2 key UK Cabinet ministers quit Boris Johnson’s government

2 key UK Cabinet ministers quit Boris Johnson’s government
Britain’s Health Secretary Sajid Javid arrives for a cabinet meeting in Downing Street in London on July 5, 2022. He resigned on Tuesday. (AFP)
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Updated 05 July 2022

2 key UK Cabinet ministers quit Boris Johnson’s government

2 key UK Cabinet ministers quit Boris Johnson’s government
  • Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid resigned within minutes of each other
  • Sunak and Javid have been seen as possible leadership contenders within the Conservative Party if Johnson is forced out

LONDON: Two of Britain’s most senior Cabinet ministers resigned on Tuesday, a move that could spell the end of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership after months of scandals.
Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid resigned within minutes of each other after a day in which the prime minister was forced to acknowledge he had to change his story on the way he handled allegations of sexual misconduct by a senior member of his government.
“It is with enormous regret that I must tell you that I can no longer, in good conscience, continue serving in this government,’’ Javid said in his resignation letter. “I am instinctively a team player but the British people also rightly expect integrity from their government.’’
Sunak said “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously.”
“I recognize this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning,” he added.
Both Sunak and Javid have been seen as possible leadership contenders within the Conservative Party if Johnson is forced out. Their departures were a huge blow to the prime minister, because both were in charge of two of the biggest issues facing Britain right now — the cost of living crisis and the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
The latest scandal saw Johnson hit by allegations he failed to come clean about a lawmaker who was appointed to a senior position despite claims of sexual misconduct.
Johnson has faced pressure to explain what he knew about previous misconduct allegations against lawmaker Chris Pincher, who resigned as deputy chief whip Thursday amid complaints that he groped two men at a private club.
Minutes before the resignations of Javid and Sunak were announced, Johnson told reporters that Pincher should have been fired from the government after a previous 2019 incident.
Asked if it was an error to appoint Pincher to the government, Johnson said “I think it was a mistake and I apologize for it. In hindsight it was the wrong thing to do.”
“I apologize to everybody who has been badly affected by it. I want to make absolutely clear that there’s no place in this government for anybody who is predatory or who abuses their position of power,” Johnson said.
The government’s explanation shifted repeatedly over the past five days. Ministers initially said Johnson wasn’t aware of any allegations when he promoted Pincher to the post in February.
On Monday, a spokesman said Johnson knew of sexual misconduct allegations that were “either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint.”
That account didn’t sit well with Simon McDonald, the most senior civil servant at the UK Foreign Office from 2015 to 2020. In a highly unusual move, he said Tuesday that the prime minister’s office still wasn’t telling the truth.
McDonald said in a letter to the parliamentary commissioner for standards that he received complaints about Pincher’s behavior in the summer of 2019, shortly after Pincher became a Foreign Office minister. An investigation upheld the complaint, and Pincher apologized for his actions, McDonald said.
McDonald disputed that Johnson was unaware of the allegations or that the complaints were dismissed because they had been resolved or not made formally.
“The original No. 10 line is not true, and the modification is still not accurate,” McDonald wrote, referring to the prime minister’s Downing Street office. “Mr. Johnson was briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation.
Hours after McDonald’s comments came out, Johnson’s office changed its story again, saying the prime minister forgot he was told that Pincher was the subject of an official complaint.
The latest revelations have fueled discontent within Johnson’s Cabinet after ministers were forced to publicly deliver the prime minister’s denials, only to have the explanation shift the next day.
The Times of London on Tuesday published an analysis of the situation under the headline “Claim of lying puts Boris Johnson in peril.”
Johnson’s authority had already been shaken by a vote of no confidence last month. He survived, but 41 percent of Conservatives voted to remove him from office.
The prime minister’s shifting responses to months of allegations about lockdown-breaking parties in government offices that ultimately resulted in 126 fines, including one levied against Johnson, fueled concerns about his leadership.
Two weeks later, Conservative candidates were badly beaten in two special elections to fill vacant seats in Parliament, adding to the discontent within Johnson’s party.
When Pincher resigned last week as deputy chief whip, a key position in enforcing party discipline, he told the prime minister that he “drank far too much” the previous night and had “embarrassed myself and other people.”
Johnson initially refused to suspend Pincher from the Conservative Party, but he relented after a formal complaint about the groping allegations was filed with parliamentary authorities.
Critics suggested Johnson was slow to react because he didn’t want to be in the position of forcing Pincher to resign his Parliament seat and setting up the Conservatives for another potential special election defeat.
Even before the Pincher scandal, suggestions were swirling that Johnson may soon face another no-confidence vote.
In the next few weeks, Conservative lawmakers will elect new members to the committee that sets parliamentary rules for the party. Several candidates have suggested they would support changing the rules to allow for another vote of no confidence. The existing rules require 12 months between such votes.
Senior Conservative lawmaker Roger Gale, a long-standing critic of Johnson, said he would support a change of the rules of the Conservative 1922 Committee.
“Mr. Johnson has for three days now been sending ministers — in one case a Cabinet minister — out to defend the indefensible, effectively to lie on his behalf. That cannot be allowed to continue,” Gale told the BBC. “This prime minister has trashed the reputation of a proud and honorable party for honesty and decency, and that is not acceptable.”


