Wednesday, 28 July 2021: Police chiefs condemn Boris Johnson’s crime plan, Police officers gave testimonies about US Capitol riot, Women in Afghanistan fear Taliban takeover

⊂ UNITED KINGDOM ⊃

Police chiefs condemn Boris Johnson’s crime plan: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended plans to widen police use of stop and search powers, describing it as a „kind and loving“ way to get dangerous weapons off the streets. Speaking as the government set out its new Beating Crime Plan for England and Wales, Johnson said stop and search was not a „strong-arm“ tactic and plays an „important part in fighting crime“. He also suggested electronic tagging on more burglars after release, and wider use of public „chain gangs“, as measures to combat crime and anti-social behaviour. The government is further proposing that every neighbourhood in England and Wales should have a named police officer for residents to contact. Police chiefs condemned Johnson’s high-profile strategy to tackle crime as “weird and gimmicky”, while the Police Federation said fighting crime needed greater investment. Labour accused the government of being „all talk and no action“ on law and order. The shadow justice secretary, David Lammy, said the plan was “tinkering” and would do nothing to rebuild a broken system.
bbc.com, theguardian.com, news.sky.com

Ex-minister Ken Clarke ‘not responsible’ for blood products in early days of infection scandal, inquiry hears: The contaminated blood scandal, which emerged in the 1980s, has been described as the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS. It saw thousands diagnosed with HIV/Aids or hepatitis after receiving blood product treatments for haemophilia. The lawyer representing more than 1,500 people affected by it has accused former health secretary Ken Clarke of failing to present the evidence demanded by victims. Lord Clarke has said he was “not responsible” for blood products in the early days of the infected blood scandal, the Infected Blood Inquiry heard on Tuesday. Lord Clarke said the controversy surrounding the blood products was something that “hardly ever came across my desk”, adding that at the time he was distracted with policies such as closing “old Victorian asylums” and removing “old geriatric hospitals”.
news.sky.com, independent.co.uk

EU freezes legal steps against Britain over Brexit deal: The European Commission said on Tuesday it would not move to the next step of its legal action against Britain for unilaterally changing trading arrangements for Northern Ireland, in response to Britain’s request for a standstill. The Commission initiated infringement proceedings against the UK government last March after it unilaterally extended Grace Periods on goods no longer allowed to be exported to Northern Ireland due to Brexit. The next step in the legal proceedings has been halted in an effort to quell tensions that have been rising between Brussels and London ever since the Northern Ireland protocol came into force at the start of the year.
reuters.com, euronews.com

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove: ‘Selfish’ people who refuse vaccine will be barred from events independent.co.uk
Coronavirus cases fall for seventh day in a row, Johnson warns against ‘premature conclusions’ bbc.com
Home Office ‚appears to be failing‘ Windrush generation again with compensation scheme, MPs warn news.sky.com
Welsh semiconductor firm: Johnson trade adviser expects Chinese bid for UK semiconductor firm will be blocked independent.co.uk
Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping: Extra £82m in funding needed for government to meet pledge to end rough sleeping by 2024 news.sky.com
Ireland to offer coronavirus jabs to children aged 12 to 15 politico.eu

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⊂ EUROPE ⊃

Police officers gave testimonies about US Capitol riot: The first hearing of the special committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the 6 January insurrection in Washington DC was filled with emotional moments and first-hand accounts of the violence that day. Four police officers on Tuesday told lawmakers they were beaten, taunted with racial insults, heard threats including „kill him with his own gun“ and thought they might die as they struggled to defend the US Capitol against a mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters. „My fellow officers and I were punched, pushed, kicked, shoved, sprayed with chemical irritants and even blinded with eye-damaging lasers by a violent mob who apparently saw us law enforcement officers, dedicated to ironically protecting them as US citizens, as an impediment in their attempted insurrection,“ said US Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, a US Army veteran who served in Iraq. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said that he was subjected to racial slurs when he confronted rioters who had breached the building. Daniel Hodges of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department said that to his „perpetual confusion, I saw the ‚thin blue line‘ flag, the symbol of support for law enforcement, more than once being carried by the terrorists as they ignored our commands and continued to assault us.“ It was the first hearing held by the Democratic-led House select committee investigating the attack by pro-Trump rioters who were trying to stop the certification of the presidential election, which Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
cnn.com, reuters.com, npr.org, theguardian.com, npr.org

