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Coronavirus: 'I don't regret what I did,' says Dominic Cummings - BBC News
Dominic Cummings, the UK PM’s aide, says he "behaved reasonably" as he explains his actions during lockdown.
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionDominic Cummings: "I believe that in all the circumstances, that I behaved reasonably and legally" The PM's chief adviser Dominic Cummings has said "I don't regret what I did" as he explained his actions during the coronavirus lockdown. He said he did not to tell the prime minister when he decided to drive his family 260 miles during lockdown, when his wife developed Covid-19 symptoms. He told reporters he believed he was acting "reasonably" and within the law. He said he had not considered resigning over the issue - but should have made a statement on it earlier. "I don't think I am so different and that is one rule for me and one rule for other people," he said in a statement in to reporters in the Downing Street garden. He said "I do not regret what I did" but added that "reasonable people may well disagree". The prime minister gave a statement on Sunday in support of his chief adviser in an attempt to draw a line under the row - but many people, including Conservative MPs, have continued to call for Mr Cummings' dismissal. He also revealed that his four-year-old son had been taken to hospital while he was self-isolating at his family's farm, in Durham. He was not surprised that lots of people were angry, he said, but "it was a complicated, tricky situation". He explained that he decided to take his family to Durham when his wife became ill because there were no child care options in London. He insisted they did not stop during the 260 mile journey to Durham but may have stopped on the return to London. He said he isolated in a cottage on his father's farm 50 metres from his parents' home. By BBC political correspondent Jonathan Blake Dominic Cummings has given a detailed account of what he did, when and why. So what have we learned from his side of the story? He described the fact that his London home had become a "target" which led him to fear for the safety of his family. He also admitted not telling the prime minister about his decision to decide to travel to his parent's property in Durham. He explained some of the uncertainties about his movements including what he was doing in Barnard Castle (to test his eyesight for driving) and whether he stopped on the journey from London (he didn't). But on several occasions Mr Cummings described the "exceptional circumstances" of providing care for a small child, which he believed the guidelines allow. He acknowledged that people were angry and "hated the idea of unfairness" - and admitted that he should have made a statement sooner. But this was an explanation for his actions, not an apology. It will be for people to judge whether they accept it as a justification for what many see as acting against the spirit, if not the letter of the rules.
Volkswagen loses landmark German 'dieselgate' case - BBC News
A ruling in a German court could have implications for other VW motorists seeking compensation.
Image copyrightGetty Images Germany's highest civil court has ruled that Volkswagen must pay compensation to a motorist who had bought one of its diesel minivans fitted with emissions-cheating software. The ruling sets a benchmark for about 60,000 other cases in Germany. The plaintiff, Herbert Gilbert, will be partially reimbursed for his vehicle, with depreciation taken into account. VW said it will now offer affected motorists a one-off payment, and the amount will depend on individual cases. The company has already settled a separate 830m (£743m) class action suit involving 235,000 German car owners. It has paid out more than 30bn in fines, compensation and buyback schemes worldwide since the scandal first broke in 2015. VW disclosed at the time that it had used illegal software to manipulate the results of diesel emissions tests. The company said that about 11 million cars were fitted with the "defeat device", which alerted diesel engines when they were being tested. The engine would then change its performance in order to improve the result of the test. Volkswagen has faced a flurry of legal action worldwide, including the UK. About 90,000 motorists in England and Wales have brought action against VW as well as Audi, Seat and Skoda, which are also owned by Volkswagen Group. Last month, their case cleared its first hurdle in the High Court, when a judge ruled that the software installed in the cars was indeed a "defeat device" under EU rules. The carmaker's current and former senior employees are facing criminal charges in Germany.
