Houthis condemned for military activities at Sanaa airport

Houthis condemned for military activities at Sanaa airport
The tower at Sanaa airport, Sanaa, Yemen, Sept. 8, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 November 2021

Houthis condemned for military activities at Sanaa airport

Houthis condemned for military activities at Sanaa airport
  • Loyalist forces remove landmines from recently liberated areas in Hodeidah and Taiz provinces
  • Militia ‘using government offices, civil facilities, houses, mosques and markets for terrorist activities’

AL-MUKALLA: The government of Yemen on Tuesday criticized the Iran-backed Houthis for turning Sanaa airport into a military site for storing and testing weapons.

Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar Al-Eryani said that the Houthis imperil the lives of thousands of Sanaa residents by turning civilian facilities, including Sanaa airport, into military areas for storing and assembling missiles, explosives-rigged drones and ammunition.

He tweeted that Houthi militia had used government offices, civil facilities, airports, ports, houses, mosques and markets for military purposes, in flagrant violation of international laws that criminalize using of civilians as shields and endanger their lives.

The Yemeni minister was reacting to a video released by the Arab coalition on Monday that shows officers in civilian clothes testing an air defense system at Sanaa airport, using a departing UN plane as a target.

He called on the international community and the UN and US envoys to condemn the Houthis’ activities that “endanger the lives of United Nations crews and relief organizations, which amount to war crimes.”

The Houthi official media quoted a rebel official who admitted testing weapons at a military base next to Sanaa airport.

Large explosions rocked the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, early on Tuesday morning after the Arab coalition warplanes struck two military sites controlled by the Houthis.

The coalition said in a statement on Tuesday that the warplanes hit “legitimate” targets, including ballistic missile silos.

The US repeated its demands to the Houthis on Monday to release Yemeni workers abducted from its embassy in Sanaa and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and to stop harassing their families.

“The United States condemns the Houthis’ detention and mistreatment of dozens of Yemeni citizens and their family members simply because they have worked for the United States in Sanaa,” the US Embassy in Yemen said on Twitter.

Early this month, the Houthis stormed the US Embassy in Sanaa, looting property and abducting two dozen local employees.

Meanwhile, fighting between the coalition-backed forces and the Houthis subsided on Tuesday along the country’s western provinces as loyalists secured and removed landmines from recently liberated areas in Hodeidah and Taiz provinces.

The Yemeni forces have pushed the Houthis out of many areas since the beginning of their new offensive on Friday.


UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down

UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down. (Shutterstock)
UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 January 2022

UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down

UK bans ad showing girl eating cheese while hanging upside down. (Shutterstock)
  • Mondelez said the ad was aimed at parents, and had been shown only on programming for adults

LONDON: Britain’s advertising regulator has banned a TV ad that showed a girl eating cheese while hanging upside down, saying it could promote behavior that could lead to choking.
The ad for Dairylea cheese, a brand of US snacks giant Mondelez, had been shown on British video-on-demand services in August last year.
It featured two girls, aged six and eight, hanging upside down from a soccer goalpost, discussing where food went when you hang upside down. One of the girls then ate a piece of Dairylea cheese.
The Advertising Standards Authority said children could try to emulate the girls, and one person had complained that a three-year-old relative had eaten food while hanging upside down after seeing the ad.
Mondelez said the ad was aimed at parents, and had been shown only on programming for adults. The girls were close enough to the ground to be safe from falling, and adults supervising them could be seen in the background. However, the ASA concluded these were not sufficient factors to reduce the risk of harm.


Microsoft buys game maker Activision Blizzard for about $70 billion

Microsoft buys game maker Activision Blizzard for about $70 billion
Updated 19 January 2022

Microsoft buys game maker Activision Blizzard for about $70 billion

Microsoft buys game maker Activision Blizzard for about $70 billion
  • Deal will turn Microsoft, maker of the Xbox gaming system, into one of the world’s largest video game companies
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella vows to address issues of misconduct and unequal pay against Activision

