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Setting the standard internationally01/12/2015 - 03:38
Spanish PM spurns first major pre-election debate
Spain's prime minister spurned the country's first pre-election debate of its kind, an empty lectern on stage marking his no-show as other candidates made repeated digs h...
Spanish PM spurns first major pre-election debate41466c7c8cf4f35d92c4d933c0186aef53e0e3c6.jpg
AFP / Javier Soriano
An empty lectern can be seen next to (L-R) center-right party Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera, Spanish Socialist Party leader Pedro Sanchez and leader of the left wing party Podemos Pablo Iglesias ahead of a debate on November 30, 2015
Spain's prime minister spurned the country's first pre-election debate of its kind, an empty lectern on stage marking his no-show as other candidates made repeated digs he was unable to defend.
Rising star Albert Rivera from the centrist Ciudadanos party, the Socialists' Pedro Sanchez and left-wing Podemos candidate Pablo Iglesias had sometimes heated exchanges for close to two hours in an unprecedented debate for a country long used to bi-party politics.
Corruption, unemployment, austerity, an independence movement in Catalonia... Many of the hot-button issues that have hit the country during Mariano Rajoy's four-year-term were broached and while criticism flew on all parts, the prime minister was by far the main recipient ahead of legislative elections on December 20.4f6252bd99b48d5365fa516cef41d6d72f04bf25.jpg
AFP / Javier Soriano
Leader of Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) Pedro Sanchez (C), leader of left wing party Podemos Pablo Iglesias (R) and center-right party Ciudadanos leader Albert Rivera (L) pose before a debate at Boadilla del Monte on November 30, 2015
"I regret that the prime minister is not here as I would love to remind him that the police searched the headquarters of his party for 14 hours," Iglesias said as the candidates discussed corruption.
"Maybe that's why Mr. Mariano Rajoy is not here today," he added in reference to scandals that have involved members of the ruling Popular Party (PP), and for which the Spanish leader apologised last year.
Sanchez, for his part, lamented the fact that Rajoy had been "absent" over the past four years, describing him as looking the other way "while problems grew and grew."
The economy -- and particularly unemployment which stands at around 22 percent -- was one of the main topics up for debate in a country that is only just starting to recover from a devastating crisis.ddf3018d883499e477f89ffad35f2e29f7890026.jpg
AFP / Alain Jocard
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has spurned the country's first pre-election debate of its kind, an empty lectern on stage marking his no-show as other candidates made repeated digs he was unable to defend
Rajoy has made economic recovery one of the mainstays of his re-election campaign, but opponents of the PP say many of the jobs that have been created are precarious or badly paid.
Rivera put forward the creation of a single employment contract system to try and iron out differences between those in stable jobs and others in precarious positions.
Iglesias called for help for small and medium size enterprises, while all three urged reforms to allow the return of qualified Spaniards from abroad.
This was the third debate between Rivera and Iglesias, who at 36 and 37 are the country's new, young political stars.
But it was the first to include Sanchez, who is considered the main opposition candidate despite a weekend poll putting him neck-and-neck with Rivera.
Rajoy declined to participate in the debate organised by the El Pais daily and broadcast online, and chose to attend a one-on-one televised interview instead.
His absence sparked a surge of comments on Twitter.
"Let's see if Rajoy comes back from the toilet," one user joked, posting a picture of the debate stage complete with the three candidates and the fourth, empty lectern.
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Essential news in text, photo, graphic and video format01/12/2015 - 01:04
Poor countries increasingly targeted by tobacco marketing
AFP / Prakash Singh
An Indian smoker purchases a single cigarette from a roadside shop in New Delhi on November 26, 2014
Faced with falling sales in richer nations, the tobacco industry has increasingly marketed their product in the developing world, where restrictions on promoting smoking are more relaxed, a new study said Tuesday.
The study, which looked at tobacco marketing in 462 communities spread across 16 countries, was published by the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, a journal created by the UN agency, but the contents of which do not reflect WHO's views.
Data on cigarette promotion was collected since 2005, when a global convention on tobacco controls, including marketing bans, came into force for nations that had signed on.
The study found that "people living in poor countries are exposed to more intense and aggressive tobacco marketing than those living in affluent countries".
Report contributor Anna Gilmore, director of the Tobacco Control Research Group at the University of Bath, said the tobacco industry's marketing is designed to drive up smoking among children and adolescents.
The tobacco industry's "sales are falling in high-income countries and so its future profitability depends on getting young people hooked on smoking in low-income countries," she said in a statement.
Those findings were based in part on interviews with 12,000 people over multiple years who were asked if they had seen any tobacco marketing in any media over the last six months.
Researchers "found that tobacco advertising was at its most intense in the low-income countries studied (India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe), where they observed 81 times more tobacco advertisements per study community than in the high-income countries (Canada, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates)," the statement said.
Tobacco also proved much easier to buy in poorer nations, which had two-and-a-half times the number of outlets selling cigarettes compared to the richer countries surveyed.
The report called for stronger enforcement of the restrictions which came into force in 2005 -- known as WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control-- especially in the developing world.
"There has been substantial progress in the past decade, but we must now recommit ourselves to our global tobacco control efforts so that everyone, all over the world, is protected from the tobacco epidemic," said Dr Armando Peruga, programme manager of the tobacco free initiative at WHO.
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