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World

    The Dutch government is lowering the top speed limit on highways in a bid to put the brakes on emissions of the pollutant nitrogen oxide. Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced Wednesday that the maximum speed limit will be cut from 130 kilometers per hour to 100 km/h (81-62 miles per hour) on many of the country's highways. It was a climbdown for Rutte, whose conservative party is known as the 'vroom vroom' party because of its support of motorists. Rutte says he is 'unbelievably unhappy that the 130 is disappearing.' The measure follows a Dutch Supreme Court decision in May that said the government's rules for granting permits to projects that emit nitrogen oxide breach European Union environmental law. That led to a freeze on permits for many construction projects.
  • France is commemorating the fourth anniversary of the Islamic State attacks in Paris. The attacks on Nov. 13, 2015, left 131 people dead at the country's national stadium, the Bataclan concert hall and bars and restaurants in the city center. They were carried out largely by French fighters for the Islamic State who were sent home by the extremist group. Wednesday's commemorations are clouded by the possibility that more European recruits for Islamic State may return home soon. Turkey's president has promised to deport foreigners who fought for the group. Since 2015, Turkey has already returned around 250 French citizens, including many children born in Iraq and Syria. French officials say adults are immediately taken into custody, and that around 500 people are currently imprisoned on terrorism convictions.
  • Germany's Cabinet has approved legislation that will criminalize 'upskirting' photos and taking unauthorized pictures of people killed in accidents. The bill introduced Wednesday, which requires parliamentary approval, will make it a criminal rather than civil offense to take and distribute such pictures. The German move follows the approval this year of legislation making it illegal in England and Wales to take 'upskirting' photos. It also will ban the taking or distribution of unauthorized pictures 'that display a dead person in a grossly offensive way,' punishing them with up to two years in prison. Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht says that 'we must spare relatives the additional suffering of pictures of their deceased parents or children being spread around.
  • Spanish police said Wednesday they have been unable to locate a Venezuelan former spymaster wanted by the United States for extradition on charges of drug trafficking. Police told The Associated Press that its officers have been unable to find Maj. Gen. Hugo Carvajal. News website El Español reported on Friday that a Spanish court had reversed an earlier ruling throwing out the U.S. arrest warrant and that it had ordered authorities to proceed with the extradition request. A spokesman for the National Court said Wednesday that no decision on the case has been made public at this time. Carvajal's lawyer, Maria Dolores de Arguelles, said her client couldn't be considered a fugitive because the defense has not been officially notified of the court ruling granting the extradition, and no court summons or arrest warrant has been issued. Carvajal is free on bail, but his passport has been confiscated and he is not allowed to leave the Madrid region, according to the bail terms. He also needs to sign in at the court every 15 days — the next time is Friday. Anti-drug prosecutors in Spain had appealed a mid-September decision by the National Court rejecting the extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on drug smuggling and other charges. The extradition needs to be cleared by the Spanish Cabinet, which typically holds weekly meetings every Friday. Appeals can be filed before the country's Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights, but that wouldn't necessarily stop the extradition. The U.S. had been seeking Carvajal's extradition since the former head of Venezuela's military intelligence fled to Spain in late March after publicly supporting the opposition's efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Prosecutors in New York say Carvajal should face trial for 'narcoterrorism' as part of a group of Venezuelan officials who were charged with 'flooding' the U.S. with drugs. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration ties Carvajal to a 5.6-ton cocaine shipment busted in Mexico in 2006 and accuse him of aiding and protecting Colombian guerrillas. ___ Wilson reported from Barcelona. Aritz Parra in Madrid contributed to this report.
  • A Syrian man on trial in Hungary denied charges Wednesday that he took part in a beheading and other killings in his homeland while a member of the Islamic State group. Prosecutors have charged the 27-year-old identified only as Hassan F. with participating in the beheading of a religious leader in the city of al-Sukhnah in Homs province and involvement in the killings of at least 25 people. They say at least six women and one child were among the dead in slayings intended as revenge and to terrify the local population. Prosecutors said it was Hassan F.'s job to compile a list of those to be killed, which was then approved by IS leaders, and oversee the killings. 'I committed nothing,' said Hassan F. said at the start of the trial. 'I just want my family.' During the court session, gruesome video was shown of the beheading allegedly committed by Hassan F. and another man. Hassan F. denied being in the video or knowing anyone else in the video. Hassan F. also denied prosecutors' claim that he was a member of a small, armed IS unit. During his initial testimony, Hassan F. asked not to be executed, but the judge explained to him that there is no death penalty in the European Union. According to his lawyer, Hassan F. has not been in Syria since 2014 and was in Turkey with his wife at the time of the alleged crimes, during the first half of May 2015. Hassan F.'s father told the court his son had been imprisoned in Syria for refusing to join IS. Hassan F. also claimed repeatedly while being questioned by the judge that he was mistreated by police and in jail and that he feared being poisoned. His lawyer said Hassan F. had attempted suicide in prison. The defense lawyer asked the court to reject many pre-trial statements implicating his client, in part because they were by people who did not personally witness the alleged crimes, or because they had failed to provide any details of the events. Hassan F., who obtained refugee status in Greece, was initially apprehended in December at Budapest's Ferenc Liszt International Airport when he and a female companion were found to have forged personal IDs.
