Here are this week’s headlines:
- Turkey denies involvement in alleged kidnap plot
Reported by Andrew MacDonald
The Turkish embassy in Washington has denied that Turkey planned the kidnapping and returning of the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen. It stated that the accusation is ‘utterly false, ludicrous and groundless.’
Meanwhile, it has been alleged that former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, was part of the plot.
Gulen is a controversial Muslim cleric who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. Turkey accuses him of being behind the 2016 failed coup attempt.
President Erdoğan has been implementing measures to reduce the influence of Gulen’s Hizmet movement. Erdoğan has been consolidating his power through mass arrests and continuing the state of emergency.
According to the New York Times, since April this year some 140,000 people in Turkey have had their passports cancelled and more than 100,000 people have been suspected of being part of the coup attempt. More than 4,000 Turkish judges and prosecutors, a quarter of its total, have been dismissed since last summer, mostly because of alleged links to ‘Gulenists.’
The Wall Street Journal reported on the plot. The kidnapping would be part of a plan to bring back Gulen to a prison on the Turkish island of Imrali in return for $15m, some of it to Flynn.
The report describes a meeting with Flynn, his son Michael Flynn Jr and representatives of the Erdoğan government in the well-known New York restaurant ‘21 Club.’ The kidnapping was to happen in March.
Michael Flynn, was head of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA). He resigned in February after it was uncovered that he misled officials over his connections with former Russian officials.
A spokesman for Mr Flynn’s consultancy, Flynn Intel Group, denied Mr Flynn had discussed any illegal actions with Turkish officials and the White House has not responded to a request for comment on the matter.
- Supreme Court rules for minimum alcohol pricing
Reported by Radhika Morally
Legislation which was approved by the Scottish Parliament, but has been challenged in court for the past five years, has now been approved by the Supreme Court upon the rejection of the Scotch Whisky Association’s (SWA) challenge.
What has been described as a ‘decisive victory’ for Nicola Sturgeon means that Scottish and Welsh governments can lawfully introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol drinks, likely to be set at 50p. It has been suggested that this change will increase pressure on UK ministers to follow suit, especially since the seven judges ruled unanimously on health grounds under EU law.
Ministers have stated that they believe the new pricing of cheap, high percentage alcohol will help temper Scotland’s ‘unhealthy relationship with drink’, especially since some alcohol brands are presently cheaper than soft drinks and water. This new approach is therefore, as described by the Justices, “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
Consequently, supermarkets, who have already been offering discounted alcohol in the upcoming weeks to Christmas, will be banned from implementing cheap deals as soon as the new regulations are passed. Shona Robison, the Scottish health secretary, has said the devolved government in Edinburgh will introduce minimum pricing as soon as possible and will be setting out a parliamentary timetable within the next few days. This could mean that the new pricing may come into force by Spring of 2018.
The ruling is being described as ‘a historic and far-reaching judgement’, a landmark moment with ‘global significance’. This is especially the case considering the fact that alcohol-related deaths in Scotland have increased in the five years since the legislation was passed. Research by Professor Petra Meier, a director of the alcohol research group at the University of Sheffield, has shown that a 50p minimum price would, in time, result in 120 fewer deaths and 2,000 fewer hospital admissions from alcohol abuse every year.
Despite the clear benefits to society, some in the industry such as SWA have had a cynical approach to the measure, claiming that minimum pricing breached EU and global trade law by interfering with free trade and open border regulations. However, Dr Eric Carlin has said that ‘opponents to MUP (minimum unit pricing) have shamed the reputation of their industry by prioritising profits over people’s lives.’
- Possible trouble for AT&T and Time Warner
Reported by Spencer Yap
Almost a year ago, in an attempt to fight the giants from Silicon Valley, the television titans proposed a merger between AT&T and the owner of CNN, HBO and Warner Brother’s, Time Warner. The $109 billion acquisition, however, now faces a major bump in the road. The Department of Justice (DoJ) and President Donald Trump, are showing significant displeasure in the merger.
Following President Trump’s repeated accusations of the media outlets, such as CNN being ‘fake news’, the DoJ reportedly told AT&T executives that they would have to sell off either “Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting division, including CNN” or “DirectTV, the wireless giant’s satellite-TV business”. Certain commentators say this is the result of politics and that “Mr Trump intervened with the DoJ to scuttle a deal that he criticised during his election campaign as a symbol of unfair concentration of media power”. This might sound improbable, but it seems likely when you consider other factors. “The acquisition does not involve conventional antitrust concerns, in that it is a vertical integration of distribution (wireless, broadband and satellite-TV) and content (TV networks, HBO and films). In the past the DoJ has been more concerned with horizontal mergers that create market dominance in one industry.”
That being said “there is legitimate reason for scrutiny. AT&T’s commanding presence in distribution, especially in wireless—it has but one like-sized rival, Verizon—raises the potential for abuse as it sells content. It is true that regulators could seek a promise from AT&T that it not favour its own networks, such as HBO, and that it not discriminate against rival companies’ networks as it sets carriage terms. Similar assurances were extracted from Comcast when it bought NBC Universal in 2011, a vertical merger that went through. But it is difficult to enforce such behavioural conditions”.
Despite being on the bad side of the federal government, not all states are on-board with the DoJ. Reports by state officials showed that during a meeting with the DoJ’s anti-trust division, some brought up the fact that there is little, if any, legal case to block the deal. And continue to show concern that the move is in fact driven by politics.
Read more here.
- UK banker to be kept alive against family and doctors' wishes
Reported by Jutha Cheewat
An investment banker who suffers from severe brain damage is being kept alive due to the official solicitor’s intervention.
This is an unusual case that may have to go the Supreme Court through an emergency hearing due to the importance of the case.
The court would have to answer whether relatives and medical staff must seek judicial permission before withdrawing life support.
Mrs Justice O’Farrell ruled in the high court that the court of protection does not need to be consulted where clinicians and the patient’s family agree that it is not in the best interests of the patient to be kept alive in a coma.
However, it is anticipated that the official solicitor will appeal and that means the treatment will continue until the dispute is resolved.
According to O’Farrell, where doctors obey the Mental Capacity Act and good medical practice, where there is no dispute with the family or others close to the patient, and there is no other doubts or concerns, there is then no need to bring the matter before the court.
Her judgement marked a significant change in the law on required procedure when it comes to ending someone’s life.
Read more in The Guardian.
- Rolf Harris only has one of twelve convictions overturned
Reported by Paige Waters
Rolf Harris, an 87 year old ex-entertainer, was convicted of 12 indecent assaults. However, Mr. Harris has appealed against his convictions; leading to the Court of Appeal overturning one of the twelve indecent assault convictions on Thursday.
The three judges in the Court of Appeal rejected the applications Harris made in relation to the other eleven assaults. They ruled that the one conviction was overturned due to it being “unsafe”.
Harris’ victims included an eight-year-old who was seeking an autograph, two teenage girls and a friend of his daughter who endured 16 years of abuse. Harris was jailed for five years and nine months after being found guilty for these assaults.
The judges ruled that “stepping back and looking at the totality of the evidence” on the remaining counts, “we find nothing that causes us to doubt the safety of those convictions”.
Read more here.