Cyber-crime: Irish government briefed by cyber security authorities

17 May 2021

Cyber security authorities and health officials have met government ministers after Ireland’s healthcare system was twice targeted in cyber-crime attacks.

Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin was among those briefed by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and Health Service Executive (HSE).

The NCSC has identified the gang behind the attacks, according to Irish broadcaster RTÉ.

It is believed to be the ‘Wizard Spider’ group, from Eastern Europe.

The criminal investigation team has contacted international law enforcement partners and sent digital footprints of the virus found on the computers to the Europol Malware Analysis Centre in The Hague.

The government said “its main concern is to secure a speedy resumption of all medical services as can possibly be achieved”.

The attack on the HSE has been described as the most significant in the state’s history.

RTÉ reported that the NCSC first became aware that malware had been inserted into systems at the Department of Health last Thursday, followed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) on Friday.

Digital ransom notes

It is understood specialists prevented the ransomware from “detonating” on the department’s systems, but not at the HSE.

Earlier, Irish Justice Minister Heather Humphreys met Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and members of the force’s National Cybercrime Bureau.

Mr Harris and Det Ch Supt Paul Cleary of the Garda National Cybercrime Bureau provided updates on the investigation.

It has been reported that digital ransom notes have been received from the cyber-crime group responsible for the attacks asking for a ransom, but the Irish government has said no money will be paid to restore the data.

The Covid-19 vaccine portal was forced to close temporarily on Friday but authorities have said the programme will continue as planned, with about a quarter of a million doses expected to be given in the next week.

However, officials said the attack has caused “substantial cancellations across outpatient services”.

It is expected to be a few days before the system is fully restored.

MAIN IMAGE: Digital footprints of the virus found on the computers have been sent to the Europol Malware Analysis Centre in the Hague. GETTY IMAGES

Biden signs executive order to improve government response to cyberattacks

The order is aimed at modernizing the government’s response to cyberattacks.

Ben Gittleson, Justin Gomez Luke Barr | 13 May 2021 |

The White House will create a “standardized playbook” for how it responds to attacks, including…Read More

Facing questions about why the U.S. isn’t better prepared to protect its infrastructure from hacks like the ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline, the order seeks to bring the federal government more up to speed

However, while it removes barriers to the private sector sharing info with the federal government about hacks, it stops short of mandating companies like Colonial Pipeline share information. A senior administration official clarified on a call with reporters that the federal government would mandate private companies “doing business with the federal government” share information with it about hacks.

“We pushed the authority as far as we could,” the official told reporters, “and said anybody doing business with the U.S. government will have to share incidents, so that we can use that information to protect Americans more broadly.”

“This executive order is about taking the steps necessary to prevent cyber intrusions from happening in the first place. And second, ensuring we’re well positioned to react rapidly to address incidents when they do occur,” the official continued.

The Biden administration has been working on this executive order since its second week, the official told reporters, and it is expected to help address hacks similar to the one that hit the Colonial Pipeline.

“Colonial fundamentally was an IT incident, and this executive order will make IT software more secure,” the official said.

The order will require all software bought by the federal government to meet certain security standards within nine months, the official said. And it “creates a pilot program to create an ‘energy star’ type of label so the government — and the public at large — can quickly determine whether software was developed securely,” the White House said.

“We’re working to bring visibility to the security of software,” the official said, “akin to the way New York brought visibility and cleanliness to New York City restaurants by requiring restaurants to post simple ratings like A, B, C or D, regarding their cleanliness in their windows.”


The Federal Government Will Now Give PPP Loans to Borrowers in Bankruptcy

by Lydia DePillis,
April 19, 2021

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.Series: The Pandemic Economy Fiscal Responses to COVID-19

The federal government has quietly reversed course on a policy that had kept thousands of businesses from applying for pandemic economic aid, with only weeks to go before funds are expected to run out.

In late March, ProPublica reported on a Small Business Administration rule that disqualified individuals or businesses currently in bankruptcy from getting relief through the Paycheck Protection Program, an $813 billion pot of funds distributed to small businesses in the form of loans that are forgiven if the money is mostly spent on payroll. The agency had battled in court against several bankrupt companies attempting to apply for PPP loans, and did not change course even after Congress explicitly passed legislation in December allowing it to do so.

