UK Battered by Deadly Storms
A storm that killed two men in the early hours of Thursday has forced thousands of evacuations in eastern England, where weather forecasters fear winds will trigger the biggest tidal surge in 60 years. A lorry driver died after his vehicle was thrown against two cars in West Lothian, while a falling tree killed a man in Nottinghamshire. On the Suffold and Norfolk coasts, local authorities are visiting 9,000 homes and advising residents to evacuate their homes ahead of high tide, which will peak later in the evening. The Environment Agency says that 6,000 homes could end up flooded in its worst-case scenario, saying that the coast from Northumberland down to the Thames Estuary was at risk, adding that it would close the Thames Barrier overnight to protect London from flooding. High winds also caused the complete shutdown of rail transport in Scotland until it was safe to reopen, with many lines suffering obstructions from falling trees and even displaced trampolines.
Chancellor Freezes Fuel Duty, Limits Train Fare Hikes
Chancellor George Osborne delivered his autumn statement on Thursday, outlining how the government would tackle the budget deficit. He confirmed that data from the Office for Budget Responsibility showed that the country should grow 2.4 percent in 2014, meaning that fiscal deficit should fall to 6.8 percent and eventually lead to a small surplus by 2018. Shadow chancellor Ed Balls countered that balancing the budget by then was a failure. “He used to say that he would balance the books in 2015. Now he wants us to congratulate him [the chancellor] for saying he will do it in 2019. With this government it is clearly not just the badgers that move the goalposts”, said Balls. Among the more immediate measures announced by the government were a cancellation of a proposed 1 percent increase in train fares above inflation from January and the freezing of the the fuel duty, which was expected to increase by 2p a litre.
Suicide Bombers Attack Defence Ministry in Yemen
At least 20 people were killed by car bomb and the ensuing gunbattle near the Yemeni defence ministry in Sana’a on Thursday, with more than 70 people left injured. Sources said the attack seemed to be targeted at a hospital within the defence ministry compound, with gunmen shooting at medical personnel and killing as many as four doctors and four nurses as they were arriving for work. “The attack took place shortly after working hours started at the ministry, when a suicide bomber drove a car into the gate”, said a source at the ministry, while witnesses in the vicinity saying the bomb also shook neighbouring buildings. “The explosion was very violent, the whole place shook because of it and plums of smoke rose from the building”, said a man interviewed by the Reuters news agency. It is the worst attack in the country in 18 months and analysts say that the “suicide nature of the attack” could be traced to al-Qaeda.
Japan Whistleblowers to Face Prison Under Proposed Legislation
Japanese officials who leak state secrets and journalists who collaborate in publishing these secrets could face prison terms if the country’s state secrets bill is passed by the Lower House of Parliament after already having cleared the Upper House on Thursday. Civil activists see the law as an infringement on the freedom on the press and the right to information, particularly in light of the slow reaction to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. “It’s a bill of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats to hide information”, said opposition leader Banri Kaieda. Some also see it as an attempt by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to strengthen the country’s security credentials, by showing allies that Japan could play a more relevant role in the intelligence community by having strong safeguards against potential leaks.