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World News

Russia launched cyber war on Tokyo Olympics

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The UK blamed the GRU’s Main Centre for Special Technologies, also known as Unit 74455, for the series of cyber attacks. Russian athletes had been excluded from Tokyo 2020 because of persistent state-sponsored doping offences. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “The GRU’s actions against the Olympic and Paralympic Games are cynical and reckless. We condemn them in the strongest possible terms.

“The UK will continue to work with our allies to call out and counter future malicious cyber attacks.”

The Foreign Office said in a statement: “The attacks on the 2020 Summer Games are the latest in a campaign of Russian malicious activity against the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

UK cyber experts also revealed how Russia attempted to wreak havoc at the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang in 2018.

The US yesterday charged six Russian hackers over a series of global cyber attacks, including attempts to undermine UK efforts to hold Moscow accountable for the Salisbury Novichok poisonings.

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World News

'Like the speed of the wind': Kenya's lakes rise to destructive highs

BARINGO, KENYA (AFP) – Peering into the lake, the village elder struggled to pinpoint where beneath the hyacinth and mesquite weeds lay the farm he lived in his entire life until the water rose like never before and swallowed everything.

A clump of sodden straw marked the spot: the tip of his thatch hut jutting from the murky depths, all that remained of his homestead after Kenya’s Lake Baringo swelled to record highs this year, submerging villages, schools, health clinics and holiday resorts.

“In my 60 years, I have never seen or experienced anything like this,” said Richard Lichan Lekuterer, his gaze level with the tops of once-towering acacia trees poking above the water, the landscape altered beyond recognition.

Baringo and the other great lakes of Kenya’s Rift Valley have risen to levels not seen in at least half a century, some by several metres or more this year alone, following months of extreme rainfall scientists have linked to a changing climate.

These tremendous bodies of water have ebbed and flowed through the ages, supporting life along the banks, but records show this latest surge is unlike any witnessed in recent memory.

“It was like the speed of the wind,” said Lekuterer, who relocated deep inland when the water shot up in March and is preparing to move again as the tide inches nearer.

The phenomenon is causing immense flooding along a chain of fresh and saltwater lakes stretching 500km along an ancient fault from the deserts of Turkana in Kenya’s north, to the fertile shores of Naivasha to the south.

Tens of thousands of people have been driven to higher ground and homes, grazing land and businesses abandoned as the lakes have unrelentingly pushed outward.

‘Phenomenal’ 

The crisis shows no sign of easing, with seasonal rains forecast this month threatening further inundation.

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“It has never been this bad before,” said Murray Roberts, who has lived on Baringo nearly 70 years, where he restores degraded land with his partner Dr Elizabeth Meyerhoff through their Rehabilitation of Arid Environments Trust.

Baringo has swollen about 70 sq km since 2011 but rose sharply earlier this year, flooding their offices and a nearby dispensary.

Roberts’ childhood home, and a family holiday business, disappeared beneath the surface.

Like Baringo, the surge at Lake Naivasha, some 200km south, began slowly about a decade ago, evoking little concern as the basin refilled after a long dry spell.

But it kept rising and in April suddenly accelerated, soon eclipsing the last historic high measured in the 1960s. The lake is now tracking closer to an extreme peak recorded in the early 20th century.

A monitoring station run by the Water Resources Authority (WRA), a government agency, indicates the lake rose 2.7m between April and June, pushing water half a kilometre inland.

“It’s been phenomenal,” said Guy Erskine, as hippos wallowed in his submerged hotel at Sanctuary Farm, a conservancy on Lake Naivasha his family has owned since 1978.

‘Things have changed’ 

Government scientists are exploring possible causes for the drastic upwelling, including whether silt flushing downstream from deforestation in the highland catchments could be reducing the lakes’ storage capacity.

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Research into other theories, such as the influence of seismic activity and increased seepage from underground aquifers, is less conclusive.

It follows one of the wettest periods in East Africa in recent times.

Above-average temperatures in the Indian Ocean have spurred consecutive years of extreme and erratic rainfall, delivering frequent unseasonal downpours over the escarpments and rivers that feed the lakes.

“Things have changed… The effect is more pronounced than 50 years ago,” says Mohamed Shurie, a geologist and CEO of the WRA.

