British neonatal nurse convicted of killing 7 babies loses her bid to appeal

British neonatal nurse Lucy Letby had asked for permission to challenge the verdict after she was convicted and sentenced to life in prison last year. (File/AP)
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Updated 24 May 2024
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British neonatal nurse convicted of killing 7 babies loses her bid to appeal

  • Lucy Letby, 34, had asked for permission to challenge the verdict after she was convicted and sentenced to life in prison

LONDON: A British neonatal nurse who was convicted of murdering seven babies and the attempted murder of six others has lost her bid to appeal.
Lucy Letby, 34, had asked for permission to challenge the verdict after she was convicted and sentenced to life in prison last year. A three-judge panel of Britain’s Court of Appeal heard the case in April and released its decision on Friday.
“Having heard her application, we have decided to refuse leave to appeal on all grounds and refuse all associated applications,″ Judge Victoria Sharp said. “A full judgment will be handed down in due course.”
A jury at Manchester Crown Court had found her guilty of the crimes, which took place between June 2015 and June 2016 at the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital in northwestern England.
Most defendants in British court cases don’t have an automatic right to appeal. They must seek permission to appeal on a set of narrowly defined legal issues.


Sea swamps Bangladesh at one of world’s fastest rates

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Sea swamps Bangladesh at one of world’s fastest rates

  • The three-part study calculated the low-lying South Asian nation was experiencing a sea level rise in places more than 60 percent higher than the global average
PATUAKHALI: After cyclone gales tore down his home in 2007, Bangladeshi fisherman Abdul Aziz packed up what was left of his belongings and moved about half a kilometer inland, further away from storm surge waves.
A year later, the sea swallowed the area where his old home had been.
Now, 75-year-old Aziz fishes above his submerged former home and lives on the other side of a low earth and concrete embankment, against which roaring waves crash.
“The fish are swimming there in the water on my land,” he told AFP, pointing toward his vanished village. “It is part of the advancing ocean.”
Government scientists say rising seas driven by climate change are drowning Bangladesh’s densely populated coast at one of the fastest global rates, and at least a million people on the coast will be forced to relocate within a generation.
“Few countries experience the far-reaching and diverse effects of climate change as intensely as Bangladesh,” Abdul Hamid, director general of the environment department, wrote in a report last month.
The three-part study calculated the low-lying South Asian nation was experiencing a sea level rise in places more than 60 percent higher than the global average.
By 2050, at present rates of local sea level rise, “more than one million people may have to be displaced,” it read, based on a quarter of a century of satellite data from the US space agency NASA and its Chinese counterpart CNSA.
Sea levels are not rising at the same rate around the world, due chiefly to Earth’s uneven gravity field and variations in ocean dynamics.
Study lead A.K.M Saiful Islam said Bangladesh’s above-average increases were driven by melting ice caps, water volumes increasing as oceans warm, and the vast amounts of river water that flow into the Bay of Bengal every monsoon.
The study provides “a clear message” that policymakers should be prepared for “mitigation and adaptation,” he said.
Islam, a member of the UN’s IPCC climate change assessment body, examined the vast deltas where the mighty Himalayan rivers of the Ganges and Brahmaputra reach the sea.
“In recent decades, the sea level rose 3.7 millimeters (0.14 inches) each year globally,” Islam added.
“In our study, we saw that the sea level rise is higher along our coast... 4.2 millimeters to 5.8 millimeters annually.”
That incremental rise might sound tiny. But those among the estimated 20 million people living along Bangladesh’s coast say the destruction comes in terrifying waves.
“It is closing in,” said fisherman Aziz about the approaching sea. “Where else can we escape?“
The threat is increasing.
Most of the country’s coastal areas are a meter or two above sea level, and storms bring seawater further inland, turning wells and lakes salty and killing crops on once fertile land.
“When the surge is higher, the seawater intrudes into our houses and land,” said Ismail Howladar, a 65-year-old farmer growing chilli peppers, sweet potatoes, sunflowers and rice.
“It brings only loss for us.”
Cyclones — which have killed hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh in recent decades — are becoming more frequent as well as growing in intensity and duration due to the impact of climate change, scientists say.
Shahjalal Mia, a 63-year-old restaurant owner, said he watches the sea “grasp more land” each year.
“Many people have lost their homes to the sea already,” he said. “If there is no beach, there won’t be any tourists.”
He said he had experienced cyclones and searing heatwaves grow worse, with temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
“We are facing two, three, even four cyclones every year now,” he said.
“And I can’t measure temperatures in degrees but, simply put, our bodies can’t endure this.”
Bangladesh is among the countries ranked most vulnerable to disasters and climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index.
In April, the nation of around 170 million people experienced the hottest month, and the most sustained heatwave temperatures, in its history.
Last month, a cyclone that killed at least 17 people and destroyed 35,000 homes, was one of the quickest-forming and longest-lasting seen, the government’s meteorological department said.
Both events were pinned on rising global temperatures.
Ainun Nishat, from Brac University in the capital Dhaka, said that the poorest were paying the price for carbon emissions from wealthier nations.
“We cannot do anything for Bangladesh if other nations, notably rich countries, do not do anything to fight emissions,” he said.
Bangladesh is running out of time, Nishat added.
“It is becoming too late to prevent disasters,” he said. “We are unequipped to bring change.”

