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‘I am broken’: A year on and still no justice for Grenfell fire victims

Time has passed at a painfully slow pace for the 50-year-old chauffeur, who moved to London from Por..



Time has passed at a painfully slow pace for the 50-year-old chauffeur, who moved to London from Portugal. And he isn't looking forward to Thursday, the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people and left a community homeless and heartbroken."That year it was so emotional all year round, but now is the worst time, because we have to remember everything," Alves told CNN in a temporary flat, where he lives with his wife, son and daughter."In one year, there's been such a lot of things to deal with. It looks like two or three years."Time is supposed to heal wounds, but for many Grenfell survivors and victims' relatives, the anniversary is a reminder of just how little has been put right over the past year.Alves, who spoke to CNN last year soon after the fire, is still trying to process what happened, though he knows he is one of the luckier ones. He and his wife were returning home from dinner in the early hours of June 14 last year, and as they pushed number 13 in the elevator to get to their apartment, someone else ran in as the doors were closing and pushed the button for the fourth floor. It was there, low down in the 24-story building, that the fire had broken out, and it was during that quick stop that Alves and his wife saw and smelled the early signs of the blaze.Alves raced upstairs to get his daughter out of bed, and knocked on his neighbors' doors to warn them.The Alves family, along with a former Grenfell neighbor, watch a documentary about the fire, in the kitchen of the their temporary home in Kensington.He thinks constantly about what might have happened if he and his wife had gone straight up to their apartment and to bed, unaware of the fire below."Maybe I am not here to tell you the story," he said. "We are religious, but my wife is very religious, and she believes it was a miracle."

'I will not have peace until I have the truth'

There are many stories of near misses like Alves', but there are also those of the 72 people who didn't make it.The public inquiry into the fire opened in earnest in late May with a week of testimony from family and friends to commemorate the dead. Each day began with 72 seconds of silence, and what ensued was a roller coaster of emotions — grief, anger, and pride in the lives lived and then lost.Many victims came from abroad, moving to London in search of a better life. Among them was 23-year-old Syrian refugee Mohammad Al-Haj Ali, whose fiancée, Amal, said in a video tribute: "Right now when I think about my future, I don't really see anything."Mohammed Hakim lost all five members of his immediate family — his mother, Rabia Begum, his father, Komru Miah, and his siblings, Husna Begum, Mohammed Hanif and Mohammed Hamid. His parents had immigrated to London from Bangladesh. His siblings remained with their parents, who had mobility issues, as the fire engulfed their home."I can say with my hand on my heart that I am extremely proud of my family remaining close to each other in their last moments before passing away," Mohammed Hakim told the inquiry. "I am even more proud as a brother that my siblings did not leave my parents behind, even though they might have had the chance to escape."As the hearings went by, more and more families spoke of their fury and frustration — much of it directed at those responsible for the combustible cladding used on the tower's facade, which appeared to have helped the blaze tear up the building's 24 stories so rapidly from the outside.But the London Fire Brigade's advice to residents to stay put for nearly two hours after the fire broke out has also come under scrutiny.Paulos Tekle, who moved to London from Ethiopia, was in his 18th floor apartment with his family during the fire. After being told by firefighters to stay in his apartment, he finally left almost two hours later when the fire brigade changed that advice and ordered an evacuation. He lost his 5-year-old son, Isaac, in the commotion. He recalled the calmness with which Isaac had looked at him, trusting him to lead them to safety. "But I didn't, because I listened to the authorities. And that makes me angry. Are we not human? I have to live with the guilt of not protecting my son every day. I am broken. And now the only thing that can make me whole again is to fight for truth and justice in Isaac's name," he told the inquiry, breaking down in tears. "I will not have peace until I have the truth. I want to know why I was physically stopped from leaving the flat at about 2 a.m. Why were we kept inside for so long? What was responsible for such a decision? I want answers. If I had not listened to the fire brigade my son would have been likely alive today."

