More UK police officers accused in election betting scandal

More UK police officers accused in election betting scandal
Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader, Rishi Sunak delivers a speech on June 24, 2024 in central London, as part of a Conservative campaign event in the build-up to the UK general election on July 4. (AFP)
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Updated 26 June 2024
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More UK police officers accused in election betting scandal

More UK police officers accused in election betting scandal
  • The row has overshadowed the closing stretch of the election campaign as Sunak struggles to close his party’s 21-point average poll deficit to Keir Starmer’s Labour opposition before the July 4 vote

LONDON: Five more police officers allegedly placed bets on the timing of the UK general election, a force spokesperson said Tuesday, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak withdrew support from two Conservative candidates over the escalating scandal.
The row has overshadowed the closing stretch of the election campaign as Sunak struggles to close his party’s 21-point average poll deficit to Keir Starmer’s Labour opposition before the July 4 vote.
London’s Metropolitan Police said the Gambling Commission had informed it that five additional officers and a member of Sunak’s protection team were believed to have gambled on the election date.
The protection officer was arrested this month on suspicion of misconduct in a public office and has been placed on restricted duties, the Met said.
The five newly accused have not been arrested and do not “work in a close protection role,” the force added.
“It is still the case that only one officer is under criminal investigation,” it said.
The development came as the Conservatives announced that “as a result of ongoing internal inquiries” it could no longer support Craig Williams or Laura Saunders as candidates at the election.
The two are being investigated by the regulator over claims they bet on when the election would be held, and if they did so based on inside information.
Nominations have closed so they will still appear on ballot papers.
Sunak, who has said he is “incredibly angry” over the claims, has come under mounting pressure in recent days from inside and outside his party to act on them.
He took the country by surprise on May 22 when he announced the date of the election six months before he had to.
Williams, a sitting MP, had served as Sunak’s ministerial aide.
He is alleged to have placed a £100 ($127) bet on a July date for the election three days before Sunak called the vote.
Saunders, a Conservative candidate for the southwestern city of Bristol, is married to the Tories’ director of campaigns, Tony Lee. He has taken a leave of absence from the campaign following the allegations.
The party’s chief data officer, Nick Mason, has also stepped back from duties over allegations he placed dozens of bets on the election date.
Political bets are allowed in the UK but using insider knowledge to do so is against the law.
In a separate move, Labour announced Tuesday that it had suspended Kevin Craig, its candidate for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich in eastern England, after it emerged he was facing a Gambling Commission inquiry.
The party did not say why Craig was being investigated, but Sky News and the BBC reported that he placed a bet on the outcome in his seat in the election, and not its date.
“With Keir Starmer as leader, the Labour party upholds the highest standards for our parliamentary candidates, as the public rightly expects from any party hoping to serve, which is why we have acted immediately in this case,” a spokesperson said.


In prime-time address, Biden warns of election-year rhetoric, saying ‘it’s time to cool it down’

In prime-time address, Biden warns of election-year rhetoric, saying ‘it’s time to cool it down’
Updated 7 sec ago
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In prime-time address, Biden warns of election-year rhetoric, saying ‘it’s time to cool it down’

In prime-time address, Biden warns of election-year rhetoric, saying ‘it’s time to cool it down’
  • Political passions can run high but “we must never descend into violence,” he said
  • Saturday’s attack upended the Democratic counteroffensive on the cusp of the Republican convention

