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Second Brexit referendum: Over half a million people march in London

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London, Oct 20 : Over half a million people marched through central London on Saturday calling for a second, final vote on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, protest organizers announced.

Demonstrators assembled at London’s Park Lane before marching en masse towards Parliament Square in a show of force that hoped to bring about a so-called People’s Vote, essentially a second referendum on whether to go ahead with Brexit once a final deal has been drafted, the BBC reported.

Organizers at the People’s Vote HQ said more than 570,000 people had descended on central London, with many coming from across the nation to vent their frustration with the Brexit process. Scotland Yard said it was not able to estimate the size of the crowd.

Several well-known British personalities have endorsed the People’s Vote initiative, as have politicians from across the political spectrum, including London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Khan, who started the march, was among those to speak at Parliament Square, along with representatives from the main political parties.

“What’s clear is that the only options on the table now from the Prime Minister are a bad Brexit deal, or no deal whatsoever. That’s a million miles away from what was promised two-and-a-half years ago,” he said.

Labour’s Lord Adonis, a campaigner for People’s Vote, said: “Brexit’s becoming a dog’s dinner. This week’s fresh chaos and confusion over Brexit negotiations has exposed how even the best deal now available will be a bad one for Britain.”

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon sent a message of support to the rally, saying the Scottish National Party would support a vote that would give the option of staying in the EU.

Richard Tice, founder of Leave Means Leave and former co-chair of Leave.EU, said: “The idea that you should have a second referendum would be incredibly damaging, most of all to the trust in democracy from people up and down this country.”

The protest came at a time when Brexit negotiations were deadlocked over how to maintain a soft border between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, once Britain is no longer part of the EU’s single market.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, who leads the minority Conservative Party government, had dismissed the possibility of staging a referendum on the terms and conditions of Brexit.

The UK narrowly voted to leave the EU in a referendum in June 2016. The country is on track to leave in March 2019, with or without a deal.

India

China, India stand very differently at UN: Syed Akbaruddin

The 1985 batch IFS officer, who retired recently, shared his memories of being a part of the university as a student of Political Science.

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Syed Akbaruddin United Nations

Hyderabad, July 12 : India’s former permanent representative at the United Nations, Syed Akbaruddin on Saturday said countries like China and India stand very differently at the UN, in terms of their perspective and approach.

Akbaruddin was speaking during an online interaction with the Vice Chancellor and other faculty members of the University of Hyderabad, his alma mater.

About his experience working at the United Nations, he said: “The ones who have been a part of the United Nations very well know that UN is not an enchanted place. Countries like China and India stand very differently in the UN, in terms of their perspective and approach. China is always quiet and speaks only for itself whereas India always wants to speak for everyone.”

The Alumni Association of University of Hyderabad had organised an online interactive session with a distinguished alumnus in presence of Vice Chancellor Prof. Appa Rao Podile and Professor P. Prakash Babu, Dean, School of Medical Sciences, and also the General Secretary of the Alumni Association. Faculty and students from the schools participated in this programme.

Responding to a question by Professor Pramod K, Nayar, Department of English, Akbaruddin talked about the current situation of foreign policy in India. “Foreign policy is something we should not take for granted. It is not a private body but a collective government enterprise. We need to give more time and space to the government to act on the foreign policy that has been taking an upward trajectory, however, we, as a country, always fancy something better than what we own.”

As Professor Vinod Pavarala, Department of Communication, asked the former diplomat about the difference between trained civil servants and political appointees becoming ambassadors, he said: “If there is better talent available outside the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), we should not shy away because India”s diversity is such that a closed club cannot represent the whole of it. The talent we have today is more diversified and has the potential of bringing a lot to the table.”

The 1985 batch IFS officer, who retired recently, shared his memories of being a part of the university as a student of Political Science.

“My passion for learning and understanding International Relations ignited here in HCU (Hyderabad Central University). For someone like me who always wanted to study about state issues, my professors made me realise that one doesn”t need to feel alienated from their roots when they learn more about international relations. In fact, a better understanding of international relations gives you a clearer world view in understanding your roots,” he said, as per a university statement.

Akbaruddin, who served as India”s permanent representative at the UN from January 2016 to April 2020, also had advice for the young minds. “One should always be confident about their values because your values cannot be crushed under any circumstances. Your intrinsic values always prevail, even when you face difficult situations.”

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Politics

Critics blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone jail term

The move – sparing Stone from jail but not a pardon – came just after a court denied Stone’s request to delay the start date of his 40-month prison term.

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Roger Stone

Washington, July 12 : Leading Democrats have condemned US President Donald Trump’s decision to commute the prison sentence of his former adviser and friend Roger Stone.

Presidential contender Joe Biden’s spokesman accused Trump of abuse of power and “laying waste” to US values, the BBC reported.

The move – sparing Stone from jail but not a pardon – came just after a court denied Stone’s request to delay the start date of his 40-month prison term.

He was convicted of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.

Stone was the sixth Trump aide found guilty on charges linked to a justice department probe that alleged Russia tried to boost the Trump 2016 campaign.

The 67-year-old had been due to report to a federal prison in Jesup, Georgia, next Tuesday.

The White House said Stone was the victim of an attempt by opponents to undermine the presidency.

The president has been accused by political critics of undermining the justice system by criticising criminal cases against Stone and other former aides.

Trump has also publicly complained about the prosecutions of onetime campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Biden’s spokesman Bill Russo said Trump could not be shamed and could only be stopped at the ballot box.

“President Trump has once again abused his power, releasing this commutation on a Friday night, hoping to yet again avoid scrutiny as he lays waste to the norms and the values that make our country a shining beacon to the rest of the world,” he said.

House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff condemned Trump”s clemency.

“With this commutation,” said the top Democratic lawmaker, “Trump makes clear that there are two systems of justice in America: one for his criminal friends, and one for everyone else.”

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said it showed Donald Trump was the most corrupt president in history.

But the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, welcomed the news, saying Roger Stone’s sentence was draconian.

Stone himself told reporters that under the terms of the commutation he could now appeal against his sentence, and was confident that he could expose “an enormous amount of corruption” at his trial.

The White House said in a statement: “Roger Stone is a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency.”

It said that Department of Justice prosecutors under special counsel Robert Mueller only charged Stone out of frustration after failing to prove the “fantasy” that the Trump campaign had colluded with the Kremlin.

The White House also suggested that the FBI had tipped off CNN about their pre-dawn raid on Stone”s house, noting that a camera crew for the cable network was on the scene to record the arrest.

“Roger Stone has already suffered greatly,” the statement said. “He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!”

Trump had been hinting about a reprieve for Stone for months, including on Thursday night in an interview with a Fox News host.

The president”s commutation does not void a criminal conviction as a pardon does.

Stone was found guilty of lying to the House Intelligence Committee about his attempts to contact Wikileaks, the website that released damaging emails about Trump”s 2016 Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton.

US intelligence officials have concluded the messages were stolen by Russian hackers.

Stone had acknowledged during the 2016 campaign that he was in contact with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

He also intimated that he knew the website would disclose more than 19,000 emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee servers.

Stone”s sentence fell short of an initial seven-to-nine-year recommendation from prosecutors.

In a remarkable move, US Attorney General William Barr had overruled that sentencing guideline following a Trump tweet, and instead recommended a more lenient punishment.

That intervention led to the entire Stone prosecution team resigning from the case.

Stone has worked with Republicans since the 1970s and has a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back.

In the 1990s, Stone worked as a lobbyist for Trump’s casino business, and later helped Trump’s unsuccessful White House run in 2000.

According to the Netflix documentary Get Me Roger Stone, the strategist reportedly encouraged Trump to run for the presidency again.

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Disaster

Russia’s Coronavirus Cases Surpass 720K

Critics have cast doubt on Russia’s low official mortality rate and accused authorities of under-reporting to play down the scale of the crisis.

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Coronavirus Russia

Russia confirmed 6,611 new coronavirus infections Saturday, bringing the country’s official number of cases to 720,547.

Over the past 24 hours 188 people have died, bringing the total toll to 11,205 — a rate considerably lower than in many other countries hit hard by the pandemic.

A total of 8,378 people recovered over the last 24 hours, bringing the overall number of recoveries to 497,446.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Russia as of July 11.

Moscow lifted restrictions including compulsory travel passes on June 8, a move welcomed by residents who rushed out to enjoy the streets and parks.

Many other regions lifted lockdown restrictions ahead of a July 1 national vote despite the pandemic.

Critics have cast doubt on Russia’s low official mortality rate and accused authorities of under-reporting to play down the scale of the crisis.

Russia attributes its lower virus death figures to mass testing which has identified many cases with mild or no coronavirus symptoms.

The Health Ministry is now adjusting how it reports numbers to include all deaths believed to be related to the virus even if the direct cause of death was another condition or the patient tested negative.

Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, a liberal politician known for his outspoken comments, said Russia’s health system requires more funds and modernization in many regions.

“Medicine is significantly underfunded even according to the current norms and also it needs a serious overhaul,” Kudrin, who heads the Audit Chamber that examines government spending, said in an interview with the state-run TASS state news agency.

“We will carry out a check and show these figures,” he added.

Nevertheless the economist said Russia “is not doing a bad job with the pandemic,” crediting the role of the military, which has built emergency facilities.

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