Items filtered by date: Thursday, 01 August 2019
Britain said it was ramping up preparations for a no-deal Brexit by spending an extra 2.1 billion pounds to stockpile medicines, hire more border officials and fund one of the biggest peacetime advertising campaigns.
 
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who took power last week, has pledged to leave the trading bloc without an agreement in three months unless the EU agrees to renegotiate the deal agreed by his predecessor Theresa May.
 
In his first major policy announcement, new finance minister, Sajid Javid said the outlay would allow the government to increase training for customs officials, hire more staff to deal with an expected increase in passport applications and improve infrastructure around ports.
 
“With 92 days until the UK leaves the EU it’s vital that we intensify our planning to ensure we are ready,” Javid said.
 
“We want to get a good deal that abolishes the anti-democratic backstop. But if we can’t get a good deal, we’ll have to leave without one.”
 
Wrenching the United Kingdom out of the EU without a deal means there would be no formal transition arrangement to cover everything from post-Brexit pet passports to customs arrangements on the Northern Irish border.
 
Many investors say a no-deal Brexit would send shock waves through the world economy, tip Britain into a recession, roil financial markets and weaken London’s position as the pre-eminent international financial centre.
 
Supporters of Brexit say that while there would be some short-term difficulties, the disruption of a no-deal Brexit has been overplayed and that in the long-term, the United Kingdom would thrive if it left the EU.
The finance ministry, which said the new money will “turbo-charge” no-deal preparations, will provide an immediate cash boost of 1.1 billion pounds and make a further one billion pounds available for government departments.
 
This will also include the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
 
This means the government has in total allocated 6.3 billion pounds to prepare for a no-deal exit, including 4.2 billion pounds of funding for this financial year.
 
The ministry said, among other initiatives, 434 million pounds would be spent to ensure vital supplies of medicines and medical products can be brought into the country, including hiring additional freight capacity, warehousing and stockpiling.
 
To get people and businesses ready for a no-deal Brexit, 138 million pounds will be spent on one of the biggest peacetime advertising campaigns and provide extra consular support for citizens living overseas.
 
A total of 344 million pounds will be spent on new border and customs operations, including hiring an extra 500 border force officers and doubling the support for customs agents to help companies fill in customs declarations.
 
Javid’s predecessor Philip Hammond, who opposed leaving the EU without a divorce deal, was accused by Brexit supporters of failing to spend enough money to get Britain ready for a no-deal Brexit, undermining its negotiating position with Brussels.
 
The main opposition Labour party branded the spending an “appalling waste of taxpayers’ cash” because the majority of lawmakers in parliament had made clear their intention to block an exit without a withdrawal agreement.
 
“This government could have ruled out no deal, and spent these billions on our schools, hospitals, and people,” said John McDonnell, the party’s finance chief.
 
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak rejected those claims.
 
“It is my job to make sure that we spend taxpayers’ money wisely.
 
“The good news here is a lot of this money and a lot of this investment are things we need to do in all cases because we are leaving the EU,” he said.
Published in World

The Philippine Defence Ministry on Thursday likened China’s presence in the disputed South China Sea to squatting and warned that the Philippines was prepared to defend its claim in the region using any means available.

“We are ready to defend our sovereignty and sovereign rights using whatever means available to us,” said Arsenio Andolong, a spokesman for the Department of National Defence.

“Likewise, every able-bodied Filipino should be ready to fulfil his or her duty when the time comes,” he added.

Andolong reiterated that Beijing had no legal basis for its claims to the mineral-rich area, citing UN conventions that were affirmed by a 2016 ruling of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.

`The Philippines has two documents to support its claims versus none for the Chinese,” he said.

“Thus, the Chinese presence in the West Philippine Sea is akin to somebody squatting on a piece of land owned by someone else.”

 

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a key shipping lane, and has built artificial islands with military-capable facilities over disputed reefs and outcrops.

Other countries with territorial claims there are Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China on Wednesday after more than 100 Chinese fishing boats were spotted near Pag-asa Island, the biggest territory claimed by Manila.

Zhao Jianhua, China’s ambassador to the Philippines, on Tuesday said China “will not take the first shot” and was committed to peace, but was boosting its military presence to defend its country and protect its people.

Published in World

Rwanda has provoked the fury of President Felix Tshisekedi, after it shuttered its frontier with Ebola-hit Democratic Republic of Congo, when a third case of the deadly virus was detected in the border city of Goma.

The announcement coincided with the first anniversary of an epidemic that has claimed more than 1,800 lives, stoking dread that the disease may spread from eastern DRC to vulnerable neighbours.

