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UK coronavirus live: Matt Hancock defends appointment of Dido Harding to lead new health body | UK news


The most obvious next priority is to secure the right and best future for all those other responsibilities of PHE that are not about health protection and I can assure everyone that there will be more on this to follow soon.

It has been the honour and privilege of my career over 41 years to lead PHE and I want to convey my heartfelt thanks to my colleagues for the remarkable contribution each has made to protecting and improving the public’s health over our eight years together.

I have been immensely proud of what we do under intense public and political scrutiny, always with professionalism and dignity and with the values that matter the most: decency, kindness and respect.

I wish Baroness Harding as the chair of this new organisation and the transition every success, and I know everyone will be delighted to hear that Michael Brodie will be returning as the interim chief executive officer to PHE, from tomorrow pending the appointment of a new leadership team.



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Iran defends its virus response, citing economic concerns


TEHRAN, IRAN —
Iran’s president on Sunday lashed out at criticism of the country’s lagging response to the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, saying the government has to weigh economic concerns as it takes measures to contain the pandemic.

Hassan Rouhani said authorities had to consider the effect of mass quarantine efforts on Iran’s beleaguered economy, which is under heavy U.S. sanctions. It’s a dilemma playing out across the globe, as leaders struggle to strike a balance between restricting human contact and keeping their economies from crashing.

“Health is a principle for us, but the production and security of society is also a principle for us,” Rouhani said at a Cabinet meeting. “We must put these principles together to reach a final decision.”

“This is not the time to gather followers,” he added. “This is not a time for political war.”

Even before the pandemic, Rouhani was under fire for the unraveling of the 2015 nuclear deal he concluded with the United States and other world powers. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement and has imposed crippling sanctions on Iran that prevent it from selling oil on international markets. Iran has rejected U.S. offers of humanitarian aid.

State TV on Sunday reported another 123 deaths, pushing Iran’s overall toll to 2,640 amid 38,309 confirmed cases.

Most people suffer only minor symptoms, such as fever and coughing, and recover within a few weeks. But the virus can cause severe illness and death, especially in elderly patients or those with underlying health problems. It is highly contagious, and can be spread by those showing no symptoms.

In recent days, Iran has ordered the closure of nonessential businesses and banned travel between cities. But those measures came long after other countries in the region imposed more sweeping lockdowns. Many Iranians are still flouting orders to stay home in what could reflect widespread distrust of authorities.

Iran has urged the international community to lift sanctions and is seeking a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Elsewhere in the region, Qatar reported its first death from the new coronavirus late Saturday, saying the total number of reported cases there was at least 590.

The tiny, energy-rich nation said it flew 31 Bahrainis stranded in Iran into Doha on a state-run Qatar Airways flight. But since Bahrain is one of four Arab countries that have been boycotting Qatar in a political dispute since 2017, Doha said it could not fly the 31 onward to the island kingdom.

“Bahraini officials have said they will send a flight for them at some undefined point in the future,” the Qatari government said in a statement.

Bahrain said it planned a flight Sunday to pick up the stranded passengers. The kingdom said it had its own repatriation flights scheduled for those still stuck in Iran and warned Qatar that it “should stop interfering with these flights.”

In Egypt, at least 1,200 Sudanese are stranded at the border after Sudan closed all its crossings, according to Egyptian officials at one of the crossings. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.

Sudan, which is still reeling from the uprising that toppled President Omar al-Bashir last year, has five confirmed cases, including one fatality. It’s one of several countries in the region where the health care system has been degraded by years of war and sanctions. Authorities closed the borders to prevent any further spread.

Sudan’s Information Minister Faisal Saleh said Sudanese authorities are looking for lodging in Egypt for the stranded passengers. He said authorities have quarantined at least 160 undocumented migrants who were sent into Sudan from war-torn Libya earlier this month.

Residents in Egypt’s southern city of Luxor say they are providing shelter to the stranded Sudanese.

“We have provided food and medicine to the Sudanese brothers,” said Mahmoud Abdel-Rahim, a local farmer. “People hosted women, children and elders in their homes.”

Egypt, which has reported 576 cases and 36 fatalities, imposed restrictions on cash deposits and withdrawals to prevent crowding at banks as payrolls and pensions are disbursed. Authorities began imposing a nighttime curfew last week.

——

Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Samy Magdy in Cairo and Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem contributed.



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Emboldened, Trump defends right to interfere in criminal cases


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he has “the legal right” to interfere in criminal cases, capping a tumultuous week that raised questions about whether he is eroding the independence of the U.S. legal system.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump listens to questions while meeting with Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Photo

Trump’s criticism of the judge, jury and prosecutors in the criminal case of his longtime adviser Roger Stone prompted an unusual rebuke from Attorney General William Barr, his top law enforcement official and has spurred new demands for investigation from the Democrats who unsuccessfully tried to remove the Republican president from office.

It is the latest in a string of aggressive actions by Trump since the Republican-controlled Senate acquitted him of impeachment charges last week.

Trump has transferred or fired government officials who testified about his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate a potential political rival in November’s presidential election.

He also dropped his nomination of former U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu, who oversaw the Stone case, for another government post in the Treasury Department.

Sources close to the president said Trump has a greater sense of freedom in the wake of his Senate acquittal.

