William fills royal void during King Charles cancer treatment

Britain’s Prince William and Kate, Princess of Wales, attend a ceremonial welcome for the President and the First Lady of the Republic of Korea at Horse Guards Parade in London, England on Nov. 21, 2023. (AP/File)
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Updated 07 February 2024
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William fills royal void during King Charles cancer treatment

  • The king’s shock cancer diagnosis, announced on Monday, and Catherine’s abdominal operation have left William, 41, shouldering a heavy royal burden
  • “We have agreed with the palace in this specific instance to confirm that they will be speaking on the phone later,” Sunak’s spokesman said

LONDON: With his father King Charles III undergoing cancer treatment and his wife recovering from surgery, Britain’s Prince William found himself thrust back to the frontline of royal duties on Wednesday.
The king’s shock cancer diagnosis, announced on Monday, and Catherine’s abdominal operation have left William, 41, shouldering a heavy royal burden.
Charles’s eldest son and heir to the throne, William postponed public engagements to care for his wife, the Princess of Wales, and their three children after she was admitted to hospital on January 16.
But on Wednesday he was back on duty, hosted an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle, west of London, handing out honors for citizens recognized for their community work and other good deeds.
It had been three week since he last appeared at a major royal event.
Later, he will attend a London Air Ambulance fundraising gala.
Charles, who left London on Tuesday for his Sandringham residence in eastern England, will meanwhile hold his weekly meeting with Prime Minister Sunak by telephone for a change.
“We have agreed with the palace in this specific instance to confirm that they will be speaking on the phone later,” Sunak’s spokesman said.
Sunak made a brief reference to the king’s cancer diagnosis in parliament.
“I know the thoughts of the house and the country are with the king, and his family,” he told the House of Commons.
“We wish his majesty a speedy recovery and look forward to him resuming his public-facing duties in due course,” he added.
William is also expected to take on some of his father’s duties while he undergoes treatment, alongside Charles’s sister Princess Anne and his wife Queen Camilla.
Buckingham Palace has not specified the type of cancer the 75-year-old monarch has, although it is understood not to be prostate cancer and Sunak has said it was “caught early.”
The diagnosis comes just 17 months into Charles’s reign following the death of his 96-year-old mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8, 2022.
Adding to the drama, the king’s estranged son Prince Harry flew back from his US home on Tuesday.
The pair had a 45-minute meeting at Charles’s Clarence House residence in London before the king left for Sandringham.
Harry’s return has sparked speculation it could serve as a catalyst to heal family tensions that have blighted Charles’s reign.
Harry and his brother William have reportedly not spoken in months because of bad feeling caused by Harry’s public criticism of his family.
Harry quit royal duties in 2020 and relocated to California where he now lives with his American wife Meghan and their two young children.
Harry has repeatedly aired his complaints about the way he feels he and his wife were mistreated during their time as working royals, culminating in January 2023 with his autobiography “Spare.”
The Press Association news agency reported that there were no plans for the brothers to meet while Harry was in the UK.
Royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams described the rift between William and Harry, also known as the Duke of Sussex, and the rest of the royal family as “very deep.”
Reports said he had stayed at a luxury London hotel overnight following Charles’s decision to block him from using his former home on the Windsor estate.
It was not known how long Harry was due to stay in the country.
Citizens expressed sympathy for William, who they noted now faced the double burden of maintaining his family life with extra official duties.
“He’s got a hard job because his wife is poorly at the moment, so that’s an added pressure on poor William, but I’m sure that he will cope,” pensioner Sue Hazell told AFP outside Buckingham Palace on Tuesday.
His wife Kate is expected to be out of action until at least March 31, her office has said.
Officials have not given details of her surgery except to say it was not linked to cancer.
Canadian tourist Sarah Paterson, a 44-year-old entrepreneur, said that William must be “beside himself” given the recent deaths of his grandfather and his grandmother, along with the health problems faced by his father and his wife.
But she was “1,000 percent” confident that William would be a good stand-in, adding: “I think he’ll probably be king sooner than he hoped.”


Bangladesh says it won’t let in any more Rohingya fleeing Myanmar fighting

Updated 5 sec ago
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Bangladesh says it won’t let in any more Rohingya fleeing Myanmar fighting

  • Clashes between Myanmar junta and insurgents started in October 2023
  • Deadly fighting engulfs Rohingya-inhabited border areas

DHAKA: Bangladesh will not take in any more Rohingya fleeing violence in neighboring Myanmar, Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, said on Saturday, amid reports that people from the areas affected by fighting have been gathering on the border.

Concerns that a war between Myanmar’s junta and the opposition ethnic-minority Arakan Army would trigger a new wave of refugees seeking safety in Bangladesh have been on the rise over the past few months.

Clashes between Myanmar’s military-controlled government forces and insurgents in Rakhine and Chin States started in late October 2023 with a multi-pronged offensive against the junta, which has been in control of the country since early 2021.

Most of the Rohingya — hundreds of thousands of whom fled to Bangladesh following a brutal military crackdown and persecution in 2017 — come from Rakhine. One of the most heavily Rohingya-populated areas in the state, Maungdaw, has been under the control of the Arakan Army, which last week warned it was expecting the junta to attempt to recapture it.

