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Tunisia imposes night curfew for a month

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Tunisian President Kais Saied had ordered a night-time curfew for the next month, a day after he suspended parliament.

He’s also sacked more government ministers in the wake of the dismissal of Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi on Sunday.

The president has denied accusations by the biggest political party, Ennahdha, that he’s carried out a coup. He insisted he had acted according to the constitution.

Mr Saied urged people not to take to the streets to protest, saying the greatest danger was of an “internal explosion”.

The UN has expressed its concern about the developments saying “all disputes and disagreements should be resolved through dialogue”, a spokesperson for the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the Tunisian president “to adhere to the principles of democracy and human rights” and “maintain an open dialogue with all political actors”, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

There have been months of political tension in Tunisia, with frustration at the government’s handling of the pandemic and an economic crisis.

Source: bbc.com

Tags: Curfew Tunisia

Journalist and science writer for NewsAfrica24, the Atlantic, New Scientist, Aeon, Men’s Health, and many others. Author of The Intelligence Mafias, published by Stoughton (UK)/WW Norton (USA) and translated into six languages.

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Business

EU fines banks including Barclays, NatWest and HSBC £293m for currency ‘cartel’

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The EU has fined banks, including Barclays, NatWest and HSBC, a total of €344m (£293m) for roles in an alleged foreign exchange spot trading cartel.

The European Commission said the UK-based banks agreed to settle the case, alongside UBS which avoided a penalty because it had blown the whistle on the activity.

HSBC’s fine was the largest at €174.3m (£148m) while its Canary Wharf-headquartered neighbour Barclays was to pay €54.3m (£46m).

NatWest – which was known by its former RBS Group name at the time – faces a €32.5m (£28m) bill.

Banks
Image:Both HSBC and Barclays have their headquarters at London’s Canary Wharf

Credit Suisse was the other bank to be handed a fine – of €83m (£71m).Advertisement

The EU’s competition regulator said the cartel had focused on forex spot trading of G10 currencies, which include the US dollar, euro and UK pound.

The Commission’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, said: “Today we complete our sixth cartel investigation in the financial sector since 2013 and conclude the third leg of our investigation into the foreign exchange spot trading market.

“Our cartel decisions to fine UBS, Barclays, RBS, HSBC and Credit Suisse send a clear message that the Commission remains committed to ensure a sound and competitive financial sector that is essential for investment and growth.

“Foreign exchange spot trading activities are one of the largest financial markets in the world. The collusive behaviour of the five banks undermined the integrity of the financial sector at the expense of the European economy and consumers”.

The fines are the latest to hit banks, which have received billions of pounds worth of penalties worldwide since the financial crisis of 2008 for the rigging of benchmarks used in many day-to-day financial transactions.

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International

MI6: China becomes single greatest focus for intelligence service as country accused of large-scale espionage operations against UK

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The MI6 chief’s most pointed language was reserved for the threat posed by China – one of what he described as the “big four” priorities alongside Russia, Iran, and international terrorism.

China has for the first time become the single greatest focus for MI6, with its chief warning the risk “is real” of a miscalculation by Beijing through underestimating western resolve to push back.

Pointing to Taiwan, Richard Moore said a desire by the ruling Chinese Communist Party – backed by an increasingly powerful military – to resolve a dispute over the territory’s sovereignty by force if necessary was a “serious challenge to global stability and peace”.

He also accused China of conducting “large-scale espionage operations against the UK and our allies” and he said countries globally should be “clear-eyed” when dealing with Beijing because of the potential to fall into a debt trap or to have data on their population exploited.

It is very unusual for such a senior security figure to speak in such stark terms about China.

A Taiwanese air force F16 in the foreground flies on the flank of a Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force H6 bomber as it passes near Taiwan. File pic: AP
Image:A Taiwanese Air Force F16 in the foreground flies on the flank of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force H6 bomber as it passes near Taiwan. File pic: AP

In his first public speech as head of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), Mr Moore covered other threats and challenges as well, warning:Advertisement

• Hostile actions by President Vladimir Putin’s Russia, such as undermining stability in the Western Balkans, are “on an upward trend”

• The threat to the West from al Qaeda and Islamic State in Afghanistan will “likely increase” now that US-led forces have left and countering it “is an extremely difficult task”

• His top-secret agency must become more open and partner with technology firms to compete in a world where digital threats are “growing exponentially”

He made a recruitment pitch, stressing the need to increase diversity in his workforce and attract people who might never have previously thought about becoming a spy.

“Come and join!” he said at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank in London.

“There is no more important or – I believe – more exciting time to work for MI6.”

While there has yet to be a female head of SIS, it is understood that three of the top four posts underneath Mr Moore are currently held by women.

