Red Cross declares Britain’s health service in a ‘humanitarian crisis’

Author: 
Reuters
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483788594085458600

LONDON : Britain’s health service is engulfed in a “humanitarian crisis” that requires the support of the Red Cross to use Land Rovers to transport patients, the charity said on Saturday.
Founded in 1948, the National Health Service (NHS) is a source of huge pride for many Britons who are able to access care for free from the cradle to the grave.
But tight budgets, an aging population and increasingly complex medical needs have combined in recent years to leave many hospitals struggling during the winter season, sparking headlines about patients being left to wait on trolleys for hours or even days.
In a statement on its website next to appeals for help in Yemen and Syria, the British Red Cross said it was now “on the front line, responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country.”
“This means deploying our team of emergency volunteers and even calling on our partner Land Rover to lend vehicles to transport patients and get the system moving,” said Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross.
The NHS has always been an emotive issue in Britain — one of the richest countries in the world — and was once described by a former finance minister as the “closest thing the English have to a religion.”
In recent years charities and opposition politicians have warned that government cuts to social care have resulted in more elderly and vulnerable patients being treated in hospital rather than at home, putting a huge burden on the service.
The Red Cross said it was working alongside the health service to support people in their homes to free up beds.
“We’ve seen people sent home without clothes, some suffer falls and are not found for days, while others are not washed because there is no carer there to help them,” Adamson said.
A spokeswoman for NHS England said plans were in place to cope with increased pressure during the winter and that beds were not as full as this time last year.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Dale Hudson)

Main category: 

Red Cross declares Britain’s health service in a ‘humanitarian crisis’

Author: 
Reuters
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483788594085458600

LONDON : Britain’s health service is engulfed in a “humanitarian crisis” that requires the support of the Red Cross to use Land Rovers to transport patients, the charity said on Saturday.
Founded in 1948, the National Health Service (NHS) is a source of huge pride for many Britons who are able to access care for free from the cradle to the grave.
But tight budgets, an aging population and increasingly complex medical needs have combined in recent years to leave many hospitals struggling during the winter season, sparking headlines about patients being left to wait on trolleys for hours or even days.
In a statement on its website next to appeals for help in Yemen and Syria, the British Red Cross said it was now “on the front line, responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country.”
“This means deploying our team of emergency volunteers and even calling on our partner Land Rover to lend vehicles to transport patients and get the system moving,” said Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross.
The NHS has always been an emotive issue in Britain — one of the richest countries in the world — and was once described by a former finance minister as the “closest thing the English have to a religion.”
In recent years charities and opposition politicians have warned that government cuts to social care have resulted in more elderly and vulnerable patients being treated in hospital rather than at home, putting a huge burden on the service.
The Red Cross said it was working alongside the health service to support people in their homes to free up beds.
“We’ve seen people sent home without clothes, some suffer falls and are not found for days, while others are not washed because there is no carer there to help them,” Adamson said.
A spokeswoman for NHS England said plans were in place to cope with increased pressure during the winter and that beds were not as full as this time last year.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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Cold snap kills 10 in Poland in two days

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483785931345255500

WARSAW: Ten people have died in two days in Poland in a snap cold wave that is expected to continue this weekend, the authorities said Saturday.
“Seven people died on Friday in what was the deadliest day this winter,” said spokeswoman Bozena Wysocka from the government center for security (RCB).
“We recorded three other victims the previous day,” she said. “This takes to 53 the number of hypothermia victims since November 1.”
The cold snap saw temperatures plunge to well under freezing conditions in some regions, with minus 14 degrees Celsius (seven degrees Fahrenheit) forecast on Saturday.
Authorities expect the toll to rise as weather conditions are set to remain unchanged this weekend.
Police have asked people to aid those risking hypothermia, especially the homeless.
The last winter in Poland was unusually mild but claimed 77 lives in the nation of 38 million, compared to 78 in 2013-2014 and 177 in 2012-2013.
mc/ach/jm

