South Korea to launch task force on banning dog meat

South Korea to launch task force on banning dog meat
Animal rights groups want a quicker end of the dog meat trade in South Korea. (AP)
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Updated 25 November 2021

South Korea to launch task force on banning dog meat

South Korea to launch task force on banning dog meat
  • About 1 million to 1.5 million dogs are killed each year for food in South Korea
  • Dog meat is neither legal nor explicitly banned in South Korea

SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea on Thursday said it will launch a task force to consider outlawing dog meat consumption after the country’s president offered to look into ending the centuries-old practice.
Restaurants that serve dog meat are dwindling in South Korea as younger people find dog meat a less appetizing dining option and pets are growing in popularity. Recent surveys indicate more people oppose banning dog meat even if many don’t eat it.
In a statement, seven government offices including the Agriculture Ministry said they decided to launch the group comprising officials, civilian experts and people from related organizations to deliver recommendations on possibly outlawing dog meat consumption. It said authorities will gather information on dog farms, restaurants and other facilities while examining public opinion.
The government says the initiative, the first of its kind, doesn’t necessarily guarantee the banning of dog meat. The seemingly vague stance drew quick protests from both dog farmers and animal rights activists.
Farmers say the task force’s launch is nothing but a formality to shut down their farms and dog meat restaurants, while activists argue the government’s announcement lacks resolve to outlaw dog meat consumption.
Ju Yeongbong, secretary general of an association of dog farmers, accused the government of “trampling upon” the people’s right to eat what they want and farmers’ right to live. He said farmers will boycott all government-involved discussions on dog meat in protest.
Lee Won Bok, head of the Korea Association for Animal Protection, called the government’s announcement “very disappointing” because it didn’t include any concrete plans on how to ban dog meat consumption.
“We have deep doubt about whether the government has a resolve to put an end to dog meat consumption,” Lee said.
About 1 million to 1.5 million dogs are killed each year for food in South Korea, a decrease from several millions about 10-20 years ago. Thousands of farmers currently raise a total of about 1 million to 2 million dogs for meat in South Korea, according to Ju’s organization.
Ju said the farmers, mostly poor, elderly people, want the government to temporarily legalize dog meat consumption for about 20 years, with the expectation that demand will gradually taper off. Lee said animal rights organizations want a quicker end of the business.
“South Korea is the only developed country where people eat dogs, an act that is undermining our international image,” Lee said. “Even if the K-pop band BTS and the (Korean drama) Squid Game are ranked No. 1 in the world, foreigners are still associating South Korea with dog meat and the Korean War.”
According to Lee, dogs are consumed as food in North Korea, China and Vietnam as well as in South Korea.
In September, President Moon Jae-in, a dog lover, asked during a meeting with his prime minister “if it’s time to carefully consider” a ban of dog meat consumption, sparking a new debate over the issue.
Dog meat is neither legal nor explicitly banned in South Korea.


Russia: US to provide written responses on Ukraine next week

Russia: US to provide written responses on Ukraine next week
Updated 21 January 2022

Russia: US to provide written responses on Ukraine next week

Russia: US to provide written responses on Ukraine next week

GENEVA: The United States and Russia tried Friday to avert another devastating conflict in Europe, but the two powers’ top diplomats warned no breakthrough was imminent as fears rise that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine.

Armed with seemingly intractable and diametrically opposed demands, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Geneva at what the American said was a “critical moment.” The talks are shaping up as a possible last-ditch effort at dialogue and a negotiated agreement.

With an estimated 100,000 Russian troops massed near Ukraine, many fear Moscow is preparing an invasion although Russia denies that. The US and its allies are scrambling to present a united front to prevent that or coordinate a tough response if they can’t.

After the meeting, Lavrov said that the US agreed to provide written responses to Russian demands on Ukraine and NATO next week. That could at least delay any imminent aggression for a few days.

But ahead of the meeting, they remained far apart.

“We don’t expect to resolve our differences here today. But I do hope and expect that we can test whether the path of diplomacy or dialogue remains open,” Blinken told Lavrov before their spoke privately. “This is a critical moment.”

Lavrov, meanwhile, said he did not “expect a breakthrough at these negotiations either. What we expect is concrete answers to our concrete proposals.”

But ahead of the meeting, they remained far apart.

“We don’t expect to resolve our differences here today. But I do hope and expect that we can test whether the path of diplomacy or dialogue remains open,” Blinken told Lavrov before their spoke privately. “This is a critical moment.”