  • Police say two men, aged 27 and 38, have been arrested on suspicion of 'gross vandalism' of gravestones in the Jewish section of a churchyard in northwestern Denmark. The men are suspected of dousing green paint on 84 gravestones and knocking over several of them. Police spokesman Klaus Arboe Rasmussen says their motive was to target 'a particular group of the population based on their religion.' Arboe Rasmussen added Wednesday that the men, who were not identified in line with Danish practice, also are suspected of throwing black and green paint on a building in Randers, some 177 kilometers (110 miles) northeast of Copenhagen. He added both incidents happened in the night between Friday and Saturday. Police want the men held in custody while they investigate the case.
  • The German parliament's legal affairs committee on Wednesday ousted its chairman, a member of the far-right Alternative for Germany, amid anger over a string of provocative comments. The committee voted 37-6 Wednesday to remove chairman Stephan Brandner, center-left lawmaker Florian Post wrote on Twitter. It is the first time in the parliament's 70-year history that a committee chairman has been voted out. Brandner has repeatedly angered lawmakers from other parties over recent months, including with broadsides against opponents and by retweeting a reaction to the killing of two passers-by in a botched attack by a right-wing extremist on a synagogue last month that many considered objectionable. That was followed by a tweet railing against singer Udo Lindenberg, who is critical of Alternative for Germany, and a decoration Lindenberg received, in which Brandner used the term 'Judaslohn' ('blood money.') Brandner comes from the eastern state of Thuringia, whose regional Alternative for Germany leader, Bjoern Hoecke, is the party's best-known far-right firebrand. The general secretary of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats, Paul Ziemiak, voiced 'respect' for the committee's decision. He tweeted that Brandner, 'Hoecke's Berlin outpost,' had been 'unworthy' as chairman and added that 'his anti-Semitism is intolerable.' Brandner has portrayed himself as a victim of absurd accusations. Alternative for Germany became the biggest opposition party after the country's 2017 election. It has dire relations with other parties. Lawmakers so far have voted down four candidates the party put forward to be parliament's deputy speaker.
  • A former Conservative Party Cabinet minister said Wednesday that giving the party a majority in next month's election would be 'disastrous' for the U.K., in the latest example of how the Brexit debate has shattered traditional party alliances in this deeply divided country. David Gauke, who served as justice secretary until July, said an outright victory for Prime Minister Boris Johnson's party would likely result in Britain leaving the European Union without an agreement ensuring unfettered trade with the bloc. 'A Conservative majority after the next General Election will take us in the direction of a very hard Brexit and in all likelihood at the end of 2020 we will leave the implementation period without a deal with the EU ... in effect on no-deal terms,' Gauke told the BBC. 'And that I believe would be disastrous for the prosperity of this country, whole sectors would become unviable.' The comments underscore the upheaval underway in British politics, triggered largely by differing views on how and whether Britain should leave the EU. Many traditional Conservative voters, once attracted by the party's business-friendly policies and fiscal restraint, now oppose its focus on severing ties with the EU. The Labour Party is also split over Brexit, as well as the left-wing policies of leader Jeremy Corbyn. Last week, a former member of Labour's inner circle took the extraordinary step of urging voters to support Johnson. Ian Austin, an aide to Gordon Brown, the party's last prime minister, said Labour had been poisoned by 'anti-Jewish racism' under Corbyn. Those splits are providing an opening for smaller parties such as the Liberal Democrats and Greens, who have united behind the goal of stopping Brexit. On the other side of the divide is the newly formed Brexit Party, which seeks to ensure Britain leaves the bloc as soon as possible. The Brexit Party this week said it wouldn't run candidates in constituencies now held by the Conservatives after Johnson promised Britain would leave the EU by the end of 2020. Gauke said this 'choreographed cooperation' with the Brexit Party means Johnson is now 'boxed in' by hardliners who won't allow him to extend talks with the EU beyond the end of next year. Since it will take at least three years to negotiate a trade deal, Britain is likely to leave the bloc without an agreement next December, he said. Because of this, Gauke said the best thing for voters to do is deny Johnson an outright majority by supporting independent candidates and Liberal Democrats. While other former Conservatives have switched to the Liberal Democrats, Gauke said he will run for re-election as an independent. 'I'm calling for people to vote for the center ground, if you like,' he said. 'If independents can do well, if Liberal Democrats can do well, then we can have a Parliament that is both opposed to a no-deal Brexit and also, I have to say, opposed to Jeremy Corbyn going to 10 Downing Street.' That will also help ensure there is a Parliamentary majority for a second referendum asking voters to choose between Johnson's withdrawal agreement and remaining in the EU, Gauke said. 'Because the consequences of the Boris Johnson deal are so significant, we do need to check back in with the British people,' he said. 'And I think it's perfectly possible for there to be a parliamentary majority for that after the general election.' Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