Main category: 

Cold snap kills 10 in Poland in two days

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483785931345255500

WARSAW: Ten people have died in two days in Poland in a snap cold wave that is expected to continue this weekend, the authorities said Saturday.
“Seven people died on Friday in what was the deadliest day this winter,” said spokeswoman Bozena Wysocka from the government center for security (RCB).
“We recorded three other victims the previous day,” she said. “This takes to 53 the number of hypothermia victims since November 1.”
The cold snap saw temperatures plunge to well under freezing conditions in some regions, with minus 14 degrees Celsius (seven degrees Fahrenheit) forecast on Saturday.
Authorities expect the toll to rise as weather conditions are set to remain unchanged this weekend.
Police have asked people to aid those risking hypothermia, especially the homeless.
The last winter in Poland was unusually mild but claimed 77 lives in the nation of 38 million, compared to 78 in 2013-2014 and 177 in 2012-2013.
mc/ach/jm

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FBI deletes details about hacking effort in document release

Author: 
ERIC TUCKER | AP
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483785931245254800

WASHINGTON: The FBI has released 100 pages of heavily censored documents related to its agreement with an unidentified vendor to hack into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters, but it did not identify whom it paid to perform the work or how much it cost.
The records were provided Friday in response to a federal lawsuit filed against the FBI by The Associated Press, Vice Media and Gannett, the parent company of USA Today.
The media organizations sued in September to learn how much the FBI paid and who it hired to break into the phone of Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 people at a holiday gathering of county workers in December 2015. The FBI for weeks had maintained that only Apple Inc. could access the information on its phone, which was protected by encryption, but ultimately broke or bypassed Apple’s digital locks with the help of an unnamed third party.
The FBI, in its records release Friday, censored critical details that would have shown how much the FBI paid, whom it hired and how it opened the phone. The files had been marked “secret” before they were turned over under the lawsuit.
The files make clear that the FBI signed a nondisclosure agreement with the vendor. The records also show that the FBI received at least three inquiries from companies interested in developing a product to unlock the phone, but none had the ability to come up with a solution fast enough for the FBI.
The FBI also said in contracting documents that it did not solicit competing bids or proposals because it thought widely disclosing the bureau’s needs could harm national security.
The lawsuit was filed months after the FBI’s sudden announcement in March that it had purchased a tool from an unidentified third party to open Farook’s phone. The disclosure aborted a court fight that began when a federal judge had directed Apple to help the FBI break into the phone.
The suit by the media organizations argued there was no legal basis to withhold the information and challenged the adequacy of the FBI’s search for relevant records. It also said the public had a right to know whether the vendor has adequate security measures, is a proper recipient of government funds and will act only in the public interest.
In refusing to provide the records, the FBI said the records had been compiled for law enforcement purposes and might interfere with ongoing enforcement proceedings, even though at the time the shooters were both dead and there were no indications others were involved.
It was the third lawsuit the AP has filed against the Obama administration under the US Freedom of Information Act.

Main category: 

FBI deletes details about hacking effort in document release

Author: 
ERIC TUCKER | AP
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483785931245254800

