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Queen Elizabeth dies at 96, ending an era for Britain

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BALMORAL, Scotland — Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, the nation’s figurehead and a towering presence on the world stage for seven decades, died peacefully at her home in Scotland on Thursday aged 96.

“The death of my beloved Mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family,” the new king, her eldest son Charles, said.

“We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world,” the 73-year-old said in a statement.

News that the queen’s health was deteriorating emerged shortly after midday on Thursday when her doctors said she was under medical supervision, prompting her family to rush to Scotland to be by her side.

Thousands gathered outside Buckingham Palace, in central London, and there was a stunned silence when the flag was lowered to half-mast. The crowd surged to the gates as the notice announcing the death of the only monarch most Britons have ever known was attached to the black iron gates.

Royal officials said King Charles III Charles III and his wife Camilla and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, would remain at Balmoral Castle, where the queen died, before returning to London on Friday, when he is expected to address the nation and meet Prime Minister Liz Truss. Details of the funeral have not been confirmed.

On Elizabeth’s death, Charles automatically became monarch of the United Kingdom and the head of state of 14 other realms including Australia, Canada and New Zealand. He is expected to visit all the nations of the United Kingdom in the coming days.

‘Huge shock to the nation’

The queen, whose husband died last year, had been suffering from what Buckingham Palace had called “episodic mobility problems” since the end of last year, forcing her to withdraw from nearly all her public engagements.

Her last official duty came only on Tuesday, when she appointed Truss prime minister – the 15th of her reign.

“The death of Her Majesty the Queen is a huge shock to the nation and to the world,” Truss said outside her Downing Street office where the flag, like those at royal palaces and government buildings across Britain, were lowered.

“Through thick and thin, Queen Elizabeth II provided us with the stability and the strength that we needed. She was the very spirit of Great Britain – and that spirit will endure,” said Truss, who was informed of the death at 4:30 p.m. London time.

The news stunned not only people in Britain, with condolences pouring in from leaders around the world.

“Her legacy will loom large in the pages of British history, and in the story of our world,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement. He ordered flags at the White House to be flown at half-mast

In Paris, the mayor announced the lights of the Eiffel Tower would be turned off in honour of her passing; in Brazil, the government declared three days of mourning; and the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council both stood for a moment of silence.

Even Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country’s relations with Britain have plummeted over the war in Ukraine, extended his condolences, calling it an “irreparable loss”.

Queen Elizabeth II, who was also the world’s oldest and longest-serving head of state, came to the throne following the death of her father King George VI on Feb. 6, 1952, when she was just 25.

Pledged to serve

She was crowned in June the following year. The first televised coronation was a foretaste of a new world in which the lives of the royals were to become increasingly scrutinised by the media.

“I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine. Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust,” she said in a speech to her subjects on her coronation day.

Despite reputedly only being about 5ft 3ins tall, she commanded any room she entered. Famed for her bright outfits, she is said to have quipped: “I have to be seen to be believed”.

Elizabeth became monarch at a time when Britain still retained much of its old empire. It was emerging from the ravages of World War Two, with food rationing still in force and class and privilege still dominant in society.

Winston Churchill was Britain’s prime minister at the time, Josef Stalin led the Soviet Union and the Korean War was raging.

In the decades that followed, Elizabeth witnessed massive political change and social upheaval at home and abroad. Her own family’s tribulations, most notably the divorce of Charles and his late first wife Diana, were played out in full public glare.

While remaining an enduring symbol of stability and continuity for Britons at a time of relative national economic decline, Elizabeth also tried to adapt the ancient institution of monarchy to the demands of the modern era.

“She has managed to modernise and evolve the monarchy like no other,” her grandson Prince William, who is now heir to the throne, said in a 2012 documentary.

Records

Elizabeth was the 40th monarch in a royal line that followed Norman King William the Conqueror, who claimed the English throne in 1066 after defeating Anglo-Saxon ruler Harold II at the Battle of Hastings.

Her long reign meant she repeatedly broke records for British rulers. When she surpassed the more than 63 years her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria spent on the throne, she said it was not a landmark to which she had ever aspired.

“Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones – my own is no exception,” she said.

Her marriage to Prince Philip lasted 73 years, until his death in April 2021, and they had four children, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward.

She never gave a media interview and critics said she came across as distant and aloof.

But for the vast majority of her subjects she was a figure who commanded respect and admiration. Her death marks the end of an era.

“When people around the world spoke of ‘the queen’, they actually meant our queen,” former Prime Minister John Major said. “That was the status she had in every part of the world. It was truly remarkable.”

Opinion polls have suggested that Charles does not enjoy anywhere near the same level of support and there is speculation that the loss of Elizabeth may see a rise in republican sentiment, particularly in the other realms.

“We know that, in losing our beloved queen, we have lost the person whose steadfast loyalty, service and humility has helped us make sense of who we are through decades of extraordinary change in our world, nation and society,” the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said.

At her death the queen was head of state of not only the United Kingdom but also of Australia, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20220909/queen-elizabeth-dies-at-96-ending-an-era-for-britain/68984.html

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Indonesia set to penalise sex outside marriage in overhaul of criminal code

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JAKARTA — Indonesia’s parliament is expected to pass a new criminal code this month that will penalise sex outside marriage with a punishment of up to one year in jail, officials have confirmed.

The legislative overhaul will also ban insulting the president or state institutions and expressing any views counter to Indonesia’s state ideology. Cohabitation before marriage is also banned.

Decades in the making, the new criminal code is expected to be passed on Dec. 15, Indonesia’s deputy justice minister, Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej, told Reuters.

“We’re proud to have a criminal code that’s in line with Indonesian values,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Bambang Wuryanto, a lawmaker involved in the draft, said the new code could be passed by as early as next week.

The code, if passed, would apply to Indonesian citizens and foreigners alike, with business groups expressing concern about what damage the rules might have on Indonesia’s image as a holiday and investment destination.

The draft has the support of some Islamic groups in a country where conservatism is on the rise, although opponents argue that it reverses liberal reforms enacted after the 1998 fall of authoritarian leader Suharto.

A previous draft of the code was set to be passed in 2019 but sparked nationwide protests. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated at the time against a raft of laws, especially those seen to regulate morality and free speech, which they said would curtail civil liberties.

Critics say say minimal changes to the code have been made since then, although the government has in recent months held public consultations around the country to provide information about the changes.

Some changes that have been made include a provision that could allow the death penalty to be commuted to life imprisonment after 10 years of good behaviour.

The criminalisation of abortion, with the exception of rape victims, and imprisonment for “black magic”, remain in the code.

According to the latest draft dated Nov. 24 that was seen by Reuters, sex outside marriage, which can only be reported by limited parties such as close relatives, carries a maximum one-year prison sentence.

Insulting the president, a charge that can only be reported by the president, carries a maximum of three years.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has hundreds of regulations at the local level that discriminate against women, religious minorities, and LGBT people.

Just weeks after Indonesia chaired a sucessful Group of Twenty (G20) meeting that saw its position elevated on the global stage, business sector representatives say the draft code sends the wrong message about Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

“For the business sector, the implementation of this customary law shall create legal uncertainty and make investors re-consider investing in Indonesia,” said Shinta Widjaja Sukamdani, the deputy chairperson of Indonesia’s Employers’ Association (APINDO).

Clauses related to morality, she added, would “do more harm than good”, especially for businesses engaged in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

The changes to the code would be a “huge a setback to Indonesian democracy”, said Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch.

The deputy justice minister dismissed the criticism, saying the final version of the draft would ensure that regional laws adhered to national legislation, and the new code would not threaten democratic freedoms.

A revised version of the criminal code has been discussed since Indonesia declared its independence from the Dutch in 1945.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20221202/indonesia-set-to-penalise-sex-outside-marriage-in-overhaul-of-criminal-code/70312.html

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Disasters cost $268 billion in 2022: Swiss Re

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Natural and man-made catastrophes have caused $268 billion of economic losses so far in 2022, chiefly driven by Hurricane Ian and other extreme weather disasters, reinsurance giant Swiss Re estimated Thursday.

Insured losses covered $122 billion — less than half — of the total economic losses to date this year, said the Zurich-based group, which acts as an insurer for insurers.

“Hurricane Ian and other extreme weather events such as the winter storms in Europe, flooding in Australia and South Africa as well as hailstorms in France and in the United States resulted in an estimated $115 billion of natural catastrophe insured losses this year to date,” Swiss Re said in a statement.

There were $7 billion of insured losses from man-made disasters.

It is the second consecutive year in which total insured losses from natural catastrophes topped $100 billion, with the figure hitting $121 billion last year.

“Urban development, wealth accumulation in disaster-prone areas, inflation and climate change are key factors at play, turning extreme weather into ever rising natural catastrophe losses,” explained Martin Bertogg, Swiss Re’s head of catastrophe perils.

“When Hurricane Andrew struck 30 years ago, a $20 billion loss event had never occurred before; now there have been seven such hurricanes in just the past six years.”

Hurricane Ian is by far the largest loss-causing event in 2022, with an estimated insured loss of $50-65 billion, said Swiss Re.

It estimated that Hurricane Ian caused the second-costliest insured loss ever, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Neighbourhoods flattened

Ian, a category four hurricane, caused more than 150 deaths, almost all in Florida, where it made landfall on September 28.

One of the most powerful storms ever to hit the United States, it flattened whole neighbourhoods and knocked out power for millions of people. Storm surges and immense downpours left even inland neighbourhoods submerged.

“This highlights the threat potential of a single hurricane hitting a densely populated coastline,” Swiss Re said.

The reinsurer added that so-called secondary natural disasters such as floods and hailstorms — as opposed to major disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes — caused more than $50 billion of insured losses.

The storms in Europe in February prompted estimated insured losses of over $3.7 billion, putting winter storms back on the insurance industry’s agenda, Swiss Re said.

France experienced the most severe hailstorms ever observed in the European spring and summer, with insured market losses reaching an estimated five billion euros ($5.3 billion), said Swiss Re.

And in Australia in February and March, torrential summer rains led to widespread flooding that, at an estimated $4 billion, became the country’s costliest-ever natural catastrophe.

‘Vast’ protection gap

Swiss Re highlighted how the insurance and reinsurance industry covered roughly only 45 percent of the economic losses so far this year.

“The protection gap remains vast,” said Thierry Leger, the group’s chief underwriting officer.

Of the estimated $268 billion total economic losses for property damage so far this year, $260 billion are from natural catastrophes and $8 billion from man-made disasters, such as industrial accidents.

The $268 billion figure is down 12 percent from $303 billion last year, but above the $219 billion average over the previous 10 years.

At $115 billion, total insured losses from natural catastrophes were down five percent from the $121 billion in 2021, but well above the previous 10-year average of $81 billion.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20221202/disasters-cost-268-billion-in-2022-swiss-re/70296.html

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Future global treaty on plastics must cut production to ease pollution, some states say

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WASHINGTON — Countries have begun to discuss a future global plastics treaty which would cut pollution, some hope entirely by 2040, at U.N. talks in Uruguay this week, with many states calling for curbs on plastic production as a way to reach that goal.

United Nations members agreed in March on a resolution to create the world’s first treaty to deal with the scourge of plastic waste which extends from ocean trenches to mountaintops, although there is divergence on how to proceed.

According to the U.N. Environment Programme, the equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute, threatening biodiversity and damaging marine ecosystems, while greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastics are expected to reach 6.5 gigatons by 2050.

Delegates from governments, civil society and industry are meeting in beach town Punta del Este for the first of five Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) talks that will run to the close of 2024, and prepare the future treaty.

“At INC-1, we can lay the groundwork needed to implement a life-cycle approach to plastic pollution, which would significantly contribute to ending the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste,” said Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, Executive Secretary of the INC Secretariat on Plastic Pollution.

A life-cycle approach considers the impact of all the stages of a product’s life, such as raw material extraction, production, distribution and disposal, and looks at how governments, consumers and businesses can play a part.

Several country delegations on Monday voiced support for a treaty cracking down on plastic production, an approach opposed by the plastics and petrochemical industries.

The EU, members of the so-called High Ambition Coalition that includes Switzerland, Norway, Canada, Georgia, the UK and others, said they want to see the treaty include binding global obligations for the entire life cycle of plastics – including production – aiming to end plastic pollution by 2040.

Japan also revealed at a Reuters event that a potential treaty should consider placing curbs on problematic plastics like microplastics and those made with “hazardous additives” that are hard to recycle.

The US also called for a treaty that ends plastic pollution by 2040 but through a structure that resembles the Paris climate agreement, based on voluntary national action plans and which does not specifically address plastic production.

Some NGOs that are closely observing the talks expressed concern about the Paris agreement-style approach.

“We are three decades into UN climate talks and seven years into the Paris agreement, which has clearly failed to deliver. That model is one we should be weary of,” said Carroll Moffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law.

Source: https://tuoitrenews.vn/news/international/20221202/future-global-treaty-on-plastics-must-cut-production-to-ease-pollution-some-states-say/70286.html

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