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Month: September 2015 (page 1 of 3)

Europe?s Energy Companies Go Back to Business With Russia

It was just like the old days before the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014. At the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on September 3?5, Gazprom clinched three major deals with some of Europe?s biggest energy companies.

One of the most important was the revival of a lucrative asset swap between the Russian energy giant and Wintershall, the energy division of BASF, a German chemical company. BASF had abandoned that swap arrangement in December 2014 because of the geopolitical consequences of Russia?s invasion of eastern Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.

The asset swap and other deals signed in Vladivostok show how German as well as Austrian energy companies are loath to quit Russia. They also show how Gazprom wants to tie Europe?s lucrative gas market more closely to Russia. In 2013, Russia supplied the EU?s 28 countries with 30 percent of their gas needs.

But more importantly, the deals confirm how Russia is determined to end Ukraine?s role as the major transit route for Russian gas to Europe. Half of the Russian gas imported by Europe crosses Ukraine.

Under the terms of the deal between BASF and Gazprom, BASF?s subsidiary Wintershall will obtain a stake of 25 percent plus one share in the Urengoy natural gas fields in Siberia. Both firms will develop the fields.

In return, Wintershall will transfer to Gazprom its jointly owned gas storage and trading business in Germany as well as a stake in its business in Austria. Through the asset swap, Gazprom will also receive a 50 percent stake in Wintershall?s exploration and production of oil and gas in the North Sea. These activities amounted to sales of over ?12 billion in 2014, according to BASF.

The second deal agreed to in Vladivostok involves Gazprom and a European consortium building a second Nord Stream pipeline under the Baltic Sea. This will enable Russia to send more of its gas directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine.

The consortium consists of BASF, German energy company E.ON, French electricity company Engie, Austrian oil and gas firm OMV, and Royal Dutch Shell. Gazprom will own a 51 percent share of a new company called New European Pipeline AG, which will develop the project. The other partners will have a 10 percent stake, except for Engie, which will own 9 percent.

?The fact that the global energy majors participate in the project bespeaks its significance for securing reliable gas supply to European consumers,? stated Alexey Miller, chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee.

Tell that to Poland and the Baltic states?and Ukraine. They had criticized the first Nord Stream pipeline, which was agreed to under the then German chancellor Gerhard Schröder in 2005. At the time, Warsaw argued that the deal increased Europe?s dependence on Russian energy.

Since then, however, Europe has been diversifying its energy supplies, spurred by the 2009 Ukraine gas crisis, which disrupted supplies to Europe because of a dispute between Russia and Ukraine over energy prices.

Also, through its Third Energy Package, the European Commission is introducing more competition in the energy sector by breaking the hold any one company can have over the production, distribution, and trading of gas. That is one of the main reasons why in December 2014 Russia pulled out of the South Stream project, which was to transport gas across the Black Sea to Southeastern Europe. Under the terms of the commission package, Russia would have had to open up the gas pipeline to competition.

The third deal reached in Vladivostok involves OMV?s participation in the Urengoy oil and gas fields. When the deal is concluded, OMV will acquire a 24.8 percent stake in the project in exchange for Gazprom obtaining some of the assets of OMV.

?This agreement is another step towards cooperation along the entire value chain with Gazprom,? said Rainer Seele, chief executive officer of OMV. ?We are importing gas from Russia for our European customers. We are investing together into the security of supply realizing the Nord Stream 2 project and we are now extending our trustful partnership towards the production of natural gas in Siberia,? he added.

Together, these deals mean that Europe?s big energy companies want to return to business as usual with Russia, despite the continuing conflict in Ukraine and the EU?s continuing sanctions on Russia.

But Russia too has its reasons for forging ahead with such deals. It needs the technology. It needs Europe?s reliable markets. And does it really want to depend on China for its gas exports and its trade?