Lavrov, meanwhile, said he did not “expect a breakthrough at these negotiations either. What we expect is concrete answers to our concrete proposals.”

Washington and its allies have repeatedly promised “severe” consequences such as biting economic sanctions — though not military action — against Russia if an invasion goes ahead.

Blinken repeated that warning Friday. He said the US and its allies were committed to diplomacy, but also committed “if that proves impossible, and Russia decides to pursue aggression against Ukraine, to a united, swift and severe response.”

But he said he also wanted to use the opportunity to share directly with Lavrov some “concrete ideas to address some of the concerns that you have raised, as well as the deep concerns that many of us have about Russia’s actions.”

Ukraine is already beset by conflict. Russia’s Putin seized control of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014 and backed a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, part of a simmering but largely stalemated conflict with Ukrainian forces that has taken more than 14,000 lives. He faced limited international consequences for those moves, but the West says a new invasion would be different.


Synagogue attacker was referred to UK counter-radicalization scheme

Synagogue attacker was referred to UK counter-radicalization scheme
Updated 21 January 2022

Synagogue attacker was referred to UK counter-radicalization scheme

Synagogue attacker was referred to UK counter-radicalization scheme
  • Malik Faisal Akram was referred to Prevent after breakdown of his marriage
  • Scheme under review amid string of deadly failings, boycott by rights groups

LONDON: A British man who took four people hostage in a Texas synagogue was referred to the UK government’s counter-radicalization program Prevent, it has emerged.

Malik Faisal Akram was referred to Prevent in 2016 following the breakdown of his marriage. MI5 also tracked him for a month in 2020.

Akram was shot dead by the FBI last week while holed up with hostages in a Texas synagogue. He was the only person killed in the ordeal.

Leaked audio revealed that his brother tried to convince him to abort the attack, but was told that Akram would be returning home “in a body bag.”

According to his brother, Akram’s life fell apart in 2016 after he split from his wife. His brother told The Times that he was bitter that his wife had taken his six children after their split, and that Akram had closed his pharmacy business, which ran five locations across the north of England.

It was after this string of events that Akram was referred to Prevent. The new revelations about his referral are likely to pile more pressure on the British government to rethink its de-radicalization strategy.

The Prevent program is currently under review by the government, and a string of failings — some with deadly consequences — add further impetus to strengthening or modifying the program.

Last year, MP Sir David Amess was murdered in his constituency by Ali Harbi Ali, who had also previously been referred to and later discharged by Prevent.

Another attacker, Khairi Saadallah, had been referred to the program by refugee groups. He later killed three in a knife rampage in the English town of Reading.

Prevent’s review, undertaken in 2019, had initially been scheduled for completion in 2020, but a series of delays means it still has not been published.

Rights groups including Amnesty International have boycotted the review, saying William Shawcross, who is leading it, had previously expressed anti-Muslim views that call into question the review’s validity.

A joint statement by the rights groups said: “Shawcross’s appointment, given his well-known record and previous statements on Islam … brings into question the good faith of the government in establishing the review and fundamentally undermines its credibility.”


Australia records deadliest day of pandemic with 80 deaths

Australia records deadliest day of pandemic with 80 deaths
Updated 21 January 2022

Australia records deadliest day of pandemic with 80 deaths

Australia records deadliest day of pandemic with 80 deaths
  • The previous record of 78 deaths was set on Tuesday
  • New South Wales, home to Sydney, reported a record 46 deaths

CANBERRA: Australia on Friday reported its deadliest day of the pandemic with 80 coronavirus fatalities, as an outbreak of the omicron variant continued to take a toll.
But Dominic Perrottet, premier of the most populous state, New South Wales, said a slight decrease in hospitalizations gave him some hope about the strain the outbreak is putting on the health system.
The previous record of 78 deaths was set on Tuesday. There have been just under 3,000 coronavirus deaths in Australia since the pandemic began.
New South Wales, home to Sydney, reported a record 46 deaths. They included a baby who died from COVID-19 in December, one of several historical cases that were investigated.
The news came after the premier of Western Australia state, Mark McGowan, backed down on a promise to reopen the state to the rest of the country on Feb. 5.
In a late-night news conference on Thursday, McGowan said reopening the state as planned would be “reckless and irresponsible” given the large number of COVID-19 cases in other states. No new date has been set for when the state might relax its border closure.
The border decision means neither Prime Minister Scott Morrison nor opposition leader Anthony Albanese can campaign in the state for now. An election is due to be held by May 21.


