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"Had Good Conversation": PM Modi Meets Qatar Ruler At Dubai Summit

12/02/23 3:46 PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Qatar's Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai on Friday, as they discussed bilateral partnership and the well-being of the Indian community in the oil-rich country.

"No New Infectious Diseases Found": China Amid Surge In Respiratory Illness

12/02/23 12:51 PM

No new infectious diseases have been found so far in investigations of respiratory illness, Mi Feng, an official with China's National Health Commission said in a press conference on Saturday.

"Should Not Wait For...:" US Senators Ask Biden To Impose China Travel Ban

12/02/23 6:51 AM

A group of Republican senators, led by Marco Rubio, have written to President Joe Biden, calling for a ban on travel between the United States and China until more is known about a respiratory illness that has been rapidly spreading in China.

"Track, Hunt, Kill": How Israel Plans To Destroy Hamas Leaders After War

12/02/23 1:53 PM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly wants to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Golda Meir and authorise an 'Operation Wrath of God'-like mission - kill Israel's enemies across countries, spanning continents.

'Cartoonishly villainous' Saudi plot to hook poor nations on oil exposed

11/29/23 11:23 AM

With the world hurtling toward catastrophic temperature rise, "Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is overseeing a sweeping global investment program" intended to "ensure that emerging economies across Africa and Asia become vastly more dependent on oil" even as the international community tries to phase out planet-heating fossil fuels.That's according to a sixth-month undercover investigation by the U.K.'s Center for Climate Reporting (CCR) and Channel 4 News, based on regulatory filings, documents from Saudi officials, and secret recordings.The findings were published Monday in the leadup to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) set to kick off Thursday in the United Arab Emirates.As CCR detailed:The Oil Demand Sustainability Program (OSP) is a vast government program with dozens of projects aimed at embedding a high-carbon, fossil fuel-dependent development model in countries across Africa and Asia. This includes meticulously researched plans to drive a major increase in gasoline and diesel-fueled vehicles and boost jet fuel sales via increased air travel.It brings together the most powerful arms of the Saudi state, including the $700 billion Saudi Public Investment Fund; the world's largest oil company, Saudi Aramco; petrochemicals giant, Sabic; and the kingdom's most important ministries—all under the auspices of the crown prince's supreme committee of hydrocarbon affairs.When asked by an undercover reporter whether the aim of the program is to artificially stimulate oil demand to counter global efforts to reduce oil consumption and tackle climate change, a Saudi official responded: "Yes... it is one of the main objectives that we are trying to accomplish."Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Energy—which did not respond to a request for comment—mainly "characterizes the OSP as a sustainable development initiative" to aid developing countries, CCR reported.However, as the center highlighted, key pieces of the kingdom's plot include plans to promote oil-based power generation, deploy petrol and diesel vehicles in Africa and Asia, work with a global auto manufacturer to make a cheap car, lobby against government subsidies for electric vehicles, and fast-track commercial supersonic air travel.Power Shift Africa director Mohamed Adow told CCR that "the Saudi government is like a drug dealer trying to get Africa hooked on its harmful product. The rest of the world is cleaning up its act and weaning itself off dirty and polluting fossil fuels and Saudi Arabia is getting desperate for more customers and is turning its sights on Africa.""It's like the tobacco companies that knew the addictive and lethal nature of cigarettes yet continued to get millions of teenagers hooked on them," Adow added, "it's repulsive."Rapid Transition Alliance coordinator Andrew Simms similarly said on social media, "Straight outta the tobacco companies' playbook."The Saudi investigation was released on the same day that the center and BBCrevealed that Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of the UAE's Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and president of COP28, used meetings about the summit to push for foreign fossil fuel deals."This undermines essential impartiality and the integrity of the talks, and will accelerate devastating global heating," said the Environmental Justice Foundation, pointing to both revelations. "These backroom deals serve wealthy nations and fossil fuel profiteers at the expense of everyone else."Also noting both reports, American author and climate activist Bill McKibben wrote Tuesday that "the new documents, which really must be read to be believed, perform the same essential task as the revelations almost a decade ago about Exxon's climate lies. They end any pretense that these countries are engaged in good-faith efforts to wind down the industry.""It's difficult, I think, to imagine anything much more systemically evil than this spate of bids by the oil companies and oil countries to keep wrecking the planet; it's akin to the way that tobacco companies, facing legal losses in the U.S., pivoted to expand their markets in Asia instead," he added, describing the Saudi plot as "almost cartoonishly villainous."The kingdom has a long history of impeding climate action—particularly progress at global talks, as three experts laid out in a paper released last week by the Climate Social Science Network at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society."Saudi delegations to the U.N. climate talks are highly skilled, well-organized, and have been extremely successful over decades at slowing the efforts of the world community on climate change to a crawl," the trio wrote. "Saudi Arabia's actions should be seen as part of a wider web of obstruction to an effective response to climate change, which includes fossil fuel industry groups and other (predominantly U.S.-based) political lobbyists and elites, and allied intergovernmental organizations."As Common Dreamsreported last week, the U.N. has allowed at least 7,200 delegates for fossil fuel companies and industry trade groups to attended climate talks since 2003. This year, attendees must disclose their affiliation under new transparency rules.The summit comes as scientists warn that 2023 is projected to be the hottest year in 125,000 years and currently implemented emissions policies will likely lead to 3°C of temperature rise by the end of the century—or double the 1.5°C goal of the Paris agreement."Leaders must act to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, protect people from climate chaos, and end the fossil fuel age," United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres declared Monday. "They must make COP28 count."