So even though Europe is diversifying its energy sources and the European Commission is insisting that Gazprom play by the EU?s competition rules, sanctions or not, Europe is too lucrative for Russia to ignore. So much for the nationalist rhetoric to the contrary from the Kremlin. And sanctions or not, Russia?s underdeveloped gas fields are too lucrative for Europe?s energy companies to ignore.

Judy Dempsey is a nonresident senior associate at Carnegie Europe and editor in chief of Strategic Europe.

This piece was originally published by Carnegie Europe, the Brussels center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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Exhibition of work by Belgian and Bulgarian cartoonists in Sofia

belgian bulgarian cartoons

An exhibition of work by 13 Belgian and 15 Bulgarian cartoonists has opened at the Saints Kiril and Metodii National Library in Sofia.

Entitled ?Expressing their minds : media independence as seen by Belgian and Bulgarian cartoonists?, the exhibition is on until October 10 2015.



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Bulgaria is willing to accept 500 new refugees, cabinet ministers say

Refugees in Sofia 2 photo Ben Melrose V Photo Agency

Bulgaria is confirming its readiness to accept 500 newly-arrived refugees, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Roumyana Buchvarova said on September 8 after a meeting with Prime Minister and senior cabinet colleagues.

The meeting was attended by three deputy prime ministers ? Buchvarova, Ivailo Kalfin (labour and social policy) and Meglena Kouneva (European Policies Coordination and Institutional Affairs), as well as Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov.

The meeting agreed that Bulgaria was performing impressively in coping with the refugee and migrant situation, reporters were told. Bulgaria wants action stepped up to achieve an overall European policy and a fair approach to reallocation of refugees, which also meets the wishes of the refugees themselves.

Buchvarova told reporters that Bulgaria was continuing to insist on the signing of a tripartite agreement with Greece and Turkey regarding the refugee problem.

She said that maintaining a close relationship with Europol in investigations into Bulgarians involved in people-trafficking was also related to the issue.

Buchvarova said that Bulgaria shared the view of the European Union that a solution to be found so as to bring to an end the conflicts in the countries that the refugees were coming from, and also held that an option should be found so that refugees could be accommodated in countries close to the conflict zones, and not only be registered in refugee centres in Greece and Italy.

Bulgaria was insisting on a single refugee status system across the EU, she said.

?Bulgaria welcomes the efforts to update the measures to stop migration flows and towards a new common European policy on the distribution and reception of refugees,? she told reporters.

?We share the opinion that it is first necessary to be unceasing in efforts to find a solution to the crisis in countries that are the source of migration flows. The European Union must find a solution that would lead to the suspension of the conflicts that threaten the lives of the citizens of these countries,? Buchvarova said.

Kouneva said that Bulgaria had a unified political position on the issue and one that reflected largely the thinking of Bulgaria society.

She said that ?solidarity means responding? but with a sharing of responsibility and with ?very good organisation by the European Union? and on the part of Bulgaria.

?We cannot continue in the European Union with 28 different policies on migration and refugees,? Kouneva said.

Kalfin said that ?European solidarity cannot be limited to quotas?.

He said that this meant that when it comes to accommodation of refugees, account should be taken of social and economic conditions in the countries concerned.

Mitov reiterated his previous statements, that more attention to rapid resolution of conflicts in places that were the source of refugees.

It was expected that on September 8, the European Commission would formally approve new proposals for mandatory intakes of refugees.

The plan to deal with migration will be presented on September 9 to MEPs by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Ahead of the European Commission meeting, a final plan for how many refugees EU countries should accept had not yet been finalised.

There were separate versions, one an emergency scheme for urgent allocation of 120 000 people who have already entered the European territory. This is a supplement to the previous proposal by the Juncker Commission, based on the principle of quotas for resettlement of 40 000 refugees from Italy and Greece. Only that the new will be moved and people come across the border into Hungary.

The second initiative is the creation of a permanent mechanism for internal distribution of refugees to be automatically activated when the number in one of the peripheral countries with external borders significantly increases.