WASHINGTON: The FBI has released 100 pages of heavily censored documents related to its agreement with an unidentified vendor to hack into an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters, but it did not identify whom it paid to perform the work or how much it cost.
The records were provided Friday in response to a federal lawsuit filed against the FBI by The Associated Press, Vice Media and Gannett, the parent company of USA Today.
The media organizations sued in September to learn how much the FBI paid and who it hired to break into the phone of Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 people at a holiday gathering of county workers in December 2015. The FBI for weeks had maintained that only Apple Inc. could access the information on its phone, which was protected by encryption, but ultimately broke or bypassed Apple’s digital locks with the help of an unnamed third party.
The FBI, in its records release Friday, censored critical details that would have shown how much the FBI paid, whom it hired and how it opened the phone. The files had been marked “secret” before they were turned over under the lawsuit.
The files make clear that the FBI signed a nondisclosure agreement with the vendor. The records also show that the FBI received at least three inquiries from companies interested in developing a product to unlock the phone, but none had the ability to come up with a solution fast enough for the FBI.
The FBI also said in contracting documents that it did not solicit competing bids or proposals because it thought widely disclosing the bureau’s needs could harm national security.
The lawsuit was filed months after the FBI’s sudden announcement in March that it had purchased a tool from an unidentified third party to open Farook’s phone. The disclosure aborted a court fight that began when a federal judge had directed Apple to help the FBI break into the phone.
The suit by the media organizations argued there was no legal basis to withhold the information and challenged the adequacy of the FBI’s search for relevant records. It also said the public had a right to know whether the vendor has adequate security measures, is a proper recipient of government funds and will act only in the public interest.
In refusing to provide the records, the FBI said the records had been compiled for law enforcement purposes and might interfere with ongoing enforcement proceedings, even though at the time the shooters were both dead and there were no indications others were involved.
It was the third lawsuit the AP has filed against the Obama administration under the US Freedom of Information Act.

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Clashes erupt as Sri Lankans protest China port deal

Author: 
ERANGA JAYAWARDENA | AP
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483785871655253000

AMBALANTOTA, Sri Lanka: Sri Lankan police used water cannons to try to break up violent clashes Saturday between government supporters and villagers marching against what they say is a plan to take over private land for an industrial zone in which China will have a major stake.
The clashes took place as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was attending an opening ceremony for the industrial zone near the port city of Hambantota, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) southeast of the capital, Colombo.
Government supporters armed with clubs first attacked protesters organized by the opposition and led by Buddhist monks in Amabalantota, 22 kilometers (13 miles) from Hambantota. The protesters responded by throwing rocks.
It was not clear how many people were injured, but several people were seen being taken away in ambulances.
The government has signed a framework agreement for a 99-year lease of the Hambantota port with a company in which China will have 80 percent ownership. Officials also plan to set up the nearby industrial zone where Chinese companies will be invited to set up factories. The villagers and monks are opposed to it and demand their residential and farmlands be spared.
A court had issued a restraining order on the protest, saying it could lead to unrest.
China invested over $1.2 billion in the port in what some analysts call its “string of pearls” strategy in countries surrounding its rival India. Although the project has seen losses since 2010, Sri Lanka’s government, at first critical of the enterprise, approached China seeking help to make it viable.
Lawmaker D.V. Chanaka, one of the protest organizers, said he fears the port area will become a “Chinese colony.”
“We are against leasing the lands where people live and do their farming, while there are identified lands for an industrial zone,” Chanaka said. “When you give away such a vast area of land, you can’t stop the area from becoming a Chinese colony.”
After the lease expires, it can be negotiated for another 99 years, according to the framework agreement, whose terms are still being negotiated. The government also has proposed to lease 15,000 acres (6,070 hectares) in Hambantota district and adjoining Moneragala district for the industrial zone.
The Rev. Magama Mahanama, from a group calling itself the Monks’ Organization to Protect National Assets, said that the clergy, following an ancient tradition, would issue a decree to the government to stop the leasing. Historically, kings in predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka are said to have abided by decrees issued by Buddhist monks.
“It’s a way of conveying the message that the monks are not for it,” Mahanama said. “Ninety-nine years means at least two generations. When they (the Chinese) take root here, what’s the guarantee that we will have it back? There is a major threat of cultural erosion and demographic change.”
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, speaking to reporters earlier this week, said the partnership arrangement was necessary to free the country from the debt incurred to build the port. He blamed the debt on former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose government was friendly to Beijing.
Wickremesinghe said the industrial zone was necessary to make the port and the nearby Chinese-financed airport, also running at a heavy loss, viable.
“The port can’t be taken away,” he said, adding that his country’s former British colonial rulers did not take away the Trincomalee harbor or the Colombo port.
___
Associated Press writer Krishan Francis in Colombo, Sri Lanka, contributed to this report.

