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Collapse us if you can, British government dares Brexit opponents

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More than three years since the Brexit referendum, the UK is heading toward its gravest constitutional crisis in decades and a showdown with the EU over Brexit, due in just 63 days time.

Johnson, in his boldest step since becoming prime minister in July, enraged opponents of a no-deal Brexit by ordering the suspension of parliament for almost a month.

However, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, John Bercow, said a constitutional outrage as it limited the time the 800-year-old heart of English democracy has to debate and shape the course of British history. (Xinhua/)

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Thick smoke billowing in Sydney triggers dozens of false fire alarms

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 A thick blanket of smoke in Sydney, due to massive bushfires, triggered dozens of false fire alarms on Tuesday, Australian authorities said.

Dozens of bushfires surrounded and choked the harbour city on Tuesday, heightened by high temperatures and strong winds.

Smoke across Australia’s most-populated city resulted in air pollution that is 11 times worse than the typical “hazardous” level, the New South Wales environment department said Tuesday afternoon.

Its air quality index showed worse conditions in Sydney’s east and north-west. Visibility was also extremely low in most of Sydney due to smoke haze.

Several Sydney ferries have been cancelled due to the smoke and trains have been warned about false fire alarms at stations.

Several offices in the central business district, including the courts, were evacuated due to smoke entering the buildings.

Even the New South Wales Rural Fire Service headquarters in western Sydney was hit by thick smoke, which set off alarms.

The building had to be briefly evacuated on Tuesday morning.

Roger Mentha, the assistant commissioner of New South Wales Fire and Rescue, the metropolitcan fire brigade, said his teams had responded to more than 500 automatic fire alarms caused by smoke entering buildings.

This amount of calls peaked between 11 am and 12 midday with 154 automatic alarms. As a result there were also over 335 triple-zero emergency calls,” he told reporters in Sydney.

The number of calls was unprecedented, which increased as the cloud of smoke “descended on the city,” Mentha said, adding that resources were stretched and being prioritised.

The state education department advised schools to cancel all outdoor activities, while union officials asked that the workers be allowed to not work outside.

Former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher, who is in Australia for several shows, said on Twitter that Sydney “looks spooky as fuck with all this smoke proper shitting it.”

The Bureau of Meteorology said Tuesday morning light winds and an abundance of smoke led to low visibility and hazardous air quality levels in parts of Sydney and its surrounds.

Extraordinarily thick smoke is combining with high temperatures across parts of the state, as well as the capital Canberra, to create potentially hazardous health conditions, the bureau said in the afternoon on its Twitter feed.

The hot weather and gusty winds are also creating hazardous bushfire conditions, it said.

The “grotty” pollution puts “a lot of stress on vulnerable people, particularly elderly people who have existing heat and lung conditions,” according to state environment health department.

The consistently smoky conditions affecting Sydney over the past month are unprecedented, said Richard Broome, director of the environment health authority.

The smoke here in Sydney is extremely bad today, it is some of the worst air quality we’ve seen,” Broome told reporters on Tuesday.

Earlier, Australian authorities issued warnings of dangerous fire conditions as temperatures and winds in the bushfire-ravaged state crept up again and Sydney was blanketed in thick smoke.

The weather is forecast to get worse, with temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius amid high winds and low humidity conditions.

That combination spells “a lethal condition” for bushfires, according to state authorities.

Some 2,000 firefighters are battling more than 80 bushfires that continue to burn across the state, including the so-called “megafire” to the north-west of Sydney that has a 60-kilometre fire front after several blazes combined last week into one big fire.

The smoky conditions “are proving to be quite a challenge for firefighters on the ground, and in the air,” RFS said on Twitter.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked “people to take great care and to follow the advice and the warnings.”

Our thoughts are with all of those who are out there doing their job today,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Meanwhile, Sydney’s pollution and low visibility due to smoke have forced organizers of the Big Boat Challenge, a lead-up to the traditional Sydney to Hobart race, to cancel their event this year.

The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) made the decision to cancel just hours before the start of the race on Tuesday.

According to the authorities, bush and grass fires have now already burnt 2.7 million hectares of land in eastern Australia since the bushfire season started early in October.

Six lives have been lost and more than 900 homes have been destroyed or damaged.

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Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim
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9-year-old Japanese boy passes university-level maths exam

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The Mathematics Certification Institute of Japan on Tuesday said a 9-year-old boy from the Western Japanese province of Hyogo has passed a university-level maths exam.

According to the Kyodo news agency, the institute said Shogo Ando had been studying for the exam for two years and intended to use his mathematical skills for the betterment of society.

The report said the boy was cited as saying that he would like to use his skills to combat climate change.

Testing and achievement is central to Japan’s highly competitive school system.

However, according to the latest data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Japan has fallen from fifth to sixth place in the ranking of countries by their school pupils’ maths abilities.

