’s govt accused of threatening a dozen rebel Tory MPs

House of Commons Standards Committee chair Chris Bryant said it had “abandoned its moral compass,” having allegedly “blackmailed” disgruntled lawmakers to save the PM

Boris Johnson and senior Conservative Party figures allegedly threatened to withhold funding from the constituencies of around 12 rebel Tory MPs if they did not cease their efforts to oust the prime minister from office, the chair of the House of Commons’ internal watchdog has claimed.

Labour MP Chris Bryant made the bombshell allegations on a BBC radio program on Saturday, telling the public broadcaster that several Tory MPs had told him they had either been given a warning by Johnson or the party whips, or been promised “levelling-up” funding if they “vote[d] the right way.”

Noting that any such “illegal” activity amounted to “misconduct in public office,” Bryant asserted that the “allocation of taxpayer funding to constituencies should be according to need, not according to the need to keep the prime minister in his job.”

He added that the levelling-up funds introduced last spring to renew infrastructure across the country appeared to have offered “an open opportunity for government ministers to corruptly hand out money to some MPs and not to others.”

This, in the end, strikes at the heart of whether or not we have a government that understands the proper way of doing things … there’s been a complete abandonment of any kind of moral compass around all of these issues.

The first allegation of “blackmail” by the whips was made on Thursday by Conservative MP William Wragg. He claimed Johnson’s critics were being subjected to threats and “intimidation” by Downing Street staffers. Wragg, who has submitted a letter of no confidence in the prime minister, told The Telegraph he would “stand by what I have said” and that “no amount of gas-lighting will change that.”

Although Wragg said he had arranged to meet with a Scotland Yard detective next week to discuss “several examples” of government bullying, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police declined to confirm whether it would be getting involved in the matter. They said, however, that “as with any such allegations, should a criminal offence be reported to the Met, it would be considered.”

The potential police involvement would be a significant escalation of the ongoing battle between senior Tory officials and vocal party backbenchers frustrated with Johnson’s leadership. It would represent another setback at a time when Downing Street is grappling with the fallout from its ‘Partygate’ scandal.

A spokesperson for Johnson said on Friday that the prime minister’s office would launch an inquiry into the allegations of blackmail only if evidence was provided to support the claims.

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At least 7 killed in bus blast in western Afghanistan

At least seven people were killed and nine others wounded in a bomb attack on a minibus in city of Herat, officials say.

At least seven people have been killed in a bomb blast on a minibus in the western Afghan city of Herat, officials said.

“Four women were among the seven killed,” the head of Herat’s provincial hospital, Arif Jalali, told the AFP news agency on Saturday.

Herat’s Taliban commander Mawlawi Ansari told Reuters news agency that nine people had been wounded.

The blast was confirmed by Herat’s intelligence office.

“Initial reports indicate it was a sticky bomb attached to the fuel tank of the passenger vehicle,” said Sabit Harwi, a spokesman for the office.

Herat provincial police and the department of culture also confirmed the bomb blast. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Security in Afghanistan has vastly improved since a 20-year-long armed battle by the Taliban ended with the group’s capture of the capital, Kabul, in August.

However, several attacks have been reported each week throughout the country, including some claimed by the regional chapter of ISIL (ISIS), Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K).

ISKP has been accused of regularly targeting the country’s Shia Hazara community with deadly attacks, and the area where Saturday’s blast occurred near a bus station is also inhabited by the community.

Herat is the country’s third-biggest city, close to the border with Iran, but had remained relatively peaceful in recent months.

In addition to security-related concerns, the Afghan economy remains dire as support for the country has dried up amid the Taliban takeover. The international community remains wary of the group with the United States imposing sanctions on some of its leaders.

The United Nations estimates nearly 23 million Afghans – about 55 percent of the population – are facing extreme levels of hunger, with nearly nine million at risk of famine as winter takes hold.