Main category: 

Clashes erupt as Sri Lankans protest China port deal

Author: 
ERANGA JAYAWARDENA | AP
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483785871655253000

AMBALANTOTA, Sri Lanka: Sri Lankan police used water cannons to try to break up violent clashes Saturday between government supporters and villagers marching against what they say is a plan to take over private land for an industrial zone in which China will have a major stake.
The clashes took place as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was attending an opening ceremony for the industrial zone near the port city of Hambantota, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) southeast of the capital, Colombo.
Government supporters armed with clubs first attacked protesters organized by the opposition and led by Buddhist monks in Amabalantota, 22 kilometers (13 miles) from Hambantota. The protesters responded by throwing rocks.
It was not clear how many people were injured, but several people were seen being taken away in ambulances.
The government has signed a framework agreement for a 99-year lease of the Hambantota port with a company in which China will have 80 percent ownership. Officials also plan to set up the nearby industrial zone where Chinese companies will be invited to set up factories. The villagers and monks are opposed to it and demand their residential and farmlands be spared.
A court had issued a restraining order on the protest, saying it could lead to unrest.
China invested over $1.2 billion in the port in what some analysts call its “string of pearls” strategy in countries surrounding its rival India. Although the project has seen losses since 2010, Sri Lanka’s government, at first critical of the enterprise, approached China seeking help to make it viable.
Lawmaker D.V. Chanaka, one of the protest organizers, said he fears the port area will become a “Chinese colony.”
“We are against leasing the lands where people live and do their farming, while there are identified lands for an industrial zone,” Chanaka said. “When you give away such a vast area of land, you can’t stop the area from becoming a Chinese colony.”
After the lease expires, it can be negotiated for another 99 years, according to the framework agreement, whose terms are still being negotiated. The government also has proposed to lease 15,000 acres (6,070 hectares) in Hambantota district and adjoining Moneragala district for the industrial zone.
The Rev. Magama Mahanama, from a group calling itself the Monks’ Organization to Protect National Assets, said that the clergy, following an ancient tradition, would issue a decree to the government to stop the leasing. Historically, kings in predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka are said to have abided by decrees issued by Buddhist monks.
“It’s a way of conveying the message that the monks are not for it,” Mahanama said. “Ninety-nine years means at least two generations. When they (the Chinese) take root here, what’s the guarantee that we will have it back? There is a major threat of cultural erosion and demographic change.”
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, speaking to reporters earlier this week, said the partnership arrangement was necessary to free the country from the debt incurred to build the port. He blamed the debt on former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose government was friendly to Beijing.
Wickremesinghe said the industrial zone was necessary to make the port and the nearby Chinese-financed airport, also running at a heavy loss, viable.
“The port can’t be taken away,” he said, adding that his country’s former British colonial rulers did not take away the Trincomalee harbor or the Colombo port.
___
Associated Press writer Krishan Francis in Colombo, Sri Lanka, contributed to this report.

Main category: 

Taiwan leader heads to Americas; US stops set to irk China

Author: 
GILLIAN WONG | AP
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483777664595017100

