Archive for September, 2020

Israel’s move to limit protests in new coronavirus lockdown law triggers more mass demonstrations (VIDEOS)

Posted by RT on September 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Israel’s move to limit protests in new coronavirus lockdown law triggers more mass demonstrations (VIDEOS)

Israel's parliament has adopted new legislation which severely limits the right to protest amid the pandemic. The law, however, seems to have added new fuel to months-long protests over PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s alleged corruption.

The controversial, government-backed legislation was adopted on Wednesday following a heated all-night debate in the Knesset.

The edict, which forms part of a second national lockdown that kicked off on September 18, bans Israelis from holding protests farther than 1 km (0.6 miles) from their homes in a move said to be essential to help curb the alarming rates of coronavirus spread in Israel.

Critics of the measure have alleged that the move was actually politically-charged rather than actually required to battle the epidemic. “What's the next step? Banning the opposition leader from addressing parliament?” opposition leader Yair Lapid said in a tweet.

The legislation, however, has apparently had an opposite effect as scores of people took to the streets of Israeli cities on Wednesday evening, defying the new rules and venting off their anger over Netanyahu’s policies.

Israel has endured months of anti-government protests, primarily focusing on the alleged corruption of the PM. Netanyahu has been entangled in several criminal probes and the protesters have called for his resignation. The coronavirus crisis – and its handling by the government – have generated further dissatisfaction.

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Policemen detain a man during a demonstration against the Israeli government before parliament passed legislation restricting protests amid a nationwide lockdown, outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, September 29, 2020.
Israel cracks down on protests under Covid-19 ‘emergency’ pretext as country extends lockdown

The country has recently faced a major spike in coronavirus cases. Israel has registered more than 245,000 confirmed cases, including some 1,500 deaths, the latest statistics by Johns Hopkins University shows.

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Covid-induced state of emergency will not lead to major restrictions – Czech PM

Posted by RT on September 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Covid-induced state of emergency will not lead to major restrictions – Czech PM

The Czech government has approved a state of emergency to tackle a rise in Covid cases. PM Andrej Babis said the restrictions won't cause economic pain to the country, which has emerged as one of Europe's new Covid-19 hotspots.

The 30-day long state of emergency, which begins on October 5, will allow Babis' government greater flexibility to tighten rules on social distancing, including shutting schools in afflicted regions and limiting gatherings to small groups.

Speaking on Wednesday, the prime minister told lawmakers that he does not want to close businesses such as restaurants and bars. “We do not want to take measures as in March with a huge impact on our economy and the lives of our citizens,” Babis said.

The government fears Czechia could become an epicenter for the virus as Covid-19 cases in the landlocked republic have been growing at one of the fastest rates in Europe, second only to Spain.

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A worker of Madrid's city hall sanitizes the Plaza Mayor square during lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Madrid, Spain, April 5, 2020. © Reuters / Juan Medina
Spanish capital region extends partial lockdown from Monday affecting over a million people

According to the interior minister, Jan Hamáček, Czechia currently has around 2,000 new Covid cases a day, while the total count of active infections stands at around 34,000. “Doing nothing in this situation is an incredible gamble,” he said.

Last Thursday, new regulations were introduced in the country, which has a population of 10.7 million. They limit restaurants and bars' opening hours, and make wearing masks in public places mandatory.

On Sunday, around 400 people gathered in Prague to protest against the new Covid-19 regulations, displaying banners with the slogans “we don't want vaccines, we want freedom” and “we stand for the collective immunity.” Demonstrators accused the government of spreading fear and demanded to have a choice about wearing masks.

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Japanese govt & TEPCO ordered to pay $9.5 million in damages over Fukushima disaster, high court rules

Posted by RT on September 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Japanese govt & TEPCO ordered to pay $9.5 million in damages over Fukushima disaster, high court rules

A Japanese appeals court has said that the state and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) could have taken steps to prevent the Fukushima nuclear disaster, ruling they must pay one billion yen ($9.5 million) to 3,550 plaintiffs.

