Dog owners in Feuquières face a €68 (£60) fine for any barking which "disturbs the rest or relaxation of people."

French mayor issues ban on ‘excessive dog barking’

Dog owners in Feuquières face a €68 (£60) fine for any barking which “disturbs the rest or relaxation of people.”

The mayor of a town in northern France has issued a ban on excessive dog barking in a bid to curb canine noise pollution.

From Monday, dog owners in Feuquières face a €68 (£60; $77) fine for “prolonged or repeated barking”.

Mayor Jean-Pierre Estienne says the ban is in response to dogs “barking day and night” and creating “an unbearable situation” in the village.

The decree has been criticised by animal rights activists.

“The aim is not to ban dogs and we won’t be fining people for the slightest hint of a yap,” Mr Estienne told French newspaper Le Parisien (in French).

“The town has nothing against dogs but when you decide to have them, you educate them.”

Passed by the local council earlier this month, the decree forbids dogs from being left in enclosed areas without owners being nearby to stop “prolonged or repeated barking”.

Yappy dogs must also be kept inside if their behaviour “disturbs the rest or relaxation” of Feuquières’ 1,400 residents.

Offenders (or more specifically, their owners) will receive a fine for each complaint made against them.

Barking is a common form of communication which dogs use to express their feelings and gain the attention of those nearby.

The decree follows a petition by villagers against one particular resident.

“She has several dogs, some large,” said Mr Estienne. “We have made several attempts to establish a dialogue with her, to no avail.”

“If I took this decision, it is because we found no other way out. I couldn’t sit idly by,” he said.

The move has been condemned as “completely barking” by Stéphane Lamart, president of the Association for the Defence of Animal Rights.

“You may as well stop church bells ringing on Sunday morning,” Mr Lamart told Le Monde newspaper (in French).

“If dogs have mouths, it’s so they can bark.”

Mr Lamart said he intended to launch an appeal with the local court. “I’ve never seen a dog bark from morning to evening,” he said.

This is not the first time French authorities have tried to dampen doggy decibels.

In 2012, Sainte-Foy-la-Grande in southwest France passed a ban on any excessive dog barking that disturbed “public order”.

Can you stop a dog from barking?

Barking is a regular form of communication for most dog breeds, but loud and regular yapping is a common complaint by owners and their neighbours.

Whilst noise levels vary, some barks can bite 100 dB – louder than factory machinery.

An Australian golden retriever named Charlie holds the world record for the loudest bark, measuring 113.1 dB.

Canine companions bark for many reasons: to get attention, to fend off perceived danger or express anxiety, to name a few.

Jenna Kiddie, Canine Behaviour Manager at charity Dogs Trust, warns against using anti-bark collars and other aversive training methods.

“It is vital to investigate why and address the underlying motivation rather than just address the behaviour itself,” says Ms Kiddie.

“Although it can be very frustrating, especially if you have neighbours to consider, telling your dog off might make them more anxious or confused, and could make the situation worse

Why Venezuela matters to the US... and vice versa

Venezuela crisis: Maduro condemns ‘extremist’ Trump.

Maduro: US ‘warmongering’ in order to take over Venezuela

Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolás Maduro has called Donald Trump’s government a “gang of extremists” and blamed the US for his country’s crisis.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Maduro said he would not allow humanitarian aid into Venezuela as it was a way for the US to justify an intervention.

“They are warmongering in order to take over Venezuela,” he said.

The US and most Western governments have recognised opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president.

Mr Maduro is under growing internal and international pressure to call early presidential elections amid a worsening economic crisis and accusations of widespread corruption and human rights violations.

Meanwhile, Mr Guaidó has called for new anti-government protests later on Tuesday.

Maduro on Trump: ‘Extremist group’

Relations between the US and Venezuela were already fraught before President Trump’s administration became one of the first to back Mr Guaidó as interim leader.

Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations in response while Mr Trump said the use of military force remained “an option”.

In a rare interview, Mr Maduro said he hoped “this extremist group in the White House is defeated by powerful world-wide public opinion”.

Speaking in the capital, Caracas, he told the BBC’s Orla Guerin: “It’s a political war, of the United States empire, of the interests of the extreme right that today is governing, of the Ku Klux Klan, that rules the White House, to take over Venezuela.”

The US, which accuses Mr Maduro’s government of human rights violations and corruption, has led the international pressure on the Venezuelan president to step down.

It has imposed a raft of economic measures on the country, including against the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, aiming to hit Venezuela’s main source of revenue.

In recent years the US has frozen Mr Maduro’s US assets, restricted Venezuela’s access to US markets and blocked dealings with those involved in the country’s gold trade.

