Author: GETAWAYTHEBERKSHIRES

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Saudi Arabia’s mass executions are “utterly unacceptable” and “repulsive” for the UK, but it less concerned when it comes to the ongoing arms sales to Riyadh, which continues its military campaign in the impoverished Yemen.

Joining the outrage from the UN, the Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan has issued a strong condemnation of the Saudi kingdom which has just executed 37 people, mostly Shia Muslims. The executions, during which one of them was crucified, were “repulsive” and “utterly unacceptable in the modern world,” Duncan told the House of Commons.

On its part, the EU’s foreign affairs service doubted that the right to a fair trial is respected in Saudi Arabia and said the gravity of the charges made against some convicts was also open to question.

In all, this is not the first time world powers have criticized the human rights record of the Gulf monarchy.

A number of Western states have tried to reprimand Saudi Arabia over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the detention of opposition activists, but they were generally not so outspoken about selling sophisticated weapons systems to the Gulf Kingdom.

The US is Riyadh’s primary vendor of weapons, followed by the UK, Canada, Spain and other nations across Europe. The UK alone has already licensed $6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the bombardment of neighboring Yemen began in 2015.

Earlier in April, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) filed a lawsuit against the UK government, questioning the legality of its continued arms sales to the Saudis. The practice must be stopped as British-made jets and bombs have been contributing to a brutal military campaign, which saw 10,000 people killed in Yemen and created a “humanitarian catastrophe,” the group argued.

But London shows no sign of giving in to the demands and even condemns its allies for refusing to fuel the Saudi war machine. A few months ago, UK’s Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that he was “very concerned about the impact” from the German decision to cancel arms sales to Riyadh and warned that it would cost Berlin around €2.3 billion ($2.5bn) by 2026.

Likewise, France put renewed pressure on Germany to drop its restrictions, with Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire saying, “it is useless to produce weapons through improved cooperation between France and Germany if we are unable to export them.”

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Kim Jong-un spoke about his country’s “strength” as he exchanged weapons as presents with Vladimir Putin during their first-ever meeting in Vladivostok on Thursday.

The Russian president led his North Korean counterpart through the traditional gift-giving ceremony that accompanies landmark international summits, first offering him a set of handmade gilded glasses.

But the highlight was a Russian curved saber that Putin unsheathed as he offered it to the North Korean leader.

As is customary when gifting blades, to avoid bad luck the Russian president included a coin with the sword, which Kim then paid back to him.

Kim Jong-un then did the reverse, apresenting a traditional straight Korean sword to the Russian president, with a coin of his own.

“It represents strength, it represents the soul – mine and that of our people, who support you,” said the North Korean leader.

Putin and Kim spent twice the allotted time during their face-to-face in the Russian Far East, in what was the first ever face-to-face meeting between the two leaders ever.

Pakistani PM Imran Khan minced no words while calling his political opponent ‘madam,’ but the remark didn’t sit well with local netizens who accused their premier of sexism and misogyny.

Imran Khan unloaded on Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), while speaking to a crowd of supporters on Wednesday.

Khan, a former cricket player, apparently tried to add insult to injury as he accentuated Bhutto’s privileged background. The PPP chairman was born to a family of former President Asif Ali Zardari and murdered ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Before joining Pakistani politics, Bhutto preferred to keep a low profile, focusing on finishing his history degree at Oxford University. This year, the 29-year-old politician is running for parliament for the first time.

Footage of Khan attacking Bhutto spread quickly on social media, stirring up quite a backlash.

Some slammed the “poor and misogynist” remark while others even went as far as to call it “fascist.”

As the day progressed, Khawaja Asif, a former defense minister, also joined the online brawl, claiming the jibe represented Khan’s “real language.”

Bhutto himself responded to the insult later in the day, writing, “What was that about small men in big offices?”

However, some netizens gave Khan the benefit of the doubt, arguing it was simply a slip of the tongue.

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China had to deploy navy ships to escort off a French vessel which “illegally” entered the Taiwan Strait, the country’s defense ministry said.

