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Germany expects more arrests after coup plot swoop

BERLIN/BAD LOBENSTEIN, Germany, Dec 8 (Reuters) - German authorities on Thursday ordered 23 people to be held for questioning as they investigate a far-right group that prosecutors say wanted to overthrow the state and install a former member of a German royal family as national leader.
Germans shocked by alleged coup plan
Judge orders first suspects to be detained
Scholz says swoop shows state’s resilience
By Miranda Murray, Rachel More and Max Schwarz
Investigators have said the group, many of whom were members of the movement Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich), planned to install aristocrat Heinrich XIII Prinz Reuss as leader of a new state and found evidence that some members planned to storm the German parliament and seize lawmakers.
Heinrich, 71, a descendant of the royal House of Reuss in the eastern state of Thuringia, was working as a real estate developer. He was arrested in the financial capital Frankfurt on Wednesday in a swoop on the group that has shocked many in one of Europe’s most stable democracies and its largest economy.
The House of Reuss, now headed by Heinrich XIV who lives in Austria, disowned the alleged plot.
“Of course, this reflects catastrophically on the family,” Heinrich XIV told broadcaster MDR, speaking about his distant relative with whom he said he had not had contact for 10 years.
“For 850 years we were, I think, a tolerant, cosmopolitan royal house in East Thuringia and now we are seen as terrorists and reactionaries all over the world, all the way to America. That’s quite terrible,” he added.
An Interior Ministry spokesperson said raids the previous day, in which 25 people were detained across Germany as well as in Austria and Italy, were the most extensive “executive measures” against the Reichsbuerger ever seen in Germany.
“The most important consequence is that everyone knows we have a resilient state and democracy whose security organs can penetrate and counter such crimes and plans,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a news conference on Thursday evening.
Alongside the 23 remanded in custody, two people arrested outside Germany are set to be extradited. Many of the suspects are over 50, and they encompass right-wingers, COVID deniers and people who reject the modern German state.
More arrests are likely in the coming days. Holger Muench, head of the federal police office, told broadcaster ARD on Thursday there were now 54 suspects in the case.
Wednesday’s raids were carried out across 11 German federal states, stunning many in the country.
“It’s not ...

WNBA Star Griner Freed in One-for-One Swap for Arms Dealer

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden announced that WNBA star Brittney Griner had been released from detention in Russia, celebrating her one-to-one swap for a notorious arms dealer who had been convicted and imprisoned in the US.
Griner, 32, was exchanged in a trade for Viktor Bout, according to a statement from Russia’s foreign ministry and senior Biden administration officials. The president didn’t mention Bout, known as the “merchant of death,” in his remarks, and acknowledged that his administration has so far failed to achieve the release of another American the US considers unjustly imprisoned in Russia, former Marine Paul Whelan.
“She’s safe, she’s on a plane,” Biden said Thursday at the White House, referring to Griner. “She’s on her way home after months of being unjustly detained in Russia, held under intolerable circumstances. Brittney will soon be back in the arms of her loved ones.”
Tensions between the US and Russia are at their highest since the Cold War over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and US support for Kyiv, complicating efforts to secure Griner’s release. While celebrated by many Democrats, the deal for Griner drew criticism from some congressional Republicans, who complained that Biden also should have secured Whelan’s release in exchange for Bout.
“Surely an arms dealer is worth two innocent people?” Representative Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican, wrote on Twitter. Senator Rick Scott of Florida, a Republican who has often sparred with the White House, called the trade “disgusting” and “unforgivable” in a tweet.
Russia’s government and allies of President Vladimir Putin meanwhile celebrated Bout’s return to the country. Moscow has sought for years to engineer his release. The United Arab Emirates, where the swap physically took place, touted its own involvement in brokering the exchange and hosting talks between Moscow and Washington.
The Biden administration had sought a two-for-one trade for Bout that would include Whelan, but US officials said the Kremlin refused to consider those terms. While the deal may have fallen short of US hopes, the president was under considerable pressure from Democrats, who rely heavily on the support of Black voters, to secure Griner’s release.
Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a Democrat who will be the minority leader in the next Congress, hailed the trade. “President Biden gets it done. Again,” he wrote in a tweet.
Biden spoke to Griner by phone Thursday morning from the Oval Office, in the company of her wife, Cherelle Griner.
Griner had been sentenced to nine ...

