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.”


US urges North Korea to stop missile tests

US urges North Korea to stop missile tests
Updated 8 sec ago

US urges North Korea to stop missile tests

US urges North Korea to stop missile tests
  • Tuesday’s launch was the latest in a series of recent weapons tests by Pyongyang
SEOUL: The US on Sunday urged North Korea to stop “counterproductive” missile tests, but expressed hope Pyongyang would respond positively to Washington’s call for dialogue.
It comes after North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Tuesday, prompting an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
US special representative on North Korea Sung Kim met his southern counterpart Noh Kyu-duk after a meeting with their Japanese counterpart in Washington.
He labelled Tuesday’s launch a “provocation,” and urged Pyongyang to stop “concerning and counterproductive” missile tests.
“We hope the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach,” Kim told reporters in Seoul, using the acronyms of North Korea’s official same.
Tuesday’s launch was the latest in a series of recent weapons tests by the country, including a long-range cruise missile, a train-launched weapon, and what it said was a hypersonic warhead.
Earlier this month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un blamed the United States for sanctions, dismissing Washington’s assertions that it does not have hostile intentions.
Kim met three times with former president Donald Trump, who boasted of stopping a war but failed to reach a comprehensive agreement on ending the country’s nuclear program.
President Joe Biden has promised to keep seeking diplomacy but with a more low-key approach.

Melbourne to ease more COVID-19 curbs as 80 percent vaccination rate nears

Melbourne to ease more COVID-19 curbs as 80 percent vaccination rate nears
Updated 2 min 35 sec ago

Melbourne to ease more COVID-19 curbs as 80 percent vaccination rate nears

Melbourne to ease more COVID-19 curbs as 80 percent vaccination rate nears
  • Home to about five million people, Melbourne endured nearly nine months of stay-at-home restrictions
MELBOURNE: Melbourne, the world’s most locked-down city that emerged from its latest spate of COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, will see more curbs eased next week when Victoria state reaches an 80 percent full vaccination rate, officials said on Sunday.
Home to about five million people, Melbourne endured 262 days, or nearly nine months, of stay-at-home restrictions during six lockdowns since March 2020, longer than the 234-day continuous lockdown in Buenos Aires.
Starting on Friday, when 80 percent of people across Victoria — of which Melbourne is the capital — are expected to be fully vaccinated, Melburnians will be free to travel throughout the state and masks will no longer be required outdoors.
“There’s a fundamental agreement that we have reached with the Victorian community, we asked you to get vaccinated, you have done that in record time and record numbers,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.
With a once-sputtering vaccine rollout now at full speed, authorities across Australia no longer plan to rely on extended lockdowns to suppress the virus. Victoria recorded 1,935 new coronavirus cases and 11 deaths on Sunday.
As the state moves toward a “vaccinated economy” in which only fully inoculated people will be allowed into venues, a 90 percent percent rate is expected around Nov. 24, Andrews said.
He added that he wanted to see crowds in excess of 80,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the Boxing Day Test on Dec. 26 between Australia and England.
“It’s our approach to try and achieve life as close to normal as possible,” Andrews said.
Australians overwhelmingly support vaccinations, with research by the Melbourne Institute at the University of Melbourne, showing in October that only 6.9 percent of the population were unwilling to be inoculated.
New South Wales state, whose capital Sydney spent 100 days in a lockdown that ended earlier this month, recorded 296 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths. Nearly 85 percent of the state’s population have been fully vaccinated.
New Zealand, which is also learning to live with the virus through vaccinations, had 80 cases on Sunday, all in the North Island. On Saturday, it reported a first COVID-19 infection in nearly a year in the country’s South Island.

Trapped in ‘cruel’ forest, migrant regrets Belarus-EU crossing

Trapped in ‘cruel’ forest, migrant regrets Belarus-EU crossing
Updated 24 October 2021

Trapped in ‘cruel’ forest, migrant regrets Belarus-EU crossing

Trapped in ‘cruel’ forest, migrant regrets Belarus-EU crossing
  • The EU suspects Belarus is masterminding the unprecedented influx of migrants into Poland as a form of retaliation against EU sanctions

KLESZCZELE, Belarus: Exhausted and trapped in a cold, “cruel” forest, Lebanese barber Ali Abd Alwareth said he regretted his week-long bid to enter the European Union via the Belarus-Poland border.

“It’s miserable. Something that you don’t wish for your worst enemy ... A nightmare,” the soft-spoken 24-year-old with Crohn’s disease told AFP.

Sitting cross-legged on a bed of pine needles and dead leaves near the border town of Kleszczele in eastern Poland, Abd Alwareth described being a ping-pong ball for the guards.

“I tried crossing like five, six times, and every time I got caught and deported back to the border” by Poland, he said in English.

The Belarusian side meanwhile refused to let him return to Minsk to fly home.

Abd Alwareth said security forces told him: “You have only two choices: either you die here or you die in Poland. That’s it.”

One of thousands of migrants — mostly from the Middle East — who have tried to penetrate the 400-km border since August, Abd Alwareth said he left the financial crisis in Lebanon in search of a better life.

The whole journey from his home region of Bekaa cost $4,000 and involved help from a Minsk-based company he found on social media.

The EU suspects Belarus is masterminding the unprecedented influx of migrants into Poland as a form of retaliation against EU sanctions, but the regime has put the blame on the West.

Poland has sent thousands of troops, built a razor-wire fence and implemented a three-month state of emergency that bans journalists and charity workers along the immediate border area.

During his grueling time in the woods, Abd Alwareth said he drank water off of leaves, was too cold to sleep, and was once hit on the head by either the Polish army or police.

Though “exhausted” and “devastated,” he said he understood that the border guards “are doing their job. They are protecting their country. We are illegal.”

