UK: 3 arrested over car explosion outside Liverpool hospital

Police officers stand near a cordon at Manchester Victoria Station, in Manchester on January 1, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 15 November 2021
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UK: 3 arrested over car explosion outside Liverpool hospital

  • The male passenger of the car died and the driver was being treated for non life-threatening injuries, police said

LONDON: British police arrested three men under terrorism laws Sunday after a car exploded outside a hospital in Liverpool, killing one man and injuring another.
Counter-terrorism police said the three men, whose ages ranged from 21 to 29, were detained in the Kensington area of the northwest England city under the Terrorism Act.
Police also cordoned off another residential street in the city. They did not disclose details of the operation.
Police were called to reports of a blast involving a taxi at Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Sunday morning. Photos showed a vehicle in flames near the hospital’s main entrance.
Merseyside Police said in a statement that the vehicle, a taxi, “pulled up at the hospital shortly before the explosion occurred. Work is still going on to establish what has happened and could take some time before we are in a position to confirm anything.”
The male passenger of the car died and the driver was being treated for non life-threatening injuries, police said.
The explosion occurred just before 11 a.m. on Remembrance Sunday, the time people across Britain pause in memory of those killed in wars.
Police said the explosion had not been declared a terrorist attack and they were keeping an open mind about the cause, but counter-terrorism police were leading the investigation.
Britain’s interior minister, Home Secretary Priti Patel, said she was “being kept regularly updated on the awful incident.”
The Liverpool Women’s Hospital said it immediately restricted visiting access until further notice and diverted patients to other hospitals “where possible.”
Fire services said they extinguished the car fire rapidly, and a person had left the car before the fire “developed to the extent that it did.”


Palestinian UN ambassador pleads for rebuke of Gaza aid deaths

Updated 1 min 45 sec ago
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Palestinian UN ambassador pleads for rebuke of Gaza aid deaths

  • Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinians scrambling for food aid on Thursday
  • The Security Council held a meeting to discuss the morning’s events in Gaza at the request of Algeria

UNITED NATIONS: The Palestinian ambassador to the UN on Thursday pleaded for the Security Council to condemn the episode in Gaza that saw Israeli forces open fire on Palestinians scrambling for food aid.

“The Security Council should say enough is enough,” Riyad Mansour told reporters ahead of a closed-door meeting by the body, which came at the request of Algeria.

The meeting was held to discuss the morning’s events in Gaza, where Israeli forces opened fire on the Palestinians in a chaotic melee that the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said killed 112 people and injured 760.

An Israeli source acknowledged troops had opened fire on the crowd, believing it “posed a threat.”

 

 

The Israeli military said a “stampede” occurred when thousands of desperate Gazans surrounded a convoy of 38 aid trucks, leading to dozens of deaths and injuries, including some who were run over by the lorries.

“This outrageous massacre is a testimony to the fact that as long as the Security Council is paralyzed and vetoes (are) casted, then it is costing the Palestinian people their lives,” Mansour said.

As one of five permanent members of the 15-member council, the United States — Israel’s biggest ally — has a veto that it has wielded three times so far to bar the body from calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Palestinian territory.

At Thursday’s meeting, Algeria put forth a draft declaration expressing “deep concern,” which stated that the situation was “due to opening fire by Israel forces.”

Of the Council’s 15 members, “14 members supported the text,” Mansour said after the meeting.

According to a diplomatic source, the United States opposed Israel being named, but discussions were ongoing.

“The parties are working on some language to see if we can get to a statement,” US deputy ambassador to the UN Robert Wood said.

“The problem is that we don’t have all the facts here,” he said, adding that he wanted the wording to reflect “the necessary due diligence with regards to culpability.”

Mansour said he met earlier in the day with US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

“I implored her that the Security Council has to produce a product of condemning this killing and to go after those responsible for this massacre,” he said.

If the Security Council has “a spine and determination to put an end to these massacres from happening all over again, what we need is a ceasefire,” Mansour said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the situation “would require an effective independent investigation,” into how the deaths occurred and who was responsible, after condemning the episode earlier in the day through his spokesman.

Thursday’s incident added to a Palestinian death toll which the Gaza health ministry said had topped 30,000, mainly women and children.

The war began on October 7 with an unprecedented Hamas attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, Israeli figures show.

Militants also took about 250 hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 31 Israel says are presumed dead.


US probes security risks posed by Chinese tech in cars

Updated 52 min 41 sec ago
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US probes security risks posed by Chinese tech in cars

  • The latest investigation concerns vehicles that constantly connect with personal devices, other cars, US infrastructure and their manufacturers — including electric and self-driving cars

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden announced an investigation Thursday into the national security risks posed by Chinese tech in cars, warning they could be used to collect sensitive data.
He has ordered the Commerce Department to conduct the probe, focusing on connected vehicles containing technology from “countries of concern” such as China, and to respond to threats.
“China is determined to dominate the future of the auto market, including by using unfair practices,” Biden said in a statement.
“China’s policies could flood our market with its vehicles, posing risks to our national security.”
Washington has been working to lower the US auto sector’s reliance on China, offering tax breaks for American-made electric vehicles and batteries, while trying to build up its domestic production capacity.
The latest investigation concerns vehicles that constantly connect with personal devices, other cars, US infrastructure and their manufacturers — including electric and self-driving cars.
As part of the probe, Commerce will collect information with a 60-day public comment period.
Authorities could eventually impose limits on some transactions but officials did not commit to a timeline.