The Sendai High Court’s ruling on Wednesday upheld the earlier decision by a lower court in favor of the plaintiffs. They were forced to flee their homes after a 9-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that devastated the northeast region and crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011.

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Reuters journalist Aaron Sheldrick at fukushima nuclear power plant
WATCH: Cameras go inside Fukushima nuclear power plant to show cleanup progress since 2011 tsunami damage

Wednesday’s ruling marks the first time that a Japanese high court has acknowledged government responsibility for the incident. Further compensation claims may now follow, as thousands of other residents were evacuated when reactors at the coastal power station overheated and released a radioactive cloud. Some people have returned home, but areas close to the plant remain closed to this day.

The high court made its decision in line with a 2017 ruling by the Fukushima District Court. It blamed both the government and TEPCO for failing to take steps to counter the huge tsunami caused by an earthquake. They should have been able to foresee the risks of a 15.7-meter-high wave at the site, based on a quake assessment issued in 2002, the ruling said. The disaster could have been prevented if the authorities had also instructed the operator to implement measures that year, according to the Fukushima court.

As of the end of August, around 55,000 people who were evacuated due to the disaster remain displaced, both within and outside Fukushima Prefecture. 

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TEPCO employees in front of the No. 3 reactor building where the removal of atomic fuel began on Monday in Fukushima. © Reuters / Issei Kato
Stricken Fukushima plant’s dangerous atomic fuel being pulled from site after 8 years

Tokyo plans to review the ruling before deciding how to respond, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters on Wednesday. The government earlier insisted that it was impossible to predict the tsunami, or prevent the subsequent disaster. Meanwhile, TEPCO officials say the company has fulfilled its compensation responsibility under government guidelines.

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UN nuclear watchdog inspects 2nd Iranian site, after standoff over access

Posted by RT on September 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on UN nuclear watchdog inspects 2nd Iranian site, after standoff over access

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has inspected the second of two suspected former secret atomic sites in Iran, the UN nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday.

“As part of an agreement with Iran to resolve safeguards implementation issues specified by the IAEA, the agency this week conducted a complementary access at the second location in the country and took environmental samples," it said in a statement.

Neither of the two sites were identified in the statement, but the agency said the suspected activities are thought to have taken place there back in 2003. Samples taken during the IAEA visits to both sites will be sent to labs and analyzed for traces of nuclear material. Tehran says it has never had a nuclear weapons program.

After the first site inspection, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said earlier this month that a visit to a second site was imminent. He also said that analyzing the environmental samples collected at the first site would take “two or three months maybe.”

The site visits had been held up for several months after Tehran refused access, but Iran said it would allow IAEA inspectors in after a visit to Tehran by Grossi in late August. The trip came after the UN agency’s board of governors passed a resolution in June urging Iran to comply with the agency’s requests.

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FILE PHOTO: Iranian workers stand in front of Bushehr nuclear power plant, 1,200 km south of Tehran, 2012 © Reuters / Majid Asgaripour
Iran & IAEA reveal deal on inspections day after UNSC president dismisses US sanctions 'snap back' bid

Under the 2015 deal between Tehran and major powers, the IAEA monitors Iran’s nuclear activities. In early September, the watchdog said that the country’s stockpile of enriched uranium now stands at more than 10 times the limit agreed in the nuclear deal.

President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the deal in 2018, insisting it needed to be renegotiated, and Washington has more recently pushed to ‘snapback’ sanctions on Tehran, a move rejected by the UN Security Council. The remaining parties to the 2015 deal – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – have called on Iran to meet its commitments, while Tehran says it has yet to realize the economic benefits from the agreement.

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Let them eat cake? Irish court finds Subway sandwiches ‘too sugary’ to rise to category of ‘bread’

Posted by RT on September 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Let them eat cake? Irish court finds Subway sandwiches ‘too sugary’ to rise to category of ‘bread’

Ireland’s Supreme Court has ruled that the buns in heated sandwiches sold by a local Subway franchisee cannot be legally considered bread as they contain five times more sugar than they should.

