Britain’s foreign minister said Sunday there is only about a week left for the U.K. and the European Union to strike a post-Brexit trade deal, with fishing rights the major obstacle to an agreement.
As talks continued between the two sides in London, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said “I think we are into the last week or so of substantive negotiations.”
The U.K. left the EU early this year, but remained part of the 27-nation bloc’s economic embrace during an 11-month transition as the two sides tried to negotiate a new free-trade deal to take effect Jan. 1. Talks have already slipped past the mid-November date long set as a deadline for agreement to be reached if it is to be approved by lawmakers in Britain and the EU before year’s end.
Despite the stalemate, Raab told Sky News that “there’s a deal to be done.”
He said the two sides had made progress on “level playing field” issues — the standards the U.K. must meet to export into the EU.
The biggest hurdle appears to be fish, a small part of the economy with an outsized symbolic importance for Europe’s maritime nations. EU countries want their boats to be able to keep fishing in British waters, while the U.K. insists it must control access and quotas.
“On fisheries, there is a point of principle: As we leave the transition, we are an independent coastal state and we’ve got to be able to control our waters,” Raab said.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who met through the weekend with U.K. counterpart David Frost, has said there are still “significant divergences.”
If there is no deal, New Year’s Day will bring huge disruption, with the overnight imposition of tariffs and other barriers to U.K.-EU trade. That will hurt both sides, but the burden will fall most heavily on Britain, which does almost half its trade with the EU.
Protesting farmers on Sunday rejected the Indian government's offer to hold immediate talks if they ended their blockade of key highways they've held as they seek the scrapping of legislation they say could devastate crop prices.
The thousands of farmers will continue camping out on highways in Punjab and Haryana states until three new agriculture laws are withdrawn, Jaskaran Singh, a leader of the Kisan Union, or Farmers’ Union, told reporters.
The farmers say the laws could cause the government to stop buying grain at guaranteed prices and result in their exploitation by corporations that would buy their crops cheaply.
The government says the legislation brings about much needed reform agriculture that will allow farmers the freedom to market their produce and boost production through private investment.
“These reforms have not only served to unshackle our farmers but also given them new rights and opportunities," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Sunday.
On Friday, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar offered to hold talks with the farmers’ representatives on Dec. 3.
That followed a day of clashes with police, who used tear gas, water cannons and baton charges to push them back as they tried to enter New Dehli.
The latest offer for talks was made by Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday. But he said the farmers would have to shift their protests to a government-designated venue in New Delhi and stop blocking the highways.
Singh, the farmer's representative, said he doubted the government really wanted to hold talks.
"We want the farm laws to be scrapped, that’s all,” he said.
Singh said more farmers would be joining the protest and blocking national highways in other states as well.
Farmers have long been seen as the heart and soul of India, where agriculture supports more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion people. But farmers have also seen their economic clout diminish over the last three decades. Once accounting for a third of India’s gross domestic product, they now produce only 15% of gross domestic product, which is valued at $2.9 trillion a year.
Farmers often complain of being ignored and hold frequent protests to demand better crop prices, more loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells.
She’s fended off protesters who made a run at her husband. She’s moved him farther from reporters during the coronavirus pandemic. She’s supported his presidential ambitions again and again — except in 2004, when she deployed a novel messaging technique to keep Joe Biden from running.
“No,” Jill Biden, then clad in a bikini, wrote in Sharpie across her stomach and then marched through a strategy session in which advisers were trying to talk her husband into challenging Republican President George W. Bush.
Protecting Joe stands out among Jill Biden’s many roles over their 43-year marriage, as her husband’s career moved him from the Senate to the presidential campaign trail and the White House as President Barack Obama’s vice president. She’s a wife, mother, grandmother and educator with a doctoral degree — as well as a noted prankster.
Now, with her husband on the brink of becoming the 46th president, Jill Biden is about to become first lady and put her own stamp on a position that traditionally is viewed as a model of American womanhood — whether that means hewing to old ways or finding new, activist ones, in the manner of Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, for example.
She intends to keep working as a college professor, which would make her the only first lady to keep her day job outside the home. And if four decades in the public eye are any indication, she’ll continue being Biden’s chief protector.
The role isn’t completely unfamiliar territory for Jill Biden. She’s been a political wife the entire time she’s been married to Joe Biden. Plus, she had a bird’s-eye view of what a first lady does during Obama’s two terms.
But the scrutiny level will change. And all eyes are on the incoming Biden administration to deliver what both Joe and Jill have promised — getting the coronavirus pandemic raging across the country under control.
Myra Gutin, a professor at Rider University and the author of several books about first ladies, recalled Barbara Bush telling her: “You know, when I was second lady, I could say anything I wanted, and no one really paid much attention. But the minute I became first lady, everything became newsworthy.”
