Packer agrees to Crown board ban in inquiry fallout


ILGA said CPH would not initiate any discussions with Crown about its business operations, “other than through public forums”.

Crown is currently weighing up an $8 billion takeover offer from US private equity group Blackstone, which already owns 10 per cent of the company.

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reported on Thursday that CPH and ILGA had agreed that Mr Packer would not vote his shares on any issues relating to Crown’s operations – such as the appointment of new directors – but would be free to vote on any takeover offers, maintaining his position as a kingmaker in any such deal.

The gambling regulator said the agreement, which would be finalised and recorded in an enforceable legal document, came following discussions about the Bergin Inquiry’s final report “which raised significant concerns over the influence of CPH and Mr Packer… on the management and operation of Crown’s Barangaroo casino”.

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New Zealand is set to ban live exports by sea as animal welfare comes under ‘increasing scrutiny’



New Zealand will continue to allow live exports of animals by air, which has lesser welfare concerns, a practice used for the sale of horses.

Citing reputational risk from poor animal welfare practice, New Zealand is banning live exports of animals by sea.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor on Wednesday announced the controversial practice would end within the next two years.

“There’s a lot of public pressure here, a lot of concern,” Mr O’Connor said.

“We must stay ahead of the curve in a world where animal welfare is under increasing scrutiny.”

The practice was paused in September 2020 after the Gulf Livestock 1 ship sank on a journey to China, drowning 41 crew – including two Kiwis and two Australians – and almost 6000 cattle.

While exports resumed a month later with more rigorous welfare standards, Jacinda Ardern’s government has now decided to phase out the trade over the next two years.

Unlike Australia, New Zealand does not export live exports for slaughter, only for breeding.

The ban will mainly affect cattle farmers, with sheep exports already banned.

New Zealand will continue to allow live exports of animals by air, which has lesser welfare concerns, a practice used for the sale of horses.

The country has exported cattle to Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Vietnam and Mexico in the last five years but since 2020, solely to China.

Kiwi exporters sent 118,000 cattle overseas in that time, with 129 dying during the journey.

Mr O’Connor said after “a bit of a gold rush”, the industry was worth around $NZ260 million ($A240 million) last year, but said he didn’t expect a hit to GDP.

The government informed the Chinese Embassy a fortnight ago of the move.

“We have a mature relationship with (China). I’m sure they understand our position that we want to uphold our reputation that everything we trade is from an ethical base,” he said.

Animal welfare advocates have congratulated the government, while export bodies have slammed the call.

World Animal Protection NZ executive director Simone Clarke called on Australia to follow suit.

“The New Zealand government’s announcement to phase out live exports in the coming years is a significant moment in our history for animals, one which other governments around the world must now follow, including Australia,” she said.

Mr O’Connor refused to join them, saying live export policy was a matter for individual countries.

Sheep destined for the Middle East make their way to be loaded onboard the Al Messilah livestock vessel at the Fremantle wharf in February 2019.

Sheep destined for the Middle East make their way to be loaded onboard the Al Messilah livestock vessel at the Fremantle wharf in February 2019.
AAP

The West Coast-Tasman MP said many farmers supported the ban, while acknowledging others would lose out.

The Animal Genetics Trade Association called the ban an “ill-informed, massively consequential decision for the nation, to earn short-term political brownie points from a few activists”.

“This is an immoral ban against a trade being conducted humanely. There is no morality in removing half a billion dollars from our economy and forcing the early deaths of up to 150,000 animals a year,” AGTA spokesman Dave Hayman said.

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Telehealth ban for voluntary assisted dying makes life, and death, difficult for the terminally ill in the country


Carol Onley, 66, is dying. 

She’s leaving behind unfinished paintings in her “she-shed”, a loving extended family, and a supportive partner. 

“More than 10 years ago now, I had my first diagnosis of lung cancer which was amazingly shocking,” she said. 

After a successful surgery and course of immunotherapy, Carol got back to living. 

“But in 2019 I had some symptoms which seemed quite unusual, so I went and had a CT scan, and yes, those little nodules had now absolutely exploded.” 

After a lifetime as a mental health nurse and a smoker, Carol knew what was ahead of her. 

“Through my nursing career I was quite aware of voluntary assisted dying (VAD), that it had become available to people in my position,” she said.

“[At the] beginning of this year, I’ve embarked on that program.”

Under Victoria’s VAD program, two doctors need to independently verify the patient is of sound mind and has less than six months to live for a physical illness and 12 months for a neurological condition.

But living in regional Victoria has made the process more difficult. 

