UK’s Johnson: New variant could disrupt route out of lockdown

UK’s Johnson: New variant could disrupt route out of lockdown
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at a press conference about the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, in London, Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 14 May 2021

UK’s Johnson: New variant could disrupt route out of lockdown

UK’s Johnson: New variant could disrupt route out of lockdown
  • Johnson also said he would accelerate the provision of second doses of COVID-19 vaccines

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the spread of a new variant of coronavirus first detected in India could disrupt plans to move to eliminate most remaining lockdown measures in June, although it would not delay the next step in easing.
"We will proceed with our plan to move to step three in England from Monday, but I have to level with you that this new variant could pose a serious disruption to our progress, and could make it more difficult to move to step four in June," Johnson told a Downing Street briefing on Friday.

Johnson also said he would accelerate the provision of second doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
“It’s more important than ever therefore that people get the additional protection of a second dose,” he told a news conference.
“So following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, we will accelerate remaining second doses to the over 50s and those clinically vulnerable right across the country, so those doses come just eight weeks after the first dose,” he said.


Owner of plane in Sala crash ‘forbade use of pilot’

Owner of plane in Sala crash ‘forbade use of pilot’
Updated 12 sec ago

Owner of plane in Sala crash ‘forbade use of pilot’

Owner of plane in Sala crash ‘forbade use of pilot’
  • Fay Keely told the hearing that on July 6, 2018, six months before the fatal incident, she emailed David Henderson telling him not to use David Ibbotson again
  • Investigators in March 2020 concluded that Ibbotson was not licensed to fly the plane or to fly at night, and that he lost control and flew too fast as he tried to avoid bad weather
LONDON: The owner of a plane that crashed with Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala on board told a UK court on Wednesday she had ordered the operator not to use the pilot.
The plane — a single-engined Piper Malibu — came down in the Channel in January 2019, killing the 28-year-old striker and the 59-year-old pilot David Ibbotson as they returned from France to Wales.
The plane’s operator, David Henderson, is standing trial at Cardiff Crown Court in Wales, accused of endangering the safety of the plane.
The plane’s owner, Fay Keely, said she bought the plane on Henderson’s advice and allowed him to operate it and choose pilots.
But she told the hearing that on July 6, 2018, six months before the fatal incident, she emailed the operator telling him not to use Ibbotson again.
She did this after the Civil Aviation Authority informed her of two infringements when he was piloting.
She later learnt that Henderson had nevertheless hired Ibbotson for a flight with her sister on board just a month later.
“He allowed that to happen without my permission,” she stressed.
Asked by the defense whether she had repeated her warning to Henderson not to use the pilot, she said: “No. As far as I was concerned I had made my feelings clear that he shouldn’t be flying the aircraft.”
Lawyer Martin Goudie, for the prosecution, told the court on Tuesday that Henderson was unavailable to pilot the return flight carrying Sala and arranged for Ibbotson to fly instead.
Henderson, from Hotham, in Yorkshire, northern England, has denied one charge of endangering the safety of an aircraft.
The court was told on Monday he had admitted one count of attempting to discharge a passenger without valid permission or authorization.
That charge typically concerns a business operator failing to acquire the appropriate licenses to hire a plane commercially.
Sala died on the return flight from France, which he had visited to collect his belongings and say goodbye to teammates at Nantes after signing with Cardiff for a record £15 million (18 million euros, $19 million).
British air accident investigators in March 2020 concluded that Ibbotson was not licensed to fly the plane or to fly at night, and that he lost control and flew too fast as he tried to avoid bad weather.
The Air Accidents Investigation Branch said both the pilot and Sala were affected by carbon monoxide poisoning before the crash.

WHO: Europe the only region with rise in COVID-19 last week

WHO: Europe the only region with rise in COVID-19 last week
Updated 48 min 38 sec ago

WHO: Europe the only region with rise in COVID-19 last week

WHO: Europe the only region with rise in COVID-19 last week
  • The UN health agency said there were about 2.7 million new COVID-19 cases and more than 46,000 deaths last week worldwide
  • WHO said the two regions with the highest rates of COVID-19 incidence were Europe and the Americas