'Citizens of the Reich': Raids and suspicion as German group grows

11/29/23 11:48 AM

On the outskirts of the eastern German town of Wittenberg, a corrugated iron gate painted with green leaves welcomes visitors to the "Koenigreich Deutschland" (Kingdom of Germany).Those who step through the gate to the cluster of buildings on the other side are entering place that styles itself a country, complete with its own flag, laws, currency and ID cards.The so-called Kingdom of Germany was founded by former chef and karate teacher Peter Fitzek, who anointed himself as "king" in 2012 in an elaborate ceremony complete with a crown and scepter.Fitzek and his followers are part of a movement known as the Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich), a loose grouping of in some cases violent extremists and conspiracy theorists who reject the legitimacy of the modern German republic.Long dismissed as malcontents and oddballs, the Reichsbuerger have become increasingly radicalised and are considered a security threat by German authorities who launched their latest raid Wednesday on the Wittenberg site.Fitzek, 58, ran unsuccessfully as a mayor and a member of the German parliament before deciding that founding the place was the only answer to the "mass manipulation" he saw in German society.His territory has since grown to encompass several different sites across Germany and has more than 5,000 self-proclaimed citizens.They tend to be people with a "pioneering spirit" who "want to make a positive change in this world", Fitzek told AFP in Wittenberg, the group's original base."We are open to all people who have their heart in the right place," he said, sitting on a salmon-colored sofa in the corner of a drab open-plan office.Anti-vaxThe Wittenberg complex comprises several office buildings, a carpentry workshop, a gift shop selling items made on site and a canteen that serves only vegan food.About 30 people live and work on the site in a commune-style arrangement.They are all non-smokers, non-drinkers and not vaccinated against Covid-19 -- the kingdom has its own health insurance system for which this is a prerequisite.Peter Fitzek founded the Koenigreich Deutschland (Kingdom of Germany) in response to what he saw as "mass manipulation" in German society. © JENS SCHLUETER / AFPAs Fitzek strode around the Wittenberg site, pointing out everything from eco-friendly heating systems to a coin press machine for making "new German marks", he promoted his project glowingly.But in the latest raid, investigators said Wednesday they targeted 10 sites belonging to the "kingdom" on suspicion that it was running "banking and insurance businesses without the necessary permits".Despite authorities' suspicion, life at Wittenberg is attractive to its adherents.Laina, 47, and Roland, 50, who did not want to give their last names, moved to Wittenberg from the Munich area last year with their three children now aged six, nine and 12."We had been unhappy with the situation we were in for a while," said Roland, who used to work in management for a TV shopping channel."Then the pandemic came, with all the restrictive measures, and we had a real feeling of unease."For Laina, a graphic designer, the move was about achieving a better work-life balance and a healthier lifestyle."During my pregnancies, I really began to notice what was important for me and what I needed," she said.The couple's children do not attend a private or public school -- something considered illegal in Germany.But Laina said it is better for them to learn at their own pace.'Real danger'There were around 23,000 members of the Reichsbuerger movement in 2022, according to Germany's federal domestic intelligence agency -- up from 21,000 in 2021.The number considered potentially violent also rose from 2,100 to 2,300.While Reichsbuerger members subscribe to a similar ideology, the movement is made up of many disparate groups.In