BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s Parliament has banned journalists from four news websites for trying to film interviews with lawmakers in areas off limits to the press.
Editors say that the excessive restrictions on where video crews can work in the legislature severely limit press freedom.
Journalists from the hvg.hu, 24.hu, Index.hu and nol.hu websites were banned indefinitely by Parliamentary Speaker Laszlo Kover.
Andras Muranyi, chief editor of the Nepszabadsag daily newspaper and its nol.hu website, said Tuesday in a letter to Parliament press chief Zoltan Szilagyi that officials have “limited our work to an extremely constricted space, which undermines press freedoms, one of the fundamental rights.”
The restrictions also make it easier for lawmakers to avoid questions from the press.
Last year, a similar ban was imposed on RTL Klub, Hungary’s largest broadcaster.
WASHINGTON (AP) — A 107-year-old woman who gained Internet fame for her impromptu dance with President Barack Obama has received a temporary photo identification card after her lack of a birth certificate stymied her earlier efforts to get one.
The Washington Post reported last week that Virginia McLaurin could not obtain a replacement for a photo ID that was stolen years ago because she lacks a birth certificate.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser gave McLaurin a new temporary card Tuesday and announced regulations giving city residents 70 and older more options to obtain identification. New federal regulations have made it harder to get the ID required to board airplanes.
Without it, McLaurin couldn’t fly to New York or Los Angeles for interviews about her videotaped meeting with Obama that went viral online.
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A fired Pittsburgh police sergeant has pleaded not guilty to charges he violated the civil rights of a drunken man by punching and pushing him during his November arrest then filed false reports to justify his actions.
Forty-seven-year-old Stephen Matakovich (mah-TAH’-koh-vitch) was charged by a federal grand jury earlier this month. He was arraigned before a federal magistrate in Pittsburgh on Tuesday and is free on bond.
Defense attorney Blaine Jones says the officer is prepared to fight the charges.
Matakovich was charged after security video from Heinz Field showed the suspect standing with his hands at his sides and not advancing when the officer suddenly pushes him down and then strikes him in the face as he tries to get to his feet. The suspect was treated for a bloody nose.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — An appeals court will hear the arguments of a former escort charged with trying to hire a hit man to kill her newlywed husband.
Florida’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed late last week to consider Dalia Dippolito’s argument that her case be thrown out because of alleged misconduct by police investigators. No hearing date is set.
Dippolito’s lawyers argue detectives pushed her former lover, Mohamed Shihadeh, to make her meet with an undercover officer posing as hit man even though Shihadeh wanted out of the investigation. The lawyers say Shihadeh threatened Dippolito with a gun when she balked at the meeting.
The video of Dippolito’s meeting with the pretend hit man became part of a “Cops” television show episode. Dippolito’s scheduled May trial will be postponed pending the ruling.
BEIJING (AP) — Police in southern China have detained three airline passengers after they were caught on video slapping, verbally abusing and throwing food at ground staff in anger over a delayed flight.
Video of Monday’s incident at the airport in the city of Changsha has circulated widely on the Internet as the latest example of bad behavior by Chinese airline passengers.
The three passengers had apparently become upset after their flight to the southern resort city of Sanya was delayed. As female staff tried to mollify passengers, two men and a woman shouted, flung the contents of a lunch box and finally slapped one of the staffers on the face.
The three passengers were detained by police, according to the website of the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily.
KAFR HAMOUDA, Egypt (AP) — “For a thousand years,” Abdullah Sheikh’s family has been working the land the same way — flooding fields in Egypt’s Nile Delta and planting seeds by hand.
But now a small, relatively cheap plow has changed all that, allowing him to nearly double the yields of his two acres of wheat, arranging it in neat, raised beds with smaller furrows that require a third less water. “It saves us much labor, seeds and effort,” Sheikh said, calling it a “blessing” for his family, eight of whom help work the plot.
The plow could one day help Egypt alleviate water shortages that threaten to cripple the Arab world’s most populous country in the next decade. Several groups are offering technologies and techniques to conserve the precious resource — only a quarter of which is absorbed by crops — but time is running out.