“You have to remember, he’s not ‘of’ government. He gets frustrated when people tell him something can’t get done. He’s like: ‘Just get it done,’” said one administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Barr said on Thursday that Trump’s attacks made it “impossible” for him to do his job leading the Justice Department, telling ABC News in an interview: “It’s time to stop the tweeting.”

Trump “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” Barr added.

The president responded on Friday morning. “This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!” he wrote on Twitter.

Administration officials said Barr did not clear his remarks with Trump. They said Trump shrugged them off when told about them by aides.

‘FARTHER THAN NIXON’

Trump’s insistence that he has the right to interfere in criminal cases runs counter to the practice of previous U.S. presidents, who have generally kept an arms-length distance from the Justice Department since the Watergate scandal of the 1970s that led then-President Richard Nixon to resign from office.

“Trump goes farther than Nixon, though. He’s proud to openly corrupt the justice system and use it to target his enemies and protect his friends,” Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said in a prepared statement.

Trump’s running commentary on the Stone case calls into question whether Barr can oversee U.S. law enforcement in an independent manner, said Bruce Green, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches at Fordham School of Law.

“Given the sequence of events, it’s doubtful that Barr’s effort to distance himself from the President’s tweets will be enough of a cure. He’ll have to keep working to rebuild public confidence,” Green told Reuters.

Barr has been an outspoken defender of the president and has aggressively sought to implement his agenda, frequently drawing charges from Democrats and former Justice Department officials that he is politicizing the rule of law.

The Justice Department on Tuesday asked for a lighter sentence for Stone, scaling back prosecutors’ initial request that he serve 7 to 9 years after being found guilty of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. That prompted all four prosecutors to resign from the case in apparent protest.

Barr has also ordered an investigation into the Obama administration’s activities in 2016 as it examined possible ties between Moscow and the Trump campaign, and has gone after states and cities that have defied his hard-line immigration policies.

Barr’s Justice Department sought to quash the whistleblower complaint about Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, which led to the president’s impeachment.

He confirmed earlier this week that the department is taking evidence from Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has been seeking information in Ukraine about Biden.

Democrats who control the House of Representatives called for Barr to testify next month over the matter and asked the department’s watchdog to investigate but have little other recourse.

Like Barr, Trump’s Republican allies in Congress have said they wish he would be less outspoken on Twitter, even as they have consistently defended his actions.

The Senate on Thursday sought to impose some restrictions on Trump, voting to limit his ability to wage war with Iran and questioning whether one of his nominees is qualified to serve on the board of the Federal Reserve.

Meanwhile, the president has moved to rebuild his staff with those he sees as loyalists, including former communication director Hope Hicks, who worked closely with Trump in his business before serving as his 2016 campaign press secretary.

He also rehired his former personal assistant Johnny McEntee to lead his personnel office, who sources say will be tasked with ensuring that new hires are loyal to the president.

Trump is about to launch a week of re-election activities, starting with a fundraising dinner on Saturday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

On Sunday, he will seek to appeal to blue-collar voters by attending the Daytona 500 NASCAR race, where he will be named the grand marshal, the first president to have that distinction.

On Tuesday he goes on a three-day swing through California, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado.

Additional reporting by Susan Heavey and Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Andy Sullivan and Alistair Bell

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Mayor defends Vernon’s 4.9% tax increase in 2020 budget – Okanagan


Many city councils have been crunching the numbers for their 2020 budgets, and in Vernon, the result is a significant tax increase.

Vernon rate payers will be levied almost 4.9 per cent more next year.

However, the city’s mayor is defending the tax hike, saying the money will translate into extra services.


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“It is really quite a level budget matching inflation,” Mayor Victor Cumming said.

“The only difference we’ve really done is added these extra services in fire, in safety and in recreation.”






Central Okanagan Public School releases first survey results from transportation review


Central Okanagan Public School releases first survey results from transportation review

Along with extra funding for bylaw and recreation staffing, the 2020 budget will see the city continuing with an infrastructure catch-up program to make up for Vernon’s lack of investment in replacing aging equipment in the past.

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Vernon is currently eight years into what is expected to be a 10-year catch-up program, which the mayor said is already paying off.


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“We are spending less on emergency maintenance every year because we are catching up to basic maintenance and basic replacement,” Cumming said.

The budget also includes money to staff Vernon’s second fire hall in the landing area nearly 24/7 for faster response times.

During a pilot project for staffing that fire hall, Cumming said, crews had quicker response times in the western part of the city and faster response times for backup crews.


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“We ran a pilot last year,” the mayor explained. “We discovered that we got quicker access to any kind of issue on the west part of the city.

“We also got a really much better backup when we send firemen to a situation — we had much faster backup.”

After Vernon was plagued by dust advisories when the snow melted last year, the city is also planning to spend roughly $350,000 on a vacuum street sweeper in an effort to improve air quality.

“If anybody’s seen our street cleaners, there is a bit of a cloud of dust around them,” Cumming said.

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“We are hoping to eliminate that and clean the streets faster and clean them more thoroughly.”


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Exactly how the tax increase will be divided up among residential, commercial and industrial rate players won’t be decided till the new year.






Vernon mayor Victor Cumming speaks on development near heron rookery


Vernon mayor Victor Cumming speaks on development near heron rookery




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