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150,000 Britons Stranded Overseas as Thomas Cook Collapses

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Thomas Cook

British global travel group Thomas Cook has been facing tough times since a long time trying to reduce a £1.7bn debt burden. The firm has agreed a £900m bailout, however it was said to pay off another £200m.

After failure of rescue talks, nearly 9,000 jobs are at risk and disturbed the reputation of the firm built after years of effort. As many as 150,000 holidaymakers from the UK are stranded overseas.

Speaking on the same lines, Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Labour Member of Parliament for South Shields tweeted:

On Monday morning, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced that Thomas Cook has ceased trading and gone into administration. All the flights and bookings have been cancelled. The official administration was planned for the first few hours.

Looking at the current scenario, the UK government has reassured that all stranded tourists will be provided timely aid. It has requested people not to book return tickets in a hush and wait for the reissue of tickets.

Peter Fankhauser, Chief Executive of Thomas Cook, said that is a “deeply sad day”. He added, “It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful.”

As per reports, Thomas Cook asked the UK government for financial help and even requested the lenders to reduce £200m demand for extra funding. However, the government refused to help any airline unless the issue lies in national interest.

Hinting at possible government action against the directors of travel firms who survived bankruptcies, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said because of the recent collapse of budget airline Monarch earlier and Thomas Cook, it was time to “reflect on whether the directors of these companies are properly incentivised to sort such matters out”.

Commenting on the issue, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Dominic Raab announced that the government had contingency plans to help passengers and is reassuring holidaymakers that they won’t be stuck overseas. He recently tweeted that the foreign office staff in the UK is strongly working with the CAA and the transportation department of the UK to help.

Due to the collapse of Thomas Cook, as many as 22,000 global employees have been forced to quit their jobs increasing the unemployment rate even further. Out of these, 9,000 employees are in Britain and 4,500 in Germany.

If reports by Trading Economics are to be believed, the unemployment rate in the UK fell to 3.8 percent in 2019, which was its lowest since 1974.

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Tories and Lib Dems Begin Tree Planting Race ahead of General Elections

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Tree Planting

Prior to the General Election 2019, the Conservative Party has announced that on winning the election they will triple tree planting rates. The Liberal Democrats responded by claiming to plant double the amount of trees planted by Tories.

The government has planned to work with devolved administrations to hike tree planting rates to 30,000 hectares every year, which means 30 million more trees. In order to increase tree planting in England, Boris Johnson has announced a £640 million Nature for Climate fund.

Taking an upper edge in the said demands, the Lib Dems have highlighted that the Tories have “woefully failed to meet their own targets for planting trees in the past year.” Moreover, the leader of the former political party, Jo Swinson, has promised to plant 60 million trees every year, labelling it as “the largest tree-planting programme in UK history.”

The Labour Party has said that its tree planting plans will be guided by science as forestry experts have announced the need for a huge programme if the UK wants to reduce its carbon emissions to effectively zero.

As per forest experts, even though the aim is tough to achieve, it’s still feasible. The success of the plan lays entirely on careful planning – “to get the right trees in the right places”. They have announced that there is dire need to properly fund the effort, meaning coordinating many different government agencies, forestry organisations and farmers.

As per an advisory group of experts in science, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), there is a need to plant 30,000 hectares of woodland annually. Till March 2019, only 15,000 hectares of land was planted.

Johnson says that there is “nothing more conservative than protecting our environment”. The new tree planting measures planned would “sit alongside our world-leading commitment” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

It is quite probable that the conservatives are looking to use the slogan – “Vote Blue, Go Green” that was adopted by David Cameron in 2010.

Countering vows made by the Conservatives, the Labour Party said that the former had failed to meet previously set tree planting targets showing that they “aren’t serious about this agenda”.

The former environment secretary Michael Gove had blamed the Common Agricultural Policy for the government not being able complete its promised targets.

Gove posited support on the decision to leave the European Union, claiming that the government is not able to deliver on the 2015 manifesto promise to plant 11 million trees by 2020.

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Brexit Party Denies Johnson’s Offer, Endangering PM’s Plan

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Brexit Party

The Brexit Party is yet to make a name for itself as a national party that could address all the concerns of Britons, apart from delivering Brexit. A recent poll from Savanta ComRes has confirmed revealed that the party has only seven percent of support ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Despite all the poll results, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has denied the offer from the Conservative Party for the upcoming elections; even though Brexit has been a worrying factor for the Britons and the MPs at House of Commons.