BEIJING: The Taiwanese leader’s trip to the Americas starting Saturday will be scrutinized by Beijing for signs that the incoming US president’s team will risk its ire by further engaging with the self-ruled island China considers its territory.
President Tsai Ing-wen pledged to bolster Taiwan’s international profile as she set off on a trip to reinforce relations with diplomatic allies in Central America, a task that has taken on new urgency as Beijing ramps up efforts to diplomatically isolate Taipei.
Speaking to reporters before her departure, Tsai said the visits to Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador would “show the international society that Taiwan is a capable and responsible partner for cooperation.”
She will transit through Houston and San Francisco, stops that will irk Beijing, which has urged Washington to prevent Tsai from landing in the US to “refrain from sending any wrong signal to the Taiwanese independence forces.”
Beijing regards the self-governing island as part of China and officials complained after President-elect Donald Trump last month breached diplomatic protocol by speaking by phone with the Taiwanese leader. Trump raised further concerns in Beijing when he questioned a US policy that since 1979 has recognized Beijing as China’s government and maintains only unofficial relations with Taiwan.
US lawmakers often meet with Taiwanese presidents when they transit through the US — most recently in June, when Tsai met in Miami with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
This time, it was not clear if Tsai would meet Trump, though some observers said a meeting with Trump’s transition team could happen despite the risk of Beijing’s anger.
“It should not surprise anyone if the incoming president’s advisers who will be working on Asia policy meet with President Tsai,” said Ross Feingold, a Taipei-based senior adviser at D.C. International Advisory, a consulting firm whose chief executive has been consulted by the Trump transition team.
“China might issue its usual statements of displeasure … but it really doesn’t depart from precedent,” Feingold said. “A meeting with Trump would be the biggest precedent changer.”
Regardless, Tsai is likely to keep the US stops low-key to avoid further inflaming tensions with China, which has been angered by Tsai’s refusal to endorse Beijing’s concept that Taiwan and the mainland are part of a single Chinese nation.
Beijing says failing to endorse the one-China principle would destabilize relations and hurt peace in the region. In late December, in what Beijing called routine exercises, China’s first and only aircraft carrier and a fleet of warships sailed past Taiwan’s south, prompting Taipei to deploy fighter jets to monitor the fleet.
“I’m confident that both Taiwan and the US want this transit to be low profile,” said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “There is nothing to be gained by irritating Beijing.”
In Central America, Tsai will focus on strengthening ties with allies to fend off Beijing’s efforts to draw governments away from Taipei and further diminish its global presence. Beijing and Taipei have competed for allies for much of the nearly seven decades since the end of China’s civil war in 1949, when the defeated Nationalist government fled across the Taiwan Strait.
Tsai, who is leading a delegation of 120 people, will meet with most of the four countries’ leaders and attend the inauguration of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. She said she would also interact with the heads of state of other countries at the inauguration.
Beijing has intervened to prevent the island’s participation in international forums and established diplomatic relations with former Taipei allies Gambia and Sao Tome and Principe. The moves have been seen as effectively abandoning the unspoken diplomatic truce that lasted eight years under Tsai’s China-friendly predecessor. Just 21 countries and governments, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean, now have official ties with Taipei.
Observers were watching to see if any of the four Central American nations might defect despite Tsai’s efforts, but say stronger US support under Trump’s administration would help balance future diplomatic losses.
“We should expect that in the Trump administration the US would be more vociferous and emphatic about Taiwan’s participation in international organizations,” Feingold said.
Although the US does not challenge China’s claim to sovereignty over Taiwan, Washington remains Taiwan’s main source of weapons, with $14 billion in approved arms sales since 2009, and is bound by law to consider threats to the island’s security a matter of “grave concern.”
If Beijing aggressively pursues existing Taipei allies, leveraging its growing economic, military and political clout, the competition could prove too expensive for Taipei and prompt Tsai to seek even deeper ties with the US
“She may think now that it’s America or bust,” said Sean King, a Taipei-based senior vice president at consulting firm Park Strategies. “She’s probably going to lose these peripheral countries eventually anyway, so why not go for the gusto and get as close to the US while she can?“

Main category: 

Taiwan leader heads to Americas; US stops set to irk China

Author: 
GILLIAN WONG | AP
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483777664595017100