Director general of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant detained by Russian patrol

Director general of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant detained by Russian patrol
Updated 7 sec ago

Director general of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant detained by Russian patrol

Director general of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant detained by Russian patrol
  • Ihor Murashov was detained on his way from Europe’s largest nuclear plant to the town of Enerhodar
KYIV: The director general of Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was detained by a Russian patrol, Energoatom, the state-owned company in charge of the plant, said on Saturday.
Ihor Murashov was detained on his way from Europe’s largest nuclear plant to the town of Enerhodar around 4 p.m. (1300 GMT) on Friday, company chief Petro Kotin said in a statement.
“He was taken out of the car, and with his eyes blindfolded he was driven in an unknown direction,” Kotin wrote on the Telegram messaging app, adding there was no immediate word on Murashov’s fate.
The Zaporizhzhia plant has been a focal point of Russia’s seven-month invasion of Ukraine, as Moscow and Kyiv accuse each other of shelling the facility, risking a nuclear disaster.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for area around the plant, which is staffed by Ukrainians, to be demilitarized.
Murashov “bears main and exclusive responsibility for the nuclear and radiation safety” of the plant and his detention “jeopardizes the safety of operation of Ukraine and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant,” Kotin said.
He called on Russian forces to “stop immediately the acts of nuclear terrorism toward the management and personnel” of the plant and release Murashov.

North Korea conducts fourth round of missile tests in 1 week

North Korea conducts fourth round of missile tests in 1 week
Updated 44 min 32 sec ago

North Korea conducts fourth round of missile tests in 1 week

North Korea conducts fourth round of missile tests in 1 week
  • South Korea said the liftoffs occurred from North Korea’s capital region
  • Missile tests this week bookended US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to South Korea

SEOUL: North Korea on Saturday test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles, its neighbors said, the fourth round this week of weapons launches that prompted quick, strong condemnation from its rivals.
In an unusually strong rebuke of North Korea’s weapons programs, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said North Korea’s “obsession” with nuclear weapons is deepening the suffering of its own people, and warned of an “overwhelming response” from South Korean and US militaries should such weapons be used.
“North Korea hasn’t abandoned its obsession with nukes and missiles despite the persistent international objection in the past 30 years,” Yoon said during an Armed Forces Day ceremony at the military headquarters in central South Korea. “The development of nuclear weapons will plunge the lives of North Korean people in further pains.”
“If North Korea attempts to use nukes, it’ll face a resolute, overwhelming response by the South Korea-US alliance and our military,” Yoon said.
Yoon’s comments could enrage North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who in July alleged that Yoon’s government was led by “confrontation maniacs” and “gangsters.” Kim has also rebuffed Yoon’s offers of massive assistance in return for denuclearization.
The North’s testing spree this week is seen as a response to recent naval drills between South Korea and the United States and their other training that involved Japan. North Korea views such military exercises by the allies as an invasion rehearsal and argues they reveal US and South Korean “double standards” because they brand the North’s weapons tests as provocation.
On Saturday, South Korea, Japanese and US militaries said they detected the two North Korean missile launches. South Korea said the liftoffs occurred from North Korea’s capital region.
According to South Korean and Japanese estimates, the missiles flew about 350-400 kilometers (220-250 miles) at a maximum altitude of 30-50 kilometers (20-30 miles) before they landed in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. Toshiro Ino, Japan’s vice defense minister, said the missiles showed “irregular” trajectory.
Some observers say the weapons’ reported low and “irregular” trajectory suggest they were likely nuclear-capable, highly maneuverable missiles modeled after Russia’s Iskander missile. They say North Korea has developed the Iskander-like weapon to defeat South Korean and US missile defenses and strike key targets in South Korea, including US military bases there.
The five other ballistic missiles fired by North Korea on three occasions this week show similar trajectories to the ones detected Saturday.
“The repeated ballistic missile firings by North Korea are a grave provocation that undermines peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in the international community,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
Ino called the launches “absolutely impermissible,” adding that four rounds of missile testing by North Korea in a week is “unprecedented.”
The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launches highlight “the destabilizing impact” of North Korea’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
On Friday, South Korea, the United States and Japan held their first trilateral anti-submarine drills in five years off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast. Earlier this week, South Korean and US warships conducted bilateral exercises in the area for four days. Both military drills this week involved the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
The North Korean missile tests this week also bookended US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit Thursday to South Korea, where she reaffirmed the United States’ “ironclad” commitment to the security of its Asian allies.
Worries about North Korea’s nuclear program have grown since the North last month adopted a new law authorizing the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in certain situations, a move that shows its escalatory nuclear doctrine.
During his speech Saturday, Yoon said the North Korean law threatens South Korea’s national existence and that Seoul will expand military exercises with Washington and bolster South Korea’s own missile strike and surveillance capacities in response.
South Korean officials have typically avoided harsh rhetoric on North Korea to prevent an escalation of animosities. But Yoon’s Defense Ministry has recently warned North Korea would self-destruct if it uses its nuclear weapons
This year, North Korea has carried out a record number of missile tests in what experts call an attempt to expand its weapons arsenal amid stalled nuclear diplomacy with the United States. South Korean and US officials say North Korea has also completed preparations to conduct a nuclear test, which would be the seventh of its kind and the first in five years.
Experts say Kim Jong Un eventually wants to use the enlarged nuclear arsenal to pressure the United States and others accept his country as a legitimate nuclear state, a recognition he views as necessary to win the lifting of international sanctions and other concessions.
Multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from testing ballistic missiles and nuclear devices. The country’s missile launches this year are seen as exploiting a divide at the UN council over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and US-China competitions.
“North Korea’s frequent short-range missile tests may strain the isolated state’s resources. But because of deadlock on the UN Security Council, they are a low-cost way for the Kim regime to signal its displeasure with Washington and Seoul’s defense exercises while playing the domestic politics of countering an external threat,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.