It is expected that Juncker will insist on future quotas being binding, regardless of the number of refugees who will be transferred.

Unofficially, there have been claims that consideration is being given that countries that refuse to fill their quotas would have to pay a certain sum with which to compensate other countries for support of refugees.

The refugee quota plan would, on principle, extend to all EU countries, with the exception of the UK, Ireland and Denmark, which have opt-out clauses in their treaties with the EU.

The program on migration is also expected to include specific ideas to strengthen the border agency Frontex and to get more power from sovereign governments to return illegal immigrants back to their countries of origin.

Some of the main Commission proposals need approval from MEPs, while others would only be a matter of consultation. A compulsory quota system must be adopted by a qualified majority of EU interior ministers on September 14.

According to unofficial estimates in the media on September 8, Bulgaria would have to accept a further 1600 people in addition to the 600 already agreed to.

A number of EU countries, including Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, oppose mandatory quotas.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz, in a speech to MEPs on September 7, said that migrants who make it to Europe are ?setting it an historic test?.

?Hundreds of thousands look to it for protection from war and persecution. The right response to this global challenge is not walls or deterrence, national selfishness or national measures, but a common asylum and refugee policy,? Schulz said.

?It is sheer desperation that drives families with young children to cross the Mediterranean in rafts, camp in stations, squeeze through barbed wire or hide in refrigerated lorries,? Schulz said, noting that many died.

These people were fleeing criminal or terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State, which not only destroyed irreplaceable cultural heritage in Palmyra, but beheaded its museum director in public, he said.

The real question that Europe must answer is whether it wants to be a ?Union against all?, or a ?Union of solidarity?, Schulz said, urging politicians, in all their debates on figures, not to forget that migrants are people, who come to Europe because they share its values.

?The humanity shown by those who give exhausted migrants water, food, clothes and toys for their children, or help out in refugee centres, must guide our response to the challenge, so that the image of the drowned little boy Aylan Kurdi, which was burned into all our memories, will never again be repeated,? he said.

(Photo: Ben Melrose/V Photo Agency)



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AA: Gazprom denies rumors of cancellation of Turkish Stream

Russian energy producer Gazprom on Monday denied rumors that the Turkish Stream pipeline project had been cancelled by Turkey.

Aleksandr Medvedev, deputy chairman of the management committee at Gazprom, issued the denial at a press conference. He said that talk of Turkey’s withdrawing from the construction of the project’s second, third and fourth leg was untrue.

The Turkish Stream project, publicly announced during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Turkey on Dec. 1 after the cancellation of the South Stream project. 

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Larry Lessig Has Way Too Much Faith in the Power of the Presidency

After years of Washington gridlock, a new conventional wisdom has taken hold among issue activists across the political spectrum: Real change has to come outside the Beltway, and state and local organizing is the best place to start. It?s the model that paved the way for victories on gay marriage and minimum wage hikes on the left, and anti-union laws, tax cuts, and anti-immigration laws on the right. The overarching hope seems to be that more incremental change will help drive a broader popular consensus, more diverse coalitions of advocates, and political will for change on the national level, ultimately making Washington less broken and dysfunctional. 

Larry Lessig doesn?t buy it. The Harvard Law professor, author, and activist believes our democracy has more fundamental problems that need to be fixed from the top down, and that?s why he?s running for president in 2016. While his diagnosis is correct, his solution is unlikely to move us in the right direction.  

Lessig is exploring a bid for the 2016 Democratic nomination that?s premised on a single idea: He?ll be president until Congress passes a single bill, the Citizen Equality Act, to eliminate roadblocks to voting, outlaw gerrymandering, and create a new public campaign financing system to counter the influence of big money in politics. Then he?ll resign. 

?The view that we can just win this incrementally, over time, and eventually have enough votes in Congress to bring this about I just think is wrong,? Lessig told me. ?We need the most powerful political force in our system to stand up to that resistance, and the way that American politics works, the president is the most powerful strategic political force.? 