Still, Jill Biden won’t have the learning curve most other new first ladies faced. “She’s been in the public eye for a long time,” Gutin said. “She’s going in eyes wide open.”
The coronavirus has killed more than 260,000 Americans and upended much of daily life. The Bidens offered themselves as agents of comfort at a time of loss and grief, experiences they know well particularly after their son Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015.
Jill Biden entered her husband’s life as a comfort.
Joe Biden’s first wife and young daughter were killed in a car accident in 1972. Jill Biden helped raise his surviving young sons, Beau and Hunter, before giving birth to their daughter, Ashley, in 1981. She refers to all of them as her children.
As Joe Biden commuted from Delaware to Washington while serving as a senator, Jill Biden built a career as a teacher, ultimately earning two master’s degrees and then a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware in 2007.
Throughout, Jill Biden’s protective streak was notable. There she stood at his side, when Joe Biden withdrew from his first presidential bid under accusations of plagiarism. She says she emulated her mother’s stoic style. Jill Biden’s mother, she said, didn’t even cry when her own parents died. She saw that as strength. “I decided early that I would never let my emotions rule me,” she wrote in her memoir, ”Where the Light Enters.”
“As a political spouse, I’ve found that my stoicism often serves me well,” Jill Biden wrote. “In 1988, when Joe’s first presidential campaign started to look bleak, people were constantly looking for cracks in our team. We all felt scrutinized, but I refused to show weakness.”
It showed early in the 2020 race when several women accused Biden of inappropriate touching. The candidate denied acting inappropriately but acknowledged that social norms had changed. He pledged that he would change, too.
Jill Biden defended him.
“I think what you don’t realize is how many people approach Joe — men and women, looking for comfort or empathy,” she told ABC’s ”Good Morning America.” “But going forward, I think he’s gonna have to judge — be a better judge — of when people approach him, how he’s going to react. That he maybe shouldn’t approach them.”
She recalled a time in her life when she had been treated inappropriately and didn’t speak up.
“I can remember specifically — it was in a job interview,” Jill Biden said. “If that same thing happened today, I’d turn around and say, ‘What do you think you’re doin’?”
She’s quick to rally to her husband’s side, sometimes physically.
In New Hampshire in February, a man tried to cross into the roped-off area near Joe Biden. In a flash, Jill Biden crossed behind her husband and put her arms around the man, turned him around and helped push him away.
A month later in Los Angeles, she similarly blocked one protester, then a second one, who had stormed the stage while Joe Biden was delivering his Super Tuesday victory speech.
When the first one approached waving an anti-dairy sign and yelling, Jill Biden stepped between the protester and her husband. She did the same with the second one, this time putting her arms up to block the intrusion.
Both were removed without coming in contact with the candidate. After the 27-second confrontation, Jill turned around saying, “We’re okay,” and encouraged Joe to keep the event going. The Bidens then said it might be time for Secret Service protection, and they got it soon after.
“I worry about Jill,” Joe Biden said.
She’s been protective during the pandemic.
On Oct. 5 at New Castle Airport in Delaware, she moved her husband back from members of the media as he spoke outside his campaign plane before a trip to Miami.
Like many American families, the Bidens spent Thanksgiving differently this year. They stayed at their house in Rehoboth, Delaware, rather than their usual “Nana-tucket,” as her grandchildren have called the Massachusetts island where the Bidens started going early in their marriage to establish a new holiday tradition.
In 2020, instead of the usual sprawling family tableau, their daughter and her husband were the only Biden visitors to the house in Delaware. A Zoom call with the larger group was on the evening’s agenda.
Look, too, for Jill Biden to try to keep things light.
“She’s not your average grandmother,” granddaughter Naomi said on a video shown at the Democratic National Convention, recalling that Jill Biden once woke her up at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning to go “soul cycling.”
“She’s a prankster, she’s very mischievous,” Naomi added with a grin. “When she goes on a run, sometimes she’ll find, like, a dead snake and she’ll pick it up and put it in a bag and use it to scare someone.”
In 2016, as Bill Cosby’s legal team prepared for trial in his stunning sexual assault case in Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court quietly heard a death row inmate’s appeal.
Lawyers for Charles Hicks questioned whether three women who said he had beaten and choked them in Texas should have testified at his trial in a fourth woman’s death in the Pocono Mountains.
Prosecutors hoped to show a pattern of “strikingly similar” conduct, even if only one woman died. The seven Supreme Court justices issued five separate opinions on the use of the “prior bad act” testimony.
And that may explain why they are hearing Cosby’s appeal Tuesday.
In taking the case, the justices appear eager to clear up the law on one of the murkiest questions plaguing criminal trials: When should a jury hear about someone’s past?
