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Iran Releases a British-Iranian Detainee after 8 Months

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

A British-Iranian academic, who was arrested and detained in Iran on allegations of spying, was released last week. The UK foreign authorities confirmed that while Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is still in the Iranian jail, Abbas Edalat has returned to England.

Edalat, who has a dual Iranian and British citizenship, is a mathematics and computer science professor at the Imperial College London. He was detained in Tehran in April on unspecified security charges. According to the reports, Edalat visited Iran to attend an academic workshop on April 15.

An Iranian news agency reported back then that Prof Edalat was a part of a “network” of British spies, whose other members had been identified and arrested.

The Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII), an anti-war protest group founded by Abbas Edalat, notified that he was released last week. The group, which opposes sanctions in Iran, also said that his detention was a case of “misinformation and misunderstanding”.

“It increasingly appears, as we had suspected, that his detention in spring in Iran was a case of misinformation and misunderstanding by the Iranian security apparatus,” the group said.

Edalat’s detention has raised hopes for another British-Iranian, a charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, detained in Iran since 2016. She is serving a five-year sentence in prison, after being convicted of spying charges that she has denied.

Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt met her husband Richard Ratcliffe on December 21, to assure him about his wife’s release. In a Twitter post on Tuesday, he wrote, “As we celebrate, let’s also remember those unjustly imprisoned like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who is 40 tomorrow.”

With reference to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case, a Foreign Office spokesman said, “We have repeatedly lobbied the Iranians to release Ms Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on humanitarian grounds and we raise all our cases at every level and every opportunity.”

The spokesman added that the case become more difficult as Iran did not recognise dual nationality.

In April, the jails in Iran held nearly 30 dual nationals, which included a number of dual British-Iranian nationals.

A Foreign Office spokesman said, “We continue to take action on all our consular cases in Iran in line with what we believe will produce the best outcomes in their cases.”

Although Edalat has been released, many have accused Iran of arresting and imprisoning Iranians with second citizenships to use them as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

While only one citizen has been released, the authorities in the UK are still looking forward for Iran to free the several British-Iranian citizens detained.

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Storm Dennis: Weather Destruction to Double Up with Rain and Floods

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Storm Dennis: Weather Destruction to Double Up with Rain and Floods

Life for the UK appears to be getting dramatic with time, as it prepares for the second weekend of weather destruction. The country is expected to be battered by storm Dennis, which is expected to hit with winds of nearly 70mph and more than a month’s rain could fall in some places in just two days.

Hundreds of homes are at a risk of flooding again, but the experts have warned that the damage could be much more than the harm done by storm Ciara, last weekend. Amber and yellow warning signs for rain and winds were in place across the UK.

Forecasters have predicted that the entire Yorkshire could experience up to 80mm of rain in just 48 hours. On Saturday, the military was being sent to Calderdale, West Yorkshire to support and boost the preparations for the disaster. The Calderdale council said that his teams were preparing hard for storm Dennis.

The resources, however, were stretched due to the impact of last weekend’s storm, and additional assistance was called from the 4th Infantry Brigade. The council said that the troops will be supporting organizations, residents and business on ground.

Meanwhile, hundreds of flights were cancelled by British Airways and easyJet, as well as from London Luton Airport, for safety reasons. The two airlines called their passengers to check their websites for latest updates.

“We are doing everything possible to minimise the impact of the disruption for our customers and to arrange alternative travel,” said a spokeswoman for easyJet, which has cancelled 234 flights.

However, British Airways said that most of their flights would “operate as planned”, but they were facing disruptions as “all airlines [were] flying to and from the UK today”. They stated, “We are merging a small number of Heathrow short-haul flights to the same destination and using larger aircraft where possible to minimise disruption.”

The Met Office also warned of a “danger to life” due to potential flooding in some locations. “Homes and businesses are likely to be flooded, causing damage to some buildings,” the forecaster warned. The country is expected to witness rainfall of up to 120mm, which is more than that usually falls in a month.

While the storm Dennis is yet to arrive, the country is already coping up with the impact of storm Ciara, which flooded 800 homes and left half a million people without electricity. Several parts still lack proper facilities for protection from floods, including Yorkshire. Citing that, the safety of people remains under an even larger risk.

