Thursday, 29 July 2021: Deaf woman wins court case against UK government over coronavirus briefings, England scraps quarantine for fully vaccinated EU and US travellers, France fines Monsanto for privacy breach


Rule changes to end pingdemic ‘nailed on’ for 16 August, says Boris Johnson: The end of remaining coronavirus rules in England on 16 August for those fully vaccinated is „nailed on“, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said. In an interview with radio station LBC, Johnson said no review was needed before lifting the last restrictions. People with two jabs will able to escape self-isolation if they come into contact with a positive Covid case from mid-August. The PM said the recent data – which showed daily cases had fallen for seven days in a row – was encouraging. But he also added that it was far too early to draw any general conclusions. Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said “no one really knows” what trajectory the Covid pandemic will take in the weeks ahead, as new cases across the UK rose after seven days of consecutive declines.,,

Deaf woman wins court case against UK government over coronavirus briefings: A deaf woman won a High Court action against the government after complaining about the lack of British Sign Language interpreting at official coronavirus briefings in England. Katie Rowley, a self-employed actor and writer from Leeds, took legal action against Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, arguing the government had breached its obligations to make broadcasts accessible to deaf people under equality legislation. Ministers disputed this and lawyers representing Gove said Rowley’s claim should be dismissed. The government previously highlighted that BSL interpreters were offered by the news channel which carried the broadcasts. However, Rowley’s claim focused on two Covid briefings in September and October 2020 for which there was no sign language interpreter at all, either in person or superimposed by broadcasters. She said the stress she suffered in being unable to access government information during the briefing impacted her health and wellbeing. A judge ruled in her favor on Wednesday, finding that the absence of interpretation constituted discrimination.

Official Secrets Act reform won’t see journalists jailed, Johnson promises: Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he does not “for one minute” think a government review of the Official Secrets Act would stop the press from carrying out investigations or lead to prosecutions of journalists. Fears have been raised that changes to the UK’s Official Secrets Act proposed by his government could see investigative journalists classed as spies and possibly even jailed. But the prime minister insisted the review would not “interrupt the normal process” of the media using confidential sources.

Royal yacht could cost extra £50m, says minister as police in dark over crime plan
Disabled people: Critics give mixed response to ministers‘ £1.6bn disability strategy
Queen’s consent investigations: Queen secretly lobbied Scottish ministers for climate law exemption
NHS England to be led by woman for first time as Amanda Pritchard takes charge


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England scraps quarantine for fully vaccinated EU and US travellers: Starting on 2 August, EU and US travellers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to visit England without having to quarantine, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced Wednesday. Arrivals will still need to do the usual pre-departure test and take a PCR test on day two of returning to England. The UK government said the rule change would help to reunite family and friends whose loved ones live abroad. The only exception is for people arriving from France, who still have to quarantine on arrival. Under-18s will be exempt from isolation, and some will not have to test, depending on their age.,,

Biden nominates Mark Gitenstein for EU ambassador: US President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated Mark Gitenstein to become Washington’s European Union ambassador. Gitenstein is a lawyer who served as the US ambassador to Romania from 2009 to 2012. Biden also nominated Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon for the position of US ambassador to Spain. Both nominations need to be confirmed by the Senate. The last US envoy to the EU was Trump appointee Gordon Sondland, a wealthy hotel owner. Trump fired him after Sondland testified to Congress about Trump’s pressure on Ukraine, leading to the president’s first impeachment.,,

EU signs deal for supply of potential Covid drug: The European Union has signed a contract with GlaxoSmithKline for the supply of up to 220,000 treatments of its investigational monoclonal antibody therapy sotrovimab against COVID-19, it said on Wednesday. The drug, which is developed together with US firm Vir Biotechnology, can be used for the treatment of high-risk coronavirus patients with mild symptoms who do not require supplemental oxygen, according to the Commission.

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Turkey refuses to take back migrants – Greece asks EU for help: Greece has repeatedly asked the EU to persuade Turkey to take back rejected asylum seekers. There are now 1,908 migrants on the Greek islands whose asylum applications have been rejected, Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis announced on Wednesday. The EU Commission said it continues to support Greece in its efforts to return refugees and migrants to Turkey that entered the Greek islands illegally. Under the 2016 refugee agreement between Turkey and the EU, Turkey is obliged to take back migrants from Greece. However, Ankara put the repatriation on hold in March 2020, citing the Covid pandemic. Meanwhile, EU Parliament President David Sassoli has reiterated calls for a common EU asylum policy on the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Refugee Convention.,

Ecuador revokes citizenship of WikiLeaks founder Assange: Ecuadorian authorities have rescinded the citizenship of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, saying there were multiple problems with his original application, including inconsistencies, different signatures and unpaid fees. Assange’s lawyer, Carlos Poveda, told the Associated Press that the decision was made without due process and that Assange was not permitted to appear. Assange has been in London‘ high-security Belmarsh Prison since he was arrested in April 2019 for skipping bail seven years earlier during a separate legal battle. Assange spent seven years holed up inside Ecuador’s London embassy, where he fled in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault. Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because so much time had elapsed. US prosecutors have indicted Assange on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks‘ publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison. US prosecutors say Assange unlawfully helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later published. Lawyers for Assange argue that he was acting as a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment freedom of speech protections for publishing documents that exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.,,

Rooibos tea is Africa’s first food to join the EU’s list of protected products
COVID-19: EU Commission to buy over 200,000 anti-body treatments
China hits back after EU official joins call for cooperation on pandemic origins probe
Recovery fund: Small businesses gain ground in sustainable recovery push
Sign to Lukashenko: US President Biden welcomes Belarus opposition leader Tsikhanouskaya to White House
Instrumentalising migrants: Patrolling Lithuania’s border with Belarus


I want to break the silence today to make the whole truth heard so it is shared and so the whole world knows exactly what was done and what was known, and what is known today.
French President Emmanuel Macron said France was in debt to French Polynesia over nuclear tests that were conducted in the Pacific territory in the 1960s and 1970s.