“I was actually shocked to find in Gippsland there were only two doctors available who could make that assessment,” Carol said. 

There are just 76 doctors in regional Victoria trained to help terminally ill people access the VAD program. 

“I have family, I have good supports who’ve helped me all through this and they can take me to wherever I’ve needed to go,” Carol said. 

“I’ve just wondered about people who live further afield from Orbost or Bairnsdale, if you don’t have quite so much good access to supports, how do they access the program?

Victoria’s VAD program, which came into force in 2019, was the first state-based program in Australia. 

In a statement, a Victorian government spokesperson said the legislation was leading Australia. 

“Our voluntary assisted dying laws are giving Victorians with an incurable illness at the end of their lives a compassionate choice,” they said. 

“This service has been expanded through regional Victoria and we continue to encourage more medical practitioners to become involved to allow greater access across the state.”

But the board charged with reviewing the program found there were “limited numbers” of GPs trained to consult on euthanasia in far east and west Victoria. 

A former Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Betty King, is the chair of that board.

“[We’ve recommended the government] encourage more specialists to do the training and sign up for the program, it’s a busy practice and there is so much for most specialists in regional Victoria to do, without this additional time,” Justice King said. 

“It’s certainly been one that’s designed to be safe, and when you have a lot of safeguards built in it does take time, so it’s very difficult for them to take that time out of their practice.”

Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying board is set to table its final report on the program in Parliament in August. 

But as other states bring in VAD programs of their own, there is another problem facing regional Australians trying to access euthanasia. 

“So much now in medicine, particularly regionally, depends upon telehealth; unfortunately telehealth is not permitted for VAD, because federally some legislation was introduced to prevent [euthanasia advocate] Dr [Philip] Nitschke from sharing methods of suicide online,” Justice King said. 

Breaking these laws could incur fines of up to  $222,000 for individuals or $1,110,000 for businesses. 

“It potentially prevents our doctors in Victoria from being able to use telehealth to discuss things and talk to patients and that really is a major inhibitor,” Justice King said. 

“We have called on the Commonwealth to just exempt voluntary assisted dying from it, because we are a government, organised, legal process, but so far they have not been willing to do so.”

In a statement, the federal government said people should have access to quality palliative care. 

Dr Nitschke, once investigated for testing the purity of a drug used in a terminally ill man’s suicide, said the introduction of the amendment in 2005 was targeted. 

“It’s often a piece of legislation that I think people aren’t aware of, and it was an insidious introduction that came in under the Howard government with Philip Ruddock as Attorney General, that I think the public were never really aware they were having a pretty basic and fundamental freedom eroded,” he said.

As more states begin their VAD programs, Dr Nitschke said the federal government needed to change the code to ease the burden on regional Australians.  

“It’s certainly something that needs addressing if we’re to see uniform legislation and equal access to what’s available in these new end of life pieces of legislation sweeping across Australia,” he said.

In geographically vast Western Australia, the tyranny of distance will rule regional access when its voluntary assisted dying program begins in June. 

Western Australia’s Australian Medical Association president, Andrew Miller, said more resources would be needed to compensate for the ban on telehealth. 

“It’s the same situation that there is in Victoria, things have to be put in place to enable face-to-face consultation, they’re going to have to put some resources into that,” Dr Miller said. 

The Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory and Norfolk Island have not been able to make laws on euthanasia since the federal government quashed the NT’s program in 1997. 

Two weeks ago, the ACT’s health minister and opposition leader passed a motion of “profound disappointment” that the federal government was continuing to block euthanasia law. 

A statement made by the federal government in response said:

ACT Health Minister Tara Cheyne said the federal government’s ban on territories making euthanasia laws was a human rights issue. 

“There is a separate issue here from voluntary assisted dying — it is about democratic rights and we’d like to see the call coming from right across federal parliament,” she said. 

Carol does not know when she is going to take the drugs that will end her life. 

It is a delicate balance. 

“You’ve gotta be with it enough to do it, so I can’t let the situation roll on too far, I’ve got to have enough dexterity to take the medication,” Carol said. 

“I’ve been with family members who’ve passed away … my sister had Motor Neurone Disease, she had to go right to the end of that disease because there were no other options for her.”

After a life of adventure, service and love, Carol admits she’s a little bit of a “control freak”. 

“I am so grateful to have the opportunity to die with dignity,” she said.

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Proposed US ban on kangaroo products raises industry fears it could bring out more ‘cowboys’


It might seem strange to hear Glenn Cole – who makes a living out of killing kangaroo — to profess that he doesn’t enjoy seeing animals suffer.

But the commercial hunter, based in Newbridge Victoria, is genuine in that belief.