Israel minister to discuss Pegasus scandal in France visit: Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz will meet his French counterpart in Paris this week for talks that will include an update on the Pegasus spyware scandal, his office said Tuesday. The Pegasus malware was made by Israeli firm NSO and was allegedly used to target President Emmanuel Macron. Israel’s defence ministry must approve NSO exports given the sensitive nature of the sector and has set up a committee to review the firm’s business. In the Hungarian capital of Budapest, hundreds took the streets on Monday to protest against the alleged surveillance carried out by their government with the Pegasus spyware. Journalists, businessmen, lawyers and critics of the Viktor Orban government were among those targeted for surveillance. Hungarian prosecutors have opened an inquiry into the allegations.
france24.com, euobserver.com

EU once again approves Condor aid: The European Commission has found an aid package by Germany in favour of the airline Condor to be in line with EU state aid rules. The approval of the aid package relates to two measures to compensate Condor for damages suffered as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, worth in total €204.1 million, and €321.2 million of restructuring support to enable Condor’s return to viability. As a result of restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Condor has been incurring significant losses. Following the annulment by the General Court of a Commission decision of 26 April 2020, which had approved damage compensation in favour of Condor for the period 17 March to 31 December 2020, the Commission on Tuesday adopted a new decision based on an ex post analysis of the actual damages incurred and taking into account the judgment by the General Court.
ec.europa.eu

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Crisis in Tunisia – President Saied defends measures: A political crisis in Tunisia moved into its second day Monday after President Kais Saied fired the prime minister and suspended parliament. Saied’s opponents have decried the move, which the president claimed was constitutional, as an attempted coup. Later on Monday, Saied issued decree suspending work in public institutions and local administrations for two days starting Tuesday. He also imposed a night-time curfew between 7 pm to 6 am until 27 August. In a meeting with the heads of syndicates and unions, Saied reiterated his rejection to the accusations that he staged a coup. „This is an implementation of the constitution. Article 80 gave the president the right to take the necessary measures in case of imminent danger,“ he said, in a video of the meeting published by the presidency. He said the danger was already present, threatening the economic and social situation in the country. He mentioned slow roll-out of the vaccination campaign as proof of one of the threats to citizens. The United Nations (UN) called on all parties in Tunisia to exercise restraint, refrain from violence and ensure that the situation remains calm. Turkey said it was deeply concerned by the suspension of the Tunisian parliament’s activities. A spokeswoman for the German foreign ministry told reporters that Germany hoped Tunisia would return as soon as possible to constitutional order.
washingtonpost.com, dpa-international.com, reuters.com, time.com, aljazeera.com

Women in Afghanistan fear Taliban takeover: The radical Islamist Taliban could soon take power in Afghanistan again. Human rights activists report dramatic oppression of women and girls in the conquered territories. Life in Afghanistan as a woman has never been easy, but now it’s hard to sleep soundly at night, says Saleha Soadat from Kabul. In an interview with German media, the Afghan women’s activist says she fears that the Taliban will soon take control of the Afghan capital of Kabul as well. After the withdrawal of international troops, the Taliban are on the rise again. Every day, Soadat observes a large gathering of people in front of the municipal administration in Kabul who want to apply for passports. Faced with the Taliban offensive, the Kabul government imposed a nighttime curfew in all cities last Saturday. However, negotiations between government officials and the Taliban have so far been inconclusive. Neither human rights nor women’s rights play a role in the peace negotiations between the government and the Taliban, says Soadat. She is in contact with many women nationwide, she says, and they are desperate and have little hope. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kabul confirmed in mid-July that the Taliban had closed girls‘ schools and banned women from leaving the house unaccompanied by a male relative. The Human Rights Commission also confirmed reports of forced marriages to Taliban fighters. Soadat, like many other people in Afghanistan, fears that the Taliban will rejoin the government in the future. That could set back the fight for women’s rights by decades.
dw.com

North and South Korea agree to talk again: North and South Korea restored a key communications hotline Tuesday and agreed to improve ties, more than a year after Pyongyang cut the link during a period of increased tensions. The move followed the exchange of letters between leaders of the two Koreas to reestablish cross-border engagement, Seoul’s presidential office said Tuesday. Ties between both countries improved in 2018, when South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met three times. But this quickly broke down following the collapse of a second summit between Kim and then US President Donald Trump. Tensions later worsened, prompted by defector groups in the South sending propaganda across the border. This eventually led North Korea to cut off all military and political communication links, including a hotline between their leaders. South Korea’s president had called for the hotline to be restored and talks aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.
washingtonpost.com, bbc.com

COVID-19: EU says it is on track for 70% vaccination target by end summer reuters.com
Europan Central Bank loosens the reins for banks faz.net
MEP: Diversity is ‘severely missing’ in European Parliament euractiv.com
EU border agency: What’s wrong with Frontex? de.euronews.com
US Secretary of State Blinken is visiting India apnews.com

⊂ QUOTE OF THE DAY ⊃

The delta variant is very dangerous.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called on people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if they are able to do so.
apnews.com