The Supreme Court has shot down an appeal by the franchisee, Bookfinders Ltd., that argued certain takeaway products sold by the chain are eligible for a zero value-added tax (VAT) rate as “staple” foods.

The lengthy legal row has been going on for over a decade already, stemming from a 2006 decision by the Irish Revenue Commissioners that refused the company a VAT refund. According to Ireland’s VAT Act 1972, the weight of the core breadmaking ingredients of fat, sugar, and bread improver should not exceed two percent of the weight of the flour involved.

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RT
Taxes on ‘non-essential’ foods won’t prevent obesity – but they will hurt poorer people

Subway’s heated filled sandwiches, however, turned out to contain some 10 percent sugar, meaning the product fell well outside the “staple” food category, and thus may not legally be considered “bread.” Moreover, as the products did not contain “bread”, they cannot be described as “food” for the purposes of the Second Schedule of the Act, the court ruled.

The ruling did not escape the internet crowd, who rushed to joke about the chain’s ‘sugary’ sandwiches.

Others took a more serious tone, accusing the franchisee of contributing to obesity and the spread of diabetes with its sugar-laden products.

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WATCH: Protests sweep India after police allegedly cremate 19yo gang-rape victim’s body without family’s permission

Posted by RT on September 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on WATCH: Protests sweep India after police allegedly cremate 19yo gang-rape victim’s body without family’s permission

The family of a 19-year-old victim of an alleged gang rape in India have accused local police of cremating the young woman’s body in the middle of the night without permission.

The woman died on Tuesday in Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, two weeks after being tortured during a horrific gang rape in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. She suffered multiple fractures, paralysis and a deep laceration to her tongue. 

The atrocious incident sparked a flurry of demonstrations with protesters outside the hospital reportedly chanting, “Hang the rapists.” There were scuffles between the assembled crowds and police in Delhi with several arrests made as the crowd burned effigies and demanded justice for the teenager and her family.

The woman’s remains were allegedly taken to her village in Hathras, about 200km from Delhi where she was cremated by policemen at 2:30am on Wednesday morning despite protests from her family and widespread public outrage at the case. 

“We wanted the last rites to be performed according to the Hindu traditions. Despite our protests, the cremation was performed. They took the body forcefully. We couldn’t see our daughter’s face for the last time,” the woman’s father told NDTV. 

Irate locals took to the streets to voice their anger at the authorities amid rumors of a botched investigation and a local government coverup.

© REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

The family will reportedly receive Rs 25 lakh ($34,000) in damages as well as other forms of remediation from the local government, including jobs and housing. 

However, police claim the cremation was carried with family’s consent, alleging that the woman’s uncle gave permission and was present at the event.

“We have videos of family members present there. I will be happy to share with media. We performed the cremation after the family’s consent. Some members of the family were present at the cremation. The media reports are not true,” District Magistrate Praveen Kumar Laxkar said.

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Police arrested the man following the incident. © Rampur Police/ FILE PHOTO
Indian father of 5 girls cuts open pregnant wife’s belly to see if she is having a son

Meanwhile, all four of the attackers, from an upper caste, have been arrested and are in jail. They are expected to be charged with the woman’s murder. 

The family, from the Dalit community, the lowest caste in India, claims the local police initially accused the victim of lying about her injuries and registered the incident as an attempted murder case before additional rape charges were added later after the woman gave an official statement a week after the horrific assault occurred.

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US applauds Germany for moving in ‘right direction’ on Huawei oversight, but Berlin doesn’t actually plan to ban it

Posted by RT on September 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on US applauds Germany for moving in ‘right direction’ on Huawei oversight, but Berlin doesn’t actually plan to ban it

A top US State Department official has praised Germany for strengthening regulations on Chinese company Huawei. However, Berlin decided against caving into pressure and banning the company outright, reports say.

A tour by Keith Krach, US undersecretary of state for economic affairs, is part of repeated attempts by the US to discourage European countries from collaborating with Huawei in the rollout of 5G networks. He accused China of using the telecoms giant as "the backbone of their surveillance state" and "a tool for human rights abuse."

