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7 electric aircraft you could be flying in soon

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(CNN) — Spurred by concerns about climate change, governments and companies worldwide are making plans for a post-oil era.

But, while there have been efforts to limit carbon emissions in the aviation industry by using biofuels, no solution is in sight to replace kerosene-burning commercial aircraft.

And yet, as with the car industry, electrical propulsion looks to be the way forward for air travel. So why have things been going so slowly airside? Mainly, it seems, because innovators face a very large hurdle.

Batteries vs jet fuel

"Electric batteries pack much less energy per unit of weight than jet fuel," says Bjorn Fehrm, an independent industry aviation expert at Leeham News. About 40 times less, even if we consider the best batteries available.

"Electric motors partly compensate this disadvantage by being more efficient in converting energy into power, but a huge gap remains."

The result is that aircraft would need to carry very heavy batteries in order to even approach the performance of current airliners. This option, quite literally, wouldn't fly.

Difficult doesn't mean impossible, though.

Major industry players, research organizations and entrepreneurs are working on several possible paths to make commercial electric flying a reality within a few years. Here are some of the most promising initiatives in the field:

Airbus: Disrupt or be disrupted

Airbus has already had success with its E-Fan light aircraft.

AIRBUS

In Europe, Toulouse-headquartered aircraft manufacturer Airbus has teamed up with German conglomerate Siemens to pursue its electrical aircraft research program.

Its E-Fan light aircraft managed to complete a crossing of the English Channel in 2015 by using only electric propulsion.

Since then, Airbus has ramped up its efforts and come up with some potentially disruptive concepts.

"We realized our earliest electrical aircraft projects were not ambitious enough," says Glenn Llewellyn, General Manager, Electrification at Airbus.

"We have since reoriented our development efforts and come up with some revolutionary concepts such as the Vahana and CityAirbus, that are close to becoming a tangible reality.

"They are going to have an impact in the way we understand urban mobility."

Vahana

A product of A³, Airbus' Silicon Valley arm, Vahana is an unmanned electrical aircraft designed to move a passenger or small cargo within the confines of a city.

Its appearance is straight out of a science-fiction film. The passenger module nestles between two parallel wings, one above and one below, each holding four engines.

Its vertical take-off and landing capabilities make it possible to fly from building to building, which may turn into an alternative to land-based urban transportation. Vahana also incorporates technology that allows it to avoid obstacles and navigate the complexities of the urban environment.

CityAirbus

Another futuristic concept that Airbus is working on is CityAirbus, whose maiden flight is scheduled for 2018.

Just like Vahana, it's self-piloted and will be able to take off and land vertically, making it ideally suited for urban use. The difference is that CityAirbus will be able to carry up to four passengers.

"In addition to zero emissions and low noise levels, we are confident their operating costs will make them competitive with traditional taxis," says Llewellyn.

In parallel to these projects, Airbus continues to work towards its longer-term aim of developing a fully electric airliner. The next major goal will be to develop an aircraft that crosses the megawatt threshold.

Airbus has plans underway for a 2MW (two-megawatt) aircraft. It's still a long way off what would be needed to power an alternative to present-day airliners, but already more than 60 times more powerful than the E-Fan's 30 kilowatts.

Zunum Aero

Aviation behemoth Boeing has invested in Seattle-based startup Zunum Aero.

Aviation behemoth Boeing has invested in Seattle-based startup Zunum Aero.

Zunum Aero

US multinational Boeing has invested, together with Silicon Valley's JetBlue Technology Ventures, in Seattle-based startup Zunum Aero.

Zunum's hybrid-electric aircraft promises something akin to door-to-door air travel, flying quietly and economically to thousands of underused local airfields and bypassing more inefficent and often congested larger airports.

The initial concept will be able to carry 12 passengers up to 700 miles, but it's been designed with scalability in mind. The idea is to develop a family of aircraft of increasingly larger size and longer range.

Although it starts as a hybrid, its design allows for a smooth transition to full electrical propulsion when new battery technology becomes available.

Eviation Aircraft

Eviation Aircraft

Eviation: A nine-passenger all-electric aircraft.

Courtesy Eviation Aircraft

Eviation Aircraft also focuses on the short-range regional market.

This Israeli startup has come up with a sleek nine-passenger, self-piloted, all-electric aircraft to operate primarily in the 100 to 600 mile range (although the aircraft will have a longer maximum range).

"This is a market where the overwhelming majority of the journeys are now made by car, as it is not efficient to fly commercial," says Omer Bar-Yohay, founder and CEO of Eviation. "We are here to change this."

"Almost no one is riding 40-year-old cars and yet most aircraft in our size category derive from designs that are at least four decades old," continues Bar-Yohay, who, prior to starting Eviation Aircraft, worked in the electrical vehicle industry.

By using small local airports, Eviation Aircraft is looking at the same market as Zunum Aero.

"The opportunity is so big […] that there is space for several operators, using different approaches," argues Bar-Yohay.

While Zunum "preferred to start with hybrid technology to get some extra range," Eviation Aircraft's optimistic belief is that "an all-electric aircraft is already able to serve our needs."