Twin tragedies 

The massive inflow is also upsetting a delicate ecological balance in a biodiverse region famous for attracting masses of pink flamingos.

The government is particularly concerned about the repercussions should saltwater from an ever-expanding Lake Bogoria, a flamingo refuge and wetland of international importance, merge with the freshwaters from Baringo 20km to the north.

Two other critical habitats frequented by the migratory birds, Lake Elementaita and Lake Nakuru, are also brimming, the latter at a 50-year high.

The imposing entrance gate to Lake Nakuru National Park, one of Kenya’s premier safari destinations, barely pokes above the water, which has pushed one kilometre beyond the perimeter fence, flooding nearby villages.

On an island in Baringo, a number of Rothschild’s giraffe await relocation to the mainland, their habitat having shrunk from about 100 acres to less than 10. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Northern Rangelands Trust have already rescued warthogs, impala and ostrich.

KWS Baringo warden, Jackson Komen, said conflict between humans and animals was rising, with hippos marching into vegetable patches and several ostriches turning up dead.

“Our fear is, when there’s not enough food in the homestead, people might turn to the vulnerable animals,” Komen said.

In Naivasha, a tourist hot spot popular with weekenders from Nairobi, the timing is especially cruel.

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Staff at hotels and restaurants laid off during the coronavirus pandemic now find themselves without workplaces to return to as travel restrictions ease – and with their own homes knee-deep in water.

“Naivasha residents have experienced two tragedies,” said Enock Kiminta from the Lake Naivasha Water Resources Users Association.

READ MORE STORIES ON CLIMATE CHANGE

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Economy

Stock market boom, new listings mint China billionaires at record pace

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) – China is minting new billionaires at a record pace despite an economy bruised by the coronavirus pandemic, thanks to booming share prices and a spate of new stock listings, according to a list released on Tuesday.

The Hurun China Rich List 2020 also highlights China’s accelerated shift away from traditional sectors like manufacturing and real estate, towards e-commerce, fintech and other new economy industries.

Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, retained the top spot for the third year in a row, with his personal wealth jumping 45 per cent to US$58.8 billion partly due to the impending mega-listing of fintech giant Ant Group.

Ant is expected to create more mega-rich through what is likely to be the world’s biggest initital public offering (IPO), as it plans to raise an estimated US$35 billion through a dual listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

The combined wealth of those on the Hurun China list – with an individual wealth cut-off of two billion yuan (S$406 million) – totalled US$4 trillion, more than the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of Germany, according to Rupert Hoogewerf, the Hurun Report’s chairman.

More wealth was created this year than in the previous five years combined, with China’s rich-listers adding US$1.5 trillion, roughly half the size of Britain’s GDP.

Booming stock markets and a flurry of new listings have created five new dollar billionaires in China a week for the past year, Mr Hoogewerf said in a statement.

“The world has never seen this much wealth created in just one year. China’s entrepreneurs have done much better than expected. Despite Covid-19 they have risen to record levels.”

According to a separate estimate by PwC and UBS, only billionaires in the US possessed greater combined wealth than those in mainland China.

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China has accelerated capital market reforms to aid a virus-hit economy, accelerate economic restructuring and fund a “tech war” with the US.

To expedite IPOs, regulators launched a US-style IPO system on Shanghai’s Nasdaq-style Star Market and Shenzhen’s ChiNext. Chinese corporate listings in Hong Kong and Nasdaq have also turbocharged the fortunes of company founders.

Zhong Shanshan, who recently listed his bottled water maker Nongfu Spring Co in Hong Kong, shot straight into the top three with US$53.7 billion, trailing Tencent founder Pony Ma.

The wealth of He Xiaopeng surged 80 per cent to US$6.6 billion after the listing of his electric vehicle maker Xpeng Motors in New York during the summer.

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World News

M25 closed for rush hour after serious crash involving an ambulance

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The M25 is closed for rush hour following a serious crash with an ambulance this morning.

Police say that the motorway has been closed at junctions 8 and 9 after the crash at 3.30am.

It is affecting traffic flowing anti-clockwise into Surrey following the incident with a car, ambulance and HGV.