Open Skies Treaty: US to withdraw from arms control deal - BBC News
The major accord permits unarmed surveillance flights over dozens of participating countries.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption The treaty permits unarmed surveillance flights over 35 participating countries The US has announced it will withdraw from a major accord that permits unarmed aerial surveillance flights over dozens of participating countries. The Open Skies Treaty came into force in 2002 and is designed to boost confidence and assure against attacks. But senior US officials said the country was withdrawing due to repeated Russian violations of its terms. The US will inform Russia of its decision on Friday and formally withdraw in six months, officials said. "During the course of this review it has become abundantly clear that it is no longer in America's interests to remain a party to the Open Skies Treaty," one official told Reuters news agency. Russia's Foreign Ministry said a US withdrawal would be "very regrettable", adding that the Trump administration was working to "derail all agreements on arms control". Some 35 nations are party to the treaty, including Russia, Canada and the UK. In abandoning the Open Skies Treaty, President Donald Trump is renouncing an arms control agreement that was seen as essential for transparency during the immediate post-Cold War years. But he is also ditching an agreement that many experts believe still retains huge benefits for the US. The fact it comes at a time when the whole structure of arms control is collapsing and a new era of competition beckons is doubly troubling. So what does the treaty permit? It allows for unarmed short-notice reconnaissance flights by specially equipped aircraft over the entire territory of another country. These can be to collect data on troop deployments and military facilities, for example. There have been some problems in recent years, and the US contends that Russia has been preventing access to some areas. But critics of the Trump Administration say this is a reason for fixing the treaty, not abandoning it. The US can use satellites for its intelligence-gathering on Russia, but Mr Trump's decision will cause tensions with European allies who do not have access to such technology. And it may be in Russia's interest to remain in the treaty, exacerbating the unease of Washington's partners, while it continues its flights over their territory. Earlier this year, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper accused Russia of violating the treaty by banning flights over the city of Kaliningrad and other areas near Georgia. "I have a lot of concerns about the treaty as it stands now," he said at the time. "This is important to many of our NATO allies, that they have the means to conduct the overflights." It marks the latest effort by President Donald Trump's administration to withdraw the US from a major global treaty. Last year, it pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia. The INF was signed by the US and the USSR in 1987, and banned the vast majority of nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with short and medium ranges.
China proposes controversial Hong Kong security law - BBC News
The law could ban treason, secession and sedition and may spark renewed social unrest.
Image copyrightAFPImage caption Clashes in Hong Kong's legislature on Monday showed the continuing political unrest China is proposing to introduce a new security law in Hong Kong that could ban sedition, secession and treason. The move is likely to provoke strong opposition internationally and in Hong Kong, which last year saw months of pro-democracy protests. China's delayed National People's Congress, its legislature, will debate the issue when it opens on Friday. Hong Kong's mini-constitution requires it to bring in such a law but it failed to do so amid widespread opposition. The so-called Basic Law was introduced when the UK handed back Hong Kong's sovereignty to China in 1997 and provides certain freedoms not available on the mainland. The Hong Kong dollar dropped sharply on Thursday in anticipation of the announcement. What will the NPC do? The issue has been introduced on the NPC agenda, under the title of Establishing and Improving the Legal System and Enforcement Mechanism of Hong Kong. The opening of the NPC had been delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak. A spokesman for the NPC said on Thursday that China was planning to improve on the "one country, two systems" policy that Hong Kong has observed. Zhang Yesui said: "National security is the bedrock underpinning the stability of the country. Safeguarding national security serves the fundamental interest of all Chinese, our Hong Kong compatriots included." Beijing has always had the power to enact the national security law into Hong Kong's Basic Law but has so far refrained from doing so. Media captionThe BBC's Helier Cheung on Hong Kong's 2019 protests But Hong Kong is heading for elections to its own legislature in September and if last year's success for pro-democracy parties in district elections is repeated, government bills could be blocked. A mainland source told the South China Morning Post that Beijing had decided Hong Kong would not be able to pass its own security law and the NPC would have to take the responsibility. Hong Kong's government had tried to enact the so-called "sedition law" in 2003 but more than 500,000 people took to the streets and it was dropped. China has the option to impose it into Annex III of the Basic Law, which covers national laws that must be observed in Hong Kong. Will the law draw protests? It is almost certain to do so, both in Hong Kong and abroad. On Monday, a number of pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong were dragged out of the chamber during a row about a Chinese national anthem bill that would criminalise disrespect of the anthem. The incident showed that political tensions that had cooled amid the coronavirus outbreak were resurfacing. Pro-democracy activists believe Beijing is eroding Hong Kong's freedoms. Millions took to the streets for seven months last year in rallies that began peacefully but later spiralled into violent clashes. Those protests were initially about another controversial bill allowing extraditions to the mainland. It was later dropped. China's move also comes as the US is considering whether to extend Hong Kong's preferential trading and investment privileges. It must decide by the end of the month. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday expressed concern over Hong Kong's autonomy. Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionWhy were Hong Kong fans booing their anthem? (2015 video)
