Taxes on beverages, including beer, wine and cider, will be slashed in a move announced by Rishi Sunak during Wednesday’s budget.
The chancellor said that the UK’s alcohol tax system, whose roots go back to 1643, was “ outdated, complex and full of historical anomalies ” and that radical changes were only possible due to the UK’s departure. of the European Union.
The chancellor also announced a “service deduction” that cuts the tax on beverages served with dispensers, such as beer and cider, by 5%.
TEHRAN: Iran struggled on Wednesday to restart its gasoline distribution system after it was hit by an unprecedented cyberattack that security officials said was launched from abroad.
The unclaimed attack crippled the country’s system of government-issued electronic cards that motorists use to buy heavily subsidized fuel.
Long lines have formed outside gas stations, infuriating motorists in a country already facing tough economic sanctions for its nuclear dispute with major powers.
“Guys, can you tell me where we can get gasoline in the east, northeast or even north of Tehran?” asked a user on Twitter.
Of Iran’s 4,300 gas stations connected to the system, only 220 had been reconnected, Fatemeh Kahi, a spokesperson for the National Petroleum Products Distribution Company, told the official IRNA news agency on Wednesday.
However, he added, “almost 3,000 stations can distribute fuel offline, but at the opening price,” the rate that consumers must pay once they have exhausted their monthly subsidized fuel allowance.
Conservative news agency Fars on Tuesday linked the collapse to opponents ahead of the second anniversary of deadly protests sparked by a spike in gasoline prices.
Fars reported that “a campaign carried out by the counterrevolutionary media” before the anniversary of November 15, 2019 “reinforces the possibility of a cyberattack.”
On that date, two years ago, the announcement of a sudden spike in fuel prices sparked protests in dozens of places across the country.
It was Iran’s loudest eruption of public dissent in a decade.
China has insisted that Taiwan has no right to join the United Nations, after the United States increased tensions with a call for the democratic island to have a greater stake in the world body.
In a statement marking 50 years since the UN general assembly voted to seat Beijing and oust Taipei, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that he regretted that Taiwan had been increasingly excluded from the world stage. “As the international community faces an unprecedented number of complex and global issues, it is critical that all stakeholders help address these issues. This includes the 24 million people who live in Taiwan, ”he said.
“Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the UN system is not a political issue, but a pragmatic one. That is why we encourage all UN member states to join us in supporting Taiwan’s strong and meaningful engagement throughout the UN system and in the international community. “
China views Taiwan, to which nationalist forces fled in 1949 after losing a civil war to the Communists, to be a province that needs to be reunified, by force if necessary.
In response to Blinken’s statement, China emphasized its position that the government of Taiwan had no place on the global diplomatic stage. “Taiwan has no right to join the United Nations,” said Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office in Beijing. “The United Nations is an international governmental organization made up of sovereign states … Taiwan is part of China.”
The United States has long called for Taiwan’s inclusion in UN activities.
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu thanked the United States for its support: “We appreciate it very much,” he said. “We will continue to fight for our rights in international organizations.” He said the situation was “getting more dangerous” as China continued to send troops to the Taiwan Strait. “We are determined to defend ourselves,” Wu said.
The latest statement adds to the growing diplomatic rhetoric and military stance on Taiwan. China regularly sets records for its number of fighter jet flights near the island, and US President Joe Biden said last week on a televised forum that his country was ready to defend Taiwan from any Chinese invasion. Those comments were quickly softened by the White House amid warnings from China, continuing a strategy of ambiguity over whether the United States would intervene militarily if China attacked.
The United States changed recognition to Beijing in 1979, but Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act at the same time, requiring it to supply weapons to the island for self-defense.
Blinken reiterated Tuesday that the United States only recognizes Beijing. But he highlighted the democratic credentials of the island of 23 million people. “Taiwan has become a democratic success story,” he said. “We are among the many UN member states that view Taiwan as a valued partner and trusted friend.” Tsai Ing-wen, President of Taiwan, welcomed Blinken’s comments. “Grateful for the United States’ support in expanding Taiwan’s international engagement,” he said on Twitter. “We are ready to work with all like-minded partners to contribute our expertise in international organizations, mechanisms and events.”
LONDON: The United States on Wednesday asked Britain’s Supreme Court to overturn a judge’s decision that Julian Assange should not be sent to the United States to face espionage charges, promising that the WikiLeaks founder could serve any prison sentence. that you receive in your native Australia.