At 6am the force tweeted to confirm the closure and warned it could be in place for some time.

They said at that time the road would be closed for at least three hours.

That's sure to bring rush hour chaos to anybody who was hoping to drive to work in the area today.

Surrey Police tweeted: "#M25 closed J9 – J8 anti-clockwise after a car, ambulance and HGV collision at 3.30am. Road expected to be closed for at least a further 3 hours."

One person has been taken to hospital according to a statement on the force's website.

The statement read: "The collision happened just before 3.30 on the anticlockwise M25, between junctions 9 and 8, close to Walton on the Hill.

"The driver of the car, a black BMW, suffered serious leg injuries in the collision and was taken to hospital by ambulance.

"The occupants of the other vehicles were unharmed during the collision.

"The anticlockwise M25 has been closed at junction 9, and will remain closed for at least three hours (into the rush hour) while the vehicles are recovered, the scene is cleared and collision investigation officers carry out their work. Surrey Fire and Rescue service, and Highways England are assisting." 

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Analysis & Comment

Why China needs richer farmers

Since March, thousands of farmers in China’s Shandong province have had their homes demolished at short notice under a plan to move them into new, modern homes.

Those who refused to sign agreements for the demolition were detained. The demolition took place before relocation, so people were forced to look for their own temporary housing while their houses were being built. Some of the displaced with nowhere else to go built makeshift housing on the edge of their fields.

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World News

Canadian Civil Liberties Association appealing decision upholding N.L. travel ban

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is appealing a Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador decision upholding restrictions banning most travel from other provinces because of the COVID-19 pandemic introduced by the Newfoundland and Labrador government this spring.

Cara Zwibel, director of the CCLA’s fundamental freedoms program, says the appeal was filed Monday after a careful review of the decision showed there were questions about the court’s ruling that though the restrictions violated mobility rights, the violation was justified.

“We think there needs to be a careful look at the evidence on which that decision was based, and also the legal analysis that the court used in making that decision,” Zwibel said in an interview Monday.

Halifax resident Kim Taylor sued the Newfoundland and Labrador government after she was initially denied an exemption to the province’s travel ban after her mother died in St. John’s in early May.

Lawyers for Taylor and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which was granted intervener status in the case, argued that the province overstepped its authority and violated Taylor’s charter rights. In September, Justice Donald Burrage agreed that Taylor’s right to mobility was infringed, but he found the infringement was a justified response to the pandemic.

Based on the evidence, the CCLA does not believe it was justified, Zwibel said.

When the travel ban was introduced, there was already a rule in place requiring everyone entering the province to quarantine for 14 days, Zwibel said. Public health officials argued the ban was needed because they were concerned people weren’t following the isolation requirements. Zwibel said there wasn’t any evidence to back up this concern, like tickets issued to people found breaking the rules.

“To us, the suggestion is that this concern about people not self-isolating was a concern, but it wasn’t a fact. And we don’t want our courts to make decisions based on governments’ fears about what might happen, we want it to be based on evidence,” she said.

The CCLA also has questions about some of the modelling presented this summer when the case was in court. The modelling was done after the travel ban decision was made, “largely in response to the litigation,” Zwibel said. The methods behind the modelling were questioned in court, but those discussions did not appear in the judge’s discussion of his ruling, she said.

Both the original suit and Monday’s appeal are about ensuring governments are making good decisions, especially in a global pandemic, she said.

“Governments are under a lot of pressure to get it right and it’s not always easy or straightforward, and that’s how a democracy like ours works,” she said. “The courts take a look at what governments are doing and say whether they’re acting within the bounds of the law and the bounds of the Constitution.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2020.

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Politics

Covid-19 coronavirus: Health Minister Chris Hipkins blindsided by testing centre closures

Health Minister Chris Hipkins says he was blindsided by Auckland’s community testing centres being scaled back and all sites being closed at the weekend.

He said the district health boards and public health units should have communicated the changes to both him and the public and he’d be speaking with them in the next few days.

RNZ reported this morning there are just now just six community testing sites still operating – down from 20 at the peak of the second Covid-19 outbreak – with none open over the weekend.

Hipkins said fixed community sites had lower testing rates, with some as low as just 26 tests over one weekend.

“That’s very resource-intensive – that’s a lot of people standing around to do not very much testing.”

Whereas pop-up sites, for example in a supermarket carpark, get much higher testing rates.

“So that’s one of the things we need to look at, whether we need to be moving the testing sites around more frequently because we know when we move them around we get a higher degree of people using them.”

But Hipkins said those changes had not been communicated to him or the public and he would be following it up.

“The closure of those testing sites was not something I was consulted on and clearly I think there was a communication challenge there the relevant people didn’t work through well enough,” Hipkins said.

“I don’t think there was any ill-intent here. I think they were looking at how to best use the resource and that’s the right question to ask.

“But I think there’s a communication challenge here to make sure that we’re communicating changes we’re making.”

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield also told RNZ he would be speaking with the health boards to make sure testing centres were accessible as necessary.

Hipkins said he would be talking with the relevant people over the next few days to make sure it was sorted by the weekend.

“One of the key measures here is everybody should be able to get a test when they want a test and they need to know where to go to get a test so if the community testing sites are being shifted then people need to know where they could go instead.”

People are still able to get tests at GPs.

In the first instance anyone with symptoms should always call Healthline first as they would be able to advise where tests were available, he said.

In light of the latest community case of a marine electronics engineer who tested positive after working on a ship now bound for Brisbane, Hipkins said he was reviewing whether people who come into New Zealand to transit directly onto a ship also need to be tested.

But there were logistical challenges and safety concerns for sending people out to test people on ships who might never actually come ashore, he said.

For people coming ashore, there was testing available.

The Maritime Union has called for foreign seafarers to be tested as well.

Hipkins said all of the case’s contacts had been quickly identified, isolated and all so far had returned negative tests, which would suggest it was well-contained.

The engineer had been tested four times – roughly every fortnight – and was due to be tested again before they sought a test for having mild symptoms.

“This appears to be a textbook case of how the system should work.”

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World News

Falklands row: Argentina gains more allies over claim for Falkland Islands

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All eight members of the States of the Central American Integration System, SICA, were represented by Nicaragua at the UN Special Decolonisation Committee on the issue of the Falklands. The eight members are, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and the Dominican Republic. All members agreed that Argentina should be given sovereignty over the islands.

Ambassador and permanent representative of Nicaragua to the United Nations Jaime Hermida Castillo expressed his support for the rights of the Argentine Republic to take sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and South Sandwich Islands and their surrounding maritime spaces.

He stressed the governments of the Argentine Republic and the UK should resume negotiations in order to find a peaceful and definitive solution to the dispute.

In his statement to the UN the permanent representative of Nicaragua on behalf of the SICA said: “The SICA reiterates its strongest support for the legitimate rights of the Argentine Republic in the sovereignty dispute over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgias, and the South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas.

“The SICA reiterates the importance of observing the provisions of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 31/49, which urges both parties to refrain from taking decisions that would imply introducing unilateral modifications to the situation, while the Malvinas Islands, South Georgias, and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas are going through the process recommended by the General Assembly.”

Mr Castillo added: “The SICA celebrates that the Central American Parliament adopted on 10 June the ‘Central American Solidarity Day’ with the Argentine Malvinas Islands.

“The SICA recalls the 75th anniversary that will mark the 55th anniversary of the adoption of United Nations General Assembly resolution 2065 (XX).

“This is the first resolution referring specifically to the question of the Malvinas Islands, subsequently renewed through successive resolutions of the General Assembly and the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization to date.

“We note with satisfaction the important contribution made by the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization in its consideration of the question during the fifty-five years since the adoption of resolution 2065 (XX).”

JUST IN: Boris told to tear up Brexit deal or Britain ‘risks owing £100billion’

The Argentine government maintains Resolution 2065 represents an endorsement by the UN General Assembly over their sovereignty claim.

Argentina calls the Falkland Islands the Malvinas.

It claims it inherited them from Spain in the early 1800s.

Argentina also bases its claim on the islands’ proximity to the South American mainland.

The British claim rests on the fact that it has had a long-term administration of the Falklands.

Also, almost all of the islanders are of British descent.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.

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World News

Tsunami warning issued for Alaska after 7.5-magnitude earthquake

A 7.5-magnitude earthquake has been detected off the coast of Alaska, the United States Geological Survey says.

The USGS said the earthquake occurred just before 5 p.m. ET on Monday, approximately 94 kilometres southeast of Sand Point.

The magnitude of the earthquake was upgraded from 7.4 to 7.5 just after 5:30 p.m. ET.

A tsunami warning was issued shortly after for South Alaska and the Alaska Peninsula.

“If you are located in this coastal area, move inland to higher ground,” the warning reads.

As of 5:15 p.m. ET, officials were evaluating whether there is a risk to residents of British Columbia.

Global News chief meteorologist Anthony Farnell said a small tsunami appeared to have been generated after the earthquake.

“Information is still coming in, but some of the nearby buoys are reporting some tsunami activity,” he said.

However, he added that it is still “too early” to tell if there is a threat to B.C.

–More to come.

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World News

Judge to deliver verdict in Ottawa Const. Montsion’s manslaughter trial on Tuesday

An Ontario court justice will deliver his judgment Tuesday as to Ottawa police Const. Daniel Montsion’s culpability in the death of Abdirahman Abdi, more than four years after he died following a violent arrest outside his Hintonburg apartment building.

Montsion was charged following a probe by the Special Investigations Unit into the death of Abdi in July 2016. He has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a deadly weapon.

The case has become one of Ottawa’s highest-profile incidents of police violence.

The trial was meant to wrap up earlier this year, but closing arguments were only delivered in July following a delay due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Ontario Court Justice Robert Kelly will deliver his judgment in a hearing set for Tuesday morning at the Ottawa courthouse on Elgin Street.

Kelly has been tasked with sifting through the case’s evidence to determine whether or not Abdi’s death due to brain hypoxia was specifically caused by Montsion’s actions that day.

Not all of the evidence is cut and dry, though there are a few generally accepted facts as to the course of events.

The incident began the morning of July 24, 2016 at a Bridgehead Coffee shop in Hintonburg, where witnesses said Abdi was behaving erratically and groping women in the area. This led to police intervention, with Const. Dave Weir pursuing Abdi back to his apartment at 55 Hilda St.

This is when Montsion arrived on the scene and attempted to subdue Abdi in tandem with Weir, including striking Abdi in the face while wearing reinforced gloves.

This interaction is partly visible via surveillance video from the apartment building, but this tape’s reliability has been called into question, especially as it relates to determining the speed of the strikes.

Abdi was eventually pinned to the ground and handcuffed. An autopsy later revealed he suffered a heart attack over the course of the arrest.

Abdi was officially declared dead in hospital the following day, July 25, 2016.

Arguments from both the Crown and the defence counsel have revolved around some key questions, including:

  • Are the reinforced gloves Montsion used to strike Abdi considered “weapons,” or were they issued as part of his Ottawa Police Service uniform?
  • Did Montsion’s strikes break Abdi’s nose and block airflow to his brain, ultimately causing or accelerating his death, or were those injuries sustained in an earlier interaction with Weir? (Weir was cleared of potential charges by the earlier SIU probe.)
  • What did Montsion know about the situation when he arrived on the scene at 55 Hilda St., and could he have taken a less aggressive approach to control the situation? Weir, whose memories of the event have also been called into question, described Abdi as having “superhuman strength” and has said Montsion saved his life during the arrest, but also is heard in audio recordings saying Abdi had “calmed down” by the time the other officer arrived.
  • Could Abdi have gone past a “point of no return” before Montsion arrived on the scene? The defence has argued the combination of the distressing events at the coffee shop and a previously undetected heart condition could have sealed Abdi’s fate before the arrest was made.

Whichever decision Kelly comes to, the verdict is likely to generate strong reaction from the community.

Abdi’s death provoked outrage when it happened, with the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition becoming a leading voice in pushing for police reform and anti-racism policies in Ottawa.

The case has likewise been a rallying point for police, with the constable’s fellow officers donning “united we stand” bracelets bearing Montsion’s badge number when he was first charged.

Though the incident itself took place more than four years ago, the verdict will now be read amid a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and calls to defund the police in the wake of the death of George Floyd and numerous other Black people at the hands of police.

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