Referencing ProPublica’s story, the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys wrote a letter to newly installed SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman urging her to follow Congress’ suggestion and tell the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees — a division of the Justice Department that oversees most American bankruptcy courts — to allow debtors to receive PPP loans.

The agency has not yet contacted the Justice Department. But on April 6, the SBA released new guidance as part of its frequently asked questions for the program, redefining what it means to be “presently involved in any bankruptcy.” Under the new interpretation, debtors who filed under Chapter 11, 12 and 13 — which cover businesses, family farms and individual consumers, respectively — are eligible for PPP loans once a judge has approved their reorganization plan. A spokesperson for the SBA said the explanation had been added for “clarity.”

A reorganization plan specifies the debtor’s path to paying off obligations to creditors, and is monitored by a trustee. In simple cases, a judge can confirm it within a few months of filing. This is what often happens in consumer Chapter 13 cases, about 279,000 of which were filed in 2019, as well as in relatively straightforward Chapter 11 cases that don’t require extensive litigation. About 5,500 companies filed for Chapter 11 in 2019.

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts doesn’t track how many of those companies have confirmed reorganization plans in place, but it’s estimated to be in the thousands. Now, companies on the road out of bankruptcy — which usually takes years to complete — can apply for PPP loans before the program’s May 31 deadline. With $50 billion left after several extensions, PPP funds are likely to run out before then.

Ed Boltz, a bankruptcy attorney on NACBA’s board who circulated the organization’s letter, said he believes the SBA changed its position after becoming “aware of the foolishness of the prior administration’s position.”

The change would not have helped all the companies that sued the SBA over its policy. Florida-based Gateway Radiology Consultants, for example, didn’t have a confirmed reorganization plan before it applied for a PPP loan last year, prompting a lawsuit. But the bankruptcy lawyer in that case, Joel Aresty, said plenty of his current clients could benefit.

“If they were lucky enough to already be confirmed, they could freely qualify for a PPP loan — the fact that you were in bankruptcy is no longer a deterrent,” Aresty said. “It’s amazing how difficult they made such a simple proposition, really.”

The new definition may now help Mark Shriner, a coffee shop owner in Lincoln, Nebraska, who filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2018 following a divorce. His plan was confirmed the same year. The SBA’s exclusion of debtors from the PPP originally prevented him from applying, forcing him to take on higher-interest loans to keep his doors open.

His cafe likely would have qualified for up to $25,000, and Shriner said he could have used some of the money to improve his online ordering or devise a takeout-friendly menu. Even now, he said, getting PPP money would help him plan for the future and bring back more staff.

Informed of the change last week, Shriner sent an application to his bank, which said it would hear back from the SBA within a couple weeks.

“Wow,” Shriner said. “That would be great.”

MAIN IMAGE: President Joe Biden pictured in Washington, D.C., after speaking about the American Rescue Plan and the Paycheck Protection Program, on Feb. 22, 2021. Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Government’s LGBT advisory panel disbanded

By Jessica Parker
BBC political correspondent
13 April 2021,

The government’s LGBT advisory panel has been disbanded after three members quit last month, the BBC can reveal.

A government spokesman said a replacement for the panel, which was set up under Theresa May’s premiership, “will be set out in due course”.

Some members told the BBC they had been willing to stay on when their terms ended on the 31 March.

A Conservative backbencher has accused the government of a series of “unforced errors”.

It’s understood the panel has not formally met senior government representatives since last year, although government sources say there has been communication with officials.

Equalities Minister Liz Truss has now written to the remaining members thanking them for their “constructive input”.

In the letter, seen by the BBC, Liz Truss said: “I will also be shortly making an announcement concerning the International LGBT Conference and convening a new body that will take international LGBT rights forward.”

‘Untold damage’

The panel was set up as part of an LGBT Action Plan, established under Theresa May. It was to advise ministers “on issues and policies concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

Three advisers quit last month over the government’s handling of LGBT rights and amid claims it was “dragging its feet” on a pledge to ban so-called conversion therapy.

The first to resign, Jayne Ozanne, accused ministers of creating a “hostile environment” for LGBT people.

She said it was “such a shame” that Ms Truss was disbanding the advisory panel.

“It was a force for good, where the needs of LGBT people could be heard and understood.

