Thursday, 12 August 2021: Germany and Netherlands stop deportations to Afghanistan, German police arrest Briton on suspicion of spying for Russia, Swiss scientist cited by Chinese media on coronavirus doesn’t exist


Kemi Badenoch tipped as next education secretary in reshuffle: Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has been mooted as a future education secretary to replace Gavin Williamson in the long-awaited cabinet reshuffle. Rumours about the rearrangement of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top team have abounded for months, with plans scrapped on several recent occasions. But during the summer recess they have been revived. A No 10 source said Williamson was widely perceived as “terrible” in the education brief and Badenoch would be a “very good” replacement.

Thousands of civil service jobs at risk: Ministers are drawing up plans to cut thousands of civil service jobs and reduce the size of Whitehall as part of a three-year review of government spending, The Times newspaper reported. The Treasury has told departments to identify cuts in day-to-day budgets before the comprehensive spending review this autumn. Ministers and officials have been told that they need to reverse headcount increases as a result of Brexit and the coronavirus. Civil service numbers have significantly increased every year since the EU referendum in June 2016.

UK spending to combat climate change is lagging behind targets: A study by the pressure group WWF says new green policies in the March 2021 Budget add up to just 0.01% of GDP. But the government’s own advisory Climate Change Committee has said 1% of national wealth – or GDP – must be spent every year in the UK to ensure climate targets are met. WWF says its research also shows that some Budget policies that encourage pollution totalled £40bn – far more than the PM’s green plan.

Immigration and asylum: UK deportation flight to Jamaica leaves with just seven people on board
Lobbying: David Cameron in row over promoting genetics firm Illumina
Gurkha veterans: Boris Johnson told to end Gurkha pension injustice amid hunger strike outside Downing Street
Scotland: Deal between Scottish Greens and SNP delayed as deadline looms
Exams: Gavin Williamson should be sacked over exam failures, says Keir Starmer
Education secretary: Five times Gavin Williamson didn’t make the grade


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Germany and Netherlands stop deportations to Afghanistan: In a U-turn, Germany and the Netherlands announced on Wednesday that they were suspending deportations of Afghan migrants as Taliban insurgents continue to make massive territorial gains in the war-torn country. The move comes after the two countries, along with Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Greece, asked the European Commission last week to maintain the returns despite the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan in recent weeks. The Taliban seized three more Afghan provincial capitals and a local army headquarters Wednesday. The headquarters of the Afghan National Army’s 217th Corps at Kunduz airport also fell to the Taliban. Hundreds of Afghan forces surrendered to the Taliban near Kunduz on Wednesday. Afghanistan has replaced its army chief, General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai.,,,

Germany warns Iran not to squander window of opportunity in Vienna talks: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has urged Iran to return to the Vienna negotiations on reviving a nuclear deal as soon as possible. „If we don’t want to jeopardise what we have achieved so far in Vienna we cannot stretch out the negotiations into eternity,“ Maas said in Berlin. „We expect Iran to return to the negotiating table in Vienna as soon as possible, and to do so with the necessary flexibility and readiness for compromise to strike a deal.“ Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raisi presented a list of cabinet ministers to lawmakers on Wednesday, including anti-Western diplomat Hossein Amir-Abdollahian as foreign minister and Ahmad Vahidi as his interior minister. In 2007, Argentine secured Interpol arrest warrants for four Iranians, including Vahidi, for their alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires. The Argentine government criticised Raisi’s nominations, which must still be confirmed by parliament. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say.,,

US forced to withdraw diplomats from Belarus: The regime of authoritarian Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has responded to the latest round of US sanctions by requesting Washington reduce its embassy staff in Minsk to five people by 1 September. Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Anatol Hlaz said in an interview that was placed on the ministry’s website on Wednesday that Minsk also had revoked its consent to the appointment of Julie Fisher as the US ambassador to Belarus. The United States, Britain, and Canada had announced new trade and financial sanctions on Belarus on Monday, the first anniversary of the presidential election that extended Lukashenko’s decades-long rule and sparked an unprecedented wave of protests amid allegations the vote was rigged. US President Joe Biden had also recently met with Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

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Assange loses court battle to stop US expanding extradition appeal: A British court on Wednesday granted the United States permission to appeal a decision not to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to face espionage charges in the United States. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser in January refused to grant a request by Washington for Assange to face trial in the United States on spying charges, ruling he was at serious risk of suicide. But lawyer Clair Dobbin, representing the US government which is appealing the decision, said the judge didn’t appreciate the weight of expert evidence that concluded Assange was not a suicide risk. The January decision relied on evidence from Michael Kopelman, a professor of neuropsychiatry at King’s College London, who was later found to have misled the court by concealing the fact that Assange had fathered two children while he was a fugitive. The full appeal will be heard at the High Court on 27 and 28 October. Assange is wanted by the US on espionage and computer hacking charges connected to WikiLeaks, and it publishing hundreds of thousands of leaked US government documents in 2010 and 2011 about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as confidential diplomatic cables.,

Fight against cancer: EU lowers limits for toxic metals in baby food, vegetables
COVID-19: EU looking into new possible side-effects of mRNA shots
Migration: EU Commission supports Lithuania in migration management; Lithuania to build fence on Belarus border to stop migrants;
Sentencing of Canadian for spying in China: European Council President Charles Michel criticises arbitrary detention
Deutsche Bahn: EU Commission approves German support to compensate Deutsche Bahn for damages suffered due to pandemic


A state governed by the rule of law is also responsible in ensuring that deportations don’t become a danger for those involved.
Germany has stopped all deportations to Afghanistan, with Interior Minister Horst Seehofer pointing out the unstable security situation in the country.