In January, a lower court judge rejected a US request to extradite Assange on charges of espionage for the publication of secret military documents by WikiLeaks a decade ago.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser denied the extradition on health grounds and said Assange would likely commit suicide if held in harsh prison conditions in the United States.
A US government attorney, James Lewis, argued Wednesday that the judge was wrong in concluding that Assange’s mental health was too fragile to withstand the US judicial system.
Assange “has no history of serious and lasting mental illness” and falls short of the threshold of being so ill that he cannot resist harming himself, the lawyer said.
Lewis said that the US authorities had promised that Assange would not be detained before trial in a maximum security “Supermax” prison or subjected to strict conditions of solitary confinement, and that if found guilty he would be allowed to serve his sentence in Australia.
Lewis said the guarantees “are binding on the United States.”
“Once there is a guarantee of adequate medical care, once it is clear that you will be repatriated to Australia to serve any sentence, then we can safely say that the district judge would not have decided the relevant issue the way he did. “, said. said.
Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said in a written communication that Australia had not agreed to accept Assange if found guilty. Even if Australia agrees, Fitzgerald said the US legal process could take a decade, “during which time Assange will be held in extreme isolation in a US prison.”
He accused American lawyers of trying to “minimize the severity of Assange’s mental disorder and risk of suicide.”
Assange, who is being held at London’s Belmarsh High Security Prison, was expected to attend the two-day hearing via video link, but Fitzgerald said Assange had received a high dose of medication and “does not feel capable. to attend “. the procedures. ”
Assange later appeared on the video link at times during the day, sitting at a table in a prison room, wearing a black mask.
Several dozen pro-Assange protesters staged a boisterous rally outside London’s neo-Gothic Royal Courts of Justice throughout the day, calling the prosecution politically motivated and demanding that he withdraw.
The protesters included Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who said the Assange case “relates to our society, it relates to our freedom of expression, it relates to our individual human rights and we have to monitor the government.”
The two judges hearing the appeal, one being England’s highest ranking judge, Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, are not expected to give their ruling for several weeks. However, that is not likely to end the epic legal saga, as the losing side could appeal to the UK High Court.
US prosecutors have singled out Assange on 17 counts of espionage and one count of computer misuse for WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison, although Lewis said “the longest sentence ever imposed for this crime is 63 months.”
US prosecutors say Assange illegally aided US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in stealing classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later released.
Assange’s lawyers argue that he was acting as a journalist and that he is entitled to First Amendment freedom of expression protection for publishing documents exposing US military irregularities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In his January ruling, Baraitser rejected defense arguments that Assange faces a politically motivated US prosecution that would overturn free speech protections, and said the US judicial system would give him a fair trial.
WikiLeaks supporters say witness testimony during the extradition hearing that Assange was spied on while at the embassy by a Spanish security firm at the behest of the CIA, and that there was even talk of kidnapping or killing him, undermines the claims. of the United States of which it will be treated. equitably.
Assange, 50, has been in prison since he was arrested in April 2019 for missing bail during a separate legal battle. Before that, he spent seven years in hiding inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, from where he fled in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual assault.
Sweden dropped the sex crime investigations in November 2019 because a long time had passed. The judge who blocked the extradition in January ordered that he remain in detention during any US appeal, and ruled that the Australian citizen “has an incentive to escape” if released.
Outside court, Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, said she was “very concerned about Julian’s health” and said it was “completely unthinkable that UK courts would be able to agree” to extradition.
“I hope the courts put an end to this nightmare, that Julian can come home soon and that the wise men prevail,” he said.
The United States has issued its first passport with an “X” gender designation, a milestone in recognizing the rights of people who do not identify as male or female, and hopes to be able to offer the option more broadly next year. the state department said Wednesday.
The US special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights Jessica Stern called the movements historic and celebratory, saying they aligned government documents with the “lived reality” that there is a broader spectrum of sexual characteristics. human than the one reflected in the previous two. designations.
“When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect,” Stern said.
The department did not announce who the passport was issued to. A department official declined to say if it was because of Dana Zzyym, an intersex Colorado resident who has been in a legal battle with the department since 2015, and said the department does not typically discuss individual passport applications due to privacy concerns. .
Zzyym (pronounced Zimm) was denied a passport for failing to verify the man or woman on an application. According to court documents, Zzyym wrote “intersex” above the boxes marked “M” and “F” and requested a gender marker “X” in a separate letter.