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Former Goldman Sachs Employee – Rishi Sunak Succeeds Sajid Javid as Chancellor

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Sajid Javid

The City of Westminster has been taken aback by the resignation of Sajid Javid amid the ongoing cabinet reshuffles by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The ex-Chancellor rejected the orders of Johnson to fire his team of aides. He added that such a condition could never be accepted by any “self-respecting minister” and that his advisers had been working “incredibly hard”, so he could not think of them being replaced.

The resignation letter of Javid reads, “I believe it is important as leaders to have trusted teams that reflect the character and integrity that you would wish to be associated with.”

Succeeding Sajid Javid will be former Goldmann Sachs employee – Rishi Sunak, who successfully entered the Parliament in 2015. Prior to taking up this position, the 39-year-old British politician was serving as the Chief Secretary to the Treasury since July 2019.

The takeover is remarkable for someone who was serving as just a junior housing minister seven months ago.

The news of Sajid Javid’s resignation comes as a shock as the ex-Chancellor had to deliver his first budget next month. He has taken the appointment of Rishi Sunak in an optimistic sense, saying that Mr Sunak and the rest of the government has his “full support”. From here on, the Chancellor and Prime Minister will be having a joint team of economic advisers.

Besides this major change in Chancellor position, the cabinet is witnessing several modifications. Former Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay is serving as the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Baroness Morgon has been replaced by new culture secretary – Paymaster General Oliver Dowden.

Among others leaving the government are Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom and Housing Minister Esther McVey. With this reshuffling, the strength of women in the full cabinet has dropped from seven to six. At a time, when men hold majority positions in the UK Cabinet, this plunge raises serious questions about gender disparity in power positions.

Moreover, tensions between Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid state that the former was more interested in gaining political control and did not consider keeping valuable personnel, which is certainly not expected from the Prime Minister of any country.

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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Boris Johnson Supports US Peace Plan

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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

 A spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson has affirmed the PM’s decision to support the US Peace Plan about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict along with the two-state solution in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The two prime ministers had met for a discussion over improving trade between the two countries and advancing regional peace efforts. Proposing a peace plan for the conflict last week, the US President, Donald Trump referred to the creation of a Palestinian state with a capital in east Jerusalem. This plan was rejected by the Palestinian leaders, the Arab League and the Islamic Cooperation Organization.

As per the Prime Minister’s Office, Johnson put forth that the UK would support an internationally recognised two-state solution.

Right after releasing the plan, Trump met Johnson, who considered the proposed solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be “a positive step”. As per Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, the plan was “clearly a serious proposition, reflecting a lot of time and effort.”

Foreign Office Minister Andrew Morrison rejected the plan on the grounds that the US must be given proper time to consider its proposed plan. He added that “this is not our plan” and Britain was not delivering full support to it. Addressing the parliament, Morrison said, “Of course we welcome this plan. This doesn’t mean we endorse its contents.”

Becoming the first trading partner of the UK post Brexit, Israel has shown its future trade prospects with the UK. After the US and China, the UK is now the third largest trading associate of Israel. Moreover, Israel and the UK are working on multiple national security issues currently.

Prior to the UN Security Council vote scheduled for June 2020, the UN draft resolution associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has softened its criticism towards the Peace Plan proposed by Trump. The draft recently released does not mention the US as the propositor. Although using a milder tone, the latest draft would not necessarily avoid a US veto in the coming days.

Post the official execution of Brexit, Johnson’s support to the US peace plan can be considered as a tactic to remain in the good books of the US President as the decision of trade deal depends on the US. Based on the UK’s previous statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is evident that most policies introduced in the past were taken by the country after considering the sensitiveness of its relations with moderate Arab allies.

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Storm Ciara: Gusty Wind and Floods Disturb Pace of Life Across UK

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Storm Ciara: Gusty Wind and Floods Disturb Pace of Life Across UK

Causing severe disruption and rattling the pace of life across the UK, gusty winds of storm Ciara have knocked down properties, led to cancellation of trains, flights and even sporting events until now.

The stormy winds blowing at a speed of more than 90mph have also reportedly resulted in the loss of power connection in some areas. And the disturbance is likely to bring a major drop in temperatures as well. As per the reports, there is a considerable chance of blizzards in Northern Ireland and Scotland along with 20cm of snow.

The Met office has issued yellow warnings for wind and snow for a major part of Scotland and informed that the warnings will stay in place for until midnight on Tuesday. “It’s going to stay very unsettled. We have got colder air coming through the UK and will be feeling a real drop in temperatures,” Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said.

Destruction by Storm Ciara

As reported, several communities in the north of England suffered because of floods caused by the storm. The list of places included Appleby in Cumbria, Bury in Greater Manchester and parts of West Yorkshire.

By Sunday evening more than 220 flood warnings stayed active across England. Besides, transportation services were also hit as no trains ran on the west coast line between Manchester and Scotland.

Unfortunately, Lancashire was in the pick of the things with as many as 192 reports of flooding coming from Blackpool, Whalley, Longton and Rossendale. In West Yorkshire, the fire service said it attended 106 incidents and received 671 emergency calls about flooding in Calder Valley, Kirklees, Bradford and Leeds.

People in Cader Valley also said that the fast blowing winds and floods swept away cars and engulfed defences that had been set up at a cost of tens of millions of pounds since flooding back in 2015.

“When we got up this morning it was evidently flooding from eight to 9am but within an hour or two the river was about to breach its banks and abandoned cars were being swept away,” said Ben Myers, an author in the Calderdale town of Mytholmroyd who has written about the impact of flooding.

Meanwhile in Scotland, 62 flood warnings remained in place as of Sunday evening. And a part of cafe and a guest house collapsed into a river in Hawick in the Borders. The Police later informed that no one got injured in the incident.

Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) said, Storm Ciara could cause a further flooding risk following river embankments being broken on Sunday. The blueprint of the storm has suggested that even more difficulties would arise, and a heavy snowfall is expected from about 08:00 GMT.

To tackle with the situation a response team has been set up at the Traffic Scotland National Control Centre in South Queensferry. “We are also being told to expect snow and high winds throughout Monday and on Tuesday morning, so there is the potential for significant disruption on the trunk road network, as well as other modes of transport,” Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said.

Storm Ciara has potentially damaged properties and disturbed the pace of human lives across the UK. But the damage control across Britain has minimized the risk to life. Yet it is still important that people keep on checking the latest information before they leave their homes in order to stay safe from any risk to their lives.

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Hard Brexit Still a Possibility as Britons Remain Divided after Brexit

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Hard Brexit Still a Possibility as Britons Remain Divided after Brexit

It has been a month since any fear of a hard Brexit was vindicated, when the House of Commons passed Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. And on January 31st, Britain finally parted ways with the European Union. But even with a deal in hand, Boris Johnson has failed to convince voters that a no-deal Brexit is not a possibility now, a new poll has revealed.

In under 11 months, as transition period ends and gives UK its own identity, the nation would enter a world never seen before. And as per the polls, only 40 per cent of the people asked, believed that Johnson would strike a free trade deal with the EU by 31 December.

The results mean that the hard Brexit fear has come alive again after leaving the European Union only a week or so ago. Contrarily, the voters said, Brexit will harm the national economy, their own finances, Britain’s international standing and the strength of European Union over the coming years.

But that is only one side of the uncivil war that has dominated the political aspects of the UK since almost the last four years.

The Second Poll

According to the BMG poll, the scenario is different and the impact of Brexit has faded away as a concern in voter’s mind. The proportion of voters agreeing to importance of relationship with the EU has fallen from 45 per cent in December and 24 per cent in January to 16 per cent now.

The BMG has suggested that voters have become aware of the fact that living without EU’s support is the new reality. Numerically standing at 52-48 in for and against the idea respectively. Ironically, the same numbers still divide Britons as back in 2016 when the referendum to leave happened.

Consequently, sidelining the hard Brexit concern, Johnson’s Conservative Party also amassed a comfortable lead of 41 per cent in the polls. He was followed by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party with 29 per cent approval compared to 11 per cent for the Liberal Democrats.

The approval ratings also showed a positive sign for Boris Johnson at 53 per cent, 6 percentage points up from January. While, Jeremy Corbyn’s ratings also recovered by 4 percentage points to 23 per cent.

The fact is Britons are still divided. While some fear hard Brexit is still possible and feel an economic slump down is on the way, the others have confidence in Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. Factually, the biggest fear is time on hands and that the hard border would return between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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