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Britons in Europe face citizens’ rights ‘lottery’ in event of no deal

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Tens of thousands of Britons seeking to secure residency rights in EU countries in the event of a no-deal Brexit face fees of up to €210 (£183), tight application deadlines and minimum salary thresholds, a Guardian investigation can reveal, Agencies report.

The challenges for British nationals will vary across the 27 EU member states if a withdrawal agreement is not ratified. The European commission has suggested member states should take a “generous” approach, but apart from Ireland none of the EU member states are said by citizens groups to be offering terms on a par with the approach taken by the British government.

In the event of a no-deal exit, the estimated 3.6 million EU citizens who reside in the UK would have until the end of 2020 to register for settled status through a free online application in which they need to prove only their identity and that they live in the UK, and declare any criminal convictions.

Despite the repeated calls by the European parliament for the UK to improve its offer, many of the estimated 1.2 million British nationals living in the other 27 EU member states would be in significantly worse situations.

  • The 8,500 British citizens living in Austria face paying €210 for a residence permit or €195 for each child up to the age of six. France would charge €119. Some member states, including Germany, are yet to decide on the size of the fee.
  • Retired or otherwise non-economically active people who have lived in France for less than five years would have to apply each year for a visitor card costing €269, leaving those who are new to the country with a potential cost of more than €1,000. Self-employed Britons would need to show they have sufficient resources for their family, with a couple with two children required to provide evidence of an income of around €1,175 a month.
  • Denmark is yet to make a permanent offer for those seeking to stay beyond a “temporary transitional period” up to the end of 2019.
  • Two thousand Britons living in Poland who apply for long-term residency permits would have to prove they have not spent more than 10 months outside Poland in the last five years.
  • Grace periods for late applications range from three months after Brexit day in Germany – although that initial proposal is set to be extended to nine months when finally legislated – to three years for those living in Hungary.

Jane Golding, the chair of the lobby group British in Europe, said her members were now pushing for an EU-wide solution to be ringfenced in the event of Britain’s membership of the bloc being extended beyond 31 October.

 “If there had been a ringfenced solution, in a no-deal scenario you would have an EU-wide solution. But what we are facing now is 27 different solutions,” she said. “In effect it is a European postcode lottery, and rather than our EU rights being safeguarded at an EU level, our rights are being outsourced to the 27 countries.”

Kalba Meadows, a psychotherapist who lives and works in France, said the biggest problem facing Britons in her adopted country was its six-month grace period for applications that do not arrive before Brexit day.

She said: “It’s one of the shortest in the EU27, which is surprising when you take into account that France is the only EU27 state that doesn’t require registration of EU citizens, so it’s a case of starting from scratch, unlike, say, Germany or Spain where everyone should already be registered. It’s hard to see, frankly, how 150,000 to 200,000 people are going to be able to register within such a short timescale, even in a perfect world.”

Meadows added: “We know that there are thousands of British residents out there who haven’t yet been reached, either by us or by the embassy’s publicity campaigns, so there’s a huge amount of work to be done and it needs to be done fast. Then there’s the issue of those who are especially vulnerable – those who are ill, very elderly, live alone, have no internet or no transport, those in care homes, those under tutelle [power of attorney] and so on.”

Boris Johnson has said the UK will leave the EU on 31 October, “no ifs or buts”, and it looks increasingly unlikely that a deal will be secured with Brussels at a summit this Thursday.

A UK government spokesperson said: “The government has given an unequivocal guarantee to EU citizens living and working in the UK that they can have absolute certainty of the right to live and remain in the UK after Brexit. We continue to urge all member states to reciprocate fully for UK nationals the guarantee that we have made to EU citizens.”

Trio win Nobel Economics Prize for work on poverty

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The 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences has been awarded Monday to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty”, Agencies report.

Banerjee and Duflo are both at Massachusetts Institute of Technology while Kremer is at Harvard University. Duflo is the second woman to win the economics prize.

Duflo, who was woken up by Goran Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Monday, said that getting the prize “incredibly humbling.”

Duflo is only the second woman to win the economics prize, after Elinor Ostrom got it in 2009, and is also the youngest ever to receive the economics award.