NASA X-57 Maxwell

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NASA X-57 Maxwell: 14 electrical motors provide distributed propulsion.

NASA X-57 Maxwell: 14 electrical motors provide distributed propulsion.

NASA

NASA's X-57 Maxwell is an example of out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to electrical aircraft design.

This awkward-looking experimental plane uses the distributed propulsion provided by 14 electrical motors, all of them integrated into a specially designed high wing.

This unusual configuration, where the two larger motors at the wingtips reduce drag associated with wingtip vortices, is designed to bring about a 500% efficiency increase when cruising at higher speeds.

The X-57 is expected to fly in early 2018.

Pipistrel Alpha Electro

Pipistel Alpha Electro electric plane

Pipistel Alpha Electro: Yours for $129,800.

From Pipistrel

It may lack the outlandish looks of other electric aircraft designs but, unlike them, the modest Slovenian-made two-seater Pipistrel Alpha Electro, whose first prototype was known as WATTsUP, has already reached production stage and is market-ready.

Powered by a 60-kilowatt electric engine developed by Siemens, the Alpha Electro can stay airborne for about an hour. Not a long time, admittedly, but more than enough for the training sorties it was designed for.

The Alpha Electro, which costs $129,800, and recharges its batteries the same way as a mobile phone, could significantly reduce the costs of initial pilot training, according to its manufacturer.

In addition to supplying some systems for NASA's X-57, Pipistrel is also working with Uber on the development of an electric vertical take-off (VTOL) vehicle for urban mobility.

Wright Electric

Wright Electric electric plane

Wright Electric hopes its all-electric airliner will serve short-haul routes.

From Wright Electric

In September 2017, US startup Wright Electric announced that it had partnered with European low-cost airline EasyJet in order to develop an all-electric airliner.

Wright Electric's truly ambitious project is to create an airliner in the 120-186 seat range capable of flying distances of up to 335 miles.

Although this isn't a particularly long range, it would be enough to cover many busy short-haul routes, such as London to Paris or New York to Boston.

The expectation is for range and capacity to be increased progressively as technology improves and that a whole family of aircraft will eventually be produced.

Small is beautiful

Independent experts in the field of electric propulsion remain cautious about the prospects for electric flight.

"I have crunched the numbers and I think we are still more than a decade away from having all-electric commercial airliners," says Bjorn Fehrm.

"The performance gap you need to bridge, particularly when it comes to the energy density of batteries, is huge."

However, he says smaller-scale projects like Vahana have a real chance of becoming the first commercially feasible electrical aircraft.

"You can scale gradually from there, but you have to start somewhere.

"The first aircraft may not be that competitive, but, as happened with cars, governments may use regulation to support electric aircraft, on the basis that they are quieter and less polluting."

Gradual process

Andreas Klöckner, coordinator for electric flight at DLR, the German Aerospace Center, agrees that the transition to electric flight is likely to be gradual.

"We already have electric aircraft for two to four passengers, like the Pipistrel Alpha Trainer or like the HY4 flying fuel cell testbed.

Next you go for up to 19 passengers, like the Zunum concept. You learn and you keep scaling up until you reach commercial airliner classes."

For longer-range and heavier aircraft, however, he predicts that "as long as batteries are too heavy" hybrid solutions will be required.

Klöckner adds another element to the discussion.

"Research in the field of electric flight has some interesting derivatives. For example, electric motors could be distributed along the wing, such as with NASA's X-57," he says.

"In addition to aerodynamic advantages, this could make heavy vertical tails redundant."

Vertical tails are currently needed to steer during flight, but this is a task that could be taken on by electric motors as they react very quickly to commanded speed changes.

Says Klöckner, "It opens up new ways to think about aircraft design."

"Unlike jet engines, the efficiency of electric motors doesn't benefit from size, so instead of two or more large engines under the wings you can have many smaller motors distributed along the fuselage," explains Jeff Engler, CEO of Wright Electric.

This would lead not only to quieter, cleaner aircraft, but also ones that look radically different to those in the air today.

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11 of Budapest’s best festivals

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(CNN) — Straddling the picturesque Danube, Budapest provides the perfect backdrop for a festival and this city definitely knows how to put on a show.Barely a month goes by when the Hungarian capital isn't playing host to some sort of event celebrating food and drink, music, dance or the arts.

For those keen to go and join the party, we've rounded up some of the most entertaining festivities happening in Budapest throughout the year.

Rosalia Festival

Rosalia Festival is dedicated to rosé wines, sparkling wines and champagnes.

Courtesy Rosalia Festival

Each year, Budapest jumps the gun on summer over a weekend in May for the Rosalia Festival.

Created by the organizers of September's wine festival, it's Hungary's only event dedicated to celebrating rosé wine, as well as champagne and sparkling wines.

Taking place over three days, it features a Rosé Garden, tastings, jazz concerts, Hungarian food stalls and special events for children.

Dates: May 31 to June 2, 2019

Sziget Festival

Sziget Festival

One of the biggest music festivals in Europe — Sziget Festival takes place every August.

Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

For more than 25 years, the week-long Sziget Festival has been taking over the Danube river island of Óbudai-sziget every August, showcasing more than 1,000 performers and drawing tens of thousands of people from all over the world.

