UK climate activists face prison for blocking highways

UK climate activists face prison for blocking highways
Members of Insulate Britain, demanding that the British government helps provide insulation for 29 million homes, block part of the M25 motorway near London, Britain on Monday. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 September 2021

UK climate activists face prison for blocking highways

UK climate activists face prison for blocking highways
  • Members of campaign group Insulate Britain have shut down parts of London's M25 highway
  • “Invading a motorway is reckless and puts lives at risk,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter

LONDON: Environmental activists who have repeatedly blocked Britain’s busiest highway face possible imprisonment after a judge granted an injunction against the protesters, Britain’s transport secretary said Wednesday.
Members of campaign group Insulate Britain have shut down parts of London’s M25 highway, which circles the British capital, five times in just over a week by sitting on the ground, painting the name of their group on the road and raising placards in front of traffic. Some have also targeted other highways.
Police have arrested dozens of the protesters, who demand the government improve home insulation to reduce emissions from heating and powering homes.
“Invading a motorway is reckless and puts lives at risk,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter. “I asked National Highways to seek an injunction against M25 protesters which a judge granted last night.”
The injunction means that activists will face contempt of court with possible imprisonment if they continue blocking roads.
Insulate Britain spokeswoman Zoe Cohen said protesters “understand that the risks they are taking are because that we have tried everything else to make the government protect us from the predicted impacts of climate chaos.”
“That involves the loss of all that we cherish, our society, our way of life and law and order,” she told BBC radio.
Cohen said her group wants the government to update insulation in social housing by 2025 and all homes by 2030, “because this is the most effective way to reduce emissions and save lives from fuel poverty.”
The group said it will end its campaign as soon as it hears a “meaningful commitment” by the government to its demands.
The High Court order, which officially came into force on Wednesday, prohibits anyone from “blocking, endangering, slowing down, preventing, or obstructing the free flow of traffic onto or along or off the M25 for the purposes of protesting.”


Belgium warns Poland “not to play with fire” over EU dispute

Belgium warns Poland “not to play with fire” over EU dispute
Updated 10 sec ago

Belgium warns Poland “not to play with fire” over EU dispute

Belgium warns Poland “not to play with fire” over EU dispute
  • The comments follow years of disputes over changes Poland’s government has made to the country’s courts
  • The nationalist ruling party in Poland, Law and Justice, has been in conflict with Brussels since winning power in 2015 over a number of matters
BRUSSELS: European Union founding member Belgium warned Poland on Wednesday not to treat the EU like “a cash machine” to boost its economic fortunes while disregarding its democratic and rule of law principles at will.
“You cannot pocket all the money but refuse the values,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo at the opening of the College of Bruges, an academic well of European thinkers.
De Croo targeted Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki who accused the EU of threatening “World War III” for insisting that Poland should respect the independence of the judiciary and the primacy of EU law. The Belgian prime minister said his Polish counterpart was “playing with fire when waging war with your European colleagues for internal political reasons.”
The comments follow years of disputes over changes Poland’s government has made to the country’s courts. The EU believes the changes erode democratic checks and balances, and the European Commission is holding up billions of euros to Poland earmarked in a pandemic recovery plan.
The war of words also comes on the heels of an EU summit, where Polish arguments that fundamental judicial changes the country made would not undermine the EU failed to convince key bloc leaders.
Among them was French President Emmanuel Macron, who will meet his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda later Wednesday.
Morawiecki’s recalcitrance crystalized in an interview with the Financial Times over the weekend. When asked if Poland could use its veto power to block legislation in retaliation, for instance on climate issues, Morawiecki said: “If they start the third world war, we are going to defend our rights with any weapons which are at our disposal.”
The interview did not go down well with Morawiecki’s EU colleagues. “You are playing a dangerous game,” De Croo said.
“This is about the overwhelming majority of member states – from the Baltics to Portugal — who agree our Union is a union of values, not a cash machine,” De Croo said, alluding to the fact that Poland has long been a major net recipient of EU funds.
The nationalist ruling party in Poland, Law and Justice, has been in conflict with Brussels since winning power in 2015 over a number of matters, including migration and LGBT rights. The longest running dispute, however, has centered on the Polish government’s attempts to take political control of the judiciary.
The matter came to a head earlier this month when the constitutional court ruled that some key parts of EU law are not compatible with the nation’s constitution. The ruling by a court stacked with ruling party loyalists was made after Morawiecki asked it to decide on whether EU or national law has primacy.