"We are seeing things moving in the right direction in Germany... There is really no future with Huawei," Krach told reporters during his trip to Europe.

But Berlin has so far resisted calls to push Huawei out of the country. Chancellor Angela Merkel argued in January that it would be unwise and unsafe to "completely eliminate providers in their entirety and then don't know how they develop."

On Tuesday, the Handelsblatt newspaper reported that, despite the pressure from Washington, the German government decided against banning Huawei outright. Instead, stricter oversight and new certification requirements will be introduced in November, the paper said, citing sources.

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FILE PHOTO: The Chinese flag flies outside the country's general consulate in New York City.
‘Stop the smear’: Beijing unloads on Pompeo after he calls Chinese consulate in New York ‘major spy hub’

Reuters reported, citing sources in Germany's ruling coalition and government, that Berlin plans to extend "scrutiny of a vendor's governance and technology" before allowing a company to provide 5G services.

The US has been long insisting that Huawei poses a danger to NATO countries, without providing any specific evidence. Last year, President Donald Trump banned American companies from doing business with Huawei, and pressured allies to follow suit. In July, the British government ordered all mobile providers to remove Huawei's 5G components from their networks by 2027.

Both Huawei and China have denied using the telecoms company for espionage and surveillance. Huawei rejected the allegations of posing any danger to foreign countries, stating that actions against it would only hurt regular consumers.

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Indian court acquits 32 veteran politicians accused of inciting Hindu mob to destroy 16th-century Babri Masjid mosque in 1992

Posted by RT on September 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Indian court acquits 32 veteran politicians accused of inciting Hindu mob to destroy 16th-century Babri Masjid mosque in 1992

A group of high-profile Indian politicians have been acquitted on charges of inciting violence that led to the demolition of a famous Muslim shrine in Ayodhya 28 years ago, followed by deadly sectarian riots.

The case revolved around the dramatic demolition of the 16th-century Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya in India's northern Uttar Pradesh state in 1992. Hindu activists destroyed the building, believing that it was built on the ruins of a Ram temple. The incident sparked communal riots, which left 3,000 dead. But the trial began nearly 18 years after the incident and then proceeded at a snail's pace.

A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 defendants, ruling there was not enough evidence to prove that the demolition was a planned event.

"Antisocial elements brought down the structure. The accused leaders tried to stop these people," Special Judge SK Yadav said.

In its ruling, the court rejected allegations that the defendants made incendiary speeches, inciting a Hindu mob that gathered outside the mosque. Yadav said that audio tapes of speeches by the defendants submitted by the CBI were "not clear."

The defendants were veteran politicians, including Lal Krishna Advani, the former head of the ruling BJP party and prime minister between 2002 and 2004, longtime BJP lawmaker Murli Manohar Joshi, and Kalyan Singh, a chief minister of Uttar Pradesh at the time. They denied the allegations against them, and some argued that they were not even present at the location.

The verdict immediately drew mixed reactions. BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli welcomed the outcome, saying that it had "validated" the long stance of the party and its senior leaders.

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ayodhya, India. August 5, 2020. India’s Press Information Bureau / Reuters
‘Instrument to unite the country’: India’s Modi lays Hindu temple foundation at Ayodhya site won after long dispute with Muslims

Commenting on the ruling, Advani said it "vindicates my personal and BJP's belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi movement," referring to a 30-year-old campaign for the reconstruction of Hindu temples at Ayodhya.

The chief opposition party, the Indian National Congress, on the other hand, blasted the ruling. The party's spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that in 1992 "the then-BJP government of Uttar Pradesh was a co-conspirator in the designed attack on India's constitutional ethos." Communist Party of India (Marxist) chief Sitaram Yechury called the ruling "a complete travesty of justice."

The destruction of Babri Masjid had led to a decades-old bitter dispute as to whether a Hindu shrine or a new mosque should be built in Ayodhya. Last year, the Supreme Court sided with the Hindus, paving a way for a temple dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Ram to be erected on the contested land.

The court cited historical records showing that Hindus were making pilgrimages and praying at the site before Babri Masjid was erected. The court also directed the government to give Muslims an alternative portion of land for their shrine.