They comprise the deputy chief as well as two of three director generals.

The spymaster’s most pointed language was reserved for the threat posed by China – one of what he described as the “big four” priorities alongside Russia, Iran, and international terrorism.

“The tectonic plates are shifting as China’s power, and its willingness to assert it, grows,” he said

He revealed that resources focused by MI6 on China have this year surpassed the previous top priority of combatting terrorism in the wake of the September 11 2001 attacks on the United States.

“Adapting to a world affected by the rise of China is the single greatest priority for MI6,” the spy chief said. “We are deepening our understanding of China across the UK intelligence community and widening the options available to the government in managing the systemic challenges that it poses.”

This does not only mean gaining intelligence on what President Xi Jinping and his inner circle are thinking, it is also about how MI6 officers and the agents they run can operate undetected in a world where technology is making it harder for anyone to hide and for communications to stay secret.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at a meeting commemorating the 110th anniversary of Xinhai Revolution at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China October 9, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo
Image:Chinese President Xi Jinping

He described the Chinese Intelligence Services as “highly capable”.

Mr Moore also voiced concern about efforts by the Chinese government “to distort public discourse and political decision making across the globe”.

The MI6 boss said the days of China hiding its strength and biding its time are over.

“Beijing believes its own propaganda about Western frailties and underestimates Washington’s resolve. The risk of Chinese miscalculation through over-confidence is real,” he said.

Mr Moore talked about the less obvious threat to a country of agreeing to Chinese loans to build infrastructure, such as ports or railway lines, only to become indebted.

Or the risk of accepting a Chinese technological solution to a problem only to find a backdoor built into the system that enables China to access data on a population.

It is still rare for a head of MI6 to speak publicly.

In fact, the first public speech by a serving chief only happened in 2010.

But they could start to happen more often as Mr Moore said this is a way to be more accountable, inspire people to join, and to be more open.

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Health

COVID-19 around the world: Japan bans foreigners as other nations tighten restrictions on travellers

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As cases of the new Omicron variant emerge across Europe, many countries are imposing travel bans or increasing quarantine requirements.

Japan will close to all foreign travellers from Tuesday, in a bid to slow the spread of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19.

It means the country will restore border controls it had only eased earlier this month for short-term business visitors, foreign students and workers.

First detected by researchers in southern Africa, much is still not known about B.1.1.529 but there are fears it could be more contagious than other variants – and more resistant to vaccines.

Israel is set to become the first country to completely shut its borders. File pic
Image:Israel is considering whether to completely shut its borders. File pic

Global concern about the new strain is growing, with countries confirming cases for the first time and travel restrictions being imposed once again.Advertisement

Noting that the variant has already been detected in many countries and that closing borders often has limited effect, the World Health Organisation called for frontiers to remain open.

Here are the latest COVID-19 developments around the world.

Japan

The Japanese government has announced it will close its borders to all foreigners from Tuesday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said: “We are responding to the Omicron variant with a strong sense of urgency.”

Pic: AP A departures screen displays two cancelled flight to Johannesburg and Cape Tow at Heathrow Airport, in London, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. The U.K. announced that it was banning flights from South Africa and five other southern African countries effective at noon on Friday, and that anyone who had recently arrived from those countries would be asked to take a coronavirus test.(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Image:Travel restrictions are being imposed once again as governments suspend flights from southern Africa

Over the weekend, Japan had tightened entry restrictions for people arriving from South Africa and eight other countries, requiring them to undergo a 10-day quarantine period.

Israel

On Saturday, Israel unveiled plans to ban all foreigners from entering the country, having already identified cases on home soil.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the ban would last for 14 days, if the proposals are approved.

So far, Israel has one confirmed case of the Omicron variant and seven suspected cases.

Phone-tracking technology is going to be used to locate carriers of the new variant, in an attempt to stop it being transmitted to others.

Dr Anthony Fauci 'wouldn't be surprised' if the Omicron variant is already in the US. File pic
Image:Dr Anthony Fauci said he ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ if the Omicron variant is already in the US. File pic

The US

From Monday, the US is going to restrict travel from South Africa and seven other countries in the region.

American citizens and permanent US residents – along with spouses and close friends – will be exempt.

No cases linked to Omicron have been detected in the country so far.

But Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease specialist, told NBC that he wouldn’t be surprised if the variant is already in the States, adding: “When you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility… it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over.”

In separate developments, New York Governor Kathy Hochul issued a COVID-19 “disaster emergency” declaration on Friday, with infections and hospitalisations increasing in the state.