Laying blame

The inquiry quickly turned from the passionate commemorative hearings to defensive statements by lawyers representing those accused of wrongdoing. Expert testimony is beginning to also shine a light on how the fire was able to take so many lives.As the chair of the inquiry, retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, said at the opening, the proceedings aim to "provide answers to the pressing questions of how a disaster of this kind could occur in 21st century London." Fire safety expert Barbara Lane submitted a damning report detailing several breaches of building regulations at almost every level.Among her findings was that cladding around the building was combustible and "non-compliant" with building regulations, producing toxic smoke that impeded firefighters in reaching residents. The front doors of apartments that were supposed to keep fire and smoke out failed. All were non-compliant with fire-safety regulations, including more than 100 that had been replaced in 2011, Lane found. The stairway fire doors were also below standard. A fire lift did not operate as it should have, and the building was not fitted with a water source, as required under UK safety standards, to aid firefighters responding to higher floors.Britain typically uses a passive approach to fire response, which means residents often "stay put" in their apartments as firefighters try to compartmentalize a blaze. Lane also raised concerns as to why it took nearly two hours for the fire brigade to drop its stay put advice and call for an evacuation, when, she said, the initial advice had "effectively failed" within around half an hour. Police are also investigating this procedure. The public inquiry is looking into Grenfell's combustible cladding, which is believed to have caused the blaze's rapid spread.But Lane conceded that changing the response strategy was no easy decision, and the London Fire Brigade has defended its decisions in the inquiry.A lawyer for the fire service, Stephen Walsh, said that the firefighters "will have been wholly unaware of defects in the fabric of the building from a fire safety perspective."The union's Martin Seaward said while there was concern over the stay put policy, there was "no obvious and safe alternative strategy" to deal with the fire, and he asked the inquiry not to be swayed by the "benefit of hindsight."But most of the anger has been directed to the Kensington and Chelsea Council and the borough's Tenant Management Organization (TMO). Former Grenfell residents say their complaints about safety and conditions in the tower were repeatedly ignored by the organization and council.The TMO told the inquiry that it acknowledged its central role in Grenfell Tower's refurbishment, as well as the management of fire safety issues there. "It accepts its involvement will, and should, come under great scrutiny," it said. But it added that it had relied on contractors with expertise of building practices to ensure safety."While (the TMO) is a specialist in the management of social housing stock, it is not a specialist construction company and so, when it commissioned the large-scale refurbishment project at Grenfell Tower in 2012, it had to engage specialist contractors to carry out the work, and consultants to advise on regulatory and building compliance, including fire safety issues."

A place called home

Grenfell Tower now stands in Kensington as a relic, covered in scaffolding and white sheets like a bandage over broken bones. On it is a banner of green heart and the words "GRENFELL, FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS." Replacing those homes has been a frustratingly long process. British Prime Minister Theresa May said after the fire that every resident would be rehoused in three weeks. A year on, the majority of people are still not in a permanent home.The council says 203 were needed in total, and that while almost all residents have agreed to some type of new accommodation, it admits that only 82 new permanent homes are now in use. That leaves the rest of the residents still in temporary accommodation, including 69 emergency homes. Yvette Williams from the group Justice4Grenfell said the fact that so many people are still in emergency housing a year on was a sign that things have moved far too slowly. She said new housing had been offered to many of the displaced in boroughs that are too far away, and some have complained that the accommodation offered to them is unsuitable."It's a year on, and what are the local authorities doing? They did no needs-analysis on what the survivors actually wanted, they just bought properties for them to live in ad hoc. There are large numbers of people with mobility and disability issues who are living a ridiculous number of floors up," she said."When you look at Grenfell, you see everything that's wrong with society — people being treated like second-class citizens, cost-cutting, inequality, greed. The government has to put in legislation that makes sure people are not treated that way ever again. Social housing isn't a privilege, it's a right."Protesters march up Regent Street in London chanting "Justice for Grenfell" on June 16, 2017, two days after the fire. Council leader Elizabeth Campbell denied that a large number of homes were not ready for people to move into, saying 90% of the homes offered could be used now. "The families involved are not statistics that need to be moved around a balance sheet. So, we will no longer set deadlines. They are not required. What is required is understanding, support, and above all a willingness to do everything we can to help. No matter how large or small the task," Campbell said in a statement to CNN."We continue to look at the barriers to moving into a new home, but we all have to accept that one of the barriers is trust in the council itself — that is something we understand, and accept, and it will take time to rebuild." Theresa Griffin agrees that trust has been well and truly broken. She and her daughter live in Bramley House, in Grenfell Tower's shadow, and both lost friends in the fire.Griffin has been maintaining a small memorial near the tower at the Latymer Christian Center, a place of support and donations to victims. A year on, the teddy bears and toy bunny rabbits have faded in color, but people continue to bring fresh flowers and candles to remember those lost. Bromley House resident Theresa Griffin holds a stuffed toy that has fallen apart at the memorial she tends in tribute to Grenfell victims.Asked about what justice for Grenfell means, Griffin said that money was the cause of what happened at Grenfell and that money was not what will heal wounds. Like many people affected by the fire, she is not convinced the public inquiry will make things right. Plenty of inquiries in the UK have taken years on end, and have concluded with little action taken."It would mean something if they admitted everything that went wrong," she said. "But the corporate ones who had a foot in Grenfell will never spend a day in jail."