Officially known as the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel,  the award wasn’t created by the prize founder, but is considered to be part of the Nobel stable of awards.

It was created by Riksbanken, the Swedish central bank, in 1968, and the first winner was selected a year later.

With the glory comes a 9 million-kronor ($918,000) cash award, a gold medal and a diploma.

Last week, six Nobel prizes were given — medicine, physics and chemistry plus two literature awards, and the coveted Peace Prize.

All but the winner of the Peace Prize receive their awards on Dec. 10 — the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896 — in Stockholm. The winner of the Peace Prize receives the award in Oslo, Norway.

India restores post-paid cellphone services in Kashmir

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More than two months after India’s government downgraded Kashmir’s semi-autonomy and imposed a security and communications lockdown, cellphones started to ring in the disputed Himalayan region on Monday as authorities restored post-paid cellphone services, Agencies report.

Landline phones were restored in the region last month, but the ban on more than 2 million prepaid mobile connections and internet services will continue.

Authorities fear that insurgents and separatists demanding independence from Indian rule will use the internet to provoke protests in the region that have the potential to morph into large-scale street demonstrations.

Tensions in Kashmir, which is divided between Pakistan and India but claimed by both in its entirety, have escalated since New Delhi’s surprise decision in early August to downgrade the region’s semi-autonomy. India followed the move by sending in tens of thousands of extra troops, detaining thousands of people and blocking cellphone and internet services.

Residents appeared relieved Monday after facing difficulties during the long communications embargo. But the region continues to simmer with anger.

“It is a relief,” said Mohammad Akram, a trader. He was, however, quick to add how Kashmiris are expected “to thank the government for giving them basic amenities.”

Many also expressed their angst at the situation, with some saying that the past two months were akin to living in the Stone Age without lines of communication.

“Thank you, India. You have finally decided to partially restore our digital rights,” said Sameer Ahmad, a college student. “When will you restore our political rights?”

Facing international pressure to ease people’s suffering and restore normal life, Indian authorities announced last week that they would allow tourists back into the region after ordering them to leave in August because of security concerns. The government has said that internet facilities are being opened at tourist spots in the region.

“Whatever India does in Kashmir, it is driven to consolidate its position,” said Ali Mohammad, a schoolteacher. “They stopped phones and internet services to stop us from registering protests. Now they are restoring these services to cater to tourists and declare normalcy in Kashmir.”

Authorities also released three low-ranking politicians in the region last week. However, prominent Kashmiri politicians, including some who have historically accepted India’s sovereignty over the disputed Muslim-majority region, remain detained in their homes or in jails.

Kurds reach deal with Syrian army to resist Turkey

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The Kurds in Syria say the Syrian government has agreed to send its army to the northern border to try to halt Turkey’s offensive against them, Agencies report.

Syrian state media earlier reported that government forces had been deployed to the north, reports BBC. 

It follows the US decision to pull all its remaining troops from the area over the “untenable” situation there.

The Turkish assault, launched last week, is aimed at forcing Kurdish forces from along the border area.

Areas under control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main US ally in the area, have come under heavy bombardment over the weekend, with Turkey making gains in two key border towns.

Dozens of civilians and fighters have been killed on both sides.

In a separate development on Sunday, Kurdish officials said nearly 800 relatives of foreign Islamic State (IS) members had escaped from Ain Issa, a camp in the north, as clashes raged nearby.

The Turkish offensive and US withdrawal has drawn an international outcry, as the SDF were the main Western allies in the battle against IS in Syria.

But Turkey views elements of the Kurdish groups within the force as terrorists and says it wants to drive them away from a “safe zone” reaching 30km into Syria.

It also plans to resettle more than three million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey within the zone. Many of them are not Kurds. Critics have warned this could lead to ethnic cleansing of the local Kurdish population.

What do we know about the deal?
The Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria said the Syrian army would deploy along the entire length of the border as part of the agreement.

This deployment would assist the SDF in countering “this aggression and liberating the areas that the Turkish army and mercenaries had entered”, it said in a statement.

The move also “paves the way to liberate the rest of the Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish army such as Afrin”, it added.

Turkish forces and pro-Turkey Syrian rebels forced Kurdish fighters from Afrin back in 2018 after a two-month operation.