The prime reason behind Farage not accepting Boris Johnson’s offer is because the proposal meant that the Brexit Party would only stand its candidates on 40 key seats in the constituencies, where the Labour Party has a stronghold.

Explaining his reasons for denying Johnson’s proposal, Farage said, “I would have stood down in lots of key marginals in return for a few on the other side. I would not have even asked for 40. There would have been a guaranteed Leave majority in parliament and they refused to do it.”

“It is completely maddening. I said to them: ‘I can win you the general election now’, and they chose not to take that option,” he added. With the denial, Johnson’s plan of delivering Brexit after securing majority in December general elections has received a setback with Farage being the one to do it.

The only reason that the UK is still dangling between Brexit is lack of majority that has not approved the withdrawal deal – either of Theresa May or Boris Johnson.

On the other hand, with each passing day, the Labour Party has been introducing more appealing promises to lure Britons and tip the elections in their favour.

While the denial of the offer for the upcoming elections has served major blow to Johnson’s plan of securing majority, it has not yet solved or confirmed any possibilities that the Brexit Party will secure all or at least 40 key seats in Labour-held constituencies.

And since the party is trailing at seven percent in the polls, it has still not come up with any of the policies that might attract other sections of society and not only the pro-Brexiteers. 

With uncertainty surrounding the impact of Brexit on the UK economy, the country’s foreign relations and its position as a global power, lies at the hands of the next leader.

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Two Cyberattacks in 24-hours Leave Labour Party Under Tremors

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Cyberattacks

Last updated on November 16th, 2019

General Elections in Britain are nearing, and a constant danger is looming over the political spectrum. Where fears of Russian meddling have already been bothering, a digital attack on the Labour Party recently came to only make the situation darker.

On November 12, reports highlighted that hackers targeted the left-wing party’s digital platforms, hitting them by a second cyberattack in 24 hours. On Monday, a “sophisticated and large-scale” attack was confirmed by the party, while a second hit followed on Tuesday afternoon.

“We have ongoing security processes in place to protect our platforms, so users may be experiencing some differences. We are dealing with this quickly and efficiently,” said a Labour spokesperson.

No information is yet discovered to know if the attacks were conducted by same hackers, or if the second hit was a copycat attack. The National Cyber Security Centre investigating the first attack on Labour confirmed it would not be investigating the matter further. It said that there was no evidence of a “state-sponsored activity”, and that the attack was relatively “low level”.

According to the reports, the incidents are being perceived to be “distributed denial-of-service” (DDoS) attacks, which are considered relatively common. The DDoS attacks are those where a network of computers is used to cause a slowdown or crash to the target, which is flooded with multiple requests overwhelming its server.

“This is seen as a low-level denial of service attempt with no evidence of it being carried out by a state actor,” a security official said of the cyberattacks.

Labour was confident that no data breach occurred, and stated that the attacks failed due to the party’s “robust” security systems. “We have a system in place in our office to protect us against these cyber attacks, but it was a very serious attack against us,” said leader Jeremy Corbyn. He also stated that he was “nervous” thinking of what the cyberattacks could mean for the remaining the General Election campaign.

According to Reuters a third attack possibly hit the Conservative Party’s website on Tuesday afternoon, as two sources with knowledge on the matter told the press agency. They reiterated that there was nothing to link the attacks on either party to a foreign state.

One of the sources said that the attack on the Tories appeared to have been conducted by different hackers and was larger. The hackers, however, did not take down any party websites. A spokeswoman for Conservatives didn’t comment immediately and said she was unaware of the attack.

Britain will be hosting the General Elections on December 12, the fears of cyberattacks and interference are constantly rising. Although the recent hacks have not been linked to any party or state, they still count to be a threat to the polls. Will the remaining few days prove to be a disruption to Britain’s political existence?

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White Helmets Founder James Le Mesurier’s Death – Accident or Conspiracy?

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James Le Mesurier

Former British Army officer James Le Mesurier, who was the founder and CEO of May Day Rescue that founded and trained the Syrian White Helmets organization, was found dead in Istanbul, Turkey on Monday.

While confirming his death, the Turkish officials disclosed that Mesurier’s body was found near his home in the Beyoglu district by worshippers on their way to a mosque.

The White Helmets group confirmed the owner’s death on its Facebook page.