“China’s military sent navy ships in accordance with the law to identify the French ship and warn it to leave,” defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said.

The official did not specify the vessel but it was believed to be the frigate Vendemiaire. The French warship passed through the narrow waterway between China and Taiwan on April 6 in a rare move by a vessel of the European country, Reuters reported earlier.

Following the incident, China revoked France’s invitation to the parade marking the 70th anniversary of the country’s Navy, the agency’s sources said.

The display of force, held on Tuesday, featured 32 vessels of the Chinese naval forces including an aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and the latest nuclear submarines. Warships from several countries took part in the event, including Russia, India, Japan, Australia, and the Philippines.

The French frigate was also expected to join the parade but did not show up, without an explanation from either side. Meanwhile, a source close to the French Ministry of Defense told Reuters that their Navy transits ships through the Taiwan Strait “on average once a year without incident or reaction.”

NATO ships navigating through the strait between mainland China and the self-ruled island has been a source of tension with Beijing for quite a while. The latest incident occurred in late March as the US Navy destroyer Curtis Wilbur and the Coast Guard cutter Bertholf sailed through the strategic passage.

China, which regards Taiwan as its territory filed a formal protest following the move which has become the third of its kind in 2019. Beijing also urged Washington to handle Taiwan-related issues cautiously, while the US considers the Taiwan Strait an international waterway.

Vladimir Putin said North Korea will give up nuclear weapons, but fears for its security if it does so, and added he was prepared to share the results of his landmark meeting with Kim Jong-un with Donald Trump.

“I got the impression that Kim Jong-un is interested in denuclearization, all North Korea needs is guarantees of its security and sovereignty,” the Russian president said during the press conference in the aftermath of his talks with the North Korean leader in Vladivostok which ran hours over the allotted time.

Putin insisted that the only means for such guarantees is to ensure that international law triumphs over “rule of strength,” though noted that it was too early for specifics on how the denuclearization process would be structured.

Saying that Russia and the US are both against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – much as they may argue about the methods – Putin revealed he was open to relaying the content of his talks to Donald Trump.

Putin, who had previously met Kim’s father Kim Jong-il during a similar summit back in 2002, described the current North Korean leader as “interesting to talk to” and “ready to discuss any subject freely.”

But asked if Kim is ready to make more concessions after his last talks with Trump ended in a stalemate, Putin said: “I believe there is no other way, but what he is or isn’t ready to give up – you have to ask him that.”

North Korea did not issue a statement or send a representative after the two-way talks in Russia. Nonetheless, Putin spoke warmly of opportunities for economic cooperation with North Korea. He also urged South Korea to act with more independence from the United States in reaching out to Pyongyang.

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Shocking footage of a passenger plane shooting flames out of its engine, accompanied by terrifying thunderous bangs, has emerged online.

The plane’s engine caught fire shortly after takeoff from Barcelona in Spain. The flight was run by Israeli airline Arkia, who rented the plane from Italian company Neos, and was bound for Tel Aviv before the flight crew was forced to turn the plane around.

No injuries were reported but footage of worried passengers on board the aircraft was also shared shortly after the incident.

An emergency was immediately declared and the aircraft maintained an altitude of 3,000ft before landing safely just 30 minutes after the initial takeoff.

The Boeing 767 was reportedly 23 years old and had recently completed a flight from Thailand.

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Canada’s privacy watchdog has decried Facebook’s attitude to a yearlong probe into abuse of user data as “extremely concerning.” The tech giant was found to have egregiously violated Canadian privacy laws.

The probe was launched in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal in which the political consultancy group purchased user information obtained via a Facebook app called ‘This Is Your Digital Life’.

“The stark contradiction between Facebook’s public promises to mend its ways on privacy and its refusal to address the serious problems we’ve identified — or even acknowledge that it broke the law — is extremely concerning,” Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said in a statement Thursday. Therrien also vowed to take the social media giant to court for failing to assume responsibility for citizens’ data.