The deal represents a significant shift in alliances for the Kurds, after losing the military protection of their long-term US partners in the area.

It is not yet known what the Syrian government has committed to.

However SDF chief Mazloum Abdi acknowledged “there would be painful compromises” with the Assad government and its Russian allies, in an article for Foreign Policy magazine.

“We do not trust their promises. To be honest, it is hard to know whom to trust,” he writes.

“But if we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people.”

The deal follows US President Donald Trump’s surprise move last week to pull dozens of troops from pockets in the north-east, effectively paving the way for the Turkish operation against the Kurdish fighters.

At the time, the SDF called the move “a stab in the back”.

What about the latest US withdrawal?

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper earlier announced the Pentagon was moving up to 1,000 troops away from the north after learning that Turkey was pushing further into Syria than previously expected.

Describing the situation there as “untenable”, he said the SDF had been “looking to cut a deal” with the Syrian government and Russia to counter the Turkish attack.

This, he continued, would leave the US forces stuck between “two opposing advancing armies”.

Hours after Mr Esper’s comments, Syria said it was deploying its forces to the north to “confront a Turkish aggression”. It is not yet clear where exactly the troops are being sent.

On Sunday, President Trump tweeted that it was “very smart” not to be involved in the fighting “for a change”, saying engagement in Middle East conflict was a mistake.

What has Turkey seized so far ?
Turkey is pushing deeper into northern Syria.

On Sunday, President Erdogan said his forces had already captured 109 sq km (42 square miles) of territory, including 21 villages.

He told reporters the key border town of Ras al-Ain had come under Turkish control – though the SDF said they had pushed Turkish forces back to the town’s outskirts.

Mr Erdogan said Turkish forces had also besieged the town of Tal Abyad, some 120km (75 miles) away.

The UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said Turkey was in almost complete control there.

Both Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad are key goals in the Turkish offensive against the SDF.

Turkey also announced that its Syrian allies on the ground had seized a key motorway – called M4 – some 30-35km south of the border.

What are the casualty figures?
They’re rising, with civilians killed on both sides of the border:

More than 50 civilians and over 100 Kurdish fighters killed in north-eastern Syria, SOHR says

SDF says the Kurdish forces’ death toll is 56 and Turkey gives a higher figure of 440

Eighteen civilians killed in southern Turkey, according to Turkish reports

Four Turkish soldiers and 16 pro-Turkish Syrian fighters killed in Syria, Turkey says
The UN humanitarian agency OCHA says up to 160,000 civilians are now on the move and it expects the number to rise. It says it is increasingly concerned about the safety of its staff in the region.

What about IS?
The fighting has spilled over to areas close to IS detainee camps.

Fears that Kurdish forces will be unable to keep IS prisoners confined appeared to have been realised when officials at the Ain Issa camp said nearly 800 relatives of foreign IS members had escaped.

The SOHR said the number of people who fled was 100. It not known where they have fled to.

The camp holds about 12,000 displaced people, previously including nearly 1,000 foreign women and children with jihadist links.

Will Islamic State re-emerge?
The SDF says it is currently holding more than 12,000 suspected IS members in seven prisons, and at least 4,000 of them are foreign nationals.

IS has claimed recent car bombings and on Saturday declared a new campaign in Syria.

Turkey says it will take responsibility for IS prisoners it finds during its offensive.

Catalan separatist leaders given lengthy prison sentences

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The nine sentenced leaders: (top, from left) Raül Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Turull, Oriol Junqueras, Josep Rull; (bottom from left) Jordi Cuixart, Carme Forcadell, Dolors Bassa and Jordi Sànchez. Composite: AFP/Getty Images

Spain’s supreme court has jailed nine prominent Catalan separatist leaders for sedition over their roles in the failed push for independence two years ago, triggering angry protests in Catalonia and renewed calls for a political solution to the long-running territorial dispute, The Guardian reports.

Protesters took to the streets and others tried to blockade the main terminal at Barcelona airport after the court acquitted the nine defendants of the charge of violent rebellion but convicted them variously of sedition, misuse of public funds and disobedience.