⊂ COUNTRIES ⊃

Explosion rocks German chemicals site: An explosion in a chemical industrial park in the western German city of Leverkusen Tuesday killed at least two people and injured 31, setting off a fierce blaze that sent a pall of smoke over the western city of Leverkusen. Several people were still missing. Emergency services took three hours to extinguish the fire at the Chempark site. Police told residents living nearby to stay indoors and shut doors and windows in case there were toxic fumes. Authorities warned residents not to consume food from their gardens and to beware of any film that may have settled on outdoor furniture, toys or in swimming pools. Officials as far away as Dortmund, approximately 75 kilometres to the northeast of Leverkusen, advised residents there to do likewise.
reuters.com, dw.com

Cuban embassy in Paris attacked with petrol bombs: Cuba’s embassy in Paris said on Tuesday it had been attacked overnight with petrol bombs that caused some damage but no injuries to its staff. Paris police said two gasoline bombs hit the embassy late Monday night. The flames were out by the time firefighters arrived, police said. No one has been arrested or claimed responsibility. The Paris prosecutor’s office said an investigation is under way. Cuba’s foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla took to Twitter to condemn the „terrorist attack“ on the embassy. He wrote that he blames the US government for its continuous campaigns against Cuba, adding in reference to the attack that the US government was promoting this behaviour.
france24.com, reuters.com, spiegel.de

Hybrid warfare – Lithuania accuses Belarus of smuggling migrants into the EU: An increasing number of migrants, many originally from Middle Eastern or African countries, have been crossing the border from Belarus to Lithuania in recent weeks. Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis said there are more than 2,400 people that entered Lithuania from Belarus illegally during the last two months. He accuses the regime in Belarus of using these people as a sort of a weapon against Lithuania as well as the European Union. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has previously threatened the EU with masses of migrants during defiant remarks to Belarusian government ministers. „We will not stop anyone,“ Lukashenko said, referring to the migrants. He said the migrants are on their way to „warm and comfortable Europe.“ Lukashenko also blamed the influx on Lithuania, as the Baltic country cut the asylum request process to 10 days.
npr.org, dw.com

Commission moves against EU countries over unfair trading practices: The EU Commission has opened infringement procedures against 12 member states after they failed to transpose EU rules banning unfair trading practices in the agri-food sector within the allotted time frame. The directive aims to redress the imbalances in the EU food supply chain created by large operators against trading partners with weak bargaining power, such as individual farmers and smallholders, in a bid to protect European farmers.
euractiv.com

Extreme drought sparks forest fires in Greece: More than 50 bush and forest fires broke out in Greece on Tuesday. Authorities reported a fire in a forest at the base of Mount Penteli north of Athens which was approaching the surrounding suburbs. Around 70 firefighters, backed by five helicopters and five planes equipped for dropping water, were battling to contain the blaze. However, their efforts were complicated by 38 kph winds. The most dangerous fire raged in the Stamata-Dionysos region, about 20 kilometres northeast of Athens.
dw.com

Macron is welcomed with garlands of flowers and seashells on Manihi Island: French President Emmanuel Macron continued his tour of French Polynesia on Tuesday with a visit to Manihi Island. He was garlanded with flowers and seashells as he stepped off a boat to be greeted by local officials. Macron was on the island to visit the site of an anti-tsunami shelter that’s being built. Climate change is a key issue in Macron’s tour.
euronews.com

Germany 1: Google takes legal action over Germany’s expanded hate-speech law reuters.com
Germany 2: Chancellor Merkel and state leaders discuss current Covid situation on 10 August rnd.de
Sweden charges Iranian over 1988 ‚war crimes and murder‘ dw.com
Portugal asks EU states for vaccine doses deutschlandfunk.de
France 1: Several regions make masks mandatory outdoors berliner-zeitung.de
France 2: Former French minister Rachida Dati charged with corruption in Ghosn case france24.com
Netherlands experience sudden drop in new infections tagesspiegel.de
Italy considers compulsory vaccination for teachers nau.ch

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⊂ LAST BUT NOT LEAST ⊃

Vatican fraud trial adjourned until October: A Roman Catholic cardinal who was once a close ally of Pope Francis has gone on trial in the Vatican, accused of misusing Church funds in a ruinous London property venture. Cardinal Angelo Becciu is the most senior cleric in modern times to face trial for alleged financial crimes. He is charged with spending €350m of church money on a botched deal to buy a property in Chelsea that incurred huge losses. The charges against him include allegedly channelling money to businesses run by his brothers in their native Sardinia. Nine other defendants are also accused of crimes including extortion, embezzlement, money-laundering and abuse of office. After the first day of hearings, the trial was adjourned until 5 October.
bbc.com, reuters.com

 

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