Several dead after shooting on the border of Armenia and Azerbaijan: Armenia said on Wednesday that three of its soldiers had been killed in an exchange of gunfire with Azerbaijan. Both countries blamed each other for the flare-up in tension along the border. Armenia’s defence ministry said in a statement that Azeri forces had attacked Armenian positions near the border between the two countries. Two Armenian servicemen had been injured in the same incident, it said. Azerbaijan’s defence ministry accused Armenian forces of what it called provocations in the Kalbajar district and said its army would continue to retaliate. The Interfax news agency later reported that both sides had later accepted a Russian cease-fire proposal to try to calm tensions. The tensions between the two countries over the region have been simmering since the end of a war in the 1990s and last year’s escalation of violence was the deadliest in two decades. More than 5,000 people lost their lives and tens of thousands were displaced.,

France owes debt to French Polynesia over nuclear tests: French President Emmanuel Macron said France was in debt to French Polynesia over nuclear tests that were conducted in the Pacific territory in the 1960s and 1970s, but stopped short of apologising. “I want truth and transparency,” Macron said in a speech to Polynesian officials during his first official trip to the territory, adding that there should be better compensation for victims of the tests. “The nation owes a debt to French Polynesia. This debt is from having conducted these tests, in particular those between 1966 and 1974.” The legacy of French testing in the territory remains a source of deep resentment and is seen as evidence of racist colonial attitudes that disregarded the lives of locals.,

France fines Monsanto for privacy breach: France’s data protection authority has fined agribusiness Monsanto €400,000 for privacy violations. The Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés said Wednesday that the Bayer-owned company had infringed European privacy rules by not informing people that it had recorded their information in a lobbying file. The fine comes after several media outlets revealed that Monsanto held a file containing the personal data of more than 200 politicians, journalists, environmental activists and other figures deemed likely to influence the debate around lifting a ban on the glyphosate herbicide in Europe.

Leverkusen chemical blast likely released toxins into air: Five people are still missing a day after a huge explosion at a German chemical park and are unlikely to be found alive, the site operator said Wednesday, urging residents not to touch possibly toxic soot from the blast. Two people were already confirmed dead in the incident on Tuesday, which also injured 31 others. The cause of the Tuesday morning blast at Chempark’s waste incineration site in the western city of Leverkusen remains unknown, the CEO of Chempark operator Currenta told a press conference. The public prosecutor’s office announced on Wednesday it has opened an investigation into the affair. The investigation into persons unknown is based on a suspicion of involuntary manslaughter and negligently causing an explosion. A spokesman said they were trying to determine whether human error led to the explosion. An investigation group was also set up by police in nearby Cologne. Access to the site is still limited, and surveys were being carried out by drone.,

Germany: Top court issues first ruling in ‚cum-ex‘ case: Germany’s top court upheld fines amounting to millions of euros against a bank and two London share traders for tax fraud on Wednesday. The Federal Court of Justice was ruling on an appeal against the fine issued by a Bonn district court in March 2020. The Bonn court had issued a fine of around €14 million for one of the traders and ordered the private German bank MM Warburg to pay back around €176 million. The sentence also included suspended jail time. The „cum-ex“ case was the result of traders using a loophole to trick governments and receive millions in tax repayments for taxes they had never paid.

Norway postpones end to lockdown because of concerns over Delta: The country postponed for a second time on Wednesday a planned final step in the reopening of its economy from pandemic lockdown, due to the continued spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, the government said. Meanwhile, Norway now leads a pack of European nations that have leaped ahead in Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking, a monthly snapshot that tracks 53 economies’ performance in Covid containment, quality of healthcare, vaccination coverage, overall mortality and—as of last month—progress toward restarting travel and easing border curbs. France will enforce new legislation from next month that will make a health pass compulsory to visit a cafe, board a plane or travel on an inter-city train, a government spokesman has said. French authorities have given the green light for the use of Moderna’s Covid vaccine in children and adolescents., (Norway);, (France)

Netherlands: Police: Attack on 14-year-old Dutch girl may be LGBTQ-linked
Cyprus president in Athens: United against Erdogan’s plans
France: Israeli defence minister Gantz in Paris with Pegasus spyware on the agenda
Germany: More than half of all people fully vaccinated
Italy discusses mandatory vaccination for schoolchildren
Czech Republic plans days off as reward for vaccinated civil servants


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Conference on the Future of Europe: time for your ideas: After its official launch in spring, the Conference is entering a crucial stage: it needs to get as much input from citizens as possible on how the EU should face the challenges of a changing world. More than 5,000 ideas have been submitted to the online platform, on topics ranging from the climate emergency to European democracy.


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