South Koreans set to become younger as traditional way of counting age scrapped

SEOUL, Dec 8 (Reuters) - South Korea on Thursday passed laws to scrap its traditional method of counting ages and adopt the international standard - a shift which will make its citizens either 1 or 2 years younger on official documents.
Koreans are deemed to be a year old when born and a year is added every 1 January. This is the age most commonly cited in everyday life.
A separate system also exists for conscription purposes or calculating the legal age to drink alcohol and smoke, in which a person’s age is calculated from zero at birth and a year is added on 1 January.
Since the early 1960s, however, South Korea has for medical and legal documents also used the international norm of calculating from zero at birth and adding a year on every birthday.
The confusing array of systems will disappear – at least on official documents – when the new laws that stipulate using only the international method of counting ages take effect in June 2023.
“The revision is aimed at reducing unnecessary socio-economic costs because legal and social disputes as well as confusion persist due to the different ways of calculating age,” Yoo Sang-bum of the ruling People Power Party told parliament.
Jeong Da-eun, a 29-year-old office worker, is happy about the change, saying she has always had to think twice when asked overseas about her age.
“I remember foreigners looking at me with puzzlement because it took me so long to come back with an answer on how old I was.”
“Who wouldn’t welcome getting a year or two younger?” she added.
By Soo-hyang Choi
(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Iran holds first execution over anti-government protests

DUBAI, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Iran hanged a man on Thursday convicted of injuring a security guard with a knife and blocking a street in Tehran, the semi-official Tasnim news agency said, the first such execution over recent anti-government unrest.
Nationwide protests that erupted after the death of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16 represent one of the biggest challenges to the Islamic Republic since its establishment in 1979.
Authorities have been cracking down on the protests and on Monday, the Revolutionary Guards encouraged the judiciary to swiftly and decisively issue judgements against those accused of “crimes against the security of the nation and Islam”.
The Tasnim news agency named the executed man as Mohsen Shekari, but gave no further details.
State media published a video of what it said was Shekari’s confession where he appears with a bruise on his right cheek. He admitted to striking a member of the Basij militia with a knife and to blocking a road with his motorbike alongside one of his friends.
Rights groups have said Shekari was tortured and forced to confess to his crime.
Amnesty International has said Iranian authorities are seeking the death penalty for at least 21 people in what it called “sham trials designed to intimidate those participating in the popular uprising that has rocked Iran”.
“The Iranian authorities must immediately quash all death sentences, refrain from seeking the imposition of the death penalty and drop all charges against those arrested in connection with their peaceful participation in protests,” it said.
Western governments have also expressed dismay at the high number of executions in Iran.
Iran has blamed the unrest on its foreign foes including the United States.
Judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi said on Tuesday that five people indicted in the killing of a Basij militia member, Rouhollah Ajamian, had been sentenced to death in a verdict that they can appeal.
Iran’s semi-official news agency ISNA reported on Thursday that five suspected members of the Islamic State militant group have been charged with “war against God” for their role in the massacre of Shi’ite pilgrims in October, a crime that is punishable by death.
Even before the recent unrest, executions had been rising in Iran. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk has said the number this year reportedly surpassed 400 by September for the first time in five years.
(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Michael Georgy, Crispian Balmer and Angus MacSwan)

