The economy ministry says citizens may be forced to limit consumption
Swiss officials may place restrictions on energy consumption this coming winter, Thomas Grunwald, the spokesman for Switzerland’s Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), told RIA Novosti on Tuesday.
“In general, the country’s Economic Supply Office, as well as the Federal Office for the Protection of the Population, rank power shortages … among the most serious risks for Switzerland,” he said, adding that all institutions and businesses would be subject to a quota if there were power shortages.
His comments echo those made on Sunday by Werner Luginbuhl, the head of Switzerland’s electricity regulator ElCom, who in his interview with Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag complained that electricity was being used “completely thoughtlessly” and urged citizens to stock up on candles and firewood due to possible power outages in the country this coming winter.
“The use of electrical devices in particular may be restricted or prohibited,” he said, noting that if residents “were just a little more aware that electricity isn’t always going to be a matter of course, we could achieve a lot.” He also said that temporary restrictions in power use, especially with regard to large consumers, are being considered by authorities as a means to preserve the power supply.
Household debts have already surpassed £1.3 billion, data shows
British households already owe a record £1.3 billion ($1.5 billion) to their energy suppliers ahead of winter, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing price-comparison service Uswitch.
Data showed that, as of July, the energy debts were more than double September’s level. Some 6.5 million households owe an average of £206 ($252) to providers, according to the service.
The report explained that each year since 2018, when a UK price cap was introduced, household debts have gradually fallen during summer. However, this year debt jumped by 10% between April and July as a result of soaring gas and power prices.
“Energy debt has hit an all-time high with the worst possible timing, turning this winter’s energy price hike into a deeply precarious situation for many households,” Justina Miltienyte, head of policy at Uswitch.com, told Bloomberg. “The cost-of-living crisis is already squeezing budgets dramatically, even during the summer months, as families struggle with rising bills in all areas,” she added.
Earlier this year, energy suppliers warned about the huge number of customers falling behind on their bills. The situation has worsened since then as wholesale gas prices have more than doubled in the country, setting the stage for millions more to struggle to pay bills this winter.
The former president resigned and took off for Singapore in July amid mass protests
Sri Lanka’s ex-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa has requested entry to Thailand, weeks after stepping down and hastily fleeing his country during a heated round of anti-government demonstrations.
A spokesman for Thailand’s Foreign Ministry, Tanee Sangrat, announced the request in a string of tweets on Wednesday, saying officials were contacted by the current authorities in Sri Lanka and asked whether Rajapaksa could travel to the Southeast Asian country.
“The Thai side received a request for the former President to enter Thailand from the current government of Sri Lanka. The consideration was based on long-standing and cordial ties between the two countries,” Sangrat said, adding that Rajapaksa’s stay would be “temporary” and had the “aim of onward travel.”
While the spokesman offered few other details about the proposed arrangement, he noted that any holder of a Sri Lankan passport is permitted to enter Thailand without a visa for a period of 90 days, suggesting the former president would be no exception. He did not indicate Rajapaksa’s final destination or when he intended to travel to Thailand, but clarified that the ex-leader is not seeking political asylum from the Thai government.
Rajapaksa ended up in Singapore on July 14 after first fleeing to the Maldives on a military jet the day before. He was initially prevented from leaving Sri Lanka by airport officials, as it is widely believed he was seeking to avoid detention once his presidential immunities expired, but ultimately escaped amid a massive spike in unrest over alleged mismanagement by his administration, among other grievances. Officials in Singapore have said Rajapaksa is merely on a “private visit” and has not applied for asylum.
Under Rajapaksa’s leadership, Sri Lanka was driven to bankruptcy, defaulting on its foreign debts in May and introducing fuel rationing in July. The economic turmoil prompted a wave of protests which came to a head last month, when a mob stormed the presidential residence and forced Rajapaksa to flee.
The 38-year-old British national is accused of belonging to a brutal Islamic State cell known as ‘the Beatles’
A British man alleged to have worked with an infamous Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) unit known for torturing and beheading western captives has been arrested on terrorism charges in the UK, according to local media reports.
Aine Davis, 38, was taken into custody soon after his flight arrived at Luton airport north of London on Tuesday night, the Times reported, citing a statement by Scotland Yard.
“A 38-year-old man was arrested this evening after he arrived into the UK on a flight from Turkey,” the police agency said, noting he is suspected of several terrorism offenses and had been taken to a south London police station for holding.
According to the Times, Davis was arrested on “suspicion of terrorist fundraising, being concerned in a terrorist funding arrangement and possession of an article for terrorist purposes.”
While officials have so far offered few details on the suspect’s identity – with the Home Office only confirming that a UK national had been deported from Turkey to face charges – the Times, the Guardian and the BBC each reported that Davis is accused of belonging to an IS cell known as ‘the Beatles,’ nicknamed for its members’ clear British accents.
The now-defunct unit became infamous for extreme acts of violence and brutality against western hostages in Iraq and Syria between 2014 and 2015, some of which were filmed and posted online for propaganda purposes. Its three other alleged members have since been killed or captured, with two arrested and facing charges in the United States, while its believed ringleader, ‘Jihadi John,’ was killed in an American drone strike near Raqqa, Syria in 2015.
Davis spent the better part of eight years in a Turkish prison on terrorism charges, accused of fighting alongside IS in Syria, but has insisted on his innocence and denies any role with the group. During his trial in Turkey, he dismissed images showing him posing with armed militants, arguing they were “stupid photos” and meant as a joke.
However, Davis’ wife was charged in the UK in 2014 for sending him cash while he was overseas, and at the time prosecutors alleged he was “supporting the familiar black flag adopted by extremist jihadist terrorist groups” such as IS. Davis also acknowledged he attended the same London mosque as ‘Jihadi John’ (born Mohammed Emwazi) before traveling to Syria, but maintains he did not join the kidnapping and executions once they arrived in the war-riven country.
The British government has yet to formally announce charges against Davis, and his legal situation could become complicated given his prior prison time in Turkey. Under UK law, individuals may not be prosecuted for the same offense multiple times, even if a previous prosecution occurred in a foreign country, a principle known as ‘double jeopardy.’ Even short of charges, police could still invoke a terrorism prevention measure which allows for certain restrictions on suspects and closer scrutiny from law enforcement.
The comments come soon after a top official suggested North Korea’s leader fell ill with ‘high fever’ during the outbreak
North Korea has declared a win over Covid-19, claiming its quarantine system was fully successful in eradicating the virus while announcing an end to strict containment policies imposed last spring.
During a speech on Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hailed doctors and other “health fighters” who worked through the pandemic, going on to assert that Pyongyang had won its battle with the coronavirus and wiped out the pathogen within its borders.
“The painful quarantine war has come to an end, and today we have finally declared victory,” Kim said, as cited by state media, adding that the government would immediately “lower the quarantine level from the maximum emergency quarantine system that has been in operation since May 12.”
Though North Korean officials initially maintained the country saw zero cases for some time after the global outbreak began, they eventually acknowledged infections in May, with Kim now stating it had faced a “severe epidemic crisis.” However, the leader claimed that thanks to the “strong will and desperate efforts” of scientists and healthcare workers, the pandemic has been “completely resolved” in North Korea.
The country reported just 74 fatalities throughout the crisis – what Kim deemed an “unprecedented miracle for the world health community” – though its official numbers have not been independently verified. It remains unclear how many North Koreans have fallen ill from Covid-19, but the leader said “hundreds of thousands” of new patients were tallied every day at the peak of infections.
Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, who is also a high-ranking member of North Korea’s ruling party, also weighed in on Covid during a public appearance on Thursday, echoing prior claims that propaganda leaflets sent from South Korea may have played a role in the outbreak in the North. In remarks sure to stoke speculation, she also indicated the leader had suffered from “high fever” at some point during the pandemic, though did not offer details on the cause, timing or severity of his symptoms.