, and prostitution itself, on trial.Strauss-Kahn said that while he was a libertine who enjoyed group sex, he was unaware any of the women attending the parties had been paid to be there.Judge Lemaire said there had been several inconsistencies in the testimony of former prostitutes who attended the parties and gave dramatic accounts of nights of “carnage”.The women said Strauss-Kahn would have been “naive” to be unaware of their role and recounted brutal scenes of sodomy, angering the accused who said he was not on trial for “deviant practices”.He said the use of prostitutes “horrified” him and that paying for sex would be too great a risk for a man at the head of the IMF, which was busy “saving the world” from the financial crisis. (AFP)PMS06130150NNNN