Global News April 05, 2017

  1. BBC
  2. Global News April 05, 2017

The Guardian
“Western agencies scramble to obtain samples from Syria chemical attack”

Western intelligence agencies are seeking biological samples from survivors of the chemical weapons attack in northern Syria to compare against specimens of sarin taken from the Syrian military’s stockpiles four years ago. The testing will be used to established whether the nerve agent used in the attack – which the US, Britain and France say is very likely sarin – came from stores of the gas that Damascus was supposed to surrender in a UN-supervised process after more than 1,300 people were killed in an attack in August 2013.
Intelligence officers are also seeking environmental samples from the town of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib province where, according to witnesses, a dawn airstrike on Tuesday released a noxious gas over the area, killing at least 70 people and wounding more than 100. The samples are expected to behand delivered in some cases and also collected from hospitals inside Turkey, where several dozen seriously ill people are being treated by medics.
Donald Trump denounced the “heinous” act that “cannot be ignored by the civilised world”, but also laid some of the responsibility on Barack Obama, saying that the attack was “a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution”. Theresa May said she was appalled by reports of the attack and called for an investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The UN security council said it would hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the attack, after a request from Britain and France.


The Economist
“America may demand the right to peruse visitors’ mobile phones on arrival”

The effect that Donald Trump is having on American tourism seems pretty clear. Data from online travel agents, which analyses customers’ searches and are thus privy to the timeliest information on travel trends, are unanimous in the bleakness of their assessments. Expedia, Cheapflights and Kayak are just some of the sites reporting that interest in travelling to the United States has fallen since Mr. Trump’s inauguration and his attempted travel bans and drawbridge-up rhetoric. (The strong dollar hasn’t helped.) Economic forecasters are pessimistic, too. Oxford Economics, for example, reckons that as many as 6.7m fewer tourists will visit America this year; a fall of 8% compared to last year. Those working in the American tourism industry are desperate to see the drip-drip of negative news stories come to an end. They will have been dismayed, therefore, by a Wall Street Journal article published on April 4th. According to the paper, the Trump administration is considering introducing even harsher security checks on foreign tourists, either when then they enter the country or when they apply for a visa. The new proposals, called “extreme vetting”, include a right to access visitors’ mobile phones. A Department of Homeland Security official told the Journal that the goal is to «figure out who you are communicating with”. Contacts will come under particular scrutiny, although the implication is that other functions—photos, maybe, or messaging apps—could also be of interest. Even if few travellers end up having their phones examined, such signals from the Trump administration—whether travel bans from Muslim countries, laptop restrictions on planes, overly intrusive security screening or building walls—suggest a country that would rather tourists stayed away. Even if this is not the intention, it may well end up being the result.


The Washington Post
“Kingpin and ex-ally of ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, whose arrest set off Mexico’s drug war, to be sentenced in U.S.”

A Mexican cartel leader once allied with Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the world’s most notorious drug lord, faces up to life in prison and a $10 billion forfeiture at sentencing in Washington on Wednesday.
Alfredo “El Mochomo” Beltrán-Leyva and his brothers once ran an organization that served as the armed wing of Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel, Mexico’s most powerful drug syndicate, court files show. But El Mochomo’s capture by Mexican special forces in 2008 — which Mexican federal officials said his siblings blamed on Guzmán — launched a string of shadowy betrayals between the groups and detonated a bloody drug war with effects that haunt Mexico nearly a decade later.
Now, U.S. prosecutors have closed in on both drug lords. The prosecution of Beltrán-Leyva, who pleaded guilty last year, offers a tantalizing glimpse of the U.S. government’s long pursuit of Guzmán, including a shared cast of cooperating witnesses and a trail of escalating financial penalties including plea deals to hand over billions in illegal gains. If approved by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon of the District, a $10 billion forfeiture would rank among the four largest criminal financial penalties ordered in a U.S. cartel case, all issued by federal judges in Washington since 2013. Prosecutors said the $10 billion was an estimate of the Beltrán-Leyva organization’s gross receipts from 2000 to 2012, derived from the retail price of drugs seized.


“BMW workers to stage first UK strikes over pensions”

Unite the union will call eight 24 hour strikes across four sites, starting on 19 April and ending on 24 May. It will be the first time that staff at BMW’s UK operations have staged a walk-out.
BMW employs about 8,000 people and Unite says that the action could involve up to 3,500 workers who are in final-salary pension schemes. Unite claims that BMW’s intention to close the pension scheme by 31 May could reduce employees’ retirement income by £160,000. BMW said it was «disappointed» at the prospect of industrial action.
The German company said it had always provided «excellent pensions» for staff but wanted to protect future pension provision and to improve the competitiveness of its UK operations.
The company has put a number of options on the table to help employees transition to the proposed new pension arrangements and it remains open to negotiation,» BMW said.
The strikes will take place at several sites. BMW makes the Mini at Cowley near Oxford and Rolls-Royce cars at Goodwood. It also manufactures engines at Hams Hall, Birmingham and has a plant that makes parts for the Mini at Swindon.