Coronavirus: All 50 US states move toward reopening - BBC News
As cases climb, most of the US has now taken steps to loosen guidelines, after more than two months.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Shops have started to reopen in Florida As the country's death toll surpasses 92,000, all 50 US states have partially reopened after a two-month shutdown. On Wednesday, Connecticut became the final state to lift restrictions when it gave the green light to shops and restaurants under certain conditions. But wide discrepancies remain between states in terms of infection rates and the pace of their economic restart. Many have not met the federal guidance on how to reopen, including a 14-day "downward trajectory" of cases. The District of Columbia is expected to announce its reopening next week. Countrywide, the US is seeing an overall downward trend in new cases and deaths over time. Some of the hardest-hit areas, including New York, New Jersey and Washington state are now showing the sharpest declines, while majority of states have reached plateaus. Still, states like Arizona and North Carolina continue to report increases. What are different states doing? Many like Connecticut have started with a state-wide approach, with varying degrees of restrictions. In Maryland, for example, residents must stick to outdoor recreation, including golf courses, beaches and campgrounds, while states like Oklahoma now allow residents to attend religious services, get a tattoo, and even spend an evening at a nightclub. Slower moving states - mostly concentrated in the country's North East and West Coast - have begun regional openings. In California, for example, some restaurants and retail locations will be allowed to open, but only in counties that meet standards for testing and declining infection rates. Media captionTrump says Covid cases are a 'badge of honour' Last week, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser extended the city's social distancing restrictions until at least 8 June. The guidelines may be loosened, however, if DC meets a series of reopening metrics set out by Ms Bowser, including a two-week decline in community spread of the virus. What does the new guidance say? In 60 pages of guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control this past weekend, the centre provides detailed guidance to particular sectors. In schools, for example, desks must be placed six feet apart and face the same direction, with temperature checks for all staff and students. In restaurants, the CDC advises establishments open first with limited seating to allow for social distancing, and place higher-risk workers in roles that limit their interaction with customers. Image copyrightVANO SHLAMOVImage caption Residents in Georgia are now able to get a haircut as part of the state's reopening And states are advised to ensure a decline in reports of "covid-like symptoms", documented cases and positive tests over a 14-day period. But even as confirmed cases in the US pass 1.5 million, not all states are following the guidelines as they forge ahead. Texas, for example, which has begun its reopening in earnest, reported its highest single-day jump in cases on Saturday, with 1,801 new infections. What else is happening in the US? Just one day after employees returned to work at a Ford assembly plant in Chicago, thousands were forced to leave after someone tested positive, according to BBC's US partner, CBS News. In Florida, which has taken aggressive steps to reopen, a developer who created the state's Covid-19 web portal says she was fired for refusing to manipulate data "to drum up support" for loosened restrictions. A spokeswoman for the governor said the employee, Rebekah Jones, was dismissed because she was "disruptive". As of Thursday, Florida had at least 47,471 confirmed cases.
Carlos Ghosn: US ex-Green Beret and son arrested over escape from Japan - BBC News
The former soldier and his son are detained for allegedly helping the ex-Nissan boss flee Japan.
Image copyrightReutersImage caption Carlos Ghosn fled from Japan to Lebanon in December US authorities have arrested a former special forces soldier and his son for allegedly helping ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn flee Japan last December. Former Green Beret Michael Taylor, 59, and his son Peter, 26, were detained in Massachusetts on Wednesday. Japanese prosecutors issued warrants for their arrest in January. Mr Ghosn, who was detained in Japan on charges of financial misconduct in 2018, made a dramatic escape from house arrest last year. He denies the charges against him. Despite being monitored 24 hours a day, on 29 December he managed to fly to Beirut, Lebanon, via Turkey. Details of the Taylors' alleged involvement in the escape are unclear. But Japanese prosecutors have said the two were in Japan at the time and helped Mr Ghosn evade security checks as he left. Earlier this month prosecutors in Turkey charged seven people over the escape. The suspects - four pilots, two flight attendants, and an airline executive - are also accused of helping Mr Ghosn flee. Full details of the escape have never been fully explained. Mr Ghosn, who holds Brazilian, French and Lebanese nationalities, ran Renault and Nissan as part of a three-way car alliance. He is accused of misreporting his compensation package, but has insisted he can never get a fair hearing in Japan. Since his arrival in Lebanon, he has told reporters he was a "hostage" in Japan, where he was left with a choice between dying there or running.