Former Nissan executive and aide to Carlos Ghosn seeks acquittal in Tokyo trial

Former Nissan executive and aide to Carlos Ghosn seeks acquittal in Tokyo trial
Updated 55 sec ago

Former Nissan executive and aide to Carlos Ghosn seeks acquittal in Tokyo trial

Former Nissan executive and aide to Carlos Ghosn seeks acquittal in Tokyo trial
  • Japanese prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence for Greg Kelly
  • The only person to stand trial over claims Nissan tried to hide planned payments to Ghosn

TOKYO: Former Nissan executive Greg Kelly said Wednesday he was “not guilty of any crime” as the defense wrapped up its case in Tokyo, where he faces jail over financial misconduct allegations.
Japanese prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence for Kelly, a US citizen and former aide to ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn.
Kelly, 65, is the only person to stand trial over claims Nissan tried to hide planned payments to auto tycoon Ghosn, who jumped bail and fled Japan hidden in an audio equipment box in December 2019.
“I was not involved in a criminal conspiracy, and I am not guilty of any crime,” Kelly said in his closing remarks at the Tokyo District Court.
The actions taken “to find a lawful way to retain Mr.Carlos Ghosn after he retired were in the best interests of Nissan,” he added.
His defense lawyers said prosecutors had failed to prove Kelly was behind an alleged plot to under-report Ghosn’s compensation over several years.
The charges against Kelly involve around 9.1 billion yen ($80 million at current rates) that prosecutors say was promised to his former boss upon retirement.
“It is clear that the prosecution’s portrayal of Kelly is unfairly distorted,” Kelly’s lawyer Yoichi Kitamura told the court.
“There’s no indication that Kelly had any personal interest in considering the payment for Ghosn ... the only possible conclusion in this case is acquittal.”
Kelly and Ghosn — a fugitive in Lebanon — were arrested in Tokyo in 2018, sending shock waves through the business world.
They have both maintained their innocence, saying no final agreement was made on any post-retirement pay, and therefore no disclosure was legally required.
“There was no crime,” Kelly said outside court after the hearing. “Carlos Ghosn never was paid anything. And there was no enforceable agreement.”
“Three and a half years, is that being given the right to a speedy trial?” he said, adding he had liked working for Ghosn, but “wasn’t his friend.”
Nissan, standing trial as a company alongside Kelly, has pleaded guilty and on Wednesday asked the judge for leniency ahead of the verdict on March 3.
Prosecutors have demanded Nissan be fined 200 million yen, but the firm’s lawyers said the alleged misconduct “was carried out to benefit Ghosn” and not the company.
It comes after Rahm Emanuel, nominated as the next US ambassador to Japan, said last week he would prioritize Kelly’s case.
“The number one responsibility of an embassy ambassador is to ensure the safety of a US citizen on foreign soil,” Emanuel told the Senate.
“I’m going to be approaching this subject as a former US congressman who knows what it means when you have a constituent at heart.”


Afghan failure a political not military issue: UK defense secretary 

Afghan failure a political not military issue: UK defense secretary 
Updated 5 min 40 sec ago

Afghan failure a political not military issue: UK defense secretary 

Afghan failure a political not military issue: UK defense secretary 
  • ‘Our resolve was found wanting,’ Ben Wallace tells parliamentary committee
  • ‘NATO were there to enable a political campaign, and I think that’s what failed’  

LONDON: NATO’s political campaign in Afghanistan was a failure but Western troops were not defeated in battle by the Taliban, the UK’s defense secretary has said.

