english news

EU leads criticism after Israel passes Jewish ‘nation state’ law


The European Union has led a chorus of criticism after Israel passed a controversial law declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country.

Adding that the legislation would complicate a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the EU joined Israeli Arab political leaders, Israeli opposition politicians and liberal Jewish groups in the US in flagging up concern, with some saying the law amounted to “apartheid”. The legislation stipulates that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it”. It also strips Arabic of its designation as an official language alongside Hebrew, downgrading it to a “special status” that enables its continued use within Israeli institutions.(theguardian)…[+]

Mark Zuckerberg’s remarks on Holocaust denial ‘irresponsible’


Mark Zuckerberg has been criticised by Jewish groups and anti-racism organisations for suggesting Holocaust denial should be allowed on Facebook because it could be unintentional. In an interview on Wednesday, the Facebook founder said he found Holocaust denial “deeply offensive”, but added: “I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong … It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent.”

Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, later retracted his remarks, issuing an update that said: “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that.” But his comment came too late to stop criticism from Jewish groups, both for the specifics of his statement and the general practice of allowing Holocaust denial to thrive on his platform. Stephen Silverman, director of investigations and enforcement at the Campaign Against Antisemitism, told the Guardian: “Mark Zuckerberg’s remarks are deeply irresponsible. There is no such thing as benign Holocaust denial.(theguardian)…[+]


St Vincent and the Grenadines to welcome the CCJ president


Port of Spain, Trinidad. A ceremonial sitting of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be the final in a series of events commemorating the Honourable Mr. Justice Adrian Saunders’ elevation to the office of CCJ President. The event will be held at the House of Assembly in Kingstown at 1 pm (AST), on Friday 20 July 2018, in Mr. Justice Saunders’ home country. This event will be broadcast live on the internet on the CCJ’s website at ccj.org.

The CCJ President stated, “it is with much anticipation that I return to my home country to preside at this first sitting of the CCJ in St Vincent and the Grenadines. While I am a son of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I have become a true Caribbean man, living in so many of our nations and working for over two decades in service to the region. However, it is always a distinct pleasure to be recognized in the place that is your first home”.

Judge of the CCJ, the Honourable Mr. Justice David Hayton will moderate the event, as well as, make his own remarks. The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, MP, will head the list of speakers who will pay tribute to Mr. Justice Saunders. Other speakers include the Honourable Mme. Justice Dame Janice Pereira, DBE, Chief Justice, The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court; the Honourable Mr. Jaundy Martin, Attorney General, St. Vincent and the Grenadines; the Honourable Mr. Jomo Thomas, Speaker of the House, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Mr. Reginald Armour, SC, Chairman of the Council of Legal Education, will make his presentation by video...[+]


Wildfires rage in Arctic Circle as Sweden calls for help


At least 11 wildfires are raging inside the Arctic Circle as the hot, dry summer turns an abnormally wide area of Europe into a tinderbox. The worst affected country, Sweden, has called for emergency assistance from its partners in the European Union to help fight the blazes, which have broken out across a wide range of its territory and prompted the evacuations of four communities.

Tens of thousands of people have been warned to remain inside and close windows and vents to avoid smoke inhalation. Rail services have been disrupted. The Copernicus Earth observation programme, which gives daily updates of fires in Europe, shows more than 60 fires burning across Sweden, with sites also ablaze in Norway, Finland and Russia, including in the Arctic Circle.

Norway has sent six fire-fighting helicopters in response to its neighbour’s request for assistance. Italy is sending two Canadair CL-415s – which can dump 6,000 litres of water on each run – to Örebro in central southern Sweden. In western Sweden, fire-fighting operations were temporarily halted near an artillery training range near Älvdalen forest due to concerns that unexploded ordnance might be detonated by the extreme heat. Residents in Uppsala said they could see the plumes of smoke and have been banned from barbecuing in national parks, after 18 consecutive days without rain.(theguardian)…[+]

Spain to introduce ‘yes means yes’ sexual consent law


Spain’s socialist government is to introduce a law on consent aimed at removing ambiguity in rape cases. Under the law, consent would have to be explicit. It states that “yes means yes” and anything else, including silence, means no. Sex without explicit consent would therefore be considered rape.

The move follows outrage over the verdict in the la manada (wolf pack) case. The five men involved were accused of gang-raping an 18-year-old woman in Pamplona during the bull-running festival. Two of the men filmed the assault, during which the woman is silent and passive. The judges interpreted this as consent – one judge even commented that she appeared to be enjoying herself – and the charge was dropped from rape to the lesser crime of sexual assault.