It's one of Europe's biggest music festivals, attracting performers including 2019 headliners Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran.

Revelers soak up the lively ambience as dance artists put on theatrical performances on the site and everyone goes for a dip in the Danube along the sandy beach.

Dates: Aug 1 to 13, 2019

Budapest Summer Festival

Held throughout June, July and August, the Budapest Summer Festival brings some of the world's top classical musicians and ballet dancers to Margaret Island, located in the heart of Budapest.

There's a varied program of opera, ballet and classical music — with a bit of jazz and pop thrown in for good measure — most of which takes place in the enchanting setting of the Margaret Island Open-Air Stage.

Look out for the performances held in the open-air stage set up in the shadow of Margaret Island's historic water tower.

Dates: June to September

Budapest Summer Festivals, Open-Air Theatre, 1122 Budapest, Városmajor; +36 1 375-5922

Budapest Christmas markets

Budapest winter activities

The Christmas market on St. Stephen's Square is one of Budapest's top draws in winter.

Courtesy Hungarian National Tourist Office

Prepare to be utterly charmed by Budapest's Advent Christmas fair, which is held annually in the square in front of St. Stephen's Basilica.

From late November to early January, the area is filled with market stalls selling trinkets, toys, crafts and plenty of irresistible Hungarian food and drink.

Those who visit on Sunday can watch the Advent candles being lit.

To top it all off, there's a small but perfectly formed ice rink in the center, adding a further dollop of festive magic.

Even more treats are on offer at Vorosmarty Square, where the city's main Christmas market is held.

There are more than 100 stalls selling gifts and food — all of which have been personally vetted by a jury — ensuring the quality is high.

Budapest Wine Festival

Every September, Buda Castle becomes one giant civilized party in the late summer sun when scores of wine producers show off their latest vintages in a relaxed, yet convivial atmosphere.

Buy a glass and take it round for tastings at the various stalls, picking up Hungarian snacks along the way.

Four festival stages take turns with music and entertainment throughout the four-day event and there's also a Harvest Parade around Buda Castle celebrating folk music and dancing.

Dates: September 5 to 8, 2019

Budapest Fish Festival

Budapest Fish Festival

Traditional Hungarian cuisine meets international creations at the Budapest Fish Festival.

Courtesy Budapest Fish Festival

Hungarians spend the winter months keeping warm with a dish called halászlé — a red hot fisherman's soup brimming with paprika and river fish.

When early March comes round, many head to the three-day Budapest Fish Festival to feast on this spicy dish and plenty of other types of fish.

Heroes' Square is the setting for cooking contests, wine tastings, folklore music and fun for the kids — not to mention stall after stall of mouthwatering dishes.

Dates: March 2, to 4, 2019

Budapest Fish Festival, Heroes' Square, Budapest, Hősök tere, 1146

Danube Carnival

The Margaret Island Open-Air Stage and a host of other open-air venues around the Danube become filled with color during this week-long festival of folk dance in June.

Several hundred international dancers and musicians bring their own cultural sounds and dances to mingle with traditional Hungarian styles at the annual event.

The Carnival Parade that goes along the Danube Promenade to Vorosmarty Square is one of the festival's main highlights.

Dates: TBC

Festival of Folk Arts

Festival of Folks Arts

Festival of Folk Arts brings top Hungarian craftsmen to Buda Castle.

Janos Peter photography

Craftspeople from all around Hungary descend on Buda Castle every August for a three-day celebration of crafts made in the country for hundreds of years.

Visitors can take part in workshops and watch the experts in action as they spin, weave, carve, paint, demonstrating skills that have been handed down over the generations.

The festival includes folk dances and performances and — this being Hungary — plenty of food stalls offering delectable traditionalRead More – Source

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Chief rabbi says move has caused widespread confusion

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Rabbi Michael Schudrich says the law, which makes it illegal to accuse the Polish nation of complicity in crimes committed by Nazi Germany, including the Holocaust, has caused widespread confusion."We are hearing many more distortions of facts than we heard two weeks ago," Schudrich told CNN. "The way the law was written and presented failed to meet its goal and that's something we are going to have to work on."Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the bill late Tuesday ahead of it being assessed by the country's Constitutional Tribunal. The law would ban the use of terms such as "Polish death camps" in relation to Auschwitz and other such camps located in Nazi-occupied Poland. Violations would be punished by a fine or a jail sentence of up to three years.The new law has led to widespread criticism from Israel, France and the United States."My sense is that no one anticipated this strength of a negative response," Schudrich said. "Part of it clearly is that for many Poles it's been too painful and too long to hear expressions like 'Polish Death Camp;' it's blaming them for something they didn't do.""One of the most horrible places on the earth Auschwitz — you can understand it that if you didn't do it and are being blamed for it. that's upsetting. So I understand that. However the way the law has been written, the way it had been explained to the public, was done clearly in an insufficient manner."In the face of hatred, we cannot be indifferentPoland was the center of Ashkenazi Jewry before the Holocaust, with around 3.5 million Jews living in the country before the outbreak of World War II in 1939. By the end of the war, just 10% of the community remained. According to Yad Vashem of the Holocaust remembrance center in Jerusalem, between 30,000 and 35,000 Polish Jews were saved with the help of non-Jewish Polish citizens. Schudrich, who was appointed as the country's chief rabbi in 2004, has spent most of the past 30 years working with the Jewish community in Poland.Read: Poland's Holocaust law should terrify youHe believes that the Jewish community and the government need to communicate more clearly. "What is very important now is that the two sides listen to each other," he added. "So what has been heartbreaking over the last 10 days is how people have been talking at each other.""Clearly this law was supposed to me about education, to educate the world what the Poles did and didn't do during World War II, what they were complicit of and weren't complicit of. It's education and as we could see the goal of education has not been met. The opposite has happened. "Read: Anti-Semitism is still alive in Germany 70 years after the Holocaust