It has also criticised Mr Maduro’s increased use of the courts and security forces to suppress political opposition.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the government a “disastrous dictatorship” while National Security Advisor John Bolton said Mr Maduro was holding an “illegitimate claim to power”.

When asked, in response to his Ku Klux Klan comment, if he believed Mr Trump was a “white supremacist”, Mr Maduro said: “He is, publicly and openly… They hate us, they belittle us, because they only believe in their own interests, and in the interests of the United States.”

Maduro on humanitarian aid: ‘A charade’

The president has rejected allowing foreign humanitarian aid into the country, a move that is being organised by the opposition. He said Venezuela had “the capacity to satisfy all the needs of its people” and did not have to “beg from anyone”.

Venezuela’s President Maduro to BBC: US aid trucks are a charade

But for years Venezuelans have faced severe shortages of basic items such as medicine and food. Last year, the inflation rate saw prices doubling every 19 days on average.

Three million people, or 10% of the population, have left the country since the economy started to worsen in 2014, according to the UN. And Mr Guaidó says more than 300,000 Venezuelans are at “risk of dying”.

Mr Maduro, who has blamed US sanctions for Venezuela’s economic woes, said the US intended to “create a humanitarian crisis in order to justify a military intervention”.

“This is part of that charade. That’s why, with all dignity, we tell them we don’t want their crumbs, their toxic food, their left-overs.”

Maduro on calling elections: ‘What’s the point?’

Mr Maduro, in power since 2013, was re-elected to a second term last year but the elections were controversial with many opposition candidates barred from running or jailed, and claims of vote-rigging.

Head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Mr Guaidó declared himself president on 23 January, saying the constitution allowed him to assume power temporarily when the president was deemed illegitimate.

Desperate Venezuelan women are selling their hair at the border

Mr Maduro – who still has the support of Turkey, Russia and China and, crucially, of the Venezuelan army – said he did not see the need for early presidential elections.

“What’s the logic, reasoning, to repeat an election?” he asked.

He also said only “about 10” governments supported Mr Guaidó – in fact, more than 30 have announced their support for the opposition leader

and that they were trying to “impose a government that nobody has elected”.

“The extremists of the White House have taken it upon themselves to carry out a coup in Venezuela.”

El Chapo's wife, Emma Coronel, was in court in New York for Tuesday's verdict

El Chapo trial: Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán found guilty

El Chapo trial: Five facts about Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán

Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has been found guilty on all 10 counts at his drug-trafficking trial at a federal court in New York.

Guzmán, 61, was convicted on numerous counts including the distribution of cocaine and heroin, illegal firearms possession and money laundering.

He has yet to be sentenced, but the verdict could mean life in jail.

Guzmán was arrested in January 2016 after escaping from a Mexican prison through a tunnel five months earlier.

He was extradited to the US in 2017.

The Mexican was accused of being behind the all-powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, which prosecutors say was the biggest supplier of drugs to the US.

What happened in court?

Tuesday’s unanimous verdict by a jury in Brooklyn, which was read out in a packed courtroom, followed an 11-week trial.

Guzmán, wearing a dark suit jacket and tie, showed no visible sign of emotion as the verdict was announced, CBS News reported.

US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Richard Donoghue, called it “a day of reckoning”

As he was escorted from the courtroom, he exchanged glances with his wife, Emma Coronel, a 29-year-old former beauty queen, before shaking hands with his lawyers.

Judge Brian Cogan, who presided over the trial, thanked the jurors for their dedication at what he described as a complex trial, saying it was “remarkable and it made me very proud to be an American”.

Who is El Chapo?

“El Chapo” (or “Shorty”) ran the Sinaloa cartel in northern Mexico.

Mexico’s drug war: Has it turned the tide?

Over time, it became one of the biggest traffickers of drugs to the US and, in 2009, Guzmán entered Forbes’ list of the world’s richest men at number 701, with an estimated worth of $1bn (£775m).

He was accused of having helped export hundreds of tonnes of cocaine into the US and of conspiring to manufacture and distribute heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana.

He was also said to have used hitmen to carry out “hundreds” of murders, assaults, kidnappings and acts of torture on rivals.

Key associates, including one former lieutenant, testified against Guzmán.

Emma Coronel, the wife of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, leaves court in New York, 12 February 2019
El Chapo’s wife, Emma Coronel, was in court in New York for Tuesday’s verdict

What was heard during the trial?

It provided shocking revelations about the Mexican drug lord’s life.

Court papers accused him of having girls as young as 13 drugged before raping them.

Guzmán “called the youngest of the girls his ‘vitamins’ because he believed that sexual activity with young girls gave him ‘life'”, former associate Colombian drug trafficker Alex Cifuentes was quoted as saying.