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden warned Sunday of the the risks of political violence in the US after Saturday’s attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump, saying, “It’s time to cool it down.”
In a prime-time national address from the Oval Office, Biden said political passions can run high but “we must never descend into violence.”
“There is no place in America for this kind of violence — for any violence. Ever. Period. No exception. We can’t allow this violence to be normalized,” Biden said.
Biden spoke for about five minutes from the Oval Office. He noted that the Republican National Convention was opening in Milwaukee on Monday, while he himself would be traveling the country to campaign for reelection.
He said passions would run high on both sides and the stakes of the election were enormous.
“We can do this,” Biden implored, saying the nation was founded on a democracy that gave reason and balance a chance to prevail over brute force. “American democracy — where arguments are made in good faith. American democracy — where the rule of law is respected. Where decency, dignity, fair play aren’t just quaint notions, they’re living, breathing realities.”
Earlier Sunday, Biden condemned the attempted assassination of his predecessor, Trump, as “contrary to everything we stand for as a nation” and said he was ordering an independent security review of how such an attack could have happened.
He called for the country to “unite as one nation,” promised a “thorough and swift” review and asked the public not to “make assumptions” about the shooter’s motives or affiliations.
The president said he has also directed the US Secret Service to review all security measures for the RNC. Hours later, Audrey Gibson-Cicchino, the Secret Service’s coordinator for the convention, said the weekend attack against Trump did not prompt any changes to the agency’s security plan for the event and officials “are fully prepared.”
In his remarks, Biden called the attack on Trump “not who we are as a nation.”
“It’s not American. And we cannot allow this to happen,” he said. “Unity is the most elusive goal of all, but nothing is more important than that right now.”
The president said he and first lady Jill Biden were praying for the family of Corey Comperatore, a former fire chief who was shot and killed during the Trump rally Saturday night in Butler, Pennsylvania.
“He was protecting his family from the bullets,” Biden said. “God love him.”
The president also said he’d had a “short but good conversation” with Trump in the hours after the shootings and said he was “sincerely grateful” that the former president is “doing well and recovering.”
Trump, who has called for national resilience since the shooting, posted on his social media account after Biden’s remarks, “UNITE AMERICA!”
Actually achieving unity will be far more challenging, especially in the midst of a bitter presidential campaign. Biden’s team is grappling with how to calibrate the path forward after the weekend attack on the very person he is trying to defeat in November’s election.
Biden, who has set out to brand Trump as a dire threat to democracy and the nation’s very founding principles, put a temporary pause on such political messaging. Shortly after Saturday night’s attack, Biden’s reelection campaign froze “all outbound communications” and was working to pull down its television ads.
The president also postponed a planned trip to Texas on Monday, where he was to speak on the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at the Lyndon B. Johnson presidential library. An NBC News interview between Biden and anchor Lester Holt will now occur at the White House, instead of in Texas, as initially planned.
Biden’s campaign said that, after the NBC interview airs on Monday night, it and the Democratic National Committee “will continue drawing the contrast” with Trump over the course of the GOP convention — even though it remains unclear when ads would resume.
Biden also still plans to make a planned trip to Las Vegas, which will include a campaign event Wednesday. Vice President Kamala Harris postponed her planned campaign trip to Florida on Tuesday, where she had been set to meet with Republican women.
Trump, meanwhile, announced he was moving up plans to go to Milwaukee and the Republican convention, where criticism of Biden and the Democrats is sure to be searing.
The weekend developments were only the latest upheaval in a campaign that has been extraordinarily topsy-turvy in recent weeks.
Biden’s shaky debate performance on June 27 so spooked his own party that some top surrogates and donors turned on him, and nearly 20 Democratic members of Congress called on the president to leave the race outright. Facing mounting questions about whether he was fit for a second term, Biden and his top advisers have been scrambling to salvage his campaign by adding events around the country and more aggressively criticizing Trump.
Saturday’s attack upended — at least for now — that counteroffensive on the cusp of the Republican convention.
The campaign also hopes that Sunday’s Oval Office address lets Biden further drive home his point about unity while demonstrating leadership that could assuage nervous critics within his own party.
“We’ll debate and we’ll disagree, that’s not going to change,” Biden said in his afternoon remarks. “But we’ll not lose sight of who we are as Americans.”
Although investigators are still in the early stages of determining what occurred and why, some Biden critics are calling out the president for telling donors in a private call Monday that “it’s time to put Trump in the bullseye.”
A person familiar with those remarks said the president was trying to make the point that Trump had gotten away with a light public schedule after last month’s debate while the president himself faced intense scrutiny. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to more freely discuss private conversations.
In the donor call, Biden said: “I have one job and that’s to beat Donald Trump. ... I’m absolutely certain I’m the best person to be able to do that.”
He continued: “So, we’re done talking about the debate. It’s time to put Trump in the bullseye. He’s gotten away with doing nothing for the last 10 days except ride around in his golf cart, bragging about scores he didn’t score. … Anyway I won’t get into his golf game.”