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English Island Seeks a Landlord-King Who Likes Solitude, Seals and Beer

The island is also where Lambert Simnel, the young son of an Oxford tradesman, landed in June 1487 with an army of mercenaries and a claim to be the rightful heir to England’s throne. He marched on London, was promptly defeated by Henry VII, and wound up a kitchen servant.

The “King of Piel” custom was probably invented in the early 19th century as a reference to Simnel’s doomed claim, Mr. Douglas said. “Sort of a looking back to the good old days, and reinventing some kind of arcane ceremony,” he said. “It’s a bit weird.”

In the fall and winter, the history buffs and picnickers leave the island to the birds, the seals and two full-time residents in one of the private homes. “It’s a very tranquil place,” Mr. Murphy said. “If you don’t have any customers, you have to be a Robinson Crusoe and enjoy the facilities that you’ve got in your mind.”

Mr. Callister said some parts of the landlord’s contract would be negotiated with the council, including pay and whether the landlord would have to live on Piel year-round.

“It’s an opportunity for somebody that’s really open-minded, loves that style of business, loves the outside, loves history,” Mr. Callister said. “At the end of the day, when we all get a little bit older, you think, ‘I wish I’d have done that.’ Don’t pass that opportunity over.”

Mr. Murphy said the job requires someone who, at minimum, doesn’t mind a lot of time alone. He described the winter as “very harsh indeed,” with storms bringing heavy wind and rain. “You are virtually stuck on the island alone.”

And once you’re there, you have only so many ways to leave. When the tide recedes, it’s possible to walk — carefully, if you know the way — across two miles of sand. But when the tide returns, the only transport is a small ferry that Mr. Murphy described as “a rowing boat with a little engine on the back.”

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Indian Arrested Near US-Canada Border Requires Partial Amputation Of Hand

Two of the seven Indian nationals, illegally present in the US and who were arrested near the US-Canada border, have sustained serious injuries from “suspected frostbite” and one woman will require partial amputation of a hand from exposure to extreme cold weather conditions, according to a court document.

A criminal complaint was filed on Thursday in the US District Court for the District of Minnesota against 47-year-old US citizen Steve Shand, who has been charged with human smuggling.

Shand, a “suspected smuggler of undocumented foreign nationals” was arrested near the US-Canadian border on January 19 for transporting two Indian nationals, who were illegally present in the US.

The two Indian nationals have been identified as ‘SP’ and ‘YP’ in the complaint.

The complaint also states that five Indian nationals “illegally present” in the United States were also identified and arrested around the time Shand was arrested.

“Six of the seven arrested foreign nationals were present at the Pembina Border Patrol station” in North Dakota and “one of the foreign nationals was hospitalised for cold injuries.” The complaint also added that two of the seven Indian nationals arrested “sustained serious injuries.” “A male adult and female adult were taken to the hospital for suspected frostbite. The male was later released from the hospital, but the female was life-flighted to a larger hospital and will likely require partial amputation of one hand from exposure to extreme cold weather conditions. The female also stopped breathing several times while being transported by Border Patrol,” it said.

Authorities have said the weather in the area was severe, with high winds, blowing snow and temperatures well below sub-zero. “The area is also known by Border Patrol as a high incident area for human smuggling,” it said.

A family of four Indian nationals, including an infant, froze to death along the US-Canada border in what authorities believe was a failed crossing attempt during a freezing blizzard.

Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy, Commanding Officer of the Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said at a press conference that RCMP officers discovered the bodies of three individuals – an adult male, adult female and an infant – on the Canadian side of the border.

Fearing there may be additional victims, officers continued their search and located the body of another male, believed at this time to be a teen.

The five Indian nationals told authorities that they had walked across the border expecting to be picked up by someone.

The group said they had been walking around for over 11 hours. One of the group members was carrying a backpack that did not belong to him.

He told authorities that he was carrying the backpack for a family of four Indian nationals that had earlier walked with his group but had separated during the night.

The backpack contained children’s clothes, a diaper, toys, and some children’s medication.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Remote nation in the Pacific goes into lockdown for the first time

(CNN) — The remote island nation of Kiribati went into lockdown for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began two years ago after dozens of passengers on an international flight tested positive for the virus.

