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AMBASSADOR

Future US envoy displays total ignorance of Norway

The US's next ambassador to Norway has committed a jaw-dropping diplomatic blunder before he even begins, describing politicians from the Progress Party, which has seven ministers, as "fringe elements" that "spew their hatred" in a US Senate hearing.

Future US envoy displays total ignorance of Norway
George Tsunis speaking to the US senate on Tuesday - Source: Screen Grab
Asked by Senator John McCain what he thought it was about the "anti-immigration" Progress Party that appealed to Norwegian voters, Greek American businessman George Tsunis seemed unaware of the party's role in the ruling coalition. 
 
"You get some fringe elements that have a microphone and spew their hatred," he said in the pre-appointment hearing. "And I will tell you Norway has been very quick to denounce them." 
 
McCain interrupted him, pointing out that as part of the coalition, the party was hardly being denounced. 
 
"I stand corrected,"  Tsunis said after a pause.  "I would like to leave my answer at… it's a very,very open society and the overwhelming amount of Norwegians and the overwhelming amount of people in parliament don't feel the same way."
 
The blunder came after a faltering, incoherent performance from Tsunis, in which he made a reference to Norway's "president", apparently under the impression that the country is a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy. 
 
Tsunis founded the hotel management company Chartwell Hotels, which operates properties for InterContinental Hotels, and other major hotel groups. He is one of the leading figures in the Greek-American establishment, and is heavily involved in the Greek Orthodox Church. 
 
He donated $267,244 to the Democratic party in the 2012 election cycle, and $278,531 in 2010, making him one of the party's top individual donors. 

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DRUGS

Norway politician charged for drugs and child abuse images

A former politician from Norway’s anti-immigration Progress Party has been charged with possession of illegal drugs and images of child abuse.

Norway politician charged for drugs and child abuse images
Police found 19 grams of MDMA. Photo: Gorm Kallestad / NTB scanpix
The man, who is in his 40s, previously held positions in the party at both the national and local level, but stepped down after he was arrested in 2016. 
 
The politician’s defence lawyer Gunhild Lærum told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that she did not yet have a clear response from her client to the charge over the child abuse images. 
 
“We have not yet been able to look through this together,” she said. “He is slightly unsure if this is something he has downloaded consciously and willingly.” 
 
She said the identities of the children in the pictures were “completely unknown”. 
 
The man has been held in pre-trial detention for nearly two years, as police carried out a long-drawn out investigation after finding large quantities of drugs in his house in May 2016. 
 
“We are both pleased at least that something has finally happened in the case,“ Lærum said. 
 
When the police searched the man’s house in May 2016, they found 90 grams of amphetamine, 16 grams of cocaine, 19 grams of MDMA, 274 ml of GHB, 22 tablets containing clonazepam, four tablets containing diazepam, five tablets containing MDMA and two tablets containing mCPP. 
 
The man has already pleaded guilty to the drugs charges. 
 
“He has acknowledged that he had a problem and he is glad that it has been discovered and that he has managed to get over it. He has been helped for a long, long period now.” 
 
The case is scheduled to go to trial on September 4.