“The family of the Syrian Civil Defence extends its deepest condolences to his family, and we express our deepest sorrow and solidarity with his family, as it is our duty to commend his humanitarian efforts, which the Syrians will always remember,” the group said.

Launched during the Syrian Civil War, the White Helmets group also known as Syria Civil Defence, has played an important role following the prevailing war crisis.

The volunteers of the organisation aimed at evacuating civilians from danger areas, while providing essential medical service delivery to them. As of April 2018, the organisation claimed to have saved over 114,000 lives, suffering under attack from Syrian regime forces and their Russian and Iranian allies, with 204 White Helmet volunteers losing their lives in the process.

Asserting impartiality in the Syrian conflict is the main moto of the organisation, although it only operated in rebel-held areas.

Istanbul governor’s office said that “comprehensive administrative and judicial investigations into Le Mesurier’s death have been initiated”. Disclosing more about James Le Mesurier’s death, a Turkey-based news agency stated that police established that no one had entered or left his home at the time of the incident, and believe he may have fallen to his death.

During the investigation, Mesurier’s wife told the police that her husband had been taking medicine to treat “intense stress” although no further revelations have been achieved in the case.

Since its launch, the organisation was much criticised by supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian-sponsored media organisations, which even accused Mesurier of being a spy.

The group was also criticised by the Iranian and Chinese news agency and its volunteers were banned from entering Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria.

James Le Mesurier’s death raises a big question on an individual’s security in Turkey. His friends and followers believe that Mesurier’s death was conspired by the ones, who hated the White Helmets organisation and its cause. Russia’s close involvement with Turkey and its hatred towards the organisation and its founder has brought it under the speculations of committing such a deed.

Well Russian intelligence’s presence in Turkey cannot be neglected and its improving relations with the NATO ally has given it a chance to operate more aggressively in Turkey. Though nothing as of now has been proved.

In the past, Russian killers have committed a series of assassinations in Turkey, killing men and refugees from other countries. 46-year-old Ruslan Israpilov, who was seeking refuge in Turkey, was killed by Russian killers in 2016. The members of the White Helmets organisation believe that Russia could be involved in James Le Mesurier’s death.

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British Man Aidan James Jailed for Training with Terrorist Group PKK

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Aidan James

The 29-year-old Briton, Aidan James, who has always followed an anti-ISIS motive, has been jailed for four years in the country on charges of training with banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is a political organisation based in Turkey and Iraq and is considered a terrorist group.  

Since 1984 till now, Britain has had a vital place in Kurdish politics and political lobbying activities. As the PKK has become influential in European politics, the organisation’s actions in Britain remain largely unexplored. It appears that in Britain, the PKK has departed in recent years from its conventional terrorist activities and transformed into a lobbying power that might gain full legitimacy in future.

The British man’s involvement with the Kurdish units in Iraq to fight against ISIS in 2017 was considered as illegitimate. Aidan James was pictured holding RPGs and posing in military fatigues and was also found guilty of attending an illegal PKK terrorist camp after a two-week trial at the Old Bailey.

Since, the YPG was working in defence of the Kurdish people against the threat of a lethal and “genocidal” ISIS force with British support, Aidan James was cleared of the second charge and spent six months fighting ISIS in Syria.  

Aidan’s mother Tracy O’Connor stated that her boy, a passionate Liverpool fan, was inspired to go and fight ISIS after the bombing of Manchester Arena in May 2017.

The investigations in the matter stated that Aidan James was repeatedly turned down for recruitment into the British armed forces on mental health grounds. While supporting Aidan’s case his lawyer Andrew Hall stated that the former had no previous military knowledge when he set out to join the war in 2017.

Hall said that by fighting ISIS, Aidan felt that “he was doing something positive with his life for the first time” as he was not a “man driven by a terrorist ideology who continues to pose a threat”.

At last, Aidan James was sentenced for 12 months for terror training offence and a further three years for separate offences of possessing cocaine with intent to supply, and possessing cannabis, to run consecutively.

The present case is a replication of the past, where a 43-year-old former British soldier was charged with terror offence although the charges against him were dropped later. James Matthews, who fought against ISIS in Syria, was ordered to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in February 2018 to be formally accused of attending a “place used for terrorist training”.

Meanwhile, Aidan James has already spent one year, eight months and 24 days in custody while awaiting trial and retrial at the Old Bailey, which will be counted as his time served.

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