Indonesian police kill militant suspected in farmers’ deaths

Indonesian police kill militant suspected in farmers’ deaths
Updated 01 October 2022

Indonesian police kill militant suspected in farmers’ deaths

Indonesian police kill militant suspected in farmers’ deaths
  • The East Indonesia Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the killings of police officers and minority Christians
  • Some of the victims were killed by beheading by the group, known by its Indonesian acronym MIT, an affiliate of the Daesh group

PALU, Indonesia: Indonesia’s elite counterterrorism police have killed a militant who was the last remaining member of an organization that pledged allegiance to Daesh, police said Friday.
Police said Al Ikhwarisman, also known as Jaid, was a key member of the East Indonesia Mujahideen network.
The East Indonesia Mujahideen, known by the Indonesian acronym MIT, has claimed responsibility for the killings of police officers and minority Christians, some by beheading, and has pledged allegiance to the Daesh group.
Provincial police chief Rudy Sufahriadi said Jaid conducted at least 10 of the group’s executions, including the killing of four Christian farmers in May 2021. He was killed by the Densus 88 counterterrorism unit in a shootout late Thursday in mountainous Kawende village in Poso district, an extremist hotbed in Central Sulawesi province, Sufahriadi said.
Thursday’s shootout occurred four months after security forces killed the other remaining member of MIT in a jungle shootout, police said.
“He was the last remaining suspected member of the group,” Sufahriadi said. “We have managed to eliminate a dangerous militant group that has disturbed peace in Poso.”
Security operations in Central Sulawesi were intensified last year to capture MIT members, particularly Ali Kalora, the group’s leader and Indonesia’s most wanted militant. Kalora was killed in a shootout in July 2021, two months after the group killed the four Christians in Kalemago village, including one who was beheaded.
Authorities said the attack was in revenge for the killing in March 2021 of two militants, including the son of the group’s former leader, Abu Wardah Santoso.
Santoso, Kalora’s predecessor, was killed by security forces in July 2016. Dozens of other leaders and members of the group who escaped to remote mountain jungles of Poso have since been killed or captured.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has conducted a crackdown on militants since bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly Western and Asian tourists.
Militant attacks on foreigners in Indonesia have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces, and people militants consider to be infidels, inspired by Daesh group tactics abroad.

 


Japan PM condemns Russian annexation of parts of Ukraine, pledges to work with G7 for more support to Kyiv

Japan PM condemns Russian annexation of parts of Ukraine, pledges to work with G7 for more support to Kyiv
Updated 01 October 2022

Japan PM condemns Russian annexation of parts of Ukraine, pledges to work with G7 for more support to Kyiv

Japan PM condemns Russian annexation of parts of Ukraine, pledges to work with G7 for more support to Kyiv
  • As G7 host next year, Japan pledges to propose further sanctions against Russia and reconstruction plan for Ukraine

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in telephone call Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, condemned Russia’s new annexation of parts of Ukraine as illegal and a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
“I told him that the process that Russia called a referendum and its annexation of parts of Ukraine should never be accepted, and that I strongly condemn them,” Kishida said afterward.
Kishida said he also reassured Zelensky in their 30-minute conversation that Japan is committed to working with other Group of Seven nations and the broader international community in further supporting Ukraine, and plans to impose more sanctions against Russia.
Western leaders including US President Joe Biden have also condemned Russia’s annexation of four occupied Ukrainian regions days after voters supposedly approved Moscow-managed “referendums” on joining Russia.