LONDON: The World Health Organization said there was a 7 percent rise in new coronavirus cases across Europe last week, the only region in the world where cases increased.
In its weekly assessment of the pandemic released late Tuesday, the UN health agency said there were about 2.7 million new COVID-19 cases and more than 46,000 deaths last week worldwide, similar to the numbers reported the previous week.
WHO said the two regions with the highest rates of COVID-19 incidence were Europe and the Americas. Globally, the US reported the biggest number of new cases, more than 580,000, which still represented a 11 percent decline.
Britain, Russia and Turkey accounted for the most cases in Europe.
The biggest drop in COVID-19 cases were seen in Africa and the Western Pacific, where infections fell by about 18 percent and 16 percent, respectively. The number of deaths in Africa also declined by about a quarter, despite the dire shortage of vaccines on the continent.
But for the third consecutive week, coronavirus cases have jumped in Europe, with about 1.3 million new cases. More than half of countries in the region reported a rise in their COVID-19 numbers, WHO said. Britain and Russia each reported about a 15 percent increase in new cases.
In the past week, Russia has repeatedly broken new daily records for COVID-19 cases and the number of infections in the UK has surged to levels not seen since mid-July.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday backed a Cabinet proposal to keep Russian workers home for a week in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.
Russian officials have struggled to vaccinate the population but due to vaccine skepticism, only about 32 percent of people have been immunized despite the availability of its Sputnik V vaccine. It has by far the largest virus death toll in Europe, with more than 225,000 deaths.
Although the head of Britain’s National Health Service has urged the government to introduce stricter COVID-19 protocols including mask-wearing and the faster vaccination of children, politicians have so far demurred.


Queen Elizabeth II accepts medical advice to rest, cancels Northern Ireland trip

Queen Elizabeth II accepts medical advice to rest, cancels Northern Ireland trip
Updated 55 min 52 sec ago

Queen Elizabeth II accepts medical advice to rest, cancels Northern Ireland trip

Queen Elizabeth II accepts medical advice to rest, cancels Northern Ireland trip
  • The queen is resting at Windsor Castle, where she has stayed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The decision comes just days after Elizabeth was seen using a walking stick at a major public event

LONDON: Queen Elizabeth II has reluctantly accepted medical advice to rest for a few days and has canceled a trip to Northern Ireland, Buckingham Palace said Wednesday.
The palace didn’t offer specifics on the decision, but says the 95-year-old monarch is “in good spirits,” and disappointed that she will no longer be able to visit Northern Ireland for engagements Wednesday and Thursday.
“The Queen sends her warmest good wishes to the people of Northern Ireland, and looks forward to visiting in the future,” the palace said.
She is resting at Windsor Castle, where she has stayed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. The decision to cancel the trip was understood to not be COVID related.
The decision comes just days after Elizabeth was seen using a walking stick at a major public event when attending a Westminster Abbey service marking the centenary of the Royal British Legion, an armed forces charity.
She had previously been photographed using a cane in 2003, but that was after she underwent knee surgery.
Britain’s longest-lived and longest-reigning monarch, Elizabeth is due to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee — 70 years on the throne — next year.
The queen, who was widowed this year when Prince Philip died at age 99 in April, still keeps a busy schedule of royal duties. On Tuesday, she held audiences with diplomats and hosted a reception at Windsor Castle for global business leaders.
Despite her great age, the monarch has politely declined the honor of being named “Oldie of the Year” by a British magazine. The Oldie magazine on Tuesday published the queen’s response to its suggestion that she follow in the footsteps of former recipients, such as actor Olivia de Havilland and artist David Hockney.
“Her Majesty believes you are as old as you feel, as such The Queen does not believe she meets the relevant criteria to be able to accept, and hopes you will find a more worthy recipient,” said a letter from her assistant private secretary, Tom Laing-Baker. He ended the letter “with Her Majesty’s warmest best wishes.”


Longer sentences imposed for Brits who travel to war zones or plot terror attacks

Longer sentences imposed for Brits who travel to war zones or plot terror attacks
Updated 20 October 2021

Longer sentences imposed for Brits who travel to war zones or plot terror attacks

Longer sentences imposed for Brits who travel to war zones or plot terror attacks
  • Terrorists could face 14 years behind bars and even more on license under strict new guidelines
  • The new sentences were first mulled when a man committed a deadly attack just weeks after being released early from jail

LONDON: New sentencing guidelines have been proposed by the British Justice Secretary that would see those who plot attacks with multiple victims or travel abroad to fight for terror groups hit with lengthier jail terms of 14 years.

Dominic Raab, who is new to the post, said the updated powers would deter “those who kill and maim in the name of warped and fanatical ideologies.”