'This is not meant to revise history'

While there is a consensus among historians that certain Polish individuals and groups did collaborate with the Nazi occupiers, recent Polish governments have sought to challenge that narrative.Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Bartosz Cichocki defended the new law.Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Bartosz Cichocki said the law would restrain those who claim Poland was responsible for the actions of Nazi Germany, not rewrite the country's history. "This is not meant to revise the history whatsoever, this is meant to guard the truth about the Holocaust," Cichocki told CNN."We have to realize that when he or she says that the Polish state or the Polish nation is responsible for the Holocaust, they diminish the responsibility of the real perpetrators."This is also a way of Holocaust denial and we want to fight it and we will stand together with Israel and the other countries to guard the truth of the Holocaust. Our law actually follows the example of legislation all over Europe and Israel that penalizes Holocaust denial." The law, which includes exemptions for those carrying out academic research and art, has been sent to the country's Constitutional Tribunal to ensure it doesn't breach the Polish constitution. "I can't see how people including witnesses of history telling their stories could be punished. This is simply a misunderstand and this is not in the law," Cichocki added.

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Incident follows Polish PM’s claims Jews implicated in Holocaust

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Profanities were scrawled across a noticeboard outside the embassy and a swastika had been drawn on the entrance gate. Israeli police have opened an investigation into the incident.Tensions between the two countries have ratcheted up since Poland passed a controversial new Holocaust-related bill earlier this month.The law, which, which makes it illegal to accuse the Polish nation of complicity in crimes committed by Nazi Germany, including the Holocaust, also bans the use of terms such as "Polish death camps" in relation to Auschwitz and other such camps located in Nazi-occupied Poland. Violations would be punished by a fine or a jail sentence of up to three years.Israel has been vociferous in its criticism of the new law, accusing Poland of attempting to rewrite history.But Morawiecki's comments on Saturday at a security conference in Munich prompted a fresh wave of anger.Replying to an Israeli journalist when questioned about whether a person could be imprisoned for claiming there were Polish collaborators in the Holocaust, Reuters reported Morawiecki as saying, "Of course it's not going to be punishable, not going to be seen as criminal, to say that there were Polish perpetrators, as there were Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as there were Ukrainian, not only German perpetrators."Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has been fiercely criticized for his comments.The comments sparked an outcry from Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who phoned Morawiecki to register his disgust.Netanyahu labeled the comments as "unacceptable" and insisted "there was no basis for comparing the actions of Poles during the Holocaust to those of Jews." Netanyahu added that the "distortion regarding Poland could not be corrected by means of another distortion."Israeli President Reuben Rivlin described Morawiecki's remarks as a "new low."Read: Poland's Holocaust law should terrify youA Polish government spokesperson sought to clarity Morawiecki's comments, insisting they were not "intended to deny the Holocaust, or charge the Jewish victims of the Holocaust with responsibility for what was a Nazi German perpetrated genocide.""The Prime Minister has repeatedly and categorically opposed denial of the Holocaust — the murder of European Jewry — as well as anti-Semitism in all its forms," the spokesperson said in a statement."Attempts to equate the crimes of Nazi German perpetrators with the actions of their victims — Jewish, Polish, Romani among others — who struggled for survival should be met with resolute, outright condemnation."Poland was the center of Ashkenazi Jewry before the Holocaust, with around 3.5 million Jews living in the country before the outbreak of World War II in 1939. By the end of the war, just 10% of the community remained. Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust overall.Polish Holocaust law sows 'distortions,' Poland's chief rabbi saysAccording to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, between 30,000 and 35,000 Polish Jews were saved with the help of non-Jewish Polish citizens.Despite more Poles being honored as Righteous Among the Nations — non-Jews who helped Jews during the Holocaust — than any other country, there is a consensus among historians that certain Polish individuals and groups did collaborate with the Nazi occupiers. Recent Polish governments have sought to challenge that narrative.Earlier this month, Poland's deputy foreign minister Bartosz Cichocki told CNN that the new law was "not meant to revise the history whatsoever, this is meant to guard the truth about the Holocaust.""We have to realize that when he or she says that the Polish state or the Polish nation is responsible for the Holocaust, they diminish the responsibility of the real perpetrators," Cichocki added.

CNN's Oren Liebermann reported from Jerusalem. James Masters wrote from London.

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Swarm of drones lights up the night

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Written by CNN Staff

This story is part of "Smart Creativity," a series exploring the intersection between high-concept design and advanced technology.