Kishida, who is to host a meeting of leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations next year, told Zelensky he plans to propose that they impose tough sanctions against Russia, and will lead a discussion on Ukraine’s reconstruction.
He said Japan is assessing when it can reopen its embassy in Kyiv, which he described as important for close contacts between Japan and Ukraine. Japan closed its embassy in March as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine intensified and moved part of its operations to Lviv in western Ukraine.
Japan has closely cooperated with other G-7 members and European nations in imposing sanctions on Russia over its war in Ukraine. Most recently, Japan banned exports of sensitive materials that could be used to make chemical weapons.
Japan’s sanctions against Russia have further damaged their ties, already strained over a group of islands taken by Moscow at the end of World War II that have prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their war hostilities.
In retaliation for Tokyo’s sanctions, Moscow terminated peace talks, including negotiations over the islands.

 

 


Biden signs bill to avert US government shutdown, aid Ukraine

Biden signs bill to avert US government shutdown, aid Ukraine
Updated 01 October 2022

Biden signs bill to avert US government shutdown, aid Ukraine

Biden signs bill to avert US government shutdown, aid Ukraine
  • Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the measure, with only 10 from the GOP voting in favor
  • Democrats voted unanimously, saying the bill was important to helping Ukraine as well as victims of recent natural disasters in the US 

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden signed into law Friday a bill that finances the federal government through mid-December and provides another infusion of military and economic aid to Ukraine after lawmakers acted to avert a partial government shutdown set to begin after midnight.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 230-201 earlier in the day. Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the measure. Some wanted to extend government funding into January when, based on the results of the midterm elections, it’s possible they’ll have more leverage over setting federal spending for the full fiscal year. Others argued the measure needed to do more to address border security.
Democrats said passing the bill was important to helping Ukraine as well as victims of recent natural disasters in the US, including Hurricane Ian, as it provides a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster fund with a year’s worth of money up front rather than for two-and-a-half months.
“Turn on the news. Look what’s happening in Florida right now. Look at what happened to Puerto Rico. Look at what’s happening in Alaska. I mean, people need help,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts. “And look at what’s happening in Ukraine. Do we support helping preserve democracy in Ukraine or not? That’s what’s at stake here.”
But Republicans complained the bill brought to the floor was not subject to bipartisan negotiations in the House and didn’t reflect their priorities.
“We know we have a crisis on the southern border. You can turn on the television every night. You can look at the fentanyl pouring into the country, You can see the tragedy of human trafficking. Is there anything in this bill that asks us to do anything different, anything new?” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma “No, you just ask, ‘please allow us to continue the current state of affairs on the southern border.’ That is a travesty.”
In the end, support for the bill was unanimous among Democratic lawmakers. Only 10 Republican lawmakers joined them in voting yes.
Later Friday, former President Donald Trump responded to the bill’s passage with a racist message on his social media platform attacking Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and his Asian American wife, who also served in Trump’s administration as a Cabinet secretary. Trump ominously wrote that McConnell has a “death wish.”
The bill finances the federal government through Dec. 16 and buys lawmakers more time to agree on legislation setting spending levels for the 2023 fiscal year. The bill generally keeps spending at current levels, though it does provide more than $12.3 billion in Ukraine-related aid. The money will go to provide training, equipment and logistics support for the Ukraine military, help Ukraine’s government provide basic services to its citizens and replenish US weapons systems and munitions.
“This contribution ensures we continue upholding our moral responsibility to support the people of Ukraine in the face of a vicious invasion that continues to demand decisive action by us,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the Democratic chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
Disaster assistance was also attached to the stopgap bill, including $2.5 billion to help New Mexico communities recover from the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire, the largest wildfire in the state’s history; $2 billion for a block grant program that aids the economic recovery of communities impacted by recent disasters; and $20 million for water and wastewater infrastructure improvements previously authorized for Jackson, Mississippi.
“We cannot leave communities behind that are still picking up the pieces from disastrous floods, wildfires and hurricane, and even basic water system failures,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.
The bill would provide an additional $1 billion for a program that helps low-income households heat their homes. And it would transfer $3 billion from a Pentagon aid program to the State Department for continued Afghan resettlement operations.
Lawmakers also included a reauthorization of the Food and Drug Administration’s user fee agreements for five years, which ensures the agency can continue critical product safety reviews and won’t need to issue pink slips for thousands of employees working on drug and medical device applications.
One thing missing from the bill is the billions of dollars in additional funding that Biden sought to aid the response to COVID-19 and monkeypox. Republicans criticized the health spending as unnecessary. The White House said the money would have been used to accelerate the research and development of vaccines and therapeutics, prepare for future COVID variants and support the global response.