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16 months after citizens cast their votes, Belgium forms new coalition government

Posted by RT on September 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on 16 months after citizens cast their votes, Belgium forms new coalition government

A near-500-day deadlock has been broken in Brussels with the King expected to name the new prime minister on Wednesday. But excluded parties have vowed to organize resistance.

It is expected that caretaker finance minister, Alexander De Croo of the Flemish liberals (Open Vld), will be named by King Philippe as the new prime minister later today. The new coalition government will take over from the caretaker administration of Sophie Wilmes (Reformist Movement), which has guided Belgium through six months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following marathon discussions which started on Tuesday evening, a 'broad church' coalition of seven parties, known as the Vivaldi coalition, struck a deal early on Wednesday morning to form a new government. The coalition led by De Croo includes Flemish and Francophone Socialists, liberals and Greens (spa and PS; MR and Open Vld; Ecolo and Groen) and Flemish Christian democrats (CD&V). The agreement comes 493 days after the election on May 26, 2019, a period which has seen 12 'preformateurs' attempt to form a coalition government and routinely fail due to party differences.

The new coalition excludes Belgium's largest party at the 2019 elections, the conservative New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) Party which achieved 16 percent of the vote, as well as the right-wing Vlaams Belang (VB), Belgium's second-largest party. The two groups have vowed to organize resistance to the government with N-VA leader Theo Francken promising to "fight this project on land, at sea and in the air."

Alexander De Croo took to Twitter to thank all the negotiating parties for the agreement reached and claim that "talent wins games, teamwork wins championships." Meanwhile, leader of the French-speaking Socialists, Paul Magnette, tweeted that he was on his way to deliver their report to the King and form a government.

The new government will have to tackle the coronavirus pandemic which has hit Belgium hard. The nation has one of the world's highest Covid fatalities per capita, with the total death toll exceeding 10,000 on Wednesday.

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Turkey wants visa liberalization and updates to migrant deal as EU summit looms

Posted by RT on September 30, 2020  |   Comments Off on Turkey wants visa liberalization and updates to migrant deal as EU summit looms

Ankara expects EU leaders to make progress on a range of issues, including the 2016 migrant deal, which could help solve the migrant crisis in the region, at an upcoming summit, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

EU leaders will meet on October 1-2 in Brussels and Ankara expects concrete steps to be taken on updating a 2016 migrant deal and customs union with the bloc, as well as on visa liberalization, Cavusoglu told the state-run Anadolu news agency on Wednesday.

The European Council and Ankara reached an agreement aimed at stopping the flow of migration to Europe via Turkey back in March 2016. Turkey, which hosts about 3.6 million refugees from Syria, agreed to stop them from going to Europe in exchange for €6 billion and visa-free travel in the EU for Turks. But Ankara has long accused EU leaders of failing to keep up their promises. In March this year, Turkey said it would no longer stop refugees heading to Europe.

Visa-free travel has long been a contentious issue among EU member states, with many politicians objecting to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s track record on human rights.

Ankara is also expecting to upgrade its customs union with the EU, but the process has been stalled over Turkey’s crackdown on opponents following an abortive 2016 military coup.

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Greek and French vessels sail in formation during a joint military exercise in Mediterranean sea, in this undated handout image obtained by Reuters on August 13, 2020. © Reuters / Greek Ministry of Defense / File Photo
EU summit is ‘chance to reset relations’ with Turkey – Erdogan spokesman

Cavusoglu’s statements come amid ongoing tension with EU member Greece over maritime claims in the eastern Mediterranean. Ahead of the summit, Erdogan has appealed to the bloc to adopt an impartial line, local media reported, citing his letter sent to EU leaders, with exception for Greece and Greek Cyprus.

“Our expectation from the EU is to… maintain an equal distance from everyone, as well as to promote dialogue and cooperation,” he wrote. Ankara and Athens have been in a two-month-long standoff over the overlapping continental shelf claims in the eastern Mediterranean. They are expected to launch a new round of exploratory talks on the issue.

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