CNN's Leke Alabi, Joseph Ataman and Hannah Ritchie contributed to this report.

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Turkey presidential election decides if Erdogan should have five more years



Turks are voting in a momentous presidential run-off to decide whether or not Recep Tayyip Erdogan should remain in power after 20 years.

His challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu, backed by a broad opposition alliance, called on voters to come out and “get rid of an authoritarian regime”.

The president, who is favourite to win, promises a new era uniting the country around a “Turkish century”.

But the more pressing issue is rampant inflation and a cost-of-living crisis.

Voters have nine hours to cast their ballots before 17:00 (14:00 GMT) and many were already waiting outside a polling station in central Ankara before the doors opened. One woman of 80 had set her alarm for 05:00 to be sure of arriving on time.

Turnout in the first round was an impressive 88.8%, and Mr Erdogan’s lead was 2.5 million votes. That is why both candidates have their eye on the eight million who did not vote – but could this time.

Ahead of the run-off Mr Kilicdaroglu accused his rival of foul play, by blocking his text messages to voters while the president’s messages went through. After voting in Ankara he urged Turks to protect the ballot boxes.

Opposition parties are deploying an army of some 400,000 volunteers in a bid to ensure no vote-rigging takes place, both at polling stations and later at the election authority. But among the volunteers, they need lawyers such as Sena to accompany the ballot boxes.

International observers spoke of an uneven playing field after the first round. But there was no suggestion that any irregularities in voting would have changed the result.

As he voted in Istanbul, President Erdogan said Turkish democracy was going through a second round in a presidential election for the first time and suggested Turks should make use of it.

Mr Kilicdaroglu promised a very different style of presidency on his final day of campaigning: “I have no interest in living in palaces. I will live like you, modestly… and solve your problems.”

It was a swipe at Mr Erdogan’s enormous palatial complex on the edge of Ankara which he moved to when he switched from prime minister to president in 2014. After surviving a failed coup in 2016 he took on extensive powers, detained tens of thousands of people and took control of the media.

So it was laden with symbolism when he paid a campaign visit on Saturday to the mausoleum of a prime minister executed by the military after a coup in 1960.

“The era of coups and juntas is over,” he declared, linking Turkey’s current stability to his own authoritarian rule.

Turkey, however, is deeply polarised, with the president reliant on a support base of religious conservatives and nationalists, while his opposite number’s supporters are mainly secular – but many of them are nationalist too.

For days the two men traded insults. Mr Kilicdaroglu accused the president of cowardice and hiding from a fair election; Mr Erdogan said his rival was on the side of “terrorists”, referring to Kurdish militants.

But after days of inflammatory rhetoric about sending millions of Syrian refugees home, the opposition candidate returned to Turkey’s number-one issue – the economic crisis, and in particular its effect on poorer households.

A 59-year-old woman and her grandson joined him on stage to explain how her monthly salary of 5,000 lira (£200; $250) was now impossible to live on as her rent had shot up to 4,000 lira (£160; $200).

It may have been staged, but this is the story across Turkey, with inflation at almost 44% and salaries and state help failing to keep pace.

