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Leahy marks Sunshine Week with FOIA hearing

first_imgThe Congress has also made good progress in strengthening FOIA.  Last year, the Senate unanimously passed the Faster FOIA Act ‘ a bill that Senator Cornyn and I introduced to establish a bipartisan Commission to study FOIA and to make recommendations to Congress on ways to further improve FOIA.  We will reintroduce this bill later this week.  As Americans from every corner of our Nation commemorate Sunshine Week 2011, they have many good reasons to cheer.  I am pleased that one of President Obama’s first official acts when he took office was to issue a historic new directive to strengthen FOIA.  Just yesterday, the Department of Justice launched the new FOIA.gov website, which compiles all of the Department’s FOIA data in one online location. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) held a hearing Tuesday on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the nation’s premier open government law.  The nation is celebrating Sunshine Week, an observance of the importance of an open and transparent government.The Vermont Legislature is going through the process of rewriting its open meeting and open records laws (ACLU explantaion). ‘The right to know is a cornerstone of our democracy,’ said Leahy.  ‘Without it, citizens are kept in the dark about key policy decisions that directly affect their lives.  Without public access to government information, officials can make decisions in the shadows, sometimes in collusion with special interests, escaping accountability for their actions.  In the digital age, FOIA remains an indispensable tool in protecting the people’s right to know.Leahy is a longtime advocate of open, transparent government, and has been a leader in Congress in pushing for reforms to update and strengthen FOIA.  He is the co-author of the OPEN Government Act, which was signed into law in 2007, and which made the first major reforms to FOIA in more than a decade.  He is also the co-author of the OPEN FOIA Act, which required greater transparency for legislative exemptions to FOIA.  The legislation was signed into law in October 2009. Member statements and witness testimony, as well as a webcast of the hearing, are available online. # # # # # Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),Chairman, Committee On The JudiciaryHearing On ‘The Freedom Of Information Act:  Ensuring Transparency And Accountability In The Digital Age’   March 15, 2011Today, the Committee holds an important hearing on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  When Congress enacted FOIA more than 40 years ago, this watershed law ushered in a new and unprecedented era of transparency in government.  Four decades later, FOIA continues to give citizens access to the inner workings of their government and to guarantee the right to know for all Americans. I hope that the Congress will quickly enact this good government legislation.  There is also reason to cheer the recent unanimous decision by the Supreme Court in Federal Communications Commission v. AT&T Inc., concluding that corporations do not have a right of personal privacy under the Freedom of Information Act.  I am pleased that, in reaching this decision, our highest court honored congressional intent about the narrow scope of the personal privacy exemption to FOIA. These FOIA victories have made our Government more open and accountable to the American people.  But, our Government is still not as open and accessible to its citizens as it could ‘ and should ‘ be.Implementation of FOIA continues to be hampered by the increasing use of exemptions ‘ especially under section (b)(3) of FOIA.  Last year, Senators Grassley, Cornyn and I worked together on a bipartisan basis to repeal an overly-broad FOIA (b)(3) exemptions in the historic Wall Street reform bill, so that the American public will have access to important information about the state of our financial system.It is also essential that the American people have a FOIA law that is not only strengthened by reform, but properly enforced.  A report released yesterday by the National Security Archive found that, while there has been some progress in implementing the President’s FOIA reforms, only about half of the Federal agencies surveyed have taken concrete steps to update their FOIA guidance and assess their FOIA resources.  FOIA delays also continue to be a problem.  Twelve of the agencies surveyed had pending FOIA requests that were more than six years old, according to the report.  That is simply unacceptable.I am pleased that we have representatives from the Department of Justice and the Office of Government Information Services to discuss the Obama administration’s efforts to address these concerns and strengthen FOIA.  We are also fortunate to have a distinguished panel of FOIA experts to provide valuable perspectives on the importance of FOIA in guaranteeing the public’s right to know. I have said many times before ‘ during both Democratic and Republican administrations ‘ that freedom of information is neither a Democratic issue, nor a Republican issue.  It is an American issue.  I value the bipartisan partnership on FOIA matters that I have shared with Senator Cornyn over the years.  I will continue to work with Senator Cornyn, Senator Grassley and others on this Committee to advance freedom of information, so that the right to know is preserved for future generations.  I thank all of the distinguished witnesses that are appearing before the Committee today.  I look forward to today’s discussion. The Attorney General has also issued new FOIA guidance to help make our government agencies more open to the American people.  Last year, the Obama administration also issued another FOIA memorandum instructing federal agencies to update their FOIA training and guidance. The right to know is a cornerstone of our democracy.  Without it, citizens are kept in the dark about key policy decisions that directly affect their lives.  Without public access to government information, officials can make decisions in the shadows, sometimes in collusion with special interests, escaping accountability for their actions.  In the digital age, FOIA remains an indispensable tool in protecting the people’s right to know. WASHINGTON (Tuesday, March 15, 2011) ‘  # # # # #last_img read more