Ukraine summit attracts world leaders but fails to isolate Russia

Updated 7 min 11 sec ago
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Ukraine summit attracts world leaders but fails to isolate Russia

  • World leaders to discuss at summit how to end Ukraine war, China’s no-show is blow to Kyiv’s bid to isolate Moscow
  • Russia not invited, and has dismissed summit as a sham

ZURICH/KYIV: World leaders will join Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky at a summit this weekend to explore ways of ending the deadliest conflict in Europe since World War Two, but Russia isn’t invited and the event will fall short of Kyiv’s aim of isolating Moscow.
US Vice President Kamala Harris, French President Emmanuel Macron and the leaders of Germany, Italy, Britain, Canada and Japan are among those set to attend the June 15-16 meeting at the Swiss mountaintop resort of Buergenstock.
India, which has helped Moscow survive the shock of economic sanctions, is expected to send a delegation. Turkiye and Hungary, which similarly maintain cordial ties with Russia, will be represented by their foreign ministers.
But despite months of intense Ukrainian lobbying, some others will not be there, most notably China, a key consumer of Russian oil and supplier of goods that help Moscow maintain its manufacturing base.
“This meeting is already a result,” Zelensky said in Berlin on Tuesday, while also acknowledging the challenge of maintaining international support as the war, now well into its third year, grinds on.
“Uniting countries who are partners and non-partners is a difficult mission in itself for Ukraine, when the war is not in its first month,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky visited Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to discuss preparations for the summit with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman but it was not immediately clear whether the kingdom would send a representative.
Ulrich Schmid, a political scientist and Eastern Europe expert at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, called the summit “a mixed bag,” given the show of support from some quarters and China’s absence.
“Then the question arises: is peace actually doable?” Schmid added. “As long as (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is in power... it will be difficult.”
Around 90 states and organizations have confirmed their participation in a summit in Switzerland on June 15-16 that aims to create a pathway for peace in Ukraine.
Here is an overview of the major players attending the talks at the Buergenstock resort outside the city of Lucerne, as well as some notable absentees, including Russia and China.

’FUTILE’
Russia, which sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, has described the idea of a summit to which it is not invited as “futile.”
Moscow casts its “special military operation” in Ukraine as part of a broader struggle with the West, which it says wants to bring Russia to its knees. Kyiv and the West say this is nonsense and accuse Russia of waging an illegal war of conquest.
The idea of a summit was originally floated after Zelensky presented a 10-point peace plan in late 2022.
Since then there has been a series of preparatory meetings.
The proposal had appeared to be gaining some traction, with China and some major countries from the “Global South” signalling interest at a meeting in Saudi Arabia last August.
However, the war in Gaza has sapped momentum and Moscow has sought to undermine the summit’s validity.
Meanwhile, China, along with Brazil, is pushing a separate peace plan for Ukraine that calls for the participation of both warring parties. Moscow has previously voiced its support for China’s efforts to end the conflict.
Kyiv has not hidden its frustration at China’s decision to skip the Swiss summit. Zelensky even accused Beijing of helping Russia to disrupt it, an extraordinary outburst against a global superpower with unrivalled influence over Moscow.
On the battlefield, the gathering comes at a difficult time for Ukraine. Russian troops, who control around 18 percent of Ukrainian territory, are advancing in the east in a war that has killed tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians, left villages, towns and cities in ruins and uprooted millions.
Given such headwinds and the entrenched differences between Ukraine and Russia, the summit will shy away from territorial issues and focus on parts of Zelensky’s plan that are broad enough to be palatable to most, if not all, participants.
These include the need to guarantee food security, nuclear safety, freedom of navigation and prisoner exchanges, officials said.