Kenya launches bid to co-host Africa Cup of Nations in 2027

Dec 7 (Reuters) - Kenya said on Wednesday it intended to bid to co-host the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations with other countries in East Africa.
An official statement from the Presidential office said that the intention is to build a national team that can qualify for the 2030 World Cup. Kenya have never qualified for a World Cup.
The statement comes shortly after FIFA decided to lift a suspension imposed on the Football Kenya Federation in February.
“The Council of Ministers noted that the organisation of the cup in cooperation will show the power of sports in improving regional cooperation,” the statement said.
(Reporting by Tommy Lund in Gdansk, additional reporting by George Obulutsa in NairobiEditing by Toby Davis)

UK OKs First Coal Mine in 30 Years, Weakening Climate Push

The UK approved opening its first deep coal mine in more than 30 years, risking backlash from activists portraying the project as a backward step in meeting ambitious climate goals.
The Woodhouse Colliery project in Whitehaven, northern England, can go ahead, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said in a statement on Wednesday. West Cumbria Mining Ltd. plans to sell coal from the mine primarily to overseas buyers for making steel.
“The Secretary of State has agreed to grant planning permission for a new metallurgical coal mine in Cumbria as recommended by the independent planning inspector,” a spokesperson for the department said in an emailed statement. “The mine seeks to be net zero in its operations and is expected to contribute to local employment and the wider economy.”
The decision, made after two years of consideration by successive governments, is a blow to the momentum of British activists and comes after a UN climate assembly hosted in Scotland said a global agreement on “phasing down” the dirtiest fuel was a key step. COP26 President Alok Sharma said Saturday that approval of the Cumbria mine would “damage the UK’s hard-won international reputation” as a leader on climate change.
UK Coal Mine Dilemma Pits Energy Crisis Against Green Goals
“This decision grows global emissions and undermines UK efforts to achieve Net Zero,” said John Gummer, chair of the independent Climate Change Committee that advises the government. It “sends entirely the wrong signal to other countries about the UK’s climate priorities.”
The decision comes just a day after a climb down by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on onshore wind in England, which came in the face of a rebellion among Conservative members of parliament.
The mine previously was approved by the local council in 2020 and supported by local Member of Parliament Trudy Harrison. Advocates say the project would support 500 jobs and eliminate some need for imports, though concerns have been raised about the high sulfur content in the coal that makes it difficult to use in the UK.
“There is no business case or scientific justification for this mine,” said Rebecca Willis, professor in energy and climate governance at the University of Lancaster. “It will harm the UK’s climate credentials and do very little for communities in Cumbria.”

Lightning kills 907 in India as extreme weather surges in 2022

NEW DELHI, Dec 7 (Reuters) - India saw a big jump in extreme weather events such as heatwaves and lightning strikes this year and related deaths rose to their highest in three years, government data showed on Wednesday, with scientists blaming climate change for the heavy toll.
There were nearly eight times as many heatwaves, 27 in all, and lightning strikes rose more than 111 times, killing 907 people, the Ministry of Earth Sciences said in a report to parliament.
Thunderstorms increased more than five times to 240.
This year’s 2,183 deaths due to such events until last month were the highest since 2019’s 3,017. Lightning and floods and heavy rains accounted for 78% of the deaths this year, the data showed.
Temperatures during India’s monsoon season have risen this century and the country could see more frequent heatwaves in future, the government said in August. India is the world’s third-largest carbon polluter, though its per-capita emissions are much lower than many developed countries.
The country of nearly 1.4 billion suffered its hottest March in more than a century and temperatures were unusually high in April and May, blamed mainly on climate change.
The World Health Organization says that from 1998-2017, more than 166,000 people died due to heatwaves globally. It says that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause about 250,000 additional deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
India’s western neighbour Pakistan faced devastating floods this year that covered a third of the country, killed more than 1,500 people and impacted millions.
(Reporting Krishna N. Das; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Germany arrests 25 suspected of violent far-right plot to install prince