The region’s former vice-president Oriol Junqueras was convicted of sedition and misuse of public funds and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He was also banned from holding public office for 13 years.

The former Catalan foreign minister Raül Romeva, labour minister Dolors Bassa and regional government spokesman Jordi Turull were each convicted of the same offences and sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment and handed 12-year bans on holding office.

Carme Forcadell, a former speaker of the Catalan parliament, was sentenced to 11 and a half years, while the former interior minister Joaquim Forn and territorial minister Josep Rull got 10 and a half years each.

Two influential pro-independence grassroots activists, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, were found guilty of sedition and given nine-year sentences.

Three other independence leaders were found guilty of disobedience and handed fines and bans from holding office.

The four-month trial heard from 422 witnesses and investigated the events that triggered the country’s worst political crisis since it returned to democracy after the death of General Franco.

Less than five hours after the seven judges’ verdicts were announced, an international arrest warrant was reissued for the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who spearheaded the push for independence. The warrant said Puigdemont, who fled into self-imposed exile in Belgium to avoid arrest by the Spanish authorities, was wanted for alleged sedition and misuse of public funds.

Junqueras urged supporters not to give up on Catalan independence. “We’ll return stronger and with even more belief than ever,” he tweeted. “Thanks to everyone, keep fighting because we will keep fighting forever.”

Sànchez, a regional MP and former president of the influential grassroots Catalan National Assembly, said his nine-year sentence would not dent his optimism nor his belief in an independent Catalonia. He also made a plea for calm. “Let’s express ourselves without fear and move forward, non-violently, towards freedom,” he tweeted.

Spain’s acting prime minister, the socialist leader Pedro Sánchez, said his government respected the supreme court’s decision, which he said met all the requirements of due process, transparency and separation of powers.

“Nobody is above the law,” he said. “In a democracy like Spain, nobody is subject to trial for his or her ideas or politics but rather for criminal conduct as provided by the law.”

Sánchez said the Catalan independence movement had tried to subvert the Spanish constitution and had created a fracture within Catalan society “by refusing to recognise the majority who oppose independence”.

He said the government would work to guarantee public order in the coming days. On Monday, a large number of officers patrolled Barcelona airport and the city’s Sants railway station to guard against any attempts at direct action in response to the sentences. Police also gathered at Girona’s main railway station.

By late afternoon the focus of the protest was Barcelona airport. Tsunami Democràtic, a group formed to channel reaction to the verdicts, organised a download of more than 100,000 fake airline tickets designed to help protesters get past police lines. After police closed the airport train link, thousands set off on foot to make the three and a half hour walk from central Barcelona.

There was a tense atmosphere in the airport, with large contingents of national and regional police holding back protesters.

The Catalan president, Quim Torra, urged an amnesty for those convicted and said the sentences would not deflect his administration from pressing on with its quest for independence. “Repression will never triumph over dialogue, democracy and self-determination,” he said.

Spain’s foreign minister, Josep Borrell, said he believed the verdict could serve as a means to bring Catalonia’s deeply divided society back together.

Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief-elect, told the Associated Press that work should begin “for a normalisation of the political social life in Spain and to heal the wounds of this Catalan society, but with full respect to the Spanish constitution”.

The trial centred on a referendum held on 1 October 2017 in defiance of the government at the time, under the conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy, and of the country’s constitution, which is founded on the “indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation”.

Also scrutinised were the events of 20 September 2017, when police raided Catalan regional government offices and arrested 14 senior officials in an attempt to head off the vote.

The raids brought thousands of Catalans out to protest. Guardia Civil officers became trapped inside the buildings they were searching and three of their vehicles were vandalised.

The defendants have already said they will appeal to the European court of human rights.

A spokeswoman for the European commission said it respected the decisions of the Spanish judiciary. “Our position on this is well known and has not changed,” she said. “This is, and remains, an internal matter for Spain, which has to be dealt with in line with its constitutional order.”

Biman flight makes emergency landing

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A Singapore-bound flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines ‘Mayurpankhi’ has made an emergency landing at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on Monday, Agencies report.

The Biman flight Boeing-737-800 took off with a total of 156 passengers and seven crew members on board around 8:25am, said official concerned.