He gets paid roughly $30 per kangaroo he shoots.

A single shot to the head is usually what it takes to kill the animal instantly.

But he shoots kangaroos at night and sometimes even this professional marksman misses the target.

“Yeah, I’m not perfect. I’ll admit that,” Mr Cole says.

“But I believe I do the job to the best of my ability.

“I hate seeing any animal suffer and I don’t care what it is. I just hate any animal suffering. And that’s one reason I got in the industry because I want to do a job that I believe poses the less amount of stress on the kangaroos.”

The question about what causes stress to an animal is a vexed one.

The National Code of Practice for the Humane Shooting of Kangaroos and Wallabies for Commercial Purposes is intended to govern hunters who shoot kangaroos to sell them within Australia or overseas.

Typically, the meat is sold locally to pet food processors, while the hide is sent overseas to Europe and the United Sates so companies like Nike and Adidas can use the leather to make football boots and other products.

Alongside the commercial industry is a non-commercial cull that takes place due to contested government claims that there’s been an “explosion” in kangaroo population numbers (and despite kangaroos dying in bushfires and from drought).

There’s no competency test for non-commercial shooters, who are also allowed to use shotguns, which raises further questions of the humaneness of killing kangaroos.

“I’m shooting with one shot to kill that animal instantly,” Mr Cole says.

Mr Cole worries that if a proposed law in the United States to stop the use of kangaroo products goes ahead, the non-commercial shooters – what he dubs the industry’s “cowboys” – will increase in numbers, causing even greater pain and suffering.

“It [the shooting] will happen by people who aren’t as trained and skilled as what the professional shooters are,” he says.

“There are a lot of very skilled farmers. But there’s a hell of a lot that aren’t. And then we will see more of those people coming out of town who think they’re fantastic at shooting kangaroos, and not doing the right job.”

About 2 million kangaroos are killed in Australia each year for commercial purposes, from a total population in harvest areas currently estimated to be about 43 million.

Animal activists, both in the US and here in Australia, have long fought to stop the trade, arguing it is inhumane.

California has already banned the sale of kangaroo products since 2016, but now the aim is to apply that ban across all US states.

In February, US congressmen Salud Carbajal (California) and Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania) introduced a bill known as the “Kangaroo Protection Act” to stop the sale of kangaroo skin as leather.

If passed into law, it would mean Nike, Adidas and other sports goods companies based in the United States could no longer use kangaroo leather (known as K-leather) for manufacturing football boots or any other products.

The trade of any kangaroo product (meat or leather) would be illegal. There would be severe penalties – including fines and jail terms — for violations.

The bill is supported by animal welfare groups like Animal Wellness Action, Animal Wellness Foundation, the Centre for a Humane Economy and SPCA International, who have listed more than 70 brands of shoes using kangaroo hide.

It also has the local support of NSW Animal Justice Party MP Mark Pearson, who calls Australia’s kangaroo trade an “international disgrace”.

He’s spearheading the NSW inquiry that is looking into the industry’s policies and practices — including examining the health and wellbeing of kangaroos and concerns populations of the native animals are declining. 

It will, he says, determine whether “this industry has any social licence at all now or into the future.”

“It is a very serious welfare crisis, which is causing enormous harm to these animals.”

Wayne Pacelle is with the US Center for a Humane Economy and called Australia’s commercial kangaroo industry “the biggest mass slaughter of wildlife on the planet”.

The Center was behind a 60-second film called “kangaroos are not shoes”. It enlisted two Hollywood filmmakers to help produce it and it has been shared widely on social media by comedian Ricky Gervais with his 14.5 million Twitter followers, and by other celebrities and former Olympians.

In addition, billboards are being placed across California so that Nike executives can’t miss them, proclaiming, “Nike profits. Kangaroos Die.”

“Our film is designed to pull back the curtain,” Mr Pacelle says.

The Federal Government argues kangaroo killing is about animal welfare and sustainability.

But Mr Pacelle says the commercial slaughter of kangaroos is globally unique.

“The second biggest kill is Canadian seals, harp seals and hooded seals. At the height of it, it was 300,000 seals — now it’s down to 20,000.

“The United States, the European Union, Russia, Mexico and other nations said, we don’t want to have anything to do with the seal skins and the seal furs. This leaves Australia alone in the world, killing 2 million kangaroos for football cleats.”

Mr Pacelle says there’s no one watching the shooters at night to see whether they abide by the code’s principles, and the biggest violations usually occur in relation to the killing of joeys.