Edited by: Hadiza Mohammed/Ali Baba-Inuwa
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Qatari emir skips Gulf summit in Riyadh amid regional dispute

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Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is skipping an annual Gulf summit set to be held in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, despite Doha’s recent confirmation of talks it held with Riyadh which could lead to an end to a Gulf dispute that began more than two years ago.

The summit brings together the six countries of the U.S.-allied Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

This year’s summit is held amid increased tension following attacks that Saudi Arabia and its allies blamed on Iran.

Earlier this year, several vessels and tankers were sabotaged in the Gulf of Oman and in September two Saudi oil facilities were attacked.

The summit also comes amid mass protests in Iraq and Lebanon, where Iran’s allies in both countries are facing their biggest opposition in years.

Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmed Al Sabah and Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa plan to attend the GCC’s 40th summit, while Oman’s delegation is led by Deputy Prime Minister Fahd Al Said.

Qatari Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani will head his country’s delegation to the summit, the Qatari News Agency reported.

This year’s representation is higher than last year’s when Qatari Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Sultan al-Muraikhi, represented the Gulf emirate.

The Qatari premier was in Saudi Arabia in May attending emergency Gulf and Arab League summits.

This year’s meeting comes after Qatar confirmed it had recently held talks with Saudi Arabia in a bid to end a Gulf rift, describing the negotiations as progress after more than two years of stalemate.

The Gulf row began in June 2017 when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt severed diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting and funding terrorists, a charge that Doha denied.

The quartet demanded that Doha downgrade ties with Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran, but Qatar rejected that saying it is an “infringement of its sovereignty.”

Attempts by Kuwait and the U.S. to resolve the crisis – one of the most serious experienced by the GCC since it was created in 1981 – have failed.

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Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim
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Brazil’s opposition party warns of imminent nationwide protests over social inequality

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Protests over social inequality and economic instability, which have rocked a number of Latin American countries over the years, are likely to spread to Brazil.

President of Brazil’s leading opposition force, the Workers’ Party (PT), Gleisi Hoffmann made this known in an interview with Sputnik.

Brazil has been experiencing lackluster economic development and a low quality of life.

In Latin America, we are witnessing a struggle by the people trying to ensure that their rights are not taken away from them.

“Here in Brazil, you will probably see a reaction, and this is not a call from parties A or B.

“This is a reality that is being imposed on the Brazilian people.

“We have started to build a welfare state on the basis of the Constitution, which was taken as a basis and expanded under the government of (Luiz Inacio) Lula and Dilma (Rousseff, both former presidents), but now all this is changing.

“Brazil is a poor country with many people without social protection, without incentives to develop the economy, create jobs and decent living conditions for the people.

Obviously, the population will understand this and will protest,” Hoffmann, who serves as a member of the lower house of parliament, said.

The lawmaker added that in general, the protests in Latin America were sparked by economic policies that failed to benefit the people.

We are not alarmed by protests and mounting demonstrations.

“In Latin America, there is a debate about choosing the right economic model.

“In the countries where the neoliberal model has existed for a long time, we see people on the streets protesting about the lack of rights, precarious living conditions, and the economic situation.

Vivid examples are Chile and Argentina. (Argentine President-elect) Alberto Fernandez and (Vice President-elect) Christina Kirchner won the election because the economic policy (of outgoing President Mauricio) Macri have plundered the Argentine people,” Hoffmann said.

In recent months, the rallies over inequality have occurred in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and even in Chile, once considered Latin America’s most stable country.

At the same time, tensions have been on the rise in Brazil since President Jair Bolsonaro came to power.

Bolsonaro’s opponents criticise his unfriendly stance on LGBT rights, mismanaging the response to the Amazon forest fires as well as the country’s poor economic performance.
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French unions gear up for show of force over Macron’s pension reforms

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French unions were, on Tuesday, gearing up for a show of force as strikes against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform plans went into a sixth day running.

The hardline unions have called for the second day of mass protests as Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was due to outline the government’s plans at the end of a consultation period.

On the first strike day, on Nov. 5, more than 800,000 people hit the streets against Macron’s plans to replace France’s 42 different pension schemes with a single point-based system.

Once again, Paris public transport firm, RATP, warned that most metro lines would be closed and only one in three buses were running.

But on the railways, there was some improvement in services, with the state railway company, SNCF, saying one in five TGV high-speed trains would run.

Public transport and rail workers are set to be among the biggest losers in the reform, as their rights to earlier retirement in some cases at age 52 are expected to be phased out.

Health Minister, Agnes Buzyn and Pension’s Commissioner, Jean-Paul Delevoye, met unions on Monday for a final round of talks ahead of Philippe’s announcements.

But hardliners were unimpressed, with the CGT later denouncing the government’s obstinacy.

The pension reform plans are the third big confrontation between Macron and hardline unions, who was unable to stop his business-friendly changes to labour laws and reforms to the SNCF.

Edited by: Hadiza Mohammed/Abdulfatah Babatunde
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Former Daewoo boss, Choong, dies at 82

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The Daewoosky Institute, reported on its website on Tuesday that Kim Woo Choong, the former leader of South Korea’s, second largest conglomerate Daewoo, has died as a result of a chronic illness.

The Daewoosky Institute, an organisation for former employees and managers reported that Kim, who was once considered South Korea’s flagship manager, died at the age of 82.

Kim had laid the foundation for his economic empire in 1967 with $5,000 and a small textile company.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in May 2006 for embezzlement, accounting fraud and other offences.

He had surrendered to the authorities after six years on the run.

In November 2006, an appeal court reduced the sentence to 8.5 years.

As part of a special amnesty, Kim’s prison term was suspended in late 2006 because of his poor health and was pardoned at the end of 2007.

The history of the Daewoo Group and the entrepreneurial biography of its former boss are symbolic of the rapid economic rise of South Korea but also of its unrestrained expansion drive.

The group collapsed in the late 1990s under a debt of about $80 billion.

The country’s second-largest conglomerate at the time had more than 40 affiliates, ranging from cars, electrical goods and household appliances to ships.

The group was later broken up.

Edited by: Hadiza Mohammed/Abdulfatah Babatunde
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U.S. defense budget prescribes Pentagon reports on measures to deter Russia, China

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The project of the U.S. defense budget for 2020 fiscal year obliges the Pentagon to report on measures to deter Russia and China, according to a document coordinated by the U.S. Congress.

On Monday, the Armed Services Committees of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives reached an agreement to finance the country’s defense spending for 2020 fiscal year in the amount of $738 billion.

The project of the budget is yet to be approved by the Congress.

If approved, the document is to be signed by the U.S. president.

The National Defense Strategy (NDS) recognises that we are in an era of major power competition with Russia and China.

As our competitors seek to undermine international order and gain influence, the FY20 NDAA (National Defense Authorisation Act) includes measures designed to maintain America’s competitive military edge and support our allies and partners,” the document said.

The project of the defense budget provides a series of measures to deter U.S. strategic competitors.

These include a new reporting requirement for the Secretary of Defense – and additional independent reports – on the implementation of the NDS focused on joint operational concepts to deter and defeat strategic competitors.

“The Pentagon must also report on strategies to impose political, military, economic, budgetary, and technology costs on Russia and China,” the document said.
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French unions gear up for show of force over Macron’s pension reforms

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 French unions were on Tuesday gearing up for a show of force as strikes against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform plans went into a sixth day running.

A day before Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was due to outline the government’s plans at the end of a consultation period, hardline unions have called for a second day of mass protests.

On the first strike day last Thursday, more than 800,000 people hit the streets against Macron’s plans to replace France’s 42 different pension schemes with a single point-based system.

Once again, Paris public transport firm RATP warned that most metro lines would be closed, and only one in three buses were running.

But on the railways, there was some improvement in services, with state railway company SNCF saying one in five TGV high-speed trains would run, compared to one in 10 on Thursday.

Public transport and rail workers are set to be among the biggest losers in the reform, as their rights to earlier retirement – in some cases at age 52 – are expected to be phased out.

Health Minister Agnes Buzyn and pensions commissioner Jean-Paul Delevoye met unions on Monday for a final round of talks ahead of Philippe’s announcements.

But hardliners were unimpressed, with the CGT later denouncing the government’s “obstinacy.”

The pension reform plans are the third big confrontation between Macron and hardline unions, who were unable to stop his business-friendly changes to labour laws and reforms to the SNCF.

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Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim
(NAN)

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Female quintet to take lead role in incoming Finnish gov’t

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 The Finnish parliament was on Tuesday due to elect Social Democratic deputy leader Sanna Marin as new prime minister at the helm of a coalition of five parties all led by women.

Marin is set to become Finland’s third female prime minister and the country’s youngest head of government at age 34. On her appointment she will also become the youngest prime minister in the world, according to the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat.

The vote in the 200-seat parliament is considered a formality since all five parties in the outgoing centre-left coalition have agreed to continue to work together.

The Social Democrats on Sunday picked Marin as their candidate for the post of prime minister.

Several women have leading positions in the incoming government.

Centre Party leader Katri Kulmuni, 32, is to take over at the finance ministry, swapping her previous portfolio as economic affairs minister with Mika Lintila, Kulmuni said on Monday.

Green Party leader Maria Ohisala, 34, stays on as interior minister, while 32-year-old Left Alliance leader Li Andersson keeps her education minister role.

The coalition also comprises the Swedish People’s Party, which represents the minority Swedish-speaking population of Finland.

Their leader, Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson, 55, will miss out on Tuesday’s vote as she is heading for a meeting in Washington between U.S. and European Union (EU) justice and home affairs ministers.

Finland is on the final stretch of its six-month EU presidency.

Marin succeeds Antti Rinne, who was prime minister for six months.

He resigned last week after the Centre Party lost confidence in him after a recent labour market dispute involving the state-owned postal service Posti.

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Edited by: Emmanuel Yashim
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