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FILE PHOTO: The Taliban flags are seen on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY/File Photo

The ousted Afghan government and activist groups called on the main U.N. human rights body on Monday to investigate reports of targeted killings and restrictions on women and free speech by the ruling Taliban.

The appeals, which came as the European Union (EU) prepares to submit a draft resolution on Afghanistan, was backed by the head of the country’s independent commission on human rights, who said that many of its own activities have been suspended.

The U.N. Human Rights Council held an emergency session last month after the Taliban takeover, but activists said that the Pakistan-led resolution that was adopted was too weak. That text asked U.N. rights boss Michelle Bachelet to report back, giving her few resources or power.

Bachelet told the forum on Sept. 13 that Taliban had broken promises by ordering women to stay at home and by carrying out house-to-house searches for former foes.

An EU draft resolution circulated at this session, seen by Reuters, condemns executions and violence against protesters and media. If adopted, it would appoint a special rapporteur, but not a full-fledged inquiry.

“We urge Council members, in line with the Council’s mandate, to adopt a resolution in this current session establishing a dedicated and effective mechanism to monitor the human rights situation in Afghanistan, a must for accountability and prevention,” Nasir Ahmad Andisha, Afghanistan’s ambassador, still in function, told the Geneva forum.

Activists said that a special rapporteur – independent experts who usually have full-time jobs – would fall short.

“A mere special rapporteur with some assistance from (the UN rights office) is not enough,” Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told a panel event. “Given the complexity of the country, an investigative mechanism needs a full team, with dedicated resources and a clear mandate.”

Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International who is a former U.N. investigator on unlawful killings, said that human rights monitoring was “extraordinarily important” now.

“The preservation of evidence is also critical to send a clear message to the Taliban that international crimes do not go unnoticed or unpunished,” she said.

Shaharzad Akbar, chair of the Afghanistan independent human rights commission who has fled the country, said the Taliban has carried out targeting killings mainly against former national security forces and some ordinary citizens.

“They are creating an environment of fear for everyone, including for human rights defenders, women’s rights activists and journalists that are still in the country, most of them in hiding,” she told the panel.

“We have reports of extrajudicial killings of detainees,” she said.

Taliban authorities in the western Afghan city of Herat killed four alleged kidnappers and hung their bodies up in public to deter others, a local government official said on Saturday.

REUTERS
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A Deliveroo delivery rider poses with a bag of Aldi groceries

German discount supermarket group Aldi will invest 1.3 billion pounds ($1.8 billion) in Britain over the next two years, opening a new store every week to try to accelerate its rapid growth in market share, it said on Monday.

The retailer plans to open another 100 new stores in Britain, expand its logistics infrastructure, including a new distribution centre in central England, and invest in technology.

It will create more than 2,000 new British jobs next year, adding to the 7,000 permanent roles created over the past two years.

“Around 88% of British consumers want to shop in stores … There’s no doubt that bricks and mortar is the focus for our business,” Giles Hurley, the CEO of Aldi’s business in Britain and Ireland, told reporters.

Aldi and German rival Lidl have grown rapidly in Britain over the last decade, forcing the established big four supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s Asda and Morrisons – to cut prices and compete more aggressively.

Aldi is now Britain’s fifth-largest supermarket group. It currently trades from 920 UK stores and has an 8% market share.

However, its share edged lower at some points during the pandemic, partly due to a lack of a significant online business.

The British and Irish business, privately-owned by Aldi Sud , said 2020 sales rose 10.2% to a record 13.5 billion pounds, but operating profit fell 1.2% to 287.7 million pounds, reflecting the costs of COVID-19.

The crisis prompted the business to accelerate its push into home delivery via a partnership with Deliveroo. It also introduced a click-and-collect service that’s now live in 200 stores, and is trialling a checkout-free concept store in Greenwich, southeast London.

BETTER PLACED

Hurley said although no UK retailer could be immune from current supply chain disruption, Aldi was better placed than rivals.

Aldi’s limited product range means it has a smaller supplier base, while the majority of products it sources for its British stores come from local suppliers and manufacturers.

“That means our supply chain is just that little bit shorter and easier to control,” he said.

Hurley also noted that the majority of its drivers are directly employed.

“It’s very much business as usual. Yes things are tighter but our trucks and our deliveries are rolling across the UK, our stores are full and we’d encourage customers to shop as normal,” he said.

The CEO said nobody in the market could guarantee there would not be inflation this Christmas.

“What I am able to guarantee is that customers will always get the lowest prices in Aldi irrespective of what the future holds.”

REUTERS
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A woman wearing a face mask walks past an image of an iPhone 13 Pro at an Apple Store

Apple Inc’s customers will have to wait for a few more weeks to lay their hands on the new iPhone 13 as supply chain delays and strong demand lead to one of the longest waiting times for the phone in recent years, analysts said.

The delivery time for Apple’s iPhones after a new launch is watched by analysts as one of the measures to gauge demand for the flagship phone’s newest model. But this year, it is also shining a light on supply chain issues plaguing technology companies ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Analysts at J.P.Morgan and Credit Suisse said customers across the world who had pre-ordered the new models online would have to wait more than four weeks for the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max and about 2 weeks for the base iPhone 13.

In the United States, which accounts for over a third of iPhone shipments, the delivery time for the iPhone 13 series was 19 to 34 days in the second week, compared with 7 to 20 days in the first week, both greater than the lead times for the iPhone 12 Series.

Apple was not immediately available to comment on the delays in delivery times.

“While admittedly part of the expansion in the lead times is on account of the supply chain constraints, we still find the material increase in the lead time in Week 2 relative to Week 1 as an indicator of the robust demand for upgrades, likely exceeding low investor expectations into the launch,” J.P.Morgan analyst Samik Chatterjee said.

Apple’s partners Verizon, Vodafone UK and Best Buy cited high demand and product supply issues in replies to customers on Twitter. Many users on social media also flagged the delays.

“With a delay on the delivery for iPhone 13 pro max I might as well cancel! They talking (about until) October 30th,” one user said on Twitter https://twitter.com/Chico_DeBarge_/status/1440044634244206593.

On Sunday, several Apple and Tesla Inc suppliers suspended production at some Chinese factories for a number of days to comply with tighter energy consumption policies, putting supply chains at risk in the peak season for electronics goods.

The iPhone 13, priced between $699 and $1,599, comes with a sharper camera, a new bionic chip and improved connectivity. It has been available for pre-booking since Sept. 17.

REUTERS