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EU executive takes Poland to court over judges’ disciplinary regime

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The European Commission referred Poland to the top EU court on Thursday, arguing that a new disciplinary regime for ordinary court judges fails to protect them from political control.

Brussels had  been at loggerheads with Warsaw for several years over judicial reforms introduced by Poland’s ruling national conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS).

The commission, the European Union’s executive  has referred several cases to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), while launching a separate disciplinary procedure that could theoretically see Warsaw stripped of its EU voting rights.

Thursday’s decision relates to laws that allow the decisions of ordinary court judges to be subject to probes and even sanctions.

The commission questions the independence of the Supreme Court’s new disciplinary chamber, whose members are selected by a judicial body appointed by parliament.

The chamber’s president, furthermore, can determine, which court should hear cases brought against judges.

The commission also noted that, under the new regime, there is no reasonable time frame for cases to be processed, allowing the justice minister to keep charges pending over ordinary court judges.

“In short, judges are not insulated from political control and thus judicial independence is violated,’’ the EU executive concludes.

It has asked the Luxembourg-based court to rule in an expedited procedure, given the potential impact of the issue on judicial independence.

The referral was criticised sharply by the country’s Justice Minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, who said it constituted an attempt to intervene in Poland’s election,” Ziobro said, according to the Polish press agency.

The head of Poland’s largest opposition party Civic Platform Grzegorz Schetyna, in turn, warned on Thursday against dramatic consequences that may arise from controversial reforms of the governing party.

Poland will hold its parliamentary election on Sunday, Oct. 13.

The commission has ratcheted up its efforts to uphold the rule of law in EU member states, viewing the matter as a fundamental pillar for the overall functioning of the bloc.

However, some countries argue that these are internal affairs only.

The ECJ has already ruled against Warsaw over provisions lowering the retirement age of Supreme Court judges.

It is also considering similar provisions for ordinary court judges.

Meanwhile, the commission also pressed ahead with measures against Hungary on Thursday after it withheld food for rejected asylum applicants in transit zones on the Serbian border.

Also giving Budapest one month to comply with EU rules or else face court action.

Compelling refugees to stay in the Hungarian transit zones amounts to de facto detention, the commission argued.

Adding that failure to provide food in these circumstances does not respect [EU] obligations.

The case was launched on July 26, when the commission sent Budapest a letter of formal notice.

The Hungarian government’s reply did not address the commission’s concerns, it said.

Should Hungary fail to comply with EU rules in the coming month, the commission may refer the case to the ECJ.(NAN)


HS/AFA

Edited by Halima Sheji/Felix Ajide

Foreign

Over 990 people receive treatment for smoke inhalation in Mongolia

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Authorities on said Monday said a total of 991 people have been treated at hospitals for smoke inhalation in the capital city of Mongolia since the beginning of October.

The National Emergency Management Agency said in a statement that the number of smoke inhalation is on the increase because processed coal is burned to keep warm.

“A total of 991 people from 415 households in the capital city have received treatment and medical advice since Oct. 2, after showing signs of smoke inhalation due to allegedly burning processed coal to keep warm.’’

On May 15, a government ban on domestic use of low-grade coal in Ulan Bator came into force, with the aim of reducing air pollution.

Since then, households in the city have been supplied with processed fuel instead of raw coal.

The reason people have been poisoned is related to broken stoves and chimneys and wrong usage of the processed fuel, the agency said, urging residents to follow guidelines to burn the fuel. (Xinhua/NAN)

Edited by Hadiza Mohammed/Felix Ajide

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China builds vertical climate observation system in Tibet

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Qinghai-Tibet Plateau research institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) on Monday said Chinese scientists have built a vertical climate observation system in a remote region in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.

Located in Medog County of Tibet, the system is capable of recording climate data with a total altitude span of about 3,400 meters (from about 800 to 4,300 meters above sea level) and an average altitude interval of about 300 meters.

The observation system is made up of 17 automated weather stations, which include nine comprehensive stations, four weather stations and four others for observing microclimate in forests.

Zhang Lin, deputy director of the Medog Centre of the CAS, said the establishment of the system will lay a solid foundation for understanding the processes and mechanisms of climate.

Zhang said the system will also help in the understanding of ecology, hydrology, glacier and geological hazards in the eastern Himalayas under the influence of the Indian monsoon.

Medog and its surrounding areas boast the most complete vertical natural zoned spectrum in China.

They are also the main channel for water vapour incurred by the Indian monsoon to enter the plateau.

However, due to frequent occurrences of geological disasters, there has been a lack of a complete vertical climatic observation system in the region.

This hinders in-depth studies on major frontier scientific issues such as atmosphere, hydrology, biodiversity and glacier changes. (Xinhua/NAN)

Edited by Hadiza Mohammed/Felix Ajide

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Venice to reopen all schools, tides remain high

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Mayor Luigi Brugnaro on Monday said the flood-hit historic city of Venice would reopen all schools that were earlier closed due to high water tides.