Lessig describes his candidacy as ?a bet? that America will suddenly awaken to a fundamental, profound new realization about what went wrong with its democracy and want to fix it all in one go?a moment of Gestalt recognition. ?It?s a test to see if you give this bigger idea, whether they rally to it,? he said. If he?s elected, then Congress will simply feel compelled to pass the Citizen Equality Act because of the extraordinary circumstances that led to the country?s first ?referendum president.? If he raises $1 million by Labor Day, he?ll officially jump into the race; as of Friday morning, he?s already raised more than $840,000, putting him well on the way there. (Lessig’s interviews this week with the New Republic and other media outlets are part of his attempt to get over the finish line.)

Lessig?s assumption is that our democracy is so fundamentally broken that it can only be fixed by radical means?what he describes as ?an extraordinary mandate, a super mandate??and that any conventional president will simply preserve the structural flaws of our democracy, no matter how radical his or her politics may be. That includes Bernie Sanders, who?s also stressed the importance of overhauling campaign finance reform and refused to have a super PAC. 

?If you imagine what a Bernie Sanders administration looks like, in context of a Republican House for sure and maybe a Republican Senate, it?s hard to imagine that advancing beyond the stalemated, polarized Washington we have now,? said Lessig, who kicked off his exploratory bid in early August. His presidential bid comes on the heels of Lessig?s MayDay PAC, which was largely a flop: The ?superPAC to end all superPACs,? the group spent more than $10 million backing 2014 candidates who promised to limit big money in politics, but most of them lost. 

Lessig?s candidacy is essentially an intellectual stunt meant to compel the public to rethink what needs to change and how that needs to happen, as well as pressure other candidates on electoral reform and campaign finance. That?s why he?s less concerned about how such a presidency would actually work in practice, though he has answers for some of those concerns as well. 

But Lessig?s cure-all is flawed, even if you assume it?s just a provocation. Critics have piled on Lessig for having an overinflated view of the presidency, as the president cannot simply wave a wand to force Congress to pass legislation, and there’s nothing about a presidential campaign that would change the deep polarization of the Congress. Lessig insists that the extraordinary circumstances of his election would make his mandate ?hard to ignore,? adding that his campaign would try to elect ?referendum representatives? to Congress who?d also resign after passing the Citizens Equality Act.

The campaign?s more fundamental problem is its assumption that Washington needs an extraordinary forcing mechanism because it simply lacks the will to act in a broad, uniform sense, when there?s a clear partisan divide on the very issues that Lessig wants to change. The current 2016 Democratic candidates generally agree with the reforms that Lessig wants to support, while Republicans have limited access to the ballot box and blocked campaign finance reform efforts in Congress. 

Lessig, however, believes that Democratic control of Washington?which we had just six years ago?is an extraordinarily improbable outcome that shouldn?t be the basis of a political strategy, unlike his own extraordinarily improbable candidacy. ?Republicans are here to stay, and…a Democratic supermajority in Congress is as likely as world peace,? he wrote. Voters are too resigned to believe that partisanship is the answer, he told me. To that end, he believes it would be counterproductive to attack Republicans and more effective to go after the root causes of political polarization on both sides.  

?We have the chance to do is to elevate the debate above the standard partisan fight to imagine a campaign that could actually cut across partisan divisions,? he said. Lessig has even gone out of his way to praise Donald Trump for raising the issue of campaign finance by going after other candidates for being bought by lobbyists. ?Our teacher in chief, Donald Trump, has done a pretty extraordinary job of spreading this message about part of this equality, in funding campaigns,? Lessig said. 

Lessig views himself as an alternative ?teacher-in-chief? who can spread this message even farther by hinging the entire presidency on it. But it?s not as if Democrats are leaving these issue by the wayside. Though she doesn?t go as far as Lessig might like, Hillary Clinton has proposed big electoral reforms to expand voting; campaign finance reform is a huge part of Bernie?s stump speech. But the problem isn?t a failure of our political leaders to get the message out there. It?s finding those who are willing to do the less glamorous work on the ground?coalition-building, organizing pressure campaigns, electing downballot legislators?that fuels legislative change that?s more than hypothetical. And imagining that a president could, and should, fix it all doesn’t help that effort. 