“This does nothing to rebuild trust or reassure LGBT community of their grave concerns,” she added in a Twitter message.

Crispin Blunt
Tory MP Crispin Blunt says the government is damaging its reputation

Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, who leads the all-party parliamentary group on Global LGBT+ rights, said government delays and inaction mean the prime minister is “in breach of promise on causes he supports”.

“The government is led by one of the most socially liberal, live-and-let-live leaders in our history,” he said, “yet it is making a series of unforced errors that will serve to wholly unnecessarily alienate LGBT+ people and do untold damage to his reputation”.

If the prime minister wanted to establish the values of Global Britain on human rights then “it is hardly the moment to dispose of your experts,” he added.

Conversion therapy

Nancy Kelley, chief executive of campaign group Stonewall, who was one of the remaining panel members, said: “Many key commitments from the UK LGBT Action Plan remain incomplete, including delivering an effective ban on conversion therapy, and the pandemic has only deepened the inequalities LGBTQ people experience, particularly in mental health.”

Stonewall was “keen to continue working with the government to progress LGBT+ rights”, she added, and she urged the government to ensure the new advisory panel included experts on “both domestic and global LGBT+ policy”.

In her letter to the panel, Ms Truss said: “I am pressing ahead with our commitment to ban conversion therapy in order to protect LGBT people from these abhorrent practices. I look forward to announcing these measures shortly.”

A government spokesman said: “The LGBT Advisory Panel was created under the previous administration and the term of all panel members ended on 31 March.

“The Minister for Women & Equalities has written to panel members to thank them for their contributions, and plans for a replacement for the Panel will be set out in due course.”

MAIN IMAGE: Equalities minister Liz Truss plans to set up a new advisory group

New Mexico Bans Qualified Immunity For All Government Workers, Including Police

Nick Sibilla,
Apr 7, 2021

In a landmark law signed today, New Mexico barred all government employees from using “qualified immunity” as a legal defense in state court and created a new way to challenge government agencies that violate constitutional rights. By making it much easier for victims of police violence and other government abuses to sue for damages, the New Mexico Civil Rights Act marks one of the most sweeping police reform bills passed in the aftermath of the tragic killing of George Floyd.

Created by the U.S. Supreme Court nearly four decades ago (and found nowhere in the Constitution or relevant federal law), qualified immunity lets government officials escape legal liability for violating someone’s constitutional rights, unless those rights were “clearly established.” In practice, this means finding a prior case with identical facts from the same appellate jurisdiction where the violation occurred. This can spawn downright Kafkaesque results. 

Consider James McGarry, who was wrestled to the ground in his own home in Lincoln County, New Mexico. A federal judge ruled that the officer responsible “used excessive force” in part because McGarry “posed no immediate threat.” Nevertheless, the judge, “with reluctance” granted qualified immunity because McGarry’s rights were not “clearly established” and “a nigh identical case must exist for the law to be clearly established.”

Since qualified immunity is a federal doctrine, it can only be fully abolished by Congress or the Supreme Court. But state and local lawmakers can still act to protect everyone’s constitutional rights.

Enter the New Mexico Civil Rights Act. Under HB 4, if a state or local government employee infringes someone’s rights within their scope of employment, the victim can sue the government employer for damages under the state constitution. Crucially, this new “cause of action” specifically bans qualified immunity as a legal defense. 

In other words, agencies are held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees, while the individual government workers are not at risk of personal liability. Notably, indemnification was already a long-standing practice in the Land of Enchantment. A 2014 study by UCLA Law Professor Joanna Schwartz found that lawsuits against the Albuquerque Police Department led to nearly $14 million paid out in civil rights settlements and judgments; officers didn’t contribute a single cent. 

HB 4 was supported by an ideologically diverse coalition, including the founders of Ben and Jerry’s, the Institute for Justice, the Innocence Project, the National Police Accountability Project, and the local chapters of the ACLU and Americans for Prosperity.

To get HB 4 across the finish line, the Act’s sponsors amended it to make a few concessions to municipalities. The law has a liability cap of $2 million, exempts certain infrastructure and water projects, and allows (but doesn’t require) courts to award attorney’s fees to prevailing plaintiffs. And while the Act generally has a three-year statute of limitations, those suing a law enforcement agency must provide the agency with “a written notice stating the time, place and circumstances of the loss or injury” within one year of the incident. 

Yet even with those compromises, opponents of the bill still claimed it would lead to a tidal wave of costly litigation. But as the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission astutely observed, “the cost of protecting the rights of New Mexicans involves values fundamentally different from other budget questions the legislature faces.” Without a legal remedy to vindicate their rights, the legislature is effectively “forcing those harmed by government misconduct to bear the cost for the state or responsible local government.” 

“In response to some of the commentary surrounding this measure, I will say: This is not an anti-police bill,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “This bill does not endanger any first responder or public servant—so long as they conduct themselves professionally within the bounds of our constitution and with a deep and active respect for the sacred rights it guarantees all of us as New Mexicans.”

Thanks to HB 4, New Mexico is now at the forefront of a growing trend to hold government officials accountable. Last June, Colorado became the first state to pass legislation that explicitly bans qualified immunity as a defense. While law enforcement lobbyists warned that Colorado’s reform would lead to mass resignations, that hasn’t come to fruition. According to the Denver Post, “at least 1,756 Colorado peace officers left their departments in 2020, which is fewer than the 2,061 separations recorded in 2019 and the 2,050 recorded in 2018.”

Over the past year, ConnecticutMassachusetts, and New York City have also approved bills limiting qualified immunity, though none are as broad as the reforms in Colorado or New Mexico. Massachusetts, for instance, only revokes qualified immunity for police officers who have been decertified. The New York City ordinance is only limited to “unreasonable searches and seizures,” including claims of excessive force. But infringing other constitutional protections, like the right to free speech, assembly, or equal protection, remain without a remedy. 

Colorado’s law is broader since it covers any and all violations of the Colorado Bill of Rights, but only authorizes civil lawsuits against law enforcement officers. By comparison, the New Mexico Civil Rights Act covers violations of the New Mexico Bill of Rights and eliminates qualified immunity across the board for all civil servants, not just cops. 

“For too long, qualified immunity has denied victims a remedy for violations of their constitutional rights,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Keith Neely, who submitted testimony in favor of the New Mexico bill. “With the governor’s signature, New Mexico has made enormous strides toward holding law enforcement officers and other government employees accountable.”

MAIN IMAGE: New Mexico statehouse staff talk during a break on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, at the New Mexico Rotunda in Santa Fe, N.M. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras) ASSOCIATED PRESS

Fauci Says Federal Government Won’t Mandate Vaccine Passports

The administration’s chief medical adviser also urged people not to “declare victory prematurely” against the coronavirus by forgoing public health measures like physical distancing.

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer,
April 05, 2021

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration’s chief medical adviser, said Monday that Covid-19 vaccine passports are “not going to be mandated from the federal government.”

“I doubt that the federal government will be the main mover of a vaccine passport concept,” Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview on the “Politico Dispatch” podcast.  

It could be a different story, however, with individual entities like theaters or educational institutions. 

“You could foresee how an independent entity might say, ‘Well, we can’t be dealing with you unless we know you’re vaccinated.’ But it’s not going to be mandated from the federal government,” Fauci said.

The interview came amid a rising number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. for a third straight week and fears of a potential fourth surge.

That surge could be prevented, Fauci said, with continued progress on Americans getting inoculated and sustained public health measures to contain the virus. Fauci pointed to the need to “put your foot on the accelerator when it comes to vaccinations”—which he called “incredibly efficacious.”  But “we can’t declare victory prematurely,” he added, cautioning against the lifting of coronavirus restrictions just yet.

Fauci’s comments came amid swirling criticism from the left and right over the idea of vaccine passports.

The effort, though, is already underway in some parts of the world, as France24 reported:

Some countries have already introduced such policies, with Iceland becoming the first European nation to issue vaccine certificates in late January. Greece on Tuesday unveiled a digital vaccination certificate for those who have received two doses of the vaccine. Among the countries that are currently issuing or asking for vaccine certificates are Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden.

Across the English Channel, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday his government would consider Covid-19 “status certificates” as a pathway out of the health crisis.

In the U.S., the concept of a vaccine passport isn’t popular; just 44% of likely voters back the idea, according to a Rasmussen poll out last week. Bolstering such lackluster support are privacy concerns about vaccination documents. From PBS NewsHour:  

[T]here are growing concerns about data privacy as documents verifying Covid-19 vaccination would exist and generally be accessed digitally. These digital health records would operate outside of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, which protects people’s private medical information from being disclosed by healthcare providers, health plans, or businesses. And there are instances when HIPAA allows that information to be released, such as when it is in the public interest. More broadly, some people are concerned that their data could be used against them by law enforcement, accessed by hackers, or sold to third-party vendors if regulators fail to offer appropriate oversight.

Further concerns, according to The Lancet, are that vaccine “certificates” threaten to exacerbate vaccine inequality. An editorial this month explained:

From a societal standpoint, granting vaccine certificate bearers access to select activities, venues, or international travel would undoubtedly provide impetus to the reopening of some sectors of the economy, such as hospitality, non-essential retail, and tourism. But it also risks generating hierarchical societies in which vaccinated individuals have exclusive privileges that are denied to those who have not received the vaccine. In countries where vaccine rollout is advancing rapidly, this inequity might be resolved in few months, but elsewhere it could be protracted for longer periods. And at an international level, against the backdrop of the currently limited availability of Covid-19 vaccine doses and their inequitable global distribution, the deployment of vaccine certificates for travel will afford citizens of high-income countries greater freedom of movement than citizens of low-income and middle-income countries.

At a Monday press briefing, meanwhile, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky expressed concern the nation is “entering our fourth week of increased trends and cases.” But the positive news, she said, is that an increasing number of Americans are being vaccinated against Covid-19.

“To date, more than 106 million people have received at least one dose, and more than 61.4 million, or 18.5%, are fully vaccinated,” said Walensky.

She pointed to a February event at a bar in Illinois that’s been linked to 46 Covid-19 cases as a reminder of “the continued need for layer prevention strategies,” including mask-wearing and physical distancing.

MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: In this photo illustration, a message saying Covid-19 PCR test result has been verified from the Travel Pass app mobile application by IATA (International Air Transport Association) seen displayed on a smartphone screen in front of IATA logo.  (Photo Illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

UK government to allow new North Sea oil and gas exploration

Joint investment of up to £16bn tied to industry promise to cut carbon emissions by 50% by end of decade

Jillian Ambrose Energy correspondent
24 Mar 2021,

Ministers will allow oil drillers to keep exploring the North Sea for new reserves, despite the government’s pledge to tackle carbon emissions, as long as they pass a “climate compatibility” test.

The government has offered to help the North Sea oil and gas industry cut its carbon emissions through a joint investment of up to £16bn to help support 40,000 North Sea jobs. In return, the industry has promised to cut its carbon emissions by 50% by the end of the decade.

The government said its “landmark deal” would help support the oil and gas industry’s transition to a clean energy future. But it has dashed hope among green campaigners and policy experts that the UK would follow the lead of Denmark and France by agreeing to ban new oil exploration licences.

Instead, the government plans to introduce a new “climate compatibility checkpoint” to determine whether each application is “compatible with the UK’s climate change objectives”.

The checkpoint will use the latest evidence for the UK’s domestic demand for oil and gas, the North Sea’s projected production levels, the availability of clean energy, and the sector’s progress against its emissions reduction targets ahead of each planned licensing round.

If the checkpoint – to be designed later this year – suggests that future oil and gas exploration would undermine the UK’s climate goals, the licensing round would not go ahead. up to the daily Business Today email

Kwasi Kwarteng, the business and energy secretary, said the North Sea deal sends “a clear message around the world” that the UK will be “a nation of clean energy”. He added that the UK will “not leave oil and gas workers behind” in the “irreversible shift away from fossil fuels”.

Mel Evans, the head of Greenpeace UK’s oil campaign, described the deal as “a colossal failure in climate leadership in the year of Cop26”.

“Instead of finding ways to prop up this volatile and polluting sector, a better proposition for workers and communities would be for the government to confirm a ban on new licences, and put all its energies into a nationwide programme of retraining, reskilling and investment in renewables and green infrastructure,” Evans said.

MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: Applications for drilling licences will be assessed against a new ‘climate compatibility checkpoint’. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

Government has no climate change plan – MPs

By Roger Harrabin
BBC environment analyst
5 March 2021

The government has been hit by a double whammy of reports from MPs criticising its performance on climate change.

The influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC) says ministers have “no plan” to meet climate change targets, two years after setting them in law.

And the business committee says the vital UN climate conference scheduled for Glasgow in November will fail unless its goals are made clear.

The government says both reports are inaccurate and unfair.

The PAC’s report says ministers still don’t have a coordinated strategy to realise the goal of removing almost all the carbon emissions from Britain by 2050.

The report notes that the government intends to publish what the MPs call a “plethora” of strategies setting out how it will reduce emissions in sectors ranging from transport to heating buildings.

But, it says, the policies aren’t agreed yet.

‘Huge test’

The MPs say the Treasury has changed its guidance to ensure departments place greater emphasis on the environmental impacts of their policies, but hasn’t explained how this will work in practice.

What’s more, the MPs say, the government is not yet ensuring that its activities to reduce emissions in Britain are not simply transferring those emissions overseas – where so many of the carbon-intensive goods bought in Britain’s shops are made.

They also blame the government for failing to engage with the public.

Meg Hillier, the committee’s Labour chairwoman, said: “The government has set itself a huge test in committing the UK to a net zero economy by 2050 – but there is little sign that it understands how to get there.

” We must see a clear path plotted, with interim goals set and reached – it will not do to dump our emissions on poorer countries to hit UK targets.

“Our new international trade deals, the levelling up agenda – all must fit in the plan to reach net zero.

“COP26 (the vital climate conference in Glasgow in November) is a few months away. The eyes of the world, its scientists and policymakers are on the UK – big promises full of fine words won’t stand up.”

Scottish Event Campus
The Scottish Events Campus in Glasgow will host the COP26 conference in November

Meanwhile, the business committee says the government has provided no details so far about how success at the conference will be measured.

Their report urges the prime minister to set out a clear list of ambitions for the summit, with a set of accompanying measures of success.

It points out that the UK is currently guiding the summit to focus on key areas for change chosen by Britain.

These are:

  • Adaptation and resilience
  • Nature based solutions
  • Energy transitions
  • Clean transport
  • Switching the finance system to low-carbon investments.

But the committee says: “We have concluded the current ‘themes’-based approach is too broad, without clear measures for success.

“More focus needs to be given to the overriding necessity to agree deliverable policies that keep global temperature rises to as close to 1.5C as possible.”

A COP26 spokesperson said the government was making “good progress” but added “there is no time to waste”.

“The COP26 President, Alok Sharma, our teams, and the full weight of our diplomatic network are all working tirelessly to push for accelerated action from our partners around the world” the spokesperson added.

Wildfires in California have been associated with climate change

Nick Mabey, from the think tank e3g, argues that multiple potential goals must be achieved – and he believes those goals should be debated publicly.

The aims would include:

  • Strengthening nations’ long -term commitments to cut emissions
  • Measuring whether governments’ policies match up to their promises
  • No new coal power built.
  • Major public banks withdrawing from fossil fuel investment
  • Ending export finance for coal power stations
  • Greatly increasing cash for poorer nations to adapt to inevitable global heating.

“This debate is up for grabs” he told BBC News.

“It should be a public debate because we’re talking out how to change whole economies. A lot of the outcomes from Glasgow will be decided in the court of public opinion.”

Richard Black from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said: “The lack of clarity on the vision for COP26 is seriously concerning. It is surely obvious that COP26 has to set the global economy on track to net zero emissions by mid-century.

“This means brokering agreements that kick-start decarbonisation in various sectors and it also means Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Rishi Sunak stepping up to the plate on finance to help the poorest nations.

“Failure to sort this will fatally compromise COP26 – and the failure will lie squarely at the door of Downing St.”

Bushfire in Australia
Scientists say climate change had an impact on bush fires in Australia in recent years

Whatever global goals are eventually agreed, green groups warn the UK’s negotiating position will be weakened unless it consistently cuts carbon domestically – it’s currently slipping away from its long-term targets.

Mr Black added: “Coming on the back of a Budget that didn’t even try to get the Conservatives on track to their net zero target, the conclusion that they don’t have a plan for reaching it, just months before the UK hosts a major UN climate summit for the first time, should stimulate some serious thinking right across Whitehall.”

A government spokeswoman said: “It is nonsense to say the government does not have a plan when we have been leading the world in tackling climate change, cutting emissions by almost 44 per cent since 1990 and doing so faster than any other developed nation in recent years.

“Only this week in the Budget we built on the prime minister’s Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution by encouraging private investment in green growth, and we are bringing forward bold proposals to cut emissions and create new jobs and industries across the whole country.”


Landlords evicting hundreds during lockdown with government’s new ‘eviction ban’ loopholes

Number of eviction attempts by landlords doubles during winter lockdown

Jon Stone Policy Correspondent @joncstone
16 February 2021,

Hundreds of renters have been thrown out of their homes in the middle of lockdown after the government caved in to landlord lobbying and introduced loopholes to its eviction ban.

New figures show eviction attempts by landlords doubled during the winter coronavirus lockdown, while more than 500 households were forced out by county court bailiffs.

The government promised in March that nobody would be made homeless because they had lost their income due to coronavirus, and put a blanket ban on evictions.

But after lobbying from landlord groups, ministers introduced new loopholes to the policy so that those hit hardest by the pandemic and furthest behind on rent could be kicked out.

As of January, anyone with rent arrears over six months can be evicted, even if the shortfall was accrued during the pandemic. Previous versions of the ban required debt to have been built up over nine months or more, not including that accrued after the start of the first lockdown.


Government sneaks ‘cruel’ new loophole into eviction ban

The 500 households figure for those forced out by bailiffs is likely to be “the tip of the iceberg”, as overall homelessness rose by nearly 4,000 households to 68,680 in the most recent data available.

In the final quarter of 2020 more than 2,000 orders were issued for people to leave their homes.

Labour said the government was breaking its promise and that the ban needed to be strengthened.

“Far from ‘putting their arms around the British people’, the government allowed hundreds of renters to be evicted during lockdown,” said shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg, as tens of thousands were made homeless during the winter months.about:blank✕

<p>Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire criticised the weakened policy</p>
Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire criticised the weakened policy(Tom Pilston)

“Everybody deserves security in their home, but throughout the Covid crisis, the government has consistently made last minute decisions that put renters at risk.

“Ministers promised nobody would lose their home because of coronavirus, but the current ban isn’t working. The government should give people security in their homes, by strengthening and extending the ban for the period that restrictions are in place.”

Tenants’ unions have also criticised the weakening of the policy, with the London Renters’ Union branding it a “fake eviction ban”.

Ministers on Sunday announced that the ban, which was set to expire this coming week, will run until at least the end of March. The government has repeatedly extended the ban by just a few weeks at a time.

The policy only applies to England because housing is a devolved issue in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.


Twitter resists Indian government’s orders to block protest accounts

The company explains how it’s responding to government orders

By Mitchell Clark  Feb 10, 2021,

Twitter has refused an order from the Indian government to block certain Twitter accounts, including ones from politicians, activists, and journalists that were critical of the government’s response to a protest carried out in the country’s capital in January.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Twitter explained that, while it has started blocking some accounts, it has “not taken any action on accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists, and politicians” because it believes doing so would “violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law.”

Starting at the beginning of February, the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has sent orders to Twitter to block a number of accounts and hashtags connected to mass protests that have gripped the country. Many of the accounts were critical of the Indian government and its response to the protests, including the official Twitter account of a prominent magazine The CaravanAccording to BuzzFeed News, the government ordered the accounts suspended because they were “spreading misinformation about protests.”

Twitter initially complied with the orders,a decision that drew significant criticism from civil rights groups. Some activists called the action censorship, while others accused of Twitter bowing to government overreach.

The protests have been building since November, and have resulted in violence, deaths, and internet blackouts in parts of the country’s capital region. Tens of thousands of farmers have gone on strike over the course of the protests, according to the BBC. The farmers are concerned about changes to agricultural laws in India that they fear could cut their income. Farming policy is a hugely important issue in India. According to CNN, 58 percent of the people in the country make their money primarily through agriculture.

Twitter’s justification for unblocking the accounts, in opposition to government orders, is it believes keeping them inaccessible “would violate their fundamental right to free expression under Indian law.” In its blog post, Twitter says it “do[es] not believe that the actions [it has] directed to take are consistent with Indian law,” and that unblocking the accounts is consistent “with [its] principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression.”

MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge