Iraqis keep up anti-regime demos despite PM’s vow to quit

Iraqis keep up anti-regime demos despite PM's vow to quitIraqis kept up angry anti-government protests in Baghdad and the south on Saturday to demand a broad overhaul of a system seen as corrupt and under the sway of foreign powers, a day after the premier vowed to quit. Protesters have hit the streets since early October in the largest grassroots movement Iraq has seen in decades, sparked by fury at poor public services, lack of jobs and widespread government graft. The toll spiked dramatically this week as a crackdown killed dozens in Baghdad, the Shiite shrine city of Najaf — where another protester was killed Saturday — and the southern hotspot of Nasiriyah.


London Attack by Convicted Terrorist Disrupts U.K. Campaign

London Attack by Convicted Terrorist Disrupts U.K. Campaign(Bloomberg) — The man suspected of stabbing two people to death near London Bridge had been released early from jail after a terrorism conviction, allowing an attack in the heart of the city that is disrupting the U.K.’s general election campaign two weeks before the vote.Officers shot and killed the 28-year-old attacker, who was wearing a fake suicide vest after members of the public wrestled him to the ground on London Bridge, on the edge of the city’s financial district. He was tackled by passersby moments after carrying out the attack at about 2 p.m. on Friday.Boris Johnson broke away from campaigning on Friday for the Dec. 12 election to rush back to Downing Street for a security briefing on the attack. Speaking afterward, he praised the civilians who tried to stop the suspected terrorist before police arrived, and declared that “Britain will not be cowed” by the incident.On Saturday, Johnson met with police at the site of the attack and used the opportunity to criticize the U.K.’s criminal justice system, which routinely allows for jail sentences, even for criminals committing violent crimes or acts of terrorism, to be reduced.“The practice of automatic early release, when you cut a sentence in half and let serious and violent offenders out, is not working,” he told the BBC after his meeting with police.Click Here for the Day’s Events as They HappenedThe suspect, identified by police as Usman Khan, was released from prison on parole in December 2018, the police said in a statement. Khan was one of nine people convicted in 2012 for offenses ranging from a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange to planning a terrorist training camp. Khan originally received an indeterminate sentence, which was changed on appeal in 2013 to 16 years, the BBC reported.Johnson also praised the men who fought the attacker and pinned him to the ground on London Bridge until the police arrived. Khan began the attack while attending a conference on prisoner rehabilitation at a building called Fishmongers’ Hall next to the bridge.A Polish chef grabbed an ornamental narwhal tusk off a wall and used it to confront the attacker, while another chased Khan with a fire extinguisher, Sky News reported. A third man who aided the victims and tried to fend Khan off was a convicted murderer who was close to completing his sentence, the Telegraph reported, while another man stopped his car and helped the others force Khan to release the two knives he was carrying.“I want to pay tribute to the sheer bravery of the members of the public who went to deal with and put their own lives at risk,“ Johnson said.The first victim of the attack was identified as Jack Merritt, 25, a University of Cambridge graduate who was a coordinator of the conference that Khan attended, the BBC reported.With voters set to go to the polls on Dec. 12, the impact of such a potentially disruptive event is unclear. But the revelation that the attacker was a former convicted terrorist is likely to put pressure on the ruling Conservatives — who traditionally view crime prevention as one of their stronger cards — to explain why the person was allowed out of jail.Johnson also told the BBC that his government would review sentencing policies in the wake of the attack.Campaigning in the U.K.’s last election in 2017 was thrown off course by two terrorist attacks, including one in the same area of London just five days before the vote. In that incident, eight people were killed and 48 injured.In the aftermath of the 2017 attack, Donald Trump triggered a diplomatic row when he criticized London Mayor Sadiq Khan over his response, and their spat has continued ever since. The U.S. president arrives in the U.K. next week for a NATO summit, which Johnson hopes will be a low-key visit.On Friday, Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke by phone and each suspended their election campaigns in the capital for the rest of the day. Johnson’s team said he would also cancel his events on Saturday so he can focus on the security response.But speaking to television reporters just before a meeting of the government’s ‘Cobra’ crisis committee on Friday evening, Johnson highlighted his election pledge to hire extra police officers.‘Hunted Down’“Anybody involved in this crime and these attacks will be hunted down and will be brought to justice,” he said. “This country will never be cowed or divided or intimidated by this sort of attack and our British values will prevail.”After the alarm was raised on Friday lunchtime, armed police cleared cafes and shops in the London Bridge area. Officers burst into restaurants in the popular Borough Market area on the other side of the river, urging diners to leave immediately. They shouted “Out, out, out,” to people at the Black and Blue bar, and ordered customers to walk away with their hands on their heads. Nearby, police shouted to pedestrians to “run.”The police asked people to avoid the area. Mayor Sadiq Khan said Saturday on BBC’s Radio 4 that while there will be “more high visibility police officers present in London” through the weekend “there’s no reason to believe there is an increased threat” from terrorism. The bridge will remain closed for some time, he said from the site on Saturday afternoon.(Updates with identity of first victim in 10th paragraph.)–With assistance from Tim Ross.To contact the reporters on this story: Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.net;Greg Ritchie in London at gritchie10@bloomberg.net;Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, James Amott, Andrew DavisFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Hong Kong elders, youths vow to keep up pro-democracy fight

