Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Volkswagen faces multiple probes in US; EU governments to share 120,000 refugees; Who wants a limo? Pope Francis opts for Fiat 500 in US

1 Volkswagen faces multiple probes in US (BBC) Volkswagen is facing multiple investigations in the US including, reportedly, a criminal probe from the Department of Justice (DoJ). They follow an admission by VW that it deceived US regulators during exhaust emissions tests.

A DoJ criminal investigation would be serious, as federal authorities can bring charges with severe penalties against a firm and individuals. New York state's top lawyer has announced an investigation. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he will collaborate with other states to enforce consumer and environmental law.

"No company should be allowed to evade our environmental laws or promise consumers a fake bill of goods," Mr Schneiderman said in a statement announcing the probe. Meanwhile the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board are investigating the way VW cheated tests to measure the amount of pollutants coming from its diesel cars.

Volkswagen said 11 million vehicles worldwide are involved and it is setting aside €6.5bn (£4.7bn) to cover costs of the scandal. The DoJ often extracts hefty payments from companies to settle criminal charges.VW shares were down almost 17% on Tuesday in Frankfurt, after losing 19% on Monday.

2 EU governments to share 120,000 refugees (Ian Traynor & Patrick Kingsley in The Guardian) European governments have forced through a deal to impose refugee quotas, sharing 120,000 people between them in a watershed decision that several states bitterly opposed.
The decision to overrule opponents in the newer states of central Europe was highly unusual and perceived as an assault on the sovereignty by the four countries that voted against. While applauded by NGOs and immigration professionals, the decision was highly divisive.

After a months-long battle that the UN warned was a threat to European unity, the continent’s interior ministers finally decided to agree to the principle of sharing refugees between member states in the first meaningful move towards a common EU policy on asylum seekers.

But the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia all voted against a mandatory quota, while Poland deserted its regional allies to side with a decision pushed by Germany and France. The defeated four expressed resentment at what they perceive as western – and especially German – bullying. Slovakian and Czech politicians reacted with anger to a move they claim will alter the fabric of European society. Germany thanked Poland for breaking ranks with its fellow central Europeans.

Britain has refused to take part in the scheme, having separately promised to resettle 4,000 refugees this year and 20,000 over five years – the first few of whom arrived on Tuesday, the UK government announced without giving details.

The 120,000, plus a further 40,000 already agreed, does not represent the total number of immigrants who will be admitted by the EU, simply the number that will be subject to transnational quotas. About 1 million newcomers are expected to arrive in Germany alone this year. There is no suggestion that those beyond Germany’s quota will not be admitted.

3 Who needs a limo? Pope Francis opts for Fiat 500 in US (Hannah Parry in Daily Mail) There was no fancy limousine for Pope Francis on his first visit to the US after he chose to ride in a tiny Fiat 500, while the President was driven off from their meeting in his giant $1million armored car The Beast.

The 78-year-old Roman Catholic leader is in the US for the first time for a five-day tour across D.C., New York and Philadelphia, coinciding with the United Nations summit which will see more than 100 world leaders arrive in New York. President Barack Obama greeted the pontiff and introduced him to his family and Vice President Joe Biden before they walked down the line of dignitaries. The pair then got into separate motorcades.

Known for being humble and unassuming, the pontiff was driven away in the tiny Fiat 500 which was dwarfed by its security vehicles, while President Obama traveled in 'The Beast', his gigantic bomb-proof General Motors Cadillac with eight-inch thick armor-plating on its doors.

The car, worth over $1million, is 18ft in length, weighs 8 tons and has 8in thick armour plating on its doors. By comparison, Pope Francis' tiny Fiat 500, which is just 11ft 7in long and costs less than $20,000.

His choice of the small, economical car may be seen as a message on climate change - which will be the focus of his speech before the United Nations where he is expected to implore the General Assembly to take much more aggressive steps to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.

Since succeeding Pope Benedict in 2013, the former cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina has eschewed some of the more ostentatious trappings of his office and has chosen to live in a Vatican guest house rather than the opulent papal apartments. He has also picked more modest vehicles than his German predecessor who had a preference for a luxury Mercedes Popemobile.

Fiat USA tweeted, '#blessed' after the pope's vehicle departed for the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican's mission in Washington. The license plate on the Fiat reads SCV 1, which means Vatican City 1. SCV stands for Status Civitatis Vaticanae, Latin for Vatican City State. 

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