Economists say the Erdogan policy of cutting interest rates rather than raising them has only made matters worse.

The Turkish lira has hit record lows, demand for foreign currency has surged and the central bank’s net foreign currency reserves are in negative territory for the first time since 2002.

“The central bank has no foreign currency to sell,” says Selva Demiralp, professor of economics at Koc University. “There are already some sort of capital controls – we all know it’s hard to buy dollars. If they continue with low interest rates, as Erdogan has signalled, the only other option is stricter controls.”

East of Ankara, gleaming tower blocks have been springing up in Kirikkale. It looks like boom-time for this city, run by the president’s party.

But many people here are struggling.

Fatma has run a hairdresser’s for 13 years but for the past two, work has dried up, and the cost of rent and hair products has soared.

She voted for an ultranationalist candidate who came third, and does not trust the two men left in the race.

A few doors up the street, Binnaz is working a sewing machine at a shop for mending clothes.

People cannot afford new dresses so she is earning much more, even if her monthly rent has trebled to to 4,000 lira. Despite Turkey’s stricken economy, she is putting her faith in the president.

Outside a supermarket, Emrah Turgut says he is also sticking with Mr Erdogan because he has no faith in the other option, and believes the president’s unfounded allegations that the biggest opposition party co-operates with terrorists.

Turkey’s second-biggest opposition party, the HDP, denies any link to the militant PKK, but President Erdogan has used their backing for the rival candidate to suggest a link to terrorists.

Whoever wins on Sunday, Turkey’s parliament is already firmly in the grip of Mr Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party and its far-right nationalist ally, the MHP.

The AKP also has the youngest MP, who arrived in parliament on the eve of the presidential vote.

Zehranur Aydemir, 24, believes if Mr Erdogan wins then he will lay the foundations for a century in which Turkey will become a global power: “Now Turkey has a bigger vision it can dream bigger.”

It is another grandiose Erdogan project, but Turkey’s economy is likely to prove a more pressing task, whoever wins the run-off.


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Corriere della Sera: Belgian judges exerted illegal & undue pressure on Eva Kaili



Madrid Journal – Italian and Greek media seem to lose patience with how the Belgian authorities are dealing with corruption case in the European Parliamentary. The ill treatment of the Belgian judiciary became very obvious where the prosecution is practically employing blackmail as a tactic to get Eva Kaili to confess despite her pleading innocence from day one. According to the report of the Italian newspaper, the Belgian judges investigating the Qatargate scandal allegedly exerted illegal undue pressure on Eva Kaili, suggesting that she confess her guilt, with the promise that she will be released from prison.

It should be noted that after the conclusion of the last hearing, the lawyers of Eva Kaili complained that their client was kept in solitary confinement for six hours, speaking of torture reminiscent of the Middle Ages and a violation of human rights.

Today the Italian newspaper brings to light the aforementioned claim of the well-known criminologist Michalis Dimitrakopoulos.

“She has not agreed to confess to something she has not done” 
“From the first moment they suggested that Eva Kaili plead guilty and be released from prison so that she can finally hug her daughter again,” says Dimitrakopoulos, clarifying however that his client , who has been claiming innocence since day one, has always denied it.

“Despite the fact that being away from her little girl is the greatest psychological torture, she has not agreed to confess to something she has not done,” adds the Greek lawyer.

As also stated in the publication “she does not want her daughter to inherit the stigma that her mother was a corrupt female politician, because it is not true”.

The same publication also states that: “The former Greek TV journalist was immediately acquitted by her partner Giorgi, but the investigators did not believe the couple’s version, convinced that the woman belonged to Pantzeri’s network and tried to help him disappear the money from the funds. In fact, they accused her of bribery and of trying to hide the fruits of a crime.”

What will be her next move
The next moves Dimitrakopoulos plans for Eva Kaili are to build a profile of a woman deeply scarred by the month and a half she spent behind bars in Haren prison, the newspaper says.

“She was shaking as she told the judge, who was also a woman, about the torture she suffered, not in prison, but in a police cell. What he experienced – says the lawyer – is reminiscent of the movie ‘Midnight Express’, but unfortunately this is happening in the center of Europe”.