WHAT NEXT?
Much of the discussion surrounding the Swiss summit has centered on where and when the next talks could be held.
Andriy Yermak, head of Zelensky’s office, told reporters this week that a “huge number” of countries were already interested. “And we are looking for the possibility in the second summit to invite a representative of Russia,” he said.
Switzerland wants the Buergenstock summit to pave the way for a “future peace process” in which Russia takes part.
The summit comes amid a diplomatic flurry over Ukraine. Zelensky is attending the G7 summit in Italy this week, and Ukraine will push for progress on funding both at a European Union summit this month and a NATO summit in early July.
Supporters of Ukraine are marking the Swiss talks with a series of events in the nearby city of Lucerne to draw attention to the war’s humanitarian costs, with a demonstration planned to call for the return of prisoners and children taken to Russia.
Switzerland hopes a joint statement will be issued at the close of the summit — if a consensus among participants can be reached.


Microsoft faces heat from US Congress over cybersecurity

Updated 14 June 2024
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Microsoft faces heat from US Congress over cybersecurity

  • A report criticized a Microsoft corporate culture that was “at odds with... the level of trust customers place in the company.”

WASHINGTON: Members of US Congress on Thursday pressed Microsoft to explain a “cascade of avoidable errors” that allowed a Chinese hacking group to breach emails of senior US officials.
Microsoft President Brad Smith spent more than three hours answering questions from members of the House Committee on Homeland Security in Washington, assuring them cybersecurity is being woven more deeply into the technology company’s culture.
“Microsoft accepts responsibility for each and every one of the issues cited” in a scathing US government report about the breach “without equivocation or hesitation,” Smith told the committee.
The Cyber Safety Review Board (CSRB), led by the US Department of Homeland Security, conducted a seven-month investigation into the incident last year that involved the China-affiliated cyberespionage actor Storm-0558.
“Microsoft has an enormous footprint in both government and critical infrastructure networks,” US congressman and committee member Bennie Thompson said to Smith as the hearing opened.
“It is our shared interest that the security issues raised by the (report) be addressed quickly.”
The operation, which was first discovered by the US State Department in June 2023, included hacks on the official and personal mailboxes of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns.
Microsoft’s core business is to provide cloud computing services, such as Azure or Office360, that host sensitive data and power business and government operations across major sectors of the economy.
The report criticized a Microsoft corporate culture that was “at odds with... the level of trust customers place in the company.”
The review identified a series of operational and strategic decisions by Microsoft that opened the door to the breach, including the failure to identify a new employee’s compromised laptop following a corporate acquisition in 2021.
It also found that Microsoft fell short of safety standards seen at competing cloud companies, including Google, Amazon and Oracle.
“The Board finds that this intrusion was preventable and should never have occurred,” the review said, pinpointing “the cascade of Microsoft’s avoidable errors that allowed this intrusion to succeed.”
The report also recommended that Microsoft develop and publicly release a plan with timelines to enact wide-ranging security reforms across its products and practices.
“The real challenge is how you achieve effective lasting cultural change,” Smith said, noting Microsoft has nearly 226,000 employees.
Smith said Microsoft has the equivalent of 34,000 engineers working full time on answering the security shortcomings in “the largest engineering project focused on cybersecurity in the history of digital technology.”
Microsoft’s board on Wednesday approved a change that will tie cybersecurity accomplishments with annual bonuses for senior executives and make it part of every employee’s annual review, according to Smith.
Microsoft detects some 300 million cyberattacks on its customers daily, with most of those coming from China, Iran, Korea, Russia, or ransomware operations, Smith told the committee.
“We’re dealing with four formidable foes in China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, and they are getting better,” Smith said.
“We should expect them to work together; they’re waging attacks at an extraordinary rate.”
While it is inevitable that adversaries will use artificial intelligence for increasingly sophisticated attacks, the technology is already being used to strengthen cyber defenses, Smith added.