Zzyym was born with ambiguous physical sexual characteristics, but was raised as a boy and underwent several surgeries that failed to make Zzyym appear fully male, according to court documents.
Zzyym served in the navy as a male, but later identified as intersex while working and studying at Colorado State University. The denial of Zzyym’s passport by the department prevented Zzyym from traveling to a meeting of the International Intersex Organization in Mexico.
The state department announced in June that it was moving toward adding a third gender marker for non-binary, intersex and gender non-conforming people, but said it would take time.
A department official said the completed passport application and the system update with the “X” designation option still need to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget.
The department now also allows applicants to self-select their gender, without requiring further medical certification if their gender does not match what is listed on their other identification documents.
The United States joins a handful of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Nepal and Canada, in allowing its citizens to designate a gender other than male or female on their passports.
CANBERRA: Australia’s opposition party said on Wednesday imminent elections will be held on greenhouse gas reduction targets, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison is criticized by scientists for the modest goals he will lead to a climate summit of the UN.
Morrison has had no room to advance Australia’s 2030 reduction target under an agreement reached this week with his rural-based Conservative government’s junior coalition partner, the Nationals party.
The Nationals agreed to support the ruling Liberal Party’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050 in exchange for Australia sticking to its 6-year goal of cutting emissions 26-28% below 2005 levels by the end. of the decade.
The Nationals, once a farmers’ party that has increasingly become an advocate for the fossil fuel industries, has exerted its influence on Morrison when UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lamented that a “leadership gap “It was undermining the world’s efforts to curb global warming.
Center-left opposition Labor Party spokesman on climate change and energy Chris Bowen said competing climate policies would become a battle line in the upcoming elections, due to be held in May.
“There will be a contest on the weather in the next election,” Bowen told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“Scott Morrison has said for weeks that we could try to get bipartisanship. Clearly, he has no policy that appeals to bipartisanship, “Bowen added.
Morrison said the upcoming election would provide “a clear choice about who people trust the right economic plan” to achieve net zero.
Morrison said he will take to the summit known as COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, projections that Australia will cut its emissions by 35% by 2030, surpassing his government’s modest targets.
Climate scientists note that this reduction would be achieved almost entirely by Australian state and territorial governments that have committed to their own net zero targets.
Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of coal and liquefied natural gas. Those exports would continue under a plan outlined by Morrison that would protect jobs and reach net zero through technology without making polluters pay.
Lesley Hughes, an Australian scholar and former lead author of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment reports in 2007 and 2015, described Australia’s ambitions for 2030 as “one of the weakest targets in the developed world.” “Frankly, if this weren’t such a serious matter for life on earth, I’d say it’s a joke,” Hughes said, referring to Morrison’s net zero plan.
“The government has had eight years to come up with a plan, but nothing in the plan indicates a serious move away from the fossil fuels that got us into this problem in the first place,” he added.
Since the conservative coalition was first elected in 2013, the government’s policies had been to delay action on climate change, he said.
Morrison was a cabinet minister in 2014 when a newly elected government repealed Australia’s 2-year carbon tax. Since then, the government’s climate policies have rejected any measure that makes polluters pay for their emissions.
Morrison’s government was narrowly re-elected in 2019 with strong support from voters in the coal-rich state of Queensland.
Morrison had gone to the election with the 2030 reduction target that he had adopted in 2015 at the Paris climate summit. Labor had promised a 45% target, which the government said would ruin the economy.
The government also rejected Labor’s longer-term goal, which is now bilaterally backed: net zero by 2050.
The Australian Election Study, which has surveyed voters after every election since 1987, found that voters’ concern for the environment was greatest during the 2019 poll.
Labor wants to see what decisions are made in Glasgow before announcing its new 2030 targets.
The government has yet to publish the model on which its net zero plan is based.
Ian McAllister, a political scientist at the Australian National University and co-author of the Australian Elections Study report on the latest elections, said the environment was gaining prominence as an electoral issue.
“Bowen is probably right that there is a pent-up demand for action on climate change,” McAllister said.
“The coalition has always had a consistent economic management advantage over the workforce. So if the problem arises of how we economically manage this transition to sustainable resources, then the coalition will gain an advantage, ”he said.