Microsoft is paying nearly $70 billion for Activision Blizzard, the maker of Candy Crush and Call of Duty, to boost its competitiveness in mobile gaming and virtual-reality technology.
The all-cash $68.7 billion deal will turn Microsoft, maker of the Xbox gaming system, into one of the world’s largest video game companies. It will also help it compete with tech rivals such as Meta, formerly Facebook, in creating immersive virtual worlds for both work and play.
If the deal survives scrutiny from US and European regulators in the coming months, it could be one of the biggest tech acquisitions in history. Dell bought data-storage company EMC in 2016 for around $60 billion.
Activision has been buffeted for months by allegations of misconduct and unequal pay. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addressed the issue Tuesday in a conference call with investors.
“The culture of our organization is my No. 1 priority,” Nadella said, adding that ”it’s critical for Activision Blizzard to drive forward” on its commitments to improve its workplace culture.
Activision disclosed last year it was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission over complaints of workplace discrimination and in September settled claims brought by US workforce discrimination regulators. California’s civil rights agency sued the Santa Monica-based company in July, citing a “frat boy” culture that had become a “breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women.”
Wall Street saw the acquisition as a big win for Activision Blizzard Inc. and its shares soared 25 percent in trading Tuesday, making up for losses over the past six months since California’s discrimination lawsuit was filed. Shares of Microsoft slipped about 2 percent.

HIGHLIGHT

Acquisition to push Microsoft past Nintendo as the third-largest video game company by global revenue, behind Playstation-maker Sony and Chinese tech giant Tencent

Last year, Microsoft spent $7.5 billion to acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of video game publisher Bethesda Softworks, which is behind popular video games The Elder Scrolls, Doom and Fallout. Microsoft’s properties also include the hit game Minecraft after it bought Swedish game studio Mojang for $2.5 billion in 2014.
The Redmond, Washington, tech giant said the latest acquisitions will help beef up its Xbox Game Pass game subscription service while also accelerating its ambitions for the metaverse, a collection of virtual worlds envisioned as a next generation of the Internet. While Xbox already has its own game-making studio, the prospect of Microsoft controlling so much game content raised questions about whether the company could restrict Activision games from competing consoles, although Nadella promised the deal would help people play games “wherever, whenever and however they want.”
The acquisition would push Microsoft past Nintendo as the third-largest video game company by global revenue, behind Playstation-maker Sony and Chinese tech giant Tencent, according to Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives.
“Microsoft needed to do an aggressive deal given their streaming ambitions and metaverse strategy,” Ives said. ”They’re the only game in town that can do a deal of this size with the other tech stalwarts under massive tech scrutiny.”
Meta, Google, Amazon and Apple have all attracted increasing attention from antitrust regulators in the US and Europe, but the Activision deal is so big that it will also likely put Microsoft into the regulatory spotlight, Ives said. Microsoft is already facing delays in its planned $16 billion acquisition of Massachusetts speech recognition company Nuance because of an investigation by British antitrust regulators.
Microsoft is able to make such a big all-cash purchase of Activision because of its success as a cloud computing provider. But after years of focusing on shoring up its business clients and products such as the Office suite of email and other work tools, Ives said Microsoft’s failed 2020 attempt to acquire social media platform TikTok may have “really whet the appetite for Nadella to do a big consumer acquisition.”
Pushback against the deal was immediate from consumer advocacy groups.
“No way should the Federal Trade Commission and the US Department of Justice permit this merger to proceed,” said a statement from Alex Harman, competition policy advocate for Public Citizen. “If Microsoft wants to bet on the ‘metaverse,’ it should invest in new technology, not swallow up a competitor.”

BACKGROUND

Activision was formed in 1979 by former employees of Atari Inc., a pioneer in arcade games and home video game consoles.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki had no comment on Microsoft’s announcement at her briefing Tuesday, but emphasized the Biden administration’s recent moves to strengthen enforcement against illegal and anticompetitive mergers.
Started in 1979 by former Atari Inc. employees, Activision has created or acquired many of the most popular video games, from Pitfall in the 1980s to Guitar Hero and the World of Warcraft franchise. Bobby Kotick, 59, has been CEO since 1991.
Microsoft said it expects the deal to close in its 2023 fiscal year, which starts in July. It said Kotick will continue to serve as CEO. After the deal closes, the Activision business unit would then report to Phil Spencer, who has led Microsoft’s Xbox division and will now serve as CEO of Microsoft Gaming.
Kotick survived a number of executive shakeups at Activision last year after a series of controversies stemming from allegations of a toxic workplace culture. A shareholder lawsuit in August said the company failed to disclose to investors that it was being investigated in California and that it had workplace culture issues that could result in legal problems.
Activision reached a deal in September with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to settle claims that followed a nearly three-year investigation. The agency said Activision failed to take effective action after employees complained about sexual harassment, discriminated against pregnant employees and retaliated against employees who spoke out, including by firing them.
Microsoft has also been investigating its own practices toward sexual harassment and gender discrimination, opening an inquiry last week sought by investors at its annual shareholders meeting in November. The company committed to publishing a report later this year on how it handles harassment claims, including past allegations involving senior leaders such as co-founder Bill Gates.
 


