Weekly News Round-up 18/11/16

UK News

Investigatory Powers Bill: ‘Snoopers Charter 2’ to pass into law, giving Government sweeping spying powers

The main objections to the bill centre around the vast new powers that the government is given to spy on its citizens. It includes powers to force companies to make their phones less secure so that they can be listened in on by spies, and others that would allow the government to ask companies like Apple and Google to help them break or hack into phones.

Perhaps the most controversial measure will require internet service providers to keep detailed information on their customers’ web browsing for the last year. There will be no way of opting out of that and the data will be collected on everyone, leading to fears that it could be stolen and leaked, especially given the huge scale of the Talk Talk hack earlier this year.

Despite criticism from almost every major technology and internet company – including usually reticent ones like Apple – and from senior parliamentary committees the legislation has received little opposition in parliament. The House of Lords’ agreement to the text now means that it just awaits Royal Assent [a formality], at which point it will become law.

Full article here.

Challenges to Heathrow runway and HS2 to be hit by law lifting cap on legal costs

Environmental legal challenges face being hit by the “chilling effect” of new government rules that remove a cap on claimants’ costs, according to campaigners, lawyers and politicians. They warn that the changes could deter organisations and individuals challenging projects such as fracking wells, HS2 and the Heathrow third runway for fear of racking up huge court costs.

Individuals and organisations who bring such cases currently pay no more than £5,000 and £10,000 respectively of defendants’ costs, in addition to their own costs. Under the Ministry of Justice’s plans published on Thursday, there will be no fixed cost, and the costs could go up or down, depending on the claimant’s finances.

The government argues that the changes would still allow valid challenges and checks on public authorities, but deter ones without merit. But groups involved in supporting and bringing such judicial reviews warned the move would put off valid future cases.

Full article here.

British Medical Journal calls for legalisation of drugs

The British Medical Journal has called for the legalisation of illicit drugs for the first time.

Prohibition laws have failed to curb either supply or demand, reduce addiction, cut violence or reduce profits for organised crime, the journal argued, saying the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ had been a failure.

It said the ban on the production, supply, possession and use of some drugs for non-medical purposes was causing huge harm.

“There is an imperative to investigate more effective alternatives to criminalisation of drug use and supply,” the BMJ said in an editorial.

The editors called for doctors to be at the centre of the debate on alternative policies to promote health and respect people’s dignity.

Full article here.

Scots and Welsh can have say in Brexit court case

The Scottish and Welsh governments are to be allowed to intervene in the Supreme Court battle over how Brexit should be triggered.

The government’s appeal against the High Court ruling that MPs must vote on triggering Brexit will be heard in the Supreme Court from 5 December. It will last four days, with the decision expected in the new year.

Counsel for the Scottish Government is being invited by the Supreme Court justices to address the court on the relevance of points of Scots law, so far as they do not form part of the law of England and Wales.

Full article here.

World News

Russia snubs International Criminal Court amid scrutiny of Crimea annexation

Russia appeared on course Wednesday to become the latest nation to snub the International Criminal Court, following the approval of a report by a U.N. human rights committee that condemned Russia’s “temporary occupation of Crimea” and accused Moscow of rights abuses and discrimination in the peninsula, formerly controlled by Ukraine.

The decree to formally withdraw from the ICC, signed by President Vladimir Putin, also could be a preemptive move to buffer Russia against future claims of war crimes related to its military intervention in Syria.

The move marked the latest defection from the international court, which prosecutes cases involving genocide and crimes against humanity, and raised further questions about the tribunal’s role as a forum of global conscience.

In recent months, South Africa and two other African nations, Burundi and Gambia, have announced plans to leave the court, which is based in The Hague, amid widening complaints in Africa that the court has disproportionately focused on the continent and its leaders. The United States is among a handful of nations that remain outside the court, with U.S. leaders fearing membership could open the door to prosecutions against American military personnel and others.

Full article here.

China tells Trump climate change is not a Chinese hoax

President-elect Donald Trump’s four-year-old Twitter claim that China created the “concept of global warming” to render U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive has elicited a response from the Chinese government.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin repudiated Trump’s accusation on Wednesday, telling reporters at United Nations talks in Marrakesh, Morocco, that U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush started the global warming conversation by supporting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change during the late 1980s, according to Bloomberg News.

Trump has also said he will get rid of the EPA and pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which scientists say would have major global ramifications. The D.C.-based think tank Climate Interactive told The Post’s Chris Mooney that the U.S. emissions reduction pledge would account for more than 20 percent of the combined emissions cut among all countries in the accord.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who helped negotiate the Paris accord, said at the Marrakesh U.N. talks that the outgoing Obama administration plans to fight Trump’s intent to withdraw.

“No one has a right to make decisions for billions of people based solely on ideology,” Kerry said, via Bloomberg News. “Climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It isn’t a partisan issue for our military. It isn’t a partisan issue for our intelligence community.”

Full article here.

EU unveils new security check system for travellers

The European Union on Wednesday unveiled plans for a new system of security checks on travelers permitted to enter Europe without visas in an effort to crack down on extremists.

People from 60 visa waiver countries, including the U.S., will have to pay 5 euros ($5.36) and fill out an online form to obtain clearance to travel within Europe’s 26-nation ID check-free area.

The EU’s security commissioner, Julian King, said that “by spotting problem individuals and stopping them from coming, we’ll enhance Europe’s internal security.”

The automated system would cross-check travelers against visa, criminal and stolen document databases. The European Commission says filling out the form should take less than 10 minutes. It will be valid for five years and multiple trips. Most people should get immediate approval, although some requests could take 72 hours to come through.

Full article here.

UN official calls on Turkey to release journalists in jail

A United Nations official has called on Turkey to release all jailed journalists, saying their detentions were not commensurate with the government’s needs to protect public safety.

Speaking to reporters Friday at the end of a weeklong visit to Turkey, David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said he understood the Turkish government’s need to take measures to counter terror threats and protect its citizens.

Kaye added, however: “That does not mean that the government has a blank check to do whatever it wants to restrict freedom of expression.”

Turkey has arrested close to 37,000 people since a failed coup attempt in July and dismissed or suspended more than 100,000 others. Kaye said some 155 journalists are in detention.

Article taken from The Washington Post.

Outrage Over Turkish Proposal Protecting Child Marriage

A Turkish government proposal which would pardon some people imprisoned for statutory rape in the past decade has fallen short of passage by legislators.

The proposal would defer sentencing or punishment for sexual assault in cases where there was no force and where the victim and perpetrator were married. Following the defeat late Thursday, the government is bringing the proposal back for consideration next week.

Full article here.

Group says migrant death toll from sea crossings hits record

Four Mediterranean Sea shipwrecks in the past 2 ½ days have caused about 340 migrants to die or go missing, making 2016 the deadliest year on record for asylum seekers risking the dangerous voyage to Europe, a migration organization said Thursday.

The shipwreck causalities brings to over 4,500 the number of migrants who have died or disappeared crossing the Mediterranean so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration figures. The total compares with the 3,770 people reported dead or missing last year, the previous record.

Full article here.

Unrepresented News

Register now for the next event in the ‘Privacy is a Human Right’ series – a screening of the Edward Snowden documentary, Citizenfour.

The documentary is an eye-opening, Oscar-winning exposé of the dangers of government surveillance. You will never again think the same way about your phone, email, credit card, web browser or profile.

Tickets are free:


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