In a statement, President Felix Tshisekedi’s office condemned the “unilateral decision by the Rwandan authorities” that affected citizens from both countries who had to cross the border as part of their daily life.

Goma, a city of two million people and a major transport hub, shares the border with the Rwandan city of Gisenyi, which has a population of more than 85,000.

Many people have jobs on the other side of the border while others have homes or put their children in schools in the neighbouring city.

“On the basis of a unilateral decision by the Rwandan authorities, Rwandan citizens cannot go to Goma and Congolese cannot leave Gisenyi but are prevented from going home,” the statement said.

“This decision harms a number of Congolese and expatriates who live in Gisenyi but work in Goma.”

“The Congolese authorities regret this kind of decision, which goes against the recommendation of the World Health Organization.”

“Response teams are continuing to ensure that the city of Goma is out of danger,” it promised.

In Rwanda, a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “it is closed”, without giving further details.

Just hours earlier, a third case of Ebola was announced in Goma, adding to two fatalities.

Health workers are racing to find people who have had contact with these patients.

In an urban setting, density of population, anonymity and high mobility make it far harder to isolate patients and trace contacts compared to the countryside.

Goma is the capital of North Kivu province, which has borne the brunt of the year-old epidemic, followed by neighbouring Ituri province.

Fifteen people have also been placed in quarantine in South Kivu province, which has so far escaped the epidemic.

The 15, including a mother and her six children who had come from Goma, were isolated in a hospital at Birava, the hospital’s chief doctor, Ciza Nuru, said.

South Kivu Governor Theo Ngwabidje Kasi told the press Thursday that tests on the 15 were negative.

Published in World

Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza, chosen heir to the leadership of Al-Qaeda, has been killed, US media reported Wednesday citing American officials.


NBC News said three US officials had confirmed they had information of Hamza bin Laden’s death, but gave no details of the place or date.

The New York Times subsequently cited two US officials saying they had confirmation that he was killed during the last two years in an operation that involved the United States.

Questioned by reporters in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump did not confirm or deny the NBC report.

“I don’t want to comment on it,” he said.

Both reports suggested that bin Laden may have been killed well before the US State Department announced a $1 million bounty on his head in February 2019.

The 15th of Osama bin Laden’s 20 children and a son of his third wife, Hamza, thought to be about 30 years old, was “emerging as a leader in the Al-Qaeda franchise,” the State Department said in announcing the reward.

Sometimes dubbed the “crown prince of jihad, he had put out audio and video messages calling for attacks on the United States and other countries, especially to avenge his father’s killing by US forces in Pakistan in May 2011, the department said.

Documents seized in the raid on his father’s house in Abbottabad suggested Hamza was being groomed as heir to the Al-Qaeda leadership.

US forces also found a video of the wedding of Hamza to the daughter of another senior Al-Qaeda official that is believed to have taken place in Iran.

Hamza bin Laden’s whereabouts have never been pinpointed. He was believed to have been under house arrest in Iran but reports suggest he also may have resided in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.

The group behind the deadly September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Al-Qaeda’s prominence as a radical Islamist group has faded over the past decade in the shadow of the Islamic State group.

But the proliferation of branches and associated jihadist groups in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere have underscored its continuing potency.

Hamza bin Laden was not targeted just because he was bin Laden’s son, said Rita Katz, executive director of the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks extremists.

“He was one of Al-Qaeda’s loudest voices calling for attacks in the West and giving directives. He, with Al-Qaeda’s help, was positioning himself to lead the global jihadi movement,” Katz said on Twitter.

“He was seen as a future leader who would unite the global jihad. Thus, if he is indeed dead, it will be a major blow to the movement,” she said.

“I think it’s a big loss for Al-Qaeda,” said Pakistani security expert Rahimullah Yusufzai, one the few journalists to have interviewed Osama bin Laden face to face.

Published in World
The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) said it intercepted a truck with registration number XA2297NAK carrying 700 bags of foreign rice on the Minna-Lambata-Suleja highway.
 
Mr Benjamin Lamba, the Public Relations Officers for the service in Niger Area Command, who disclosed in a statement on Thursday, said that the rice was worth N11.9 million.
 
Lamba warned smugglers and their accomplices to steer clear the command as its vigilant personnel would not allow arms, rice and cars to be smuggled through its area of supervision.
 
“It is worrisome that some Nigerians remain unrepentant even as they continue to lose their goods through smuggling business,’’ he said.
 
He said the command had adopted measures to detect tactics of smugglers but appealed to stakeholders to volunteer information that would help in apprehending those involved in illegal trades.
 
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