“On the other side of the border in Myanmar, a fierce gunbattle is happening and, every day, people are dying. Maungdaw town is a predominantly Rohingya-inhabited area,” Rahman told Arab News.

“We have heard that (some) Rohingyas have tried to enter Bangladesh ... (they) have gathered on the border on the Myanmar side, mainly near the Teknaf subdistrict under Cox’s Bazar.”

More than a million Rohingya Muslims currently live in squalid camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, turning the coastal district into the world’s largest refugee settlement.

Rahman said Bangladesh cannot receive more refugees and will not allow any more Rohingya to enter the country from Myanmar.

“The Rohingyas living in Cox’s Bazar camps are very anxious about the safety and fate of their relatives living in Maungdaw and the surrounding area,” he said. “(But) we can’t receive any more Rohingyas, as Bangladesh is already overburdened with more than 1 million. Our stand is that not a single more Rohingya will enter our land.”

The UN estimates that 95 percent of Rohingya refugees are dependent on humanitarian assistance, which has been dropping since 2020, despite urgent pleas for donations by the World Food Program and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The protracted humanitarian crisis has started to affect the host community, which, despite not being a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, has been supporting the Rohingya by providing not only land, but also water, electricity, healthcare and a huge law-enforcement presence.

The Bangladeshi Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief estimates the government has spent around $2 billion since the beginning of the crisis on maintaining infrastructure for refugees.


Agricultural fire that killed 12 in southeast Turkey under control, media says

Updated 4 min 32 sec ago
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Agricultural fire that killed 12 in southeast Turkey under control, media says

ANKARA: Turkish authorities have brought under control an agricultural fire that killed 12 people and wounded 78 others in a region near the Turkish border with Syria and Iraq, local media reported on Saturday.
The fire had started late on Thursday due to the burning of straw and spread because of strong winds, the local governor's office said. Authorities have launched an investigation into the cause of the fire, Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said in a post on X on Friday.
Broadcaster NTV and others said the fire was now under control and authorities were working to cool the scorched areas. NTV said many animals trapped in the fire were also killed.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Friday that the treatment of the wounded was still underway, with some in critical condition.
"We are continuing the treatment and monitoring of five of our wounded. Three of our five wounded receiving treatment in Diyarbakir are intubated," Koca said on X.
Burning straw is a common practice by farmers and villagers in central Anatolia following harvest periods. 


Mauritanian president calls on West African states to ally against jihadism

Updated 15 min 3 sec ago
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Mauritanian president calls on West African states to ally against jihadism

  • Former army chief and defense minister is tipped for a second term as head of the country of 4.5 million

ATAR, Mauritania: Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani called on West African countries to come together in the face of jihadism, in an interview with AFP ahead of the country’s presidential vote.
“The region must generate a common political will to be able to fight against insecurity,” Ghazouani said on Friday, on the campaign trail ahead of an election on June 29.
“I am not one of those who think today that countries can face a threat like terrorism individually.”
The 67-year-old former army chief and defense minister is tipped for a second term as head of the country of 4.5 million that lies strategically between north and sub-Saharan Africa.
He said that the “security situation in the sub-region is not at all good” and has become “worse.”
The military has seized power by force in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in recent years, heightening uncertainty in the region. Ghazouni’s huge desert nation has a frontier of more than 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) with Mali.
While jihadism has spread in the Sahel, particularly in Mali, Mauritania has not seen an attack since 2011.
“We need to form a coalition,” Ghazouani said, urging the countries of the region to “come together.”
He spoke to AFP in Atar, some 450 kilometers northeast of the capital Nouakchott, where he launched his re-election campaign last week.
Ghazouani called for a possible replacement to the G5 Sahel alliance, which was created in 2014 by Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Chad, with the support of Western countries, to confront jihadism.
The military leaders in Mali, Burkina and Niger have all withdrawn from the G5 alliance in recent years.
“If the G5 Sahel is not the right one, we must find another G-something,” he said.
The three countries, which have broken militarily and politically with the former French colonial power, have pivoted closer to Russia under their new military rulers.
They have also pulled out of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and created their own alliance of Sahel states. Ghazouni said he Mauritania did not seek any role in the internal affairs of the other Sahel countries.
“We respect their sovereignty in their decisions. We want these countries to move as fast as possible toward elections,” he said.
Mauritania, which is rich in natural resources but still has a low gross domestic product, was hit by a series of coups from 1978 to 2008, before the 2019 election marked the first transition between two elected presidents.
The president said that stability has been maintained by being aware of the militant threat as well as “enormous efforts” made in education and health provision.
Ghazouani has pledged to “step up” his social welfare policy for the poor if re-elected, claiming more than 1.5 million people had benefited already from housing and financial help during his first term.


Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK, criticized for saying West provoked Putin to invade Ukraine

Updated 18 min 3 sec ago
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Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK, criticized for saying West provoked Putin to invade Ukraine

  • Claiming that he warned of a potential war in Ukraine in 2014, when he was a member of the European Parliament, Farage said “we provoked this war”
  • “It was obvious to me that the ever-eastward expansion of NATO and the European Union was giving this man a reason to his Russian people to say”

LONDON: Nigel Farage, leader of the far-right Reform U.K party, is facing wide-ranging criticism across the political spectrum over his claim that the West provoked Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine, including of being an appeaser.
In a BBC television interview broadcast Friday evening, Farage, who is seeking to woo voters away from Britain’s governing Conservatives at the July 4 general election, drew a link between the expansion of NATO and the European Union eastwards over the past few decades and the invasion.
Claiming that he warned of a potential war in Ukraine in 2014, when he was a member of the European Parliament, Farage said “we provoked this war.” It’s unclear whether his warning came before or after Russia had annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in February 2014.
“It was obvious to me that the ever-eastward expansion of NATO and the European Union was giving this man a reason to his Russian people to say, ‘They’re coming for us again’ and to go to war,” Farage said. “It’s, you know, of course it’s his fault — he’s used what we’ve done as an excuse.”
Farage’s critics from across the political spectrum slammed his statement, with many describing him as a Putin apologist.
In perhaps his sharpest criticism of Farage, Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was “completely wrong” to say the West provoked Putin into launching a full invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
“This is a man who deployed nerve agents on the streets of Britain, who’s doing deals with countries like North Korea,” Sunak said. “And this kind of appeasement is dangerous for Britain’s security, the security of our allies that rely on us and only emboldens Putin further.”
Many Conservatives, including Sunak, have largely held back from overly criticizing Farage, who though not a lawmaker in the UK Parliament, was hugely influential in Britain’s vote to leave the EU in 2016.
The worry among many Conservatives is that attacking him too much will further alienate many Conservative voters, who sympathize with his tough rhetoric on issues like immigration and Brexit. In many constituencies around the country, Conservatives have argued that a vote for Reform would see the main opposition Labour Party come through the middle and win.
“I think Nigel Farage is a bit like that pub bore we have all met at the end of the bar who often says if ‘I was running the country’ and presents very simplistic answers to actually, I am afraid in the 21st century, complex problems,” Ben Wallace, the former Conservative defense secretary who has stood down as a lawmaker, told BBC radio.
This is the first general election that Reform UK is contesting and it has enjoyed a lift in the polls after Farage said in early June he would lead the party and contest the seat in Clacton in southeast England. Though the party is not expected to secure many seats, Farage is currently favorite to win his contest and finally enter Parliament after seven attempts.
Keir Starmer, leader of the left-of-center Labour Party who is widely expected to become prime minister after the election, labelled Farage’s comments as “disgraceful.”
“Anyone who is standing for Parliament ought to be really clear that Russia is the aggressor,” he said.


Investigation of Russian hack on London hospitals may take weeks amid worries over online data dump

Updated 22 June 2024
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Investigation of Russian hack on London hospitals may take weeks amid worries over online data dump

  • Hundreds of operations and appointments are still being canceled more than two weeks after the June 3 attack on NHS provider Synnovis, which provides pathology services primarily in southeast London

LONDON: An investigation into a ransomware attack earlier this month on London hospitals by the Russian group Qilin could take weeks to complete, the country’s state-run National Health Service said Friday, as concerns grow over a reported data dump of patient records.
Hundreds of operations and appointments are still being canceled more than two weeks after the June 3 attack on NHS provider Synnovis, which provides pathology services primarily in southeast London.
The attack affected King’s College and Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospital trusts, which run several south London hospitals, as well as clinics and doctors’ practices across a swath of the city. A memo to staff called it a “critical incident” and said it had a “major impact” on services, particularly blood transfusions.
NHS England said Friday that it has been “made aware” that data connected to the attack have been published online. According to the BBC, Qilin shared almost 400GB of data, including patient names, dates of birth and descriptions of blood tests, on their darknet site and Telegram channel.
“The National Crime Agency and National Cyber Security Center are working to verify the data included in the published files as quickly as possible,” NHS England said in a statement. “These files are not simple uploads and so investigations of this nature are highly complex and can take weeks if not longer to complete.”
According to Saturday’s edition of the Guardian newspaper, records covering 300 million patient interactions, including the results of blood tests for HIV and cancer, were stolen during the attack.
A website and helpline has been set up for patients affected.
“We understand the distress this will cause patients who have to re-test,” NHS England said.
The National Crime Agency has confirmed that it is leading the criminal investigation but said it is unable to comment further.
Ransomware involves criminals paralyzing computer systems with malware, then demanding money to release them. Ransomware is the costliest and most disruptive form of cybercrime, affecting local governments, court systems, hospitals and schools as well as businesses. It is difficult to combat as most gangs are based in former Soviet states and out of reach of Western justice.
Britain’s state-funded health system has been hit before, including during a 2017 ransomware attack that froze computers at hospitals across the country, closing down wards, shutting emergency rooms and bringing treatment to a halt.
Qilin, also known as Agenda, advertises on dark web cybercrime forums and leases malware to affiliates who use it to conduct attacks for a percentage of ransom payments, said Louise Ferrett of Searchlight Cyber, a threat intelligence company. The group has listed more than 100 victims.