The Sentencing Council will set out its proposed guidance to judges on how they should apply the new mandatory minimum jail term — which became law earlier this year — on Wednesday.

Those who are found guilty under the new category will face a minimum of 14 years behind bars unless there are “exceptional circumstances.”

They will also face a further seven to 25 years on license after their custodial sentence ends, which will see severe restrictions and monitoring of their daily lives.

The new sentencing will apply in cases where there is “a significant risk” to the public of “serious harm occasioned by the commission by the offender of further serious terrorism offenses.”

It should also cover cases where the offense “was very likely to result in or contribute to (whether directly or indirectly) the deaths of at least two people” — the so-called “risk of multiple deaths condition.”

A consultation on the new guidance will run until Jan. 11, 2022.

Raab said: “These proposed guidelines will support judges to pass consistent and appropriate sentences in terrorism cases. Those who kill and maim in the name of warped and fanatical ideologies will spend longer behind bars, because public protection is our top priority.”

The Guidance Council’s lead member for terrorism offenses, Justice Maura McGowan, said: “Terrorism offenses are serious criminal acts that are constantly evolving, and the law is regularly updated in line with the changing nature of the offenses, requiring a new approach to sentencing.

“The council is proposing revisions to existing sentencing guidelines to reflect the new legislation and ensure that the courts have comprehensive and up-to-date guidance for dealing with these extremely serious cases.”

The new sentencing guidelines were first proposed in 2019, when a man killed two people in central London after being released early from prison on license after being jailed for plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange.

Hundreds of Britons have also previously traveled to Syria to join Daesh before the group collapsed, and the country has been struggling to manage their return.

According to a report by The Independent earlier this year, only one in 10 people who returned from fighting for Daesh in Syria were prosecuted, and not all of those prosecutions were related to terror offenses. Even fewer people were convicted directly for Daesh membership.

Officials struggled to prove that offences took place in Syria due to flimsy evidence from the battlefield, severely limiting prosecution capabilities. 

The new legislation is designed to remedy that struggle by criminalizing the act of traveling to terrorism “designated areas” abroad, such as Daesh’s short-lived territories in Iraq and Syria.


Pakistani-American ‘raped, beheaded’ former ambassador’s daughter

Pakistani-American ‘raped, beheaded’ former ambassador’s daughter
Updated 20 October 2021

Pakistani-American ‘raped, beheaded’ former ambassador’s daughter

Pakistani-American ‘raped, beheaded’ former ambassador’s daughter
  • The brutal murder of Noor Mukadam, 27, sparked protests across the country and calls for reform to Pakistan’s gender violence laws
  • The 27-year-old was attacked after refusing a marriage proposal

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani-American man accused of raping and beheading his girlfriend, the daughter of a former ambassador, went on trial Wednesday in the capital Islamabad.
The brutal murder of Noor Mukadam, 27, sparked protests across the country and calls for reform to Pakistan’s gender violence laws.
Zahir Jaffer, 30, from a wealthy industrialist family, has denied killing Mukadam.
“The trial has formally started. Our first witness was examined today and we will produce five more witnesses at the next hearing,” Shah Khawar, a prosecution lawyer told AFP outside the court in Islamabad.
The 27-year-old was attacked after refusing a marriage proposal, attempting repeatedly to escape Jaffer’s sprawling mansion in an upscale neighborhood in Islamabad but blocked each time by his staff, a police report said.
Jaffer raped and tortured her with a knuckle duster before beheading her with a “sharp-edged weapon,” it added.
“Her life could have been saved had the accomplices acted otherwise,” the report said, which was presented to the court in a previous hearing.
Eleven others have also been charged in connection to the murder, including some of Jaffer’s household staff, his parents, and others who were allegedly asked to conceal evidence.
Mukadam’s murder received nationwide attention due to a growing, youth-driven women’s rights movement in the country where victims of violence are often discouraged from speaking out and blamed for abuse.
According to a government survey conducted between 2017-18, 28 percent of women aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence in Pakistan. However, experts believe the figure is expected to be higher because of underreporting.
The murder of Mukadam, whose father served as Pakistan’s ambassador to South Korea and Kazakhstan, is one of the most high-profile cases of violence against women since the government introduced new legislation designed to speed up justice for rape victims.
It is typical for court cases to drag on for years in Pakistan, but prosecutor Khawar said he expected the trial to be concluded within eight weeks.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has pledged that the accused would not escape justice for being part of the Pakistani elite and a dual national.