Investigators say it can be crucial to show a signature crime pattern, but defense lawyers say it often amounts to character assassination.
The debate has been central to the high-profile prosecutions of actor and comedian Cosby, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and a Roman Catholic Church official in Philadelphia charged with protecting predator priests. But it also comes into play for lesser-known people like Hicks, who remains on Pennsylvania’s death row.
“The issue is really intriguing because it forces defendants to spend time fighting shadows of uncharged, sometimes unrelated accusations that never really became formal criminal charges,” said Philadelphia defense lawyer William J. Brennan, who was involved in the church trial. “It’s very distracting. You should focus on what you’re criminally charged with.”
Cosby has long complained that Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill let five other accusers testify at his 2018 retrial, when he became the first celebrity convicted of sexual assault in the #MeToo era. His lawyers, and his wife, Camille, have called the women gold diggers and their testimony lies.
But District Attorney Kevin Steele believes the similarities in their accounts were no mere coincidence.
“It is unusual, to say the least, that defendant has been repeatedly ... accused of engaging in sexual conduct with unconscious or otherwise incapacitated young women,” his office wrote in a Supreme Court brief this year.
Cosby, 83, has spent more than two years in prison since he was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a Temple University employee he had taken under his wing, at his suburban Philadelphia estate in 2004.
By the time her case went to trial in 2017, after a judge unsealed Cosby’s long-buried testimony in her 2005 sexual battery lawsuit, dozens of women had come forward to say the star of “The Cosby Show” had mentored and then betrayed them.
O’Neill allowed just one of them to testify at the first trial, in which the jury could not reach a verdict.
But the following year, at the 2018 retrial, the judge let five other accusers take the stand to describe encounters with Cosby in the 1980s. Each believed they had been drugged and sexually assaulted.
Constand, a former professional basketball player from Toronto, said she became incapacitated after taking what she thought was an herbal remedy from Cosby. She said she could not fight back as he put his hand down her pants. Cosby described the penetration that followed as consensual.
An intermediate appeals court last year called O’Neill’s decision on the other accusers reasonable. Then the state Supreme Court jumped in when he appealed again.
The Cosby appeal could decide whether courts allow the expansive use of “prior bad act” witnesses that many judges have adopted in recent years or rein it in to preserve the presumption of innocence.
The testimony is often referred to as “404(b) evidence,” a reference to the statute that governs it.
“I think the Supreme Court probably wants to tighten up some of the 404(b) issues that certainly are ripe for tightening,” said Brennan, who sat through weeks of the testimony from priest-abuse victims in the 2012 church trial. “It pollutes the air for the jury.”
Pennsylvania Chief Justice Thomas Saylor raised concerns they create “mini-trials on collateral testimony” in his 2017 opinion in the Hicks case, but he still sided with the majority to uphold the conviction, if for different reasons.
The Supreme Court will also consider Tuesday whether the jury should have heard Cosby’s damaging deposition testimony from Constand’s lawsuit, when he acknowledged giving alcohol or quaaludes to some of his accusers before sexual encounters.
Defense lawyers say that Cosby, before sitting for the deposition, relied on a secret agreement from a former prosecutor that he would never be charged in Constand’s case. But O’Neill found no evidence of such a pact.
Cosby, like other defendants, does not have the right to attend the appellate arguments, which have been moved online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He resides at a state prison near Philadelphia, where several inmate deaths have been blamed on the coronavirus. Cosby’s friends have made public pleas for his early release, given his age and increased risk of infection, but he has not filed any formal legal petitions. And prosecutors say he doesn’t qualify as a sexually violent predator.
The Supreme Court is not expected to rule for several months.
At least 30 policemen were killed and over 20 others wounded after a suicide car bomb hit a military camp in Ghazni city, capital of Afghanistan's eastern Ghazni province on Sunday, a local official confirmed.
"Some 30 killed and 21 wounded were admitted to a main hospital in Ghazni city following an explosion this morning," Zahir Shah Nikmal, spokesman of provincial public health directorate, told Xinhua.
The number of casualties may change, he said.
"The targeted camp which belongs to the Public Protection Police Forces came under attack Sunday morning. The police officers manning the facility responded to attackers. So far, we have no more details, but we will try to get more information," local government spokesman Wahadullah Jumazada told Xinhua earlier.
The blast sent a column of thick smoke into the sky and triggered panic in Qala-e-Joz, an area on the outskirts of the city, the official said.
Additional security forces reached the site following the attack, the spokesman added.
In the meantime, spokesman of the Interior Ministry Tariq Arian told Xinhua that one suicide bomber was killed after detonating an explosive-laden vehicle roughly at 7:37 a.m. local time on Sunday along a road connecting Ghazni city to neighboring Dih Yak district.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but local officials blamed Taliban militants for the attack.