While shooters are supposed to avoid killing female kangaroos with joeys, animal rights groups estimate anywhere between 200,000 to 400,000 joeys are killed annually.

The commercial code, which was developed with the input of the RSPCA, says that if a female kangaroo gets shot, that the surviving joey be struck with a single sharp blow to the skull.

In reality, Mr Pacelle says joeys’ brains are smashed against car bumpers, rocks and stomped on.

“There’s rhetoric and talk from the Government and these companies saying it’s sustainable, it’s humane,” he says.

Mr Pacelle concedes the bill would not impact Australia’s decision to cull kangaroos.

“This would take 2 million animals out of the equation that are now part of the total body count of Australia,” he says.

“If Australia wants to continue to do damage control, that’s going to be debate that happens in Australia.

Meredith Ayan, executive director at animal protection group SPCA International, is at a loss as to why the Australian Government wants to cull kangaroos when her organisation gave $200,000 in grants after the bushfires last year.

“And to see, you know, all of the photos of the animals that were brought in with such horrific injuries and burnt, dying of dehydration.

“To see all of that money and work, sweat of the people who are rescuing them on the ground to release them back into the wild so that they are now just going to be rounded up for a hunt essentially is heartbreaking.”

She believes the American public is largely unaware that kangaroos are being shot for their leather, but once more people find out – the US petition to end the trade now has more than 60,000 signatures – support for the US ban will grow louder.

“Kangaroos are so exotic to us in the US,” she says.

“I can tell you that we do not think of them as an animal that should be rounded up, shot and put into shoes and handbags, and baseball gloves, or whatever it is.

That’s a view shared by Olympic champion and American cyclist Dotsie Bausch, who has joined the campaign, and led a band of other Olympians to write letters to Nike and Adidas.

“We got together and sent a letter to the Nike CEO, John Donahoe, as well as the Adidas CEO [Kasper Rorsted] urging them to usher in kind of a new policy,” Ms Bausch says.

“We need a new paradigm when it comes to the treatment of wildlife. And these companies should not support this kind of massive, on-the-ground exploitation of animals.

Ms Bausch says Nike and Adidas have been pioneers in athletic shoe innovation.

“Even in the ethos on their website, they claim cutting edge innovation,” she says.

“And this really is anything but cutting edge — shooting and bludgeoning kangaroos in the middle of the night on a pretty unimaginable scale.

“We have made so much progress in other materials that we can use for these shoes, there’s pineapple leather, I have shoes made out of banana leather.

“And I have recently interviewed some really extraordinary companies that are using super simple cactus leather to make everything from clothing and shoes and handbags to couches, and chairs, and upholstery.

“The innovation is there, the materials are there. It’s time to stand up and make the switch.”

But Nike said in a statement “kangaroo leather is used in a small portion of Nike football boots because of its unique properties”.

“We work with our leather suppliers to source animal skins from processors that use sound animal husbandry and humane treatment, whether farmer, domesticated, or wild managed.”

Adidas said it was “opposed to kangaroos being killed in an inhumane or cruel manner”.

“We source the leather exclusively from suppliers that are monitored and certified by the Australian Government, ensuring both animal welfare and the conservation of species.”

Locally, the kangaroo industry lobby group is working to fight what is says are myths about the trade.

Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia executive director Dennis King says the animal rights groups are misguided.

“I don’t agree that there are mass protests on this,” he says.

“There are some activists that are making a noise about it. But in general, if you work with the people that live out in the bush, and have been around kangaroos all their life, they don’t see anything wrong with what what’s going on.”

Mr King says when activists see these animals lying in on the ground, with bullet wounds to the bodies, they are typically ones that have been killed by non-commercial shooters.

“The [commercial] shooters take great care to ensure, if possible, as best they can, if there’s a joey at foot or can be seen, they will not take out that animal.

“They’re just not going out and shooting everything they see.”

And he says if the kangaroos were not culled for the commercial trade, there would still be an annual non-commercial cull.

He also fears ending commercial trade will leave many rural people out of work.

“It would be a massive problem for the small rural communities,” Mr King says.

“A lot of the people in those very small communities where it might be only 10/15 families living in a small town, you know, one or two of those people will be harvesters [kangaroo shooters] because there’s not too many jobs around for them.

As the companies resist pressure to change, the federal government is using its diplomatic channels to fight the proposed US ban.

Kangaroo products (including the meat and hide) are exported to more than 60 overseas markets and is worth about $200 million annually to Australia’s economy.

The US is the second-largest market for sporting shoes using kangaroo skin, after the EU. Exports to the United States are worth about $80 million a year.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says the animal activists have their facts wrong. In his view, it is inhumane not to cull kangaroos.

