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Boris ‘Bertie Booster’ Johnson serves up climate baloney for breakfast

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Boris ‘Bertie Booster’ Johnson serves up climate baloney for breakfast

Sit back and enjoy the ride. Here was Boris Johnson in his comfort zone. A conference room at the Science Museum where he could indulge his fantasy as the Bertie Booster of British politics by giving his standard upbeat, cut out and keep after dinner speech – never mind that it was actually shortly after breakfast – to an invited audience of some of the world’s richest men and women at a Global Investment Summit.

This was Boris at his most optimistic. No need to mention the inconvenient truths of food and lorry driver shortages. Covid infection rates increasing at an alarming rate could also be safely ignored. Those were all just present day irritants. The story he wanted to tell was of a future in which Britain would lead the world to the promised land of net zero by 2050. A speech that was light on detail but peppered with recycled gags. Not that Boris got many laughs. Perhaps billionaires don’t have the same sense of humour as the rest of us. Or maybe they’d heard them all before at Davos.

Dominic Cummings has described the prime minister as an out of control shopping trolley veering from side to side down the aisles, and Johnson’s 15-minute cameo had all the hallmarks of someone playing Supermarket Sweep. Boris began by reminding everyone of the inventions that failed before attributing the success of the Covid vaccine to free market capitalism. Some might remember government funding and the NHS also playing a part. He then skipped to a passage where Brexit was creating new opportunities for investment – that will have come as a surprise to many of the business leaders who have relocated outside the UK – and invited everyone to join Britain in the green revolution.

“Green is Good,” he said, channelling his inner Wall Street, as he urged the Gordon Gekkos in the room to take advantage of the opportunities within the UK created by the need for a technological revolution. We were the country of Peppa Pig who taught Americans the right way to say tomato, petrol and mother. We were the country of Adele, Coldplay and Ed Sheeran. And the audience was just gullible hucksters out of Trading Places who could be conned into buying into Britain. Thank you and good night. Or rather, good morning.

Just as the audience was trying to work out whether it had been charmed or insulted, Boris returned on stage with Bill Gates to be interviewed by Allegra Stratton. This was a collector’s item as it was just about the first sighting of Stratton since she had been appointed to be the prime minister’s spokeswoman on the proviso that she never actually said anything or was ever seen in public. Stratton has now been reassigned as Cop26 spokesperson but she was first introduced as “a journalist” and she immediately went for the killer question.

“I believe you have an announcement to make,” she said. “I do,” Johnson replied enthusiastically. He had signed a deal with Breakthrough Energy, a Bill Gates company, worth £400m – half each from the UK government and the Microsoft founder – to develop solutions to the really tricky problems of global heating, such as green aviation fuel and green cement, that everyone else was shying away from as they were unlikely to turn a profit any time soon.

Gates interrupted. Actually the deal was worth twice what Boris had said. Johnson looked flustered. If he had signed up to double the amount he could be in deep shit with Rishi. Most would have put money on it being Boris who had got the figures wrong, but his spokesman later assured everyone that £200m was the government limit. It turns out that even a stopped clock can be right twice a day. In any case it was all loose change to Gates. He’d probably spent more on his daughter’s wedding than on the new green deal with the UK.

Stratton tried to steer the conversation back on track by saying that the prime minister had always cared passionately about the climate crisis. When he had made comments, such as windfarms not being able to blow the skin off a rice pudding, he had just been having a laugh. Deep down he had always been a believer. Except the only thing he really believed in was his own narcissism. His own exceptionalism. The normal rules of public engagement did not apply to him.

The longer the chat went on, the more Boris started to wing it. As if he was a public entertainer who was obliged to make up for the fact that Gates was a personality free zone who could be relied on to put any audience to sleep. So Johnson then said that Cop26 was going to be a huge success because everyone would be there – except possibly the leaders of China and Russia, two of the world’s largest polluters, without whose cooperation global action on the climate crisis is just pissing in the wind.

Boris also went on to say there were huge profits to be made from investing in long-term solutions to the climate emergency. Gates looked at Johnson in amazement. He hadn’t realised he had just signed a deal with a serial lunatic. Hadn’t he already said the whole point about these speculative technologies was that some would fail and that there might not be bumper returns? Or any returns? Certainly not in the foreseeable future.

Just to make sure everyone got the point, Gates repeated his caveat. Boris ignored him. He was in his bubble. He was the centre of attention. People with access to $24tn were his captive audience. And he was funnier than all of them. That’s what really counted. All was well with the world.

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

The head of the United Nations warned Friday that the world faces “catastrophe” because of the growing shortage of food around the globe.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has added to the disruptions caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” already affecting hundreds of millions of people.

“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”

Guterres noted that harvests across Asia, Africa and the Americas will take a hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.

“This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said. “No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”

Guterres said U.N. negotiators were working on a deal that would enable Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.

He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilize global food markets.

The Berlin meeting’s host, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were to blame for food shortages was “completely untenable.”

Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as in the same months of 2021, Baerbock said.

She echoed Guterres’ comments that several factors underlie the growing hunger crisis around the world.

“But it was Russia’s war of attack against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami,” Baerbock said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russia has no excuse for holding back vital goods from world markets.

“The sanctions that we’ve imposed on Russia collectively and with many other countries exempt food, exempt food products, exempt fertilizers, exempt insurers, exempt shippers,” he said.

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

Local and federal highways in the North-west have become vulnerable as bandits continue to ambush and abduct travellers.

The gunmen who abducted 29 people returning to Zamfara State from Sokoto State where they had gone to attend the wedding of colleagues have released them after the payment of an unspecified ransom.

The victims, who were mostly dealers of mobile phones and phone accessories at Bebeji Communication Market (Bebeji Plaza) in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State were abducted in Sokoto 13 days ago.

Secretary of the GSM Dealers Association in the state, Ashiru Zurmi, confirmed the release of the victims but didn’t give details.

One of the victims reportedly died in captivity.

Though the amount paid as ransom to secure the release of the hostages has not been revealed, Abdullahi Lawal, whose brother was among those abducted, said their relatives were asked to make donations. He said his family raised N33,000 while the phone sellers’ association “provided the remaining money.”

“Every family was told to gather N400,000 while the members of the plaza and their colleagues in the state provided the remaining money. Some family members were able to raise the money in full, but we couldn’t. I took the money to the plaza and I was told that they were still negotiating with the bandits” he said.

He said he didn’t know how much was given to the bandits “but I’m happy that my brother is okay,” he said.

From N5m to N700,000

A phone accessories seller, Sharhabilu Muhammad, told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone that the officials of the phone dealers association negotiated with the bandits to reduce the ransom they originally demanded to release the captives.

“You know that the initial money they said was N5m for each of the captives but our officials kept negotiating with them (bandits) until they reduced the money to N700k,” he said.

When asked about the person who reportedly died in captivity, Mr Muhammed said his identity has not been revealed.

“We don’t know because even the bandits didn’t tell but we’ll surely find out when they (captives) arrive at Gusau tonight,” he added.

The police command spokesman, Mohammed Shehu, didn’t respond to calls and SMS sent to him on the development.

Backstory

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the wedding guests were abducted when bandits opened fire on the two buses they were travelling in a few kilometres after Bimasa in the Dogon Awo junction, Sokoto State.

They were returning from Tambuwal town in Sokoto State where they had attended the wedding of a colleague, Jamil Umar.

The captives were travelling on a Toyota Coaster bus belonging to the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC and another bus owned by Gusau Local Government.

The bandits had demanded a ransom of N145 million to release the 29 hostages.

Bandits have been terrorising North-west states and a part of North-central Nigeria, killing and displacing hundreds of people and rustling domestic animals.

Travelling on federal and local highways is becoming dangerous as bandits block roads, abduct and kill motorists.

Major federal highways including Abuja-Kaduna, Gusau-Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi, and Birnin Gwari-Kaduna have become travellers’ nightmares with attacks and abduction or killing of travellers becoming a daily occurrence.

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

A motion seeking the intervention of the House of Representatives in the conflict between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, and Justices of the Supreme Court, over issues bordering on welfare and working conditions suffered a setback on Thursday.

While the House called for a general review of salaries and allowances of all political office holders and public servants, the members were divided over which committees should handle the task.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke, had moved a motion to seek the intervention of the chamber in the crisis rocking the apex court and better welfare package for judicial officers across the courts.

Luke, who moved the motion titled, ‘Need to Address the Deteriorating Working Conditions of Judicial Officers,’ prayed the House to urge the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to upwardly review the remuneration of judicial officers in line with present economic realities.

The lawmaker prayed the House to urge the Federal Government to increase the budgetary allocation of the judiciary for the upcoming fiscal year and provide special intervention funds for the development of the arm

He further prayed the House to mandate the Committee on Judiciary to ensure compliance and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.

While the lawmakers were making amendments to the prayers, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, called for an upward review of the welfare package of all public office holders.

Wase, who stated that he appreciated the memo from the Justices to the CJN, noted that only the RMAFC had the responsibility to review remuneration of government officials.

The Deputy Speaker made reference to a part of the motion that read, ‘The remuneration of judicial officers was last reviewed in 2008 by the RMAFC when the official exchange rate was N117.74 to $1, whereas the naira has considerably depreciated.’

Wase partly said, “I think this particular element does not affect just judicial officers, maybe because they cried out now. I don’t think it is right that we have to wait every time until people write letters of complaints and there is protest before we begin to do the right thing.”

Rephrasing Wase’s proposed amendment, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said: “The DSP’s amendment is that we should not isolate the Judiciary and all those enumerated constitutional bodies and public office holders. They should be reviewed; a comprehensive review based on all the things that Hon Luke said – the exchange rates and this and that.”

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