November, German officials raided apartments nationwide over an alleged plot by a group of Reichsbuerger to spread conspiracy theories and "destabilize" the state through social media.In December 2022, members of a group including an ex-MP and former soldiers were arrested over a plot to attack parliament, overthrow the government and install aristocrat and businessman Prince Heinrich XIII Reuss as head of state.A cluster of buildings in the German town of Wittenberg make up the original base of the Koenigreich Deutschland (Kingdom of Germany). © JENS SCHLUETER / AFPAnother high-profile case saw a group of Reichsbuerger charged with plotting to kidnap health minister Karl Lauterbach in protest at Covid-19 restrictions.Fitzek himself has had several run-ins with the law and has served time in prison for illegal insurance transactions, among other things.Most recently, he was sentenced to eight months in jail in July for assault, though he has appealed the conviction and remains free until a final decision is made.According to Jochen Hollmann, head of the domestic intelligence agency in Saxony-Anhalt state, the Reichsbuerger pose a "real danger" to German society.Far-right overlapsSome have already resorted to violence and with the movement growing, "there is always a danger that... more will feel called upon to take action against the state order," Hollmann told AFP.Many ordinary Germans are also concerned about the rise of the movement.In the village of Halsbreucke, near Dresden, local residents have formed an association to oppose plans by Fitzek's "kingdom" to build an organic farm, in the hope of getting authorities to impose a right to refuse."It all sounds quite harmless at first," said Jana Pinka, 60, an engineer and local councillor. But it is the "context" of the plans that troubles her.The Koenigreich Deutschland (Kingdom of Germany) has its own flag, laws, currency and identity documents. © JENS SCHLUETER / AFP"We see both this rejection of the state, including Germany's borders, and the fact that people are seeking proximity to right-wing populist groups. That scares us a little," she said.Only around eight percent of Reichsbuerger in Saxony-Anhalt are classified as right-wing extremists, according to Hollmann, though "there are certainly overlaps".'Marginalized'What they do tend to have in common is that they are from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, especially in the former East Germany."Many people (here) feel marginalized and that is of course always a breeding ground for extremist parties or structures," Pinka said."People look for a strong leader, which unfortunately we have already had bad experiences of in Germany. And that is something that all of us... need to think about."Fitzek, meanwhile, is undeterred.His ultimate aim is for his project to become so big that "the old order... simply dissolves peacefully," he said."And we would not regret this loss at all, because we would have a much, much better order," he said with a determined grin.© 2023 AFP

'Complete Darkness': Family Members Describe Freed Hostages' Frightening Time In Captivity

11/27/23 12:20 AM

New information is emerging about the conditions of former hostages' confinement as they return from Hamas captivity.

11 Of The Best Things To Do In London This Mother's Day And Paddy's Day Weekend

03/17/23 5:02 PM

It's a Mother's Day *and* Paddy's Day double whammy, people.View Entire Post ›

17 Very British Tweets About The Very British Queue To See The Very British Queen's Coffin

09/24/22 1:25 AM

"If you’re British, this is the queue you’ve been training for all your life. The final boss of queues."View Entire Post ›

2 Homeless People Killed, 3 Injured In Las Vegas Shooting: Report

12/02/23 4:46 PM

Five people were shot Friday, at least one of them fatally, in a "homeless encampment" in Las Vegas, authorities said.

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