Suzy Khimm is a senior editor at The New Republic.

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If it sounds too good and green to be true, it probably is.

The Mantria corporation has been known as being fraudulent for many years now. Finally, those involved have finally been indicted for their bullshit ?speed wealth? program.

They promised to make their investors ?stinkin?, filthy rich? with high-risk bets on real estate and green energy.Instead, federal prosecutors said, the cofounders of a company in the Philadelphia suburbs lined their pockets to the tune of $54.5 million in an elaborate Ponzi scheme.

Source: Three charged in Ponzi scheme linked to green energy ventures

Troy Wragg, 34, and Amanda Knorr, 32, cofounders of Bala Cynwyd-based Mantria Corp., were charged with multiple counts of conspiracy and fraud in an federal indictment unsealed Thursday.

Along with a third man, Wayde McKelvy, 52, who was also charged Thursday, prosecutors say, they encouraged investors to drain their retirement and mutual fund accounts to funnel money into empty projects with promises of yields as high as 484 percent.

The key to this hoax was use of the ?Speed of Wealth clubs? by the Mantria Corp to gain investors. These advertised seminars included Celebrity NFL Hall of Famer John Elway hired to draw crowds. The Mantria projects, including the Tennessee ?biochar? plant were featured. The scam targeted people close to retirement encouraging them to liquidate their funds and invest in the Mantria projects.

The environmental initiatives didn?t pan out. Including the unpatented and questionable biochar idea. So, the investors were paid via other investments. It took 6 years for these indictments to come after the SEC shut down and froze the Mantria assets.

Some skeptical sense would have gone far to help those who were swindled out of their savings. This is a good case where some Practical Skepticism would been a saving grace.

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Stop Being Petty, Bruce Springsteen. Let Republicans Play Your Music.

Another chapter has been written in modern politics? most one-sided love story: Chris Christie?s unrequited infatuation with Bruce Springsteen. In an interview with Fox News? Sean Hannity on Tuesday, the New Jersey governor allowed that the aging rocker isn?t ?all that fond? of him. The week prior, he tweeted a slavish commemoration of Born to Run?s fortieth anniversary, and a few days later a handful of Christie?s messages to a fifteen-year-old Springsteen fan listserv?including his jubilant account of meeting Springsteen in an airport?were made public. The governor?s getting more press for his loyal, spurned fandom than his floundering presidential campaign.

There?s something a little pathetic about Christie?s desire for the approval of his adolescent hero, and about the frequent speculation over whether he can be besties with an old man in a ripped denim vest. But by the same token, there?s something cruel in Springsteen?s persistent dismissal of his fan?s overtures. Their interactions have essentially conformed to the long-established pattern of admiration and discomfort between (almost uniformly conservative) politicians and (typically liberal, if they have any discernible allegiance) musicians. It?s a familiar phenomenon, and one that?s virtually always unfair to the conservatives.

The uneasy encounter between conservatism and popular culture has generally manifested itself in the petty unwillingness of prominent rock, soul, and hip-hop acts to allow Republicans to use their music in campaign events. In a media study spanning the last eight presidential cycles, FiveThirtyEight?s Walt Hickey dug up 28 instances in which musicians from John Cougar Mellencamp to K?Naan either complained about GOP candidates playing their songs or explicitly disallowed them from doing so, including each of the party?s presidential nominees since 1984. Hickey found just two examples of Democrats being similarly forbidden.

Getty Images

Springsteen and Obama at a campaign rally in 2012.