Speaking in front of a parliamentary defense committee examining the events in Afghanistan leading up to and since the NATO withdrawal, Ben Wallace told MPs that the alliance’s forces could have stayed in the country but lacked the “resolve” to do so.

He also said it would have been “reasonable” to expect Afghan government forces to hold out against Taliban advances for longer than they did.

Asked by MPs whether NATO forces had been defeated in the country, Wallace said: “I don’t think we were defeated ... Our resolve was found wanting is what I’d say, rather than defeated ... We always had a military advantage until we started reducing (troop numbers).”

He added that the rapid collapse of Afghan resistance against the Taliban was partly the result of NATO’s failure to effectively overhaul the country’s political system.

“NATO were there to enable a political campaign, and I think that’s what failed. The military were there to put in place the security environment in order to try and deliver that,” he said.

“When that’s withdrawn, that’s when you find out whether your political campaign has worked. What we discovered is it didn’t work … There are a lot of searching questions there for all of us.”

Despite the later failures, Wallace said the initial goal of the invasion — to dismantle Al-Qaeda and end Taliban rule of Afghanistan — was a success.

“We bought counterterrorism success for 20 years. Al-Qaeda didn’t mount … a terrorist attack on the United Kingdom or her allies from Afghanistan. For many soldiers, that’s very important,” he added.

“I think it’s highly likely that we’ll see a return of Al-Qaeda and an increasing threat coming from Afghanistan.”

The two-decade-long war cost the lives of over 240,000 Afghans, 2,300 US troops, more than 400 British soldiers and hundreds more from other NATO countries.


Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill
Updated 58 min 38 sec ago

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill

Philippines to receive 300,000 courses of Merck’s COVID-19 pill
  • Asian nations race to get early access to the experimental pill amid large demand
  • Each pill is estimated to cost between $1.97 and $2.96

MANILA: The Philippines will receive 300,000 courses of Merck & Co’s COVID-19 antiviral drug next month, licensed importers and distributors said on Wednesday, as Asian nations race to get early access to the experimental pill amid large demand.
Singapore and Malaysia have signed deals to buy the drug, Molnupiravir, while Indonesia is finalizing a purchase agreement, among a slew of orders after data from interim clinical trials showed the pills could halve the likelihood of hospitalization or death for patients at risk of severe COVID-19.
“Molnupiravir can now be accessed by our countrymen upon being prescribed for such use by their respective physicians,” Monaliza Salian, president of MedEthix, a Philippine health care products importer, told a news conference.
MedEthix will import 300,000 courses of Molnupiravir for COVID-19 patients in four hospitals, she added. The shipment will be the first batch of the drug to arrive in the Philippines.
Each pill is estimated to cost 100 to 150 pesos ($1.97 to $2.96), said Meneleo Hernandez, president of pharmaceutical firm JackPharma, which will distribute the drug locally.
The Philippines has approved the “compassionate use” of Molnupiravir for 31 hospitals, Food and Drug Administration Chief Rolando Enrique Domingo said on Wednesday.
Molnupiravir would be the world’s first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19 if it gets regulatory approval.
The Philippines’ health ministry on Wednesday reported 3,218 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest single-day tally in more than five months. It has so far fully inoculated roughly 26 million of its 110 million population.
With nearly 2.77 million cases and more than 42,300 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia.


Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan
Updated 27 October 2021

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan

Gunmen kill 4 Pakistani police near border with Afghanistan
  • Pakistan has witnessed scores of such terrorist attacks in recent years

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Unidentified gunmen attacked a police patrol overnight in northwest Pakistan, killing four before fleeing the scene, a police official said Wednesday.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack in Lakki Marwat, a town in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan. Police official Umar Khan said a search operation for the culprits was still underway.
Khan provided no further details and only said the funeral of slain officers was held Wednesday morning.
Pakistan has witnessed scores of such terrorist attacks in recent years, most of which have been claimed by the Pakistani Taliban and the Daesh group. Both organizations have been emboldened by Taliban resurgence in neighboring Afghanistan, where Pakistani militants are still believed to be hiding.
Before the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan often accused each other of turning a blind eye to militants operating along their porous border.