New heat record in Italy: Regional authorities in Sicily recorded temperatures of 48.8 degrees Celsius (119.8 Fahrenheit) Wednesday – which if confirmed would be a new Italy record. The blistering temperature was recorded near Syracuse, beating Italy’s all-time record of 48.5 degrees in Sicily in 1999, although a spokesman for the national meteorological service told AFP this still had to be validated. The heat has raised fears for the fires that have blighted Sicily and the region of Calabria all summer. Severe forest fires also continue to rage in Greece. The European Forest Fire Information System said Wednesday that nearly 100,000 hectares of forestry and farmland had burned in Greece for the past two weeks. In Turkey, the broadcasting authority has imposed fines on five TV stations for reporting on the fires in the country. The authority justified its decision by saying that the reports had spread fear and panic and were insulting to the government. Wildfires tearing through forested areas of northern Algeria have killed at least 65 people. (Italy), (Greece), (Turkey), (Algeria)

German police arrest Briton on suspicion of spying for Russia: German police arrested a British embassy employee suspected of passing documents to Russian spies in exchange for cash, the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement Wednesday. His arrest was the result of a joint investigation by German and British authorities, the statement added. The man, identified only as David S, was arrested at his Potsdam apartment on Tuesday, and his home and embassy workplace were searched. The Briton is understood not to be a diplomat but a private contractor working as a security guard at the Berlin embassy and therefore does not hold diplomatic immunity. “On at least one occasion he forwarded documents obtained in the course of his professional activities to a representative of a Russian intelligence service,” the prosecutors‘ statement said.,

Polish parliament passes media reform bill: Polish lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favour of a bill that the opposition says aims to silence a US-owned news channel critical of the government. The draft legislation would prevent non-European owners from having controlling stakes in Polish media companies. In practice, it only affects TVN, which includes TVN24, an all-news station that is critical of the nationalist right-wing government and has exposed wrongdoing by Polish authorities. The vote in parliament followed two days of political upheaval that saw Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Tuesday fire deputy prime minister Jaroslaw Gowin, the head of the smaller Accord Party, who opposed the media bill. On Wednesday, Gowin said his party was formally leaving the coalition. This meant that the ruling right-wing Law and Justice Party lost its parliamentary majority and appeared earlier Wednesday not to have the votes, but found them after all.,,

Swiss scientist cited by Chinese media on coronavirus doesn’t exist: The Swiss Embassy in Beijing has said on Twitter that a Swiss biologist recently referred to several times by Chinese media doesn’t exist, and has asked China to take down articles it called “false” news. Chinese media outlets had cited someone named “Wilson Edwards” discussing the origins of COVID-19 and the independence of the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, the Swiss embassy said that there was no registry of a Swiss citizen with the name „Wilson Edwards“ and no academic articles under the name. It also pointed out that Edwards‘ Facebook account had been created just two weeks ago, and only had three friends. State media outlets were among those that carried articles with comments from the fake scientist. Many outlets have since removed any reference to him.,

German chancellor candidate kicks off campaign tour in boxing ring: Armin Laschet, the conservative candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor, on Wednesday launched his campaign tour with a visit to a boxing club in the heart of the country’s financial capital, where he sought to convince a local audience that he has the heart to be a contender. The visit coincided with latest opinion polls showing that backing for Laschet’s CDU-CSU alliance has fallen another three points to 23%. Laschet however put on a brave front on the campaign trail, even pulling on the gloves for a brief bout at the youth boxing camp. Asked about his poor performance at the gym on Wednesday, Laschet was defiant. “Polls go up and down,” he said, adding: „The CDU will put up a fight in this election.“,

Political crisis in Tunisia: Aid agencies in Italy warn of migration surge
Italy offers spa treatment to stressed economy
Denmark: You’ll get weird looks if you wear a mask
Will Romania step up anti-LGBTQ legislation like Hungary?
Greece: Former prime minister Alexis Tsipras calls for European civil protection
France: President Macron calls for vigilance as infection numbers continue to rise


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Facebook stops Russian fake news campaign against Covid vaccinations: Facebook has taken down hundreds of fake accounts that formed part of a Russia-based disinformation operation seeking to discredit the AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines. A network of 65 Facebook and 243 Instagram accounts responsible for spreading misleading information about the jabs was traced to Fazze, a subsidiary of a UK-registered communications firm that mainly operated in Russia. Using fake profiles and occasionally influencers, the content was spread as widely as possible on various platforms, including Reddit, Medium and


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