DR Congo weighs legal move against Apple in mining dispute

Updated 14 June 2024
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DR Congo weighs legal move against Apple in mining dispute

  • Congo’s Paris-based lawyers said Apple had purchased key minerals smuggled from the DRC into neighboring Rwanda
  • The central African country is rich in tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold — known as 3T or 3TG — that are used in producing smartphones and other electronic devices

KINSHASA: The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo is studying legal action against Apple in France and the United States, after accusing the US tech giant of using “illegally exploited” minerals, its lawyers said Thursday.

In April, the DRC’s Paris-based lawyers said Apple had purchased key minerals smuggled from the DRC into neighboring Rwanda, where they were laundered and “integrated into the global supply chain.”
On Thursday, lawyer William Bourdon said that after receiving a formal notice, Apple had given only a “terse” response that could be considered “a form of contempt, cynicism and arrogance.”
The government’s lawyers were meeting in Kinshasa to discuss strategic options for the case, and held talks with President Felix Tshisekedi.
“The legal options are on the table” for both France and the United States, Bourdon said, adding that other challenges could be lodged in countries “on all the continents.”
The DRC is rich in tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold — known as 3T or 3TG — that are used in producing smartphones and other electronic devices.
The country’s mineral-rich Great Lakes region has been wracked by violence since regional wars in the 1990s.
Tensions resurged in late 2021 when rebels from the March 23 Movement (M23) began recapturing swathes of territory.
The DRC, the United Nations and Western countries accuse Rwanda of supporting rebel groups including M23 in a bid to control the region’s vast mineral resources, an allegation Kigali denies.
Apple said in April: “Based on our due diligence efforts... we found no reasonable basis for concluding that any of the smelters or refiners of 3TG determined to be in our supply chain as of December 31, 2023, directly or indirectly financed or benefited armed groups in the DRC or an adjoining country.”
 


Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Cal State LA building, leaving damage and graffiti

Updated 14 June 2024
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Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Cal State LA building, leaving damage and graffiti

  • Protesters barricaded the multistory Student Services Building with university President Berenecea Johnson Eanes and others inside
  • Images from the scene showed graffiti on the building, furniture blocking doorways and overturned golf carts, picnic tables and umbrellas barricading the plaza out front

LOS ANGELES: Demonstrators protesting Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza occupied and trashed a building at California State University, Los Angeles, while the campus president was inside, but the takeover ended early Thursday without arrests, a spokesperson said.

Protesters barricaded the multistory Student Services Building at 4 p.m. Wednesday with university President Berenecea Johnson Eanes and dozens of other employees inside, said spokesperson Erik Frost Hollins.
Most of the 58 employees got out by 6 p.m. except for a group of administrators who remained until after midnight to manage the situation. The group included Eanes, but Frost Hollins would not say whether the president interacted with the protesters.
“That falls under tactics that we are not discussing at this point,” the spokesperson said.
Most of the protesters left the building around 1:15 a.m. Thursday and returned to an encampment on the campus. A few remaining protesters left when university police ordered them out, Frost Hollins said.
In a statement Thursday afternoon to the school community, Eanes said she has engaged with protesters who have occupied the campus encampment for some 40 days.
“So long as the encampment remained non-violent, I was committed that the university would continue to talk,” the president wrote. But in the wake of destruction and theft that occurred Wednesday, a line was crossed and “those in the encampment must leave.”
“I am saddened, and I am angry,” Eanes said. “Campus community: Know that we will recover from this, but also know that I am committed to doing everything we can to ensure this will never be allowed to repeat. I cannot and would not protect anyone who is directly identified as having participated in last night’s illegal activities from being held accountable.”
There were no arrests and no injuries were reported, but “assaults” were reported by three employees and one student, according to Eanes. Officials said those were a law enforcement matter.
The university, meanwhile, announced that all main campus classes and operations would be remote until further notice.
Images from the scene showed graffiti on the building, furniture blocking doorways and overturned golf carts, picnic tables and umbrellas barricading the plaza out front.
“We don’t have an exact appraisal on it but there was damage to the exterior, the interior, equipment, materials, structure — it was significant damage,” Frost Hollins said.
The CSULA Gaza Solidarity Encampment, a group that has camped near the campus gym for about 40 days, sent an email indicating that members were staging a sit-in in the building, Hollins said.