“Effectively these animals die of starvation and dehydration. That would be a perverse animal welfare outcome that these animal activists are perpetuating on our own animals through an emotional program that really has no scientific foundation.”

He says Australia’s ambassador to the United States, Arthur Sinodinos, has been meeting with the US congressmen behind the bill in a bid to change their minds.

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Tanzania’s new president lifts media ban



April 6, 2021

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Tanzania’s new President Samia Suluhu Hassan said on Tuesday she would lift a ban on all media in the country, a radical shift from a press crackdown implemented by her late predecessor John Magufuli.

Under Magufuli, who Hassan said died of heart disease at 61, rights groups said press freedom had nosedived. He had shut down newspapers and websites, jailed journalists and warned them that there were limits to their press freedom.

“I have heard there are media that were banned. Reopen them, we should not give them room to say we are shrinking press freedom,” the president told officials at the State House in the capital Dar es Salaam.

“We should not ban the media by force. Reopen them, and we should ensure they follow the rules,” she added.

Last June, the government revoked the license of the opposition-leaning newspaper Tanzania Daima, accused of spreading false information and violating journalism ethics.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said last year that since March 2019, Tanzanian authorities suspended at least three other media outlets.

Some activists welcomed Hassan’s decision to lift the media ban but urged her to amend laws stifling press freedom.

“Well put, however, repressive laws have to be repealed…,” tweeted Maria Sarungi, a renowned activist and director of Kwanza TV, one of the media organizations banned under Magufuli.

(Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Amid a crackdown on ‘Islamist separatism’, the French Senate has voted to ban the hijab for Muslims under 18



The French Senate has passed a contentious “anti-separatism” bill, which includes a ban on people under 18 years of age wearing a hijab in public.

Late last month, the French Senate voted to ban the wearing of the hijab in public places for anyone under 18 years old. 

The provision, which is part of a wider ‘anti-separatism’ bill, would also reportedly stop hijab-wearing mothers from accompanying children on school field trips and prevent the wearing of burkinis at public swimming pools.

The hijab ban is not law yet – the bill needs to go back to France’s lower house for final approval – but it has drawn scorn from critics, including in Australia.

Those who oppose the hijab ban say it is the latest erosion of religious freedoms against Muslims in the country and across Europe, where other nations have introduced bans covering Islamic garments in recent years. 

France banned wearing a full-face veil in public in 2011, and last month a referendum instigated by a far-right group to ban facial coverings in Switzerland won a narrow victory.

Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Bulgaria have also implemented full or partial bans on wearing face coverings in recent years.

What is the ‘anti-separatism’ bill and why is it being introduced?

France has a strict form of secularism and the government has said the bill – a wide-ranging crackdown on speech and actions by religious figures or organisations which are seen as subverting core values of the French republic – will help to uphold it. 

The bill does not explicitly mention Islam. France’s constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, meaning it must be written in a way that means it applies to all. 

Christian leaders have also voiced fear the bill will impose undue limits on basic freedoms.

However the right-wing Republicans party and far-right National Rally both pushed during the drafting process for wider restrictions on the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in public, and it has been debated in a highly charged atmosphere following a series of controversies around Islam.

French President Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron
AAP

In October last year, French President Emmanuel Macron provoked international outrage after he denounced a trend of “Islamist separatism” that sought to create a “counter-society” rejecting secularism, equality between the sexes, and other parts of French law.

One line from a particular speech – “Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world” – drew especially fierce criticism overseas.

That same month, school teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in the street by a radicalised teen of Chechen origin after showing his class cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammed. About two weeks after that, a 21-year-old Tunisian killed three people at a church in the southern city of Nice, further raising tensions.

The French minister for higher education sparked backlash in February from university heads after warning about the spread of “Islamo-leftism” in the country’s academic institutions.

“It’s an extremely strong secular offensive,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told RTL radio of the bill ahead of the Senate vote last month.

“It’s a tough text … but necessary for the republic.”

How are Muslims reacting?

Very negatively.

Many see the bill and the hijab ban as the latest recent move by France that unfairly stigmatises its sizeable Muslim community. 

In the wake of Mr Paty’s killing last year, the government used its existing powers to close several mosques and two leading Muslim organisations, the charity Baraka City and the Collective Against Islamophobia in France.

Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad – the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics – said the hijab ban amounted to “Islamophobia written into law”.

“This is what happens when you normalise anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim hate speech, bias, discrimination, and hate crimes,” she wrote on Instagram.

US activist Amani al-Khatahtbeh also took to social media, tweeting: “No government should regulate how a woman can dress, whether to keep it on or take it off”.