A business traveller from Italy caught the Omicron variant on a trip to Mozambique. File pic
Image:A business traveller from Italy caught the Omicron variant on a trip to Mozambique. File pic

France

France’s health ministry said on Sunday that it had detected eight possible cases of the Omicron variant, with the government saying it would tighten restrictions to contain its spread.

Canada

Canada has detected two cases of the Omicron variant in Ontario, authorities announced on Sunday.

Health officials Christine Elliott and Kieran Moore said in a joint statement that the cases were found in two people who had recently been in Nigeria.

Ontario has focused rapid COVID-19 testing on travellers who have been to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Italy

On Saturday, health officials confirmed that a case of the Omicron variant had been detected in Italy.

The business traveller had flown from Mozambique, landing in Rome on 11 November and returning to his home in Naples.

Five of his family members, including two children, have also tested positive. All are now isolating and have light symptoms.

Two confirmed cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in the southern state of Bavaria. File pic
Image:Two confirmed cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in the southern state of Bavaria. File pic

Germany

The Omicron variant has also been detected in three travellers who arrived on a flight from South Africa on 24 November.

Two cases were detected in the southern state of Bavaria, the other in Hesse in the west of the country.

Germany, like other parts of Europe, was suffering under a new wave of cases before Omicron was detected.

Dutch officials are 'almost certain' that the Omicron variant is in the country
Image:Dutch officials are ‘almost certain’ that the Omicron variant is in the country

The Netherlands

Dutch health officials have detected 61 COVID-19 cases among people who flew from South Africa – 13 of which are confirmed to be Omicron.

The Dutch health minister said it was possible that there were more cases of the new COVID variant in the country.

The KLM airline expressed surprise at the high number of cases because all passengers had either tested negative or shown proof of vaccination before boarding flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Authorities in the country are now attempting to contact 5,000 passengers who have travelled from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia or Zimbabwe since Monday.

Switzerland has banned direct flights from South Africa and the surrounding region
Image:Switzerland has banned direct flights from South Africa and the surrounding region

Switzerland

The first case of the variant has been discovered in Switzerland, the government announced late on Sunday as the country tightened its entry restrictions. The case relates to a person who returned from South Africa around a week ago.

Quarantine requirements have been widened to a greater number of travellers in an attempt to stem the spread of the Omicron variant.

Those arriving from 19 countries, including the UK, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Egypt and Malawi must prevent a negative COVID-19 test and isolate for 10 days on arrival.

Direct flights have already been banned from South Africa and the surrounding region.

Despite cases being detected in Italy and Germany, both neighbours of Switzerland, travel restrictions have not been imposed on any countries it shares borders with.

Spain is clamping down on unvaccinated Britons entering the country
Image:Spain is clamping down on unvaccinated Britons entering the country

Spain

From next month, British tourists will only be able to enter Spain if they can show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.

Until now, unvaccinated travellers were allowed into the country if they could present a negative PCR test that was taken 72 hours before their arrival.

“The appearance of new variants causing (coronavirus) obliges an increase in restrictions,” the government said.

Spain’s Industry, Trade and Tourism department said approximately 300,000 British people who are resident in Spain will not be affected by the new measures.

Indonesia

All travellers arriving in the country will need to quarantine for at least seven days – with those arriving from southern Africa and Hong Kong having to self isolate for 14 days.

Indonesia is due to take over the presidency of the G20 on 1 December, and has said that delegates attending will not be affected by the restrictions.

A number of cases have been detected in Denmark
Image:A number of cases have been detected in Denmark

Denmark

Two cases of Omicron have been identified in Denmark in two travellers who arrived from South Africa.

Henrik Ullum, director of the State Serum Institute, said: “This was to be expected, and our strategy is therefore to continue intensive monitoring of the infection in the country.”

The pair have been put in isolation, and contacts are being traced.

Australia

Two cases of Omicron have also been found in Australia, in the state of New South Wales.

Again, the pair involved were on a flight from southern Africa, both had been vaccinated and were asymptomatic. They are now isolating, and 260 other people on the flight are also in isolation.

Anyone arriving in the state from southern African countries, and the Seychelles, have been told they must isolate for 14 days.

Still, the nation plans to press ahead with plans to reopen borders to skilled migrants and students from 1 December.

New Zealand

New Zealand has announced it is restricting travel from nine southern African countries.

Thailand

Tourist-dependent Thailand, which only recently began loosening its tight border restrictions to leisure travellers, has also announced a ban on visitors from eight African countries.

Morocco

The country’s foreign ministry said it is suspending all incoming air travel from around the world from Monday for two weeks.

In a tweet, it said the move had been taken to “preserve the achievements realised by Morocco in the fight against the pandemic, and to protect the health of citizens”.

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