On Friday, Abd Alwareth and his Syrian walking companions managed to get in touch with Polish activists, who met them in the forest with warm clothes and food as well as offering support when the guards arrived.

His fate up in the air, Abd Alwareth hopes to receive asylum in Poland — or at the very least, to return to Lebanon.

“Okay, you don’t want me here, you don’t want me in Belarus. Just deport me back home. That’s all I’m asking for,” he said.

“What is happening in the forest is cruel ... I feel like a puppet. It was my decision, I came this way -- but not to be treated like this,” he added.

“I refuse to die at the border. I just want to see my mum.”


Indian home minister begins first Kashmir visit since autonomy scrapped 

Indian home minister begins first Kashmir visit since autonomy scrapped 
Updated 24 October 2021

Indian home minister begins first Kashmir visit since autonomy scrapped 

Indian home minister begins first Kashmir visit since autonomy scrapped 
  • Indian Govt in 2019 scrapped Articles 370 and 35A of the country’s constitution

NEW DELHI: Security has been tightened in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Saturday as Home Minister Amit Shah began his first visit to the region since the abrogation of its autonomy in 2019.

On Aug. 5, 2019, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party scrapped Articles 370 and 35A of the country’s constitution that granted special autonomous status to the Jammu and Kashmir region, a move which divided the state into two federally administered units.

Shah, the most powerful government official after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been seen as the main architect of the 2019 developments.

His visit comes in the wake of increased violence in the region. In October alone, 11 non-Muslim civilians have been killed by suspected anti-India rebels. According to local media reports, an additional 50 companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed to Kashmir ahead of Shah’s trip. They will bolster the approximately 800,000 troops already stationed in the region.

“The Jammu and Kashmir Police are working diligently to realize the new J&K that Modi has envisioned,” Shah said in a tweet during the first day of his visit.

Upon arrival, the minister presided over a high-level security meeting in Srinagar, Kashmir’s main city.

“The narrative ... is that Jammu and Kashmir is safe for everyone but these killings prove minorities and outsiders are not safe,” TV channel NDTV said, quoting Home Ministry officials. “This is a big concern for the government. So, a strategy to further reassure people was discussed.”

Kashmir’s former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti urged the Indian government to initiate confidence-building measures in the region. After Shah’s arrival, she tweeted that Modi’s government should be “lifting the siege that J&K has been put under since 2019.”

Political experts in Kashmir believe the minister’s visit could inspire a reconsideration in New Delhi’s strategy towards the region.

“They should rethink the strategy in Jammu and Kashmir like they have done in Afghanistan. Previously, New Delhi was opposed to engaging with the Taliban, now they are talking to them,” Prof. Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a Srinagar-based law expert at the Central University of Kashmir, told Arab News. 

“The same kind of rethinking is needed in the case of Kashmir instead of ignoring the reality and trying to create an illusion of normalcy.”


In Islamabad, a cafe serves up qahwah, the ‘language of love’ for Arabs

In Islamabad, a cafe serves up qahwah, the ‘language of love’ for Arabs
Updated 24 October 2021

In Islamabad, a cafe serves up qahwah, the ‘language of love’ for Arabs

In Islamabad, a cafe serves up qahwah, the ‘language of love’ for Arabs
  • The idea for KAF was born when the brothers met Fahim Hassan Khan at a local coffee shop

ISLAMABAD: Abdul Malik Abdullah, Wail Wasil and Fahim Hassan Khan had three things in common when they met for the first time in Islamabad earlier this year: They were all born and raised in Gulf countries, they all were stranded in Pakistan because of coronavirus travel restrictions and they all loved Arabic coffee.

Now there is one more thing that has brought the three young men together. They are co-owners of a small cafe called KAF that opened in the capital last week to serve up what they describe as a taste of home — authentic Arabic coffee.

In the outdoor seating area of the coffee shop, customers are greeted with a mural showing a beverage being poured from a curvaceous pot into a heart next to the calligraphed words: “For the Arabs, the law of love is coffee.”

“We’ve missed home, we’ve had this bad homesickness for a while,“ Abdullah, a fourth-generation Pakistani living in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News at KAF, which is located on the ground floor of Islamabad’s Roomy hotel.

“Arabic coffee is like our daily routine. To us it is like roti,” he added, referring to a type of bread that is a staple of Pakistani diets.

The golden, cardamom-infused Arabic coffee, or qahwah, is the most popular kind brewed in the Middle East. Abdullah and Wasil said that they use varieties imported from Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Ethiopia, and serve them up at KAF as they would at home — in ceramic shot glasses with a side of Saudi dates.

“It’s authentic Arabic coffee,“ said Wasil, who like Abdullah came to Pakistan in 2019 to pursue higher education but became stranded in Islamabad due to the pandemic. “We drink it day and night, it’s a part of us.”

“We are sharing it with our customers, and we are making sure it is how we like it also,” he said. “The dates I serve here, I eat at home.”

The idea for KAF was born when the brothers met Fahim Hassan Khan at a local coffee shop and the three decided to go into business together. At the time, Khan, whose parents moved to the UAE at least four decades ago, was on a visit to Pakistan that was indefinitely extended due to coronavirus travel bans.

“We became brothers fast and all had a common goal to start something of our own. And, boom, there it was, the idea to bring authentic Arabic qahwah, culture and music to Islamabad,” Khan said.

His love for qahwah grew from time spent around the nomadic Bedouin people of the UAE. “On our weekends we would drink Arabic qahwah and listen to old folk music,” said Khan, who now plays traditional Arabic music at the cafe “to give it a feel of home.”

“Even till this day, when you visit an Arab residence they greet you with authentic Arabic coffee and dates,” he said. “They say: ‘The language of love in the Arab land is qahwah.’”