“If you consider it to be primarily uneconomic, then I would have thought that Labor has a good chance of winning that issue,” he added.
Joe Biden met with centrist Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema last night, confirmed the White House.
A White House official told reporters: “The President received Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema at the White House yesterday to continue their negotiations on the Build Back Better Act and how we can grow our economy in a way that restores the middle class inside and gives them room to breathe.
“All three made progress on top of what has been accomplished in recent days, and they look forward to the next steps so that we can equip Americans for high-paying jobs, make historic investments to make health care and child care more affordable for American families, and tackling climate change. “
According to Axios, Manchin and Sinema are now at odds over a proposed multi-million dollar tax to help pay for the reconciliation bill, with Manchin against the idea and Sinema backing it.
Kyle Vass reports from West Virginia:
the rise of Joe manchin as a key player in Democratic policymaking in 2021 is the result of a perfect storm for the US Senator from West Virginia.
His position as the most conservative Democrat in the Senate means that he often has the final say on what his party is capable of pushing forward, especially when it comes to Joe bidenambitious national agenda on infrastructure, far-reaching social policies and a powerful attempt to tackle the climate crisis.
A walk through the West Virginia countryside, which is still enthusiastic Donald trump country: reveals a mosaic of communities hit by the climate crisis and barely united by the deterioration of infrastructure.
Yet Manchin, who is resisting the $ 3.5 trillion price tag of Biden’s reconciliation bill, is busy trying to eliminate many of the policies that would attempt to address these crises that are so seriously affecting so many of his West Virginia peers. .
Read the full Guardian report:
Joe manchin is pulling another wrench Democrats‘Negotiations on the reconciliation package: The centrist senator has raised concerns about the proposed multi-million dollar tax to help pay for the legislation.
The senator’s doubts reveal an uncomfortable truth for the White House and Congressional leaders as they rush to finish – and pay for – their nearly $ 2 trillion social spending and climate package – a fiscal solution designed to satisfy the senator. Kyrsten sinema (D-Ariz.) Not necessarily acceptable to Manchin.
The billionaires tax took effect over the weekend because Sinema, a fellow moderate and key negotiator, signaled her opposition to corporate, personal and capital gains tax increases. Manchin’s possible opposition to the billionaire tax proposal would put a $ 200 billion to $ 250 billion hole in Democrats’ plans for new revenue.
Manchin had indicated that he was waiting to see the text of the proposal, which was released this morning, before making a decision about the billionaires tax.
But if you veto the idea, it could jeopardize Joe bidenThe repeated claim that the bill is fully paid for, which has become a major selling point among centrist members of the Democratic caucus in Congress.
Democrats race to finalize spending package ahead of Cop26
Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.
Joe biden will leave for Europe tomorrow, and Democrats they are racing to agree on their reconciliation package before the president leaves.
Democrats have expressed confidence that they are closing in on a deal, but many questions remain about key elements of the bill, including climate initiatives and a national paid family leave program.
Several progressives have raised concerns about the expected cuts to climate provisions in the bill, which have been demanded by the centrist senator. Joe Manchin.
If Biden comes to the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow next week after failing to pass meaningful climate legislation in his own country, it could damage his credibility on the world stage.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, the White House press secretary Jen psaki He acknowledged that Biden would prefer to go to Europe with a deal.
“But it is also important to note that we have made a significant amount of progress and are almost there,” added Psaki.
“We are all about to pass a bill that is the largest investment to address the climate crisis in history. And of course world leaders take note of that as well. “
The blog will have more coming soon, so stay tuned.
GENEVA: The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on employment has been harsher than expected and a worrying two-speed recovery is emerging between the richest and poorest nations, the International Labor Organization warned on Wednesday. UN.
“The current trajectory of labor markets is one of stagnant recovery, with the emergence of significant downside risks and wide divergence between developed and developing economies,” said ILO Director Guy Ryder.
“Dramatically, uneven vaccine distribution and fiscal capacities are driving these trends, and both must be urgently addressed.”
The ILO projected that global hours worked in 2021 will be 4.3 percent lower than the levels of the fourth quarter of 2019, before the outbreak of the pandemic.
That equaled 125 million full-time jobs.
In June, the ILO had projected a decrease of 3.5 percent, or 100 million full-time jobs.
High-income countries fared better, suffering a 3.6 percent decline in total hours worked in the third quarter of this year, the ILO calculated.