In mid-August, just after sunset, the skies over Amsterdam were lit by a swarm of 300 glowing drones moving through the night in a tightly choreographed spectacle.

The eye-catching display, titled "Franchise Freedom," was the work of Studio Drift, an Amsterdam-based art studio helmed by Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta. Since 2007, the duo has made its name with striking, often light-based installations that explore the relationship between nature and technology.

A swarm of drones lights up the night sky

"(Technology is) an evolution from nature," Nauta said. "It's just the canvas that we work with. The canvas and the paint. It helps us to express what we want to achieve.

"Franchise Freedom," which debuted at Art Basel Miami Beach last December, was an attempt to recreate murmuration, a phenomenon that sees massive flocks of birds flying in coordinated patterns through the sky. While following their own paths, each bird contributes to the larger shape formed by the flock.

"Franchise Freedom" over Amsterdam in August 2018. Credit: Courtesy Ossip van Duivenbode

To bring the concept to life, Studio Drift had to call on tech specialists.

"We talked to certain parties, like (the electronic parts distributor) ARS Electronics, and we motivated them to (research) the centralized steering of a group of drones that you can program to do different kinds of movements in the sky. Then, at a certain point, Intel got involved in the research and developed the hardware to create these sculptures," Nauta said.

"Of course, when you see a piece of hardware on the floor, it doesn't do anything. But when you have 300 swarming before you, it really becomes a living entity."

Studio Drift used 300 Intel Shooting Star drones to create "Franchise Freedom."

Studio Drift used 300 Intel Shooting Star drones to create "Franchise Freedom." Credit: Courtesy Studio Drift

Watch the video above to find out more about Studio Drift's "Franchise Freedom" project, and how technology informs their practice.

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Hungary is starting to look a bit like Russia. Here’s why

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Hungary, a member of the European Union and NATO, is no autocracy, but after eight years of Orban's rule, its political system has begun to resemble Russia's.The space for civil society and a functional independent media in Hungary is shrinking rapidly. A law passed in 2011 redrew the lines on the electoral map, in what opposition parties and the media criticized as blatant gerrymandering.Orban, 54, has made no secret of his admiration for Russia's political system. He has proudly described his vision for Hungary as an "illiberal democracy," a phrase that brings Russia's "sovereign democracy" to mind, both euphemistic terms for an autocratic style of governance.Orban served first as prime minister from 1998 to 2002, but it was after he was again elected in 2010 that he and Putin began meeting annually. And like Putin, Orban has surrounded himself with a powerful group of businesspeople. He has also come under scrutiny for awarding contracts to a small number of businessmen and family members, according to a Reuters analysis. His spokesman, Zoltan Kovacs, brushed off these allegations to CNN, saying it was "up to the courts to decide" in such cases.Ironically, Orban launched his political career in 1989 with a hard-hitting speech demanding that Soviet forces leave the country after more than 40 years of occupation."For two decades, Orban was probably the staunchest anti-Russian politician in the whole of Eastern Europe," said Andras Racz, a Russian expert and senior research fellow at the Centre for Strategic and Defense Studies in Budapest.That all changed when he was elected for the second time in 2010, when his public rhetoric on Russia began to take on a positive tone.In a recent report looking at Russian meddling in Austrian, Czech and Hungarian elections, the Budapest-based Political Capital research institute said Hungary was the most vulnerable of the three countries. "Hungary represents a case where the government has enabled space for Kremlin interference to shore up its own political strength, which is largely based on anti-migrant and anti-European integration policies," the report says.Kovacs dismissed the idea that Russia wielded influence on Orban or his government as "stupid.""There's not one element of our policies that can suggest to you that we're closer to Russia or Mr. Putin in any way than any Western European country," he said.

Russia's playbook

But some of Hungary's new policies look like they're straight out of Russia's playbook.Hungary passed a law last year that imposes restrictions on nongovernmental organizations receiving foreign funding. The law looks almost identical to Russia's Foreign Agent Law, which has been used to crack down on opposition voices and independent media.The Hungarian law requires NGOs receiving more than 24,000 euros from foreign entities to register with the government and disclose their sources. Orban has argued it is necessary for transparency and to stamp out money laundering, but Hungarian NGOs see it as an attempt specifically to target organizations funded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Soros's Open Society Foundations has been banned from Russia, which sees the organization as a security threat. The Hungarian government has since last year vilified Soros in countless billboards across the country. One pictures him with opposition party leaders, and another says, "Let's not allow Soros to have the last laugh!"A Fidesz billboard features Soros among opposition figures and says, "They would dismantle the border fence together."Peter Szijjarto, the country's foreign affairs minister, defended the campaign, labeling Soros a "national security risk," in a statement. He accused the financier of wanting to demolish a border security fence and "settle hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants in Europe and Hungary." Soros's spokesman said his views have been misrepresented. Soros was born in Hungary to a Jewish family and fled to the UK in the 1940s to escape Nazi occupation. He later immigrated to the United States, where he became one of the world's richest investors and a philanthropist. In fact, it was thanks to a Soros-funded scholarship that Orban was able to study at the University of Oxford.The anti-Soros campaign sits uncomfortably close to a resurgence of anti-Semitism in the country, which has entered Hungarian politics in parliamentary debate.Kovacs told CNN that while Hungary must allow open borders to EU citizens as a member of the bloc, it did not want any migration at all beyond that. He praised Hungary's border fences with Serbia and Croatia, built in 2015 specifically to keep asylum seekers out.