There are also concerns from the Muslim community in Australia the hijab ban will further marginalise an already vulnerable community in France and worsen tensions. 

“This is an attack on the freedom of Muslims to worship their freedom of religion, and it definitely is marginalising the French Muslim community further,” Islamic Council of Victoria president Adel Salman told SBS News.

“The Muslim minorities in France and other places feel that they are being singled out, feel that they are second class citizens  – that’s going to create tensions. 

“The message here from the French government and leaders is that Muslims, or Muslim-ness, or Muslim identity, is not welcome.”

Mr Salman said it was worrying that countries across the world appeared to be increasingly adopting policies that target Muslims, and more may come in the future.

“We’ve been watching this play out in Australia and around the world with alarm, and it just seems to be escalating,” he said.

“When you have governments actually spearheading some of these policies … this is going to encourage others in those societies actually do the same.”

With AFP.

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Hong Kong employment agencies reject calls for Philippines flight ban, and suggest foreign domestic workers get Covid-19 shot before travelling to city



Agencies dealing with the employment of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong have rejected calls for flights from the Philippines to be banned, and said workers should be vaccinated against Covid-19 before entering the city.A debate over stopping flights has intensified after the number of confirmed coronavirus cases involving people arriving from the country grew over the past couple of weeks. Among the 56 imported infections recorded between last Thursday and Tuesday this week, 18 were from…

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London air fares jump five times on Kenya travel ban


Economy

London air fares jump five times on Kenya travel ban


A Kenya Airways aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

geraldandae

Summary

  • The mad rush for plane seats comes days after the Kenyan government banned all flights from the UK, effective April 9 to retaliate a move by London to add the country on its travel ‘red list’.
  • Travellers arriving in the UK from countries on the ‘red list’ will be denied entry, while returning Britons must submit to 10 days of mandatory quarantine in government-approved hotels at their cost.

Air ticket prices to the UK have risen fivefold as British expatriates and tourists scramble to exit Kenya ahead of the suspension of passenger flights between the two countries starting this Friday.

The mad rush for plane seats comes days after the Kenyan government banned all flights from the UK, effective April 9 to retaliate a move by London to add the country on its travel ‘red list’.

Travellers arriving in the UK from countries on the ‘red list’ will be denied entry, while returning Britons must submit to 10 days of mandatory quarantine in government-approved hotels at their cost.

The passenger flights ban by Kenya has triggered a sharp rise in airfare from Nairobi to London as travellers race to avoid being stranded.

For instance, national carrier Kenya Airways is charging up to Sh290,000 for a one-way ticket to London on today’s flights (April 7) from the normal average of Sh59,000 ($55)—a change it attributes to heightened demand for seats on the route.

“There are limited number of airlines flying to the UK currently and this means less seats. Now people have to get out of Nairobi before deadline,” an official of KQ told the Business Daily.

Demand for travel from London to Nairobi, however, remains low, with a one-way ticket retailing for Sh55,795, suggesting that few people are exiting Britain in the wake of Kenya’s ban.

KQ on Monday announced that it would suspend flights to the UK effective April 9 in line with the directive by the government.

“Kenya Airways announces the suspension of passenger flights between Kenya and the UK effective April 9, 2021 at 00:00 hours until further notice,” said the carrier in a statement.

KQ says its flights to the UK from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) are fully booked today and tomorrow, with British Airways also indicating that bookings are unavailable for the two days.

With the suspension of flights between Nairobi and London, passengers would have had an alternative connection through Addis Ababa on Ethiopian Airlines.

Unfortunately, Ethiopian Airlines has suspended flights in an out of the UK, too, after Ethiopia was added on the country’s Covid-19 “red-list”.

Rwanda and the United Arab Emirates, which are used by passengers on transit to the UK, have both been put on the red list for some time.

The lack of enough capacity has seen KQ increase the number of flights on the UK route. The airline is operating five flights today (April 7) to London, which were fully booked ahead of the deadline.

KQ has been operating daily flights to London until recently when it dropped the frequencies to about three in a week on low demand because of stringent regulations on Covid-19.

JKIA is a major regional hub, with passengers from other regions flying to the facility to connect flights to Asia, Europe or the Middle East.

More than 1.5 million passengers transit through JKIA, according to Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.

British Airways, which is expected to suspend flights after April 9, was charging Sh59,000 as at April 6 for a one-way economy seat to London.

However, the carrier’s website indicated unavailability of seats today and tomorrow, implying that it is fully booked on these days.

“Bookings have been very strong as everyone wants to travel out of the country before the deadline,” said an official with British Airways.

At the moment, it is only KQ and the British carrier that are operating direct flights between Nairobi and London.

Besides the passenger flight ban, Kenya has also directed all non-citizens coming from the UK to self-isolate for 14 days before they can be admitted to the country in what will significantly cut on the number of tourists visiting Kenya ahead of the summer holidays.

UK arrivals are also required to conduct two Covid-19 tests, one on the second day of quarantine and another one on the eighth day.

“The decision by the government of the United Kingdom to ‘Red List’ Kenya and to stop all travel from Kenya for those residents in Kenya and those transiting through Kenya to the United Kingdom will have deep and far-reaching consequences on the Kenya-UK trade, travel, tourism security cooperation among other sectors,” said a Kenya government statement.

The UK restrictions are reportedly based on concerns Kenya had not closed down routes through which the South African variant of the coronavirus, known as B.1.351, entered the country.

Diplomats expressed anger at what they feel is wrong-timing.

The latest sharp rise in airfare mirrors the state of travel a year ago when expatriates were caught up in a scramble to exit Kenya amid uncertainty following the outbreak of coronavirus in the country.

Last April, foreigners were paying up to three times normal ticket prices to return to their home countries as airlines provide charter flights for repatriation.

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EV-Battery Rivals Race the Clock to Sway Biden on Import Ban


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(Bloomberg) — Two of the world’s largest electric-vehicle battery makers have hired top Washington insiders to hold near-daily meetings with the Biden administration in a battle that could affect the electrification plans of Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG.

SK Innovation Co., Ford’s battery supplier for its upcoming electric F-150 pickup truck, faces a 10-year U.S. import ban on its Korean-made batteries and components after April 11. SK Innovation has engaged such well-connected advocates as former EPA chief Carol Browner and one-time Acting Attorney General Sally Yates to convince the administration to intervene.

LG Energy Solution Co., which won the order against its rival from the U.S. International Trade Commission for what the agency said was an “extraordinary” effort to destroy evidence in a trade secrets battle, has also brought in hired guns to influence the Biden team. Ernest Moniz, an Obama energy secretary, is advising Seoul-based LG Energy on its strategic plans, while other insiders are lobbying the administration.

“The development of the battery supply chain is going to depend on what happens with this case,” Moniz said in an interview.

Meetings are being held with at least a dozen agencies, including officials at Labor, Transportation and Energy. Talks, conducted over the internet because of the Covid-19 pandemic, have focused on “climate change, electrification of vehicles, the Ford F-150 and jobs,” said Browner, Bill Clinton’s Environmental Protection Agency chief who also served as a White House climate adviser when Biden was vice president.

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Biden has until April 11 to intervene. Presidential vetoes, known formally as “disapprovals,” of ITC import bans are rare. The last one was in 2013, when the Obama administration overturned a U.S. import ban on some older models of Apple Inc.’s iPhones and iPads in a blow to Samsung Electronics Co.

The issue is a complicated one for Biden. The president has made the promotion of EVs a cornerstone of his $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan to bolster the economy and combat climate change. Both South Korean battery makers are building plants in the U.S. that would employ thousands of American workers. At the same time, Biden can’t be seen as wavering on intellectual property protection considering the long-standing U.S. dispute with China over the issue.

While every ITC import ban undergoes a presidential review, “it’s not often that there’s a meaningfully contested one,” said LG Energy’s lawyer, David Callahan of Latham & Watkins LLP in Chicago, who’s been coordinating meetings between agency officials and LG Energy’s senior executives.

LG Energy, which is owned by LG Chem Ltd., filed its claim against SK Innovation in April 2019 for allegedly stealing trade secrets by poaching scores of highly knowledgeable employees. Since then both companies have spared no expense to employ the services of Washington influencers. In 2020, SK Innovation spent $650,000 on its lobbying efforts and LG spent $531,666, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.

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Lobbyists for LG Energy, SK Innovation, Ford and Volkswagen have been meeting with more than a dozen agencies including Commerce, Justice and Defense departments; the EPA; the National Economic Council, and the National Security Council. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, who’s designated to make the decision, has the task of assessing the information and deciding which arguments hold clout.

To lead its effort, SK Innovation has hired former ITC Chairman Shara Aranoff and Dan Spiegel, a former ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, who are both now with law firm Covington & Burling LLP. SK Innovation has also engaged Chartwell Strategy Group, a Washington advisory firm co-founded by former congressional aide Ozzie Palomo, to lobby stakeholders.

“The subject matter is right at the heart of what they’ve been working on,” Spiegel said of the new administration.