That compares with falls of 5.7 percent for low-income countries and 7.3 percent for lower-middle-income countries.
By region, Europe and Central Asia saw the least loss of hours worked, and the Arab states the largest, with the divergence driven largely by large differences in vaccine deployment and fiscal stimulus packages, according to the report.
The ILO also found that young people, especially young women, are among those most affected by the employment impact of the pandemic.
The ILO estimates that if low-income countries had better access to vaccines, the recovery in working hours would reach the richest economies by just over a quarter.
It was estimated that for every 14 people fully vaccinated in the second quarter of this year, a full-time equivalent job was added to the global job market.
As of early October, 59.8 percent of people were fully vaccinated in high-income countries, compared to just 1.6 percent in low-income countries, according to the ILO.
Ryder told a news conference that the future outlook appeared “weak and uncertain,” and the fourth quarter of 2021 is expected to see only a modest recovery in working hours.
Major downside risks on the horizon include energy prices, inflation and debt overhang, while in low- and middle-income countries, fiscal constraints are expected to further hamper progress.
Taxes on beverages, including beer, wine and cider, will be slashed after the chancellor announced the most sweeping alcohol tax changes in memory.
In announcing the measure, Rishi Sunak, who is a teetotaler, said that the UK’s alcohol tax system, whose roots go back to 1643, was “outdated, complex and full of historical anomalies.”
Sunak described the five-point plan, which will take effect in 2023, as the largest alcohol tax overhaul in 140 years and claimed the changes had been made possible by the UK’s exit from the European Union.
In a move that he said would help pubs struggling with the pandemic, the chancellor also announced a “service relief,” reducing the tax on beverages served from dispensers, such as beer and cider, by 5%. The plan, which is estimated to cost the Treasury £ 100 million a year, will cut the cost of a pint of beer by 3 pence.
Stock prices in pub companies rose immediately after Sunak spoke, with JD Wetherspoons gaining nearly 6%, Mitchells & Butlers 3.8% and City Pub Group 2.3%.
More immediately, an increase in alcohol taxes due to take effect from midnight on Wednesday will be canceled at a cost of £ 3 billion.
The broader change in the five-point plan for alcohol taxes implies, according to Sunak, a “radical simplification”, according to which the number of bands in which different tariffs are imposed will be reduced from 15 to six.
The drinks will be taxed based on the amount of alcohol they contain, a measure that the chancellor said was aimed at promoting healthier options.
But the promise was accompanied by a significant overall reduction in alcohol taxes. Sunak also lowered taxes on sparkling wines like prosecco, pointing to an increase in the number of people who drink them, which he said shows they are no longer elitist.
The move would help English winemakers, he said, because they typically make sparkling wines and lower-concentration wines.
Small brewers already enjoy tax relief, a measure that was introduced when Gordon Brown was chancellor and is credited with sparking a revolution in craft beer.
Sunak announced a “relief to small producers” that would boost companies that make cider with a strength of less than 8.5%.
ABUJA: Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said 12 million children are afraid to go to school in the country, where jihadists and heavily armed criminals have kidnapped hundreds of students for ransom.
The first mass kidnapping from a school in Africa’s most populous nation took place in the northeast in 2014, when jihadists from Boko Haram abducted 276 Chibok girls, sparking a global campaign called #BringBackOurGirls.
Since then, attacks on schools “have increased in number and spread across the northern part of the country,” Buhari said, addressing a conference on education security in the capital Abuja on Tuesday.
Gunmen in northwestern and central Nigeria have increasingly attacked schools and kidnapped more than 1,000 students since December.
As a result, Buhari said, “there are more than 12 million children currently traumatized and fearful of going to school.” Girls were particularly affected, he added.
Girls who drop out of school early are at risk of being married, experts warn.
Save the Children said earlier this month that “an estimated 44 percent of girls in Nigeria marry before their 18th birthday, one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world.”
Most of the kidnapped students are released after negotiations with their captors.
But “even when the abducted students are released,” Buhari said, “the trauma of the incidents lingers on their minds for a long time.”
The retired general, first elected in 2015, said the government was “highly committed to prioritizing safety in schools.”
“We have identified and put in place mechanisms … to ensure the safety of schools in Nigeria,” he said.
But “these security challenges and their effects have been difficult to deal with,” the 78-year-old added.
Military operations are underway across the country, but security forces are often described as overloaded and overwhelmed.