No neophyte in the political realm, Springsteen was the first and most famous celebrity scold, rejecting Ronald Reagan and George Will?s extremely tone-deaf attempt to conscript ?Born in the U.S.A.? as a mindless hymn of blue-collar patriotism. That episode was probably the only time one of these dustups needed to happen, and the last time it was handled well, since Reagan?s endorsing ?Born in the U.S.A.??a painstaking inventory of the rage and sorrow festering beneath his ?Morning in America? platitudes?was like George III whistling Yankee Doodle.

But more often than not, Republicans are well within the bounds of musical good taste (if not always intellectual property laws) in constructing their playlists. Consider Neil Young?s recent protest against Donald Trump?s embrace of ?Rockin? in the Free World,? his 1989 George H. W. Bush takedown. A dystopian anthem of the death and displacement that come from economic upheaval, the song is probably the perfect medium for Trump?s political message of American decline. Tom Petty happily permitted the Democratic National Convention to pipe in ?Won?t Back Down? as President Barack Obama?s entrance music in 2012, but he sent a cease-and-desist letter to George W. Bush?s 2000 campaign over its use of the same song. Think about it, though: Between Bush and Obama, whose worldview was really defined by spiky, hopeless intransigence?

These songwriters are showing more than a little naiveté by insisting that their megahits?which they wrote, packaged, and promoted to be enjoyed by a popular audience of millions, regardless of political preference?only be employed as sonic propaganda by the leaders who back their specific policy preferences. But they also betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between artist and listener. Perhaps the best thing about pop music is that people end up liking things you?d never expect. There?s no reason, particularly, why John McCain?s favorite song should be ABBA?s ?Dancing Queen,? but I?m completely tickled by the fact that it is. It?s unfair to ask that he refrain from associating himself with it, just as it would be unfair to ask me not to play the Ramones because Johnny was an avowed conservative.

Our ever-expanding political polarization would have no trouble replicating itself in song.

Classic rock music now makes up a kind of modern American songbook?a depoliticized public good that should be available to all people for all purposes (except torture). By denying the public use of that cultural repository to leaders they disagree with, these musicians are inadvertently deepening an existing musical divide between Democrats and Republicans. Our ever-expanding political polarization, which already finds expression in things as trivial as our television preferences, would have no trouble replicating itself in song. If Governor Scott Walker can?t play a 30-second snippet of a Dropkick Murphys single, he?s just going to turn to Kenny Chesney. So will the other Republicans, who can find in country music?as Senator Ted Cruz has?a reassuringly right-wing platform for which liberals have little taste (this is true for the male country singers, anyway; the women tend to be more enlightened, and therefore marginalized). Worse still, Republican candidates might take Mitt Romney as their model and attempt to cleanse themselves of any damaging preferences and affiliations, professing to ?like music of almost any kind.?

Go back and read some excerpts from Christie?s posts on that fan listserv. These are the dispatches of a genuine, unabashed Springsteen dork. It?s damn near impossible to detect true joy?let alone the kind of vulnerability that enthusiasts display around their fellow travelers?in Christie?s public persona, but you?ll find it in his dutiful cataloguing of set lists, his breathless awe after meeting his idol for the first time. (?He was everything I hoped he would be if I ever got a chance to meet him–gracious and incredibly normal in a truly extraordinary way. That was my Christmas gift.?) I?d gladly see Christie dealt a political defeat at the hands of an ardent liberal, but I?d be even happier to talk to him about outtakes from Darkness at the Edge of Town. The Boss belongs to both of us.

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Bulgarian archaeologists find nearly 3000 coins in clay pot at Sofia dig

The Serdica site in September 2012. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Archaeologists excavating under the Sveta Nedelya square in the centre of Bulgaria?s capital city of Sofia found a treasure trove of Roman era coins, the city hall said on September 4.

A total of 2976 silver coins in a single clay pot make this the largest single find of its kind in Sofia, which stands on the same ground as the Roman administrative centre (municipium) of Serdica. The dig site itself is just 100 metres from the buildings that house Bulgaria?s Government and Presidency.