The White House said connected vehicles collect vast amounts of data on drivers and passengers, log information on US infrastructure through cameras and sensors, and can be piloted or disabled remotely.
“New vulnerabilities” could arise if a foreign government gained access to their systems or data, it added.
“This is yet another acknowledgment by the Biden administration that critical and emerging technologies are set to shape both economic growth and national security,” Thibault Denamiel of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told AFP.
It is noteworthy that the new measure considers “risks associated by technology transfers into the United States,” he added.
Previous moves, such as outbound investment restrictions and semiconductor export controls, focused on transfers from the United States to foreign countries.

“China imposes restrictions on American autos and other foreign autos operating in China,” said Biden.
“Why should connected vehicles from China be allowed to operate in our country without safeguards?” he added.
While there are not many such vehicles containing China-made tech on US roads currently, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo stressed the need to “understand the extent of the technology in these cars.”
A senior US official told reporters on condition of anonymity it is important to act before there are large numbers of these vehicles in the country, with China’s automobile export market growing rapidly and making strong inroads including in Europe.
In a January post-earnings conference call, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Chinese car companies were “the most competitive” globally, expecting that they would likely be successful outside China.
“If there are not trade barriers established, they will pretty much demolish most other car companies in the world,” he said.
The Alliance for American Manufacturing welcomed the investigation, calling for more to be done including higher tariffs and limiting EV tax credits.
In November, 14 members of Congress signed letters to 10 China-related companies involved in the auto sector — including Baidu, Didi Chuxing and AutoX — raising concerns over the handling of data collected when testing autonomous vehicles in the United States.
Besides autos, the White House said this week that Biden was issuing an executive order aimed at limiting the flow of sensitive US personal data abroad.


French President Macron calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Updated 59 min 24 sec ago
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French President Macron calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

French President Emmanuel Macron called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza on Friday and said the situation in Gaza is “terrible.”
“Deep indignation at the images coming from Gaza where civilians have been targeted by Israeli soldiers. I express my strongest condemnation of these shootings and call for truth, justice, and respect for international law,” Macron said in a post on the social platform X, formerly known as Twitter.


Tunisian group accuses authorities of mass expulsions of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa

Updated 01 March 2024
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Tunisian group accuses authorities of mass expulsions of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa

TUNIS: Migration activists are sounding the alarm this week about mass expulsions and arbitrary arrests in Tunisia, where authorities are seeing more migrants arrive for attempted Mediterranean crossings from the North African nation to Europe.
The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights on Monday accused the government of waging a campaign of repression against migrants at the expense of humanitarian concerns, “to satisfy European blackmail and ensure a steady stream of financial and logistical support.”
It said in a statement that witness accounts indicated the situation had become particularly dire around Tunisia’s borders with Libya and Algeria as well as around the country’s second most populous city, Sfax, a common stopover point for migrants aiming to cross the Mediterranean.
The nongovernmental organization said that migrants in Sfax, which is 117 miles (188 kilometers) from the Italian Island of Lampedusa, regularly experience arbitrary arrests and violence. Many have their property destroyed.
Such treatment hasn’t been limited to migrants who enter Tunisia without authorization and has extended to refugees, students, and workers, the group said.
It said it had received frequent reports of mass expulsions across the Algerian and Libyan borders. In Algeria, that has included migrants being deported into the desert regardless of weather conditions. In war-torn Libya, deportations often lead to migrants ending up in detention centers run by armed groups.
Tunisian officials have said small groups of migrants have been pushed back across the country’s desert borders but disputed reports of systemic abuse and expulsions.
The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights implored the government to end the deportations, provide migrants safe haven and update laws to allow those without papers to obtain some sort of legal status.
“Sovereignty is not achieved by intimidating vulnerable groups and resorting to outdated laws and discriminatory circulars, but rather by initiating national policies that guarantee dignity, rights and freedoms for all humans,” it said.
Tunisia faces increased scrutiny over how it deals with migrants. More than 97,000 people crossed the Mediterranean from Tunisia to Italy in 2023, according to UNHCR. Tunisian migration groups estimate there are between 20,000 and 50,000 sub-Saharan migrants in the country.
Tunisian authorities receive financial assistance from Europe to help police borders. The country brokered a $1 billion euro ($1.1 billion) aid agreement in July that included a pledge of 105 million euros ($110 million) earmarked for migration.
Despite the aid, President Kais Saied has insisted that Tunisia will not become Europe’s “border guard” or accept migrants that European politicians, including ascendant right-wing leaders, don’t want.
Saied last year faced allegations of racism after calling the presence of sub-Saharan African migrants part of a “criminal plan to change the demographic makeup of the country.”