Roe v Wade: Woman behind US abortion ruling was paid to recant - BBC News
Norma McCorvey, better known as Jane Roe, says she took money from evangelicals to condemn abortion.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption McCorvey spent the final years of her life campaigning against abortion access The woman behind the 1973 ruling legalising abortion in the US is seen admitting in a new documentary that her stunning change of heart on the issue in later life was "all an act". Norma McCorvey, known as Jane Roe in the US Supreme Court's decision on Roe v Wade, shocked the country in 1995 when she came out against abortion. But in new footage, McCorvey alleges she was paid to switch sides. The documentary, AKA Jane Roe, airs this Friday on the US channel FX. The programme was filmed in the last months of McCorvey's life before her death at age 69 in 2017 in Texas. In her "deathbed confession", as she calls it, a visibly ailing McCorvey says she only became an anti-abortion activist because she was paid by evangelical groups. "I was the big fish," she says. "I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they'd put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say. "That's what I'd say. It was all an act. I did it well too. I am a good actress. Of course, I'm not acting now." She added: "If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that's no skin off my ass. That's why they call it choice." Media captionThe abortion battle explained in three minutes AKA Jane Roe chronicles McCorvey's troubled, impoverished youth as a sexual abuse survivor and her longstanding relationship with girlfriend Connie Gonzalez. After her mid-1990s conversion to become a born-again Christian, McCorvey disavowed Gonzalez, even as they continued to live together. The documentary touches upon another irony of McCorvey's life - that she herself never had an abortion. Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption McCorvey (right, pictured in 1989) was an abortion advocate before she became an anti-abortion campaigner She was pregnant with her third child in 1970 when she was referred to two lawyers who wanted to challenge laws in Texas banning abortions except where the mother's life was at risk. The case went all the way to the highest court in the land and ultimately changed America. The Reverend Robert Schenck, one of the evangelical pastors who worked with McCorvey after her conversion to Christianity in the mid-1990s, also features in the documentary. The minister acknowledges McCorvey was paid for her appearances on the movement's behalf. The programme says it was as much as half a million dollars. "I knew what we were doing," Mr Schenck says. "And there were times when I was sure she knew. "And I wondered: 'Is she playing us?' What I didn't have the guts to say was: 'Because I know damn well we're playing her.'" In a highly self-critical blog post on Tuesday, Mr Schenck said the documentary had made him cry and he hoped that people would watch it.
Climate change: Top 10 tips to reduce carbon footprint revealed - BBC News
A report lists some of the best ways people can tackle their own contribution to climate change.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Switching to a vegan diet can help but doesn't quite have the impact of other measures Climate change can still be tackled but only if people are willing to embrace major shifts in the way we live, a report says. The authors have put together a list of the best ways for people to reduce their carbon footprints. The response to the Covid-19 crisis has shown that the public is willing to accept radical change if they consider it necessary, they explain. And the report adds that government priorities must be re-ordered. Protecting the planet must become the first duty of all decision-makers, the researchers argue. The authors urge the public to contribute by adopting the carbon-cutting measures in the report, which is based on an analysis of 7,000 other studies. Top of the list is living car-free, which saves an average of 2.04 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per person annually. This is followed by driving a battery electric car - 1.95 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per person annually - and taking one less long-haul flight each year - 1.68 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per person. Switching to a vegan diet will help - but less than tackling transport, the research shows. It says popular activities such as recycling are worthwhile, but dont cut emissions by as much. Change of mindset The lead author, Dr Diana Ivanova from Leeds University, told BBC News: We need a complete change of mindset. We have to agree how much carbon we can each emit within the limits of what the planet can bear then make good lives within those boundaries. The top 10 options are available to us now, without the need for controversial and expensive new technologies. Dr Ivanova said the coronavirus lockdown has shown that many people could live without cars if public transport, walking and cycling were improved. Her research highlights rich people who typically take more flights, drive bigger cars and consume the most. A 'moral issue' She said: All the world suffers from climate change, but its not the average person who flies regularly its a small group, yet aviation is under-taxed. Its a moral issue. In her league table, buying renewable power and using public transport rank fourth and fifth. Sixth is insulating your home well, which saves 0.895 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Seventh is switching to a vegan diet, which saves 0.8 tonnes. Image copyrightPA MediaImage caption Effectively insulating your home is an important step Other top actions are using heat pumps; switching from polluting cookstoves (in developing countries) to better methods of cooking, and heating buildings with renewable energy. Dr Ivanova said that if people implemented the measures, it would save around nine tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per person per year. Current annual household emissions are around 10 tonnes in the UK, and 17 in the US. 'Valuable' study The study, out soon in the journal Environmental Research Letters, says the following are worthwhile, but of lesser benefit to the climate: green roofs; using less paper; buying more durable items; turning down the thermostat - and recycling, which saves 0.01 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, according to Dr Ivanova. Image copyrightReutersImage caption Outside of lockdown, taking fewer flights can make a major contribution to cutting carbon Some of the findings will be questioned. Polls suggest some people think climate is as important as the virus, for instance, but some dont. Professor Tommy Wiedmann from the University of New South Wales in Australia, said: This is a valuable study. But it only looks at the carbon footprint and not at other impacts like water scarcity because of lithium mining for electric car batteries. Libby Peake, from the Green Alliance think tank, told BBC News: People shouldnt stop good habits like recycling, which saves some carbon while preventing waste and conserving resources. Better design allows people to buy fewer but higher-quality things and to live in buildings with lower carbon footprints. These savings arent necessarily covered by this study. Follow Roger on Twitter.
