World News

Guernsey to regulate rental housing for first time

Regulation of Guernsey’s housing rental market is set to be introduced for the first time, after the States approved a policy letter.

The proposed General Housing Law would establish a health and safety rating system for rented properties, based on fitness for human occupation criteria.

Among these are repair, stability, freedom from damp and water supply.

It would also introduce a licensing regime, registration system and a deposit protection scheme.

The policy letter from the Committee for Environment and Infrastructure (E&I) will now be drafted into legislation for approval.

Currently there is no specific housing legislation, although some environmental, fire and gas safety laws do exist.

However, these were described as “insufficient and unsuitable” in a 2018 review of housing law.

‘Serve this community’

The letter outlines a Housing Health and Safety Rating System against “basic standards for rental dwellings”, including:

President of E&I Barry Brehaut argued the change was to protect “vulnerable people”.

He told the story of six Latvian workers sleeping in bunk beds, whose shower was visible from their kitchen.

Deputy Brehaut said: “Young women who had come over to serve this community, to contribute and there was no protection for them.”

The regulations will establish a licensing system for Houses of Multiple Occupation, a property with more than one set of tenants.

There will also be a registration system for rental properties and a deposit protection scheme established.

An amendment preventing landlords from discriminating against people with children was also approved.

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Japan asks US to extradite two men over Ghosn case

Japan has asked the US to extradite a former special forces soldier and his son for allegedly helping ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn flee Japan last year.

Ex-Green Beret Michael Taylor and his son Peter were held in Massachusetts in May, several months after Japan had issued warrants for their arrest.

The US authorities confirmed a formal extradition request was submitted.

Mr Ghosn, who was detained in Japan on financial misconduct charges in 2018, made a dramatic escape last year.

The former Nissan boss denies the charges against him.

Despite being under house arrest and monitored 24 hours a day, on 29 December he managed to fly to the Lebanese capital Beirut via Turkey.

Details of the Taylors’ alleged involvement in the escape are unclear. But Japanese prosecutors have said the two were in Japan at the time and helped Mr Ghosn evade security checks as he left.

In May, prosecutors in Turkey charged seven people over the escape. The suspects – four pilots, two flight attendants, and an airline executive – are also accused of helping Mr Ghosn flee.

They go on trial in Istanbul on Friday, with Turkish prosecutors seeking up to eight years in jail for the four pilots and the airline executive.

Full details of the escape have never been fully explained. Mr Ghosn, who holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese nationalities, ran Renault and Nissan as part of a three-way car alliance.

He is accused of misreporting his compensation package, but has insisted he can never get a fair hearing in Japan.

Since his arrival in Lebanon, he has told reporters he was a “hostage” in Japan, where he was left with a choice between dying there or running.

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France to rename streets after African WW2 heroes

France’s armed forces ministry has provided local authorities with a guide to 100 Africans who fought for France in World War Two, so that streets and squares may be named after them.

France’s reappraisal of its colonial past is fuelled by the global anti-racism protests and Black Lives Matter.

There are many Senegalese and North African soldiers on the list, but none from what was French Indo-China.

Africans played a big role in the liberation of France in 1944.

French Junior Defence Minister Geneviève Darrieussecq, presenting the 210-page booklet, said “the names, faces, lives of these African heroes must become part of our lives as free citizens, because without them we would not be free”.

Last month a statue of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who drew up rules for French colonies in the 17th Century, was vandalised. Many statues identified with slavery and colonialism have been knocked down or vandalised in Europe and the US.

“Rather than knocking down, I ask you to build,” Ms Darrieussecq told mayors. “Rather than erasing, I ask you to consider turning our public spaces into places to teach.”

She said that “today very few of our streets are named after these African combatants, so the aim is to build”.

She said plaques should explain the role of an African war hero commemorated with a statue or street name.

In January, in the southern town of Bandol, a central square was named after five African soldiers who took part in the liberation.

More than 400,000 Africans in the Free French Forces took part in the Allies’ landings in the south of France in August 1944, codenamed Operation Dragoon. They were involved in heavy fighting to liberate Toulon and Marseille.

The landings were crucial to oust Nazi German forces from the south, while the Allies in northern France were pushing south, having landed in Normandy in June.

After the Nazi invasion of France in 1940 many Africans in French colonies volunteered for Gen Charles de Gaulle’s Free French Forces, though many were also drafted into service.

About 400,000 came from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, and more than 70,000 from Senegal and other sub-Saharan colonies.

At a ceremony last August commemorating Operation Dragoon, President Emmanuel Macron praised the Africans who made up more than 80% of the French landing forces. “Yet who among us today remembers their names, their faces?” he asked.

Sira Sylla, an MP campaigning to get due recognition of Africans’ contributions to modern France, welcomed the government initiative.

“Like it or not, their forefathers took part in the liberation of France. The history of our country and history of Africa are linked and it is urgent to spread that knowledge,” she said.

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Turkey's Erdogan heads to Qatar on first post-coronavirus trip

Turkish president to hold talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani during day-long official visit.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is heading to Qatar to meet Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, his first overseas trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement by Turkey’s Communications Directorate on Thursday said the leaders of the two “brotherly and friendly” nations would exchange views on regional and international issues.

Among the Turkish delegation accompanying the president in his day-long visit are Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and Communications Director Fahrettin Altun, Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and National Intelligence Organisation head Hakan Fidan.

Ankara and Doha have enjoyed strong relations, particularly since the Gulf crisis erupted on June 5, 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a blockade on Qatar and severed diplomatic relations.

The blockading countries stopped many vital exports to Qatar, including basic food supplies. To avoid potential food shortages, Turkey sent cargo planes full of essential food items to Qatar within less than 48 hours of the start of the blockade.

In 2016, when hundreds of people were killed in a failed coup in Turkey, the Qatari emir was the first world leader to call Erdogan and express support to his government.

The two countries have also strengthened military ties, with Turkey maintaining a military base in Qatar since 2015 – and the two sides’ armies carrying out joint military drills in recent years.

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Hot weather to linger in Denver

Hot weather will linger in Denver through the July 4th weekend and into next week, and another air quality alert has been issued for the Front Range.

The high temperatures in Denver will be 94 degrees on Thursday and Friday, with 91 on Saturday (Independence Day) and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service forecast.

An Ozone Action Day Alert has been posted for the Front Range through 4 p.m. Thursday, according to the Regional Air Quality Council. Areas most likely to reach the “unhealthy for sensitive groups” category on Thursday are the southwestern suburbs of Denver, northward along the foothills through Golden and Boulder, and north to the Fort Collins area. It’s the third day in a row for the alert.

There will be isolated, but strong to severe thunderstorms over the far northeast plains of Colorado late Thursday afternoon, the weather service said, with a threat of large hail and damaging winds. Also on Thursday, there’s a chance of isolated showers and weak storms over the mountains and foothills, with the main threat being gusty winds.

Skies over Denver will be sunny on Thursday, according to the weather service, with a 30% chance of afternoon showers and thunderstorms on Friday, and a 50% chance on July 4th.

Storm coverage and intensity will increase Friday through the weekend in northeastern Colorado and some Independence Day storms may produce heavy rainfall and localized flooding, the weather service said.

A string of 90-degree days continues in Denver next week, with a high temperature of 93 on Monday, 95 on Tuesday and 97 on Wednesday.

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Seattle police move in to clear protester-run zone

Police have moved in to clear crowds out of Seattle’s self-governed zone set up by protesters three weeks ago.

A number of people were arrested as heavily equipped officers swept into the area on Wednesday morning following an order by the city mayor.

The Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (Chop) zone was set up amid anger over the death in police custody of African American George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The self-policed protest has a Black Lives Matter mural and communal garden.

Mayor Jenny Durkan said that until now the authorities had “reasonably facilitated an ongoing exercise” of free speech and demonstration rights under the US constitution.

But she said those rights “do not require the city to provide limitless sanctuary to occupy city property, damage city and private property, obstruct the right of way or foster dangerous conditions”.

The mayor also mentioned recent shootings in the area that left two people dead.

President Donald Trump had demanded Washington state and Seattle take action to remove the protesters.

The area was initially known as Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (Chaz), and is in the city’s trendy arts district, which has been gentrified in recent years.

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Taiwan opens office to help Hong Kong asylum seekers

New office aims to provide assistance in work, education to people leaving Hong Kong because of safety fears.

Taiwan has set up an office to help people fleeing Hong Kong after China imposed new national security laws on the city that was rocked last year by months of pro-democracy protests.

The Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchange Office opened in the centre of Taipei on Wednesday, with senior minister Chen Ming-tong calling the project “an important milestone for the government to further support democracy and freedom in Hong Kong”.

The move comes on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule from Britain in 1997, with the promise of autonomy and freedoms under Beijing’s “one country, two systems” formula.

Taiwan, a self-governing island, shares with the Hong Kong protesters a deep antipathy for Beijing, which claims the island as its own and has not ruled out the use of force to achieve its objective. 

In May, President Tsai Ing-wen became the first government leader anywhere to pledge measures to help Hong Kong people who leave because of what they see as tightening Chinese controls.

Since pro-democracy protests began in Hong Kong last year, about 200 people have already fled to Taiwan, according to rights groups. Taiwanese officials are now gearing up for more asylum seekers with China’s enactment on Tuesday of a new security law that targets crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

Chen, head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which sets policy towards China, said the new office showcased the island’s determination to aid Hong Kong people.

‘Many calls’

He warned that Beijing aims to target people in other countries with the law, which covers permanent and non-permanent residents of Hong Kong.

“This not only targets residents in Hong Kong. It’s also an order issued by the Celestial Empire to people all over the world,” he added, referring to the Chinese government.

The law created an “opportunity” to win talent and capital from Hong Kong, Chen said, although authorities would “strictly scrutinise” whether Chinese money was involved.

“We also welcome multinational companies to move their headquarters here,” he said, adding that Taiwan was reviewing its rules.

Chen declined to say how many people are expected, or the number of applications received. His deputy, Chiu Chui-cheng, said the new office would have about 24 staff with 20 enquiry hotlines, and officials have already received “many calls”.

Those who come to Taiwan must do so legally, Chiu added.

Beijing denies stifling Hong Kong’s freedoms and has condemned Taiwan’s plans to help people there.

On Tuesday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said the new law would “cut off the black hand” of the island’s “meddling” in Hong Kong.

Zhu Fenglian, spokeswoman for the office, also warned Taiwan “that attempts to undermine China’s national sovereignty, security, development interests, and the prosperity and stability of [Hong Kong] will end in vain and suffer the consequences”.

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Germany’s elite force ‘to be partially disbanded’

Germany’s defence minister says she has ordered the partial dissolution of the elite KSK commando force, which has come under growing criticism over right-wing extremism in its ranks.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told a newspaper it had become partly independent of the chain of command.

In May, police seized explosives and weapons at the home of a KSK soldier.

In January, military intelligence said there were almost 600 suspected far-right supporters in the army last year.

They also said the KSK (Special Forces Command) was seen as a particular problem, with 20 members of the elite force suspected of right-wing extremism.

The KSK had “become partially independent” from the chain of command, with a “toxic leadership culture”, Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

The minister set up a working group in May to examine the problem, and the group presented a report on its findings on Tuesday.

The KSK “cannot continue to exist in its current form” and must be “better integrated into the Bundeswehr [German army]”, said the report, seen by the AFP news agency.

One of the force’s four companies, where extremism is said to be the most rife, will be dissolved and not replaced, the minister said.

“Anyone who turns out to be a right-wing extremist has no place in the Bundeswehr and must leave it,” she told German radio.

KSK operations will be moved to other units as far as possible, and it will not take part in international exercises and missions until further notice.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer said the latest findings – including the disappearance of 48,000 rounds of ammunition and 62kg (137lb) of explosives – as “disturbing” and “alarming”.

An internal investigation is due to determine whether those items were stolen or are missing due to sloppy bookkeeping.

The unit was founded in 1996, and has some 1,000 soldiers trained for crisis situations such as freeing hostages abroad, which had not been possible until then without assistance from other countries’ forces.

The military’s problem with far-right supporters emerged in 2017.

Inspections were ordered on all military barracks when Nazi-era memorabilia was found at two of them. Many of those suspected of far-right links are thought to be sympathetic to Germany’s main opposition AfD party.

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UN to call for $10bn aid for Syrians at virtual donor meeting

European Union to lead meeting of 60 governments, NGOs as UN seeks billions for Syrians and countries hosting refugees.

Governments are set to pledge billions of dollars in aid for Syrians at a virtual conference on Tuesday to help refugees enduring Syria’s ninth year of armed conflict, as the coronavirus and high food prices worsen the plight of millions.

This year, the United Nations is looking for almost $10bn for people in Syria and surrounding countries. It hopes much of that will come from the 60 governments and non-governmental agencies gathering by video link on Tuesday from 08:00 GMT. The European Union is hosting the event.

The pledging, now an annual event, breaks down into a UN appeal of $3.8bn for aid inside Syria and $6.04bn for countries hosting refugees. Only a fraction has been raised so far.

In a report last week, the EU said in 2019 donors contributed $10bn in grants to Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

“The needs have never been greater,” said Corinne Fleischer at the World Food Programme, a UN agency.

Virtual meeting

In Syria, more than 11 million people need aid and protection, the UN says, while 6.6 million have fled to neighbouring countries in the world’s largest refugee crisis.

Many Syrians face unprecedented hunger, with more than 9.3 million people lacking adequate food, while the country’s coronavirus outbreak could accelerate, the UN has said.

The combination of an economic slump and coronavirus lockdown measures have pushed food prices more than 200 percent higher in less than a year, according to the World Food Programme.

“The COVID-19 crisis has had an immediate and devastating impact on livelihoods of millions of Syrian refugees and their hosts in the region,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement.

However, money pledged is only what European officials call a sticking plaster to meet Syrians’ immediate needs.

Rebuilding destroyed cities is likely to take billions more dollars and cannot start until powers involved in the war back a peaceful transition away from the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the EU says.

It will be the eighth annual Syria pledging conference, and the fourth hosted by the EU, which estimates that it has donated approximately $23bn to Syria and the region over the years.

Beyond its economic impact, the coronavirus has also forced the conference to be held online.

The event is usually an important opportunity for officials to meet on the sidelines to discuss thorny issues and resolve problems, but officials worry that the virtual format might reduce the conference to a number-crunching exercise.

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US state moves to strip Confederate sign from flag

Politicians in the US state of Mississippi have taken a major step towards removing the Confederate emblem from the state flag.

On Saturday, both chambers of the Republican-led state congress voted to begin the process of changing the flag.

Mississippi is the last state in the US to feature the emblem on its flag.

The Confederate emblem is viewed by many as a racist symbol, with recent protests over the death of George Floyd reigniting debate over its use.

The flag was originally used by the slave-owning states who lost the US Civil War (1860-65).

The vote passed in both chambers of the Mississippi legislature: in the House of Representatives by a margin of 84-35, and then in the Senate by 36-14.

It means a bill to change the state flag can now be formally introduced. It is expected to be proposed on Sunday when the state congress is back in session, US media report.

A two-thirds majority was needed to begin the process. This was viewed as the biggest test because only a simple majority is needed to pass the final bill.

And in a major boost to the movement for change, Republican Governor Tate Reeves said that he would sign a bill to do so if it was approved in congress.

He had previously said that he would not veto a bill, but did not publicly back it.

The legislature has been deadlocked for days as it considers a new state flag. The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it.
If they send me a bill this weekend, I will sign it.

End of Twitter post by @tatereeves

“The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it,” he wrote on Twitter.

He added: “We should not be under any illusion that a vote in the Capitol is the end of what must be done – the job before us is to bring the state together.”

“I would never have thought that I would see the flag come down in my lifetime,” Democrat Barbara Blackmon, who is African-American, said on Saturday.

If the bill passes, a commission will design a new flag, to be be voted on in November.

Hundreds of statues dedicated to the Confederacy – the southern states which revolted against the US government – exist all throughout the US, and often serve as an reminder of the history of slavery and racial oppression in the US.

But the depth of feeling that followed the death of George Floyd has led to renewed demands for an end to institutional racism. In the US and other countries statues of controversial historical figures have either been pulled down or taken down.

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