  • The world's thirst for oil will continue to grow until the 2030s, with climate-damaging emissions climbing until at least 2040 — and consumers' insatiable appetite for SUVs is a big reason why. Mounting demand for plastic is another factor. So is increasing plane travel. And the upcoming population boom in cities across Africa and Asia. All this is according to an important global industry forecast released Wednesday by the International Energy Agency that is used as guidance by oil companies and governments. This year, amid growing pressure from young activists like Greta Thunberg and others for tougher action on emissions, the IEA's World Energy Outlook took a stronger-than-usual stand on climate change. It celebrates a growing boom in solar and wind power, and urges governments to work together on changing the way we fuel our lives. And it singles out gas-guzzling SUVs for criticism. Growing demand for SUVs in the U.S, China, Europe and elsewhere could negate all the environmental benefits of the increased use of electric cars, the report says. Because of their size, SUVs are harder to electrify than smaller vehicles. SUVs 'were the second biggest reason for global emissions growth in last 10 years, after the power sector and more than all the industrial sectors put together,' IEA director Fatih Birol told reporters in Paris on Wednesday. Energy-intensive SUVs and pickup trucks account for about two-thirds of car sales in the U.S. and only about a third in the EU, though they are steadily growing in demand in Europe too, according to industry reports. Worldwide, about 42% of cars sold last year were SUVs, Birol said. The World Energy Outlook, which focuses on forecasting energy needs over the next 20 years, is increasingly important to governments because of its relevance to climate policy. Environmental advocates say the IEA still isn't doing enough to encourage renewable energy. Oil Change International notably criticized the IEA's 'over-reliance' on natural gas as a replacement for coal, saying that will lead to 'climate chaos' because gas too contributes to emissions. As flooding in Venice hit the second-highest level ever this week, inundating St. Mark's Cathedral and grounding gondolas, the city's mayor blamed climate change. Scientists say it's difficult to pin a single such event on climate change, but that increasingly extreme weather events worldwide are linked to human-caused emissions. The IEA said that almost 20% of the growth in last year's global energy use was 'due to hotter summers pushing up demand for cooling and cold snaps leading to higher heating needs.' Based on current emissions promises by governments, the IEA forecast global oil demand of 106.4 million barrels a day in 2040, up from 96.9 million last year. Global oil demand is due to slow in the 2030s, and coal use to shrink slightly. Emissions will continue to rise, if more slowly than today, and won't peak before 2040. The U.S. is central to whatever happens next. U.S. consumers and businesses were a leading source of growing oil demand last year, the IEA says. Also, the U.S. will account for 85% of the increase in global oil production by 2030, thanks to the shale boom. Asked about President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate accord, Birol said: 'as a global issue, it's important to have concerted efforts to address climate change.' The report lays out a more ambitious forecast if governments are to meet the goals in the 2015 U.N. climate accord. That would require a big boost in wind and solar power, the IEA says, and a new push for energy efficiency, which has slowed in recent years. The more ambitious scenario would also require work on new coal plants in Asia to capture their emissions, or closing them early. All that would lead to a big drop in oil demand — with repercussions for oil-producing countries that depend heavily on hydrocarbon income. The report came as activist Greta Thunberg announced she will return to Europe soon from North America on a catamaran that leaves nearly no carbon footprint, part of effort to call global attention to individuals' impact on climate change. While the IEA said such movements and individual decisions by companies and investors 'can make a major difference,' it insisted that 'Governments must take the lead... the greatest capacity to shape our energy destiny lies with governments.' ___ Follow AP's full coverage of climate change issues at https://www.apnews.com/Climate
  • Turkish authorities have re-arrested a journalist a week after he was released from prison, where he was serving a 10-year sentence for terror convictions. State-run Anadolu Agency said Ahmet Altan was returned to custody late Tuesday after prosecutors objected to his release and a court ordered his re-arrest. Altan together with another journalist, Nazli Ilicak, were convicted on Nov. 4 of aiding the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuse of masterminding a 2016 failed coup. Altan and Ilicak deny the accusations. The two were however, released from prison for time already served — after three years in detention — under laws that allow early release in certain cases. Amnesty International criticized Altan's re-arrest, saying 'it compounds an already shocking catalogue of injustice he has been subjected to.