Daily News Roundup

June 7, 2018

image: news.com.au

Witness protection and new identity for man whose apartment fire sparked Grenfell tower disaster 

The man whose apartment caught fire and sparked the Grenfell tower disaster has been offered witness protection and a new identity, an inquiry in London has been told.

The inquiry into the disaster that killed 72 people heard the fire probably started in or around the fridge of Behailu Kebede, who lived on the fourth floor of the west London tower.

His lawyer, Rajiv Menon, told the hearing the fridge had been bought new and hadn’t been tampered with.

He said his client has been hounded and police became so concerned about his welfare they offered him witness protection and a new identity.

“He is a good man. He did nothing wrong. Now he wants privacy for himself and his family,” Mr Menon said.

The lawyer said Mr Kebede has been subjected to sleazy media accusations and harassment that have driven him to despair.

“It was accidental and Mr Kebede bears no responsibility,” he said.

Mr Menon said that shortly before 1:00am on June 14, Mr Kebede, who had lived in the block for about 25 years, was woken by his smoke alarm.

He opened his kitchen door to see smoke coming from behind his Hotpoint fridge freezer, which he had bought five years earlier.

He called the emergency services before alerting his neighbours by banging on their doors and shouting “fire”.

Mr Menon said Mr Kebede had left without any clothes or possessions and that claims he had packed a suitcase before raising the alarm were a nasty lie.

He called for the inquiry to clear Mr Kebede of any responsibility for the blaze, which was Britain’s deadliest on domestic premises since World War II and which raised questions about UK social housing, building regulations and fire safety rules.

“Mr Kebede hopes that having heard all the evidence, the inquiry will make a clear and unequivocal statement that Mr Kebede was absolutely blameless for the outbreak of the fire, its spread and its fatal consequence


Trump to use his constitutional clemency powers

US President Donald Trump has commuted the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who has served more than 20 years in prison on a first-time drug offence, the ABC reports.

White House sources said Mr Trump was prepared to use his constitutional clemency powers to give relief to dozens more offenders.

Johnson’s cause had been taken up by celebrity Kim Kardashian West, who personally lobbied Trump on her behalf last week.

Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old from Tennessee, has already served more than 20 years in prison on drug conspiracy and money laundering charges. In a statement on the commutation of her sentence on Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Johnson “has been a model prisoner over the past two decades”.

Sanders noted that while “this administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance”.

A White House official familiar with the clemency process said Trump continues to examine the cases of people who he believes have been victims of the criminal justice system.

Trump last week pardoned conservative commentator and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza, convicted of making illegal campaign contributions, and has recently granted pardons to the late heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson, controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former top aide to then-vice president Dick Cheney.

The president is still considering pardoning lifestyle maven Martha Stewart, who was convicted in an insider trading case, and commuting the sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, currently serving a 14-year prison sentence on felony corruption charges, along with several others, the White House official told Reuters.

Stewart and Blagojevich both have ties to Trump’s former Apprentice TV shows, but the White House has denied that Trump is only considering pardons for well-known figures and that he is examining several other cases that are less notorious.


Climate-friendly sheep bred to curb greenhouse gas emissions in NZ

New Zealand researchers are curbing the country’s greenhouse gas emissions one sheep fart at a time, the ABC reports.

Scientists at Invermay Agricultural Centre in Mosgiel, about 360km south-west of Christchurch, have bred climate-friendly sheep that produce 10 per cent less methane than their gassy counterparts.

Livestock emissions are the biggest contributor to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions and make up about 10 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse emissions.

Agricultural research company AgResearch is behind the project, which is being led by senior scientist and quantitative geneticist Suzanne Rowe.

Now in its third generation, Dr Rowe said the breeding program began with two breeding lines of 100 ewes that were separated into high and low gas emitting groups.

“We were looking … to see whether the trait was genetic and what the effect of breeding for low methane was, and whether there was effect on other health and production traits,” she said.

Dr Rowe said a lower-emitting sheep breed could prove useful if the agriculture industry found itself under a carbon trading scheme.

“If we chose an arbitrary carbon cost of $NZ100 per tonne, we’d be looking at a cost of around $NZ43 per ewe. It really starts to stack up,” she said.

“We are hoping to provide — within the next 12 to 24 months — breeding values to the industry for methane.

“If someone is in a breeding scheme, not only do they get a breeding value for production traits, they also get a breeding value for methane.”

Dr Rowe said sheep release most of their methane by burping, which her team measures by placing sheep in a sealed aluminium chamber for 40 minutes to an hour while the emissions accumulate.

Dr Rowe’s research shows the lower-emitting trait is about 20 percent heritable and comes with some added bonuses.

“What we’ve seen carry along the way is higher wool growth. We also tend to see a leaner animal.

“We also see a lower rumen size. The lower emitting animal tends to eat smaller meals with more frequency than her higher-emission counterparts,” she said

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