Brugnaro also said forms for citizens and businesses to claim damages would be available shortly.

The Mayor, however, made the announcement in his tweeter page.

“Venice and the Venetians in the darkest periods have done the best things and this time we will all stand together again.

“Let’s start from Venice to study the effects of climate change around the world,” he said.

In an earlier tweet, Brugnaro said the devastating floodwaters were effects of climate change and that MOSE must be finished soon.

MOSE or Experimental Electromechanical Module, was first drawn up in 1987 for flood protection and has been under construction since 2003, but has received critics over its possible ecological damage.

It was originally scheduled to be completed in 2018 but faces delays, with a price tag estimated at around 7 billion euros (7.7 billion U.S. dollars) once it is finished.

Venice was hit by a tide at 150 cm shortly after 1:00 p.m. (1200 GMT) on Sunday, according to the city’s tide forecasting and reporting centre.

According to the centre tides, it could reach a maximum of 110 cm on Monday and Tuesday, and would remain high in the next few days. (Xinhua/NAN)

Edited by Hadiza Mohammed/Felix Ajide

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Cambodia to start extracting first drop of oil in 2020 – PM

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Prime Minister Samdech Sen says Cambodia will start pumping its first drop of crude oil from one of its offshore oilfields in 2020.

“Our first drop of oil will be extracted in 2020, and I will announce the exact date later,’’ he said.

He made the announcement on Monday while delivering a speech during a graduation ceremony of nearly 2,000 university students in Cambodia.

Sen said Singapore-based oil and gas firm KrisEnergy has been actively working on its action plan, including the construction of an oil rig and an oil platform.

The prime minister said upcoming revenue from oil would be used to invest in physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, irrigation system, and electricity, and in health and education.

Oil will be extracted from the Apsara oilfield, which is located in Block A covering 3,083 square km over the Khmer Basin in the Gulf of Thailand.

KrisEnergy holds a 95-per cent stake in the block, and the Cambodian government owns the remaining 5 per cent.

Mines and Energy Ministry Secretary of State Meng Saktheara said when the crude oil is extracted,  KrisEnergy will sell it to the international market because an oil refinery in the country is still under developmental stage.

Block A is one of several oilfields found off Cambodian territorial waters in Preah Sihanouk province, situated in the southwest of Phnom Penh. (Xinhua/NAN)

Edited by Hadiza Mohammed/Felix Ajide

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Trump lashes out at second witness, as lawyer says ‘no crime’

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Lashing

 U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out at a government official who will testify in public in the coming week, as part of the impeachment inquiry.

This is a move that comes on the heels of a previous barb that Democrats said was witness intimidation.

Jennifer Williams testified in a closed-door session that she was concerned that the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky amounted to an “unusual and inappropriate” demand that Ukraine probe Joe Biden, his domestic rival.

Trump tweeted that Williams, “whoever that is” should meet with other opponents of the president and “work out a better presidential attack”.

Williams works for the vice president and will testify on Tuesday.

Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted ambassador to Ukraine – who seems to have been removed to enable a channel to pressure on Zelensky, according to other testimonies – was testifying before Congress on Friday when Trump bashed her career on Twitter.

Trump had previously disparaged Yovanovitch in his call with Zelensky, calling her “bad news” and cryptically saying: “She’s going to go through some things.”

Democrats denounced what they saw as witness intimidation by the president.

Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, took to Twitter to declare: “Democrats have NO crime and NO victim!”

He also called the impeachment inquiry a “travesty and embarrassment to our country”.

Trump himself claimed impeachment was a “partisan weapon,” and pointed to public statements from both Zelensky and the Ukranian foreign minister which seemed to indicate they did not feel pressure to investigate Biden.

Testimonies, however, are painting a picture of a president and his allies who were seeking dirt on Biden, with allegations that military aid to Ukraine was made dependent on a probe.

YEE

Edited by Emmanuel Yashim

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Sri Lanka’s new president, Rajapaksa sworn in after record victory

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Sri Lanka’s new president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was sworn in on Monday after record victory.

Swearing-in

 Sri Lanka’s former defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 70, was sworn in Monday as the country’s new president after a record election victory, officials said.

The swearing-in took place before Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya in front of a historic Buddhist temple in Anuradhapura, 180 kilometres north east of the capital.

Rajapaksa, the candidate for the Sri Lanka Podujana Party (Peoples’ Party), recorded a comfortable victory with a majority of more than 1.3 million votes in the country’s presidential polls, according to election results.

He received around 52 per cent of the vote, compared to the 42 per cent for his chief rival, ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa.

Both of the two favourites to win had focussed their campaigns on the theme of security in the wake of this year’s Easter Sunday bombings by extremist Islamist groups that left the entire nation shaken.

President-elect Rajapaksa is the younger brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was in power from 2005 to 2015.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa served as defence secretary under his brother and was responsible for directing the military campaign against Tamil rebels, leading to their final defeat in 2009.

YEE

(Edited by Emmanuel Yashim)

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