Yates Opinion

LG Energy recruited consultants from Peck Madigan Jones, including Jonathon Jones, who is Delaware Senator Tom Carper’s former chief of staff; and Jay Heimbach, an ex-special assistant to former President Barack Obama, according to a federal lobbying disclosure. The firm didn’t reply to requests for comment.

Others, while not registered lobbyists, have been making public statements to influence the decision. Moniz, who’s advising LG Energy, said the import ban would force SK Innovation to settle quickly. Yates, who was fired for standing up to then-President Donald Trump and was later considered by Biden for attorney general, provided a legal opinion for SK Innovation saying Biden should reject the import ban and let the companies figure out compensation in district court.

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Under the ITC order, SK Innovation will be able to import components for four years beginning now for U.S. battery production for Ford’s EV F-150 launching next year, and for Volkswagen’s American MEB line for two years, to give the automakers time to transition to new domestic suppliers.

Ford declined to comment for this article. But company officials have said the four-year reprieve isn’t long enough. The EV F-150 is “a critical project for us,” Jonathan Jennings, the company’s global commodity pricing vice president, told the Senate Finance Committee on March 16. He said that if the dispute isn’t resolved, Ford would have to look to import EV batteries from foreign suppliers for its pickups, instead of having SK Innovation manufacture them at two U.S.-based plants being constructed in Commerce, Georgia.

Jobs at Stake

The case also has drawn in state lawmakers because of the number of American jobs at stake. SK Innovation’s Georgia plants — the first of which is due to start commercial production in early 2022 — are expected to create 2,600 jobs, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. LG Energy already has a battery plant in Michigan and one planned for Ohio.

“I am hopeful these entities can reach a resolution, and am working to make sure Georgians will benefit from the jobs they were promised,” Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat from Georgia who has been in discussions with the companies, said in a statement.

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SK Innovation has warned it may pull out of the U.S. if the government doesn’t veto the import ban. The company already has plants in Hungary and Poland, and expects to build more as demand for electric-vehicles increases.

LG Energy, in a March 10 letter to Warnock, said SK Innovation’s threats lack credibility because the company’s unlikely to spend billions of dollars to build factories and then walk away.

The Korean government has tried to get the companies together without luck. SK Innovation’s audit committee said on March 11 that it can’t accept any proposal from LG Energy that would threaten the existence or undermine the competitiveness of SK Innovation’s battery business. LG Energy said SK Innovation isn’t sincere in talks.

SK Innovation said LG Energy’s announcement of plans to invest $4.5 billion in the U.S. by 2025 is just part of its lobbying effort to prevent Biden from vetoing the ITC ruling. LG Energy claims that it doesn’t want to put any of its rival’s clients at a disadvantage due to the ruling and plans to provide support.

If Biden doesn’t act and the import ban takes effect, SK Innovation’s next step is the courts. It’s already asked the ITC to delay implementation of the ban until it can appeal the underlying decision. Those requests are rarely granted, but are required before SK can turn to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has issued stays to maintain the status quo while it considers the case.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Bloomberg.com

In-depth reporting on the innovation economy from The Logic, brought to you in partnership with the Financial Post.

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Greater Western Sydney’s Sam Reid offered two-match AFL ban for bump on Nat Fyfe


Greater Western Sydney’s Sam Reid is facing a two-match suspension for a bump on Fremantle captain Nat Fyfe that left the two-time Brownlow medallist concussed.

Fyfe was playing as a permanent forward when he copped an off-the-ball bump to the head from Reid in the Dockers’ 31-point victory over the Giants on Sunday.

He was helped off the field by trainers before being subbed out of the match.

Match review officer Michael Christian graded the incident as careless conduct, high impact and high conduct. Reid has been offered a two-match sanction if he pleads guilty.

Under the AFL’s new concussion guidelines, Fyfe has been automatically ruled out of the Dockers’ round-three match against Carlton at Docklands on Sunday.

And given his history with concussion, Fyfe is no guarantee to return for the round-four clash with Hawthorn.

Fyfe needed medical attention before leaving the field and being subbed out.(

AAP: Richard Wainwright

)

Meanwhile, winless Essendon has lost key trio Dylan Shiel, Sam Draper and Jye Caldwell for at least the next six weeks of the season.

All three were injured in the Bombers’ defeat to Port Adelaide on Saturday, with ruckman Draper to miss up to 10 matches because of an ankle injury.

Caldwell has been ruled out for six to eight matches because of a hamstring tear, while Shiel will miss at least six weeks due to a knee injury.

Shiel will undergo an operation this week.

AAP

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