Orban's control of the media

Journalist Anita Komuves, 35, says she is targeted by the government on two fronts — first because she's a reporter and second as someone who works for an NGO receiving funding from Soros.Komuves worked for Hungary's largest opposition print newspaper, Nepszabadsag, for 11 years before it was shut down suddenly in 2016. She found out about the closure from a news alert on her phone.The government denies shutting it down, but Komuves says that it "was obviously a political decision.""It was because we uncovered too many stories about corruption."The company that owned the newspaper, Mediaworks, was sold just weeks later to Lorinc Meszaros, a close Orban ally. "This way, they took over TV channels, several radio channels, the biggest news portal, a few weekly magazines and the entire regional media outside Budapest," Komuves said.Journalists and supporters of newspaper Nepszabadsag protest in Budapest on October 16, 2016.Komuves thought about leaving her profession, but she found a job with Atlatszo, an NGO of journalists, hackers and lawyers, one of the few remaining independent media organizations left in the country In a recent article, she argued that while there was evidence of Russian trolling and fake news sites in Hungary, Moscow didn't need to try particularly hard to influence the vote, because Orban and his government already lean toward Moscow and they lead in the polls.State media has also expanded under Orban and is working as a propaganda machine, Komuves said. It has picked up a significant number of news stories by Russia's Sputnik and Russia Today, both widely considered mouthpieces of the Russian government.Orban has also used the law to clamp down on the media, spearheading legislation that established a new parliament-appointed media control body that fined media outlets for "imbalanced" news coverage, or content that the body considers "insulting" to the majority. The financial crisis of 2008 left many media organizations open to takeovers. Around 90% of Hungary's media is now either directly or indirectly controlled by Orban's Fidesz party, according to Marius Dragomir, director at the Centre for Media, Data and Society at the Central European University's School of Public Policy. Writing in a blog post for the London School of economics, he described the situation as "a classic case of media capture."The widely watched TV2 was bought by a Hungarian-American former Hollywood producer, Andy Vajna, who had worked in Orban's government. He won the procurement in a legal battle against Lajos Simicska, a media tycoon and friend-turned-foe of Orban.Swaths of local media were also bought up by Meszaros, an Orban ally who rose from working as a gas fitter to become a wealthy businessman and the mayor of the town where Orban was born, Felcsut.

Orban's football obsession

It was one of Meszaros's companies that built a large football stadium right across from Orban's childhood home in Felcsut.It seats 3,500 people in the town of just 1,600, and has been ridiculed in independent media as a vanity project for the soccer-obsessed leader.Besides the stadium, there is little going on in Felcsut. Along a dusty stretch of road there are two small grocery stores, a rundown coffee shop and a tobacconist.The stadium represents much of what Hungarians are becoming frustrated with — corruption allegations have begun to spread through Orban's government and questions are regularly raised about the way lucrative government contracts are awarded. Janosne Abraham says the government should do more for poor Hungarians.Janosne Abraham, a 59-year-old woman who works at the larger of Felcsut's two grocery stores, is vocally critical of Orban."Where is all the money? He just steals it all and doesn't spend it on anything useful, like healthcare," she said."That football stadium is a waste. It costs so much to light up and clean, and it hasn't brought in money for the town."Abraham isn't happy about Orban's relationship with Putin either.Pancho Arena in Felcsut, a town of just 1,600.She points to a nuclear power plant project that Hungary awarded to Russia's state-owned Rosatom,saying that she was worried her country would become too dependent on Russia for energy. The project was controversial because Hungary awarded the contract to Rosatom without a tender process and without revealing its costs to the state budget. The European Commission originally opposed the funding plan, which involved a 10 billion-euro investment from Russia, but after an investigation it gave it the green light.Kovacs defended the government's process, saying that only Russia had the experience and the technology to carry it out. He denied there was anything opaque about it.But even for those fed up with Orban, there are few feasible alternatives. The opposition is fragmented and no other party appears to have a real chance of winning.A woman with her children playing on the street in Felcsut said she would vote for Orban's party because, "This town is all Fidesz. It's better to stay silent and not get into conflicts."She is disappointed with allegations of government corruption, but she points out Orban's government wouldn't be Hungary's first to misuse funds. "They're all the same."