US Supreme Court’s move to hear Trump’s immunity claim gives him gift of delay

Updated 01 March 2024
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US Supreme Court’s move to hear Trump’s immunity claim gives him gift of delay

  • Trump’s lawyers have argued that he should be shielded from prosecution for his effort to reverse President Joe Biden’s election victory over him because he was president when he took those actions
  • Some legal experts criticized the Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump appointees, for undue delay

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court appears likely to reject Donald Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution for trying to undo his 2020 election loss, according to legal experts, but its decision to spend months on the matter could aid his quest to regain the presidency by further delaying a monumental criminal trial.
Trump’s lawyers have argued that he should be shielded from prosecution for his effort to reverse President Joe Biden’s election victory over him because he was president when he took those actions, a sweeping assertion of immunity firmly rejected by lower courts.
But the Supreme Court’s decision not to schedule its arguments on the issue until late April reduces the chances that a trial on election subversion charges brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith could be finished before the Nov. 5 US election. Trump is cruising toward the Republican nomination to challenge Biden, a Democrat.
Some legal experts criticized the Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump appointees, for undue delay.
“They could have set a more aggressive briefing and argument schedule, as Smith requested,” University of Michigan law professor Leah Litman said. “The immunity claims are also outlandish. They could have been rejected on the papers (legal briefs) if they wanted to be the one to decide it.”
“They’ll reject his immunity bid,” Litman added, but forecast that the soonest a decision would come is May.
Legal experts said the justices would need to rule by about June 1 to leave enough time for Trump’s trial on the charges to wrap up before Election Day.
Smith, seeking to avoid trial delays, had asked the justices on Dec. 11 to launch a fast-track review of the immunity claim. Trump asked the justices to not expedite the review, and on Dec. 22 they did what he requested, opting to let the matter play out in a lower court rather than resolving it right away.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Feb. 6 upheld US District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s Dec. 1 ruling rejecting the immunity claim. Trump on Feb. 12 asked the Supreme Court to freeze the D.C. Circuit ruling. On Feb. 14, Smith asked the justices to reject Trump’s bid to further delay the matter. It took the court two more weeks before it announced it would hear arguments in the matter, which it scheduled for the week of April 22.
The trial had been scheduled to start on March 4 before the delays over the immunity issue. Now no trial date is set.

Four prosecutions
The case is one of four criminal prosecutions Trump faces. A March 25 trial date has been set on charges in state court in New York involving hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. It is unclear when the other criminal cases will go to trial.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in all four cases, seeking to portray them as politically motivated.
“I should not have to go through any fake prosecutions before the election,” Trump wrote on social media on Feb. 19.
A criminal conviction could harm Trump’s election chances. In Reuters/Ipsos opinion polls, a quarter of Republicans and half of independents said they would not vote for Trump if a jury convicted him of a felony.
If he is elected and becomes president again next January, he could order an end to this case and a second brought by Smith concerning Trump’s handling of classified documents — or seek to pardon himself for any federal convictions.
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who worked with Trump during the 2020 campaign, said of the delays in the trial timeline as the Supreme Court resolves the immunity matter: “It’s hard to overstate what a victory this is politically for the Trump legal team and for Donald Trump.”
“This is a great benefit to Trump in terms of the timeline of these cases, and how they may interact with the election, particularly in the fall,” O’Connell said.

Slowing things down
University of Michigan law professor Barbara McQuade, a former senior federal prosecutor appointed by President Barack Obama, said that a time frame for the election subversion trial “is manageable as long as the Supreme Court acts promptly, and remains mindful of the public’s right to a speedy trial.”
McQuade added that “it seems likely that the court will uphold the D.C. Circuit ruling against Trump.”
“I think that Trump’s arguments are pretty thin,” added Georgetown University law professor Erica Hashimoto.
Chutkan has promised to give Trump about 90 days to prepare for trial once the case returns to her courtroom, with a trial expected to last six to eight weeks. For a verdict to come before the election, the trial would need to start by around Sept. 1, McQuade said.
UCLA School of Law elections expert Richard Hasen said that if the Supreme Court’s ruling comes in late June, “it is not at all clear that there could be a trial before the election.”
“I’m also skeptical the judge would make Trump go to trial if he’s the general election candidate on the Republican side,” Hasen added.
Hasen forecast that the Supreme Court “is likely to reject Trump’s immunity argument on the merits.”
Delaying the trial gives Trump more time to rally supporters around his claim that the charges were politically motivated, an assertion that Reuters/Ipsos polls show is broadly held by Republican voters.
Some experts cite Trump’s long-established record of making strategic use of court delays for legal and political advantage.
Hasen noted that “given the weakness of Trump’s position, it’s reasonable to ask whether this is simply an attempt, now more likely to be successful, to run out the clock.”