The coins appear to have been collected over a period of more than a century, with the earliest ones bearing the profile of emperor Vespasian, who reigned in 69-79 CE. The latest coins bear the visage of emperor Commodus ? he of Gladiator infamy, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix in the film ? who reigned in 177-192 CE.

The treasure appears to have been accumulated slowly and includes coins minted during the reigns of each emperor in the Nerva-Antonine dynasty ? the period when Sofia rose to prominence, having been declared a municipium by Trajan (also known for the conquest of the Dacian tribes in what is now Romania). In addition to coins bearing the visage of various emperors, the treasure included coins with imagery of some of the notable women of that dynasty ? Faustina the Elder and Faustina the Younger, Bruttia Crispina and Lucilla.

The clay pot itself bore the name of one Selvius Callistus, believed to have been the last owner of the coin treasure, whom archaeologists believe to have been a Roman citizen of Greek descent.

?This is the first find of such magnitude made as part of a planned dig. I think it is not accidental either ? we do not want to leave our cultural and historical heritage to chance, which is why we have invested a lot in digs in recent years,? Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova said.

The coins are currently at the archaeological institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and will be put on display at the Museum of Sofia History, which is scheduled to open on September 17.

(The Serdica archaeological dig site in central Sofia. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer



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Archaeology: Fifth-century early Christian crypt found near Bulgaria?s Zaldapa Fortress

zalpada fortress

An early Christian crypt, among the largest in the Balkans, has been discovered by archaeologists near the Zaldapa Fortress close to the village of Krushari in Bulgaria?s Dobrich municipality, it was announced on September 4 2015.

The crypt was found at the site of a bishop?s basilica discovered in the 2014 archaeological season.

Archaeologists said that the dimensions of the burial site were not only among the largest of such finds in Bulgaria but also across the whole Balkan peninsula. It is nearly four metres long, 2.5 metres wide and was 2.5 metres high.

The entrance was walled with stone slabs, which appeared to have been penetrated probably around the 10th century.

Estimated to date from the fifth century, it appears to have been the last resting place of at least one martyr. Practice was for basilicas to be built atop the burial places of martyrs.

The director of the Regional Historical Museum in Dobrich, Kostadin Kostadinov, described the scale of the crypt as ?more than impressive?.

?We still do not know exactly what is in it, because we have not finished the excavation,? Kostadinov told public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television. Material was being removed, and the archaeological team hoped to find an inscription about who was buried there.

Zaldapa was the largest late Roman and Byzantine fortified town in the interior of Dobrudzha. The fortress is estimated to have been built in the late fourth century CE. The fortified town, believed to have been densely population, covered an area of about 35 hectares.

Estimated to have been founded by Thracians in about the eighth century BCE, the settlement grew larger after the Roman expansion in Thrace. For a short period of time it was the seat of an episcopate and it was the centre of the biggest rebellion against Emperor Justinian I the Great.

(Photo of Zaldapa Fortress: BNR)



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Psychic scam warning from police in Edmonton

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Police in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada are warning residents not to fall prey to psychics and astrologers who make extraordinary claims.

The old black magic has victims in its spell, and Edmonton police say swindlers who pose as astrologers or psychic readers are to blame.

Victims of recent scams come from across Canada, including Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto and Vancouver.

Investigators say many clients have paid between $2,000 and $15,000 to such self-proclaimed fortune tellers, who advertised their services on posters put up around the city.

Source: Edmonton police warn of pseudo-psychic scammers

They quote a psychic who says ?Anything over $200, my alarm bells would go off,? she said. ?Why are they charging so much? It?s ridiculous.?

$20 for a cold reading is fine, I guess. You don?t get THAT ripped off.

No psychic or astrologer is worth any money at all. Just pass them all by. They won?t remove a (nonexistent) curse, they can?t see your future, they probably won?t even give you good advice. In one form or another, all psychics are swindlers whether they have good or bad intentions.

If you have lost significant money to a psychic or astrologer, go to police. It may be embarrassing but you might save others from the same fate.

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