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German court orders extradition of suspect in Bulgarian journalist’s killing

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The suspect was arrested in Stade, near the northern German city of Hamburg, on Tuesday.According to a statement from the Higher Regional court in Celle, the man will be extradited within the next 10 days from Germany to Bulgaria.Bulgarian authorities accuse him of raping, killing and robbing Marinova, a 30-year-old television journalist, on October 6 in the northern Bulgarian city of Ruse.The Stade District Court in Germany questioned the suspect on Wednesday and ordered his detention. According to the prosecutor in Celle, Bernd Kolkmeier, the suspect partially confessed to his actions during questioning. In a statement, the prosecutor detailed the suspect's version of events. "He admitted that in the morning of 7 October 2018 he was under strong influence of alcohol and drugs and he hit a previously unknown young woman in the face over a random argument in a park on the banks of the Danube river in Ruse, Bulgaria," Kolkmeier said. "He then lifted the woman up and threw her into a bush. He denies intent to kill as well as raping and robbing the woman." Kolkmeier added that "according to the suspect he did not previously know the victim and this would exclude a political motivation. He will be extradited to Bulgaria and the Bulgarian authorities will take over the investigation.'' Kolkmeier told CNN the suspect was 20 years old. A spokeswoman for the Bulgarian Interior Ministry previously said he was 21.Most recently, Marinova anchored the program "Detector" on TVN, in which she interviewed two journalists who were investigating alleged corruption involving European Union funds. She previously hosted a lifestyle program and was involved with charity work. She was the mother of a young daughter.

CNN's Nadine Schmidt reported from Berlin and Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London.

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Russian opposition leader had called for rallies on ‘rigged elections’

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Navalny wrote that he was released until a court hearing, but did not provide details on when the hearing would be held. He also thanked demonstrators who had gathered near the detention center where he was being held. Navalny, a longtime critic of President Vladimir Putin, was arrested earlier Sunday during nationwide rallies protesting what the opposition leader calls rigged presidential elections set to take place on March 18. "I've been detained. This doesn't matter. Come to Tverskaya (Street). You are not going there for me, it's for you and your future," Navalny tweeted after his arrest.Within minutes of arriving at Pushkinskaya Square, where hundreds of protesters had gathered, Navalny was wrestled into a patrol van by police, in dramatic footage posted on Youtube.Moscow Police said Navalny was taken to a police station for arraignment on charges of illegally organizing a protest. If found guilty, he faces 30 days in detention and a fine. Hundreds of demonstrators fill Pushkinskaya Square in central Moscow.Coordinating protests in the largest country in the world by land mass is no small task, and the Russian Interior Ministry said events coordinated with local authorities were held in 46 places.Demonstrations have ranged from gatherings of a few dozen in remote areas to about a thousand people in central Moscow–which the Interior Ministry described as an "uncoordinated mass demonstration." Protesters also turned out in arctic areas of the country, where the temperature during winter is around -40 degrees, said CNN's Fred Pleitgen in Moscow.Elsewhere, there were 600 demonstrators in Russia's third-most populous city, Novosibirsk, and 550 protesters in Nizhny Novgorod in western Russia, the ministry said.Around 1,000 protesters gathered in the Moscow area Sunday, police said."I am proud of all those who joined us today in any capacity: from Magadan to Sochi. From the FBK office to the headquarters in Kemerovo. From Krasnodar to Yakutsk, where the meeting took place at -40. These are real citizens," Navalny said in a Facebook post."Be real citizens. Go out to the demo in your city."

Police interrupt broadcast

Earlier Navalny said police forced their way into his Moscow office hours before the protests were due to take place. A Russian police officer stands outside Alexei Navalny's Moscow office on Sunday.He said police sawed through the door of the office's studio during a YouTube broadcast Sunday morning."In order to take down our broadcast, the police cut out the door to the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) office, and then began to saw the door to the studio right in the middle of broadcast," he said in a Facebook post."Do you know the formal reason? Dmitry Nizovtsev, the host, was accused of planting a bomb (without actually going off air, we must assume), and it was necessary to cut the doors ASAP in order to find this bomb."And then they detained him. Watch it, it's a good example of what the Russian police has become."CNN contacted the Moscow police, but officials there said they "have no information regarding the raids."Service members gather at Triumfalnaya Square ahead of an opposition rally calling for a boycott of March 18 presidential elections.Eight staff members from Navalny's Moscow offices were detained in the raid and were among 185 people arrested across the country, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info. They included the head of Navalny's Moscow headquarters, Nikolay Lyaskin, who was grabbed by police on his way out of the office, according to Navalny press secretary Kira Yarmysh.During the raid, police also seized computers and cameras from the office, tweeted the director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, Roman Rubanov.One protester in Moscow brandishes a placard saying: "Demand lawful election."

Navalny's weapon of choice

Putin controls and dominates Russian State TV, where there has so far been no mention of the demonstrations.Instead, Navalny and his supporters have turned to YouTube to get their message out, with over 50,000 people watching his live feed as of Sunday morning.

Who is Alexei Navalny?

Navalny, Russia's best-known opposition leader, was barred from running in the upcoming elections after a 2017 criminal conviction for embezzlement. The Russia threat is real -- and it mattersCritics say the case against the 41-year-old was politically motivated.In an exclusive interview with CNN at his Moscow headquarters last week, Navalny accused the Putin administration of being "built on corruption" and warned of growing impatience for political change. "Putin has been in power for 18 years now," he said. "People are not ready to wait another six years, then another six, then another."The Kremlin has rejected allegations of widespread, high-level corruption and has condemned Navalny as a dangerous influence whose calls for protests could plunge Russia into chaos.

