Nepal latest to ban Indian spice brands over safety concerns

Nepal latest to ban Indian spice brands over safety concerns
A man adjusts the spice boxes of MDH and Everest on the shelf of a shop at a market in New Delhi, India, April 29, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 18 May 2024
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Nepal latest to ban Indian spice brands over safety concerns

Nepal latest to ban Indian spice brands over safety concerns
  • Hong Kong, Singapore last month banned products from Everest and MDH after tests detected presence of ethylene oxide
  • Besides its use as a pesticide, ethylene oxide is used to sterilize medical equipment and as a sterilising agent in spices

KATMANDU: Nepal has become the latest jurisdiction to ban the import and sale of two popular Indian spice brands after reports that some of their products contained a cancer-causing pesticide, officials said Friday.
Hong Kong and Singapore last month banned products from Everest and MDH — two brands popular in India and exported worldwide — after tests detected the presence of ethylene oxide, according to media reports.
Besides its use as a pesticide, ethylene oxide is used to sterilize medical equipment and as a sterilising agent in spices to prevent illnesses caused by salmonella and E. Coli bacteria.
Regular exposure to the colorless and odourless compound increases the “risk of cancers of the white blood cells,” according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Matina Joshi Vaidya, chief of Nepal’s Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, told AFP that the Himalayan country had also decided to halt the sale of the spice blends.
“It is an issue of public health,” she said. “We have its banned import and sale from Thursday.”
Nepal has banned four products — three variants produced by MDH and one by Everest.
“We do not have the lab resources to run the tests in the country. The ban will be lifted when Indian authorities declare it safe,” Vaidya said.
Everest and MDH are India’s top two spice brands with a market share of 16 and 10 percent respectively in 2022, according to consumer research monitor Statista.
Both companies have put out statements denying their products pose a health hazard to consumers after the Singapore and Hong Kong import bans.
“We clarify and state unequivocally that these claims are untrue and lack any substantiating evidence,” MDH said last month on social media platform X.
India’s food regulation agency has asked for state authorities to carry out random testing of spice products, broadcaster NDTV reported.


’Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain: WikiLeaks

’Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain: WikiLeaks
Updated 8 sec ago
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’Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain: WikiLeaks

’Julian Assange is free’, has left Britain: WikiLeaks
  • The plea agreement comes months after President Joe Biden said he was considering a request from Australia to drop the US push to prosecute Assange

LONDON: Julian Assange’s wife Stella on Tuesday thanked campaigners for their support as the WikiLeaks founder was released after five years in British custody.
“Julian is free!!!!” she wrote on the social media platform X following confirmation that he had left Belmarsh high-security prison in southeast London.
“Words cannot express our immense gratitude” to everyone who had backed the global push for his release, she added.
Stella Assange met the Australian publisher while he was holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges that were later dropped.

A filing from the U.S. Department of Justice to the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands describes a plea deal regarding Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, in this image obtained by Reuters on June 24, 2024. (REUTERS)

Assange, accused of divulging US military secrets related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, had been due back in court in London next month after winning an appeal against extradition.
But WikiLeaks said in a statement: “Julian Assange is free. He left Belmarsh maximum security prison on the morning of June 24, after having spent 1,901 days there.
“He was granted bail by the High Court in London and was released at Stansted airport during the afternoon, where he boarded a plane and departed the UK.”
The media freedom group said sustained campaigning, from grassroots supporters to political leaders and the United Nations, “created the space for a long period of negotiations with the US Department of Justice,” leading to a deal.
The organization said the deal “has not yet been formally finalized.”
Assange was initially detained for skipping bail in relation to the Swedish case and held in custody while the US extradition request wound its way through court.
He will now be reunited with his wife, whom he married at a ceremony in the prison, and their two young children, it added.
“WikiLeaks published ground-breaking stories of government corruption and human rights abuses, holding the powerful accountable for their actions,” the statement read.
“As editor-in-chief, Julian paid severely for these principles, and for the people’s right to know.
“As he returns to Australia, we thank all who stood by us, fought for us, and remained utterly committed in the fight for his freedom. Julian’s freedom is our freedom.”
 

 


Former Portuguese PM ‘optimistic’ as EU Council top job decision nears

Former Portuguese PM ‘optimistic’ as EU Council top job decision nears
Updated 37 min 35 sec ago
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Former Portuguese PM ‘optimistic’ as EU Council top job decision nears

Former Portuguese PM ‘optimistic’ as EU Council top job decision nears

LISBON: Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, a front-runner to become the next president of the European Council, said on Monday he was optimistic ahead of the bloc’s summit this week during which a decision on the top job is expected to be made.

Costa, 62, stepped down as Portugal’s Socialist premier last November over an investigation into alleged illegalities in his government’s handling of several large investment projects.

He has denied wrongdoing, was never charged with a crime and is the favorite to succeed Belgium’s Charles Michel as the person who chairs summits of the 27 EU national leaders at which the bloc’s political agenda is set.

“I hope the European Council quickly reaches a decision and approves the names it has to approve and rejects the names it has to reject,” Costa told reporters.

Last week, EU leaders ended a discussion on who should take the bloc’s top jobs for the next five years without agreement, aiming instead for a decision at a summit taking place later this week on June 27-28.

Asked whether he was feeling positive as the summit neared, Costa, who governed Portugal for eight years from the end of 2015, said he was “always optimistic.”

Portugal’s center-right government, which ascended to power in March after a general election, said that Costa, whose ambition for a top European position has been an open secret for years, has its “unequivocal support.”

Prime Minister Luis Montenegro said Costa’s nomination would meet all requirements. Costa also has the blessing of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and is one of the center-left candidates who generates the least opposition from the far-right.


Bird flu spreads to tenth Australian poultry farm

Bird flu spreads to tenth Australian poultry farm
Updated 48 min 16 sec ago
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Bird flu spreads to tenth Australian poultry farm

Bird flu spreads to tenth Australian poultry farm

CANBERRA: A highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza has spread to an eighth poultry farm near Melbourne, the government of Australia’s Victoria state said on Tuesday, taking the total number of infected facilities in the country to 10.

Australia is dealing with three parallel outbreaks of bird flu, two near Melbourne and one near Sydney. Each involves a different strain of the virus, none of which is the H5N1 type that has spread through bird and mammal populations and even to humans around the world.

Victorian authorities said the new infection was within a quarantine zone already set up around affected farms and was therefore not unexpected.

The flu has mostly hit egg farms. Around 1.5 million birds have been or will be killed to control the spread of the virus. There is so far no shortage of eggs in stores.

Bird flu spreads to farmed animals from wild birds. The 2024 infections are the tenth outbreak in Australia since 1976. Each was contained and eradicated, according to the government.


Mass shootings across the US mark the first weekend of summer

Mass shootings across the US mark the first weekend of summer
Updated 25 June 2024
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Mass shootings across the US mark the first weekend of summer

Mass shootings across the US mark the first weekend of summer
  • “This senseless violence just has to stop,” said Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, who called it a blessing that no one died while also asking for help in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals

WASHINGTON: The first weekend of summer brought a tragic yet familiar pattern for American cities wracked by gun violence as mass shootings left dozens dead or wounded at a party in Alabama, an entertainment district in Ohio and a grocery store in Arkansas.
It was the second straight weekend that saw an outbreak of mass shootings across the US, prompting mayors in places marred by the violence to plead for help.
In Michigan, a deputy was fatally shot while pursuing a suspected stolen vehicle in what the county sheriff described as an ambush. A Philadelphia police officer was critically wounded Saturday after pulling over a car with four people.
Police in Montgomery, Alabama, said hundreds of rounds were fired at a crowded party early Sunday, leaving nine people wounded. Interim Police Chief John Hall said investigators recovered more than 350 different spent shell casings.
“This senseless violence just has to stop,” said Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, who called it a blessing that no one died while also asking for help in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.
One reason for so many shootings with multiple victims is the increased use of modified guns that can spray hundreds of shots, said Jillian Snider, a lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
“That’s why you’re seeing more victims that are not even involved in the initial confrontation,” she said.
Gunfire broke out early Sunday on the main street of a popular restaurant and entertainment district near downtown Columbus, Ohio.
Ten people were injured, one in critical condition, leading the city’s mayor to call for more action from state and federal governments to keep guns off the streets and for parents to watch their children. Mayor Andrew Ginther said the gun violence “is outrageous, it’s unacceptable, and it must stop.”
FBI statistics show overall violent crime in the US has dropped after a pandemic-era spike but it might not feel that way to most people in the wake of these recent shootings, said University of Miami criminologist Alex Piquero.
Summertime always brings a rise in violence because school is out, there are more social gatherings and warmer temperatures can cause tempers to flare, he said. “That creates that kind of opportune structure for violence to occur,” Piquero said.
Several of the shootings this past weekend happened at large parties. Police in Dayton, Ohio, said a 22-year-old woman was killed and six people were injured early Monday, after a drive-by shooting at a vacant house where a big crowd had gathered.
Six people were wounded early Sunday at a park in Rochester, New York, after police said at least one person started shooting into a crowd. Elsewhere early Sunday, one man was killed and five others were wounded early in a downtown St. Louis shooting that police believe began when a fight broke out between several women and men stepped in with firearms.
The weekend of mass shootings began Friday in the small city of Fordyce, Arkansas, where four people were killed and another 11 injured — including the alleged gunman. The gunfire sent shoppers and store employees ducking for cover. Among those killed was a 23-year-old new mom.
 

 


EU sanctions 19 Chinese firms over links to Russian war effort

EU sanctions 19 Chinese firms over links to Russian war effort
Updated 25 June 2024
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EU sanctions 19 Chinese firms over links to Russian war effort

EU sanctions 19 Chinese firms over links to Russian war effort
  • These companies are now subject to drastic restrictions over sales of “dual-use goods and technology” that could be used for the “enhancement of Russia’s defense and security sector”

BRUSSELS, Belgium: The European Union Monday imposed sanctions on 19 Chinese companies aimed at punishing what the West believes is Beijing’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
A list published in the EU’s Official Journal includes several companies located in Hong Kong as well as two global satellite giants.
The 14th package of sanctions against Russia added 61 new companies to the list of entities accused of directly “supporting Russia’s military-industrial complex” in the war in Ukraine, bringing the total to 675 firms.
These companies are now subject to drastic restrictions over sales of “dual-use goods and technology” that could be used for the “enhancement of Russia’s defense and security sector.”
China denies Western accusations that it is supporting Russia’s military campaign.
Among the newly added companies are two major players in the Chinese satellite industry involved in the sale of satellites and satellite imagery to Russia’s Wagner mercenary group.
In October, an AFP investigation revealed that Wagner in 2022 signed a contract worth more than $30 million with Chinese firm Beijing Yunze Technology Co. Ltd. to acquire two satellites and use their images.
The contract was signed in November 2022, over half a year into Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in which the Wagner group under its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin was playing a key role on the battlefield.
The two high-resolution satellites belonged to Chang Guang Satellite Technology, a leading global satellite company which was the unit to be added to the EU’s sanctions list.
Another company named Monday was Head Aerospace Technology, which sells satellite images and was placed on a US sanctions list in 2023 for supplying the Wagner Group.
Even if China does not deliver weapons directly to Russia, the United States and Europe accuse it of selling components and equipment to Moscow’s military industry.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian has dismissed the claims as “false information.”
Russian-based companies make up about half of the 61 entities added to the EU’s list Monday.
In addition to the 19 Chinese companies, it also added nine from Turkiye, two in Kyrgyzstan, one in India, one in Kazakhstan, and one in the United Arab Emirates.