Egypt has relied on the Nile, Africa’s largest river, since the time of the pharaohs. For thousands of years, annual floods dumped rich silt on the banks, allowing the country to serve as a Mediterranean grain reserve.
But the annual flood ended with the completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1970, and surging population growth has transformed Egypt — with over 90 million citizens — into the world’s largest wheat importer.
Water is already considered “scarce” in Egypt, and it expects its per capita annual supply to fall below the 500-cubic-meter threshold that denotes “absolute scarcity” under international norms by 2025, from some 600 cubic meters today. Salinization caused by rising sea levels could also one day reduce supply.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said in a speech earlier this year that water was being provided too cheaply. Since then, household water costs have doubled or even tripled, according to bills Egyptian have been posting on social media.
Meanwhile, Ethiopia is building a dam and hydroelectric plant upstream that Egypt is worried will cut its share of the Nile. The two nations are discussing ways to fill the planned water reserve slowly so as to diminish the impact, but so far Ethiopia is pressing ahead with construction without a detailed agreement.
“It’s like watching a slow-moving train wreck. Everyone knows that population growth is accelerating, and then you have that dam, which could be a problem if it’s filled up too fast,” said Richard Tutwiler, a water expert at the American University in Cairo. “There are some intelligent, highly skilled people in the ministries and the water sector, but there’s room for better coordination, and taking more of a community approach when it comes to improving crop irrigation.”
Successive governments have recognized the need for action, but policies have not kept up with surging demand. Pumping stations and distribution networks are notoriously inefficient, and water cuts in the summer months are common in Cairo. Droughts hit some rural areas in the summer, and new neighborhoods built in the desert often lure residents with promises of infrastructure — including water — that never appear.
One such area is New Gurna, built on the west bank of the city of Luxor, famed for its pharaonic temples and tombs. Residents there complain they go days without water, with pressure sometimes returning for only a few hours a week.
“If I knew it was going to be this bad, I wouldn’t have moved out here,” said high school teacher Abdullah Said, who has been leading a campaign representing 15,000 residents urging the government to fix their problem.
The land has been used to resettle villagers kicked out of homes that had been built over archaeological sites generations ago, which the state demolished for fear they could damage the sites. Residents say the local reservoir leaks and showed The Associated Press videos of water gushing through a ravine near the site. Local officials deny there is a problem.
Other groups are trying to address the shortages as well, with a wide variety of donors — from the European Union to Bill Gates — involved in the effort. The government has a number of initiatives to recycle water and improve efficiency, but none have been able to keep up with demand.
The small plow that has transformed Sheikh’s land in the Nile Delta could have a major impact in a country where the vast majority of farming is done on small plots. It is manufactured locally and sells for just $5,000.
“My own father opposed switching from our old ways, but when he saw the savings he was convinced,” said Atef Swelam, the scientist who developed the plow on behalf of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). “Raised beds are difficult to make manually and are expensive, but with this machine it’s simple.” Only 35 plows have been built so far, but Swelam hopes that number will increase through public and private investment.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, which is helping develop the plow system, hopes the government will encourage the creation of small- and medium-sized businesses to build more.
“Then it would be self-propelling,” said Pasquale Steduto, the FAO Representative in Egypt. Action is needed in order to conserve and manage water resources, otherwise “competition between users could create internal conflict … or conflict with other nations,” he said.
Sprinkler systems and underground irrigation — which minimize evaporation — are also being pitched, but their high cost has made the government reluctant to include them in the national water plan.
Mazen Mostafa, an irrigation engineer, thinks the focus should be on transforming Egypt’s aging canals into sprinkling networks, which could expand the green areas along the Nile.
“That system is thousands of years old and hasn’t been changed since the time of the pharaohs,” he said. “Our idea is to bring in investors to modernize the canal system on the old lands into a sprinkler system, then expand that to create new arable land for them to farm.”
“Now it’s not just a matter of investment opportunities, it is a must, given the coming shortages,” he said.
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