CNN's Antonia Mortensen, Fred Pleitgen, Carol Jordan and Dakin Andone contributed to this report

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Irish government under fire over COVID-19 deaths in care homes

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The Irish government is coming under mounting pressure over the number of deaths in care homes.

Residential and community care facilities including nursing homes now account for more than 62 per cent of COVID-19 deaths, according to recent figures released by the Department of Health.

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That proportion has risen in recent weeks and is high compared to several other EU countries, where around half of coronavirus deaths are believed to occur in nursing homes.

One nurse, who asked not to be identified, told Euronews that more than half of the care staff at the nursing home where she works are off sick, and they now rely on ad-hoc agency personnel to take their place.

“Theyre moving from different nursing homes and different hospitals throughout the country all over Ireland, so its not just ours,” she said.

“Many of those Ive spoken with havent been tested, and the reason they havent been tested is theyve displayed no symptoms.”

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As of Monday evening, 1,467 people had died from COVID-19 in Ireland, and 23,135 have tested positive for the virus, according to new figures from the National Public Health Emergency Team.

On Friday, Health Minister Simon Harris said progress was being made to fight the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes, but that it remained an “area of concern”.

Ireland’s chief medical officer said COVID-19 was likely introduced into Irish nursing homes inadvertently by staff members.

“Some of the earlier epidemiological studies have shown us a key factor in how this has spread in nursing homes has been care staff working across different staff, and not only working across different staff but actually how they live outside of work,” said Dr Sean Kennelly, at Tallaght Hospital in Dublin.

“Some of the staff are from foreign countries and are living together with staff who are working in other nursing homes or working in the acute hospital setting, so there has always been that risk of it spreading from site to site.”

The Irish Health Service has announced a large package of financial assistance and staffing support.

But in the meantime, the situation is taking its toll.

“We regularly cry in work,” said the nurse who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“A common joke in work is that its good that we have our face masks on because most of us are crying underneath them for the majority of the day. And its either grief for residents whove passed, or guilt that you cant spend the time that you want to with the residents with dementia.”

Read from source

Victory by Viktor Orban rings alarm bells in other EU capitals

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With 98% of the vote counted by Monday, the coalition led by Orban's ruling party, Fidesz, was projected to win 133 seats out of the 199 seats in Parliament, according to the country's National Election Office. The result would grant Orban's government a "supermajority," giving it the power to amend the constitution.The Fidesz-led coalition took 49% of the national list votes, trouncing the liberal opposition, which had failed to put up a united front.Orban, who won his fourth term on a virulently anti-immigration platform, was already Hungary's longest-serving leader since the fall of communism in 1989. He has transformed Fidesz beyond recognition: formed as a liberal party in the 1980s, it is now a firmly right-wing nationalist movement.Buoyed by a strong economy, Orban was always expected to win, but the strong backing for his euroskeptic and anti-immigration platofrm represents a headache for the European Union.The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Security in Europe issued a highly critical statement of the election campaign Monday, singling out "a pervasive overlap between state and ruling party resources, undermining contestants' ability to compete on an equal basis" as well as "intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric, media bias and opaque campaign financing."That "constricted the space for genuine political debate, hindering voters' ability to make a fully informed choice," the OSCE said. Right-wing leaders in Europe were quick to congratulate Orban. Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Hungary's closest ally in the EU, tweeted: "The road to reform is never easy," adding that "the support of the majority of society shows that it's worth making the effort." French far-right politician Marine Le Pen, described the result on Twitter as a "great and clear victory" and said that "nationalists could soon be in the majority in Europe."The Jobbik party, a far-right group that has tried to tame its image over recent years and rebrand itself as an anti-corruption force, came a distant second. It received 19.2% of the votes, the National Election Office said. The party's disappointing performance prompted party president Gabor Vona to announce his resignation.Long lines were reported at polling stations across the country. Fidesz, in a coalition with the smaller Christian Democratic People's Party, has held a two-thirds supermajority in Parliament for the past eight years, allowing it to change the constitution without a referendum.The coalition has passed a slew of laws tightening regulations on the media, central bank, constitutional court and nongovernmental organizations. European Union leaders have warned those laws would undermine the country's democracy. State media in Hungary is widely supportive of Oban and opposition voices were sidelined in the runup to Sunday's election.The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will present a report on the election at 3 p.m. local time that is expected to be critical of aspects of the election. A government billboard on Budapest's outskirts calling for an end to migration. Orban is a critic of the European Commission — the executive arm of the EU — despite Hungary's status as one of the largest recipients of EU development funds. Orban has accused the Commission of overreach in Hungary's affairs, particularly in its attempt to impose a quota system that would have obliged Hungary to settle refugees.The Hungarian governmenthas set up anti-immigration billboards across the country, though it has the third-lowest level of immigration of the EU's 28 countries.Orban has sought to portray himself as a defender of Christian Europe against Islamic immigration. He has also railed against what he refers to as meddlesome international institutions, such as the United Nations and NGOs. Fidesz also ran an aggressive campaign against the Hungarian-born Jewish financier and philanthropist George Soros, accusing him of plotting to take control of the country. The anti-Soros rhetoric came against a wider backdrop of antisemitism in Hungary.

CNN's Angela Dewan and Hande Atay Alam contributed to this report.

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