Hong Kong elders, youths vow to keep up pro-democracy fightHundreds of silver-haired activists joined young Hong Kong protesters for a unity rally Saturday, vowing that their monthslong movement will not fade away until there is greater democracy in the Chinese territory. The rally at a park downtown was among several peaceful gatherings by protesters this week to keep up pressure on the government amid a lull in violence following a local election victory by the pro-democracy bloc and the gaining of U.S. support for their cause. A local boys’ band belted out songs to tell protesters that “the whole Hong Kong is supporting you.” Speakers reminded the crowd that it wasn’t time to celebrate and that the fight for real autonomy must persist.


Trump thanks troops in Afghanistan, says Taliban want a deal

Trump thanks troops in Afghanistan, says Taliban want a dealPresident Donald Trump paid a surprise Thanksgiving visit to Afghanistan, where he announced the U.S. and the Taliban have been engaged in ongoing peace talks and said he believes the Taliban want a cease-fire. Trump arrived at Bagram Air Field shortly after 8:30 p.m. local time Thursday and spent 3½ hours on the ground during his first trip to the site of America’s longest war. He served turkey and thanked the troops, delivered a speech and sat down with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani before leaving just after midnight.


Albanians hold mass funeral for earthquake victims

Albanians hold mass funeral for earthquake victimsThumanë (Albania) (AFP) – Albanian families buried their loved ones on Friday and the country mourned the 49 people known to have died in this week’s earthquake, as officials grapple with the destruction left in its wake. Entire families were crushed by their homes when the 6.4 magnitude earthquake — the most deadly and devastating in decades — jolted the Balkan country before dawn on Tuesday. In the town of Thumane, where numerous buildings collapsed, loved ones wept before the six wooden coffins of the Cara family and three more belonging to the Greku family.


Japanese department store under fire over ‘period badges’ for female employees

Japanese department store under fire over 'period badges' for female employeesA Japanese department store is under fire over a controversial policy enabling female staff to wear special red badges when they are menstruating. The unusual initiative was recently introduced Daimaru Umeda department store in Osaka, with the goal of encouraging empathy among co-workers when they were on their period. However, the company said that it was now reconsidering the plan following a growing public backlash over the badges, which depict a red manga cartoon character called Seiri-chan (which roughly translates as Miss Period). “We received many complaints from the public,” an unnamed male executive at the store told Reuters. “Some of them concerned harassment, and that was definitely not our intention. We’re reconsidering plans now.” He added that the store had not intended to make the badge compulsory, with the initiative launched to coincide with the opening of its new Women’s Wellbeing section. The badge was reportedly available to around 500 female members of staff, with the intention of helping staff recognise when colleagues with their period might need extra help or a break. Seiri-chan, a character with a heart-shaped face and big red lips, has become something of a hit in recent months in Japan, a nation where public talk of women’s bodies and periods is often taboo. The brainchild of manga artist Ken Koyama, Seiri chan features in the popular comic Little Miss P – alongside catchily-named characters such as Little Miss PMS and Mr Virginity – and even starred in her own live-action comedy released this month. The workplace has long been a challenging place for Japanese women, with the nation often lagging far behind many other developed countries in terms of gender equality. Female workers are often exposed to deeply traditional gender expectations, as reflected by Japanese women earlier this month demanding the right to wear glasses to work, amid reports that some employers had banned them. Earlier this year, more than 21,000 people also signed a high profile online petition calling for Japanese companies to stop forcing female staff to wear high heels to work.