During the trial Cifuentes also alleged that Guzmán gave a $100m (£77m) bribe to former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is said to have contacted him after taking office in 2012 and asked for $250m in return for ending a manhunt for him. Mr Pena Nieto has not publicly commented.

Sketch of Alex Cifuentes (L) and Guzmán
Former associate Cifuentes (L) alleged that Guzmán (R) bribed Mexico’s then president

Another witness described seeing Guzmán murder at least three men.

Former bodyguard Isaias Valdez Rios said Guzmán beat two people who had joined a rival cartel until they were “completely like rag dolls”. He then shot them in the head and ordered their bodies be thrown on a fire.

In another incident, he had a member of the rival Arellano Felix cartel burned and imprisoned before taking him to a graveyard, shooting him and having him buried alive.

Guzmán is also alleged to have had his own cousin killed for lying about being out of town, and ordered a hit on the brother of another cartel leader because he did not shake his hand.

When asked by a former cartel lieutenant why he killed people, he is alleged to have said: “Either your mom’s going to cry or their mom’s going to cry.”

Guzmán's wife Emma Coronel attended the trial in New York
Guzmán’s wife Emma Coronel attended the trial

The court heard details of his 2015 escape from Mexico’s maximum-security Altiplano prison. His sons bought a property near the prison and a GPS watch smuggled into the prison gave diggers his exact location.

At one point Guzmán complained that he could hear the digging from his cell. He escaped by riding a specially adapted small motorcycle through the tunnel.

He also used software on his phone to spy on his wife and mistresses, which allowed the FBI to present his text messages in court.

In one set of texts, he recounted to his wife how he had fled a villa during a raid by US and Mexican officials, before asking her to bring him new clothes, shoes and black moustache dye.

Why was this trial significant?

Guzmán is the highest profile Mexican drug cartel boss so far to stand trial in the US.

The drug war in Mexico – pitting the Mexican and US authorities against cartels smuggling drugs into the US and the cartels against each other – has killed about 100,000 people over more than a decade.

A former DEA agent describes capturing Guzmán in 2014 – he later escaped

Guzmán achieved notoriety for twice escaping custody in Mexico as well as avoiding arrest on numerous other occasions.

Among some in his home state, he had the status of a folk hero a popular subject of “narcocorridos” – musical tributes to drugs barons.

In 2016, he gave an interview to Hollywood actor Sean Penn in a Mexican jungle following his escape the previous year and boasted that he was the world’s leading supplier of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.

He was later recaptured in the north-western town of Los Mochis. During the raid he fled through a drain but was later caught by troops in a shootout.

The Brooklyn Bridge was closed each time Guzmán was driven across it
New York’s Brooklyn Bridge was closed each time the motorcade containing Guzmán drove across it

The US indictment against him was a consolidation of charges from six federal jurisdictions across the country, including New York, Chicago and Miami.

Prosecutors pooled together evidence acquired over more than a decade, including from international partners such as Mexico and Colombia, to build their sweeping case.

The trial jurors were anonymous and were escorted to and from the courthouse in Brooklyn by armed marshals after prosecutors argued that Guzmán had a history of intimidating witnesses and even ordering their murders.

HOC

Corbyn: PM ‘playing chicken with people’s livelihoods’

Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn says the “country facing biggest crisis in a generation” and Ms May is “recklessly running down the clock”. The prime minister has “more excuses and more delays”, he adds. The Labour leader asks what progress Mrs May has made on alternative arrangements and if she set those arrangement before the House. Jemery Corbyn accuses the prime minister of “playing” with jobs and industries, adding that the Nissan decision may be the “thin end of a very long wedge”.

He adds that the Leader of the House says a meaningful vote will be on 21 March, days before Brexit, and asks if this is not the case when will the meaning vote be. Mr Corbyn says the prime minister is “playing chicken with people’s livelihoods”.

HOC

Theresa May promises meaningful vote after more talks with EU

Theresa May has promised MPs a final, decisive vote on her Brexit deal – but not until she has secured changes to the Irish backstop clause. Speaking in the Commons, the PM said she had a “mandate” to seek changes to the backstop as MPs had voted for it. “We now need some time to complete that process”, she added. If no agreement is reached by 26 February, then MPs will get more non-binding votes on Brexit options the following day. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused her of “running down the clock” in an effort to “blackmail” MPs into backing her deal, and asked when MPs would get a final, “meaningful” vote on her deal.

Hammond’s Brexit ‘dividend’ claim rejected as UK economy stalls,"

Hammond’s Brexit ‘dividend’ claim rejected as UK economy stalls,”

Philip Hammond’s claim that Britain can reap an economic dividend from Theresa May’s Brexit

deal has been flatly rejected by MPs, as official figures confirmed the UK has suffered its worst year for GDP growth since 2012.