Specifically, Therrien found that Facebook had “failed to obtain valid and meaningful consent of installing users… [and] to obtain meaningful consent from friends of installing users.” This information, derived from social media personality quizzes was later used by third-parties for “targeted political messaging.”

Furthermore, the watchdog found that Facebook had not put adequate safeguards for user data in place. It also employed “overbroad and conflicting language in its privacy communications” that did not effectively convey the extent to which user information might be harvested or used, and the potential length of time such data might be collected or passed on to third parties for unknown purposes, the commissioner’s office said.

“The sum of these measures resulted in a privacy protection framework that was empty,” the watchdog stated.

Facebook is yet to comment on the probe’s findings.

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The World Jewish Congress has condemned as anti-Semitic a tradition upheld by a small Polish town, which involves beating and burning an effigy of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus Christ.

A video showing this year’s celebration of a dubious local tradition in Poland was published by a local news website ekspresjaroslawski.pl and drew international attention. The World Jewish Congress has condemned it in a statement on Sunday.

“Jews are deeply disturbed by this ghastly revival of medieval anti-Semitism that led to unimaginable violence and suffering,” CEO Robert Singer said. “We can only hope that the Church and other institutions will do their best to overcome these frightful prejudices which are a blot on Poland’s good name.”

The peculiar rite of “judaszki” or “trial of Judas” is kept by the town of Pruchnik in southeastern Poland, which has a population of about 3,500. With its roots traced back to at least 18th century, the rite is conducted on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

A straw-filled effigy of Judas, which is made as a caricature of a Jewish person with a long nose, is hanged on Thursday next to the local church and stays there overnight. On Friday, a mock trial is held, after which locals drag the effigy along the streets as children run after it and beat it with long sticks representing the 30 silver pieces. The effigy is then cut open and burned down while its remains are thrown into the local Mleczka River.

The tradition used to be honored in other parts of Poland, but the Catholic Church eventually banned it because it tended to trigger anti-Jewish violence, according to a travel guide published by the Polish Tourist Organization. The version held in Pruchnik is the only event which remains.

Folk traditions tinged in anti-Semitism also survive in western parts of neighboring Ukraine, which used to be part of Poland. Traditional nativity scenes there often include a Jewish caricature, usually shown trying to make a profit from the Holy family.

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Elon Musk’s Tesla has sent a team to investigate a Chinese viral video, purportedly showing one of its electric cars spontaneously combusting and going up in flames in an indoor parking lot.

The chilling video has been circulating on Chinese social media. The short CCTV clip, reportedly filmed in Shanghai, starts with what appears to be an empty white Tesla Model S parked in an indoor parking lot. Smoke suddenly appears from underneath the electric vehicle. It is almost immediately followed by a bright flash, after which the car bursts into flames.

So far, it hasn’t been possible to independently verify the video, but it nonetheless caught Tesla’s attention. A team was “immediately” dispatched onsite and the company is supporting local authorities in trying “to establish the facts,” the California-based carmaker said.

Safety concerns have been raised in relation to Tesla in the past, as there have been reports of more than a dozen of its vehicles spontaneously catching fire since 2013. The company insists that its electric cars are still safer than petrol-powered ones.

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An international network helped to perpetrate the bloody Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, the nation’s health minister said. The series of coordinated bombings killed 290 people and left hundreds injured.

“We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country,” Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Rajitha Senaratne said on Monday.

He stated that there was “an international network,” without which the attacks “could not have succeeded.”

Suicide bombers set off explosives in several hotels and Catholic churches in different parts of Sri Lanka. An apartment complex was also targeted, and a bomb found near Colombo International Airport was defused.

A total of 24 people were arrested in connection with the attack. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombings, but Senaratne said that the attackers belonged to Islamist group National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ). All of the suicide bombers were Sri Lankan nationals, the minister said.

The government, meanwhile, extended a curfew in the country’s largest city, Colombo, and is set to declare a nationwide emergency, the official said.

Overall, 290 people were killed in the attacks, and hundreds more were injured.

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