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10 Backcountry Tips from the Road Team

first_img We chose to hike out. We didn’t reach the trailhead until 10:00 pm that night. By then, it was dark and cold but the rain had stopped for the moment. We felt defeated. Maybe we made the wrong call and we were just being dramatic. We agonized over our decision for days. The trip had taken so much planning that we didn’t want to believe that bailing was the right choice. Now that we’ve had a few weeks to reflect, it’s clear that we made the right choice for our safety. Tell someone (or better yet, two people) where you are going. Also tell them when you will be there, and when you will be out to safety. It seems obvious. This is especially important in areas without cell service.Carry a personal locator beacon. There are several models on the market and some work better than others. We carry the inReach Explorer+. This allows us to send an SOS signal to search and rescue, send text and tracking data to loved ones and acts as a fully functional GPS.Check the weather and pack accordingly. Before leaving for our trip all signs pointed to nice weather. Knowing the area we were hiking in was notorious for unpredictable weather, we packed full rain gear and winter gear just in case.Take all of the necessary precautions with wildlife and food storage. Know the area you are in and keep yourself safe. We almost always carry bear spray in the backcountry and depending on where we are we either use bear canisters or an ursack. Never cook in or near your tent and don’t eat in the clothes you plan on sleeping in.Use an appropriate tent, sleeping mat, and sleeping bag. This seems obvious, but making sure you can stay warm in an emergency is crucial.Have a map and compass, or GPS (or better yet, all three). If you can’t navigate yourself around the wilderness, you shouldn’t be out there.If you are not comfortable flying solo, bring a friend.Plan and expect to be out there longer than you think. If the weather didn’t break, we would have been behind schedule and needed to add a day to our trip. We planned for that by bringing some extra food.When all else fails, remember food, water, and shelter. When we’re packing, this is the first thing we say. These three things will keep you safe and comfortable.Bring coffee, whiskey, or wine. This won’t keep you safe but if you’re like us it can be a serious morale booster. __________________________________________________________________________There is one way for this tour to be a reality– our sponsors! Sending a thank you shout out to all of our awesome sponsors that make this tour happen: Sea to Summit, Mountain House, Lowe Alpine, Leki, Big Agnes, Stio, Roofnest, and Franklin County, VA. For more info on our sponsors, check out the post, “Live Outside and Play is Back!”center_img After drying out all of our gear, we headed back into the backcountry safely and got some more miles under us. Recently, on a four-day backpacking trip in the Pacific Northwest, we had to do something that we’ve never done before. We bailed. We were about 18 miles into our 50-mile journey, It had been raining relentlessly since we broke camp that morning. We’re fairly comfortable outside in bad weather so when it started raining we thought nothing of it. A few hours later the rain had not stopped. In fact, it had picked up along with the wind. The temperature had dropped well into the thirties and as we hiked through a six-mile wide burn area where dead fall became a very real danger. It was the only time we’ve been able to stand still and literally watch trees fall down around us.By mid-afternoon, we were soaked through and very cold. Realizing that we were too wet and cold to keep moving we made the decision to shelter. We set up our tent, quickly stripped off our wet clothes, boiled some water, and climbed into our sleeping bag.  It took what felt like an eternity for our hands and feet to warm up. We stayed there, sheltered in the safest place we could find for a few hours. Once we were warm enough to think clearly, we had to make a decision. Keep going even though all of our gear was completely soaked through, hike seven miles to the next trailhead and hope that we could hitch a ride an hour or so back to our van, or take advantage of the break in the weather and hike 18 miles out back to safety. We hadn’t seen anyone else on the trail so the prospects of finding a ride back to the van seemed dim. The best thing you can do in the backcountry is to be prepared and also be prepared to call it off. Here is a quick list of things that we do to stay safe when traveling in the backcountry.last_img read more

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New internet domain available for U.S. credit unions

first_imgThe Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is now making the .creditunion top-level domain to eligible credit unions based in the U.S.The web addresses will not be automatically granted to those who apply. Each application will be subjected to a fairly rigorous evaluation and approval process, managed by CUNA. Domain names must correspond to a credit union’s name or brand in order to be obtained.U.S.-based credit unions with federally-registered trademarks can begin the application process immediately. Everyone else will have to wait until after June 6, 2017.Credit unions interested in registering a domain can get started at CUNA’s website. continue reading » 11SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

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Indonesia, Netherlands sign US$1b worth of deals during Dutch king visit

first_imgEditor’s note: This article’s paragraph five has been revised to state that Shell’s investment in Indonesian will be in the downstream oil and gas industry. Topics : Read also: BREAKING: Dutch monarch offers apology for past ‘excessive violence’Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi confirmed the deal, saying that the cooperation included, among others, the development of fuel storage tankers for Royal Vopak, Dutch logistics and distribution service providers to the chemical and oil industry, at the Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta.Other collaborations areas include the development of Dutch dairy company FrieslandCampina’s milk factory and Shell’s investment in the Indonesian downstream oil and gas industry.Retno went on to say that the Dutch monarchs were accompanied by around 185 Dutch businesspeople who were slated to meet up with their Indonesian partners while the king and queen made their visit to Yogyakarta.  Read also: Dutch king offers condolences for advance team speedboat collision that led to seven deathsThe Netherlands was Indonesia’s fifth largest foreign investor last year, after having injected US$2.59 billion into Asia’s third largest economy, according to Indonesia’s Coordinating Investment Board (BKPM).The foreign minister went on to say that Indonesia and the Netherlands had signed letters of intent (LoI) for cooperations that covered women empowerment, water management, healthcare professionals, climate change, waste management and transportation.The two countries signed an LoI for cooperation on infectious disease control, including on antimicrobial resistance, which would involve the the Netherland’s Erasmus University Medical Center and Indonesia’s Sulianti Saroso Infectious Diseases Hospital (RSPI), she added. Indonesia and the Netherlands have inked US$1 billion worth of business deals covering wide-ranging areas of cooperation during the visit of Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima to the country.President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo welcomed the Dutch monarchs at the Bogor Palace in West Java on Tuesday, which marked the first day of the king’s four-day state visit to Indonesia. “We have forged a number of business-related cooperation areas amounting to up to US$1 million,” Jokowi said in a joint press statement following a bilateral meeting with the Dutch delegation.last_img read more

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Institutional hedge fund allocations remain ‘steadfast’, survey shows

first_imgAlmost all institutional investors expect to maintain or increase allocations to hedge funds for the rest of 2015 despite concerns over fee structures and market volatility, research shows.A mid-year survey from Credit Suisse shows 93% of institutions around the world will keep faith in hedge funds, an increase of 3% from the start of the year.The survey, covering 200 institutional investors with $700bn (€634bn) of hedge fund allocations, also showed EMEA investors favoured global macro strategies compared with their US counterparts, which prefer equity long/short investments.Overall, 46% of investors selected global macro as investment style of choice, while 44% went for event-driven, matching the selections made at the start of the year. Around two-thirds of investors preferred their hedge fund strategies to be invested in the US and Europe.Credit Suisse said multi-strategy hedge funds had grown in popularity over 2015, ranking the 14th most popular at the start of the year but rising to sixth in the July edition.Robert Leonard, managing director of capital services at Credit Suisse, said: “Despite ongoing volatility in the global marketplace, investors remain steadfast in their allocations.”He said the increasing appetite for mulit-strategy funds was a reflection of the volatile environment, with investors keen to take advantage where possible.Hedge funds’ relationship, particularly with pension funds, has become notably strained of late, as €156bn Dutch healthcare worker scheme PFZW and US giant CalPERS dropped allocations, primarily over cost concerns.PFZW said the asset class no longer aligned with its investment policy or its criteria based on sustainability, complexity, cost and contribution to index-linking.Nordic investors including PKA, Ilmarinen and ATP also shunned hedge funds late last year, shifting towards replication strategies with additional risk controls.Around 40 of the 200 responses in the Credit Suisse report came from international public and private pension funds.last_img read more

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Lord Turner dismisses regulation, transparency as route to lower charges

first_imgRegulation and transparency are not the route to lower charges for pensions, the former chair of the influential 2002-06 Pensions Commission has said.It was “nonsense” to think they were the means to reduce charges to 30bp or around that level, said Lord Adair Turner, chairman of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.The idea that transparency would lead to effective choice was misguided, he suggested.“All those pages and pages of detailed information on… charges… are broadly speaking unread, and people have almost no power to take that information and turn it into an effective form of choice,” he said. Lord Turner’s comments appeared at odds with a push for greater transparency of costs and charges from advocacy groups and regulators.The UK government is currently consulting on proposals for trustees and managers of defined contribution occupational pension schemes to publish information about cost and charges and tell members where they can find it.An action group set up by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority is separately attempting to establish a common methodology for displaying costs and charges for institutional investors.Lord Turner suggested it was ill-conceived to think regulation was a solution because its target – providers that were making “supernormal” profits – did not exist.  “The fundamental insight we had in the report – and I think still stands – is it isn’t that there’s an industry making a huge amount of profit out of small pensions,” he said. “Small pensions is an immensely expensive thing to do in a competitive multi-provider model.” Credit: Resolution FoundationLord Adair Turner, chair of the now disbanded Pensions CommissionAdministering small pension pots can cost just as much as administering a larger pot because they all required the “same amount of paper, the same amount of reporting, the same amount of compliance officers”, said Lord Turner.“It’s an economy of scale game,” he added.Picking up an idea of the Pension Commission, Lord Turner said there was a threshold below which it became logical to have a publicly administered bulk default pension scheme that bought asset management on an economy of scale basis.“That was our original vision and I still think it’s the right vision. I expect it’s the only way to get charges down to 30bp or something like that,” he said.Lord Turner was speaking yesterday alongside the two other members of the Pensions Commission – member of the House of Lords and trade unionist Baroness Drake and professor of social policy at the London School of Economics John Hills – at an event organised by think tank Resolution Foundation to consider the outlook for the UK pensions system 15 years after the commission was first formed.The commission was announced in the autumn of 2002 by then-chancellor Gordon Brown, although Lord Turner said the project was pushed forward more by prime minister Tony Blair, which was “non-trivial to the way we operated”.The Pensions Commission published its first report in October 2004, setting out a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the UK pensions system. After an extensive consultation with government, industry and individuals on its analysis and the possible ways forward it published a second report in December 2005.This presented its conclusions on how the UK pension system would evolve if policy remained unchanged, and the Commission’s recommendations for a new policy direction.This included auto-enrolment into low cost pensions and a more generous but delayed state pension, recommendations that were taken up by the UK government and have become central features of the pensions landscape in the country.last_img read more

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The conspicuous silence from euthanasia activists about Belgium’s horrific child euthanasia law

first_imgLifeSiteNews 19 February 2014The Belgian Parliament passed a change to their euthanasia laws on the 14th of February making euthanasia available to minors – children. One commentator incorrectly – but nonetheless poignantly called it a ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre’. Most, however, questioned the ability of minors to make such grave decisions and/or the problems with euthanasia in general, of which child euthanasia is a savage symptom.Listed against the proposal were a group of some 200 Belgian paediatricians, a group from within the Assembly of the Council of Europe and the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN) who issued a declaration from their international conference in Mumbai in the days preceding the vote. The ICPCN were clear: euthanasia is not part of palliative care and is not an alternative to palliative care.While our thoughts go out to our Belgian colleagues and friends who fought valiantly against this latest bill, other Belgians, like Bart Sturtewagen, the Chief Editor of De Standaard newspaper – one of Belgium’s largest daily newspapers – seemed more than a little angry at the international attention.“I’m annoyed at hearing ‘you’ll kill children’ in the foreign media. We don’t use that kind of language anymore. It’s a very different debate on a different level,” he said. Sturtewagen was responding to comments such as this one from U.S. publishing executive Steve Forbes who wrote in an opinion piece last month: “We are on the malignantly slippery slope to becoming a society like that envisioned by Nazi Germany, one in which ‘undesirables’ are disposed of like used tissue.”And it was the subtle and not-so subtle references elsewhere to the Nazi regime and the pre-war death program for those considered by the regime to be ‘unworthy of life’ that must have rancoured. The group statement from members of the Assembly of the Council for Europe made such an allusion when they said that child euthanasia, “promotes the unacceptable belief that a life can be unworthy of life which challenges the very basis of civilised society.” (Emphasis added)Sturtewagen also told the Reuters network that after 12 years of legal euthanasia in the country, Belgians had grown used to it as an option for the final stages of their lives.Australian academics, White and Wilmott, noted pro-euthanasia & assisted suicide authors, tried to dismiss the Belgian news in an article on The Conversation website: “Belgium is literally on the other side of the world in terms of this issue, due in part to a different culture and history in this field.”All cultures vary by degrees, but one would have thought that the Nazi experience of last century would have informed Belgian culture a great deal – even 60 plus years on. But what is more to the point, and where the difference really lies, is the 12 years’ experience in killing people, as Sturtewagen observed.Other pro-euthanasia commentators have been less defensive – but most have been utterly silent. Sean Davidson of the pro-euthanasia group Dignity South Africa made the only comments I can find in the Anglophone world from pro-euthanasia groups actually condemning the move. (Davidson was tried and found guilty in 2011 of assisting his mother to die in New Zealand.) He told the Volksblad newspaper: (Google translation from Afrikaans)“I can understand why the Belgian legislature’s responsiveness to this decision was motivated, but it is hard to believe that a child is able to make an informed decision about his or her life, while there are adults with those difficulty understanding. It often happens that an adult decision to his or her life to end when they are terminally ill, but their lives and clinging to the end unable to deal with the decision to push through it.“How can it be expected that a young child such a decision?”But he also told Volksblad that “Adults do not even always understand the concept of euthanasia.” This is something of an admission that even euthanasia for adults includes indelible risks. No, it really can’t be made safe, no matter what the so-called safeguards.http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/the-conspicuous-silence-from-euthanasia-activists-about-belgians-horrific-clast_img read more

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Fulham announce double signing

first_img Fulham have now signed up three players for next season, having taken up an option to permanently sign Sascha Riether from Cologne after a successful season-long loan spell. However, Amorebieta’s arrival is arguably the most impressive addition so far as the west Londoners beat off reported interest from Arsenal, Everton and Zenit St Petersburg. The 28-year-old defender made more than 250 appearances for Bilbao and will be a welcome addition to what has at times been a shaky Fulham defence. “I’m delighted to have signed a four-year deal with Fulham and I’m looking forward to competing in the Barclays Premier League next season,” Amorebieta told the club’s official website, www.fulhamfc.com. “I’m impressed with the talent already at the club and I look forward to meeting the players for pre-season training in July.” Relief is the overriding emotion after Boateng completed his protracted move. Fulham boss Martin Jol has been a long-time admirer of the Ghana international and has attempted to bring him in on several occasions before. Boateng’s transfer had to be put on ice previously due to contract disputes with his Ukrainian club, but a deal for the 30-year-old has finally completed his move from Dnipro. “I’m very happy that I have signed and I want to thank the chairman, the manager and the board at Fulham Football Club,” Boateng said. “I’ve been working hard to come here and I’ll do my best for the club.” After a difficult campaign brought on by a number of high-profile departures, the Whites moved quickly to sure up their squad for next campaign. Venezuela defender Amorebieta has signed a four-year deal at Craven Cottage after eight seasons in La Liga with Bilbao, while Ghana international Boateng has joined on a one-year deal with an option for a further season. Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Amorebieta and Dnipro midfielder Derek Boateng have both joined Fulham on free transfers.center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