In a statement posted to its official Facebook account on Tuesday, the Kiribati government confirmed that 36 out of 54 passengers on a flight that had come from Fiji on January 14 had all tested positive for the virus. Authorities had “taken all precautions” and have been “managing” the passengers from the time they entered into pre-departure quarantine in Fiji until their arrival and quarantine in Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati, the statement said.

Of a population of just 122,391, only 3 confirmed cases had been identified in Kirbati before last week’s flight. That’s partly due to the island’s strict entry controls during the pandemic and its isolation. Kiribati sits in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 3,100 miles (5,000 kilometers) away from North America.

Kiribati’s government said it will enact on Monday a 24-hour curfew in South Tarawa — the main hub of Kiribati — and the nearby township of Beito.

Residents must stay home unless they have to leave for essential work, access emergency services or shop for food or other essential goods, the government said in its statement.

No public transport will be in operation; social gatherings will be banned; and all bars and nightclubs will be closed.

Kiribati at the moment requires all people to wear masks in public spaces, including on public transportation. There is already a curfew in place from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m., and social gatherings are currntly limited to 10 people.

Kiribati and other Pacific nations were spared the worst of the pandemic because many states closed their borders foreign nationals shortly after the virus emerged in late 2019.

The decision to go into lockdown over a handful of cases is not without precedent in the South Pacific. Tonga declared a weeklong lockdown for the main island Tongatapu after authorities there discovered the country’s first Covid-19 case in November.

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US-backed fighters chase IS gunmen near prison in Syria

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said that since Thursday night, 89 people have been killed, including 56 IS gunmen, 28 Kurdish fighters and five civilians. The Observatory added that SDF fighters were using loud speakers to call on IS fighters to surrender but the extremists refused.

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cancels her wedding amid omicron outbreak

“We don’t yet have a clear lead on the index case that links this family to the border, as we have with our other omicron cases to date,” Ardern said in a statement Sunday. “As we have seen elsewhere in the world, omicron is significantly more infectious, and in due course we know we will see far more cases than we have in the two years of the pandemic to date.”

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pennsylvania: Lab monkeys escape after US road crash, one on the loose – Times of India

WASHINGTON: The crash in Pennsylvania of a truck transporting 100 monkeys to a laboratory allowed four of them to escape, triggering a search by police who warned the public not to approach the animals.
The vehicle collided with a dump truck near Danville, Pennsylvania on Friday afternoon, en route to a laboratory in Florida.
Police said on Twitter that four moneys had “fled the crash scene into the surrounding area.”
Three were later captured, but one was still on the loose on Saturday morning.
The local WNEP news site said a police helicopter with thermal cameras was used to track down the cynomolgus monkeys, while officers on the ground used powerful flashlights.
Pennsylvania State Police released an image of one primate perched in a tree off Route 54 during the freezing cold night.
A reporter said police surrounded the monkey before shots were fired from an unidentified weapon.
“Crash Update: There is still one monkey unaccounted for, but we are asking that no one attempt to look for or capture the animal,” police troopers said on Twitter on Saturday morning.
Cynomolgus monkeys — also known as long-tailed macaques — can cost up to $10,000 each and have been in demand for coronavirus vaccine research, according to the New York Times. They can live for 30 years in captivity.

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2 priests, 2 lay people to be beatified in El Salvador

The Rev. Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit priest killed alongside friends Manuel Solorzano and teenager Nelson Lemus on March 12, 1977, was known for his ministry to the poor and was an inspiration to St. Óscar Romero, the then-archbishop of El Salvador who himself was murdered three years later.

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Fans sue Universal Pictures over film without Ana de Armas

“Although defendant included the scenes with Ms de Armas in the movie trailer advertisements, for the purposes of promoting Yesterday and enticing film sales and rentals, Ms de Armas is not and was never in the publicly released version of the movie,” says the complaint filed in California on Friday, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

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