Few minutes after take-off, the captain noticed that the plane was struck by birds, which prompted him to make the landing, according to Biman’s Deputy General Manager (Public Relations) Tahera Khandakar.

However, the passengers of this flight were moved to another flight which took off from the airport around 11am, she added.

Dhaka ranks third worst

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Bangladesh’s capital was ranked third worst in Air Quality Index (AQI) on Monday morning, Agencies report.

Dhaka had a score of 169 at 8:30am, which means the city’s air quality was classified as unhealthy.

Pakistan’s Lahore and India’s Delhi were at the top of the list with scores of 211 and 195 respectively.

When the AQI value is between 151 and 200, every city dweller may begin to experience health effects. Members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects in this situation.

Active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, are advised to avoid prolonged outdoor exertion.

The AQI, an index for reporting daily air quality, tells people how clean or polluted the air of a certain city is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for them.

Bangladesh’s overcrowded capital has been grappling with air pollution for a long time. The quality usually improves during monsoon.

Buet admission test held

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The admission test for the academic session of 2019-20 of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) was held on Monday, Agencies report.

The three-hour test began at 9am. A total of 12,161 candidates contested for 1,060 seats this year.

The applicants were not allowed to take mobile phones, smart watches or any other electronic devices in the examination halls except admit card, pen/pencil and calculators of approved models, said a press release.

During a visit to Buet campus, UNB correspondent saw an additional number of police personnel deployed there. The gurdians were seen waiting outside the examination centres.

Admission Test Committee Chief Pran Kanai Saha said 16,288 students applied for participating in the admission test.

Student protest, triggered by the death of second-year EEE student Abrar Fahad last week, threatened to disrupt this year’s entry test. The students decided to ease their demonstration to facilitate the admission test after Buet authorities issued notices accepting some of their demands.

9 to walk gallows

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A tribunal here on Monday sentenced nine people to death and four others to life term imprisonment for killing a businessman in 2013, Agencies report.

Chattogram Divisional Speedy Trial Tribunal Judge Mohammad Abdul Halim handed down the verdict.

Ayub Khan, public prosecutor, said Jahangir Alam, son of Fzar Ali of Gouripur village in Daudkandi upazila in Cumilla, was hacked to death by some miscreants on December 1, 2013. A case was filed in this connection.

Cabinet clears nuke energy mgmt policy

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The Cabinet on Monday endorsed the Radioactive Waste and Used Nuclear Energy Management National Policy with a provision that polluters will have to bear the costs for disposing of radioactive wastes, Agencies report.

The approval came at the Cabinet meeting held with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair at her office.

Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam briefed reporters at the Secretariat after the meeting.

“The policy has been prepared to dispose of all the radioactive wastes to be released from atomic energy materials in different sectors across the country,” he said adding atomic energy is also used in ultrasonography test of the medical sector.

“There’ll be a company named RWMC (Radioactive Waste Management Company) to dispose of radioactive wastes. But the polluters will have to pay for it,” said Shafiul Alam.

About Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, he said Russia will take away the wastes of the plant and dispose of that in their country as per the agreement.

The Cabinet Secretary said the policy has been framed as per the guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as there is no scope to go beyond the IAEA guidelines.

The policy was formulated aiming to prevent harms and any untoward incident to be caused by such radioactive wastes and nuclear energy, he said.

The Cabinet also gave the final approval to the draft of the Bangladesh Engineering Research Council Bill 2019 to promote engineering research and ensure the standard of technology for their pragmatic uses in the country.

“It’s a new law and new concept as well. We don’t have any institution for engineering research like that for agriculture and other sectors,” said the Cabinet Secretary.

A 10-member governing body headed by a chairman will run the council. The chairman will also be the Chief Executive Officer of the council, he said.

There will also be an advisory body headed by the Science and Technology Minister for the research council, he added.

Besides, the Cabinet gave approval to the draft of the Bangladesh Lighthouse Bill, 2019 making the existing the Lighthouse Act, 1927 as a time-befitting one, said Shafiul Alam.

As per the bill, there will be a port lighthouse authority to supervise and run the country’s port lighthouses, he said.

The levy (charge) collection process of lighthouses has been made easier in the bill.