BlackRock says suspect from Trump rally appeared in a 2022 ad

BlackRock says suspect from Trump rally appeared in a 2022 ad
Updated 13 min 36 sec ago
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BlackRock says suspect from Trump rally appeared in a 2022 ad

BlackRock says suspect from Trump rally appeared in a 2022 ad
  • Thomas Crooks graduated in 2022 from Bethel Park High School

Thomas Crooks, the suspect in Saturday’s attempted assassination of former US President Donald Trump at a campaign rally, briefly appeared in an advertisement for BlackRock, the company said on Sunday.
“In 2022, we ran an ad featuring a teacher from Bethel Park High School, in which several unpaid students briefly appeared in the background, including Thomas Matthew Crooks,” the world’s biggest asset manager said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
Thomas Crooks graduated in 2022 from Bethel Park High School, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
BlackRock said it will make all video footage available to the appropriate authorities and has removed the video from circulation.
“The assassination attempt on former President Trump is abhorrent,” the company said.
BlackRock will release its second-quarter results on Monday.


UN alarmed as childhood immunization levels stall

UN alarmed as childhood immunization levels stall
Updated 27 min 1 sec ago
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UN alarmed as childhood immunization levels stall

UN alarmed as childhood immunization levels stall
  • “The latest trends demonstrate that many countries continue to miss far too many children,” UNICEF chief Catherine Russell said in a joint statement

GENEVA: Global childhood vaccination levels have stalled, leaving millions more children un- or under-vaccinated than before the pandemic, the UN said Monday, warning of dangerous coverage gaps enabling outbreaks of diseases like measles.
In 2023, 84 percent of children, or 108 million, received three doses of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP), with the third dose serving as a key marker for global immunization coverage, according to data published by the UN health and children’s agencies.
That was the same percentage as a year earlier, meaning that modest progress seen in 2022 after the steep drop during the Covid-19 crisis has “stalled,” the organizations warned. The rate was 86 percent in 2019 before the pandemic.
“The latest trends demonstrate that many countries continue to miss far too many children,” UNICEF chief Catherine Russell said in a joint statement.
In fact, 2.7 million additional children remained un- or under-vaccinated last year compared to the pre-pandemic levels in 2019, the organizations found.

“We are off track,” World Health Organization vaccine chief Kate O’Brien told reporters.
“Global immunization coverage has yet to fully recover from the historic backsliding that we saw during the course of the pandemic.”
Not only has progress stalled, but the number of so-called zero-dose children, who have not received a single jab, rose to 14.5 million last year from 13.9 million in 2022 and from 12.8 million in 2019, according to the data published Monday.
“This puts the lives of the most vulnerable children at risk,” O’Brien warned.
Even more concerning is that more than half of the world’s unvaccinated children live in 31 countries with fragile, conflict-affected settings, where they are especially vulnerable to contracting preventable diseases, due to lacking access to security, nutrition and health services.
Children in such countries are also far more likely to miss out on the necessary follow-up jabs.
A full 6.5 million children worldwide did not complete their third dose of the DTP vaccine, which is necessary to achieve disease protection in infancy and early childhood, Monday’s datasets showed.

The WHO and UNICEF voiced additional concern over lagging vaccination against measles — one of the world’s most infectious diseases — amid an exploding number of outbreaks around the world.
“Measles outbreaks are the canary in the coalmine, exposing and exploiting gaps in immunization and hitting the most vulnerable first,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement.
In 2023, only 83 percent of children worldwide received their first dose of the measles vaccine through routine health services — the same level as in 2022 but down from 86 percent before the pandemic.
And only 74 percent received their second necessary dose, while 95-percent coverage is needed to prevent outbreaks, the organizations pointed out.
“This is still too low to prevent outbreaks and achieve elimination goals,” Ephrem Lemango, UNICEF immunization chief, told reporters.
He pointed out that more than 300,000 measles cases were confirmed in 2023 — nearly three times as many as a year earlier.
And a full 103 countries have suffered outbreaks in the past five years, with low vaccination coverage of 80 percent or lower seen as a major factor.
By contrast, 91 countries with strong measles vaccine coverage experienced no outbreaks.
“Alarmingly, nearly three in four infants live in places at the greatest risk of measles outbreaks,” Lemango said, pointing out that 10 crisis-wracked countries, including Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan, account for more than half of children not vaccinated against measles.
On a more positive note, strong increases were seen in vaccination against the cervical cancer-causing HPV virus.
But that vaccine is still only reaching 56 percent of adolescent girls in high-income countries and 23 percent in lower-income countries — far below the 90-percent-target.
 