BERLIN, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Germany on Wednesday detained 25 members and supporters of a far-right group that prosecutors said were preparing a violent overthrow of the state, with some members suspected of plotting an armed attack on the parliament.
Prosecutors said the group was inspired by the deep state conspiracy theories of QAnon and the Reichsbuerger, who do not recognise the legitimacy of modern Germany, insisting the far larger “Deutsche Reich” still existed despite the Nazis’ defeat in World War Two.
The plot envisaged a former member of a German royal family, identified as Heinrich XIII P. R. under Germany’s privacy law, as the leader in a future state while another suspect, Ruediger v. P., was the head of the military arm, the prosecutors‘ office said.
It said Heinrich, who uses the title prince and comes from the royal House of Reuss, which had ruled over parts of eastern Germany, had reached out to representatives of Russia, whom the group saw as its central contact for establishing its new order. It said there was no evidence the representatives had reacted positively to the request.
Russia’s embassy in Germany was quoted by RIA news agency as saying Russian diplomatic and consular institutions in Germany do not maintain contacts with representatives of terrorist groups and other illegal groups.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said the government would respond with the full force of the law against such endeavours against the state and said further investigations would reveal how far the group’s coup plans had progressed.
“The investigations provide a glimpse into the abyss of a terrorist threat from the Reichsbuerger milieu,” said Faeser in a statement, adding that the constitutional state knew how to defend itself against “the enemies of democracy”.
One active soldier and several reservists were also among those being investigated, a spokesperson for the military intelligence service told Reuters. The active soldier is a member of the Bundeswehr’s KSK elite force, which has been overhauled in recent years due to a number of far-right incidents.
Investigators suspect individual members of the group had concrete plans to storm the Bundestag lower house of parliament in Berlin with a small armed group, the prosecutor’s office said.
In August 2020, protesters stormed the steps of Germany’s Reichstag parliament building, some of them holding far-right flags, during mass marches against coronavirus curbs.
Germany’s domestic intelligence agency attributes some 21,000 people to the Reichsbuerger (Citizens of the Reich) movement, with around 5% of ...

UK government to ease ban on onshore wind farms to head off revolt

LONDON, Dec 6 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's government on Tuesday said it would ease restrictions on building onshore wind farms, heading off a revolt by his party's lawmakers who had demanded they should be permitted with local support.
Sunak had opposed relaxing the ban on onshore farms in his campaign to become British leader just a few months ago and has said he wanted to focus on offshore wind.
But some in his Conservative Party have been demanding onshore turbines should be allowed where there was local consent, and said they would seek to make changes to a proposed legislation going through parliament.
The government in a statement said it would begin a consultation to see how local authorities could show local support could be demonstrated.
“Under the proposals, planning permission would be dependent on a project being able to demonstrate local support and appropriately address any impacts identified by the local community,” the statement said.
“Local authorities would also have to demonstrate their support for certain areas as being suitable for onshore wind, moving away from rigid requirements for sites to be designated in local plans.”
The government said the consultation, which would also seek views on whether local communities who backed new projects should get lower energy bills, would start by Christmas and conclude by the end of April next year.
It said certain areas, such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, would still be protected.
“Really pleased to see a sensible agreement reached this evening which will enable onshore wind to be delivered while enshrining the vital principle of community consent,” Conservative lawmaker Simon Clarke, who had been leading the calls for change, said on Twitter.
British media said it was the second U-turn in two days by Sunak, who has been in power for just over a month, coming after the government scrapped plans to impose mandatory housebuilding targets on local councils after dozens of Conservative lawmakers threatened a rebellion.

Jan. 6 House Panel Will Recommend Criminal Prosecutions, Chairman Says

(Bloomberg) -- A House panel will present the Justice Department with evidence that specific people, possibly including former President Donald Trump, committed federal crimes in trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Jan. 6 committee chair Bennie Thompson, told reporters on Tuesday that the panel’s probe, one of the most politically sensitive in decades, was still working out details, but that it would recommend charges be brought. He declined to identify the charges or subjects the panel would recommend for prosecution.
Throughout the committee’s proceedings, members have made clear they hold Trump responsible for inciting the attack on the Capitol in an effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory.
“We have made decisions on criminal referrals,” Thompson said, without adding any additional detail. The panel was set to meet on Tuesday.
The charges may include perjury, the Mississippi Democrat said, also without providing any details. “Well, that’s part of the discussion. Yeah,” he said. Witnesses included White House staff and lawyers as well as law-enforcement and other witnesses to what was going on in the White House as hundreds of rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, to stop the US House from certifying the 2020 election.
Among other potential charges are criminal contempt of Congress, obstruction of justice, obstruction of an official government proceeding and conspiracy.
Also on Tuesday, law-enforcement members who battled the rioters were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal.
The Justice Department is not obligated to follow recommendations of the committee, which spent months on the probe. A DOJ spokesman declined to respond to Thompson’s comment.
A jury last week convicted two leaders of the right-wing Oath Keepers group of seditious conspiracy, along with three other members on lesser charges. This week prosecutors will begin proceedings against four lower-level defendants tied to the organization.
A third trial is scheduled to start later this month against members of another right-wing group, the Proud Boys.
More than 900 people have been arrested for taking part in the assault. Of those, more than half have pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial.

Sony says it has technology for humanoid robots, just looking for use

TOKYO, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Japanese electronics and entertainment conglomerate Sony Group Corp 6758.T said on Tuesday it has the technology to make humanoid robots quickly once it has identified how they could be effectively used.
“In terms of technology, several companies in the world including this one have enough technology accumulated to make them swiftly once it becomes clear which usage is promising,” Sony Chief Technology Officer Hiroaki Kitano told Reuters in an interview.
“The key is the development of application,” Kitano said.
Sony launched a robot dog called Aibo more than two decades ago. It sold about 150,000 units of Aibo from 1999 until 2006 and launched an advanced version in 2018, selling about 20,000 units in the first six months.
Humanoid robots have been in development for decades by Honda Motor Co 7267.T and Hyundai Motor Co 005380.KS and in September, Tesla TSLA.O Chief Executive Elon Musk showed off a prototype of its humanoid robot Optimus.
Musk’s company is floating plans to deploy thousands of the robots in its factories, expanding eventually to millions around the world.
Kitano said Sony, armed with expertise in audio-visual technology and rich entertainment content including music and video games, was well positioned to play a major role in the metaverse, or immersive virtual worlds.
The metaverse is a vague term encapsulating the idea that consumers will spend more time in online simulated environments. While the concept is evolving, it has become a buzzword in briefings and a driver of industry earmarking.
“As for the metaverse, it’s not like people would show up just because you’ve created a venue . Content is what makes or breaks the metaverse.”
By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Mayu Sakoda
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Editing by Louise Heavens, Robert Birsel)

Al Jazeera files suit at International Criminal Court over journalist’s killing

DUBAI, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Al Jazeera on Tuesday said it has filed a lawsuit at the International Criminal Court against Israeli forces over the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot during an Israeli raid in the West Bank in May.
The lawsuit following an investigation by the television news network’s legal team, Al Jazeera said on Twitter.
The ICC must identify the individuals who were directly involved Abu Akleh’s killing, Al Jazeera lawyer Rodney Dixon KC told a news conference in The Hague on Tuesday.
“The rulings of the International Criminal Court stipulate that those responsible be investigated and held accountable. Otherwise, they bear the same responsibility as if they were the ones who opened fire,” Dixon said.
The circumstances of Abu Akleh’s killing are disputed.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on Tuesday that no one would question Israeli soldiers.
“No one will interrogate IDF soldiers and no one will preach to us about morals of combat, certainly not the Al Jazeera network,” Lapid said.
(Reporting by Lina Najem, Riham Alkousaa and Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Barbara Lewis)

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