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Europe

Norway’s proposal to sell off $35 billion in oil and natural gas stocks brings sudden and unparalleled heft to a once-grassroots movement to enlist investors in the fight against climate change.

The Nordic nation’s $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund said Thursday that it’s considering unloading its shares of Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and other oil giants to diversify its holdings and guard against drops in crude prices.

Norges Bank Investment Management would not be the first institutional investor to back away from fossil fuels – but until now, most have been state pension funds, universities and other smaller players that have limited their divestments to coal, tar sands or some of the other dirtiest fossil fuels.

Norway’s fund is the world’s largest equity investor, controlling about 1.5 percent of global stocks – if it follows through on its proposal, it would be the first to abandon the sector altogether.

“This is an enormous change,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a non-profit that advocates for sustainable investing, “it’s a shot heard around the world.”

Norway’s Finance Ministry, which oversees the fund, said it will study the proposal and will take at least a year to decide what to do. bloomberg.com
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has issued a letter of apology over an incident at NATO's Joint Warfare Centre in Norway, which prompted Turkey to withdraw its troops from a military drill.

“I have been informed about offence caused in a recently concluded exercise at NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway.

I apologise for the offense that has been caused.

The incidents were the result of an individual’s actions and do not reflect the views of NATO,” Stoltenberg said.

“The individual in question was immediately removed from the exercise by the Joint Warfare Centre, and an investigation is underway.

He was a civilian contractor seconded by Norway and not a NATO employee. hurriyetdailynews.com
Mafia 'boss of bosses' Salvatore 'Toto' Riina died early Friday in a hospital while serving multiple life sentences as the mastermind of a bloody strategy to assassinate Italian prosecutors and law enforcement trying to bring down the Cosa Nostra – he was 87.

Riina died hours after the Justice Ministry had allowed his family members bedside visits Thursday, which was his birthday, after he had been placed in a medically induced coma in a prison wing at a hospital in Parma, northern Italy.

Riina, one of Sicily's most notorious Mafia bosses who ruthlessly directed the mob's criminal empire during 23 years in hiding, was serving 26 life sentences for murder convictions as a powerful Cosa Nostra boss.

He was captured in Palermo, Sicily's capital, in 1993 and imprisoned under a law that requires strict security for top mobsters, including being detained in isolated sections of prisons with limited time outside of their cells.

During the height of his power, prosecutors accused Riina of masterminding a strategy, carried out over several years, to assassinate Italian prosecutors, police officials and others who were going after the Cosa Nostra.

The bloodbath campaign ultimately backfired, however, and led to his capture as the enraged state fought back after bombs killed Italy's two leading anti-Mafia magistrates, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, two months apart in 1992. yahoo.com
U.S. officials mounted a spirited defense of fossil fuels Monday at U.N. climate talks in Germany, to a chorus of protest from green energy campaigners and other participants.

Members of President Donald Trump’s administration and energy company representatives jointly hosted a controversial “side event” at the U.N. meeting, where they argued that coal and natural gas are here to stay, at least for a while.

“Without a question, fossil fuels will continue to be used,” George David Banks, a special energy and environment assistant to Trump, told the event — citing projections of the International Energy Agency.

Faced with this reality, “we would argue that it’s in the global interest to make sure that when fossil fuels are used, that it’s as clean and efficient as possible,” he insisted. japantimes.co.jp
Scotland is set to become the first country in the world with a minimum price for alcohol sales after the UK’s highest court rejected an appeal from Scotch whisky manufacturers.

Supreme Court justices unanimously dismissed the appeal brought by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and other drinks manufacturers, who argued that the policy was “disproportionate” and illegal under European law.

It brings to a close a five year legal struggle over the Scottish Government’s plan to introduce a 50p minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol, in a bid to curb harmful drinking of cheap, super strong alcohol.

The judgement, handed down by justice Lord Mance, said that increasing alcohol price by an excise duty or Vat increase would not be "equally effective” at targeting cheap alcohol.

“The Supreme Court unanimously dismisses the appeal - Lord Mance gives the judgement, with which the remaining six justices agree," the ruling said.

"The 2012 Act does not breach EU law, minimum pricing is a legitimate means of achieving a legitimate aim.” independent.co.uk
The European Union is sizing up Britain for a post-Brexit free trade deal along the lines of one it agreed last year with Canada, people familiar with talks among national envoys on Tuesday told Reuters.

Chief negotiator Michel Barnier has long cited the Canadian example, and since EU leaders agreed last month to ready negotiations on the future relationship with the UK, the 27 states have looked closely at the Canadian trade deal as a model, given British demands, EU diplomats said.

Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out staying in the EU single market, with its obligations of free migration, EU budget payments and obeying EU courts, and so diplomats concluded these terms rule out the models followed by Norway, and by Switzerland which has a web of bilateral agreements.

“From the red lines they have we know there are some things that are clearly off limits and that was clear today,” one of the people familiar with Wednesday’s roundtable discussion said. reuters.com
Loud, racist and extreme-right activists have hijacked Poland’s Independence Day celebrations in Warsaw.

United under the “We Want God” slogan, nationalist activists held banners which read “Death to the enemies of the homeland,” amongst others.

The so-called ”Independence March,” to celebrate Poland’s rebirth as a nation in 1918, was organized partly by neo-fascist groups such as National-Radical Camp (ONR), the National Movement (RN) and the All-Polish Youth (MW) groups.

The nationalist rally, according to police estimates, drew a crowd of roughly 60,000 activists, with some youths wearing balaclavas.

Seemingly spurred on by the Polish government’s reluctance to take in refugees under EU quotas, the far-right activists also highlighted their Islamophobic, xenophobic and nationalistic leanings by carrying banners depicting Islam as a Trojan horse.

Celebrated on November 11 each year, Poland’s Independence Day marks the restoration of Poland's sovereignty as the Second Polish Republic in 1918, after 123 years of partition by the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Habsburg Empire – Polish independence was confirmed by the Western powers in the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended World War I. rt.com
Hundreds of thousands of Catalan independence supporters clogged central Barcelona on Saturday to demand the release of separatist leaders held in prison for their roles in the region's banned independence drive.

Wearing yellow ribbons on their lapels to signify support, they filled the length of the Avenue Marina that runs from the beach to Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia church, while the jailed leaders' families made speeches.

Catalonia's two main grassroots independence groups called the march, under the slogan "Freedom for the political prisoners", after their leaders were remanded in custody on charges of sedition last month.

Barcelona's police said that 750,000 people attended the rally. 

The protest is seen as a test of how the independence movement's support has fared since the Catalan government declared independence on 27 October, prompting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to fire its members, dissolve the regional parliament and call new elections for December. independent.co.uk