COP26 chief praises Putin in bid to get Kremlin backing for net zero plan

COP26 chief praises Putin in bid to get Kremlin backing for net zero plan
Alok Sharma, Britain’s president for COP26 (United Nations Climate Change Conference). (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 June 2021

COP26 chief praises Putin in bid to get Kremlin backing for net zero plan

COP26 chief praises Putin in bid to get Kremlin backing for net zero plan
  • The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) is scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 2021 under the presidency of the UK

LONDON: Britain’s COP26 (United Nations Climate Change Conference) president Alok Sharma urged Russia on Tuesday to commit to net zero emissions by 2050 and praised Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin for his support for tackling climate change.

“I welcome the support President Putin has shown for international cooperation on tackling climate change, and look forward to constructive discussions here in Moscow,” Sharma said in a statement.

“As the world’s fourth largest emitter, Russia is an essential player in the fight against climate change.”


Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis

Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis
Updated 22 October 2021

Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis

Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis
  • ICRC has since increased its efforts in the country while other organisations were also stepping up, Director General Robert Mardini said
  • The UN on Thursday announced it had set up a fund to provide cash directly to Afghans

DUBAI: The Red Cross on Friday urged the international community to engage with Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers, saying that aid groups on their own would be unable to stave off a humanitarian crisis.
Afghanistan has been plunged into crisis by the abrupt end of billions of dollars in foreign assistance following the collapse of the Western-backed government and return to power by the Taliban in August.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has since increased its efforts in the country while other organizations were also stepping up, Director General Robert Mardini said.
But he told Reuters that support from the international community, who had so far taken a cautious approach in engaging with the Taliban, was critical to providing basic services.
“Humanitarian organizations joining forces can only do so much. They can come up with temporary solutions.”
The United Nations on Thursday announced it had set up a fund to provide cash directly to Afghans, which Mardini said would solve the problem for three months.
“Afghanistan is a compounded crisis that is deteriorating by the day,” he said, citing decades of conflict compounded by the effects of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mardini said 30 percent of Afghanistan’s 39 million population were facing severe malnutrition and that 18 million people in the country need humanitarian assistance or protection.
The Taliban expelled many foreign aid groups when it was last in power from 1996-2001 but this time has said it welcomes foreign donors and will protect the rights of their staff.
But the hard-line Islamists, facing criticism it has failed to protect rights, including access to education for girls, have also said aid should not be tied to conditions.
“No humanitarian organization can compensate or replace the economy of a country,” Mardini said.


UK court increases jail term for Muslim-hating far-right terrorist

UK court increases jail term for Muslim-hating far-right terrorist
Updated 22 October 2021

UK court increases jail term for Muslim-hating far-right terrorist

UK court increases jail term for Muslim-hating far-right terrorist
  • Michael Nugent, 38, celebrated the Christchurch mosque massacre and distributed bomb-making manuals online
  • Previous sentence of 42 months did not reflect the “gravity” of his crimes, judges said on Friday

LONDON: A convicted white-supremacist terrorist who shared bomb-making instructions online and celebrated the Christchurch mosque massacre has had 18 months added to his jail term by appeal-court judges in London.

Michael Nugent, 38, shared on the Telegram messaging app manuals that showed how to create homemade bombs and firearms, and described the attacks on worshipers at two mosques in New Zealand in March 2019 as a “game-changer.”

In June a court in Kingston, London, convicted him of terror offenses and jailed him for 42 months. But on Friday his sentence was increased to five years after a challenge by the UK’s attorney general, who argued that the penalty was not harsh enough given the seriousness of the crimes.

Nugent was said to have “honored” right-wing terrorists such as Brenton Tarrant, who shot and killed 51 people and injured 40 when he attacked the mosques in Christchurch. Tarrant live-streamed the atrocity on Facebook.

The Independent newspaper reported that Nugent created a video celebrating the attacks to mark the first anniversary of the outrage. In his diary, he wrote that ethnic minorities should be “sent home” and “sterilized,” adding: “Terrorism is the only way out of it.”

Judges said on Friday that the 42-month sentence Nugent was handed in June did not reflect the “obvious gravity” of his online radicalization efforts, which included running Telegram groups that could host up to 200,000 members.

A prosecutor said: “This channel attracted and became a safe haven for anyone who wished to post messages expressing and encouraging extreme racial hatred and violence toward black people.”

Nugent was apprehended after he passed instructions for making bombs and firearms to an undercover police officer who joined his channel.

His defense tried to argue that the terrorist’s actions were a product of deteriorating mental health, but Richard Smith, head of London’s Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said: “Nugent freely shared his abhorrent extremist views with others over a messaging app and he passed on manuals detailing how to produce deadly weapons and explosive devices. This is another case which shows how harmful online extremism is.”


Greece tourism rebounds but still suffers from COVID-19

Greece tourism rebounds but still suffers from COVID-19
Updated 22 October 2021

Greece tourism rebounds but still suffers from COVID-19

Greece tourism rebounds but still suffers from COVID-19
  • Foreign tourists seeking sun and sand are the driver of Greece's tourism industry
  • Pandemic travel restrictions kept most away in 2020 and battered the sector

ATHENS: The number of foreign tourists arriving in Greece has rebounded strongly this year, central bank data released Friday showed, but the key tourism sector still remains far below pre-pandemic levels.
Foreign tourists seeking sun and sand are the driver of Greece’s tourism industry, which accounts for a fifth of the overall economy, but pandemic travel restrictions kept most away in 2020 and battered the sector.
Greek central bank data showed that the number of tourist arrivals has jumped 80 percent this year to over 8.6 million.
Meanwhile, spending by tourists during the first eight months of the year has shot up by over 135 percent to nearly 6.6 billion euros ($7.7 billion), the Bank of Greece said in a statement.
But those figures are still far off the level in 2019, before the pandemic, when some 21.8 million tourists spent 13.2 billion euros.
Ahead of the peak summer tourism season, Greece ran a major campaign to voluntarily vaccinate most residents if its Aegean islands, its most popular travel destinations, to help lure back foreign tourists.
Most of the arrivals came from Germany, Britain, France and the United States.
Greece’s economy contracted by 9.0 percent in 2020, due in no small part to the drop in tourists.
The government expects the economy to rebound 6.1 percent this year and grow by 4.5 percent in 2022.