 


Powerful blast hits busy Mogadishu cafe during Euro final

Powerful blast hits busy Mogadishu cafe during Euro final
Updated 15 July 2024
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Powerful blast hits busy Mogadishu cafe during Euro final

Powerful blast hits busy Mogadishu cafe during Euro final
  • Several local media reports said the blast was caused by a suicide bomber or a car bomb but the information could not be verified

MOGADISHU: A powerful blast ripped through a popular cafe in the center of the Somali capital Mogadishu late Sunday, an AFP journalist said, with local media reporting the venue was packed with football fans watching the final of the Euro 2024 tournament.
It was not immediately known if there were casualties, but the journalist reported that firefighters, police and ambulances rushed to the scene of the explosion at the Top Coffee restaurant.
Police have cordoned off the area, which is close to the presidential palace compound known as Villa Somalia and was very busy at the time of the blast.
Images posted online showed a huge fireball and plumes of smoke billowing into the night sky over the city.
Several local media reports said the blast was caused by a suicide bomber or a car bomb but the information could not be verified.
The authorities have not yet made any public comment on the incident.
The Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab terrorist group has been waging a bloody insurgency against Somalia’s fragile federal government for more than 17 years and has carried out numerous bombings in Mogadishu and other parts of the country.
There had been a relative lull in attacks in recent months as the government presses on with an offensive against the Islamist militants.
But on Saturday, five inmates said to be Al-Shabab fighters were killed in a shootout with prison guards in an attempted jail break from the main prison in Mogadishu.
Three guards were also killed and 18 others wounded in the confrontation, prison officials said, after the prisoners managed to get hold of weapons.
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has vowed “all-out” war against the terrorists and government troops have joined forces with local clan militias in a military campaign supported by an African Union force and US air strikes.
But the offensive has suffered setbacks, with Al-Shabab earlier this year claiming it had taken multiple locations in the center of the country.
Although driven out of the capital by AU forces in 2011, Al-Shabab still has a strong presence in rural Somalia.
It has carried out repeated attacks against political, security and civilian targets, mostly in Somalia but also in neighboring countries including Kenya.
Somalia last month called for the African Union to slow the planned withdrawal of its forces from the troubled country.
UN resolutions called for troop numbers in the AU peacekeeping mission, known as ATMIS, to be reduced to zero by December 31 with security handed over to the Somali army and police.
The third and penultimate phase was to see the departure of 4,000 soldiers out of a total 13,500 ATMIS troops by the end of June.
But, following a request from Somalia’s government to see only 2,000 troops leave in June and the remaining 2,000 in September, the AU Peace and Security Council said it “strongly supports... a phased approach” to the drawdown.
 

 


Brazil slams ‘endless massacre’ in Gaza after bombings

Brazil slams ‘endless massacre’ in Gaza after bombings
Updated 15 July 2024
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Brazil slams ‘endless massacre’ in Gaza after bombings

Brazil slams ‘endless massacre’ in Gaza after bombings
  • Brazil in May withdrew its ambassador from Israel over the conflict, ratcheting up tensions after he earlier accused the country’s government of genocide

RIO DE JANEIRO: The government of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Sunday denounced Israeli strikes on southern Gaza, urging the world not to “remain silent in the face of this endless massacre.”
“The most recent bombing in the Gaza Strip, which claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent people, is unacceptable,” read a statement from the presidency.
The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said at least 92 people were killed and 300 wounded in a Saturday strike on Al-Mawasi, an Israeli-designated “safe zone” on the Mediterranean coast.
The civil defense agency said another 20 were killed in an Israeli strike on a makeshift mosque at Al-Shati refugee camp in the territory’s north.
On Sunday, 15 were killed in a Gaza school sheltering those displaced by the war, according to the civil defense agency.
“It is appalling that they continue to collectively punish the Palestinian people. Tens of thousands have already died in successive attacks since last year, many of them in delimited humanitarian zones that should be protected,” said the statement.
“We, the political leaders of the democratic world, cannot remain silent in the face of this endless massacre.”
Hamas on Sunday decided to withdraw from Gaza ceasefire negotiations in the wake of the bombings.
Brazil in May withdrew its ambassador from Israel over the conflict, ratcheting up tensions after he earlier accused the country’s government of genocide.
Israel reacted furiously, declaring the Brazilian leader persona non grata.
The war in Gaza was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, including 42 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 38,584 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.