Johnson & Johnson to stop selling baby powder in US - BBC News
The healthcare giant faces thousands of lawsuits from consumers claiming talc caused their cancer.
Image copyrightGetty Images Healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson is to stop selling its talc-based Johnson's Baby Powder in the US and Canada. The firm faces many thousands of lawsuits from consumers who claim that its talc products caused their cancer. The move comes after years of litigation where Johnson & Johnson has been ordered to pay out billions of dollars in compensation. The company has consistently defended the safety of its talc products. Johnson & Johnson said it would wind down sales of the product, which makes up about 0.5% of its US consumer health business, in the coming months, but that retailers would continue to sell existing inventory. The firm faces more than 16,000 consumer lawsuits alleging that the company's talc products were contaminated with asbestos, a known carcinogen. The firm said that demand for Johnson's Baby Powder had been declining in North America "due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fuelled by misinformation around the safety of the product". It said it had faced "a constant barrage" of lawyers advertising for clients to sue the firm. "We remain steadfastly confident in the safety of talc-based Johnson's Baby Powder. Decades of independent scientific studies by medical experts around the world support the safety of our product," it said. The firm added that the move was part of a reassessment of its consumer products prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. It said in October that its testing had found no asbestos in its Baby Powder after tests conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration discovered trace amounts. The firm is appealing against a 2018 order to pay $4.7bn (£3.6bn) in damages to 22 women who alleged that its talc products caused them to develop ovarian cancer.
Coronavirus: Two Rohingya test positive in refugee camp - BBC News
Aid agencies warn of the impact on the camp in Bangladesh, home to around one million Rohingya.
Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption There are fears the virus could spread rapidly in the camp Two Rohingya refugees have tested positive for coronavirus in the world's largest refugee camp in Bangladesh, officials say. These are the first confirmed cases among refugees in Cox's Bazar, where around one million Rohingya are encamped, a government doctor said. Officials told the BBC that those infected were now being treated in isolation. About 1,900 other refugees are now being isolated for tests. The Rohingya in the crowded camps of Cox's Bazar have been living under lockdown since 14 March. In Greece, which is also home to large numbers of refugees, officials are hoping to relocate around 1,600 vulnerable persons from its camps to other countries as the pandemic eases. Two migrants who reached Greece's Lesbos island this week tested positive for Covid-19 and were isolated with no contact with refugee camps on the island. How grave is the threat in Cox's Bazar? Aid agencies have been warning for weeks about the potential impact of the virus on the Rohingya refugees who live in cramped, congested conditions and have limited access to clean water. "Now that the virus has entered the world's largest refugee settlement in Cox's Bazar we are looking at the very real prospect that thousands of people may die from Covid-19," Dr Shamim Jahan, Save the Children's health director in Bangladesh, said in a statement. "This pandemic could set Bangladesh back by decades." Manish Agrawal, Bangladesh country director at the International Rescue Committee, pointed out that refugees were living 40,000 to 70,000 people per square kilometre. "That's at least 1.6 times the population density on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where the disease spread four times as fast than in Wuhan at the peak of the outbreak," he told Reuters news agency, in reference to a cruise ship in Japan where Covid-19 spread rapidly. Who are the Rohingya? The Rohingya, who numbered around one million in Myanmar at the start of 2017, are one of the many ethnic minorities in the country and have faced persecution for generations. The latest exodus of Rohingya escaping to Bangladesh began on in August 2017 after militants from a Rohingya insurgent group launched deadly attacks in Myanmar on more than 30 police posts. Media captionRohingya refugee: "They killed my family in front of me"