The indictment against the allegedly aggressive methods of the Belgian justice system ends with the announcement of the next legal move by Eva Kaili’s defense team: “Next week we will appeal to the Supreme Court, announces Dimitrakopoulos. When someone is arrested they are immediately protected by the law. I wonder if it was the same in Brussels.”


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The 5 best resorts and boutique hotels in Italy 2023



Seehof Nature Retreat /Naz-Sciaves (Bressanone)

Adults-only resort overlooking the shores of a private lake, the Seehof Nature Retreat has 40 rooms, including suites and doubles, with lake view or garden view. The wellness rite to clarify ideas about what to do in the future is carried out in the spa, it is the Aufguss, the infusion of vapors with essential oils which is carried out by a sauna master. The swimming pool is heated and can therefore also be used in winter, while the lake is frozen, so only the bravest will go and get their feet wet after a session in the sauna. Those who can’t sit still can go skiing in the Gitschberg/Jochtal and Plose/Bressanone areas, on the way back, massage with alpine herb pads or with arnica and St. John’s wort to soothe the muscles. The stay is all-inclusive (with a four-course gourmet dinner); the half board is on request.

Langhe House / Cerretto Langhe (Cuneo)

The Alta Langa is a land of great reds and also of sparkling wines, hazelnuts, cheeses and castles. Heritage of biodiversity, it is a land that tries to defend its relationship with nature, limiting highways and new constructions.

The result is Casa di Langa, a five-star resort amidst hazelnut groves and vineyards, which renounces single-use plastic, focuses on energy independence and recycles water for the irrigation of its vineyards and biodynamic vegetable gardens which Luigi Merlo, the gardener, takes care of Daniel Zeilinga, the executive chef, with two years of experience alongside Enrico Crippa at the Piazza Duomo restaurant in Alba. Aromatic herbs, edible flowers, ancient varieties all that grows is needed at the Sorì Cocktail Bar, which favors infusions for drinks, the Fàula restaurant, which has just entered the Michelin guide, and the Spa.

Villa Gelsomino / Santa Margherita Ligure

An 18th-century villa, Art Nouveau details and 5 sea-view suites, with original frescoes and Genoese grit floors. Villa Gelsomino is the project of three friends, who transformed the house into a boutique hotel reserved for adults only. The structure uses green energy, is plastic-free, and compensates for C02 emissions by planting trees around the world. You stay among a few guests and in the quiet, on request, there are private yoga and pilates lessons and you get around with electric scooters and e-cycles.

Gallicantu / Luogosanto (Sassari)

They are the new refuges for travelers who have already experienced everything; the pens, the rural settlements where the animals are rounded up, in the Sardinian Gallura are small treasure properties, created among the blocks of granite, sheltered from the confusion of the coast (but the beaches are always short range). Gallicantu, a micro-resort revisited by architect Jean Claude Lesuisse, with just five rooms and two suites, is close to Luogosanto (its name comes from the 22 country churches in the area), Tempio, where Fabrizio De André had chosen to live, and the beautiful Aggius, which is part of the authentic villages of Italy. If you wish, instead of reaching the Costa Smeralda, you can stop by the pool, among the olive trees. There is also a wellness area with sauna, Turkish bath, emotional showers. The pre-nuragic cave of the property is instead intended for the tasting of wines, cold cuts and cheeses.

Cape of Senses / Torri del Benaco (Verona)

55 lake view suites, three swimming pools, one of which is sports and two infinity, adults-only Spa, with fitness and yoga platforms, two restaurants, a 15,000-metre property among the retreats in Italy that will make headlines in 2023 is the Cape of Senses, which will open in July in Albisano, above Torri del Benaco, on Lake Garda. Designed by Hugo and Alessia Demetz, the hotel will be an oasis where you can stay for three days or more: upon request, you can sleep in a mobile structure, in direct contact with the stars. Two restaurants, At sunset, with gourmet à la carte cuisine, and La Pergola, with traditional cuisine served on the panoramic terrace.

This article was originally published on GQ (Italiana Edition)

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