BEIJING: The Taiwanese leader’s trip to the Americas starting Saturday will be scrutinized by Beijing for signs that the incoming US president’s team will risk its ire by further engaging with the self-ruled island China considers its territory.
President Tsai Ing-wen pledged to bolster Taiwan’s international profile as she set off on a trip to reinforce relations with diplomatic allies in Central America, a task that has taken on new urgency as Beijing ramps up efforts to diplomatically isolate Taipei.
Speaking to reporters before her departure, Tsai said the visits to Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador would “show the international society that Taiwan is a capable and responsible partner for cooperation.”
She will transit through Houston and San Francisco, stops that will irk Beijing, which has urged Washington to prevent Tsai from landing in the US to “refrain from sending any wrong signal to the Taiwanese independence forces.”
Beijing regards the self-governing island as part of China and officials complained after President-elect Donald Trump last month breached diplomatic protocol by speaking by phone with the Taiwanese leader. Trump raised further concerns in Beijing when he questioned a US policy that since 1979 has recognized Beijing as China’s government and maintains only unofficial relations with Taiwan.
US lawmakers often meet with Taiwanese presidents when they transit through the US — most recently in June, when Tsai met in Miami with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
This time, it was not clear if Tsai would meet Trump, though some observers said a meeting with Trump’s transition team could happen despite the risk of Beijing’s anger.
“It should not surprise anyone if the incoming president’s advisers who will be working on Asia policy meet with President Tsai,” said Ross Feingold, a Taipei-based senior adviser at D.C. International Advisory, a consulting firm whose chief executive has been consulted by the Trump transition team.
“China might issue its usual statements of displeasure … but it really doesn’t depart from precedent,” Feingold said. “A meeting with Trump would be the biggest precedent changer.”
Regardless, Tsai is likely to keep the US stops low-key to avoid further inflaming tensions with China, which has been angered by Tsai’s refusal to endorse Beijing’s concept that Taiwan and the mainland are part of a single Chinese nation.
Beijing says failing to endorse the one-China principle would destabilize relations and hurt peace in the region. In late December, in what Beijing called routine exercises, China’s first and only aircraft carrier and a fleet of warships sailed past Taiwan’s south, prompting Taipei to deploy fighter jets to monitor the fleet.
“I’m confident that both Taiwan and the US want this transit to be low profile,” said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “There is nothing to be gained by irritating Beijing.”
In Central America, Tsai will focus on strengthening ties with allies to fend off Beijing’s efforts to draw governments away from Taipei and further diminish its global presence. Beijing and Taipei have competed for allies for much of the nearly seven decades since the end of China’s civil war in 1949, when the defeated Nationalist government fled across the Taiwan Strait.
Tsai, who is leading a delegation of 120 people, will meet with most of the four countries’ leaders and attend the inauguration of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. She said she would also interact with the heads of state of other countries at the inauguration.
Beijing has intervened to prevent the island’s participation in international forums and established diplomatic relations with former Taipei allies Gambia and Sao Tome and Principe. The moves have been seen as effectively abandoning the unspoken diplomatic truce that lasted eight years under Tsai’s China-friendly predecessor. Just 21 countries and governments, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean, now have official ties with Taipei.
Observers were watching to see if any of the four Central American nations might defect despite Tsai’s efforts, but say stronger US support under Trump’s administration would help balance future diplomatic losses.
“We should expect that in the Trump administration the US would be more vociferous and emphatic about Taiwan’s participation in international organizations,” Feingold said.
Although the US does not challenge China’s claim to sovereignty over Taiwan, Washington remains Taiwan’s main source of weapons, with $14 billion in approved arms sales since 2009, and is bound by law to consider threats to the island’s security a matter of “grave concern.”
If Beijing aggressively pursues existing Taipei allies, leveraging its growing economic, military and political clout, the competition could prove too expensive for Taipei and prompt Tsai to seek even deeper ties with the US
“She may think now that it’s America or bust,” said Sean King, a Taipei-based senior vice president at consulting firm Park Strategies. “She’s probably going to lose these peripheral countries eventually anyway, so why not go for the gusto and get as close to the US while she can?“

Main category: