UK queen visits Novichok lab in first outing since COVID-19 lockdown

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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (C) and Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (R) arrive with Dstl Chief Executive Gary Aitkenhead (L) at the Energetics Analysis Centre as they visit the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park near Salisbury, southern England, on October 15, 2020. (AFP)
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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (C) speaks with Dstl Chief Executive Gary Aitkenhead (L) as she arrives at the Energetics Analysis Centre as they visit the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park near Salisbury, southern England, on October 15, 2020. (AFP)
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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II visits the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park near Salisbury, southern England, on October 15, 2020. (AFP)
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Dstl Chief Executive Gary Aitkenhead (R) speaks as Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (C) and Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, (L) prepare to unveil a plaque to officially open the new Energetics Analysis Centre at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down science park near Salisbury, southern England, on October 15, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 15 October 2020

UK queen visits Novichok lab in first outing since COVID-19 lockdown

  • For her first public outing, Queen Elizabeth she was joined by her grandson Prince William
  • The top secret Defense Science and Technology Laboratory identified the nerve agent used to attack Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter

LONDON: Queen Elizabeth on Thursday was carrying out her first major engagement since a coronavirus lockdown in March, visiting the Porton Down military research facility which was involved in dealing with a 2018 Novichok nerve agent attack.
The 94-year-old monarch, who spent Britain’s national lockdown at Windsor Castle, has carried out her official duties remotely by video or telephone, or at her palace, since social restrictions were introduced. For her first public outing, she was joined by her grandson Prince William.
The top secret Defense Science and Technology Laboratory, in Porton Down in southwest England, identified the nerve agent used to attack Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in the nearby town of Salisbury two years ago.
Britain has accused two Russian agents backed by Moscow of carrying out the attack, a charge the Kremlin has rejected.
During their trip, the royals were due to meet the Porton Down staff and other military personnel who were involved in the Novichok clear-up operation along with scientists helping the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The formal purpose of the trip was to open the lab’s new Energetics Analysis Center, where the queen and the prince will be given a demonstration of a forensics explosives investigation.
They were also due to tour the lab’s Energetic Enclosure to see a display of weaponry and tactics used in counter intelligence.
Porton Down was founded in 1916 as Britain’s chemical and biological weapons laboratory, where defense ministry scientists carried out secret experiments involving some 20,000 servicemen, leading to the death of one from exposure to sarin nerve gas.
Since the 1960s, it has focused on developing countermeasures and defense and security technology, although its secret structure has always led to speculation about its activities.
“No aliens, either alive or dead have ever been taken to Porton Down,” the government’s website says.
Since March, the monarch’s only public appearances have been at Windsor for a military ceremony in June to mark her birthday, and for a ceremony to knight record-breaking charity fundraiser, 100-year-old Captain Tom Moore.
She has also paid private visits to Balmoral Castle in Scotland and Sandringham in eastern England, her private residences.


US judge delays extradition of Carlos Ghosn's accused escape plotters to Japan

Updated 29 October 2020

US judge delays extradition of Carlos Ghosn's accused escape plotters to Japan

  • Prosecutors say the Taylors facilitated a "brazen" escape in which Ghosn fled Japan on Dec. 29, 2019
  • Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges that he engaged in financial wrongdoing

BOSTON: A federal judge on Thursday granted a last-minute request to stop the US government from turning over to Japan two Massachusetts men to face charges that they helped smuggle former Nissan Motor Co Chairman Carlos Ghosn out of the country while he was awaiting trial on financial crimes.
US District Judge Indira Talwani in Boston granted a request by lawyers for US Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, to delay the transfer shortly before the two men were scheduled to be placed on a flight to Japan.
Their lawyers sought the delay after the State Department approved handing over the men, who in September lost a court challenge to their potential extradition. They were arrested in May at the request of Japanese authorities.
Taylors' lawyers and the State Department did not respond to requests for comment.
Prosecutors say the Taylors facilitated a "brazen" escape in which Ghosn fled Japan on Dec. 29, 2019, hidden in a box and on a private jet before reaching Lebanon, his childhood home, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.
Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges that he engaged in financial wrongdoing, including by understating his compensation in Nissan's financial statements. Ghosn denies wrongdoing.
The State Department notified the Taylors' lawyers of its decision on Wednesday.
US Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, a Republican who has taken interest in the case, wrote on Twitter that he was "outraged" by the State Department's decision to extradite the two men. "This former Special Forces member and his son will not be treated fairly," he said.