Under Spanish law, rape must involve violence and intimidation. The la Manada ruling provoked outrage and led to demonstrations across the country. The five men are out on bail pending an appeal against their nine-year sentence. Among them are a soldier and a member of the civil guard, both of whom have been returned to duty.(theguardian)…[+]

Google fined £3.8bn by EU over Android antitrust violations


Google has been hit with a record €4.34bn (£3.8bn) fine by the European Union for abusing its market dominance in mobile phone operating systems. The EU imposed the multibillion-euro penalty after finding that the US tech firm required smartphone manufacturers to pre-instal Google’s search and browser apps devices using its Android operating system, otherwise they would not be allowed to use its Google Play online store and streaming service.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, said Google has used its Android mobile phone operating system “to cement its dominance as a search engine”, preventing rivals from innovating and competing “and this is illegal under EU antitrust rules”. Vestager added: “The vast majority of users simply take what comes with their device and don’t download competing apps. “Or to slightly paraphrase what [US free market economist] Milton Friedman has said ‘there ain’t no such thing as a free search.’”(theguardian)…[+]

Israeli parliament votes to ban state and army critics from schools


Israel’s parliament has passed a law that could see groups critical of the armed forces or the state banned from entering schools and speaking to students. Early on Tuesday, legislators passed the law by 43 votes to 24 in a move that its detractors say will stamp out free speech in the educational system.

As an amendment to the country’s education act, the new law grants extensive powers to Naftali Bennett, the education minister and head of the religious-nationalist Jewish Home party. He can decide to ban groups, the bill states, if they “actively promote legal or international political actions to be taken outside Israel against soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces … or against the state of Israel”.

“Anyone who wanders around the world attacking IDF soldiers, will not enter a school,” Bennett said in a statement. However, critics warn the law is so vague that it could apply to any person or body that criticises Israel to a foreign entity or government – for example, an Israeli rights group that submits an unfavourable report to a UN agency. The legislation has been dubbed the “Breaking the Silence” bill, a reference to an anti-occupation Israeli human rights group run by military veterans that collects and publishes testimony on army abuses.(theguardian)…[+]

Lava ‘bomb’ crashes through roof of boat in Hawaii, injuring tourists


An explosion caused by lava oozing into the ocean has sent molten rock crashing through the roof of a sightseeing boat off Hawaii’s Big Island, injuring 23 people.

The “lava bomb,” which burst from the water near the boat as molten rock poured into the ocean, landed on the roof of the vessel and crashed into the seating area, said Hawaii County Fire Department Battalion chief, Darwin Okinaka. A woman in her 20s was in serious condition with a broken thigh bone, the department said. Three others were in stable condition at a hospital with unspecified injuries. The rest of the passengers suffered burns, scrapes and other superficial injuries.(theguardian)…[+]

All Mother Teresa homes inspected amid baby-selling scandal


India has ordered the immediate inspection of all childcare homes run by the Missionaries of Charity, the Catholic congregation established by Mother Teresa, after employees at one shelter were accused of selling babies for adoption. The inspections were announced by the ministry for women and childhood development after a Missionaries of Charity home in Jharkhand state was shut this month following the arrest of a nun and a social worker employed there.

Sister Konsalia Balsa and social worker Anima Indwar were accused of having already sold three babies from the home, which provides shelter for pregnant, unmarried women. They were accused of trying to sell a fourth baby, a two-month old boy born in March, for about £1,325. The parents, a couple from Uttar Pradesh state, were told the proposed adoption was legitimate and that the money was for hospital expenses.

“Taking cognisance of the recent cases of illegal adoptions carried out by Missionaries of Charity in Jharkhand, [minister for women and children] Maneka Gandhi has instructed the states to get childcare homes run by Missionaries of Charity all over the country inspected immediately,” the ministry said in a statement.(theguardian)…[+]

Theresa May ready to cave in to hardline Brexiters’ demands


Theresa May is preparing to cave in to hardline Brexiters over amendments to the customs bill, rather than allow Jacob Rees-Mogg and colleagues to stage a show of parliamentary strength. As the prime minister tried to sell her Chequers deal on Brexit to the public and her own backbenchers, the European Research Group (ERG) of pro-Brexit MPs tabled four amendments to the legislation last week.

The ERG believes May’s “facilitated customs arrangement”, which would see the UK collect EU tariffs on some imports, and plans for a “common rulebook” for goods and agriculture, would allow for too close a future relationship with the EU27.

Rees-Mogg held talks with the chief whip, Julian Smith, on Monday, and Downing Street suggested it had not ruled out accepting amendments that did not contradict government policy. However, a source suggested there were still concerns about one of the four, which would prohibit HMRC from “collection of certain taxes or duties on behalf of territory without reciprocity” – a move aimed at blocking the facilitated customs arrangement.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “There are a number of amendments on both pieces of legislation and, as we did with the withdrawal bill, we will consider the amendments and set out our position in due course.” Downing Street said it was “very clear that the proposal we put forward at Chequers delivers on the will of the people in the referendum”. “Cabinet is behind it, businesses have come out to support it and now we need to get on with negotiating with the EU,” the spokesman said.(theguardian)…[+]