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Baggies reject Dawson transfer plea

first_img Press Association Sport understands the Baggies have refused the 24-year-old’s request as new manager Alan Irvine assesses the squad he inherited from Pepe Mel. He is the second West Brom player to be denied a move after George Thorne, who spent last season on loan at Watford and then Derby, received a similar response. West Brom have rejected a transfer request from defender Craig Dawson. Dawson has been linked in recent weeks with a move to newly-promoted Burnley, and the arrival of Joleon Lescott at the Hawthorns will do little to enhance his chances of first-team involvement next season. The Rochdale-born player, who joined the Baggies from his home-town club in August 2010, made 15 senior appearances last season, 12 of them in the Barclays Premier League and 10 of those starts. However, for much of the campaign, he provided back-up to Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson. Meanwhile, Albion striker Victor Anichebe has warned the club’s youngsters to be ready to take their chance as Irvine prepares to start work in earnest. Anichebe emerged from the ranks at Everton during Irvine’s time as assistant to David Moyes, and is confident he will look to youth in his new role. He told the club’s official website, www.wba.co.uk: “The players will enjoy great training sessions, they will enjoy the way he plays and they will enjoy his character as a person, especially the younger players. “They are the ones who are going to be the future, and we have got a few really good, exciting young players. He will give them a chance if they are up for it and they are eager. “I think that’s something Albion fans should look forward to.” center_img Press Associationlast_img read more

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Wenger: Debuchy a perfect fit

first_img Arsenal have already brought in Chile forward Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, and Wenger is now likely to turn his attentions to signing another defensive midfielder and a goalkeeper, with a deal for Colombia international David Ospina from Nice expected to be completed imminently. Wenger is confident Debuchy can continue his progress with Arsenal, having been a consistent performer at Newcastle following a £5m move from Lille in January 2013, and will contest the right-back spot with England hopeful Carl Jenkinson. “The obvious replacement for Sagna was Debuchy. He knows what to expect and that’s of course a huge advantage,” Wenger said on Arsenal Player. “Debuchy is very good going forward, is very quick in transition. “He is sharp in his marking, good with interceptions and quick to go from defence to attack. “You feel he always has the desire to go forward, so I believe he will be perfectly suited to our style in that aspect.” Debuchy is in no doubt he has joined a club very much on the up as Arsenal look to mount a long-overdue sustained assault on the Premier League title. “I know that Arsenal can win titles every year. Winning the FA Cup last season was something magnificent, but I hope that it is just the beginning and that there will be more to come next season,” said Debuchy, who was part of the France squad which reached the quarter-finals at the World Cup, where they were beaten by eventual champions Germany. “There are some really great players in this team. We saw that last season and I think it will be even better this season. “I hope there is more silverware to come in the next few years.” German World Cup winner Sami Khedira has been a target, but reports in Spain suggest the midfielder will now look to sign a new deal at Real Madrid, with his agent maintaining there had been no fee agreed with Arsenal or Chelsea, who would be able to meet any inflated wage demands. Borussia Dortmund’s Lars Bender, who missed the World Cup through injury, is another player Wenger has long admired. Egypt defender Ahmed Fathi is having a trial at Arsenal this week, while Atletico Madrid’s 19-year-old right-back Javi Manquillo is another potential new recruit. Arsenal play their opening pre-season friendly at Boreham Wood on Saturday, where Wenger will select a mixed squad including those players not on international duty at the World Cup. The protracted transfer of the France international, understood to be worth around £12 million, was finally confirmed on Thursday evening when Newcastle were able to announce the signing of Holland defender Daryl Janmaat from Feyenoord. Debuchy, 28, is seen as a Premier League-ready replacement for Bacary Sagna, who left to join Manchester City on a lucrative free transfer after helping Arsenal beat Hull in the FA Cup final at Wembley. Manager Arsene Wenger is confident new Arsenal defender Mathieu Debuchy will fit right into his team’s counter-attacking style – with more additions expected before the start of the Barclays Premier League campaign. Press Associationlast_img read more

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