UK government reinstates citizenship of alleged ‘Islamist extremist’

UK government reinstates citizenship of alleged ‘Islamist extremist’
Updated 21 January 2022

UK government reinstates citizenship of alleged ‘Islamist extremist’

UK government reinstates citizenship of alleged ‘Islamist extremist’
  • He was told his British citizenship was revoked while visiting newborn daughter in Bangladesh
  • Advocacy group: Citizenship deprivation ‘nearly exclusively impacts Muslims, people of color’

LONDON: A British man left stateless in 2017 when his citizenship was stripped has had it reinstated following a lengthy court battle.

The man, identified in court documents as E3, had his citizenship removed in 2017 while he was in Bangladesh for the birth of his daughter.

In a deprivation-of-citizenship order sent to his mother’s UK address, the government alleged that he was “an Islamist extremist who had previously sought to travel abroad to participate in terrorism-related activity.”

It said he was considered a threat to national security and would not be allowed to return to Britain.

His lawyers were not given any evidence of the criminal activity upon which the decision was based because it was “secret.”

Five years on, the government has reinstated the man’s citizenship, but he faces another court battle to provide his daughter with UK nationality.

“I never thought I would win my case; not because I am guilty of anything but because the system is set up to make you lose,” the man, who was born in London but is of Bangladeshi heritage, told The Independent.

“It was incredibly difficult. It is something that you cannot prepare for — you are suddenly cut off from your home, your family and friends, your job and source of income, and everything you take for granted.

“I was stranded in a country with a family that were financially dependent on me and I had no way of providing for them.”

He said he felt helpless and in danger from the Bangladeshi government. “If they were to learn that the British government had accused me of terrorism, they would probably detain and torture me as they routinely do with terrorism suspects,” E3 added.

“I had been sent into exile for a crime that I was not told about; I was not brought before a judge, had not even seen the evidence, so was not at all hopeful for a positive outcome to my appeal.”

The UK government is currently attempting to push the Nationality and Borders Bill through Parliament, which would make it significantly easier to remove the citizenship of those considered threats to national security.

The bill has proved controversial — if implemented, almost half of all British Asians and two in five black Britons would be eligible to have their citizenship revoked, potentially at short notice.

Anas Mustapha of advocacy group Cage, which is supporting E3’s family, told The Independent that E3’s case “exposes the cruel nature of citizenship deprivation” which, he added, “nearly exclusively impacts Muslims and people of color.”

The Good Law Project published advice on the bill, currently being reviewed by the House of Lords, and concluded that if it becomes law it will have “a disproportionate impact on non-white British citizens.”


Nepal imposes tough restrictions as COVID-19 cases set record

Nepal imposes tough restrictions as COVID-19 cases set record
Updated 21 January 2022

Nepal imposes tough restrictions as COVID-19 cases set record

Nepal imposes tough restrictions as COVID-19 cases set record
  • Authorities also halted in-person classes at all schools and indefinitely postponed university examinations

Katmandu: Nepal’s capital shut schools, ordered citizens to carry vaccination cards in public, banned religious festivals and instructed hotel guests to be tested every three days as it battles its biggest COVID-19 outbreak.
The chief government administrator of Katmandu issued a notice on Friday saying all people must carry their vaccination cards when they are in public areas or shop in stores.
Nepal, however, has only fully vaccinated 41 percent of its population. The notice did not say how unvaccinated people will be able to pay utility bills or shop for groceries.
The government says it has enough vaccines in stock, but a new wave of COVID-19 cases propelled by the omicron variant has created long lines at vaccination centers, with many people unable to receive shots.
All public gatherings and meetings will be banned and cinemas and theaters will be closed. Gymnasiums, pools and other sporting venues will also be shut. No public religious festivals or events will be allowed, the notice said. It did not say how long the restrictions would last.
Authorities also halted in-person classes at all schools and indefinitely postponed university examinations.
Wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing in public will be mandatory. Only 20 customers at a time will be allowed in shopping malls and department stores, and all must carry vaccination cards. Employees will be given regular antigen tests to be allowed to work.
Restaurants and hotels can remain open, but employees must wear face masks and other protection. Hotel guests must take antigen tests every three days.
The government is also limiting road traffic, with bans on alternating days for vehicles with odd or even license plates.
The notice said violators will be punished, but did not elaborates. An existing law relating to pandemics says violators can be jailed for a month.
The Health Ministry reported a record 12,338 new cases on Thursday and 11,352 on Wednesday, compared to a few hundred daily cases last month.
Nepal had full lockdowns in 2020 and again from late April to Sept. 1, 2021.