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The world in brief

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | January 19, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

U.K. says police records erased in error

LONDON -- Britain's policing minister said Monday that "human error" led to hundreds of thousands of DNA records and other data on criminal suspects being erased from the national police computer.

Kit Malthouse told lawmakers in the House of Commons that the mishap occurred during a "regular housekeeping process" on the computer, which holds 13 million records. He said some 400,000 records were wiped, including 213,000 offense records and 170,000 arrest records.

"Clearly this situation is very serious," Malthouse said, adding that "we will know the full extent of the impact of this issue over the next few days."

Labor lawmaker Yvette Cooper said it was "very hard to understand how 400,000 records could be deleted from such a crucial system without there being a proper backup system in place."

Malthouse said officials were trying to recover the data but he could not guarantee that no criminal investigations would be harmed by the error. He said the government was working "to make sure that any operational impact is obviated or mitigated."

Dutch steps aid parents tied to scandal

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The Dutch government said Monday that it is wiping out debts owed to the tax office and other government departments by parents caught up in a fraud scandal that caused the Cabinet to resign last week.

State Secretary for Finance Alexandra van Huffelen said the decision means that the thousands of parents who were wrongly accused of fraud by the tax office will get all of the $36,300 payment promised to each of them last week.

"I believe that parents deserve a completely clean slate so they can use the compensation to really make a new start," Van Huffelen said.

The government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte quit over a scathing parliamentary report titled "Unprecedented Injustice," which said tax office policies aimed at rooting out fraud with benefit payments to parents with children in day care violated "fundamental principles of the rule of law."

Thousands of parents were affected over several years and many were plunged into debt.

Van Huffelen said she is in talks with private organizations such as banks and housing organizations about them also clearing the parents' debts.

Although Rutte's government has resigned, it remains in power in a caretaker capacity until a new ruling coalition is formed after a general election scheduled for March 17.

Car company joins stock exchanges

MILAN -- Stellantis, the car company combining PSA Peugeot and Fiat Chrysler, was launched Monday on the Milan and Paris stock exchanges, giving life to the fourth-largest auto company in the world.

Stellantis shares rallied 7.6% in Milan to $16.32. CEO Carlos Tavares said during a virtual bell-ringing ceremony that the merger creates more than $30 billion in shareholder value.

"The focus from day one will be on value creation from synergies, which will increase competitiveness vis-a-vis its peers," Tavares said.

Stellantis has a new logo and will launch on the New York Stock Exchange today, followed by a news conference with Tavares.

Chairman John Elkann, heir to the Fiat-founding Agnelli family, said the new company has "the scale, the resources, the diversity and the knowledge to successfully capture the opportunities of this new era in transportation." The technological shift includes electrified powertrains as well as moves toward greater autonomous driving.

The merger is aimed at creating $6 billion in annual savings.

The new company will have the capacity to produce 8.7 million cars a year, behind Volkswagen, Toyota and Renault-Nissan.

U.S.-Saudi doctor's conviction upheld

An appeals court in Saudi Arabia has upheld the conviction of Walid Fitaihi, a doctor who holds dual U.S. and Saudi nationality, on charges that included "disobedience" against the kingdom's rulers, according to a statement Monday from the Freedom Initiative, a Washington-based human-rights group that has advocated on Fitaihi's behalf.

Fitaihi, 56, who founded a prominent hospital in the kingdom, was sentenced in December to six years in prison.

The appeals court, which handed down its decision Thursday, reduced his sentence by half, meaning Fitaihi will serve no prison time. But he and seven family members remain under a travel ban, with their financial assets frozen by the Saudi government, said a son, Ahmed Fitaihi, who lives in the United States.

The Trump administration had lobbied the Saudi government to release Fitaihi and lift the travel ban. He was arrested in November 2017 as Saudi authorities detained hundreds of business executives, government officials and royal family members.

Fitaihi was held for nearly two years without trial and tortured while in custody, he told family members. Human-rights groups said the charges against him -- which included illegally obtaining U.S. citizenship -- were political.

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

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