Giuliani and other pro-Trump lawyers hit with subpoenas over Jan 6 attack

In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington. (AP)
In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington. (AP)
Updated 19 January 2022

Giuliani and other pro-Trump lawyers hit with subpoenas over Jan 6 attack

In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was a lawyer for President Donald Trump, speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington. (AP)
  • The committee said it is seeking records and deposition testimony from Giuliani, the 76-year-old former New York City mayor once celebrated for his leadership after 9/11, in connection to his promotion of election fraud claims on behalf of Trump

WASHINGTON: The House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection issued subpoenas Tuesday to Rudy Giuliani and other members of Donald Trump’s post-election legal team who filed multiple lawsuits claiming election fraud that were roundly rejected by the courts but gave rise to the lie that Trump did not really lose the 2020 presidential contest.
The committee is continuing to widen its scope into Trump’s orbit, this time demanding information and testimony from Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell and Boris Epshteyn. All four publicly defended the president and his baseless voter fraud claims in the months after the election.
“The four individuals we’ve subpoenaed today advanced unsupported theories about election fraud, pushed efforts to overturn the election results, or were in direct contact with the former President about attempts to stop the counting of electoral votes,” Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, Democratic chairman of the panel, said in a statement.
The committee said it is seeking records and deposition testimony from Giuliani, the 76-year-old former New York City mayor once celebrated for his leadership after 9/11, in connection to his promotion of election fraud claims on behalf of Trump. The panel is also seeking information about Giuliani’s reported efforts to persuade state legislators to take steps to overturn the election results.
A lawyer for Giuliani did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
Giuliani took on a leading role in disputing the election results on Trump’s behalf after the 2020 presidential election, even visiting states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, where he claimed ballots “looked suspicious” and Biden’s electoral win was a fraud.
To this day, not a single court has found merit in the core legal claims made by Trump, Giuliani and the other three subpoenaed Tuesday.
The nine-member panel is also demanding information from Trump legal adviser Ellis, who the lawmakers say reportedly prepared and circulated two memos that analyzed the constitutional authority for then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject or delay counting the electoral votes from states that had submitted alternate slates of electors.
Besides Giuliani, Sidney Powell was the most public face of Trump’s attempts to contest the election, routinely making appearances on behalf of the president.
In numerous interviews and appearances post-election, Powell continued to make misleading statements about the voting process, unfurled unsupported and complex conspiracy theories involving communist regimes and vowed to “blow up” Georgia with a “biblical” court filing.
Ellis and Powell appeared with Giuliani at press conferences, pushing false claims of election fraud. Powell was eventually removed from the team after she said in an interview she was going to release “the kraken” of lawsuits that would prove the election had been stolen.
Powell did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
The last person subpoenaed Tuesday by the committee is Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump campaign strategic adviser, who reportedly attended meetings at the Willard Hotel in the days leading up to the insurrection. The committee said Epshteyn had a call with Trump on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, to discuss options to delay the certification of election results in the event of Pence’s unwillingness to deny or delay the process.
 


Houthi terror chief among 20 killed as coalition strikes back

Houthi terror chief among 20 killed as coalition strikes back
Updated 19 January 2022

Houthi terror chief among 20 killed as coalition strikes back

Houthi terror chief among 20 killed as coalition strikes back
  • Coalition air strikes hit militia targets in Yemen's capital following Houthi drone attack in Abu Dhabi
  • Abdullah Qassim Al-Junaid, the dead Houthi leader, was head of the Iran-backed militia’s aviation academy

JEDDAH: A Houthi terrorist chief was one of about 20 people killed on Tuesday when airstrikes by the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen struck militia targets in Sanaa.

Abdullah Qassim Al-Junaid, the head of the Iran-backed militia’s aviation academy, had been sentenced to death in his absence by a court in Marib last year on charges of staging a military coup and committing war crimes.

Tuesday’s airstrikes targeting Houthi camps and strongholds in the Yemeni capital were the heaviest in nearly three years. They followed a Houthi drone attack on Monday on an oil storage depot on the outskirts of UAE capital Abu Dhabi, in which three people died, and the launch of eight armed drones from Yemen to Saudi Arabia, which the Kingdom’s air defenses intercepted and destroyed.

After Monday’s drone strike the UAE said it reserved the right to respond to “terrorist attacks and criminal escalation,” and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan agreed in a phone call to “jointly stand up to these acts of aggression.”