Holidaying Brits stranded in Morocco as North African kingdom cuts flights

Morocco banned travelers to and from the UK on Wednesday in response to rapidly rising coronavirus disease cases in Britain. (AP/File Photo)
Morocco banned travelers to and from the UK on Wednesday in response to rapidly rising coronavirus disease cases in Britain. (AP/File Photo)
Updated 22 October 2021

Holidaying Brits stranded in Morocco as North African kingdom cuts flights

Morocco banned travelers to and from the UK on Wednesday in response to rapidly rising coronavirus disease cases in Britain. (AP/File Photo)
  • Sky-high coronavirus cases prompted Morocco to ban flights to and from the UK
  • Flights suspended for ‘an unspecified period,’ the British government said

LONDON: Britons stuck in Morocco have no idea how they will get back to the UK after the North African kingdom banned flights from Britain and airlines ceased operating the route.

Morocco banned travelers to and from the UK on Wednesday in response to rapidly rising coronavirus disease cases in Britain.

The UK had more than 52,000 new infections on Thursday, compared with 6,000 in France and 2,500 in Spain.

Figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed that Morocco’s weekly rate of reported COVID-19 cases on Oct. 14 stood at just 10.4 per 100,000 people. The current rate in the UK is 445.5 per 100,000 people.

The UK Foreign Office updated its travel advice to reflect the ban, calling it a “suspension for an unspecified period.”

It added: “Travelers affected by flight cancelations should contact their airline or tour operator for advice on alternative routes via third countries (eg France, Spain) where flights are operating as normal.”

EasyJet, one of Europe’s largest air carriers, said on Thursday that it had received confirmation from Moroccan authorities that airlines would be allowed to operate scheduled flights back to the UK to take people home. A spokeswoman said that customers would be contacted “as soon as possible.”

However, some took to Twitter to complain that they had been told to come to the airport by easyJet, only to find out that their repatriation flight had been canceled.

It is not yet clear exactly how many Brits are stuck in Morocco, but there are usually more than 50 commercial flights from London to the kingdom each week, with seats for an estimated 6,500 passengers.

Morocco is a popular destination for British travelers, especially during the colder months, where the North African country’s warmer climate provides a much-needed respite from the British weather. 

Morocco has also banned flights to and from Germany and the Netherlands, because of their high COVID-19 caseloads.


Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine more than 90 percent effective in kids

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine more than 90 percent effective in kids
Updated 22 October 2021

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine more than 90 percent effective in kids

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine more than 90 percent effective in kids
  • Shots could begin in early November with the first children in line fully protected by Christmas if regulators give the go-ahead
  • FDA was expected to post its independent review of the company's safety and effectiveness data later in the day

DUBAI: Kid-size doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine appear safe and nearly 91 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infections in 5- to 11-year-olds, according to study details released Friday as the US considers opening vaccinations to that age group.
The shots could begin in early November — with the first children in line fully protected by Christmas — if regulators give the go-ahead.
Details of Pfizer’s study were posted online. The Food and Drug Administration was expected to post its independent review of the company’s safety and effectiveness data later in the day.
Advisers to the FDA will publicly debate the evidence next week. If the agency ultimately authorizes the shots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make the final decision on who should receive them.
Full-strength Pfizer shots already are authorized for anyone 12 or older, but pediatricians and many parents are anxiously awaiting protection for younger children to stem rising infections from the extra-contagious delta variant and help keep kids in school.
More than 25,000 pediatricians and primary care providers already have signed up to get the shots into little arms.
The Biden administration has purchased enough kid-size doses — in special orange-capped vials to distinguish them from adult vaccine — for the nation’s roughly 28 million 5- to 11-year-olds. If the vaccine is cleared, millions of doses will be promptly shipped around the country, along with kid-size needles.
A Pfizer study tracked 2,268 kids in that age group who got two shots three weeks apart of either a placebo or the low-dose vaccine. Each dose was one-third the amount given to teens and adults.
Researchers calculated the low-dose vaccine was nearly 91 percent effective, based on 16 COVID-19 cases in youngsters given dummy shots versus three cases among vaccinated children. There were no severe illnesses reported among any of the youngsters, but the vaccinated ones had much milder symptoms than their unvaccinated counterparts.
In addition, young children given the low-dose shots developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teens and young adults who got regular-strength vaccinations.
That’s important information considering that hospitalizations of mostly unvaccinated children reached record levels last month.
The CDC reported earlier this week that even as the delta mutant surged between June and September, Pfizer vaccinations were 93 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations among 12- to 18-year-olds.
Pfizer’s study of younger kids found the low-dose shots proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects such as sore arms, fever or achiness that teens experience.
The study isn’t large enough to detect any extremely rare side effects, such as the heart inflammation that occasionally occurs after the second dose, mostly in young men.
While children run a lower risk of severe illness or death than older people, COVID-19 has killed more than 630 Americans 18 and under, according to the CDC. Nearly 6.2 million children have been infected with the coronavirus, more than 1.1 million in the last six weeks as the delta mutant surged, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.
Moderna also is studying its COVID-19 shots in elementary school-age youngsters. Pfizer and Moderna are studying even younger children as well, down to 6-month-olds. Results are expected later in the year.