In a highly critical report, the Treasury select committee warned that the chancellor’s claims of a “deal dividend” if Britain avoided a no-deal exit lacked credibility.

The criticism came after data on Monday showed the economy grew by just 0.2% in the final three months of 2018, down from 0.6% in the third quarter. The fourth-quarter figures contained signs of an even sharper slowdown, with the economy posting a decline of 0.4% in December amid signs that Brexit uncertainty is taking hold.

For 2018 as a whole, GDP growth slipped to its lowest since 2012, at 1.4%, down from 1.8% in 2017.

Nicky Morgan MP, the Conservative chair of the committee, said 

Hammond’s “dividend” claim, at the Conservative party conference last year, had already been undermined by the government’s independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility. The OBR had told the committee the dividend was not an economic boost so much as “avoiding something really very bad” in the form of a no-deal departure.

“The OBR already assumes an orderly Brexit, so there won’t be a ‘deal dividend’ beyond the forecast just by avoiding no-deal. Business confidence may improve with increased certainty, but it’s not credible to describe this as a dividend,” said Morgan.

The OBR has made a smooth departure from the EU a key part of its forecasts, which prompted the Treasury committee to state there is no evidence of an economic boost from supporting the deal over and above those central estimates.

Hammond has repeatedly suggested that, should parliament throw its weight behind Theresa May’s Brexit plan, it would generate a dual economic boost for the country by lifting the fog of uncertainty blocking businesses investment, while also allowing him to spend public funds held in reserve for a no-deal scenario.

Reacting to Morgan’s comments, Treasury insiders dismissed the suggestion that Britain would not see a deal dividend from MPs supporting the prime minister’s Brexit plan, as it would give firms more clarity about the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU.

“The chancellor has been clear that when we agree a good deal we will harvest a deal dividend. This is because businesses will have the certainty they need to invest, grow and create jobs which will improve the public finances,” the source said.

Most economists believe that Britain agreeing a Brexit deal with Brussels would help to give firms clarity for the future, potentially unleashing projects that have been put on hold due to the uncertainty.

Amit Kara, the head of UK macroeconomics research at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said: “It could be a dividend as all we’re saying is we’re moving from an acute phase of uncertainty to remaining within the EU for at least the next two years.”

He added: “The dividend is just because of the mess at the moment.”

The committee’s intervention undermines one of Theresa May’s key arguments to persuade MPs to back her withdrawal agreement with less than 50 days to go before Brexit. It also comes as the British economy shows increasing signs of stress as the deadline for the article 50 process looms ever closer, causing more business to put their plans to invest in Britain on hold.

Growth figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed that business investment in the final three months of 2018 declined sharply. Corporate spending tumbled for the fourth successive quarter – falling by 1.4% in the final quarter of 2018 alone – for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis.

Companies have intensified their contingency planning to cope with the possibility of a disruptive Brexit. Car manufacturers are stockpiling parts, banks have moved employees to Ireland and continental Europe and two Japanese electronics firms, Panasonic and Sony, have moved their EU headquarters to mainland Europe.

Labour and trade unions called on the prime minister to remove no-deal Brexit as an option in order to shore up confidence in Britain, something which May has so far refused to do in negotiations with Brussels.

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, said: “The prime minister’s failure to rule out a no-deal Brexit is harming confidence in the economy and holding back growth. With our manufacturing sector in recession, the prime minister must act now to remove the threat of crashing out.”

GDP growth in December plunged into reverse, with a broad-based slump across each of the key sectors for the economy. The manufacturing sector, which makes up about a tenth of the economy, fell into recession, with six months of negative growth in the longest negative run since September 2008 to February 2009, the depths of the financial crisis.

The monthly decline GDP of 0.4% helped drag down quarter-on-quarter GDP growth to a rate of 0.2% in the three months to the end of the year, slightly below the Bank of England’s expectations and down from a rate of 0.6% in the third quarter.

While the slowdown mirrors a loss of momentum in the world economy, including a deterioration in the eurozone, most analysts believe that unique challenges from Brexit have further hindered UK growth.

Ben Brettell, a senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “There’s little doubt Brexit uncertainty is responsible for the disappointing numbers, though concerns over global trade will also have played a part.”

The committee also warned that Hammond’s deficit reduction target – to eliminate the gap between government spending and income by the early part of the next decade – now lacked credibility. Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal is expected to come with significant negative consequences for the public finances, with potential for the deficit to widen.

Hammond opted at the last budget to raise public spending, with a £20bn a year increase for the NHS by 2023-24, without making significant tax increases to balance the books.

Referring to that decision, the committee said: “The government’s fiscal objective has no credibility and should be replaced.”

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