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

The US vowed to hold the Houthis accountable for the attack, which was also condemned by the UN, the EU, Britain andFrance, and throughout the Gulf and the wider Middle East, including Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett sent a letter of condolence to Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, offering “security and intelligence support in order to help you protect your citizens from similar attacks.”

Bennett said: “I have ordered the Israeli security establishment to provide their counterparts in the UAE with any assistance, should you be interested. Israel is committed to working closely with you in the ongoing battle against extremist forces in the region, and we will continue to partner with you to defeat our common enemies.” 

The attack on Abu Dhabi came as the Houthis suffered a series of military defeats in the Yemen war, including a lengthy battle in which they were driven out of Shabwa province by the UAE-trained Giants Brigades. That defeat dealt a blow to the Houthis’ campaign to capture the battleground province of Marib, the government’s last stronghold in the north.

“There is no end in sight for the Yemen war,” said Elisabeth Kendall, a researcher at the University of Oxford’s Pembroke College. “Rather, the conflict is escalating.”

However, she added: “The UAE will not rush to a knee-jerk reaction. It has invested heavily in Yemen, particularly in new political and military infrastructure in the south. It is unlikely to veer from its long-term strategy… on the basis of a provocation.”


UK police asked to probe Indian officials’ role in Kashmir

UK police asked to probe Indian officials’ role in Kashmir
Updated 19 January 2022

UK police asked to probe Indian officials’ role in Kashmir

UK police asked to probe Indian officials’ role in Kashmir
  • The law firm’s report was based on over 2,000 testimonies taken between 2020 and 2021

LONDON: A London-based law firm filed an application with British police Tuesday seeking the arrest of India’s army chief and a senior Indian government official over their alleged roles in war crimes in disputed Kashmir.
Law firm Stoke White said it submitted extensive evidence to the Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Unit documenting how Indian forces headed by Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane and Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah were responsible for the torture, kidnapping and killing of activists, journalists and civilians.
The law firm’s report was based on over 2,000 testimonies taken between 2020 and 2021. It also accused eight unnamed senior Indian military officials of direct involvement in war crimes and torture in Kashmir.
“There is strong reason to believe that Indian authorities are conducting war crimes and other violence against civilians in Jammu and Kashmir,” the report states, referring to territory that is part of the Himalayan region.
The request to London police was made under the principle of “universal jurisdiction,” which gives countries authority to prosecute individuals accused of crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.
The international law firm in London said it believes its application is the first time that legal action has been taken abroad against Indian authorities over alleged war crimes in Kashmir.
Hakan Camuz, director of international law at Stoke White, said he hoped the report would convince British police to open an investigation and ultimately arrest the officials when they set foot in the UK Some of the Indian officials have financial assets and other links to Britain.
“We are asking the UK government to do their duty and investigate and arrest them for what they did based on the evidence we supplied to them. We want them to be held accountable,” Camuz said.
The police application was made on behalf of the family of Zia Mustafa, a jailed militant whom Camuz said was the victim of an extrajudicial killing by Indian authorities in 2021, and the behalf of human rights campaigner Muhammad Ahsan Untoo, who was allegedly tortured before his arrest last week.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which both claim the region in its entirety. Muslim Kashmiris support rebels who want to unite the region, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. In Indian-controlled Kashmir, tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the past two decades.
Kashmiris and international rights groups have long accused Indian troops of carrying out systematic abuse and arrests of those who oppose rule from New Delhi.
In 2018, the UN human rights chief called for an independent international investigation into reports of rights violations in Kashmir, alleging “chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces.”
India’s government has denied the alleged right violations and maintains such claims are separatist propaganda meant to demonize Indian troops in the region.
The law firm’s investigation suggested that the abuse has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.
Its report also included details about the arrest of Khurram Parvez, the region’s most prominent rights activist, by India’s counterterrorism authorities last year.
Parvez, 42, worked for the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, which has written extensive reports about Indian troops’ use of violence and torture.
Other accounts in the report discuss journalist Sajad Gul, who was arrested earlier this month after he posted a video of family members and relatives protesting the killing of a rebel commander.
Human rights lawyers have increasingly used the universal jurisdiction principle to seek justice for people who were unable to file criminal complaints in their home countries or with the International Criminal Court, located in The Hague.
Last week, a German court convicted a former Syrian secret police officer of crimes against humanity for overseeing the abuse of thousands of detainees at a jail near Damascus a decade ago.
Camuz said he hoped the request to British police seeking the arrest of Indian officials will be followed by other legal actions also focusing on Kashmir.
“We are sure this is not going to be the last one, there will probably be many more applications,” he said.

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